These days it’s pretty common to see two versions of a certain credit card. The “preferred” version and the “classic” version.
And perhaps one of the most popular credit cards doing the premium and standard version is the Chase Sapphire card.
While it’s great to have options, knowing what each card offers can be a bit daunting, especially with all that tiny fine print to comb through.
So today we’ll look at how the Chase Sapphire and Chase Sapphire Preferred stack up against one another, and help you decide which one you should choose based on your unique financial profile.
Chase Sapphire (for Average Joes)
Update: The no-fee Chase Sapphire credit card is no longer available to new applicants! You can only apply for the preferred version now.
The “regular” Chase Sapphire card comes with most of the bells and whistles you’ll find with the Chase Preferred card, minus a few bonus incentives.
You still get 2 points for every dollar spent on dining, and 1 point for every dollar spent on all other purchases. But you only earn 2X points for airfare and hotel accommodations when booked through Chase’s Ultimate Rewards website.
However, points never expire and there’s no limit to how many you can earn. There are also no blackout dates or restrictions. Points can be redeemed for travel, gift cards, standard merchandise, and cash back.
And when you call Chase via their dedicated phone line, there is no waiting – a representative will answer straight away.
Finally, you can also earn 10,000 bonus points when you make just $500 in purchases during the first three months from account opening. That’s good for $100 in cash back or travel.
Chase Sapphire advantage: There’s no annual fee!
Chase Sapphire Preferred (for the Big Boys and Girls)
All that sounded pretty good, right? So what about the Chase Sapphire Preferred card? What makes it so “preferred” anyway?
Well, aside from everything offered via the standard Chase Sapphire card, you also get a number of other benefits with the Preferred version.
Note that at the moment they only offer an 80k point signup bonus, but it would not surprise me if that offer is dropped back up to 60k in the near future.
That 80,000 points is redeemable for $800 cash back or $1,000 in airfare or hotel purchases via the travel portal. Why $1,000?
Well, another benefit of the Chase Sapphire Preferred card is that you get 20% off travel when points are redeemed via Chase Ultimate Rewards. So those 80,000 points would really be worth 100,000 points in that case.
On top of that, you also earn 2 points for every dollar spent on travel (and 3x points when you book airfare and hotel accommodations via the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal.
By the way, ridesharing companies like Uber and Lyft are considered “travel” to Chase, so you can earn double points when using Sapphire Preferred to pay for Uber, Lyft, Sidecar, etc.
You also get a 1:1 point transfer, meaning 1,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points equal 1,000 partner miles/points with frequent flyer programs such as British Airways Executive Club, Virgin Atlantic Flying Club, Korean Air SKYPASS, Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards, and United MileagePlus, just to name a few.
This is where you can really squeeze a lot of value out of those points, assuming you can book a business class or first class ticket to Europe or Asia.
Additionally, the Preferred version comes with a 7% annual points dividend on points earned on purchases, even on points already redeemed, meaning your points are worth that much more.
Finally, you don’t pay foreign transaction fees when you use the Chase Sapphire Preferred outside of the United States, and the Preferred version has an embedded chip for global acceptance, unlike the standard Sapphire.
The downside: You must pay a $95 annual fee with the Chase Sapphire Preferred, though it’s waived for the first year.
Note that the Chase Sapphire Preferred seems to cycle between a 40k and 50k sign-up bonus. Obviously try to apply when it’s higher.
There are also special sign-up bonuses that offer as many as 70k points when you sign-up at a branch and/or are a Chase Private Client customer.
If you can get the Chase Sapphire Preferred with 70,000 points for spending $4k it’s pretty much a no-brainer.
So which one should you go with?
Well, if you’re a big traveler, the Chase Sapphire Preferred card makes a lot of sense because your points are effectively worth 25% more, you avoid costly foreign transaction fees, and the chip and signature system means your card will actually be accepted outside the United States.
The ability to transfer points to frequent flyer programs at a 1:1 ratio is also HUGE if you have specific plans to travel somewhere.
Additionally, you get that 7% annual points dividend. You’d have to spend about $143,000 a year on the Preferred version to earn around 10,000 dividend points, enough to offset that annual fee entirely.
Although, if the Sapphire Preferred card were used primarily for travel, you could offset the annual fee that way as well.
There’s also the $400 cash back bonus to consider – that’s quadruple the initial bonus on the standard Sapphire card, meaning you’d come out ahead even after paying the annual fee for a couple years.
And because the annual fee is waived the first year, you could effectively apply for the Preferred version and cancel before the fee is ever charged.
But if you don’t spend too much, perhaps just a thousand or so a month, going with the standard Sapphire card vs. the Preferred version is a solid choice as well.
You won’t have to worry about the annual fee, but you still get to take advantage of 2x points on dining, the Ultimate Rewards program bonus for travel, and that $100 initial cash back bonus if you meet the spending requirement!
Lastly, both versions of Chase Sapphire offer 3x points on dining at restaurants on “First Fridays” throughout 2014. So if you pay with either version of Chase Sapphire on June 6, July 4, August 1, September 5, October 3, November 7, December 5, you get 3x points on dining!
For the record, the credit card APR is the same on both versions of Sapphire, as are all fees and penalty rates. Take a look at the condensed list of benefits of each card below:
Chase Sapphire Benefits
- 10,000 bonus points after spending $500 in first 3 months
- 2,500 more bonus points if you add an authorized user and they make a purchase in first 3 months
- 2x points on dining and point per dollar on all other purchases
- 2x points on travel booked via Chase Ultimate Rewards portal
- No annual fee
Chase Sapphire Preferred Benefits
- 40,000 bonus points after spending $3,000 in first 3 months
- 5,000 more bonus points if you add an authorized user and they make a purchase in first 3 months
- 2x points on dining and travel purchases
- 3x points on travel booked via Chase Ultimate Rewards portal
- 1:1 point transfer to leading frequent flyer and hotel rewards programs
- No foreign transaction fees
- 7% annual points dividend
- 20% off travel when points redeemed via Chase Ultimate Rewards
- $95 annual fee waived first year
As you can see, there are a lot more benefits to going with the Preferred version, though if you don’t actually spend a lot of money, you won’t realize those benefits.
Still, with the annual fee waived the first year, I’d opt for the Preferred version because you can get so many more points so much quicker (and use them much more effectively).
Read more: There is a now Chase Sapphire Reserve, which comes with a $450 annual fee, but a 100,000-point spending bonus!