Personal Finance Insider writes about products, strategies, and tips to help you make smart decisions with your money. Business Insider may receive a commission from The Points Guy Affiliate Network, but our reporting and recommendations are always independent and objective.
- The Points Guy
- The Chase Sapphire Preferred Card is one of the most recommended rewards credit cards, though so is its beefier, premium-geared sibling, the Chase Sapphire Reserve.
- While the Sapphire Reserve undoubtedly offers fantastic benefits and outsize value, the Preferred has a few advantages, including a lower annual fee, similar benefits, and no fee to add authorized users.
- Plus, the Sapphire Preferred has a higher sign-up bonus: 60,000 points when you spend $4,000 in the first three months.
- The Chase Sapphire Preferred was recently named the best mid-tier card of the year at The Points Guy’s first annual awards – which is impressive, considering that the card has been available for nearly 10 years.
- Read on for the seven reasons that the Sapphire Preferred may be a better credit-card option for you. Also be sure to take a look at why the Reserve might be better for you, instead.
When Chase released its popular Sapphire Reserve credit card in 2016, the new offering generated a lot of buzz. With a high sign-up bonus, plus an annual $300 travel credit, 3x points on dining and travel, access to Priority Pass airport lounges, and many of the same benefits – in some cases enhanced – as its older sibling, the Chase Sapphire Preferred, the card offered more than enough value to make up for its hefty $450 annual fee.
That fee, however, is still a lot of money to have to pay up front. Plus, while the Reserve is excellent, the older Sapphire Preferred is still a useful card with rich rewards and valuable benefits. In fact, there are a few reasons you may want to consider signing up for that older card, the Sapphire Preferred, instead.
Keep in mind that we’re focusing on the rewards and perks that make these two cards great options, not things like interest rates and late fees, which can far outweigh the value of any rewards.
When you’re working to earn credit-card rewards, it’s important to practice financial discipline, like paying your balances off in full each month, making payments on time, and not spending more than you can afford to pay back. Basically, treat your credit card like a debit card.
1. The Sapphire Preferred has a (much) lower annual fee
I often argue that the Reserve’s $450 annual fee is actually just $150. That’s because each card-member year with the Reserve, you’ll get $300 of statement credits on travel purchases. In other words, the first $300 of travel purchases you make, whether one big purchase or a lot of smaller ones, will be canceled out by the credits. It’s basically a rebate of $300 of the annual fee.
Still, $150 is still a decent bit of money. And though you’ll get value back in the form of travel statement credits, you’ll still need to pay $450 for the fee on your first statement, and not everyone has that amount of cash to float or is willing to put up that much.
The Sapphire Preferred, on the other hand, has an annual fee of $95, a relatively standard fee for a rewards card.
Looking at the fees over the first 24 months makes the differences even clearer – you’ll pay $900 for the Sapphire Reserve (with up to $600 in statement credits) compared with just $190 for the Sapphire Preferred.
2. The Sapphire Preferred has a higher sign-up bonus
Though the Sapphire Preferred has a much lower annual fee, it offers a higher sign-up bonus than the Sapphire Reserve – 60,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first three months. When you have the Sapphire Preferred, that’s worth $600 as cash, $750 as travel booked through Chase, and potentially even more when you transfer those points to a hotel or frequent-flyer partner.
For comparison, the Sapphire Reserve offers only 50,000 points when you meet the same spending threshold.
3. The Sapphire Preferred has fewer perks than the Reserve but offers many of the same crucial benefits
The Sapphire Preferred doesn’t come with the more premium Reserve’s airport-lounge access, concierge service, or a credit to cover the cost of enrolling in Global Entry/TSA PreCheck, but other than that the two cards have almost the same benefits – that’s impressive, considering the Preferred’s much lower fee.
Both cards offer trip-delay insurance. If you’re traveling by common carrier – airplane, train, ferry, bus, and similar public forms of transportation – and your trip is delayed, you can be covered for up to $500 of expenses, including a change of clothes, hotel room, toiletries, and meals. Both cards’ trip-delay insurance kicks in when the delay forces an overnight stay, or, if you aren’t stuck overnight, the Preferred’s coverage kicks in after 12 hours, and the Reserve’s after six hours.
Similarly, both cards offer primary rental-car damage/loss coverage, trip cancellation/delay insurance, lost-luggage insurance, and various purchase protections. There are minor differences in some of those benefits between the cards, but for most instances, they’re effectively identical.
4. You’ll still earn bonus points on dining and travel with the Preferred
There’s no question that the Sapphire Reserve’s earning rate of 3x points on dining and travel makes it easy to earn points quickly. But you’ll still earn bonus points on the same categories with the Sapphire Preferred, even though they won’t add up as fast. For every dollar you spend on dining and travel, you’ll earn 2x points, and 1x point per dollar on everything else.
These categories are particularly useful because of how broadly they’re defined. Dining includes restaurants, bars, cafes, bakeries, ice-cream shops, fast-food stands, brewery tap rooms, and delivery services like Seamless and Grubhub.
Travel, similarly, includes just about everything, big or small. You’ll earn 2x points on taxis, Uber/Lyft rides, subways, commuter trains, parking, tolls, rental cars, airfare, hotels, cruises, and tours.
5. The Chase Sapphire Preferred has access to the same great transfer partners as the Reserve – and offers similar flexible ways to redeem points
As with the Sapphire Reserve, Ultimate Rewards points earned with the Sapphire Preferred can be exchanged for cash back, with each point worth $0.01, or points can be used to purchase travel through Chase. When you do that, you’ll get a 25% bonus, effectively making your points worth $0.0125 each (the Sapphire Reserve offers a 50% bonus, making points used to purchase travel through Chase worth $0.015 instead).
Much more value could be gleaned from points, however, by transferring them to one of Chase’s nine partnering airline frequent-flyer programs or four hotel loyalty programs. The two cards have access to the same transfer partners.
While this is more complicated, you can generally get more value by booking frequent-flyer award tickets than you can by using your points as cash or through Chase. You can even book flights in business or first class for fewer points than it would cost if you used them as cash or through Chase’s website to buy the flights. For example, my wife and I used the points from our Sapphire Preferred cards to fly to Japan in first class for our honeymoon.
6. The card doesn’t charge a fee for authorized users
If you’re planning to add a partner, a child, a friend, or anyone else as an authorized user on your account, you may be better off with the Sapphire Preferred. That’s because you can add as many users as you want to your account free. You’ll even get 5,000 bonus points if you add an authorized user and they make a charge within your first three months. The Sapphire Reserve, on the other hand, charges $75 for each user you add. Those users will get access to Priority Pass lounges, at least.
7. It’s easier to get approved for the Sapphire Preferred
While there’s no official publicly available formula for how banks approve credit cards, common knowledge is that the Sapphire Reserve – which is a Visa Infinite card – has higher standards for approval than the Sapphire Preferred – a less-exclusive Visa Signature card. You’ll still need a solid credit score for the Preferred, but you have better odds of getting approved if you have a shorter credit history.
The bottom line
Regardless of which card you choose, both offer class-leading value.
Though the Sapphire Reserve is an excellent card – I personally went with the Reserve over the Preferred – the annual fee is a lot to stomach. Depending on your cash flow, how you budget, or how you view these benefits and rewards, the Sapphire Preferred may be a better option for you.
Don’t forget to also check out the reasons you may want to consider the Reserve over the Preferred, instead.
$95 annual fee: Click here to learn more about the Chase Sapphire Preferred card from Insider Picks’ partner The Points Guy.
$450 annual fee: Click here to learn more about the Chase Sapphire Reserve card from Insider Picks’ partner The Points Guy.
For more about the Chase Sapphire Preferred:
- This is one of the most recommended rewards credit cards – here’s why
- Chase’s Sapphire Preferred is one of the best credit cards with an annual fee under $100 – the sign-up bonus alone is worth at least $625 in free travel
- The best Chase cards you can sign up for now
- Here are all the amazing ways you can use the points from your Chase credit card
- This is the only rewards credit card most people will ever need to open