Chase Ultimate Rewards points are some of our favorite transferable currencies. The points are easy to earn with several Chase credit cards, and there are lots of great ways to use the points for travel.

The two most popular personal Chase cards that earn Ultimate Rewards are the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card and the Chase Sapphire Reserve®. So which one should you choose? You can’t really go wrong as both are great cards that offer lots of travel benefits, but which card reigns supreme?

To decide, let’s take a close look at both cards, their welcome bonuses and the benefits of each card.

Bonus and Application Rules

You’re eligible to earn a welcome bonus on either the Sapphire Preferred or the Sapphire Reserve card every 48 months. That means that if you earned the bonus on one of these cards less than 48 month ago, you won’t be eligible for a bonus on the other card.

You also can’t hold both Sapphire products at the same time. If you currently hold one of these cards, you have to close it or downgrade to one of the no-annual fee Chase Freedom cards before you can apply for the other one. We recommend downgrading because the Freedom cards are some of the best earning cards in Chase’s portfolio.

Which Sign-Up Bonus Is More Valuable?

One of the first things to consider when applying for a new card is the sign-up bonus.

Let’s look at the standard offers for both cards. Usually, the Sapphire Reserve comes with a 50,000-point bonus, and the Sapphire Preferred usually offers 60,000 bonus points. From time to time, these numbers can change.

In the past, we’ve seen introductory offers as high as 100,000 points on both cards, but that’s a highly unusual situation, and this huge bonus probably isn’t coming back any time soon.

The minimum spending requirements are the same on both cards—you’ll need to spend $4,000 in the first three months.

Which is the best choice? We’re going to do some math.

Let’s look at the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal redemptions first. Ultimate Rewards earned with the Sapphire Reserve are worth 1.5 cents each when redeemed for travel via the portal. The points earned with the Sapphire Preferred are worth 1.25 cents each when redeemed for travel.

After doing the math, you’ll see that the customary bonus on the Reserve is worth $750 and the bonus on the Sapphire Preferred is also $750. However, you should redo the math when the bonuses are different.

You can usually redeem points for much better value when you transfer them to one of Chase’s travel partners, such as United Airlines or Hyatt. Both cards have the same transfer partners, and points transfer at the same rate. So if you transfer the entire sign-up bonus to one of the partners, you’ll come out ahead with the Sapphire Preferred.

Winner: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card


The Annual Fees and the Earning Rates

At first glance, you might notice a huge difference between the annual fees on these two cards. The Chase Sapphire Reserve® has a $550 fee, and the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card has a more modest $95 annual fee. On paper, that’s a difference of $455.

However, there are ways to offset the higher annual fee. The Sapphire Reserve comes with a $300 travel credit. This is the most flexible and easy-to-use travel credit. You’ll get credited for any travel-related purchases, including tolls, hotels, airfare and more.

Presumably, you’re getting one of these cards because you want to travel, so you should have no problems redeeming that credit. That still brings the annual fee on the Reserve card to $250 vs. $95 on the Preferred card.

The Sapphire Preferred has an annual $50 credit for hotel stays purchased through the Chase travel portal, further complicating our math. To fully take advantage of this credit, you have to find a hotel that costs exactly the same on the portal as it does when booked directly or through another website.

Other credits that come with the Sapphire Reserve card are conditional, so let’s leave them off the table for now. For example, if you already have TSA Precheck or Global Entry, the $100 credit that you get every four years is of no value to you.

Let’s look at the earning rates on the Sapphire Reserve:

  • 10X points on hotels and car rentals purchased through the Chase travel portal (after the $300 credit)
  • 10X points on prepaid Chase Dining purchases
  • 10X points on Lyft rides
  • 5X points on flights purchased through the Chase travel portal (after the $300 credit)
  • 3X points on other travel (after the $300 credit)
  • 3X points on other dining at restaurants, including eligible delivery services, takeout and dining out
  • 1X spent on all other purchases

And here’s what you can expect to earn with the Sapphire Preferred:

  • 5X points on travel purchased through Chase travel portal, excluding hotel purchases that qualify for the $50 hotel credit
  • 5X points on Lyft rides
  • 3X points on dining, including eligible delivery services, takeout and dining out
  • 3X points on online grocery purchases (excluding Target, Walmart and wholesale clubs)
  • 3X points on select streaming services
  • 2X points on other travel purchases
  • 1X points on all other purchases

Buying paid travel through the portal comes with its own set of potential complications, and we would advise against booking flights through the portal. It’s always best to avoid the middleman and book directly with the airline. Also, if you book a chain hotel through the portal, you won’t get any elite benefits or earn points or qualifying nights on your stay.

Chase Dining has a limited use to most people, so we’ll just leave that out of this analysis. If you spend a lot on online grocery purchases, you’ll come out ahead with the Sapphire Preferred. If you spend a lot on travel, you’ll probably come out ahead with the Sapphire Reserve.

Winner: A tie (depending on your spending patterns)

chase sapphire preferred vs reserve

The Competitor Cards

Because you can get only one Sapphire product at a time, you might consider a competing card that’s equal or better than one of the Sapphire cards.

Chase Sapphire Reserve® vs. The Platinum Card® from American Express

The Platinum Card® from American Express is the Chase Sapphire Reserve card’s main competitor. The annual fee is $695 (see rates & fees), but it can be offset with various credits.

Both cards have similar travel benefits. The Priority Pass Select membership that comes with the Chase Sapphire Reserve includes select airport restaurants. Priority pass lounge access that comes with the Amex Platinum excludes restaurants.

In addition to the access to the Priority Pass lounges, Amex cardholders can access The Centurion Lounges, Delta Sky Clubs (with a same-day Delta Air Lines ticket), Airspace Lounges, Escape Lounges and Lufthansa Lounges (with a same-day Lufthansa, SWISS International Air Lines or Austrian Airlines ticket). Clearly, the Amex Platinum gives you a better value when it comes to airport lounge access.

The $100 Global Entry is renewed every four years on both cards, and so is the $85 TSA Precheck credit on the Sapphire card, but the TSA Precheck credit renews every four and a half years on the American Express Platinum Card.

The Sapphire Reserve earns 3X Ultimate Rewards on all travel, but Amex Platinum earns 5X Membership Rewards on the first $500,000 (1X thereafter) spent on flights purchased directly with an airline or through Amex Travel and on prepaid hotels booked through Amex Travel.

On the surface, 5X is better than 3X, but that applies only to airfare purchases. To earn 5X on hotels, you have to book a prepaid stay through Amex Travel, which might have higher prices than booking directly or through other means.

Both cards have many of the same travel partners, although Chase has an exclusive partnership with Hyatt, and Amex has one with Delta SkyMiles.

The welcome bonus on The Platinum Card® from American Express is also much higher.

While many of the benefits overlap, the Reserve comes with a primary rental car insurance coverage, while Amex’s rental car insurance is secondary*.

Winner: The Platinum Card® from American Express

first class cabin and seat

Chase Sapphire Preferred vs. Citi Premier® Card vs. American Express® Green Card

The Chase Sapphire Preferred card also has some competition in the mid-range card space, and its biggest competitor is the Citi Premier® Card. The annual fee is the same for both cards—$95. The American Express® Green Card could also be considered a competitor, but its annual fee is $150, which is significantly higher than the other two.

The Sapphire Preferred wins in the sign-up bonus category. The Citi Premier also offers a generous welcome bonus, while the Amex Green Card lags behind.

Keep in mind that not all points are created equal, so it’s hard to compare them at face value. For simplicity’s sake, let’s say that the Sapphire Preferred card’s bonus is a winner. However, the more customary offer of points isn’t such a clear winner, and you shouldn’t write off the other two cards entirely.

These cards don’t have a lot of auxiliary benefits, but the Sapphire Preferred is a winner with its primary rental car collision damage waiver and trip delay and interruption insurance. The other two cards don’t offer similar benefits.

The earning rate of the Sapphire Preferred isn’t the most competitive in the bonus spending categories. It offers 3X Ultimate Rewards on dining and 2X on travel. The Citi Premier earns 3X ThankYou Points on air travel, hotels, gas stations, supermarkets and restaurants. The Amex Green Card also earns 3X points on all travel and at restaurants worldwide.

Although the Preferred card isn’t the best everyday earning card, you can get the other two cards after you get over 5/24 with Chase. The annual fee is competitive, and the travel protection benefits and the car rental insurance make this card a better choice.

Winner: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

lounge access

Should You Upgrade or Downgrade Your Sapphire Card?

Because you can get the bonus on either the Preferred or the Reserve card only once every 48 month, you should consider your product changing strategy after the first year is up.

If you open the Sapphire Reserve, you’ll earn fewer points but will enjoy better travel benefits, such as Priority Pass Select membership, excellent trip delay and interruption coverage, and higher travel portal redemption rate.

After the one-year anniversary, you can change this card to another Ultimate Rewards-earning card, but you’ll lose the travel credit, 3X bonus points on travel and some of the travel benefits.

To save on annual fees, you can downgrade your Sapphire Reserve card to the Sapphire Preferred and retain some of the travel benefits, or you can change to one of the no-fee Freedom cards.

Keep in mind that you do need to have one of the premium cards, i.e. a card with an annual fee, to be able to transfer Ultimate Rewards to travel partners or to redeem them via the Chase travel portal.

If you open the Sapphire Preferred first, you’ll get the higher bonus, and after a year if you decide to upgrade to the Sapphire Reserve, you’ll gain extra travel benefits. The annual fee will go up from $95 to $550, so keep that in mind.

If you’d rather not pay the high annual fee and get the higher welcome bonus, the Sapphire Preferred is a better choice. In that case, you’re opening a card for the better sign-up bonus and are forgoing some travel benefits.

Someone who wants the added benefits should upgrade the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card to the Chase Sapphire Reserve after the one-year anniversary. Keep in mind that the Priority Pass Select membership is the only significant benefit worth the higher annual fee. If you have other premium cards that come with Priority Pass membership, then keep the Sapphire Preferred. Other travel benefits are similar on both cards.

Winner: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

chase sapphire preferred vs reserve

Final Thoughts

Both cards are great travel cards, but the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is a better option for most consumers. It comes with a lower annual fee and a higher welcome bonus.

The Sapphire Preferred doesn’t have the annual travel credit like the Sapphire Reserve, nor does it have the Priority Pass Select membership. However, because of the higher bonus, we still recommend signing up for the Chase Sapphire Preferred and upgrading after the first year if you want all the bells and whistles of the Chase Sapphire Reserve.


*Eligibility and Benefit level varies by Card. Terms, Conditions and Limitations Apply. Please visit for more details. Underwritten by AMEX Assurance Company. Car Rental Loss or Damage Coverage is offered through American Express Travel Related Services Company, Inc.