When Is The Chase Sapphire Preferred Better Than The Reserve?

Follow along as I break down the numbers and calculate if there's ever a time in which the Chase Sapphire Preferred is the better option over the Reserve.


The Chase Sapphire Reserve is a premium travel card that offers great benefits for those who do a lot of traveling and/or spends a lot across the travel and dining categories. Whether the card is worth it really depends on how much you value the elite travel perks and how much spend you plan on running through the card.

Those who don't travel as much or can't stand to dish out the $450/$550 annual fee of the Chase Sapphire Reserve will usually take a step down to the Chase Sapphire Preferred which earns a lower return across the same categories and has a lower annual fee.

If you're trying to deciding between the two Sapphire Cards or whether you should have a Sapphire Card at all, hopefully this write up can help you decide. I'll be focusing more on the spend rather than the actual perks of the card. If you're just looking for a side-by-side calculator, you can check out the Chase Sapphire Reserve vs Preferred Point Calculator.

Earnings, Perks & Benefits

First off, let's list out the benefits of both cards so that we all have an understanding of what the Chase Sapphire Preferred and Chase Sapphire Reserve offers. This includes the earning rates and various benefits in which you can assign some type of cash value to.

Chase Sapphire Reserve

The most important benefits of the Chase Sapphire Reserve (CSR) consist of the $300 travel credit, 50% boost to points redeemed on the Chase Travel Portal, and travel/purchase insurance and protections offered when using the card.

The $550 annual fee for the Chase Sapphire Reserve will apply to everyone who applies for the card after January 12, 2020 and current cardholders who have an annual renewal date of April 1st, 2020 onward. If your annual fee hits on March 31st, 2020 or earlier, you will be charged a $450 annual fee one last time. No one is grandfathered into the $450 fee, so everyone will be under the $550 per year fee by 2021.

Chase Sapphire Reserve
$450/$550 Annual Fee
10x Lyft
3x Travel, Dining
$300 Annual Travel Credit
50% Point Value Boost
DoorDash Benefits (2 yrs)
Lyft Pink Membership (1 yr)
Travel Insurance/Protection
Purchase Insurance/Protection
Global Entry/TSA PreCheck Credit
Priority Pass
Luxury Hotel and Resort Collection

Chase Sapphire Preferred

The Chase Sapphire Preferred (CSP) is not a premium card so it is not stacked with tons of benefits like the Reserve. For a lower annual fee, you'll receive double points on travel & dining, a 25% boost to the value of points redeemed on the portal, and several of the same travel/purchase insurance and protections you would receive on the Reserve.

Chase Sapphire Preferred
$0 First Year, Then $95 Annual Fee
5x Lyft
2x Travel, Dining
25% Point Value Boost
Travel Insurance/Protection

Year 1 Comparisons

The easiest way to approach this is to compare both cards based on how much you value Ultimate Rewards Points. This will make a big difference as to which card is best at any given time. I'll focus on 1 cent redemptions, 1.25/1.5 cent redemptions, and 2 cent redemptions.

For year 1, the calculations for the Chase Sapphire Preferred will be based on a $0 annual fee since it is waived the first year. The Chase Sapphire Reserve will be based on a total fee of $250 which is the new $550 annual fee minus the $300 annual travel credit. If you can't use the annual travel credit, there's a 99% chance you should not have either Sapphire Card. If you travel, this fee is easy to use so it gets counted in this equation as well as all other listed on this page.

I'll also strictly be looking at the earnings on the travel and dining categories which is the bread and butter of both cards. The Lyft multipliers, sign up bonuses, and other perks/benefits on the card will be mentioned as secondary bullet points. With so many different factors to consider, I find it best to concentrate on one thing. You'll be able to factor in the costs of benefits and your Lyft spend using the point calculator located at the bottom of this page.

1 Cent Redemptions

Redemptions that give your points a value of 1 cent will be things such as gift cards and cash back.

Covering The Fee w/ Spend: There's no annual fee the first year with the Chase Sapphire Preferred, so all spend across the card will generate a positive return and which makes for a great first year.

The Chase Sapphire Reserve will require you to wipe out the $250 in fees after the travel credit is factored in. At a value of 1 cent per point, you will need to earn 25,000 Ultimate Rewards Points for the year. You can do this by spending $8,334 in travel and dining purchases throughout the year which is equal to $695 per month.

Break Even Point: During the first year, you would need to spend $25,000 across the travel and dining categories to get the same return across both cards. That's equal to about $2,084 in spend per month.

Break Even
1 Cent
Sapphire Preferred Sapphire Reserve
Spend
Travel & Dining
$25,000 $25,000
Points Earned 50,000 Points 75,000 Points
Value $500 $750
Annual Fee $0 $250
Total Value $500
2% Return
$500
2% Return

This means that if you plan on spending more than $25,000 per year across travel and dining, the Chase Sapphire Reserve will be the better card. This is not counting all of the other perks that comes with the Chase Sapphire Reserve. This is based all on spend alone.

Sign Up Bonus: The Chase Sapphire Preferred features a standard sign up bonus (SUB) of 60,000 points while the Chase Sapphire Reserve features a standard sign up bonus of 50,000 Points. If you factor in the SUB, both cards will even out at $35,000 per year (~$2,917 per month).

Lyft Break Even: It will only take $5,000 in Lyft spend per year (~$417 per month) for both cards to even out at the same return. If you spend heavy with Lyft, you'll want to side with the Chase Sapphire Reserve hands down.

Other Benefits: Lyft Pink Membership, DoorDash DoorPass, $60 DoorDash Credits, and Global Entry/TSA PreCheck comes out to be a total of $520 in benefits at most for the Chase Sapphire Reserve. Monetary values can also be assigned to Priority Pass (in which many people hold close to their heart), trip insurance/protections, and purchase insurance/protections. These can easily push the Chase Sapphire Reserve over the Sapphire Preferred in the first year. You can calculate the cash value of cards based on benefits using the point calculator at the far bottom of this page.

Outcome

The Chase Sapphire Preferred has a fighting chance in the first year to easily compete with the Chase Sapphire Reserve. Based on spend alone, you'll have to run some heavy spend through the Reserve for it to come out on top. Of course, you'll want to look at the other benefits offered on the Reserve as well. The additional perks and benefits on the Chase Sapphire Reserve can easily play a key role in making the Reserve the better choice even with the Preferred having no fee the first year.

1.25/1.5 Cent Redemptions

The next section will cover travel purchases made through the Chase Travel Portal. Chase Sapphire Preferred cardholders will receive a 25% boost to points for a total value of 1.25 cents per point. Chase Sapphire Reserve cardholders will receive a higher boost of 50% when points are used on the portal for a total return of 1.5 cents per point. This doesn't seem like a big difference, but it has a heavy impact.

Covering The Fee w/ Spend: With the Sapphire Reserve's net fee of $250 and point value of 1.5 cents each, you would need to earn 16,666 Ultimate Rewards Points to wipe out this fee. That would require $5,556 in yearly spend ($463 per month) in the 3x travel and dining categories or $1,667 in yearly spend ($139 per month) with Lyft.

Break Even Point: Looking at spend alone, the Sapphire Cards will break even at $12,500 in spend across the travel and dining categories. This will give you a total return of $312 in value and a 2.5% return on the $1.

Break Even
1.25/1.5 Cent
Sapphire Preferred Sapphire Reserve
Spend
Travel & Dining
$12,500 $12,500
Points Earned 25,000 Points 37,500 Points
Value $312 $562
Annual Fee $0 $250
Total Value $312
2.5% Return
$312
2.5% Return

So if you plan on redeeming your points on the Chase Travel Portal and you plan on spending more than $12,500 per year ($1,042 per month) across dining and travel, you'll be better off with the Chase Sapphire Reserve. Anything less than that and the Chase Sapphire Preferred will be the better option.

Sign Up Bonus: If you include the 50k Chase Sapphire Reserve SUB and 60k Chase Sapphire Preferred SUB, the cards will still even out at 12,500 per year in spend. This is because both bonuses have the same value when redeemed towards the Chase Travel Portal. 50,000 points at 1.5 cents each is $750 and 60,000 points at 1.25 cents each is $750. So the sign up bonus will not play a role if you plan on redeeming points through the Chase Travel Portal.

Lyft Break Even: Based on Lyft spend only, it will take about $2,870 in yearly spend (~$240 per month) for both cards to break even. So if you spend more than $240 per month and plan on redeeming your points on the Chase Travel Portal, you'll want to side with the Chase Sapphire Reserve. Otherwise, you'll want to pick up the Chase Sapphire Preferred.

Outcome

Redeeming points at the higher values of 1.25 and 1.5 cents closes the spend gap between both cards, but there's still ample opportunity for the Sapphire Preferred to be worth it over the Chase Sapphire Reserve in the first year.

2 Cent Redemptions

This section will cover redeeming your Chase Points for values of 2 cent or more. This is done by transferring points to Chase's airline and hotel transfer partners. You cannot obtain a value higher than 1.25/1.5 cents redeeming directly with Chase.

Transfers to the World of Hyatt program offers the easiest way to get values of 2+ cents. I personally can also easily find redemptions for Marriott that can hit 2+ cents. Premium/Business Class redemptions with airlines will typically give you a high value as well.

Covering The Fee w/ Spend: With the Sapphire Reserve's $250 in fees and at a point value of 2 cent each, you would need to earn 12,500 Ultimate Reward Points to overcome the fee. This would require $4,167 in spend during the year across the 3x travel and dining categories.

Break Even Point: Looking at a value of 2 cents per point, both Sapphire Cards will break even with each other at $12,500 in spend per year across travel & dining which is $1,042 per month. You may notice that this is the same amount of spend required to break even when redeeming points on the Chase Travel Portal.

Break Even
2 Cent
Sapphire Preferred Sapphire Reserve
Spend
Travel & Dining
$12,500 $12,500
Points Earned 25,000 Points 37,500 Points
Cash Value
at 2 cent each
$500 $750
Annual Fee $0 $250
Total Value $500
4% Return
$500
4% Return

So if you're transferring points and receiving redemption values of 2 cent each, you'll come out ahead with the Chase Sapphire Reserve if you spend more than $12,500 per year (~$1,042 per month). Otherwise, the Chase Sapphire Preferred will be the better option.

Try not to think of this on a "how many points" level. You want to always look at the value and return of your spend. If you were to spend $10,000, sure you would end up with more points using the Chase Sapphire Reserve, but you would not get as high of an overall value. Don't let the number of points earned blind you to the fact you're not getting an adequate return.

Sign Up Bonus: If you include the 50k Chase Sapphire Reserve SUB and 60k Chase Sapphire Preferred SUB, the cards will break even at $22,500 in yearly spend (~$1,875 per month) across travel and dining. So if you spend more than that, the Chase Sapphire Reserve will be the better option. Otherwise, the Chase Sapphire Preferred will do it for you.

Lyft Break Even: Based on Lyft spend only, it will take $2,500 in yearly spend for the cards to break even with each other. So if you spend more than $209 per month on Lyft and you plan on redeeming your points at values of 2+ cents, the Chase Sapphire Reserve belongs in your pocket.

Outcome

The threshold for spending across the categories of travel and dining are the same as the previous example. The Chase Sapphire Preferred is a solid choice if you're not spending heavy across the card's bonus categories.

Year 2 Comparisons

If you plan on keeping the Chase Sapphire Reserve or Chase Sapphire Preferred into year 2, this is the section you'll want to pay close attention to. Also, if you plan on product changing from the Chase Sapphire Reserve to the Chase Sapphire Preferred (thus paying the annual fee), this section will be for you too.

For year 2, calculations for the Chase Sapphire Preferred will be based on a $95 annual fee. The Chase Sapphire Reserve will be based on the same total fee of $250 which is the new $550 annual fee minus the $300 annual travel credit.

1 Cent Redemptions

This section covers 1 cent redemptions made during the second year of holding either card. 1 Cent redemptions are usually non-Chase Travel Portal purchases such as cash back and gift card redemptions made directly through Chase.

Covering The Fee w/ Spend: The Chase Sapphire Preferred has an annual fee of $95 which means you need to earn 9,500 Ultimate Rewards Points to cover the fee at a value of 1 cent per point. This will require $4,750 in spend across the 2x travel and dining categories.

The Chase Sapphire Reserve has a net fee of $250 which would require 25,000 Ultimate Reward Points to wipe out at 1 cent each. This will require $8,334 in spend per year or around $695 per month.

Break Even Point: This is where calculations start to get interesting. The Chase Sapphire Reserve and Chase Sapphire Preferred will break even at $15,500 in spend across the travel and dining categories which around $1,292 per month.

Break Even
1 Cent
Sapphire Preferred Sapphire Reserve
Spend
Travel & Dining
$15,500 $15,500
Points Earned 31,000 Points 46,500 Points
Value $310 $465
Annual Fee $95 $250
Total Value $215
1.39% Return
$215
1.39% Return

You notice that return? Yes, it's a pitiful 1.39%. This means a 2% cash back card like the Citi Double Cash or PayPal CashBack Mastercard would blow both cards out the water in terms of earning when spending such a low amount across both cards.

Note About Benefits & Perks: The Chase Sapphire Reserve comes stacked with benefits and perks that can make the 1.39% acceptable. You may get full value out of the DoorDash and Lyft benefits or you may cherish the trip insurance/protections, Priority Pass, or any of the other number of benefits enough that you're willing to accept the low return because the perks/benefits are worth it to you.

The Chase Sapphire Preferred on the other hand is a little harder to justify. While the card does offer some trip insurance/protections, it's not going to hold up at the same value as the Reserve due to not having as many benefits.

Lyft Break Even: It take $3,100 in yearly Lyft spend alone for both cards to break even with each other which is a return of 1.94%. You'll need to spend around $3,200 or more to receive a return of more than 2% across either card. This means if you spend $3,200 or more, you'll want the Chase Sapphire Reserve. If you spend less than $3,200 (again looking at Lyft alone), you'll want to find a 2% cash back card.

Outcome

There's not an instance in which the Chase Sapphire Preferred is a good idea if you plan on redeeming Ultimate Rewards Points at 1 cent each. You'll enter spend enough to get the Chase Sapphire Reserve or you will need to find another card for your spend because the Preferred doesn't make the cut.

1.25/1.5 Cent Redemptions

This sections is for redemptions made through the Chase Travel Portal. The 25% boost on the Chase Sapphire Preferred gives your points a value of 1.25 cents while the 50% boost on the Chase Sapphire Reserve gives your points a value of 1.5 cents.

Covering The Fee w/ Spend: You'll need to earn 7,600 Ultimate Rewards Points on the Chase Sapphire Preferred to cover the $95 annual fee at 1.25 cents per point. This will require $3,800 in yearly spend ($316 per month) across the travel and dining categories. For Lyft, this will require $1,520 in yearly spend (~$127 per month).

For the Chase Sapphire Reserve, 16,667 Ultimate Rewards Points will cover the $250 net fee at 1.5 cents per point. This requires $5,556 in yearly spend ($463 per month) across the 3x categories or $1,667 in yearly spend ($139 per month) with Lyft.

Break Even Point: The Chase Sapphire Preferred and Chase Sapphire Reserve breaks even with each other at $7,750 in yearly spend across the travel and dining categories which is around $646 per month.

Break Even
1.25/1.5 Cents
Sapphire Preferred Sapphire Reserve
Spend
Travel & Dining
$7,750 $7,750
Points Earned 15,500 Points 23,250 Points
Value $193 $348
Annual Fee $95 $250
Total Value $98
1.27% Return
$98
1.27% Return

Again, you'll notice a very terrible return of 1.27% when both cards break even with each other. You will have to run $10,000 in travel and dining spend across the Chase Sapphire Reserve to hit a 2% return and $20,000 across the Chase Sapphire Preferred. This means if you spend more than $10,000 you'll want the Chase Sapphire Reserve. If you spend less than $10,000 you will want to find another card to put your spend on (aka not the Chase Sapphire Preferred).

Lyft Break Even: For your Lyft spenders out there, these cards will break even at $1,770 in spend per year which is around $148 per month. This will give you a return of 0.88% across both cards. Not even a full percent. Around $1,925 in Lyft spend per year (~$161 per month) is when the Chase Sapphire Reserve goes beyond a 2% return. Anything less than that and you'll want to just use a 2% cash back card.

Outcome

Again, the Chase Sapphire Preferred has no chance to shine. You'll either spend enough (or cherish the perks enough) to justify having the Chase Sapphire Reserve or you'll want to find another card use.

2 Cent Redemptions

This section is for redemptions of more than 2 cent each within the second year of card ownership. Redemptions of higher than 1.5 cents are acquired by transferring Ultimate Rewards Points to airline and hotel partners and then redeeming them at a high value (in this case, 2 cents).

Covering The Fee w/ Spend: You will need to earn 4,750 Ultimate Rewards Points to cover the annual fee of the Chase Sapphire Preferred based on a 2 cent return. This comes out to be $2,375 in yearly spend across the travel and dining categories which is around $198 per month.

For the Chase Sapphire Reserve, you will need to earn 12,500 Ultimate Rewards Points which would require $4,167 in spend during the year ($348 per month) across the 3x travel and dining categories. Participants of Lyft will have to spend $1,250 per year ($105 per month) on rides.

Break Even Point: Both the Chase Sapphire Preferred and Chase Sapphire Reserve breaks even with each other at $7,750 in spend across the travel and dining categories. This comes out to being around $646 per month. You'll notice this is the same break even amount of the Chase Travel Portal redemptions except that the Sapphire Preferred has a chance in this instance due to the redemption value.

Break Even
2 Cents
Sapphire Preferred Sapphire Reserve
Spend
Travel & Dining
$7,750 $7,750
Points Earned 15,500 Points 23,250 Points
Value $310 $465
Annual Fee $95 $250
Total Value $215
2.77% Return
$215
2.77% Return

This is one of the instances in which the Chase Sapphire Preferred can hold it's ground. If you're redeeming points at 2 cents or higher, the Chase Sapphire Reserve is the better option if you spend more than $7,750 per year across travel and dining. If you spend less than $7,750 but more than $4,750 (you don't want to fall below a 2% return), the Chase Sapphire Preferred is the better option when it comes to spend alone.

Lyft Break Even: $1,550 in Lyft spend is when the Preferred and Reserve break even with each other which is only around $130 in spend per month. If you're redeeming points at 2 cents each, the Chase Sapphire Reserve is the better option when spending more than $1,550 per year on Lyft rides. The Chase Sapphire Preferred is the better option for those who spend less than $1,550 per year but more than $1,185 per year. Anything less than that and you'll want to find another card.

Outcome

Redeeming your Ultimate Rewards Points for values of 2 cents will actually give the Chase Sapphire Preferred a fighting chance at being a decent card based on how much you spend on travel, dining, or Lyft rides. The gap in spend is still quite small, but it exists.

Break Even Calculator

I can't do a breakdown of every cent for each year, but what I can do is supply you a calculator to do such. The Point Value Redemption Calculator will give you the break even point for a selected category based on how much you value Ultimate Rewards Points. It will output the return in which these cards break even at and it will let you know which is the better option. Again, I want to reiterate that this is based on spend alone.

Year

Selecting Year 1 will give the Preferred an annual fee of $0. Year 2 will give the Preferred an annual fee of $95.

Category

Select between the Travel/Dining category or the Lyft category to base these calculations on.

CSP Point Value

Input how much you value points when redeemed with the Chase Sapphire Preferred in X.XX cents.

CSR Point Value

Input how much you value points when redeemed with the Chase Sapphire Reserve in X.XX cents.

Travel/Dining Sapphire Preferred Sapphire Reserve
Break Even At
Spend on Travel/Dining
$0 Per Year
~$0 Per Month
Points Earned
Multiplier
Points
x
Points
x
Value
(The values you entered)
$
1.0 Cent(s)
$
1.0 Cent(s)
Annual Fee $95 $250
Total Value
$
% Return
$
% Return
Outcome:

Remember that this is all based on spend alone. You can jump to the bottom of this page to calculate the cash value of the Preferred and Reserve side by side based on redemption. You can also jump to the Chase Sapphire Reserve vs Preferred Point Calculator to get side-by-side comparisons on the earning rates, card benefits, sign up bonuses, and fees of the cards. It also contains the same calculator that's at the far bottom of this page.

Summary

The Chase Sapphire Preferred is a superb card to have during the first year. It allows you to earn an easy 2% return at minimum and also gives you the chance to earn a higher return through Chase's transfer partners.

The problem with the card rolls around during the second year in which the annual fee takes a great deal of value from the card. Unless you value Ultimate Rewards Points at around 1.6 cents or higher, the Chase Sapphire Preferred will usually always be the worst option of the two cards. Once year two rolls around you'll either want to product change/upgrade to the Chase Sapphire Reserve (if it makes sense to do so) or find another card that earns a 2% return.

Remember that these are just some numbers that I ran to give you an idea of the value of the Chase Sapphire Preferred versus the Reserve. If you enjoy the Chase Sapphire Preferred because it just "works" for you, that's understandable. Not everyone is in the market to maximize every single penny they spend. Just note that there are generally better options when it comes to earning rewards spending on the Chase Sapphire Preferred and that even with the increase in fee, the Chase Sapphire Reserve will typically still reign supreme for most of those who travel that are trying to decide between the two.


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