In my Go to Travel Gal travel credit card plan, which is all about getting the MOST possible miles and points, for the LEAST possible effort, I included Chase Sapphire Preferred or Chase Sapphire Reserve as the THIRD recommended card to add to your wallet. These are some of my very FAVORITE travel credit cards!

I think ALL travelers should hold either one of these cards, so long as you frequently use one of their partner airlines or hotels frequently!

But, because Chase will only allow you to hold ONE “Sapphire” card, which should you get? Here is my review of Chase Sapphire Reserve vs Preferred to help you determine which is the best option for you.

Chase Sapphire Reserve vs Preferred

Chase Sapphire Reserve vs Preferred

These are two of the very best travel credit cards around in my opinion. Both earn Chase Ultimate Rewards points, which are flexible points that can be transferred at a 1:1 ratio to airlines and hotel groups, including Southwest, British Airways, United, Singapore (which I use in my fly 4 free to Hawaii email course), IHG, Marriott and Hyatt.

My family largely focuses on earning Southwest points, because we always hold the Southwest Companion Pass, which lets one of us fly free. Our top priority is getting enough points for the rest of us to fly free, too! We find these cards to be a great way to quickly earn points, especially double and triple on dining and travel, that we can INSTANTLY transfer to Southwest to book FREE flights.

To apply for or review any of the cards in this post, please use the COMPARE CARDS link in this post or the TRAVEL CREDIT CARDS link in the main menu above. This allows me to earn a commission—at no cost to you—to help me pay the blogging bills 🙂 and continue to bring you great information totally FREE!


We have also used Chase Ultimate Rewards points to book a trip to Europe for all four of us ENTIRELY on miles by transferring the points to British Airways/Aer Lingus Avios. Read about the ONE travel hack that got us there! We also used them for flights within Europe on Aer Lingus to get from one major city to another.

Overall Summary

Generally, I recommend Chase Sapphire Preferred to those new to collecting miles and points for free travel because the annual fee is waived the first year, making it a FREE way to get started, while Chase Sapphire Reserve I recommend for more advanced travel hackers or those who travel A LOT for business or pleasure, as it has a high annual fee but it can be largely offset with travel credits and perks.

How to Hold BOTH Cards

If you have a partner or spouse with whom you work to earn miles and points, I recommend having one person hold Preferred and one person hold Reserve. That way you can can take advantage of both cards’ benefits and earn both cards’ sign-on bonuses!

My husband holds Reserve and I hold Preferred, and that’s worked great for my family!

Feature by Feature Comparison

Travel Credit Card Plan

I’ve written this post to compare side by side key features and benefits of each card, as I think that may be the easiest way to see the differences.

Sign-on Bonuses

The sign-on bonuses for both cards are currently the same, but if you have one spouse or partner sign up for one card, while the other applies for the other card, you can net BOTH BONUSES. The Preferred does offer 5,000 more points for adding an authorized user at no cost.

  • Preferred:
    • 50,000 points after meeting a $4,000 minimum spend in three months
    • 5,000 points after adding an authorized user (for no additional cost) who makes a purchase
  • Reserve:
    • 50,000 points after meeting a $4,000 minimum spend in three months
    • No points for adding an authorized user to Reserve. It actually COSTS $75 to add an authorized user, so I would not advise doing this if you can avoid it, though it may be required if you need to transfer points to one another.

Annual Fees

  • Preferred: $95 waived the first year
  • Reserve: $450 NOT waived the first year, but largely offset by the below credits

Travel Credits

  • Preferred: None
  • Reserve
    • $300 credit each year for any travel expenses you charge to the card. Travel expenses includes hotel, airline, car rental, transportation (bus, cab, subway), tolls, parking and cruise line expenses. Here is the complete list. For 2018, we used this to book a cheap flight on Allegiant to get us to Ft. Lauderdale, where we used ~12,600 points to fly four of us to Grand Cayman.
    • Credit for $100 Global Entry or $85 TSA PreCheck application fee once every four years when purchased with the card. I highly recommend TSA PreCheck or Global Entry (same as PreCheck, but expedites customs when coming back into the US) if you travel a lot to help bypass long security lines and to avoid having to remove shoes, laptops, etc. We used this credit to get my son TSA PreCheck when he turned 13 in 2017, requiring him to have his own.
    • If you take advantage of these two benefits the first year, you will be down to a reasonable annual fee of $50-$65 (most airline cards have $69-$99 annual fees) or for the second year (when the TSA PreCheck is not credited) to a $150 annual fee.

Points Earned By Spending

Bologna restaurant

This is the MAIN benefit of these cards for me, aside from the initial sign-on bonus. By using them to pay for your travel and dining expenses, you can quickly net points that can be transferred to your favorite airline or hotel chain.

Most airline and hotel credit cards only allow you to earn 1 point per dollar on travel and dining expenses (on the Southwest Rapid Rewards Chase cards, for example), so this is a much more effective and efficient way to earn MORE Southwest points than using the Southwest cards to pay for the same purchases.

By using our Chase Sapphire Reserve card to pay for travel and dining on our trip to Europe last year (where we flew entirely on miles!), we pretty much covered our fall break flights to Los Angeles on Southwest.

  • Preferred: 2X points on dining and travel
  • Reserve: 3X points on dining and travel

Foreign Transaction Fees

Eiffel Tower from below

Use either card to pay for tickets to visit the top of the Eiffel Tower and pay no foreign transaction fees!

If you travel overseas at all, it’s helpful to use a credit card that DOES NOT charge foreign transaction fees. BOTH Preferred and Reserve DO NOT charge foreign transaction fees, so they are great to use on your travel expenses when out of the country.

Insurance Benefits

Many people overlook the insurance benefits on travel credit cards, but they can be extremely helpful!

  • Preserve:
    • $3,000 for lost or damaged luggage, primary auto rental theft and collision damage for the cash value of the vehicle (primary is better than secondary, meaning NO CLAIMS need to be filed with your insurance company, potentially increasing your premiums)
    • Trip cancellation insurance if cancelled or interrupted due to weather, illness, etc. up to $10,000
    • Primary car rental collision and theft insurance, which means you DO NOT have to file a claim with your insurance company, resulting in higher rates.
    • Baggage delay coverage of up to $100 a day for five days for essential purchases like clothing and toiletries
    • Return protection for items a store won’t take back within 90 days up to $500
  • Reserve:
    • Trip cancellation insurance up to $10,000.
    • Primary car rental collision and theft insurance, which means you DO NOT have to file a claim with your insurance company, resulting in higher rates.
    • $500 per airline ticket for accommodations and meals if your flight is delayed overnight and you paid for your airfare with this card.
    • Emergency evacuation and transportation up to $100,000.
    • $10,000 per claim for damage and theft of new purchases with this card for the first 120 days.

Other Benefits

One more perk I love about Chase Sapphire Reserve is access to airport lounges across the globe! We plan to use this perk on an upcoming flight to Rome on Aer Lingus where we will start at JFK, stop in Dublin and end in Rome — all three of which have Priority Pass lounges.


Who Should Pick Chase Sapphire Reserve?

Chase Sapphire Reserve

Choose Sapphire Reserve if you:

  • You will be spending at least $300 on travel in the coming year, which you can put on the card to offset part of the $450 annual fee
  • Travel enough to warrant getting TSA PreCheck or have a need to get TSA PreCheck or Global Entry, again to offset another $85-$100 of the annual fee
  • Frequently use one of Chase Ultimate Rewards airline or hotel transfer partners
  • Don’t mind spending $50 to $150 as an out-of-pocket annual fee to reap the benefit of 3X points earned on dining and travel, and access to Priority Pass airport lounges (Rome, JFK, ATL, Dublin and more)
  • Can meet the $4,000 minimum spend within 3 months without putting yourself in financial trouble
  • Would love a free 50,000 miles to spend on FREE flights or hotel rooms!

Who Should Pick Chase Sapphire Preferred?

Chase Sapphire Preferred

Choose Sapphire Preferred if you:

  • Don’t want to pay anything out of pocket right now for an annual fee ($95 annual fee waived the first year)
  • Frequently use one of Chase Ultimate Rewards airline or hotel transfer partners
  • Would like to earn at least 2X points on dining and travel expenses
  • Can meet the $4,000 minimum spend within 3 months without putting yourself in financial trouble
  • Would love a free 50,000 miles to spend on FREE flights or hotel rooms!

Please note for both of these cards, Chase will NOT approve you if you have opened five or more new credit cards in the last 24 months. Also, if you plan to earn the Southwest Companion Pass, I advise getting one personal and one business Southwest card FIRST before applying for a “Sapphire” card.

Download my free guide that walks you step-by-step how to easily get your own Southwest Companion Pass below:

Download Your FREE Guide & Start Flying FREE on Southwest!

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To Sum It Up

As you can see, these cards are a great way to quickly and easily earn a bunch of points that can be used for free flights on your favorite airline or free rooms at your favorite hotels. This is accomplished by:

  • Earning the sign-on bonus
  • Using them for travel and dining spending

Which will you pick? Preferred or Reserve?

Thanks again for using the COMPARE CARDS link in this post for your card applications and reviews!


Read More:

10 Things You Can Do to Start Flying Free TODAY!

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