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Sapphire Reserve vs. Sapphire Preferred: Which Credit Card is Better?

As most of you know, the publicly availably sign-up bonus for the Chase Sapphire Reserve card has dropped from 100,000 points to 50,000 points. The spending requirement is still $4,000 within 3 months. The downgrade happened sooner than most of us anticipated, but now the question remains: Which Sapphire card is best? Since the sign-up bonus and spending requirement on the Sapphire Reserve is now the same as the Sapphire Preferred, the best way to answer this question is by comparing their benefits and determine whether its worth the higher annual fee.

Sapphire Reserve vs Sapphire Preferred

Sapphire Reserve vs Sapphire Preferred: Which card is better?

Annual Fee

The annual fee on the Sapphire Reserve is $450 plus $75 for each authorized user. Meanwhile, the Sapphire Preferred has an annual fee of $95, which is waived the first year. Also, authorized users incur no additional charge.

Travel Statement Credit

Sapphire Reserve cardholders get an annual $300 travel credit that can be applied towards hotel and airfare charges. This reduces the annual fee down to $150, bringing the difference between the Sapphire Reserve and Sapphire Preferred to $55.

Sign-up Bonus Value

When redeemed through the Ultimate Rewards Travel Portal, points earned with the Chase Sapphire Reserve card are worth 1.5 cents each. Meanwhile, those earned with the Sapphire Preferred are worth 1.25 cents each. This means the 50,000 point sign-up bonus from the Sapphire Reserve is worth $125 more than that of the Sapphire Preferred. That alone eliminates the $55 difference between the two credit cards completely during the first year.

You would have to redeem at least 22,000 points per year as a Sapphire Reserve cardholder to get enough value out of the higher redemption rate to off-set the extra $55 annual fee. That’s because 22,000 points can be redeemed for $330 worth of travel through the Ultimate Rewards Travel Portal. Redeeming 22,000 points through the Ultimate Rewards Travel Portal as Sapphire Preferred cardholder would get you $275 worth of travel. That’s a $55 difference, which off-sets the difference in annual fee. With the incredible deals available through the Ultimate Rewards Travel Portal, it shouldn’t be difficult for most people to redeem well over 22,000 Ultimate Rewards points per year. Thus, the Chase Sapphire Reserve is the better card in this regard.

Earning Points

Both the Sapphire Preferred and Sapphire Reserve cards earn 1 point per $1 on all non-bonus category spending. The Sapphire Reserve earns 3 points per $1 on travel and dining, while the Sapphire Preferred earns two. You’d have to spend at least $5,500 on travel and dining in order to earn enough points with the Sapphire Reserve to off-set the $55. That’s assuming you’ll redeem the difference in points for a cash back statement credit at a rate of 1 cent each:

$5,500 spent on the Sapphire Reserve x 3 = 16,500 points

$5,500 spent on the Sapphire Preferred x 2 = 11,000 points

Difference = 5,500 points = $55 statement credit

If your annual travel and dining spend exceeds this (and you plan to put it all on one card), then keeping the Sapphire Reserve over the Sapphire Preferred makes sense.

Travel Benefits

Here’s where the comparison ends, because the Sapphire Preferred has no additional travel benefits other than access to Chase Luxury Hotel & Resort Collection. You can essentially get the same perks free of charge from programs like MasterCard Travel Services and Visa Signature Hotels.

There’s also the $100 Global Entry/TSA PreCheck application fee credit every four years, plus complimentary Priority Pass Select membership. If you’re not getting these benefits from any other credit card then keeping the Sapphire Reserve over the Sapphire Preferred is a no-brainer.

Sapphire Reserve vs Sapphire Preferred: Bottom Line

When it comes to comparing the Sapphire Reserve vs. Sapphire Preferred, it’s pretty clear that the Reserve comes out ahead. With many high-annual fee credit cards, people tend to focus on the perceived value of travel benefits. Or they overlook the fact that while the value of a Priority Pass Membership sounds terrific, they would not have actually paid for it. Yet, they’re subtracting the “value” of that benefit out of their overall cost.

When deciding between the Sapphire Reserve vs. Sapphire Preferred, I try to focus on real rather than perceived value. The $300 annual travel statement credit from the Sapphire Reserve is a great benefit that 99% of people in this hobby will actually use…because these people travel and likely have at least $300 worth of travel spending to put on this card. Other benefits, like the $100 Global Entry/TSA PreCheck fee credit, Priority Pass Lounge Access, or Chase Luxury Hotel & Resort Collection access are secondary. Most of us can get these benefits from other credit cards or we may not even need them.

Which card do you prefer for long-term use: The Sapphire Reserve or Sapphire Preferred?

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Ariana Arghandewal

5 Comments

  1. The other fly in the ointment is if you add an authorized user. In our household, my Sapphire Preferred card has three authorized users (my wife and two college aged children). All of us use the SP card for dining and travel. At $75 a pop for the Reserve card, we’ll all need to do a lot of dining to make up the $225 additional in fees.

    • Good point RE authorized users. Valuing Ultimate Rewards conservatively at just 1 cent, they’d have to earn at least 7,000 points (i.e. $2,333 – $7,000 in spend) to make up for that fee.

  2. “Sapphire Reserve cardholders get an annual $300 travel credit that can be applied towards hotel and airfare charges”. CORRECT.

    “This reduces the annual fee down to $150, bringing the difference between the Sapphire Reserve and Sapphire Preferred to $55”. INCORRECT MATH

    If you spend $0.00 toward travel charges, your AF is $450. If you spend $300.00 toward travel charges, you get a $300.00 credit. AF is still $450. Not $450 – $300. Even the GE is a credit to the $100 fee paid, not a reduction to the AF.

    There are no “credits” to the AF built into the card. The only correct comparison between the CSP vs. CSR is valuing the UR earned/year and the intangible benefits; ie: car rental insurance, club access, trip delay, etc.

    For a truly honest assessment you should rework the math. This will bring the point numbers required higher, of course, but reveal a much more realistic comparison. This is a YMMV for everyone. Do your own analysis.

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