The Sapphire Preferred and Sapphire Reserve are two of Chase’s flagship credit card products. The two offer a sizeable signup bonus and a slew of ancillary benefits. Unfortunately, given Chase’s restrictions, it is typically not possible to get both cards. The good news is, you can always convert from one of them to the other after the first year.
The Sapphire Reserve comes with many more benefits than the Preferred and is obviously the better card. However, is it worth the significantly higher annual fee of $450? This post will offer a thorough comparison of the two cards to help you determine which would be more valuable to you.
If you’re looking for another premium card packed with benefits, you may also want to consider the Amex Platinum. See our other post comparing the features of the Chase Sapphire Reserve vs. American Express Platinum.
Below is an overview of the Chase Sapphire Preferred vs Reserve.
Several restrictions may prohibit you from getting approved for either the Sapphire Preferred or Reserve cards.
Both cards are subject to Chase’s 5/24 rule. This means you will not be approved for either of these cards if you’ve opened five or more personal credit cards, charge cards, or personal loan accounts in the past two years. The one exception is if you are targeted to apply for these cards through one of Chase’s “Just for You” offers. If that’s the case, you may be able to bypass the 5/24 restriction. Such a targeted offer may also waive the annual fee on the card for the first year.
Over 48 months since getting Sapphire bonus
In September 2018, Chase introduced an additional rule to its Sapphire credit cards. This rule states you are not eligible for a Sapphire Reserve or Sapphire Preferred if:
- You currently have a Sapphire credit card or
- You received a new cardmember bonus on any Sapphire credit card within the past 48 months
In other words, if you sign up for the Chase Sapphire Reserve, you must wait four years before you are eligible to apply for a Sapphire Preferred. At that point, even if you wait the 48 months, you’ll still need to be under the 5/24 rule to get approved for the Preferred. So if you’re playing the miles and points game, you’ll likely only get one shot to get a signup bonus on either the Preferred or Reserve.
The good news is that this rule has no impact on your ability to downgrade or upgrade to or from one of these cards. The only restriction is that you need to wait a year to upgrade new cards, and you should wait a year before downgrading.
Therefore, you could sign up for the Chase Sapphire Preferred today for the 60,000-point signup bonus and upgrade the card to a Sapphire Reserve in a year. Alternatively, you could also upgrade to the Preferred or Reserve from a Freedom or Freedom Unlimited card.
Minimum credit limit
Additionally, you must be able to get approved for each card’s minimum credit limit. The Sapphire Reserve has a $10,000 minimum credit limit, whereas the Sapphire Preferred has a $5,000 limit. If you are not initially approved for the card but have sizeable credit limits on other Chase cards, you may ask if Chase can reallocate credit from existing cards so you can be approved.
Good Credit Score
Chase does not disclose a minimum credit score needed to get approved for either card. However, according to Credit Karma, the average score of approved applicants was 705 for the Sapphire Preferred. Credit Karma does not currently disclose an average credit score for the Reserve, but based on the higher minimum credit limit, it’s likely higher than 705.
In general, any score higher than 700 would provide decent odds at getting approved.
The Sapphire Reserve has a $450 annual fee, while the Sapphire Preferred has a $95 fee.
If you’ve had the card for a year, it may be worth calling Chase to see if they will provide you with a retention offer to keep the card. According to this thread on Flyertalk, you should ask Chase if they can provide a statement credit for the annual fee rather than asking them to waive the annual fee. Several users reported not receiving anything from the first call, but they called back a second time and received an offer from a different agent.
The current signup bonus for the Sapphire Reserve is 50,000 points after $4,000 in spend. When the card was released in 2016, it originally had a 100,000-point signup bonus. Unfortunately, that offer has not returned since expiring in March 2017.
The current signup bonus for the Sapphire Preferred is 60,000 points after $4,000 in spend.
Although the Preferred has a 10,000-point higher signup bonus, recall that points are worth 1.25 cents each when redeeming through the travel portal with the Preferred. Alternatively, points are worth 1.5 cents each when redeemed through the travel portal with the Reserve. That means the 60,000-point bonus with the Preferred and the 50,000-point bonus with the Reserve could be worth the same $750 through the portal if you only have one of the cards.
However, if you transfer points to an airline or hotel, or even redeem the points for cashback, the bonus on the Preferred delivers more value.
The Chase Sapphire Preferred earns:
- 2x points on travel and dining
- 1x point on everything
The Chase Sapphire Reserve earns:
- 3x points on travel and dining
- 1x point on everything
The Sapphire Reserve clearly has better earning potential with an additional point above the Preferred for all travel and dining purchases.
What do the Chase Sapphire Preferred and Reserve cards count as travel? According to Chase:
Merchants in the travel category include airlines, hotels, motels, timeshares, campgrounds, car rental agencies, cruise lines, travel agencies, discount travel sites, and operators of passenger trains, buses, taxis, limousines, ferries, toll bridges and highways, and parking lots and garages.Chase Rewards Category FAQs
Unfortunately, purchases at gas stations do not earn 3x bonus points as they are considered a separate category.
Technically, the Sapphire Reserve only starts to earn 3x on travel after the first $300 in spending. That’s because your first $300 in travel spending is reimbursed through the card’s $300 annual travel credit.
While 3x points on travel and dining are decent category bonuses, many cards offer the same or better rewards in those categories.
For example, the Citi Prestige earns 5x for dining, and the Amex Gold card earns 4x.
Additionally, the Citi ThankYou Premier and CNB Crystal Visa Infinite cards also earn 3x on travel, but unlike the Chase Sapphire Reserve, they also receive 3x at gas stations.
If you are booking flights, Amex and Citi have better-earning cards. All versions of the consumer and business Platinum cards, as well as the Citi Prestige, earn 5x points on flights when they are booked directly with an airline.
Finally, it’s worth noting that the Sapphire cards’ 1 point per dollar for all other categories is quite weak. You are better off placing those purchases on a card like the Ink Cash Unlimited or Freedom Unlimited, where you would earn 1.5 points per dollar. Alternatively, the Citi Double Cash effectively earns 2 ThankYou points per dollar on all purchases.
Neither card is very useful for manufactured spending, but both open the door to valuable redemptions options for points on other Chase cards.
As with Chase’s Ink Preferred card, you can transfer points earned through the Sapphire Reserve and Sapphire Preferred to any of Chase’s hotel or airline transfer partners. The only difference between redeeming points with each card comes when redeeming through the Chase travel portal.
As previously discussed, if you only have the Sapphire Preferred, your Ultimate Reward points are worth 1.25 cents through the portal. Alternatively, with the Sapphire Reserve, points can be redeemed at 1.5 cents each through the portal. If you happen to have both cards or any of the other Ultimate Rewards earning cards, you can combine your points in your Sapphire Reserve account. You can also pool together Ultimate Reward points from any members of your household.
Although 1.5 cents a point is one of the best straightforward redemption options in travel, there are a few downsides that come with booking through the Chase portal. Chase uses Expedia for its travel portal, and in some cases, prices through Expedia may be slightly higher than you would get from booking direct.
It is often possible to get more than 1.5 cents of value per point when transferring Ultimate Rewards to one of the hotel or airline transfer partners. For example, Hyatt is one of the most coveted Chase transfer partners. Redemptions with World of Hyatt points frequently deliver greater than 2¢ per point of value. For example, you could transfer 50,000 Ultimate Rewards to Hyatt and redeem for two nights at one of Hyatt’s all-inclusive Ziva or Zilara resorts.
Annual Travel Credit
The Sapphire Reserve comes with a $300 travel credit every cardmember year. Anything that qualifies to earn 3x on the card also qualifies for the annual travel credit. This credit should show as a statement credit immediately once eligible travel purchases post to your account.
Technically, if the original charge that triggers the credit is refunded, the statement credit should also be reversed. Fortunately, as with American Express airline fee credits, these credits tend to remain, even if the original purchase is refunded. That means the $300 is relatively easy to liquidate for a statement credit by merely canceling a refundable travel reservation.
Any purchases that qualify for the travel credit will also count toward meeting the minimum required spending amount to receive the signup bonus. However, as previously noted, purchases refunded with the loan will not earn 3x points. You can track how much of the annual $300 credit you have remaining by going to the Ultimate Rewards page on your Chase account.
The Sapphire Preferred does not provide an annual travel credit.
TSA PreCheck / Global Entry Credit
The Sapphire Reserve also provides reimbursement for an application fee credit for TSA PreCheck or Global Entry once every four years. Certainly, this is not a unique benefit since many other premium credit cards also provide this benefit. The TSA even includes a list of cards on its website that offers this credit.
Neither card provides automatic hotel elite status like the Amex Platinum card. However, both cards give access to Chase’s Luxury Hotel and Resort Collection.
This program offers the ability to book rooms with benefits such as daily breakfast, upgrades, and early check-in and check-out, if available. Ultimately, this benefit may not be particularly meaningful since the room prices are typically higher than you could get from booking directly with the hotel.
The Sapphire Reserve provides a Priority Pass Select membership with lounge access for the cardmember and two guests. This version of Priority Pass includes credits at Priority Pass restaurants. This benefit offers the primary cardmember, and one or two guests (depending on the restaurants), a $28 per person credit at certain airport restaurants.
The Sapphire Preferred does not provide lounge access.
Both the Sapphire Reserve and Sapphire Preferred cards extend an original manufacturer’s warranty of three years or less by an additional year. The coverage provides up to $10,000 per claim and $50,000 per account. As with most of the other benefits, coverage kicks in when you pay for some portion of the items with your Sapphire card.
Purchase protection covers theft, damage, or loss of an item within 120 days of purchase.
The Sapphire Reserve will “replace, repair, or reimburse you” up to $10,000 per claim and $50,000 per year. On the other hand, the Sapphire Preferred will only cover up to $500 per claim and $50,000 for the lifetime of your account.
Unfortunately, in either case, this coverage is secondary. That means if you have other insurance, such as renters, homeowners, or auto insurance that would cover this benefit, you are required to file a claim with them first.
Return protection will reimburse you for the cost of an item within 90 days of purchase if the place of purchase will not accept a return. You may be asked to ship the item to Chase’s benefit center. The Sapphire Reserve provides return protection up to $500 per item and $1,000 per year.
The Sapphire Preferred does not provide return protection.
Travel Insurance benefits
The Sapphire Reserve card offers best-in-class travel insurance benefits, including coverage for trip cancelation and interruption, trip delay, baggage delay, baggage loss, rental car damage, and injuries or loss of life while traveling. The Sapphire Preferred card offers many of the same benefits, albeit sometimes with less coverage or stricter requirements to kick in.
The full policies are here:
You can complete the required forms to file a claim for many of these benefits at Allianz Worldwide Partners (the benefits administrator) here.
Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver
The Sapphire Preferred covers damage or theft of your rental car and pays an uncapped amount up to the actual cash value of the vehicle. This coverage is primary, which means you do not need to file a claim with any other insurance you may have before going through Chase. All you need to do for the coverage to take effect is pay for the rental using your Sapphire card and decline the rental company’s collision damage waiver (CDW).
The Sapphire Reserve offers the same benefit, except that the maximum coverage amount is $75,000.
At first glance, it may seem that the Sapphire Preferred offers better coverage.
Both cards exclude coverage for “antique automobiles; cargo vans; vehicles that have an open cargo bed; trucks; motorcycles, mopeds, and motorbikes; limousines; and recreational vehicles.” However, the Chase Sapphire Preferred also excludes specific luxury and “exotic cars.” The benefits guide lists a few examples, including “Alfa Romeo, Aston Martin, Bentley, Corvette, Ferrari, Jaguar, Lamborghini, Lotus, Maserati, Maybach, McLaren, Porsche, Rolls Royce, and Tesla.”
If you’re renting a luxury car or something you think could fit into the categories above, it’s probably a good idea to give the Chase benefits center a call at 1-888-320-9961.
The Sapphire Reserve covers up to $50 in roadside assistance up to four times a year. This benefit is available by calling Cross Country Motor Club at 1-866-860-7978. Covered services include a battery boost, spare tire replacement, two gallons of gas, or up to $50 in towing or lockout assistance.
The Sapphire Preferred does not provide any complimentary roadside assistance. Instead, services are available for a flat fee of $59.95.
Baggage Delay Insurance
The Sapphire Reserve and Sapphire Preferred provide the same baggage delay insurance.
Baggage delay insurance provides coverage for “emergency purchase of essential items” if your luggage does not arrive within six hours of you reaching your destination. Either card will provide $100 a day for up to five days.
You are eligible for this coverage when you charge at least a portion of the fare, including award ticket taxes and fees, to your Sapphire card. Your immediate family is also covered as long as a part of their fare is charged to your card, even if you are not traveling with them.
The Sapphire Reserve and Sapphire Preferred provide the same lost luggage protection.
This benefit covers loss or damage of checked luggage for up to $3,000. Pay for at least a portion of the fare using your Sapphire card to be eligible for this benefit. As with the baggage delay benefit, your immediate family members also receive coverage if you charge a portion of their fare to your card.
Trip Cancelation and Interruption Insurance
The Sapphire Preferred and Sapphire Reserve both come with up to $10,000 in trip cancelation or interruption coverage. This benefit will also reimburse you for any points or miles used at a rate of 1 cent per point.
As the name implies, trip cancelation and interruption insurance reimburse you if you need to cancel or shorten a trip for a covered reason. Eligible reasons for cancelation include a severe injury, illness, or death of you or an immediate family member, terrorism, jury duty, severe weather, or bankruptcy of your travel provider.
Trip Delay Reimbursement
The Sapphire Reserve and Sapphire Preferred both come with trip delay protection.
If your trip is delayed, you are covered for up to $500 in reasonable expenses per ticket. If you place at least part of your ticket on the Reserve, this coverage kicks in after a six-hour delay. With the Preferred, coverage begins after a twelve-hour delay.
Eligible reasons for a delay include equipment failure, weather, labor strikes, or terrorism.
Travel Accident Insurance
This benefit provides a payout when you or a family member are seriously injured or die while on a trip. If the loss occurs during travel on a common carrier, the Sapphire Reserve provides up to $1 million, while the Sapphire Preferred provides up to $500,000. Alternatively, if the loss occurs at any other time during the trip, both cards could entitle you or your family to up to $500,000.
As with the other benefits, you are required to pay for at least part of your fare with your Sapphire card.
Emergency Medical and Dental Benefits
This Sapphire Reserve benefit covers up to $2,500 in necessary medical treatments while traveling. This coverage kicks in on trips between 5 and 60 days in length and when you are more than 100 miles away from your home. This benefit only covers medical treatment to the extent it is not covered by your primary health insurance.
The Sapphire Preferred does not offer this benefit.
Emergency Evacuation and Transportation
If you become ill or injured during a trip and need transportation to the nearest hospital or your home, the Sapphire Reserve will cover up to $100,000 in expenses. As with the emergency medical and dental benefit, coverage only applies on trips between 5 and 60 days, where you are more than 100 miles away from your home.
The Sapphire Preferred does not offer this benefit.
You can add authorized users to your Sapphire Preferred card for no additional fee. Unfortunately, adding authorized users to a Sapphire Reserve costs $75 per user.
Authorized cardmembers on the Sapphire Reserve also receive a priority pass membership, which allows them to bring two guests. However, they do not receive an additional $300 travel credit or TSA Precheck/Global Entry credit.
Both cards are worth getting for the signup bonus. Since they are subject to Chase’s 5/24 rule, you will want to plan your signup strategy accordingly. In the long run, the Sapphire Reserve’s ability to redeem at 1.5 cents per point through the travel portal may warrant keeping the card. The card’s bonus categories are not particularly unique. However, paired with higher earning cards such as the Ink Cash, it can make a lot of sense to keep it open passed the first year.
On the other hand, there’s minimal incentive to keep the Sapphire Preferred beyond the first year. It makes more sense to downgrade the card to a Freedom or Freedom Unlimited. That way, you can benefit from either the Freedom’s 5x rotating category bonuses or the Unlimited’s 1.5x points earned on all purchases.
Between all the Sapphire Reserve’s exclusive benefits, it undoubtedly offers better value, even after considering the significantly higher annual fee.