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Chase Sapphire Reserve vs Preferred: Which card to get and keep?

by on Sun January 8, 2017 • 19 Comments

sapphirereserve170With the recent introduction of the Chase Sapphire Reserve® Card , there’s now a premium Ultimate Rewards earning credit card on the market. At $450, the annual fee is comparable to cards like the The Platinum Card® from American Express and Citi Prestige, but it earns Ultimate Rewards points you can transfer to many travel programs like the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card.

It’s loaded with protection benefits that are a notch better than the Sapphire Preferred, and it comes with a $300 annual travel credit every year that’s automatically applied to travel purchases you make on the card.

So which is better considering the annual fees?

We’re going to get into more detail below, but the short answer is:

  • When you take full advantage of the $300 annual travel credit of the Chase Sapphire Reserve, which can be applied to airfare, hotels, and even bridge tolls, you’re paying closer to $150 a year to hold the card. Compare that to the $95 a year annual fee for the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, and the difference is just $55 a year.
  • Get the Chase Sapphire Reserve if you can use the $300 annual airline fee credit and spend enough on travel and dining purchases that earning an extra point per dollar spent (3x for the Reserve vs 2x for the Preferred) gets you at least $55 per year in rewards or more. That’s about $3,500 worth of travel or dining spending a year, considering the Chase Sapphire Reserve points are worth 1.5 cents each for travel booked on the Chase website.

  • Get the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card if you don’t think you’ll use the $300 annual airline fee credit, don’t want an upfront annual fee, or don’t spend enough on travel and dining purchases to get at least $55 or more per year in rewards.

Here’s a rundown the the main features of each card:

  • Chase Sapphire Reserve:  Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. You also earn 3X points per dollar spent on travel and dining at restaurants, 1X point per dollar spent on all other purchases. There’s a $300 automatic annual credit for travel purchases, up to $100 statement credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck, Priority Pass Select airport lounge access for you and all your traveling companions, and no foreign transaction fees. The $450 annual fee is not waived the first year

  • Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card: It has a 50,000 bonus points, and you earn 2X points per dollar spent on travel and dining at restaurants, and 1X point per dollar spent on all other purchases. You get 1:1 points transfers to a variety of hotel and airline programs, no foreign transaction fees on purchases made abroad, and a $0 introductory annual fee the first year, then $95.

Now we will look at the relative pros and cons of each card and help you decide which card makes the most sense for you.

Chase Sapphire Reserve


  • sapphirereserve170Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.

  • You earn 3x points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide with no limits.

  • Every year you’ll have a $300 credit for travel purchases to cover airfare, hotels, train tickets, parking fees, bridge tolls, and more.

  • If you don’t have TSA PreCheck or Global Entry yet, your application fee will be reimbursed if you charge it on this card.

  • Ability to book flights through Chase’s travel portal without first transferring points to partners with a 50% bonus – so your points are worth 1.5 cents when you book this way, which is a great deal.

  • A Priority Pass Select Membership will get you *and your traveling companions* into many airline lounges around the world as well as a handful domestically.

  • Trip delay coverage (up to $500) kicks in with delays of 6 hours
  • Emergency medical evacuation coverage


  • The Chase Sapphire Reserve has an annual fee that is up near the top of the spectrum: $450, and the fee is not waived the first year.

> Read our full review

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card


  • chasesapphirepreferred170Access to Chase Ultimate Rewards® transfer partners means that your points are super flexible.

  • No foreign transaction fees on purchases made abroad. Again, a pretty standard benefit now on cards that charge an annual fee, but a very important benefit to have if you plan to travel abroad!

  • The $95 annual fee is waived the first year.


  • You can book flights through Chase’s travel portal without first transferring points to partners, which increases the flexibility of your points, but the bonus is only 20%. That makes your points worth 1.25 cents each when you book this way, which is a decent deal.

  • Earn 2x points per dollar spent on all travel and dining purchases instead of 3x points for the Reserve.

  • Trip delay coverage only kicks in on delays of 12 hours or more

> Read our full review

Does having both cards make sense?

Concurrently holding both of these cards will generally not make sense since all of the benefits of the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card are also benefits of the Chase Sapphire Reserve.

You might want to try one first, then if it doesn’t quite fit your needs, apply for the other one as a brand new card, so you can earn a second signup bonus.

Which card is right for you?

Both of these credit card offerings from Chase are solid, not only for the signup bonus, but for the bonus spending categories and other benefits. Assuming you will make use of the $300 annual airline fee credit from the Chase Sapphire Reserve, the annual fee on the Chase Sapphire Reserve is effectively brought down to $150 ($450-$300). That’s just $55 more than the $95 associated with the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card.

What you need to ask yourself is if you value the additional benefits of the Chase Sapphire Reserve at $55 or more.

If you do, you should keep the Chase Sapphire Reserve. If you don’t, you should keep the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card. Both cards are, in all likelihood, worth getting for the signup bonus. If you are able to make use of the Global Entry/TSA PreCheck benefit alone, you will get more value out of the Chase Sapphire Reserve.

Additionally, if you value lounge access and don’t get it from another card, it is likely that the Chase Sapphire Reserve will be the best choice for you. Even if you don’t value those benefits, the extra Ultimate Reward point per dollar spent earned on travel and dining purchases could be a tide-turner. You would need to spend around $3,500 on these categories in a year to break even on that benefit alone.

If you don’t think you’ll be able to make use of the $300 airline fee credit, the story is a little different. At that point, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is likely to be a better option for you, though the Chase Sapphire Reserve may still be worth trying out, since the signup bonus is so large.

The following two tabs change content below.

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Miles dont expireas long as card is open
Learn more

Partner Offer

50,000 bonus points

Intro Offer

$0 introductory annual fee the first year, then $95

Annual Fee


Foreign Transaction Fee Waived

Yes - transfer to United MileagePlus, Southwest Rapid Rewards, Marriott Rewards, and more

Points Can Transfer to Airline Miles ?

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19 thoughts on Chase Sapphire Reserve vs Preferred: Which card to get and keep?

  1. Mike

    I have the CSR, CSP, and Amex Platinum. I’m definitely keeping the Amex. In light of this information (some overlapping benefits of the Amex Platinum and the CSR), should I keep the CSR or the CSP after the end of the 1st year of the CSR? I know the CSR is only $55 more than the CSP and the CSR’s annual travel credit is more generous than the Amex airline credit. Thanks!


      @Mike – Since the Amex covers all the lounge access benefits, you’re basically trying to justify $150 or $95 worth of annual cost.

      Since the Amex already earns points from spending and you’re already paying its fee you should think about the opportunity cost of paying a second annual fee on a Sapphire.

      To simplify let’s just say for your base spending Amex points and Chase points are worth about the same, so for your base spending there’s no advantage to doing it on a Sapphire vs the Amex Plat.

      For travel and dining (excluding airfare, with 5x on the Amex Plat), you’d need to spend…

      $5,000 a year in those categories to make $150 in cost for the Reserve worthwhile
      $7,600 a year in those categories to make $95 in cost for the Preferred worthwhile

      Yes that looks backwards, but it’s because the Reserve earns 3x on travel / dining vs the 2x on the Preferred. We’re assuming you earn 2 extra points on dining / travel on the Reserve vs the Amex and 1 extra point on dining / travel with the Preferred vs the Amex.

      We’re also assuming the 1.25 cent per point redemption value for the Preferred and 1.5 cents for the Reserve.

      1. Mike

        Thanks for the logical explanation that I probably don’t need either CSR or CSP but I guess I should’ve mentioned that the annual fee on the Platinum is waived for me so I was looking at the CSR or CSP to cover the dining and non-airfare travel spending. I already met the spend requirements to get the point bonuses. Not I’m just trying to figure out if I should keep the CSR or the CSP going forward. It comes downs to whether or not the extra $55 for the CSR is justified by the benefits that aren’t covered by the Amex or the CSP. Any additional thoughts would be greatly appreciated.


          @Mike – The only real extra benefit of the CSR is the extra 1 point per dollar on travel / dining with the Preferred, since you already have the Priority Pass lounge access via Amex Plat, and 1.5 cents per dollar travel redemption value vs 1.25 cents on the Preferred.

          So if you spend over $4,000 a year on travel / dining, you’ll come out over $55 ahead vs the Preferred in reward value.

  2. Andre

    Hi there,

    I actually have both cards. And i definitely want to keep the Reserve VS. the Preferred. My only problem is that both cards gave me a decent amount of credit line. I NEVER max out my credit cards or use them past the recommended 30% CUR, but it seems like such a waste to close one and lose that credit line amount, which helps my credit score. Is it possible to transfer my Preferred credit line to my newly opened Reserve?



      @Andre – Some of that might be possible – you could also consider requesting to change your Preferred to a no annual fee product and keep the credit line intact.

      1. Matthew

        When I applied to CSR, I had just gotten my CSP line bumped to 28k. I was approved for CSR @ 24k. As soon as I received my CSR, I paid off the CSP, moved 16k from CSP to CSR, leaving me with 40k on CSR and 12k on CSP in case I need a second card. I eventually plan on doing PC on CSP to a no fee card.

  3. Don

    I’m intrigued by the Priority Pass Select membership that allows access to airport lounges that comes with the Reserve card. That is a great perk to have for trips when you have a layover of a few hours or longer. Does that lounge access work just for the cardholder or is a companion included? It wasn’t clear from the Chase or Priority Pass websites and there didn’t seem to be a phone number or e-mail to ask the question to the company.

      1. Wes

        Actually I talked to a Chase banker today and they told me it’ll post on the calendar year to match the annual travel credit, so Jan 2017. Maybe someone should verify this?


          @Wes – Chase bankers don’t work in the credit card department – check with a credit card phone rep. The first annual fee is on your first billing statement, and the next one comes 12 months later.

  4. Teresa

    I just signed up for the preferred card a few weeks before the reserve card came out. Is it worth it to open the reserve as well? I am going to spend a lot of money this year on my wedding and would like to get some points back to use for the honeymoon. Any insight would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!


      @Teresa – It’s certainly possible. They’re okay with people going for both to try them out. You could always downgrade the Sapphire Preferred to a no annual fee card like the Freedom Unlimited around when the annual fee comes due. And with your wedding and honeymoon sounds like you could rack up a lot of points.

    2. Cristi

      I was in the same situation. I ended up signing up for Reserve as well. I transferred the 50k from Preferred to Reserve to increase their value (50,000 is worth $625 with Preferred and $750 with Reserve). You’ll end up with 150,000 points worth $2250 total! The annual fee is $450 but if you apply now, you will get $300 travel credit in both 2016 and 2017 which more than covers it. Hope this helps!

      1. Cw

        I made the same mistake and got all excited about the Sapphire Reserve at the beginning of August and did not even realize the Sapphire Reserve was about to come out. The CSP was my first Ultimate Rewards Chase Card, except for a Chase Amazon card I got 5 or 6 years ago, and I’ve already spent the 4k required for the bonus in a month. Do I have a good chance of getting approved for the Reserve even though I just got the Preferred a month ago? I dont want to waste a hard pull on my credit if its likely I wont get approved. I will be traveling a lot this winter and the beginning of next year, so I am trying to max out my points to pay for travel.

        1. Cw

          *Oops I meant I got all excited about the Sapphire Preffered, not the Reserve. I have the Prefferred and am looking to get the Reserve.


          @cw – One way to get a sense is to head to a branch and see if the Reserve is listed in your pre-qualified offers. Chase is fine with people getting and earning a bonus for both cards. And you have a long history with Chase via the Amazon card.

          Or, check online here:


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