Chase Sapphire Reserve vs. Chase Sapphire Preferred – What Card Is Best?

Notice: Opinions expressed here are the author's alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities. Read our advertiser disclosure here.

The Chase Sapphire Reserve® and Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card are two of the best credit cards on the market currently. But which card to choose? In this article we will compare these two cards, highlighting the main benefits of each and who can get the most out of them.

The two Chase Sapphire Preferred and Reserve cards
Chase Sapphire Preferred and Reserve cards. Photo: Simple Flying

These two cards are rightly popular for many reasons – including the opportunity to earn valuable Chase Ultimate Rewards points and offering solid travel perks. Whilst the Chase Sapphire Reserve® clearly offers much better benefits, this comes at a much higher price. For the frequent traveler who can use the benefits though this price may well be worth it, as we explore here.

The basics – costs and sign up bonuses

We’ll explain the main difference between the two cards straight away – the annual fee! Extra benefits come with a higher price, and the Chase Sapphire Reserve® has an annual fee of $450, compared with only $95 for the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card .

Another annual fee of $75 applies for any authorized users added to the Sapphire Reserve card, but they will get their own set of travel benefits (see later). This does not apply to the Sapphire Preferred card.

The Chase Sapphire Preferred Card
The Chase Sapphire Preferred Card. Photo: Simple Flying

There is also an attractive sign up bonus offered for new card holders. This is higher for the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card. With this card, 60,000 Chase Ultimate Reward points are offered for a minimum spend of $4000 within the first three months. The Chase Sapphire Reserve® offers a 50,000 Chase Ultimate Reward point bonus for the same level of spend. Bear in mind when comparing these bonuses however that points with the Chase Sapphire Reserve card are worth 25% more when redeemed for travel (as we will explain shortly).

The Chase Sapphire Reserve Card
The Chase Sapphire Reserve Card. Photo: Simple Flying

No foreign exchange fees

A major benefit shared by both cards is a zero foreign transaction fee. The savings here can really add up when using the cards overseas. Many credit cards add a surcharge of around three per cent on foreign purchases, and this can make quite a difference.

Note though that this only applies to purchases with the cards and not to cash advances. Using either card to make an ATM withdrawal will incur charges, and we would recommend using other cards for such withdrawals.

Gondola in Venice
Enjoy commission free purchases in places such as Venice. Photo: Wikimedia (User:Peter_K_Burian)

Reward for spending – Earning Chase Ultimate Rewards points

For many credit card users, the opportunity to earn points or miles is a major benefit – and the Chase Sapphire Reserve® and Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card do not disappoint here. They award spend with Chase Ultimate Reward points – a flexible reward currency that can be exchanged for airline miles or hotel points or used directly for travel purchases.

Chase Ultimate Rewards
Chase Ultimate Rewards. Image: Chase

Points will build up quicker with the Chase Sapphire Reserve® too as it offers an additional bonus on travel earnings. The following earning rates are offered:

Chase Sapphire Preferred card:

  • Two points per dollar on all travel and dining spend
  • One point per dollar on all other spend

Chase Sapphire Reserve card:

  • Three points per dollar on all travel and dining spend
  • One point per dollar on all other spend

Plenty of ways to earn points

Note that travel spend with these cards is not just limited to flights and hotels. Chase have a comprehensive definition of this which includes extras such as cruise liners, all travel agency spend, car hire, trains, buses, taxis, parking and road toll fees.

Barcelona restaurant
Earn extra points from all travel and dining you enjoy. Photo: Wikimedia

Bonus points can also be earned with both cards when referring friends for a credit card. Each successful referral will earn 10,000 Chase Ultimate Reward points – a useful way to build up extra points!

Using Chase Ultimate Rewards points – a flexible scheme

Chase Ultimate Rewards can be transferred easily into a variety of other loyalty programs. There are currently nine airline partners (including British Airways, Iberia, Singapore Airlines, United and Southwest), offering transfer at a 1:1 ratio.

BA first class
Use your Ultimate Reward points for premium travel, such as BA First Class London to Hong Kong from 102,000 points. Photo: British Airways

There are also three hotel partners (Marriott, Hyatt and IHG). All likewise offer transfer at a 1:1 ratio.  For more details on these partners and transfers, see our guide to Chase Rewards partners.

Holiday Inn Maldives
Find yourself at Holiday Inn Maldives using Chase points. Image: IHG

Alternatively, points can be redeemed for travel booked through the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal. The Sapphire Reserve card offers a slightly better rate of 1.5 cents per point, whilst the Sapphire Preferred card offers 1.25 cents per point.

Chase Ultimate Rewards
Chase Ultimate Rewards. Image: Chase

Purchase protection cover

Most credit cards offer some form of purchase protection cover, but the details can vary. Both theses Chase cards offer additional purchase protection on new purchases for 120 days (covering damage and theft) of up to $50,000 per year. However, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card has a limit of $500 per claim, whereas this is increased to $10,000 with the Chase Sapphire Reserve®.

Travel protection and insurance

Both of the cards offer a comprehensive travel protection scheme. This includes useful benefits such as trip delay cover and cover for baggage delay and loss, as well as auto and emergency assistance. Make sure you review all the cover and terms when considering this however – this is important for any insurance cover! These policies are good, but may not cover everything you need when traveling.

LHR departure board
No-one likes travel delay, but it is best to be covered. Photo: Wikimedia

This area is sometimes overlooked as a travel benefit in favor of the more obvious point earning and travel benefits provided. Travel protection is however a worthwhile benefit, and like much else, the offering is improved with the Chase Sapphire Reserve®. Some of the policy enhancements with the Chase Sapphire Reserve® include:

  • Trip delay cover / reimbursement starts at a six hour delay as opposed to 12 hours with the Sapphire Preferred card cover
  • Higher level of emergency medical cover
  • Roadside service calls (up to 4 per year) included

Extra Travel Benefits with the Chase Sapphire Reserve card

This is where the Chase Sapphire Reserve® really excels – and where frequent travelers will find the strongest benefits of the card.  There are some great offers included with the card – some of the best in the market – and it is not surprising these are very popular.

The Chase Sapphire Reserve Card
Great travel benefits with the Chase Sapphire Reserve Card. Photo: Simple Flying

The Chase Sapphire Reserve® includes all of the following benefits:

  • A $300 allowance for travel expenditure. With this, up to $300 of travel related spend will be reimbursed to the card each year. This will significantly offset the annual fee of $450 for those that are able to make this spend!
  • A $100 application fee credit for either Global Entry or TSA PreCheck enrollment. This is offered every four years.
  • One complimentary Priority Pass membership, giving unlimited access to over 1,200 airport lounges in 140 countries. (For more details on the advantages of this see out Priority Pass guide).
  • Use of the Visa Infinite Concierge Service. This is a premium travel service that can assist with restaurant and show bookings, and also offers access to special deals on hotels through the Luxury Hotel Collection.

Priority Pass mobile app
Enjoy unlimited lounge access with Priority Pass. Photo: Priority Pass

Final Thoughts

The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card and the Chase Sapphire Reserve® are both great travel credit cards! You can’t go wrong with either, but you do have to choose (you cannot hold both cards and note also that if you re-apply after holding one card you won’t get the sign up offer again).

For those that travel regularly and can use the benefits, the Chase Sapphire Reserve® is an excellent choice. It is not just the best out of these two cards, but we believe one of the best cards on the market. The higher annual fee is offset by the $300 travel credit, and the remaining $55 extra that is paid is well worth it for the travel and insurance benefits, Priority Pass membership and increased Chase Ultimate Reward points earning rate. A frequent traveler can gain a lot from this!

Fly first class using points
Fly first class using points. Photo: Cathay Pacific

The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card though still remains a solid choice for the infrequent traveler, or the card holder who spends mostly in other areas. If you will not make the travel reimbursement offered nor use the additional travel perks, then this card with lower annual fee, still great benefits and a great zero fee on overseas purchases works well.

And of course, if you find yourself traveling more and wanting the benefits, you can re-apply later for the Chase Sapphire Reserve®, you just won’t receive the sign up offer.

Notice: These responses are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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