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It's easy to get confused between the Chase Sapphire Reserve and the Chase Sapphire Preferred cards. Their names are all-too-similar. And the cards themselves are similar in some fundamental respects. They're cousins, if not brothers or twins.

But the differences far outweigh the similarities, and consumers confuse them at their financial peril. 

How the Cards Compare - Similarities

What connects the two cards is the Chase Ultimate Rewards loyalty program. Both cards earn Ultimate Rewards points. But they do so at different rates. The Reserve card, which comes with a higher annual fee, earns three points per $1 spent on travel and dining, one point per $1 for everything else; the Preferred card awards two points per $1 for travel and dining spend, one point for other spend.

Both cards also come bundled with a 50,000-point sign-up bonus, after spending $4,000 within the first three months.

Ultimate Rewards points may be redeemed in any of three ways:

  • For a statement credit or gift card, in which case the points are worth 1 cent apiece
  • For travel booked through the Ultimate Rewards travel portal, in which case the points are worth 1.25 cents or 1.5 cents each, depending on whether they were earned with the Preferred or Reserve cards
  • Transfer points to any of 13 airline and hotel programs on a 1:1 basis

How the Cards Compare - Differences

While the two cards earn the same loyalty currency, Chase Ultimate Rewards points, they differ dramatically in both their annual fees and their respective rosters of travel perks.

The Chase Sapphire Reserve card comes bundled with a long list of benefits, and one of the highest annual credit card fees:

Chase Sapphire Reserve Card

Welcome offer: 50,000 points after spending $4,000 within the first three months of account opening (worth $750 when redeemed for travel via the Ultimate Rewards portal).

Earn 3 points per $1 for travel and dining.

Earn 1 point per $1 for other spending.

Annual fee: $450.

Annual percentage rate (APR): 17.24% - 24.24%, depending on credit.

Benefits: no foreign transaction fees, $300 annual travel credit, Priority Pass airport lounge membership, fee credit for TSA PreCheck or Global Entry.

By contrast, the Preferred card comes with few perks, but a much lower annual fee, which is waived the first year:

Chase Sapphire Preferred Card

Welcome offer: 60,000 points after spending $4,000 within the first three months of account opening (worth $625 when redeemed for travel via the Ultimate Rewards portal).

Earn 2 points per $1 for travel and dining.

Annual fee: $95, waived the first year.

Annual percentage rate (APR): 17.74% - 24.74% variable.

Benefits: No foreign transaction fees.

Which Card Is for You?

It's easy enough to make the economic case for the pricey Reserve card. Although the $450 annual fee is daunting, it's easily justified by the value of the card's associated perks. But those benefits only have value if they're used. Will you use the Priority Pass airport lounges? Will you take advantage of the $300 annual travel credit? Will you use the PreCheck credit? If so, pony up that hefty annual fee and rest assured that the card will serve you well.

On the other hand, if you're unlikely to utilize the Reserve benefits, save your money and apply for the Preferred card instead. With no annual fee the first year, it's a solid deal, linked to a flexible, high-value loyalty program, Ultimate Rewards.

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