5 Reasons to Get the Sapphire Preferred Instead of the Sapphire Reserve

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The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card and Chase Sapphire Reserve® are two of the highlights in Chase’s Ultimate Rewards portfolio of credit cards, featuring top travel perks and earning flexible rewards. While the Sapphire Reserve offers premium benefits you won’t find on the Sapphire Preferred. It also carries a much higher annual fee. $450 per year as opposed to the $95 annual fee on the Sapphire Preferred.

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
Annual Fee$95
Welcome Bonus Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
Our #1 recommended beginners rewards card featuring a 60,000 point signup bonus after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
  • Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 60,000 points are worth $750 toward travel
  • 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide
  • 1X point per dollar spent on all other purchases

It’s common practice to rationalize paying the higher fee by cataloging the travel credits and perks on the Sapphire Reserve and deducting the value of those credits and benefits from the annual fee.

However, not everyone chasing a rewards card is going to need, or make full use of, a premium travel credit card or its travel credits and benefits. There are plenty of scenarios where it makes sense to apply for the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card over an ultra-premium travel card like the Sapphire Reserve, and in this post, we’ll touch on five of them.

60,000 vs. 50,000 Point Welcome Bonus

At the moment, the welcome offer for these two cards should play a significant part in your calculation. The Sapphire Preferred is currently offering 60,000 after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. The Sapphire Reserve offer is 50,000 after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®

That 10,000 point difference could be worth a one-way flight with several of the Ultimate Rewards transfer partners, so it’s definitely worth considering whether you want to sacrifice those extra points to get access to the more robust benefits of the Sapphire Reserve.

Under current rules, Chase won’t let you get the Sapphire Preferred if you already have the Sapphire Reserve and vice versa. If you decide to start with the higher welcome bonus and lower annual fee, you should be able to upgrade in the future if you decide you want the extra benefits.

$95 vs. $450 in Fees Over the First 12 Months

The most obvious difference separating the Sapphire Preferred from the Sapphire Reserve is the annual fee. As a premium travel card, the Sapphire Reserve has a much higher annual fee than the Sapphire Preferred, with the later attracting roughly ~20% of the fees of its premium rival year-on-year.

In the first 12 months, you can expect to pay just $95 in annual fees for the Sapphire Preferred vs. $450 in annual fees for the Sapphire Reserve.

For the frequent traveler, perks like Priority Pass lounge access and the $300 annual travel credit can justify the extra expense of the Sapphire Reserve. If you consistently use the travel credit, the difference between the two fees becomes much smaller, but you still have to be comfortable with paying $450 upfront and recovering the value as you make travel purchases.

If you are just starting out in the points and miles space or you aren't 100% certain you'll be able to take advantage of the Sapphire Reserve‘s benefits, the Sapphire Preferred is the better card.

No Charge for Adding Authorized Users as Opposed to Paying for Them

For many cardholders, adding an authorized user to your credit card account is one of the first priorities after receiving the card. Adding family members as authorized users can give them access to the card’s benefits, double down on your ability to earn points, and help save money by providing access to premium benefits like primary rental insurance.

Chase Sapphire Preferred Card travel insurance benefits
Adding an authorized user to your Sapphire card covers them with some of the card's best benefits like Lost and Delayed Baggage Insurance

The two cards have vastly different policies in this respect, with the Sapphire Preferred charging no fee for adding AU accounts, and the Sapphire Reserve making you pay for it.

To put that in perspective. If you have one authorized user on your account, you'll still pay just $95 for the Sapphire Preferred. But the additional $75 for an AU account increases the yearly fees on the Sapphire Reserve to $525. A mighty big gap if you’re unsure you can take advantage of all the credits and benefits associated with the card.

One of the big benefits of adding an authorized user is the ability to earn points on purchases they make with the card. Consider the popular bonus categories of 3x on travel and dining with the Sapphire Reserve, and 2x on the same purchases with the Sapphire Preferred. If you value your points at 1.5 cents each, your authorized user would need to spend $5,000 per year on travel and dining to cover the $75 authorized user fee.

Lower Income Threshold and Minimum Credit Limit Requirements

One of the keys to successful points + miles strategies is selecting products that suit your financial position. While Visa issues both the Sapphire cards, the Sapphire Preferred is a Visa Signature card, and the Sapphire Reserve is a Visa Infinite card. The two cards have different minimum income and credit limit requirements.

The official minimum credit limit for each card is:

  • Visa Signature – $5,000
  • Visa Infinite – $10,000

And while there is no publicly available formula for how banks decide on credit card approvals, logic would dictate that you will need to meet a higher income threshold to qualify for a $10,000 credit limit, particularly if you already have a line of credit with the same bank.

The Sapphire Preferred Is a Great Card for Beginners

What makes the Sapphire Preferred so good for beginners? We are big believers in starting small; don't dive in headfirst. Learn from the available opportunities and potential mistakes while they are minor errors that won't cost a lot of money. You will make mistakes; we all do.

Award travel is no different from any other hobby—over time, you'll become more knowledgeable on how to leverage points (and premium benefits) for maximum value. It can be a steep learning curve with the volume of information available.

We think the Sapphire Reserve is the better card for people that will make the most out of the available travel credits and benefits while knowing how best to utilize the bonus categories on travel and dining. If there is any doubt that you will make full use of the benefits of the Sapphire Reserve, then the Sapphire Preferred is most likely the better option financially.

Final Thoughts

The ‘best’ card is entirely subjective and determined by your personal circumstances. It’s easy as someone that writes about points and miles for a living to sit here and catalog all the different ways you can maximize airline credits and travel benefits on premium cards.

But we also remember our first forays into points and miles. The fumbles and missteps, false assumptions and daunting volume of information. The Sapphire Preferred has earned its spot as the best beginner's card and still deserves its place as one of the best travel cards on the market.

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
Annual Fee$95
Welcome Bonus Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
Our #1 recommended beginners rewards card featuring a 60,000 point signup bonus after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
  • Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 60,000 points are worth $750 toward travel
  • 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide
  • 1X point per dollar spent on all other purchases
5 Reasons to Get the Sapphire Preferred Instead of the Sapphire Reserve
4 (79.35%) 31 votes
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  • Tom Dignazio says:

    How could you not mention the $300 travel credit with Sapphire? It makes a $150 annual fee compared to a $95 annual fee and the extra benefits a re clearly worth $55.

  • Either card is great, and the fact that you can product change after approval for the Chase Sapphire Preferred means you can have the higher sign up bonus and the enhanced benefits down the road if desired.

  • This post does not mention the actual amount of travel credits on the Reserve: the $450 annual fee is offset by $300 in immediately-reimbursed travel credits. This makes the effective fee difference only $150.

    While I agree that lower spenders on both Travel & Dining may not be able to justify the $150, pretty much anyone interested in rewards cards will spend at least $300 on travel in a year because Chase’s definition of travel includes:

    * All flights / trains / busses
    * Hotels and Airbnbs
    * Uber / Lyft / Taxi
    * Parking garages

  • The “better for beginners” argument for CSP used to be reasonable, but now that getting one disqualifies you from the other for 48 months, that’s a tougher sell… Though I suppose you can still product change after a year.

    • For most people, it actually makes more sense to get the Preferred at 60,000 points than the Reserve at 50,000. Each situation is different but I’d guess your average traveller (one to two vacations a year) will be better off with the CSP with the break even point.

  • Will Haltiwanger says:

    If you charge $300 or more in travel expenses to the Sapphire Reserve card you are credited $300 each year so the actual difference in annual fee is $95 vs $150.

  • This article is pretty misleading. The different redemption rates on UR points makes the signup bonuses equal, and you made no mention of the $300 travel credit that offsets the CSR annual fee to $150.

    • Hey Ian, thanks for the feedback. We absolutely don’t want to mislead our readers. Although the math absolutely works out as you’ve described, you still need to pay $450 upfront and recover the $300 through future travel purchases. We think the initial cost is probably a real obstacle to many, so we wanted to play devil’s advocate and highlight a strategy that gets you a better bonus, less cost upfront, and retains the option to upgrade in the future. That said, I’ve made some updates to the post, highlighting your point about the annual travel credit.

    • Through the travel portal yes but if you have CSP, you’ll get more value out of transferring to partners.

  • Wow. I was thinking of upgrading my CSP or canceling it and applying for the CSR once I get under 5/24 and the applicable wait time passed, but I never paid attention to the difference in annual fee. I’ll stick with my CSP. It treats me quite well 😀. Thanks.

    • Don’t let annual fees scare you. They’re like Costco memberships: you pay to get in the door but done right, you can come out worlds ahead over shopping at free stores.
      Same thing again, you can pay more for the higher membership level that comes with better perks and when done right, you can come out even further ahead.
      It’s not for everyone but do a proper analysis on it and don’t let the $450 scare you.

      • Thanks for the pep talk on annual fees, Katie.
        It’s a pain, but one should always run the full math on the card. Here, if you can use the travel credits, the $450 fee is reduced by $300 in a very straightforward manner. And then, the resulting, actual $150 annual doesn’t look so intimidating.

  • Even if you travel only occasionally, it is very difficult to not come out ahead with the Reserve vs. the Preferred and I think you all know that.

  • Good article but I have two comments to add. The CSR has an effective annual fee of $150, only $55 more than the CSP (if you can’t use the $300 travel credit, you should NOT have this card).
    And secondly, yes yhe authorized user is $75 but that’s more than a second person authorized to spend money. That person gets their own Priority Pass too (and I haven’t confirmed if they get a Global Entry credit too).

    Like I said though, great article and your points still stand throughout.

    • Yes, that is a great point with respect to the effective cost of the annual fee for those that use the full travel credit. The authorized user does not get the Global Entry credit, but they do get their own Priority Pass. Thanks for the feedback on the article, Katie.

  • I just canceled my sapphire reserve. I loved it but i couldn’t pay the $450 anymore. Soon I will be applying for the Preferred

  • As mentioned in the article different people will value things in different ways. For me Priority Pass is important, so it is probably just about tips the balance to the card with the higher fee.

    • Yeah I go through Sydney with a forced overnight often enough that I can take advantage of a restaurant three times per trip. I’ll have to reevaluate when I move back home and see what my home airport has to offer. I’m sad to hear that Timberline Grill in Denver is going away. 🙁

  • Great summary, Thanks for the information!

  • Did you neglect to mention that you get a 300 credit back on travel with the Sapphire reserve card every year?

    • Thanks, Mike. I’ve made some updates to the post and responded to a few other commenters that brought up a similar point. While the original post did mention the travel credit, you’re 100% right that we failed to say the amount of the credit. Thanks for bringing it to my attention.

  • I don’t buy this argument (and I have always wondered at the reasons that some travel bloggers have the Preferred rather than the Reserve). If you are looking for travel benefits, then the Reserve always outdoes the Preferred: subtracting the 300 travel credit brings the annual fee very close. The lounge access and greater earn then easily make up the difference. This is a Travel card! If you aren’t going to use it for TRAVEL benefits, then you shouldn’t have either card. I agree that the 60 000 for the Preferred right now over the 50 000 for the Reserve is silly. To get around this, I’d get the Preferred, get the bonus, then upgrade to the Reserve.

    • Thanks for sharing, Maryjane. You’re right that the CSR is a great card. We wanted to share the other side of the argument for folks that may not be able to justify the $450 fee upfront, despite being able to recover a lot of the fee through the travel credit.

    • There’s no one answer for everyone. Some people may have Amex cards and therefore may have PP through a different card and may have better earning multipliers through these cards too. Having a CSP still allows you transfer partners which are identical to the CSR’s so in that sense, having a CSR has no advantage over a CSP.

      On the other hand, I only have CSR and am loving it.

  • Great article! I started with the Preferred and am considering upgrading next year.

    • What is your home airport? Or do you have a regular airport you travel too? Priority Pass can easily pay for the difference.

  • My wife and I both have the CSR. Our Chase banker told us we were not eligible for the Sapphire Preferred unless we cancelled our Sapphire Reserve.

    • Yes that is correct. You can only have one of the Sapphire cards unless you had both versions before that rule was put into place.

    • I’d recommend one of you product change to a Freedom card and then become an authorized user on the other. Right now you both pay $150 a year for the exact same benefits but you both get PP and GE. If you switch to become an authorized user, you pay $150 + $75 and both still get PP. You lose GE as an AU but if that’s a big deal, that’s a single $100 credit every four years that you’d be paying $75 extra per year (for four years) to have that privilege.

  • If you’re gonna get the reserve card go for the JPM Reserve card because you get United Club with the JPM card

  • This makes a lot of sense. I can’t justify and $450 annual fee for sure.

    • Effectively it’s a $150 AF which is only $55 more than the CSP but you get GE (averages to $25/year), PP (which is equivalent to the $400/year membership), better insurance benefits, better earning rate, better redemption rates (if you’re using the travel portal), and I may still be missing a thing or two. Personally I’m not sure how anyone can say those benefits aren’t worth $55/year.

  • I wonder if the 100K point sign up bonus on the reserve card will ever return.
    With the current sign up bonus structure, it makes so much sense to get the sapphire preferred card of the reserve card.
    I heard that even 70K targeted offers are available for the sapphire preferred card, but not on the reserve card.

  • If you want Glibal Entry now and access to lounges, it could make sense… if not adding users

  • Hopefully the Reserve has a higher bonus soon.

  • So many better reasons to have the Reserve, though!

  • good summary! thanks

  • Thank you. It is great info for me.

  • I value the $300 traveler credit. It can be used so widely. Taking local transit in my city counts, an expense I would spend anyway. Therefore, I think it’s more like a $150 Reserve annual fee versus $95 for Preferred, a much smaller difference.

  • This is a great comparison, definitely sounds like i should try for the preferred with the lower annual fee

  • This is very useful information and yes, based on my needs, the lower fee makes the most sense at this time!

  • I have been very happy with my Sapphire Preferred and Chase support in general. I have considered upgrading to the Reserve but have some sticker shock with the annual fee + fees for AUs. Wish TSA PreCheck came with the Preferred- it’s probably the only reason I would upgrade or find another main multi-purpose travel card.

  • Huh. This was a pretty basic comparison. I was expecting you guys to have actually “crunched the numbers”…. So my questions is, what’s the breakeven spending level in travel / restaurant spending that makes the $55 difference go away (assuming you value all the other CSR benefits at zero)? Also, I was surprised you didn’t mention the difference in point values when you use Chase Travel portal for booking your travel. CSR cards get a 50% bonus (e.g., a $20 travel credit becomes $30) while I believe that CSP cards get only a 25% bonus. Thanks.

    • $55 difference divided by 0.01 (the difference in earning rates) is a $5,500 spend on dining or $5,800 in travel (because the first $300 uses up the travel credit and earns zero points).

      There is a ton of value in travel insurance and PP though. I don’t value a restaurant visit at $28 but I do value it at around $10-$15 because I buy things that I wouldn’t have otherwise bought… but I still need to buy food of some kind.

  • I would say both!

    • You can’t get both though and for those who do have both, why would you have both? Why pay $95 per year for a CSP when the CSR equals or overshadows every single benefit?

  • agreeing with this post! I have the CSP and I like it more than the CSR!

  • Went with the CSP first for the higher sign-up bonus. Will refer spouse to CSP and then upgrade own to CSR. Don’t need to utilize the extra CSR benefits quite yet.

    • If you’re not at or near 5/24, then another strategy might be to downgrade your CSP to say, a Freedom or Freedom Unlimited card, and then apply for the CSR to reap its welcome bonus.

  • I am very happy with my Preferred card. I hear all the benefits of the Reserved and I just see other cards that I would go after for the same benefits and might get a lower AF. I do see the logic for people who travel and use the extra benefits to have just the Reserved.
    I wonder though now that the Citi Double Cash card does what the freedom unlimited but with 2x and then transfer with the right higher card too, how do those cards play into this? Is Chase still the better choice? Or do we look at transfer partners too, etc?

  • Chelsy Heger says:

    Very useful information for a new traveler who is looking for a card with great rewards! I am a beginner and the Sapphire Preferred will be a great start. Thank you!

  • $55/.015 (difference in AFs after Travel Credit/)/extra point w CSR on travel/dining) = $3,667. This is the breakeven on travel/dining purchases to come out ahead with the CSR over the CSP (CSR points are always worth at least .015).

    The average CSR cardholder spends almost $40k/yr on their CSR. The $3,667 calculated above is not even 10% of that, & one would assume that much more than that is being spent on travel/dining, making the card an easy hold for $450/yr AF.

    That is only on the spend side, though. The extra .0025 the CSR offers over the CSP on travel portal redemptions is another factor to look at, depending on your expected volume.

    • exactly.. its tough for me to grasp not being able to justify the fee difference (at least not without comparing to other cards with travel/dining bonuses, e.g. Amex Plat or Amex Gold)

    • It’s important to note that the breakeven spend for the CSR is lowered significantly by holding it as one of multiple cards in an Ultimate Rewards portfolio.

      The breakeven spend is further lowered by the many Chase Offers and by the frequent Amazon deals offering $15 off $60 purchases made using at least 1 UR point.

      • I’m not disagreeing with you but if something can be offered to either card, you can’t use that as a breakeven factor.

  • With the application restrictions certainly makes sense to go with Preferred and then if you spend pattern make it worth it getting Reserve later.

    • Unless you travel a lot. $55 and 10,000 points isn’t a large number to overcome but it certainly would be for most families.

  • Great comparison! I do find more value with the Preferred just because I’m not trying to charge a lot to make up for the annual fee.

  • oh man some of those are expensive!!! I ‘ll work with low cost fees for now.

  • With the changes to Amex Delta card, i’m looking into either one of these. Need to look into our plans to see if the CSR cost is worth it at this point. Good article to help me figure out what path to take…

  • Good emphasis on what to look for in a starter card

  • Useful breakdown. Have been considering whether to upgrade to Reserve or wait 4 years to be eligible for the bonus. The $300 travel credit sounds nice.

  • I think once you net out the $300 travel credit and compare the extra $55, anyone who does any significant amount of travel will find the Reserve more beneficial.

    • Exactly. And points aside you have to consider intangibles like primary auto coverage, travel insurance, Priority Pass and more.

  • I also think the Global Entry credit was worth it for me. The Sapphire was great for a year. But then I downgraded after the first year and am content with the Preferred.

  • Jenny Stokowski says:

    Thanks for the great info! Useful for my family and for introducing friends to the points game!

  • This is a great update. I would have picked the one with the lower annual fee if I hadnt read this article. The travel credit offsets most of the yearly fee which is worth it.

  • I would be wary of any card that has a fee so high even if the benefits are great as they are

  • The only one reason to I want to have Sapphire Reserve is I already have Sapphire Preferred.

  • In my mind, CSR is better than CSP. Since there is only $55 cost difference. But obviously YMMV.

  • I love the Chase cards. They seem the most effeceint points to use. To date, I’ve done 14 international flights all on Chase points! I currently have the CSR and previously had the CSP. Does anyone know when you are deemed a new customer to qualify for a new sign up bonus after closing a card? 2 years? Also, how would you check? Thanks!

  • If you are frequent traveller Reserve has some value. If not, Preferred is the way to go. Points transfer capability, Primary rental insurance makes it worthwile to pay a reasonable fee than having to worry about a hefty fee and then redeem fortravel expenses. As more restaurants are leaving Priority Pass, its another question mark on Reserve.

  • Well done comparison.

  • Honestly, the fee for authorized users is enough for me to stick with preferred.

  • Victor M Hanna says:

    Big fan of my Sapphire Preferred–reasonable annual fee and love the cash back.

  • I like the Reserve’s $150 annual fee (technically so) coupled with the Priority Pass Select and the Global Entry reimbursements.

    Free food before a flight always works a treat!

    Especially if the flight doesn’t serve meals.

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