If Chase Ultimate Rewards® is your favored points currency, it’s hard to go wrong with either of the Chase Sapphire credit cards. The Chase Sapphire Reserve® can hold its own with virtually any travel card on the market today. Still, I decided that the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card was the better fit for my own family. Here’s why.
Find The Best Credit Cards For 2023
No single credit card is the best option for every family, every purchase or every budget. We’ve picked the best credit cards in a way designed to be the most helpful to the widest variety of readers.
Reasons to Consider Either Sapphire Preferred or Sapphire Reserve
Of the four personal Chase credit cards that earn Ultimate Rewards® points, only the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card and Chase Sapphire Reserve® enable cardholders to transfer those points to over a dozen travel partners at a 1:1 ratio. They’re also the only non-business Chase cards that offer a bonus when you redeem your points towards travel through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal—25% for the Sapphire Preferred and 50% for the Sapphire Reserve.
Both cards also offer similar welcome bonuses. And both provide a bevy of perks and purchase coverages.
Once you dig beneath the surface, though, you’ll find that the Sapphire Reserve offers several premium travel benefits that the Sapphire Preferred can’t match. For some, those extras make the Sapphire Reserve the perfect rewards card. But after careful consideration, I opted for the Sapphire Preferred card instead—and I haven’t regretted my decision.
Why I Chose the Chase Sapphire Preferred Over the Reserve
1. I Value the Sapphire Preferred’s Distinctive Bonus Categories.
Both the Sapphire Preferred and Sapphire Reserve feature a variety of bonus categories that relate to either travel or dining out. But the Sapphire Preferred is unique in that it also offers bonus points for online grocery purchases and streaming services. Here’s a full breakdown of each card’s earning rates.
The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card earns 60,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.
Meanwhile, the Chase Sapphire Reserve® earns 5 points per dollar on flights and 10 points per dollar on hotels and car rentals when purchasing travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards® immediately after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually. Earn 3 points per dollar on other travel and dining and 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
There’s no doubt that the Sapphire Reserve has impressive bonus categories, especially the 10 points per dollar that it offers on hotels and rental cars booked through Ultimate Rewards®. But our household really values the two bonus categories that are exclusive to the Sapphire Preferred.
First, as a family of four (with two growing and hungry boys), we love that we earn 3 points per dollar on online grocery bonus purchases. This bonus category applies not only to online orders with traditional grocery stores, but to meal kit subscriptions as well which we’ve enjoyed using from time to time.
Second, I must admit that our family spends a significant chunk of change each month on streaming services. We’re currently subscribed to Netflix Premium, Disney+, HBO Max, Apple TV+ and YouTube Premium (please don’t judge). The cost of these monthly subscriptions quickly adds up; but earning triple points on them helps to take away at least a bit of the sting of guilt.
2. I Appreciate the Sapphire Preferred’s Lower Fees.
This one might seem obvious, but I definitely don’t mind that the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card has a substantially lower annual price tag than the Chase Sapphire Reserve®. The Sapphire Preferred’s annual fee is $95 while the Reserve has an annual fee of $550.
In our family’s case, we also save by not having to pay for my wife’s authorized user card. Sapphire Reserve cardholders must pay an additional $75 per year for authorized users, but it’s free to add them to the Sapphire Preferred. Thanks to the lower annual fee and the lack of an authorized user fee, we start off each year $530 ahead by owning the Sapphire Preferred rather than the Reserve.
Now for the right person or household, the Sapphire Reserve has plenty of credits and rewards that could easily make up the difference in fees. In fact, it could be sliced by more than half by simply taking full advantage of the card’s available $300 annual travel credit.
Still, many of the Sapphire Reserve’s savings opportunities are dependent on card usage (i.e. spending $300 on travel). I take satisfaction in knowing that I can save on fees each year with the Sapphire Preferred regardless of my purchase choices.
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
Up to 5x Reward Rate
Earn 5x on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, 3x on dining and 2x on all other travel purchases, plusRead More
60,000 bonus points
20.49% – 27.49% Variable
Excellent, Good (700 – 749)
3. I Wouldn’t Maximize the Sapphire Reserve’s Lounge Benefits.
When it comes to airport perks, the Sapphire Reserve is the clear winner over the Preferred. The premium Sapphire card offers complimentary Priority Pass Select membership which gives access to over 1,300 VIP lounges. Cardholders can also receive a fee credit of up to $100 every four years for Global Entry, TSA PreCheck® or NEXUS.
While the $100 fee credit is nice, it really only adds up to a $25 annual benefit when you divide it over four years. The real potential value lies in the free lounge access.
Unfortunately, it’s unlikely that I would be able to fully tap that value right now. Since I rarely travel for work, I’m almost always visiting the airport with my wife and kids. Our brood has a hard enough time making it to the airport on time for our flight, much less having extra time to relax in a lounge.
To be fair, if we could get our act together, the Sapphire Reserve’s lounge benefit could be ideal for a family of our size. It provides complimentary Priority Pass Select membership to the primary cardmember, authorized users and up to two guests (after that, each additional guest costs $27 per visit).
Once our kids are a little older, I may consider switching to the Reserve card to take advantage of this perk. The thought of our family enjoying some food and relaxation at a lounge before our flight does sound appealing. But for now, I’m just thrilled whenever we make it to our gate before liftoff.
4. I Like Getting 10% of My Annual Purchases Back in Bonus Points.
At each account anniversary, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card rewards its cardholders with bonus points that equal 10% of their prior year’s purchases. This perk is not included with the Chase Sapphire Reserve®, which I find rather odd.
Note that the annual bonus is 10% of the money spent on the card during the year, not 10% of the number of earned points. If I spend $30,000 on my Sapphire Preferred card during my cardmember year, I’ll earn 3,000 bonus points at my anniversary, even though I would have likely earned more than 30,000 points on those purchases thanks to bonus categories.
This 10% bonus isn’t a make-or-break benefit of the Sapphire Preferred card for me. Yet it’s a nice cherry on top of the card’s other perks and provides an additional earnings boost that I wouldn’t receive as a Sapphire Reserve cardholder.
5. I Still Receive Similar Protections and Partner Benefits.
So far in this article I’ve focused on the ways that the Sapphire Preferred and Sapphire Reserve are different. But what might surprise you more is their many similarities.
To start, neither card charges foreign transaction fees. Also, multiple consumer protections are extended to all Sapphire cardholders regardless of the specific card they hold. This includes:
Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance
Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver
Trip Delay Reimbursement
Purchase Protection (up to $500 per claim with the Preferred card and up to $10,000 per claim with the Reserve card)
Extended Warranty Protection
Beyond these shared benefits, the Sapphire Reserve card adds emergency evacuation and transportation and return protection. Additionally, Sapphire Reserve provides up to $3,000 of lost luggage reimbursement while the Sapphire Preferred opts for baggage delay insurance with a maximum benefit of $100 per day for up to 5 days.
The Sapphire siblings also offer benefits with the same four partners: Lyft, DoorDash, Gopuff, and Instacart. The Sapphire Preferred card’s deals are just typically a bit less valuable.
For example, while both cards offer free DashPash, the Reserve adds $5 in monthly DoorDash credits. And while the Sapphire Preferred card pairs six months of complimentary Instacart+ with up to $15 in statement credits each quarter, Reserve cardholders can receive a full year of free Instacart+ membership with up to $15 in statement credits per month rather than per quarter.
Yes, the Sapphire Reserve clearly provides more extras than the Preferred. But the gap isn’t as wide as I would have expected considering their significant discrepancy in fees. That’s a win for Sapphire Preferred cardholders as they can get comparable perks for a lower cost of ownership.
Chase Sapphire Reserve®
Up to 10x Reward Rate
Earn 5x total points on flights and 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel throughRead More
60,000 bonus points
21.49% – 28.49% Variable
Excellent (750 – 850)
Who Should Choose the Chase Sapphire Reserve Instead?
Despite everything I’ve said above, I don’t think that everyone should apply for the Sapphire Preferred. While it’s the better fit for me, I also recognize that the Chase Sapphire Reserve® could be the smart choice for many others.
So who should choose the Sapphire Reserve over the Preferred? First, you should be someone who travels often enough to max out the $300 travel credit. Second, you should be someone who would be able to visit enough lounges per year to generate solid value from your complimentary Priority Pass Select membership.
Third, if you’re mainly looking to earn rewards on travel, you should probably choose the Sapphire Reserve. In addition to the higher earnings rates that it offers on hotels and car rentals, it also provides a higher bonus (50% vs 25%) when you redeem travel through Ultimate Rewards.
Finally, the Sapphire Reserve could be the better choice if you rarely buy groceries online and you don’t have very many streaming subscriptions. If that sounds like you, you won’t get much value out of the bonus points that the Sapphire Preferred card offers for those categories.
While the Chase Sapphire Reserve® offers more luxury perks, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card seemed like the more cost-effective choice for me. Ultimately, the right choice for you will depend on your individual lifestyle and spending habits.
If you’re looking for more information to help you decide, you might want to check out our full head-to-head comparison of the Chase Sapphire Preferred vs. Chase Sapphire Preferred.