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 offers 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 recently 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.  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 $0 $300
DoorDash (2020 and 2021) $0 $60
Net Fee w/ no authorized users and all credits earned $95 $190
Net Fee w/ no authorized users and only travel credits earned $95 $250
Net Fee w/ 1 authorized user and all credits earned $95 $265
Net Fee w/ 1 authorized user and only travel credits earned $95 $325

While I think it is safe to assume that anyone interested in the Sapphire Reserve card will easily earn the $300 travel rebate each year, it’s less obvious to me whether all cardholders will make use of the new $60 per year in DoorDash credits (so far this benefit is only confirmed for the years 2020 and 2021).  I also imagine that some will want to add an authorized user whereas others will go without.  For these reasons, I calculated four “net” annual fees, above.  Note that for simplicity, I didn’t account for the loss of points earned on rebated travel since that only changes the numbers by $9 to $13.50 (depending upon how much you value the lost points).

Feel free, of course, to come up with your own numbers.  For example, while I always instantly earn the $300 travel credit each year, the DoorDash rebate may not come as easily.  That’s primarily because a couple of restaurants that I regularly order from are not yet available through DoorDash.  I value the $60 DoorDash rebate at less than $60 since it’s an effort to use.

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 & dining spend: Earn more rewards for travel & dining worldwide. Earn 1 point per dollar everywhere else.
2X 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
DashPass Free Delivery: Activate your free DashPass membership by 12/31/2020 in order to get 12 months of free delivery for DoorDash orders over $12. Yes Yes
Lyft Rideshare Bonus Points: Earn more points per dollar with your card via Lyft spend 5X 10X
Lyft Pink: Get a one year membership of Lyft Pink for free. N/A Yes

Clearly the Sapphire Reserve card has better perks than the Sapphire Preferred.

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
DoorDash Rebate
$0 $60
Point value towards travel
1.25 1.5
Point earning for travel & dining
2X 3X
Misc other perks Good Better (e.g. Priority Pass, Lyft Pink…)
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 earning rate from 2X for travel & dining to 3X for travel & dining.  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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