Showdown: Sapphire Reserve vs Preferred First Year Value

Sapphire Reserve vs Preferred

While there are many great credit cards available, the Chase Sapphire Reserve card continues to be my single favorite travel rewards card.  In my opinion it is ideal for those who dine out and/or travel often (thanks to earning 3X in those categories) and who like to use rewards for travel (use points for 1.5 cents each towards travel or transfer points to high value partners).  It helps too that the card earns Ultimate Rewards points.  You can greatly ramp up point earnings by pairing this card with one that earns 5X in rotating categories (Freedom), 5X in select categories (Ink Cash), 3X in select categories (Ink Business Preferred), or 1.5X everywhere (Freedom Unlimited).  Points earned on all of those other cards can be freely moved to your Sapphire Reserve account to make them more valuable.  For more about the Sapphire Reserve, see: Chase Sapphire Reserve Complete Guide and The BEST travel rewards card.

So, that’s all great, but here’s the interesting thing: If you want the Sapphire Reserve you might be better off applying for a different card… the Sapphire Preferred.  It should then be possible to upgrade to the Sapphire Reserve later.

Take a look at our Top 10+ Credit Card Offers page.  At the time of this writing, the Sapphire Preferred is #2 on the list whereas the Sapphire Reserve is #10.  This list changes dynamically as offers change, so the specific placements on the list may not currently be the same as what I just reported, but the general idea will probably hold: the estimated first year value of the Sapphire Preferred is more than the Sapphire Reserve.  The reason for this is that the Sapphire Preferred’s signup bonus is better: 55K points (if you add an authorized user) and first year free with the Preferred vs. 50K points with the Reserve and $450 annual fee due upfront.  And keep in mind that you can’t get both cards.  Chase will let you have only one or the other at any given time.

At a very high level, it looks like the Preferred is the way to go for it’s signup bonus.  This high level view, though, ignores the many Sapphire Reserve benefits that outweigh the Preferred benefits.  So, let’s dig deeper…


Let’s look at the two cards side by side:

Preferred Reserve
Signup Bonus 55K 50K
Annual Fee First Year $0 $450
Authorized User Fee $0 $75
Travel Reimbursement $0 $300
Global Entry / TSA Reimbursement No Yes
Point Earning Rate 2X Travel & Dining 3X Travel & Dining
Redeem Points for Travel 1.25 cents/point value 1.5 cents/point value
Transfer Points to Partners Yes Yes
Priority Pass Select No Yes
Travel Insurance Good Better (more below)
Elite Status Benefits None National Emerald Club Executive

Travel Insurance Compared:

Preferred 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/day Up to $100/day
Travel Accident Insurance Up to $500K Up to $1 Million
Emergency Evac & Transport None Up to $100K
Emergency Medical & Dental None Up to $2,500

The Sapphire Reserve has quite a few benefits that can make it more valuable than the Sapphire Preferred, but only if you actually make use of those benefits.  In order to compare the cards’ first year value, it’s necessary to make assumptions…

First Year Assumptions

The following assumptions definitely won’t hold true for everyone and probably won’t hold true for anyone, but I’ve got to start somewhere.  In order to compare the first year value of the two cards, I’ll make the following assumptions:

  • You want / need to add an authorized user card
  • You do not plan to use the Global Entry reimbursement (maybe you already have that from another card, for example)
  • Over the course of the year, you’ll spend $6,000 in travel & dining combined.
  • We’ll ignore any money spent outside of travel & dining since both cards earn at the same rate: just 1X.
  • During the first year, you will redeem points to pay for $450 in travel, but you won’t otherwise use any points.
  • During the first year, you visit a Priority Pass airport restaurant once with a guest.  You save $28 x 2 = $56.  For simplicity lets pretend that you would have eaten there anyway and spent just as much (in order to count this as a true $56 win).
  • You do not have occasion to file claims for any of the card’s trip protections.

We can now tally up the first year costs and benefits:

Preferred Reserve
Signup Bonus 55K 50K
Annual Fee First Year $0 -$450
Authorized User Fee $0 -$75
Travel Reimbursement $0 $300
Global Entry / TSA Reimbursement $0 $0
Points earned from $6K travel & dining 12K 18K
Redeem Points for $450 Travel -36K -30K
Priority Pass Select Restaurant Visit n/a $56
First Year Net Cost $0 $169
First Year Points Balance 31K 38K

With the above set of conservative assumptions, the Sapphire Preferred comes out ahead of the Sapphire Reserve in first year value.  Sure you would end up with 7,000 fewer points, but you’d also pay $169 less.  That’s a good trade-off.

That said, it only takes a few minor adjustments to the above assumptions to move the Sapphire Reserve into the win column.  For example, if you don’t need an authorized user card you’ll save $75.  And if you can make use of the Global Entry reimbursement, that’ll give you a $100 benefit too.  Combined, then, the Sapphire Reserve’s first year net cost (when valuing benefits at 100% of face value) hits zero.

Another thing to keep in mind is the Sapphire Reserve’s better insurance coverage.  Even if you don’t end up filing any claims, there’s value to the piece of mind of knowing that you have better coverage.  You can read more about Sapphire Reserve’s travel insurance here.


Given a conservative set of simplifying assumptions, I found that the Sapphire Preferred offers better first year value that the Sapphire Reserve.  For many, it makes sense to to start with the Sapphire Preferred and then later upgrade to the Sapphire Reserve if/when you know that you’ll make use of the Reserve’s superior benefits or if you know that you’ll be spending a lot more on travel and/or dining.

On the other hand, if you know from the get-go that you’ll be spending a lot on travel & dining and/or will be making heavy use of the Sapphire Reserve’s premium benefits, then you won’t go wrong starting with the Reserve.

Note that whatever you do, it doesn’t change your ability to get a signup bonus in the future.  Regardless of whether you sign up for the Sapphire Preferred or Sapphire Reserve now, you’ll have to wait two years from the day your get the signup bonus before you can signup for either one again (and even then you can only do so if you no longer have either card).

About Greg The Frequent Miler

Greg is the owner, founder, and primary author of the Frequent Miler. He earns millions of points and miles each year, mostly without flying, and dedicates this blog to teaching others how to do the same.

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10 Comments on "Showdown: Sapphire Reserve vs Preferred First Year Value"

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Should an extra $300 credit for the start of the 2nd year be factored in assuming the applicant can still get the credit and then downgrade without the $450 fee? Good read! Both cards are good in my opinion but Chase makes you chose now.


Nice comparison


Can one product change from either Ritz or Hyatt cards to Ink, Preferred, or Freedom. I am over the 5/24.

Cannot find any data points on this.


Can’t usually product change from co-branded cards to Chase cards, nor from personal cards to business cards. But I’d SM Chase and ask.


A good public service announcement. But there’s no reasoning with many CSR fans, especially with those who think they still get $600 in travel credit annually and those confused by the travel portal redemption rates. For the significant fraction of credit card holders who mainly collect signup bonuses and move on, the value proposition on CSR vs. CSP hasn’t even been close for a couple years now.


In my case I got the reserve when the signup bonus was 100k.
I did not get add an authorized user nor did I get global entry but it obviously got me more value with the 100k bonus.
I just applied for the preffered without realizing i cant have both. I’m feeling the pinch of the $450 annual fee so I’ll probably just downgrade the reserve to a freedom and then call chase reconsideration for the preffered

Nick Reyes

Unfortunately, you wouldn’t be eligible for the signup bonus on the CSP. Not only can you not have both cards at the same time, but these days you can’t get the signup bonus if you have received a signup bonus on another Sapphire product within the past 24 months. Since the CSR debuted less than 24 months ago, you wouldn’t yet be eligible for the CSP bonus.


[…] Chase travel portal. If you have decided that the Sapphire Reserve is a better value for you (See: Showdown: Sapphire Reserve vs Preferred First Year Value), you’ll be happy to see that CSR holders can use Ultimate Rewards at 1.5c each and pay less […]