Sapphire Battle – Which is Right for You? Sapphire Reserve? Sapphire Preferred? Ink Business Preferred?

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With the Sapphire Reserve card currently offering a bigger than usual welcome bonus (click here for current details), I realized that it was past time to revive this post.  If you want the ability to transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards points to hotel and airline partners then you’ll need the $550 Sapphire Reserve card, the $95 Sapphire Preferred, or the $95 Ink Business Preferred.  In this post you’ll find a side by side comparison of benefits, travel & purchase protections, and more.

Chase Sapphire Reserve vs Preferred

When the Sapphire Reserve card first debuted, it was clearly a better choice than the Sapphire Preferred for most of us.  The Chase Sapphire Reserve offered 3X travel & dining vs. the Preferred card’s 2X.  The Sapphire Reserve offered (and continues to offer) 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.

Initially, the Sapphire Reserve 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?  How about going with the Ink Business Preferred instead?

* Travel expenses that are rebated do not earn rewards.  This means that the true effective rebate is a bit less than $300 and it might be better described as a $265 per year card after rebate… but that gets unnecessarily complicated.

Welcome Bonuses

Here are the current welcome bonuses for each card in this round-up:

Card Offer
Chase Ink Business Preferred Card
100K points
100K after $15K spend in 3 months

$95 Annual Fee

See: How to sign up for Chase Ink cards

Recent better offer: 80K after $5K spend. Many preferred the 80K offer due to the much lower spend requirement

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
60K points
60K after $4K spend in 3 months

$95 Annual Fee

A similar offer with the first year annual fee waived may be found in-branch. YMMV.

Recent better offer: 100K after $4K in purchases in the first 3 months

Chase Sapphire Reserve Card
60K Points
60K after $4K spend in 3 months

$550 Annual Fee

Recent better offer: Expired 12/1/22: 80K after $4K spend

Annual Fee & Statement Credit Comparison

Sapphire Reserve Sapphire Preferred Ink Business Preferred
Annual Fee $550 $95 $95
Authorized User Fee $75 $0 $0
Annual Travel Rebate $300 $50 towards hotels booked through Chase.* N/A

* 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 Reserve, Chase Sapphire Preferred, and Ink Business Preferred.

Sapphire Reserve Sapphire Preferred Ink Business Preferred
No foreign transaction fees
Yes Yes Yes
Transfer points to partners: Transfer points 1 to 1 to a variety of airline and hotel programs Yes Yes Yes
Point value towards travel: When booking travel through Ultimate Rewards, points are worth more than 1 cent each. 1.5 cents per point 1.25 cents per point 1.25 cents per point
Point earnings for travel spend
3X 2X 3X
Point earnings for dining spend 3X 3X 1X
Point earnings for shipping, internet, cable, phone, and advertising with social media sites 1X 1X 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. Yes N/A N/A
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. Yes N/A N/A

 

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 Reserve Sapphire Preferred Ink Business Preferred
Primary Car Rental Coverage Yes Yes Yes (within the U.S. it is primary only when renting for business)
Roadside Assistance Free 4 times per year Requires paying fee for each service Requires paying fee for each service
Trip Cancellation and Interruption Coverage Up to $20K per trip Up to $20K per trip Up to $5K per trip
Trip Delay Insurance 6 hour delay 12 hour delay 12 hour delay
Lost Luggage
Yes Yes Yes
Baggage Delay
Yes Yes
Yes
Travel Accident Insurance Yes Yes Yes
Emergency Evac & Transport Up to $100K N/A N/A
Emergency Medical & Dental
Up to $2,500 N/A N/A

Clearly the Sapphire Reserve has the best 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

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

Sapphire Reserve Sapphire Preferred Ink Business Preferred
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 Yes
Damage, Theft, Loss Protection: Covers your new purchases for 120 days against damage, theft or accidental loss. Max $10K per claim 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. Max $500 per item, $1,000 per year N/A N/A
Cell Phone Protection: Reimburses accidental cell phone damage, theft, or loss N/A N/A $100 deductible; Up to $600 per claim.

The Sapphire Reserve offers better purchase protections across the board than the Sapphire Preferred.  The Ink Business Preferred, though, holds its own with the Sapphire Reserve.  While the Ink card doesn’t offer return protection, it does offer cell phone protection, which is something the Sapphire Reserve doesn’t offer.

Comparison Summary

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

Sapphire Reserve Sapphire Preferred Ink Business Preferred
Annual Fee
$550 $95 $95
Authorized User Fee
$75 $0 $0
Travel Rebate
$300 $50 Hotel N/A
Point value towards travel
1.5 1.25 1.25
Point earning for travel
3X 2X 3X
Point earning for dining 3x 3x 1x
Misc other perks Better (Priority Pass for example) Limited Limited
Travel protection
Best Good Good
Purchase protection Better
(return protection)
Good  Better
(cell phone protection)

Deciding between these and other cards

This post was specifically designed to compare Chase Ultimate Rewards cards that allow transferring points to airline and hotel partners.  If you’re interested in looking more broadly at which cards are worth their annual fees, please see: Which Premium Cards are Keepers?

My Take

I highly value the ability to earn 3x for travel spend.  That eliminates the Sapphire Preferred from contention.  So, then, the question for me is whether to keep the Sapphire Reserve or get the Ink Business Preferred?  Between the two, the Sapphire Reserve offers better travel protections and so I’ve decided to stick with the Sapphire Reserve.  For my full thoughts about this, see: Chase Sapphire Reserve: Should I keep it?

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Kelly

Great article and podcast on the topic. I want to comment specifically on the Reserve vs. the Ink Business Preferred since they both give 3x points on travel (which I consider really important over 2x since I book a lot of adventure travel and group tours).

The Ink card only gave me a credit limit of $7000, while my CSR has a credit limit of $35,000, despite reporting the same income amount for both. I have tried raising the business account limit without success. Assuming someone really values the incremental 3x points over 2x, it’s not hard to imagine that credit limit being a problem for a long cash-pay trip, an expensive guided tour, an adventure trip, or safari.

If I was abroad, I just wouldn’t want to worry about reaching the limit and not having a back up. I’ve found Chase to be really stingy with limits on sole proprietorship business cards (all of mine are $5-7k credit limit) in contrast to all of my Chase personal cards which are $25k and up! Anyone else have data points on this? Thanks!

FullMoonMadness

“I highly value the ability to earn 3x for travel spend.” I really struggle with the high value placed on the CSP or CSR, especially when it comes to spend. For someone just starting out in the game, or someone who actually spends a lot on travel (for work, maybe?) and doesn’t want to have more than one CC, then there is value here. But for many of us in the game, the amount of spend we put on travel is largely limited to award fees.

I pay for most of my travel with points. Points earned from paying award fees is largely negligible. If I have to pay for airfare (rarely), I can use my Amex Platinum (5x). Hotels are usually put on a co-branded card. Dining is put on the Amex Gold (4x).

Where the spend starts coming into play is when we’re talking car rentals, tolls, parking, and the other things that fall under travel, but will probably add up to very little compared to the earning antics that many of us use to rake in URs. A person could use the Freedom Unlimited (1.5x) or other 2% card and not miss too much off the CSP, and pair it with discounted Uber/Lyft gift cards to save more than the value of the points earned.

IMO, the earning power of the CSR is not strong enough for people who don’t travel for work to justify the annual fee. The $300 credit is already paid for out of your pocket with the annual fee, so it’s not like you’re getting free travel.

However, I value the CSP for it being the gateway drug the ability to transfer UR (earned from Freedoms and Ink Cash) to partners, and the trip & car rental insurance. And that’s why I keep it.

Alex

The CSR’s ability to earn 3x on travel really shines when traveling internationally. Between the various forms of local transit, long distance trains, etc, local hotel chains, and the CSR’s wide interpretation of what constitutes “travel”, CSR has been a real winner. Chase Freedom Unlimited and some other cards that charge a foreign transaction fee are not even in my wallet when I leave the US.

Biggie F

This is a very good and very useful article / update. Thanks!

I wonder if you have any thoughts on rotation possibilities, similar to those in your article on how to keep an Amex Platinum going via rotation among flavors (Vanilla, Business, Schwab, Morgan). Here you have two cards that are hard to churn (CSR and CSP) and whose bonus dates affect bonuses on the other, but one (Ink Business Preferred) that is independent of the other two and that I believe (but am not sure) can be re-applied for on something less than a 48 month cycle.

I bring this up because I have been mulling it over since getting a CSP when the bonus was 80K (plus 15K to P5 for referral) … and, since then, I have been wondering whether I should close (or downgrade) my long-standing Ink Business Preferred when its AF hits. Idea being that the biggest draw of both cards is maintaining the Chase -> Hyatt exchange, and I only need one card for that (as per your article). That got me thinking that maybe this was a good kick in the pants to start a slow-speed churn with the Ink Business Preferred.

L K

Add in $60/year of Door Dash for the Sapphire Reserve?

TravelerMike

And $15/month for Instacart, and $10/month for GoPuff (but I find that hard to use as they don’t deliver where I live, but have used it on multiple trips)!

chris

The And $15/month for Instacart is a great benefit

chris

Very good summary, and I still have our CSR after the annual fee price. Mainly its for the trip protection which is top of its class and the Warrenty. I have used it twice including an expensive dishwasher, they made me go through hoops but they did cover it all.

TravelerMike

With the 10% “rebate” at the end of the year for the CSP, I consider the earn rates to be 3.1x for dining, 2.1x for travel, and 1.1x for everywhere else. For me, that makes the CSP the earn winner for both dining and everywhere else. Is there a reason that you did not consider this “rebate” in your comparison? Now for me, I have the CSR for the higher travel and better protections and perks, but it does make the CSP a much closer contender. Just my two cents.

[…] –> 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.

Biggie F

Just read the first paragraph of this one here in October 2022, and had a good laugh. You got to take the good with the bad!

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)