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Chase Sapphire Preferred vs Reserve credit cards

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  • The Chase Sapphire Preferred and the Chase Sapphire Reserve are both fantastic credit cards, with valuable rewards and useful benefits.
  • While the Sapphire Reserve offers additional perks, it has a higher annual fee — $450 — versus the Sapphire Preferred’s $95 annual fee (which is waived the first year).
  • Both cards also offer a generous sign-up bonus of 50,000 points when you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first three months.
  • Read on for the questions you should ask yourself if you’re trying to decide between the two cards.

The Chase Sapphire Preferred has been one of the most popular credit cards among rewards experts and travelers alike for years, and it’s easy to see why. On top of the 2x points earned on all dining and travel purchases, the card also comes with class-leading benefits, including primary collision damage waiver/theft insurance for rental cars, trip delay and baggage delay coverage, robust purchase protections, and fantastic customer service. 

On top of all that, Chase offers Sapphire Preferred cardholders great options for redeeming points; you can exchange them for cash back at one cent per point, or you can use them to purchase travel thorough Chase’s booking portal with a 25% bonus. Best of all, you can can transfer points to Chase’s frequent flyer partners (click here to read about why that’s potentially the most lucrative way to use your points).

For a while, holding that card was a no brainer. Then, in 2016, Chase launched a souped-up version of the card: the Chase Sapphire Reserve. In addition to offering the same benefits as its predecessor, the Sapphire Reserve packs on a few extra features for serious travelers. It earns 3x points on travel and dining instead of 2x, and comes with a $300 annual travel credit, access to select 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.

With the Sapphire Reserve, you can also 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 just 25%.

Along with the added perks, though, the beefier card comes with a higher annual fee. While the Sapphire Preferred only costs $95 per year, waived the first year, the Sapphire Reserve has an un-waived annual fee of $450. 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 only $150 per year, a $55 increase over the Preferred.

So what makes the Sapphire Reserve worth the higher annual fee? Which one is right for you? Here are a few questions to ask yourself when deciding between the two cards.

Click here to learn more about the Chase Sapphire Preferred card from Insider Picks’ partner The Points Guy.

Click here to learn more about the Chase Sapphire Reserve from Insider Picks’ partner The Points Guy.

How much do I 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 $450. 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 $55.

For argument’s sake, let’s assume you value your points at 1.5 cent each (that’s the value of points used to purchase travel through Chase, with the 50% bonus if you hold the Sapphire Reserve). That means you would need to earn 3,660 points each year to make up the $55 annual fee difference between the two cards. 

So if you spend at least $3,360 on dining and travel each year, the extra point earned per dollar will add up to the difference in fees and make it worth getting the Sapphire Reserve card. That’s without factoring in the other benefits of the card.

Of course, this will still require you to pay the $450 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 $450 is entirely a personal decision, make sure you weigh the cash outlay (and the fact that the fee isn’t waived the first year) against the higher earning potential. Moving on from points earning.

How much do I 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. 

airport delay travelAP Photo/Seth Wenig

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 from Insider Picks’ partner The Points Guy.

Click here to learn more about the Chase Sapphire Reserve from Insider Picks’ partner The Points Guy.

Will I use the lounge access?

Airport lounges are the best. Even when they’re relatively lively (read: crowded), it’s 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.

Airport LoungeFlickr/Matt Weibo

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 1,000 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 your home airport has a Priority Pass lounge in a terminal you can generally access, or you travel internationally even once or twice a year, then the Priority Pass membership can be great to have, especially if you ever find yourself bored and waiting out a delay. 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.

Do I already have Global Entry/TSA PreCheck?

First thing’s first; 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 jackets 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.

TSA CheckpointAP

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. Immigration at a busy terminal can take hours; with Global Entry, I’ve gotten through at JFK in four minutes.

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 I add any authorized users to my 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.

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.

Click here to learn more about the Chase Sapphire Preferred card from Insider Picks’ partner The Points Guy.

Click here to learn more about the Chase Sapphire Reserve from Insider Picks’ partner The Points Guy.

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