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Chase Sapphire Showdown: Reserve Beats Preferred

Sept. 11, 2018
Credit Cards, Rewards Credit Cards, Travel Credit Cards
Chase Sapphire Showdown
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The Chase Sapphire Reserve® does the impossible: It makes a $450 annual fee seem like a steal. That’s thanks to its high rewards rate, top-notch benefits and sign-up bonus.

But is it actually a more cost-effective choice than its more affordable sister card, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, which comes with an annual fee of just $0 for the first year, then $95?

We found that it is — at least for frequent travelers who can take advantage of all of the card’s benefits.

The Sapphire cards, side by side

Here’s how the cards stack up on the basics:

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
Chase Sapphire Reserve®
Sign-up bonus
Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $625 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®Earn 50K 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®
Annual fee
$0 for the first year, then $95$450
Rewards
  • 2 points per $1 spent on travel and dining.

  • 1 point per $1 spent on everything else.
  • 3 points per $1 spent on travel and dining.

  • 1 point per $1 spent on everything else.
Point value
1.25 cents apiece when redeemed for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®1.5 cents apiece when redeemed for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
Annual credit for travel expenses
None$300, automatically applied to travel spending
Other notable benefits
  • 1:1 transfer partners, including British Airways, United, Southwest Airlines and Hyatt, among others.
  • 1:1 transfer partners (same as the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card).
  • Access to more than 1,200 airport lounges worldwide through Priority Pass™ Select.
  • Up to $100 reimbursement every four years for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓® application fees charged to your card.

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Why the Chase Sapphire Reserve® wins

It comes with a $300 annual travel credit. Chase automatically applies this credit to any travel purchases you make with your card — including airlines, hotels, timeshares, campground fees and ferries, among other categories — effectively canceling out a large portion of its annual fee.

Even with the annual fee, it easily leads in rewards. Both cards offer rewards with plenty of versatility, allowing you to transfer points to some airlines and hotels — such as British Airways, United and Hyatt — at a 1:1 ratio. But if you book travel through Chase, you’ll get 1.5 cent per point on the Chase Sapphire Reserve®, compared to 1.25 cent per point on the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card.

The Chase Sapphire Reserve®’s superior rewards rate and redemption value, coupled with its $300 annual travel credit, give it much greater earning potential and long-term value. To see how the two cards stack up for you, use the calculator below.

It offers airport lounge access and other top-tier benefits. With the Chase Sapphire Reserve®, you get Priority Pass™ Select access to more than 1,200 airport lounges in more than 500 cities worldwide. That means you can relax in a comfy armchair before your flight and take advantage of free snacks and drinks.

Among other benefits, the card also offers up to $100 reimbursement every four years for the application fee for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®, which can let you sail through customs or security lines on your next trip. The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card lacks these benefits.

Why you might want the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card instead

You want to add authorized users. The Chase Sapphire Reserve® charges a $75 annual fee for each authorized user you add to the account. This isn’t unusual for luxury cards, but it changes the math.

The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card might be a better deal in this case. You can add authorized users for no charge.

You can’t stomach the annual fee. If you don’t plan on using the benefits on the Chase Sapphire Reserve®, it simply isn’t worth its $450 annual fee.

The Chase Sapphire Reserve® isn’t your average luxury card

If you’re keen on keeping your cards’ annual fees in the double digits, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card may be a better choice for you. But if you travel frequently, the Chase Sapphire Reserve® more than justifies its $450 fee.