The Chase Sapphire Preferred and Chase Sapphire Reserve credit cards.
The Chase Sapphire Preferred and Chase Sapphire Reserve credit cards.
PHOTO: iStock
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Let’s get one thing out of the way right up front. Both the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card and the Chase Sapphire Reserve are winners at their respective price points. Or said another way, you really can’t go wrong with either. Even if you’re not an avid traveler just yet, both credit cards offer plenty of exciting perks and can get you well on your way to your next free adventure.

The Chase Sapphire Preferred is aimed at the casual traveler, while the Chase Sapphire Reserve attempts to take the crown as the world’s most feature-packed, prestigious travel card anywhere. Below, we’ll break down advantages and disadvantages of both to help you make the best call for your lifestyle.

Chase Sapphire Preferred vs. Chase Sapphire Reserve

First, let’s take a look at all the key details of these two cards side-by-side:

Chase Sapphire Preferred Chase Sapphire Reserve
Sign-up bonus(after spending $4,000on the card in thefirst 3 months 60,000 bonus points 50,000 bonus points
Earning on travel 2 points per dollar 3 points per dollar(not including $300 travel credit)
Earning on dining 2 points per dollar 3 points per dollar
Earning on Lyft rides 5 points per dollarthrough March 2022 10 points per dollarthrough March 2022
Earning on everyday spend 1 point per dollar 1 point per dollar
Redemption value 1.25 cents per dollar in the Chase travel portal 1.5 cents per dollar in the Chase travel portal
Transfer partners 13 (10 airline, 3 hotel) 13 (10 airline, 3 hotel)
Airline lounge access No Complimentary airline lounge accessvia Priority Pass Select membership
Annual credits No $300 annual travel credit$60 annual DoorDash creditin 2020 and 2021
Global Entry/TSA PreCheck credit No Up to $100 every 4 years
DashPass subscription Complimentary for at least one year(must activate by December 31, 2021) Complimentary for at least one year(must activate by December 31, 2021)
Lyft Pink membership No Complimentary for one year
Foreign transaction fees None None
Annual fee $95 $550

With the Chase Sapphire Preferred, you’ll earn 2 points for every dollar you spend on travel and dining purchases, 60,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 in purchases in the first 3 months you have the card, and you can redeem those points through Chase’s travel portal at a rate of 1.25 cents per point or transfer them to Chase’s 13 travel partners for potentially even more valuable redemptions. The Sapphire Preferred has a $95 annual fee.

On the other hand, the Chase Sapphire Reserve earns 3 points for every dollar you spend on travel and dining purchases, 50,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 in purchases in the first 3 months you have the card, and you can transfer those points to the same 13 Chase travel partners.

But the Sapphire Reserve also comes with a $300 annual travel credit, a $60 annual DoorDash credit in both 2020 and 2021, complimentary airport lounge access, a complimentary Lyft Pink membership for one year, enhanced travel protections and you can redeem your points through Chase’s travel portal at a higher 1.5 cents per point. The Sapphire Reserve has a $550 annual fee.

Sign-up bonuses

The Chase Sapphire Preferred is ideal for people who want to travel for free, using easily redeemable points, but with the option to learn how to master transferable points down the line for even greater value.

It currently has a 60,000-point sign-up bonus offer after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That’s worth at least $750 in free travel when redeemed via the Chase travel portal for 1.25 cents per point.

Related: Get the classic Chase Sapphire Preferred travel credit card with a 60,000-point bonus.

Conversely, the Chase Sapphire Reserve is ideal for avid travelers who appreciate the finer things in life, value top-tier customer service and plan to spend heavily on travel and/or dining on the way to fantastic free trips. It currently offers 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.

While the sign-up bonus is lower, there’s one wrinkle to consider: you’ll get 1.5 cents per point when you have the Sapphire Reserve and redeem points via the Chase travel portal. So if you plan on redeeming points that way, 50,000 points on the CSR are worth $750 in free travel — the same as 60,000 points on the CSP.

Redemption rates

Use Chase Ultimate Rewards points to book travel directly on Chase
Use Chase Ultimate Rewards points to book travel directly on Chase's website, or transfer them to partners.
PHOTO: iStock

Many folks like easy, straightforward ways to redeem their points for travel. Others prefer more complex options through transfer partners. Others still may begin as a no-fuss type of redeemer, only to become a points-and-miles hobbyist over time. Both the Sapphire Preferred and the Sapphire Reserve cater to all of those groups

The Chase Sapphire Preferred gets a respectable 1.25 cents per point when you redeem points directly for travel at Chase’s travel portal. But as mentioned above, with the Chase Sapphire Reserve, you’ll get 1.5 cents per point when redeeming through the Chase travel portal. That means every point you earn on the Sapphire Reserve is worth an extra 20% over the Sapphire Preferred.

Both cards also pair well with the Chase Freedom Unlimited, a no-annual-fee credit card that offers 1.5% cash back on every purchase. The reason is that if you pair the Chase Freedom Unlimited with the Sapphire Preferred or Sapphire Reserve, any cash back earned on the Freedom Unlimited can be converted to points at a rate of 1 cent per point, and deposited into your Sapphire account and redeemed like the rest of your points at either 1.25 cents per point (CSP) or 1.5 cents per point (CSR).

Transfer partners

Here, both cards are on an even footing, with equal access to Chase’s catalog of 13 travel partners:

Airlines Hotels
Aer Lingus AerClub JetBlue TrueBlue World of Hyatt
Air France-KLM Flying Blue Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer IHG Rewards Club
British Airways Executive Club Southwest Rapid Rewards Marriott Bonvoy
Emirates Skywards United MileagePlus
Iberia Plus Virgin Atlantic Flying Club

Points from either the Chase Sapphire Preferred or the Chase Sapphire Reserve transfer to all these partners at a 1-to-1 ratio, meaning for every 1,000 points you transfer, you’ll get 1,000 points or miles in the airline or hotel program.

While it takes some research and flexibility, for those who like to strategize, you can concoct impressive itineraries by transferring points to partner programs, and often get much more value for your points than redeeming through the Chase travel portal.

Airport lounges and hotel perks

If staying cozy in an airline lounge is important to you, the Chase Sapphire Reserve is the clear winner. The CSR includes a complimentary Priority Pass Select airline lounge membership, which provides access to over 1,200 lounges worldwide, including in some cases credits for free food at airport restaurants.

The Ambassador Transit Lounge in Singapore
The Ambassador Transit Lounge in Singapore's Terminal 2, accessible with a Priority Pass membership.
PHOTO: Priority Pass

With the Sapphire Reserve, you’ll also get access to Chase’s Luxury Hotel & Resort Collection, which offers special benefits such as room upgrades, complimentary meals and other perks at select hotels. CSR cardholders also get elite hotel benefits at select Relais & Châteaux properties, which include a VIP welcome and complimentary daily breakfast.

Travel and purchase protections

While both the Chase Sapphire Preferred and the Chase Sapphire Reserve have similar travel and purchase protections, you’ll find a few extras on the more-expensive Sapphire Reserve:

Chase Sapphire Preferred Chase Sapphire Reserve
Extended warranty Yes Yes
Purchase protection Up to $500 per claimand $50,000 per year Up to $10,000 per claimand $50,000 per year
Return protection No Yes
Auto rental collisiondamage waiver Yes, primary coverage Yes, primary coverage
Emergency evacuationand transportation No Yes
Emergency medicaland dental insurance No Up to $2,500 if you’re 100 milesor more from home on a trip
Trip cancellation/interruption insurance Up to $10,000 per covered trip Up to $10,000 per covered trip
Baggage delay insurance Up to $100 per day for up to 5 days Up to $100 per day for up to 5 days
Lost luggage reimbursement Up to $3,000 per person Up to $3,000 per person
Trip delay reimbursement Up to $500 per person for delaysof 12 hours or more Up to $500 per person for delaysof 6 hours or more
Travel accident insurance Up to $500,000 in coverage Up to $1,000,000 in coverage

The Sapphire Reserve has higher per-claim thresholds than the Sapphire Preferred when it comes to purchase protection and travel accident insurance, as well as only requiring a 6-hour delay before trip delay protection kicks in.

But you’ll also have two additional protections with the CSR: Emergency evacuation and transportation insurance, which can get you out of a jam if you get sick or injured when you’re far from home, and emergency medical and dental coverage, which can cover you for medical expenses if you get sick or injured while you’re on a trip more than 100 miles from home.

Annual fees

At $95, the annual fee on the Chase Sapphire Preferred is quite low given its stout sign-up bonus. We also love the 2x points on all travel and dining with no foreign transaction fees. It’s a decent if basic set of perks and earning rates for a relatively low price, and Chase’s transfer partners are some of the best around.

While the Chase Sapphire Reserve’s $550 annual fee is high, it’s offset by a $300 annual travel credit that’s shockingly easy to use. Just make $300 in travel purchases over the course of your cardholder year, and you’ll trigger the reimbursement. For example, if you spend two nights in a hotel and rack up $350 in charges, your out-of-pocket cost will be just $50.

Related: Is the Chase Sapphire Reserve worth the increased annual fee?

This means the net annual fee for the Sapphire Reserve is $250 — a much more palatable sum. Then toss in the new $60 annual DoorDash credit in both 2020 and 2021, and now the effective cost is down to just $190. Of course, if you don’t use DoorDash, then you won’t be able to take advantage of this particular perk, so you’ll need to do the math based on your own personal situation.

If you can use the $60 in annual DoorDash credits with the Chase Sapphire Reserve, you
If you can use the $60 in annual DoorDash credits with the Chase Sapphire Reserve, you'll drive the net annual fee even lower.
PHOTO: DoorDash

What could be better?

While the Chase Sapphire Reserve’s bundled Priority Pass Select membership is appreciated, the other top-tier premium travel card — The Platinum Card® from American Express — offers more comprehensive airline lounge access, including Delta Sky Clubs and Amex Centurion Lounges. It’s also curious that the Sapphire Reserve doesn’t include cell phone insurance, while many other cards with lower annual fees do.

While 3x points on all travel and dining is above-average, there are several credit cards which offer higher earning rates on dining, such as the American Express® Gold Card or the Capital One® Savor® Cash Rewards Credit Card. Plus, the Amex Platinum offers a whopping 5x points on airfare purchased through Amex Travel or directly with the airline. It’s time for the Sapphire Reserve to step up its earning rates as well.

Related: Earn bonus points for both eating in and dining out with the American Express Gold card.

When it comes to the Chase Sapphire Preferred, other cards with similar annual fees have additional perks that are missing from the CSP. As an example, the Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card offers a Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee credit worth up to $100, yet Chase only offers that benefit on the higher-priced Sapphire Reserve.

You
You'll get a Global Entry/TSA PreCheck credit worth up to $100 on the Chase Sapphire Reserve, but not the Preferred.
PHOTO: Josh Denmark/U.S. Customs & Border Protection

And the American Express® Green Card, while charging a higher $150 annual fee, earns 3 points per dollar on travel and dining purchases, plus comes with an annual credit of up to $100 for Clear membership, and an annual credit of up to $100 for LoungeBuddy purchases. We’d love to see some new credits added to the Sapphire Preferred in the near future.

Related: Get up to $100 a year in airport lounge access with the Amex Green card.

Should you get the Sapphire Preferred or Sapphire Reserve?

If you travel frequently and plan to utilize the Priority Pass Select lounge membership and its longer list of travel protections, it may be worth springing for the Chase Sapphire Reserve. The massive (and simple to use) $300 annual travel credit pushes the effective annual fee down to $250. If you can also utilize the $60 annual DoorDash credit in 2020 and 2021, you can get that net fee as low as $190.

That means that it’s effectively $95 more to hold than the Sapphire Preferred on an annual basis. So as long as you plan to use the card’s perks, including the higher 1.5 cents per point on Chase travel portal redemptions, it could make sense to pay the higher annual fee.

Otherwise, you’ll be better off grabbing the Chase Sapphire Preferred and putting another card or two in your wallet with the savings — cards which will help you maximize earnings on other popular categories such as gas, business expenses or groceries. Check out our guide to the best credit cards of 2020 for a list of some of the best complimentary cards to the Sapphire Preferred.

Learn more about the Chase Sapphire Preferred.
Learn more about the Chase Sapphire Reserve.

Find out which cards CNN Underscored chose as our best travel credit cards of 2020.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Note: While the offers mentioned above are accurate at the time of publication, they’re subject to change at any time and may have changed, or may no longer be available.