- The Chase Sapphire Preferred Card and the Chase Sapphire Reserve both earn Ultimate Rewards points, which are one of the most valuable loyalty currencies around thanks to transfer partners like United and Hyatt.
- While the Sapphire Reserve offers additional perks, it has a much higher annual fee — $550, starting on January 12, 2020 — versus the Sapphire Preferred’s $95 annual fee.
- If you apply for the Sapphire Reserve by January 12, you can lock in a $450 annual fee for your first account year.
- The Reserve’s benefits — like lounge access, DoorDash and travel credits, and more — can cancel some of the annual fee. But that’s only if you can take advantage these perks, and they won’t be useful to everybody.
- The Sapphire Preferred is a better option if you’re new to rewards credit cards, or if you only travel a few times a year. Plus, it offers a higher welcome bonus.
- See Business Insider’s list of the best rewards credit cards »
The two flavors of the Chase Sapphire card have helped catapult travel rewards into a mainstream obsession. The Chase Sapphire Preferred is still one of the most-Googled cards despite debuting more than a decade ago, and the Chase Sapphire Reserve was so popular that Chase ran out of metal cards when it first launched in 2016.
While the Sapphire Preferred has largely stayed the same in its 10-plus years of existence, the Chase Sapphire Reserve just got a big update. Starting on January 12, 2020, the card will add a handful of new benefits, including 10x points on Lyft rides, up to $120 in credits with DoorDash, and a year of complimentary Pink membership with Lyft.
Those new perks come with a higher annual fee, however: Starting on January 12, you’ll pay $550 per year to hold the Sapphire Reserve, up from $450. That puts the Reserve on par with the Platinum Card® from American Express, which previously held the record for the most expensive consumer credit card.
Chase Ultimate Rewards points are some of the most valuable credit card rewards around, so having either the Chase Sapphire Preferred or the Chase Sapphire Reserve is a smart move if you want to use points to travel. But while it used to be relatively easy to make a case for the Reserve’s higher fee, the latest round of updates changes the equation a bit.
With the Sapphire Reserve’s new benefits and higher annual fee in mind, let’s dig into the cards’ biggest differences to help you decide which is a better choice for you.
Chase Sapphire Preferred vs. Sapphire Reserve: the biggest differences
Aside from the annual fee, the biggest differences are that the Sapphire Reserve earns 3x points on travel and dining instead of 2x on the Sapphire Preferred, and comes with a $300 annual travel credit, access to more than 1,200 airport lounges through the Priority Pass network, a trip delay insurance policy that takes effect after shorter delays, and elite benefits with a few car rental agencies.
The Sapphire Reserve also has some new statement credits: up to $60 in DoorDash credits in 2020, and up to another $60 in 2021. DoorDash is a food delivery service that operates in dozens of cities across the US and Canada. Both Sapphire Reserve and Sapphire Preferred cardholders also get a year of DashPass membership, which waives delivery fees on orders of $15 or more.
Another new benefit that’s only available on the Chase Sapphire Reserve: a year of complimentary Lyft Pink membership, which gets you 15% off rides, priority airport pickups, and up to three free bike or scooter rides per month in select cities. The Sapphire Reserve will now offer 10x points on Lyft rides — a great return on spending — while the Sapphire Preferred will offer 5x points. (On both cards, these elevated earning rates with Lyft are available through March 22.)
Redeeming points: Chase Sapphire Preferred vs. Reserve
Chase offers cardholders great options for redeeming points; You can exchange them for cash back at 1 cent per point, or you can use them to purchase travel thorough Chase’s booking portal — with a 25% bonus for Sapphire Preferred cardholders. Best of all, you can can transfer points to Chase’s frequent flyer partners.
With the Sapphire Reserve, you can redeem points the same way as with the Preferred — with one difference. When using them to purchase travel through Chase, you’ll get a 50% bonus, instead of 25% with the Preferred.
Along with the added perks, though, the Reserve comes with a higher annual fee. While the Sapphire Preferred only costs $95 per year, the Sapphire Reserve has an un-waived annual fee of $550 (as of January 12, 2020). When you subtract the $300 travel credit, which is essentially applied to the first $300 of travel-category spending each cardmember year, the effective fee is $250 per year, a $155 increase over the Preferred.
Click here to learn more about the Chase Sapphire Preferred card »
Click here to learn more about the Chase Sapphire Reserve »
So what makes the Sapphire Reserve worth the higher annual fee compared to the Sapphire Preferred? Which one is right for you?
Here are a few questions to ask yourself when deciding between the two cards.
How much do you spend on travel and dining?
To start, let’s keep it simple and focus solely on the points earning.
Without considering any other perks or benefits, the deciding factor between the two cards should be whether you spend enough on dining and travel that earning an extra point per dollar is worth the Sapphire Reserve’s higher annual fee.
The Sapphire Preferred’s fee is $95, while the Sapphire Reserve’s fee is $550. However, if you factor in the $300 travel credit that the Sapphire Reserve includes each year — which is good on everything from taxis, parking, tolls, and subway fares to flights, cruises, and hotels — the card’s fee is effectively only $150. The difference between the Preferred’s fee ($95) and the Reserve’s (effectively $150) is $155.
For argument’s sake, let’s assume you value your points at 1.5 cents each (that’s the value of points used to purchase travel through Chase, with the 50% bonus if you hold the Sapphire Reserve). You would need to spend $11,233 on dining and travel each year to make up the $155 annual fee difference between the two cards.
That breaks down to $936 per month — and this calculation takes into account the points you wouldn’t earn on travel purchases covered by the $300 annual statement credit.
Of course, this will still require you to pay the $550 annual fee every 12 months. Even though you’ll get the travel credit applied to the first $300 of relevant spending each cardmember year, that can be a lot of money to pay up front. Whether you want to front $550 is entirely a personal decision, so make sure you weigh the cash outlay (and the fact that the fee isn’t waived the first year) against the higher earning potential.
Read more: 6 reasons the Chase Sapphire Reserve’s high annual fee is easy to justify — and why the card is ultimately a better value than Chase’s cheaper Sapphire Preferred
Moving on from points earning…
Will you use the Reserve’s new benefits?
In exchange for a higher annual fee, the Sapphire Reserve is adding the following benefits in early 2020:
- Up to $120 in DoorDash credits (up to $60 in 2020, and up to $60 in 2021)
- Complimentary one-year Lyft Pink membership
- 10x points on Lyft rides
If you already use Lyft and DoorDash frequently, these benefits could make the $100 annual fee increase worth it. But if you aren’t interested in ordering food delivery through DoorDash and you don’t use rideshare services like Lyft, these new perks won’t move the needle much — and you’ll still have to pay $550 per year. In that case, it really comes down to how much you spend on travel and dining, and how you value the extra Chase points you’ll own with the Chase Sapphire Reserve.
How do you value the higher sign-up bonus?
The 10,000 extra points you’d get from the Sapphire Preferred’s sign-up bonus are worth at least $100 as cash back, $125 as travel through Chase, or more if you transfer the points to airline partners.
Put another way, you’d have to spend an extra $3,333 on the Sapphire Reserve to earn 10,000 points (not counting the 10x points you can earn with the Reserve on Lyft purchases). It could be worth earning the higher bonus with the Sapphire Preferred, then converting it to the Reserve after your first year.
Read more: 7 reasons the Chase Sapphire Preferred is worth it — even though the card doesn’t come with as many flashy perks as the Sapphire Reserve
How much do you value the trip delay insurance?
A lot of discussion around the Sapphire Reserve focuses on the points and more obvious perks, like lounge access, but personally, I think the trip delay insurance is one of the most valuable features. I live in New York, where delays are fairly frequent, whether because of mechanical issues, intense weather, or other problems.
That’s why I like the extra layer of security added by the Sapphire Reserve. The card’s trip delay coverage becomes effective after just six hours, or if you end up stuck overnight. The Sapphire Preferred’s coverage is also activated when there’s an overnight delay; if the delay is entirely during the day, the coverage takes effect after 12 hours.
If the trip delay insurance activating sooner is worth the higher annual fee, then you should consider the Sapphire Reserve. After a seven-hour delay this summer, I was able to submit a claim for a number of expenses including lunch, a phone backup battery, and even a pair of headphones I needed. However, any stay that incurs major expenses, like a hotel room and a change of clothes, would probably involve an overnight stay and therefore be covered by the Sapphire Preferred’s insurance.
Click here to learn more about the Chase Sapphire Preferred card »
Click here to learn more about the Chase Sapphire Reserve »
Will you use the airport lounge access?
Airport lounges are the best. Even when they’re relatively lively (read: crowded), they’re still much better than the main terminal and gate areas. I love having a place to sit down, relax, charge my phone, and have a few drinks or a snack while I wait for my flight; or, other times, to hunker down with my laptop and take advantage of the lounge Wi-Fi to do some work. Sometimes, airport lounges can be downright luxurious and include amenities like complimentary spa treatments.
The Chase Sapphire Reserve includes a free Priority Pass Select membership for as long as you have the card. Priority Pass is a network of more than 1,200 airport lounges around the world. A Select membership grants access to member lounges for you and any travel companions. While amenities vary by lounge, most of them tend to offer private Wi-Fi, free hard and soft drinks, snacks, and comfortable seating. Some lounges also feature heartier food options, sometimes included or sometimes for an additional charge.
You can take a look at Priority Pass’s full network of lounges by clicking “Find a Lounge” on the upper-left corner of this page to gauge whether the membership will be useful for you. The network is more robust abroad; the amount of US locations is relatively limited, and they tend to be found in international terminals, so you may not always be able to access lounges before domestic trips.
Several airports also have restaurants which are part of the Priority Pass network. At these restaurants — including the Grain Store at London’s Gatwick airport — you’ll get a certain amount credited on the bill for you and each guest. At the Grain Store, each guest is entitled to a £15 credit.
If you don’t think you’ll have much use for the Priority Pass membership, you might prefer the Sapphire Preferred and its lower annual fee.
Read more: The best Chase credit cards
Do you already have Global Entry/TSA PreCheck?
If you don’t have Global Entry and TSA PreCheck, you should really get it. With PreCheck, you can use special security lines at most US airports. In those lanes, you can keep your shoes, belt, and light jacket on, leave your laptop in your bag, and only go through a metal detector instead of a full body scanner. The process is much quicker than regular security, and it’s much less uncomfortable.
With Global Entry, you can skip the immigration line when returning from the US and scan your passport at an unmanned kiosk instead. It prints a receipt which you bring to the customs stop after baggage claim, and just like that: you’re good to go.
You can apply to either program, but Global Entry usually includes TSA PreCheck and the $100 application fee is only a bit more than the $85 you’d pay to just apply for PreCheck. Plus, the Chase Sapphire Reserve offers a credit for either program. If you aren’t enrolled in one of these programs yet, you may want to consider the Reserve. Otherwise, the Sapphire Preferred might be your best bet, unless you’re due to renew your membership soon.
Will you add any authorized users to your account?
If you’re looking to add authorized users, like a spouse or child, keep in mind that the Sapphire Reserve charges an annual fee of $75 to add anyone to your account, Each authorized user gets their own Priority Pass Select membership, at least. There’s no fee to add an authorized user to your Sapphire Preferred account.
The bottom line
Ultimately, the two biggest things to consider when deciding between the cards is whether or not you’re willing to pay the higher annual fee for the Sapphire Reserve, and whether you spend enough on dining and travel to make it worth that higher fee. Beyond that, take a look at the difference in perks and see which is best for you.