Chase offers two personal credit cards that are marketed to those who want to earn travel rewards. There’s the Sapphire Preferred, which is great for those getting into the points and miles world. It offers transferrable points to both airline and hotel programs and bonus points for travel and dining expenses. The Sapphire Reserve is the luxury card for the Ultimate Rewards program. It has a higher annual fee but offers additional benefits that the Preferred doesn’t have.
When I wrote that I was considering getting rid of all my premium cards, the one that people seemed to be the most attached to was the Sapphire Reserve. They pointed out reasons why it’s worth paying the extra money over the Preferred and as it turned out, I was aware of some and not aware of others.
So I decided to take a closer look at the two cards and see where they’re the same and where they differ. Only then could I really know if the extra money for the Reserve was worth it.
The Sapphire Reserve’s annual fee is $550 and the Sapphire Preferred costs $95 per year.
Additional cardholders for the Sapphire Reserve cost $75 each. The Sapphire Preferred doesn’t charge to add an additional cardholder.
Currently, the Sapphire Reserve and Sapphire Preferred both have sign-up bonuses offering 60,000 points for $4,000 of spending in three months.
The Chase Sapphire Reserve earns 3X points on travel worldwide – from airfare and hotels to taxis and trains (not including charges covered by the $300 travel credit). Chase rewards 3x points from any travel provider. It also earns 3x points on dining worldwide (as long as the establishment is coded as dining). It also pays 5X Ultimate Rewards for airfare and 10X points for hotels and rental cars booked through the Chase travel portal. The card earns one point per dollar for all other charges.
The Sapphire Preferred has the following bonus categories:
- 5x points on travel purchases made through Chase Ultimate Rewards, including airline tickets, hotel accommodations, car rentals, activities and cruises.
- 3x points on dining at restaurants worldwide
- 3x points on groceries purchased online, such as pickup or delivery from grocery store chains and meal kit delivery services (excluding Target, Walmart and wholesale clubs).
- 3x points from select streaming services.
- 2x points on travel – from airfare and hotels to taxis and trains.
- 1x point for all other purchases.
Annual Travel Credit
The Sapphire Reserve provides a $300 travel credit every account anniversary year. This credit applies to almost any travel expense charged to the card. It’s one of the major ways to offset the $550 annual fee and since it’s so easy, I give it the face value of $300.
The Sapphire Preferred offers up to $50 in statement credits each account anniversary year for hotel stays purchased through Ultimate Rewards.
Priority Pass Select Membership
The Sapphire Reserve is one of the many cards to offer a Priority Pass Select membership. Cardholders and two guests can get in for free. Additional guests are $27. Authorized users on a Sapphire Reserve account get their own Priority Pass membership card.
The Sapphire Preferred card does not offer this benefit.
Using Points for Reservations on the Chase Travel Portal
When booking a flight, car, hotel or travel excursion on the Chase Portal, if you have a Sapphire Reserve your points are worth 1.5 cents each. With the Sapphire Preferred, you’ll get 1.25 cents per point of value.
Transferring Points to Airline and Hotel Programs
Both the Sapphire Reserve and Sapphire Reserve let you transfer points to the following programs at a 1:1 ratio:
- AerLingus AerClub (Avios)
- Air Canada Aeroplan
- British Airways Executive Club (Avios)
- Flying Blue AIR FRANCE KLM
- Emirates Skywards
- JetBlue TrueBlue
- Iberia Plus (Avios)
- Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer
- Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards®
- United MileagePlus®
- Virgin Atlantic Flying Club
- IHG One Rewards
- Marriott Bonvoy
- World of Hyatt
$100 Global Entry, NEXUS or TSA Pre✓® credit
With the Sapphire Reserve, you can get up to a $100 statement credit for the application fee for Global Entry, NEXUS or TSA Pre✓ once every four years.
The Sapphire Preferred card does not offer this.
Foreign Transaction Fee
Neither the Sapphire Reserve nor the Sapphire Preferred charge any foreign transaction fees.
Primary Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver (CDW)
Both the Sapphire Preferred and Sapphire Reserve provide primary coverage for rental cars in the United States and many (but not all) countries worldwide. However, there are some differences in the coverage provided.
With the Sapphire Preferred, here are the cars that are excluded:
Certain vehicles are not covered by this benefit, including: high value motor vehicles, exotic and antique cars (cars over twenty (20) years old or that have not been manufactured for ten (10) years or more), cargo vans, vehicles with open cargo beds, trucks, (other than pickups), motorcycles, mopeds, motorbikes, limousines, recreational vehicles, and passenger vans with seating for more than nine (9) people, including the driver (passenger vans with seating for nine (9) or less, including the driver, are covered).
Examples of high value motor vehicles or exotic car brands not covered are Alfa Romeo, Aston Martin, Bentley, Corvette, Ferrari, Jaguar, Lamborghini, Lotus, Maserati, Maybach, McLaren, Porsche, Rolls Royce, and Tesla; However, selected models of Audi, BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Cadillac, Infiniti, Land Rover, Lexus, Lincoln, and Range Rover are covered.
The Sapphire Reserve has far fewer restrictions on coverage:
Auto Rental CDW is primary coverage and provides reimbursement up to seventy-five thousand ($75,000.00) dollars. Most private passenger automobiles, minivans, and sport utility vehicles are eligible for coverage, but some restrictions may apply.
What types of rental vehicles are not covered?
Excluded worldwide are antique automobiles; cargo vans; vehicles that have an open cargo bed; trucks; motorcycles, mopeds, and motorbikes; limousines; and recreational vehicles.
An antique automobile is defined as any vehicle over twenty (20) years old or any vehicle that has not been manufactured for ten (10) years or more.
This benefit is provided only for those vans manufactured and designed to transport a maximum of nine (9) people and which are used exclusively to transport people.
While the Sapphire Preferred excludes some but not all luxury and exotic cars, the Sapphire Reserve includes them up to a maximum coverage of $75,000. So even cars above that are covered but that’s all they’ll pay in damages.
Trip Delay Coverage
This is the coverage where the differences between the cards are the most significant.
Here is the coverage the Sapphire Reserve provides:
Trip Delay Reimbursement covers up to a maximum of five hundred ($500.00) dollars for each purchased ticket for reasonable expenses, on a one-time-basis, incurred if your Covered Trip is delayed by a Covered Hazard for more than six (6) hours or requires an overnight stay. To be eligible for this coverage, you need to purchase either a portion or the entire cost of your Common Carrier fare using your Account. Coverage is in excess of any expenses paid by any other party, including applicable insurance.
And here is the coverage from the Sapphire Preferred:
Trip Delay Reimbursement covers up to a maximum of five hundred ($500.00) dollars for each purchased ticket for reasonable expenses, on a one-time-basis, incurred if your Covered Trip is delayed by a Covered Hazard for more than twelve (12) hours or requires an overnight stay. To be eligible for this coverage, you need to purchase either a portion or the entire cost of your Common Carrier fare using your Account. Coverage is in excess of any expenses paid by any other party, including applicable insurance.
While both cards will cover you if you’re delayed overnight, the Sapphire Reserve coverage kicks in at 6 hours but the Sapphire Preferred only starts after 12 hours.
Emergency Evacuation and Transportation
This coverage is only provided by the Sapphire Reserve card and provides up to $100,000 to reimburse transportation expenses related to medical emergencies. It’s the type of coverage you hopefully will never use but it’s a nice thing to have.
The Sapphire Preferred provides no coverage for this expense.
Other Travel Coverages
The other types of travel coverage provided by the cards are identical:
- Luggage Delay – $100 per day for 5 days per person after a 6-hour delay
- Lost Luggage – $3,000 per person after reimbursement from airline and other coverages
- Trip Cancellation/Interruption – Up to $10,000 if you are not able to go on or continue a trip due to a covered reason.
Purchase protection covers your items for up to 120 days from purchase against theft, damage or involuntary and accidental parting with the property.
With the Sapphire Preferred, you’re covered for $500 per claim and up to $50,000 for each account. You’re covered with the Sapphire Reserve for up to $10,000 per claim and $50,000 per account.
The Sapphire Reserve offers return protection coverage as well. If you want to return an item within 90 days but the retailer won’t return the item, you can get reimbursed up to $500 per item and $1,000 per year.
The Sapphire Preferred (and most other Chase cards) have stopped offering this coverage.
The Sapphire Reserve and Sapphire Preferred offer the same extended warranty coverage of up to an additional year of coverage for warranties of less than three years. Maximum coverage is $10,000 per claim and $50,000 per card.
That’s a lot to unpack. The Sapphire Reserve’s annual fee is $455 more than the fee of the Sapphire Preferred. Right off the bat, you can subtract the $300 Travel Credit. So, is the Reserve worth an additional $155?
Here’s everything else you get with the Reserve:
- Priority Pass Membership
- Global Entry, NEXUS or TSA Precheck reimbursement
- Extra value primary rental car coverage
- Trip Delay coverage starts at six hours
- $100,000 Emergency medical evacuation coverage
- $10,000 per item purchase protection coverage
- Return Protection
- Earn an extra point per dollar on travel and dining
- Points worth 1.5 cents on Chase Travel Portal
It used to be a more straightforward decision. However, the Sapphire Preferred refresh added the $50 hotel credit, and 10% bonus points and added several bonus categories which makes it less cut and dry.
You have to decide if $155 is worth it for these perks and losing some bonus points.
With all this information, I hope you’re able to look at the two cards and decide which one makes the most sense for you.
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