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Chase Sapphire Reserve vs. Preferred
First, let's take a look at what each card offers.
Chase Sapphire Reserve
The Reserve is a premium travel card that offers a 50,000 Ultimate Reward point sign-up bonus. This is worth a minimum of $500 if used for cash back, but can be redeemed for much more in travel. Here are the notable stats:
If used for travel (which is surprisingly broad under Chase's definition), the effective annual fee drops to $150. This will be the barrier to overcome for a profitable card.
Chase Sapphire Preferred
The Preferred does not offer quite the same benefits as the Reserve, but it is still worth 50,000 Ultimate Rewards for signing up. Here are the notable stats:
This makes the card much more straightforward for determining value.
Several key factors determine the comparative value of the cards:
Low Spending Example
As an example, let's imagine you only spend $200 on travel, $2,000 per year on dining, and $6,000 in normal spending. You are primarily concerned with cash back. Here is what you would earn with each card:
In this example, the low spend toward travel makes the Preferred a better value than the Reserve.
High Spending Example
In this example, let's imagine you instead spend $1,500 on travel, $1,500 per year on dining, and $6,000 in normal spending. You spend points towards travel on the Ultimate Rewards portal. Here is what you would earn with each card:
In this example, the higher travel spend shifts value in favor of the Reserve.
From the above examples, it is clear that the spending variables will change the value of each card. How can you know which is the best without running through the math each time?
I've linked to a Google Sheet that shows you profitability thresholds for each card given your inputs. You can find the sheet here:
Here's how it works:
1. Save a copy of the sheet by clicking File, Download as to save a copy to edit.
2. Enter normal (non-travel, non-dining) spending in Cell D1.
3. Select redemption option (Cash Back or Travel Site) in Cell I1.
4. Select in cell M1 whether Global Entry / TSA Pre-Check will be used.
Three tables are listed that show values for various travel and restaurant spending levels. The first is for the Sapphire Preferred. The second is for the Sapphire Reserve. The last shows the winning card for each combination.
When a value turns from negative to positive value, the cell turns green.
Like so many comparisons, the answer of whether the Reserve or Preferred is a better card comes down to this: it depends. With this sheet, you can now estimate which would be a better option for your situation.
Note that I have not utilized the travel-credit double-dip analysis here. This is instead focused on determining value year after year.
Do you have the Chase Sapphire Reserve or Preferred card? Which is your favorite and why? Let me know in the comments below!