Chase Sapphire Reserve vs Preferred. Which is worth the price?

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Chase Sapphire Reserve vs Preferred

Until recently, the comparison between Chase’s Sapphire cards was pretty easy.  The Chase Sapphire Reserve offered 3X travel & dining vs. the Preferred card’s 2X.  The Sapphire Reserve offers 1.5 cents per point value towards travel vs. the Preferred card’s 1.25.  And the Reserve offers a slew of benefits not available to Preferred cardholders.

The Sapphire Reserve previously cost $450 per year, but offered an automatic $300 travel rebate.  This made it seem like a $150 card to those of us who easily earned the travel rebate without even trying.  In this light, the $95 Sapphire Preferred card didn’t fare well in comparison.  After all, with only net $55 per year extra, you could get better point earnings, better point value, and better perks.

Things changed when Chase increased the Sapphire Reserve annual fee to $550.  Now the Sapphire Reserve is like a $250 per year card after the $300 rebate*.  That makes it substantially more expensive than the Sapphire Preferred.  Plus, Chase increased the Sapphire Preferred card’s dining earning to 3x.  Given these changes, is the Sapphire Reserve still worth the premium?  Or, are we better off with the Sapphire Preferred?

* Travel expenses that are rebated do not earn rewards.  This means that the true effective rebate is a bit less than $300.

Annual Fee & Statement Credit Comparison

Sapphire Preferred Sapphire Reserve
Annual Fee $95 $550
Authorized User Fee $0 $75
Annual Travel Rebate $50 towards hotels booked through Chase. $300
Net Fee after travel credits $95 * $250
Net Fee w/ 1 authorized user after travel credits $95 * $325

* While I think it is safe to assume that Sapphire Reserve cardholders will easily earn the $300 travel rebate each year, I don’t expect most Sapphire Preferred cardholders to spend $50 or more on hotels through the Chase portal in order to get the Sapphire Preferred’s $50 rebate.

Perk Comparison

I’ve listed below only the perks I consider most valuable.  For full details about card perks and more, see our guides to Chase Sapphire Preferred and Chase Sapphire Reserve.

Sapphire Preferred Sapphire Reserve
No foreign transaction fees
Yes Yes
Transfer points to partners: Transfer points 1 to 1 to a variety of airline and hotel programs Yes Yes
Point value towards travel: When booking travel through Ultimate Rewards, points are worth more than 1 cent each. 1.25 cents per point 1.5 cents per point
Point earnings for travel spend
2X 3X
Point earnings for dining spend 3X 3X
Priority Pass Airport Lounge Access: Free entry for cardholder and up to two guests.  Unlike Priority Pass memberships issued by American Express, this version includes Priority Pass restaurants. N/A Yes
Global Entry or TSA Pre✔® Fee Credit: Receive a statement credit of up to $100 every 4 years as reimbursement for the Global Entry or TSA Pre Check application fee charged to your card. N/A Yes
Lyft Rideshare Bonus Points: Earn more points per dollar with your card via Lyft spend 5X 10X

 

Travel Protection Comparison

Both cards offer travel protections for travel paid in full or in part with your Sapphire card.  Here is a high level comparison…

Sapphire Preferred Sapphire Reserve
Primary Car Rental Coverage Yes Yes
Roadside Assistance $59.95 per service Free 4 times per year
Trip Cancellation and Interruption Coverage Up to $20K per trip Up to $20K per trip
Trip Delay Insurance 12 hour delay 6 hour delay
Lost Luggage
Up to $3K per person Up to $3K per person
Baggage Delay
Up to $100 per day
Up to $100 per day
Travel Accident Insurance Up to $500K Up to $1 Million
Emergency Evac & Transport N/A Up to $100K
Emergency Medical & Dental
N/A Up to $2,500

Clearly the Sapphire Reserve has much better travel protections.  That might not matter to you at all if you tend to buy trip insurance anyway.  In my case it’s meaningful because I tend not to buy trip insurance and so I’m happy to have the additional automatic coverage.

Purchase Protection Comparison

Both cards offer purchase protections for purchases made with the card.  Here’s a high level comparison…

Sapphire Preferred Sapphire Reserve
Extended Warranty: Extends the time period of U.S. manufacturer’s warranty by an additional year, on eligible warranties of three years or less. Yes Yes
Damage and Theft Protection: Covers your new purchases for 120 days against damage or theft. Max $500 per claim Max $10K per claim
Return Protection: You can be reimbursed for eligible items that the store won’t take back within 90 days of purchase. N/A Max $500 per item,, $1,000 per year

The Sapphire Reserve offers better purchase protections.  Notably, the Sapphire Reserve offers return protection whereas the Sapphire Preferred does not.

Comparison Summary

Here now is a high level comparison of the two cards based on the above more detailed comparisons…

Sapphire Preferred Sapphire Reserve
Annual Fee
$95 $550
Authorized User Fee
$0 $75
Travel Rebate
$0 $300
Point value towards travel
1.25 1.5
Point earning for travel
2X 3X
Point earning for dining 3x 3x
Misc other perks Good Better (Priority Pass for example)
Travel protection
Good Better (e.g. medical & dental)
Purchase protection Good Better (e.g. return protection)

The Sapphire Reserve offers considerably better perks and protections.  But is it worth the much higher annual fee?  Use the worksheet in the next section to decide.

Comparison Worksheet

In order to help you decide which card is better for you, I created a worksheet.  The idea is for you to estimate a value for each Sapphire Reserve perk: how much better is that perk than a similar one available with the Sapphire Preferred?

To use this spreadsheet, click here to open it, then click FileMake a Copy.  You must make a copy in order to put in your own values.  You may need to log into your Google account before the option to Make a Copy becomes available.

Important: The estimate you should put in each line item is the amount you would be willing to pay to upgrade the Sapphire Preferred with that feature.  For example, imagine you have the Sapphire Preferred and there was an option to pay to upgrade the travel earning rate from 2X to 3X.  What would you pay?  The answer should be less than the amount of value you’ll get from it.  For example, there’s no point in paying $300 to get a $300 travel credit, right?  Each feature is worth paying for only if you will get more value than you paid.

To help you get started, I put in my own values into the two right-most columns.  Use these values only as examples.  After you copy the spreadsheet (once you open this in Google Sheets, click File… Make a Copy), delete my values and put in your own.

As you can see above, I get more value from the Sapphire Reserve than the Sapphire Preferred even after accounting for the huge difference in annual fees.

Comparing to other cards

This post was specifically designed to compare the Chase Sapphire Reserve and Sapphire Preferred cards.  If you’re interested in looking more broadly at which cards are worth their annual fees, please see: Which Ultra Premium Cards are Keepers?

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[…] –> Chase Sapphire Reserve vs Preferred. Which is worth the price? […]

huey judy

I’m still happy with my CSR, but the two new benes are useless and kind of insulting. I too still have my AAA membership plus MedJet emergency medical evac insurance. MedJet saved my sanity in Paris 5 years ago, not to mention taking extremely good care of my husband and his broken hip. I use the enhanced redemption bene often, so the CSR will remain king of my wallet in spite of the annual fee raise.

Jack Adamson

The redemption value of cashing out the points and investing them should not be based on interest earned in a cd or savings account as those rates are minor. You should use the average long term return of the S&P500 which from January 2010 to January 2020 was 11.36% annualized plus dividends or 13.52% with dividends reinvested. This week knocks down that annualized return by 1% and of course could reverse to new records in 4 months. So in 2 years basically that 1 cent cash out is 1.25.

I myself faced this dilemma with Amex MR. The transfer partners theoretically yield higher redemption value for premium airlines and even Air France with their crazy pricing compared to United Polaris from JFK. But the trade off is schedule, risks of an award booking vs cash booking, and traveling with other people on different reservations in cash. A lot of airlines have decent business fares to push that average .02 benefit to .013-.016. I then prefer using the Amex portal. But with Corona and not planning to travel this year and my first trip next year not being on my dime cashing out the MR at 1 cent makes sense. 1 cent today is worth more than 1 cent next year.

Brian Cogswell

Great summary. This is the first time I have seen it broken down in such detail. I have had the preferred for a couple of years, as has my wife. We did them separately for the bonuses, but will cancel wife’s at the next annual fee date. Does it make more sense to you to upgrade mine now or to wait until the wife is eligible to get the reserve and the sign up bonus?

I guess what I am really asking is “If I think the reserve is worth the annual fee, is upgrading from preferred the way to do it?”

Brian Cogswell

Thanks for the helpful and detailed answer! Now I just need to confirm that i can easily use the $300 travel credit and the doordash…

Thanks again!

WR2

I just can’t wrap my head around your valuation of the 1.5 cpp benefit. Redeeming at 1.5cpp through the travel portal is a pretty poor redemption value, compared with transferring to travel partners. Is not lowering the floor of the worst case redemption option to 1.25cpp really worth $300?

I get your math of how you got to $300, but if you didn’t have the CSR, are you still going to redeem through the travel portal at 1.25cpp? Probably not. Instead, you are likely going to transfer to travel partners much more often. So therefore, you can’t credit that entire 0.25cpp difference to the valuation of that benefit. You aren’t losing $300 in benefits if you wouldn’t otherwise book at 1.25cpp.

Robert

I agree that the 1.5cent redemption rate hasn’t been very useful to me. I’ve used it once, to avoid paying cash at a hotel in Hawaii, it was either buy via Chase or pay cash outright, no other points options for me at that hotel. Since I don’t accrue a ton of UR points I hoard them for partner transfers.

Points For Four

I’m curious if having the Amex Platinum and their new Travel Protection will make it even easier to downgrade from the Reserve to the Preferred.

Neil

I’d like to see one more step – a brief discussion of which one might be better to sign up for NOW (i.e. signup bonus, predictions based on historical bonuses, timing to maximize any calendar year benefits etc.

I’m sure most readers already have one of the cards but there must be a decent subset of readers who are about to sign up for one of them for the first time. Or even more likely (given your somewhat advanced readership) a group of readers finally four years past their last Sapphire bonus and approaching 5/24 for the first time in many years (such as yours truly).

Neil

OK thanks. I downgraded my CSP to CFU perhaps 2 months ago. Is there a minimum time period I need to wait before getting a new CSP (as mentioned previously it has been over 4 years since I got the CSP bonus).

Ankit

I barely broke even at $450 a year. At $550 (-$60 doordash) a year, I might have to downgrade when the new fee comes up for me in Aug.

CaveDweller

Me too Aug wait to see what pops up and it’s prorated per month so cancel IF it doesn’t work .

losingtrader

I think the point is , for Chase, you’re supposed to lose money on the fee , not break even or have a profit.
However, I’m totally down with (or up with) making money off Chase. I’d bet Door Dash benefit costs them almost nothing in the hope you’ll use it more

Andy

Just throwing my opinion out there, but I value the $300 credit at $285 because it takes zero additional effort for me to use (I would charge all travel to Reserve anyway for trip protection), so the only loss vs. the full $300 value is the value of rewards I might earn on another card. Generally speaking, the best alternative would give me in the neighborhood of 5% in cash/points back (and with lesser travel protection), so $285. $270, or 10%, is more than I would discount.

Obviously subjective, and there’s no reason you need to listen to me, but figured I’d offer my points of view in case the cards ever move closer enough in value that the $15 difference plays a factor into whether to keep/cancel.

David

I keep my calculations simpler (albeit yours is more complete). I use Reserve UR points almost exclusively at 1.5 cents per point directly to travel. I figure if you spend $10,000 per year on dining or travel (which I easily exceed due to work) it works out to 20000 points on preferred at 1.25 cents per point ($250 rewards) or 30000 on reserve at 1.5 cents per point ($450). There’s my $200 right there. Obviously – there are a lot of other perks and other people who use points differently may value differently but I figure I can stop my calculations right there. (Working in NYC – I can also easily get the full doordash credit and while most of my Lyft travel is reimbursed, it’s still nice).

jcb

I’m in NYC too, where are you using DoorDash? it’s all utter trash near me

losingtrader

Nobody is going to want to travel by Summer. Use your rewards for Doomsday prepping. Any truth that Chase has a new benefit for 100 million UR’s they will build you a negative pressure bunker?

CaveDweller

No one knows but the Gov is selling ICBM’s bunkers could be a deal . trade in points for cash .
CHEERs

Just a Note

Nice analysis – why do you keep AAA if you have the roadside assistance from the CSR? Free maps? No-fee Gift cards in your region? Something else we’re missing out on? 🙂

CaveDweller

$99 AAA is good for free 100 mile towing on any car ur in I Tink ..
CHEERs..

Aloha808

2 words: hotel discounts!

Jcb

Great breakdown, thanks. You forgot to mention car rental insurance! Is there a difference between the two cards?

Also worth mentioning that you should use your avg annual spend when calculating the value of the 3x vs 2x advantage. I also use this number for the 1.5 vs 1.25 comparison as minimum advantage (obviously I have more points accrued than just what I earned in one year but this gives me bare the minimum advantage)