Chase Sapphire Rewards Card and Chase Sapphire Preferred Rewards Cards Reviewed and Compared – Which One is Better?

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Chase offers two very modern rewards cards with the Sapphire branding, the Chase Sapphire Rewards Card basic version with no annual fee and the more elaborate Preferred card with a $95 annual fee. These cards are designed to be used for dining and travel, with an integrated chip added in the Preferred version, making it much more accessible globally. The basic Chase Sapphire Rewards Card is ideal for consumers who dine out frequently and travel domestically while the Preferred card is oriented toward international travel and features travel-friendly perks such as no foreign transaction fees and higher rewards point rates for travel purchases. The Preferred card also has a very high signing bonus, which could equate to 45,000 rewards points within the first three months of use, with a value potentially up to $500, while the basic version of the card only has a 10,000 point bonus.

The Chase Sapphire Rewards Card Point Systems

The basic Chase Sapphire Rewards Card with no annual fee offers its 10,000 bonus points after spending $500 during the first three months. This translates to $100 in rewards when redeemed through Chase Ultimate Rewards. Points are earned one per dollar on every purchase, or two per dollar if the purchase is made at a restaurant, including both fine dining and fast food. An additional point per dollar is also available when booking travel accommodations or airfare through the Chase Ultimate Rewards service (for a total of two points per dollar). The points themselves earned by using your Chase Sapphire Rewards Card do not expire and can accrue indefinitely. Points are redeemable for cash as well as merchandise, gift cards and travel.

For the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, the first-year fee is waived and it is possible to earn 40,000 points by spending $3,000 on purchases within the first three months. By adding an additional authorized user who then makes a purchase within the same initial three month period, the account will earn an additional 5,000 points. While the requirements for the initial bonus points are much steeper with the Preferred Card, continuing to accumulate the rewards points is much more aggressive. For example, all travel and dining charges earn two points per dollar, instead of the one point per dollar earned on all other charges. Plus, air fare and hotels booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards earn an extra point per dollar, or three total points per dollar. And at the end of the year, a seven percent points dividend is awarded based on all points earned throughout the year, even if those points were already redeemed. That means for every 100 points earned, the card holder gets an extra seven put in the account. One of the best aspects of this card, however, is the ability to transfer points to participating frequent travel programs at their full value (one point = one point). Because some frequent travel programs offer more value for their rewards, it can greatly benefit agressive users to move their points to the program that offers what they need.

Bonus Perks

For the Chase Sapphire Rewards Card, one of the best perks is a twenty percent discount on travel purchases made by redeeming points through the Chase Ultimate Rewards program. That means that 40,000 points translates to $500 worth of airfare, hotel, car rental or cruise purchases, and that is essentially for free if the card holder earns the initial bonus by charging $3,000 in the first three months. Also, there are no blackout dates or restrictions when booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards. Another bonus is the ability to mix points and the Chase Sapphire Rewards Card’s credit line to make purchases through Chase Ultimate Rewards, so not having enough points does not prevent the user from redeeming them for travel.

For international travelers, the Preferred card waives the foreign transaction fee. This amount is three percent for the basic Chase Sapphire Rewards Card, and can amount to quite a significant savings for the Preferred Card holder. The aforementioned chip is standard in more countries than the magnetic stripe, also making the Preferred Card more ideal for global travel.

Built In Insurance and Protections

Both versions of the Chase Sapphire Rewards Card offer free auto rental insurance equal to the cash value of most rental vehicles; trip delay and cancellation insurance to cover expenses incurred for delays in excess of twelve hours; and delayed or lost luggage insurance with emergency purchases covered for bags delayed and full reimbursment for lost or stolen luggage. Emergency insurance covers legal or medical expenses while travelling. Travel accident insurance covers common carrier accidental death or dismemberment. There is also zero-liability fraud protection, as well as extended warranty, price and purchase protections. Roadside assistance offers emergency jump starts, towing, gas delivery and tire changes.

Who This Card Is For and Required Credit Worthiness

Chase offers the regular Chase Sapphire Rewards Card predominantly to people with decent credit. According to Credit Karma, successful applicants tend to have credit scores over 660, with an average over 720 (based on TransUnion credit scores). With a purchase and balance transfer APR of 15.99%, this card appears targeted toward consumers who pay off their balance each month or carry only a small portion as debt.

Moreover, both versions of this card are geared toward consumers who spend more on dining out and travel rather than expenses like gas and groceries. The Preferred Card, even with its $95 annual fee, looks like a much better bargain for agressive users who are able to pay off their bills. The fee is easily paid for in rewards and, if the card holder takes advantage of the sign up bonuses right after the account is opened, that alone will pay for at least the first four years of membership.

Tools

Both Chase Sapphire Rewards Cards have access to Chase’s Blueprint, which is essentially a suite of free tools that assist with better debt management. The calculators can show what payments would be required to avoid interest, or othewise adjust spending to pay off or pay down balances within a set timeframe. Chase also offers a year-end summary which categorizes and organizes all purchases from the previous year. This can be very beneficial for tracking spending. It is also a terrific tool when it comes to organizing expenses for tax purposes.

Bottom Line

Both of these cards have above average rewards programs with a variety of ways to redeem the points, though clearly the best value for redemption comes either from travel booked through the Chase Ultimate Rewards site or by transferring the points to another frequent travel program. Of course, cash back is also an option, as is using the points toward gift cards, statement credits or other goods and services. To make the Chase Sapphire Rewards Cards truly worthwhile, however, the monthly balances should be kept low. While the APR is not excessive, it is also not the most competitive on the market. Rewards cards simply do not pay for themselves if a significant balance is carried on the card. Generally speaking, the Preferred Card is appropriate for users who spend on travel fairly regularly and in higher amounts. More specifically, the Preferred Card is a “must have” choice for international travel, considering the waived foreign transaction fees and the higher rate of adding points, while the standard edition would suffice for users who typically only travel domestically and are not high spenders overall. The points on both cards could accrue rather quickly and, as they have no expiration date (on either card), they can be stored up for special use.
Basic Card benefits.
Preferred Card benefits.

Extra Note

Historically, the Sapphire Preferred Card was available as either a MasterCard or a Visa, which was important for some individuals who relied on MasterCard branding for specific reasons, such as shopping at Sam’s Club or travel to certain countries where MasterCard’s rental car insurance coverage was in effect while Visa’s was not. As of this writing, it appears that the Chase Sapphire Rewards Card is now only available with the Visa branding. While this won’t affect most users, it is something worth noting because the Sapphire has traditionally been marketed more as a “Chase” card than as either a Visa or MasterCard.

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