CNN Underscored reviews financial products such as credit cards and bank accounts based on their overall value. We may receive a commission through the LendingTree affiliate network if you apply and are approved for a card, but our reporting is always independent and objective.
If you’ve been holding out on applying for the Chase Sapphire Reserve — as well as the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card — in the hopes of getting as large of a sign-up bonus as possible, your time has arrived. Chase has released new limited-time offers on both cards, including the highest sign-up bonus we’ve ever seen on one of them.
Right now new Chase Sapphire Reserve card holders can earn 60,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 in the first three months after opening the account. This is the highest offer we’ve seen on this card since 2016 when it was initially launched with a bonus offer of 100,000 points for the first several months.
And Chase Sapphire Preferred card holders can earn 80,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 on the card within the first three months after opening the account, plus up to $50 in statement credits for grocery store purchases within the first year after you open the account. That’s the highest bonus offer we’ve ever seen on the Sapphire Preferred.
Based on the points valuations at frequent flyer website The Points Guy, Chase Ultimate Rewards points are worth 2 cents apiece. That makes the 60,000 bonus points on the Chase Sapphire Reserve worth $1,200 in travel, and the 80,000 bonus points on the Chase Sapphire Preferred worth a whopping $1,600 in travel, plus the $50 in grocery statement credits.
Although the Chase Sapphire Preferred and Chase Sapphire Reserve are in the same family of credit cards, there are many differences between the two. As a rule of thumb, the Sapphire Preferred is best for those just starting to dip their toes into travel rewards, while the Sapphire Reserve is for more frequent travelers.
Of course, the biggest difference between the cards is the annual fees. The Sapphire Reserve is a substantial $550 a year, while the Sapphire Preferred is only $95 a year. But before you make up your mind on that basis alone, it’s important to take a look at the many statement credits and benefits that can make a higher annual fee potentially worth the cost.
• Bonus points
With the Chase Sapphire Preferred, you’ll always earn 2 points for every dollar you spend on travel and dining at restaurants, including eligible delivery services and takeout. And for a limited time, you’ll also earn 5 points per dollar spent on Lyft services through March 2022, and 2 points per dollar spent on grocery store purchases, up to $1,000 per month through April 30, 2021.
However, the Chase Sapphire Reserve earns even more points on the exact same purchases. You’ll get 3 points per dollar on dining and travel after you use up your $300 annual travel credit — more on that in a moment. You’ll also earn a significantly higher 10 points per dollar on Lyft rides through March 2022, and 3 points per dollar on grocery purchases through April 30, 2021, up to $1,000 per month.
Earn 2 points for every dollar you spend at restaurants with the Chase Sapphire Preferred, or 3 points per dollar with the Chase Sapphire Reserve.
So if you generally spend a large portion of your household budget in these bonus categories, you may find that the extra points earned on the Sapphire Reserve alone are worth the higher annual fee. But you don’t even have to earn enough bonus points to make up the entire $550 cost each year because…
• Statement credits
…are where the Chase Sapphire Reserve card truly shines. With this card, you’ll get up to $300 in annual credits that can be used on any travel purchase made with your card. Chase defines “travel” very broadly, so it includes not only the usual airlines, hotels and cruises but also buses, transit, ride-shares, tolls and even parking.
You also don’t have to use the entire $300 credit all at once. Rather, each time you make a qualifying travel purchase, you’ll see a statement credit offsetting the purchase appear on your account after a few days, up to the $300 mark each card holder year.
And to make using this credit even easier to use during the pandemic, through December 31, 2021, all gas station and grocery store purchases also count along with travel purchases. So you may find you can easily use up the entire $300 credit before you even get back on the road this year.
Related: Is the Chase Sapphire Reserve worth the annual fee?
But there are still more credits on the Chase Sapphire Reserve that can help offset the card’s annual fee. For this year only through December 31, 2021, Sapphire Reserve card holders can get up to $60 in statement credits on DoorDash purchases, and up to $120 in statement credits on eligible Peloton Digital or All-Access memberships.
Add it all together and if you can use all the credits available on the Chase Sapphire Reserve this year, your effective annual fee is just $70. That’s actually lower than the $95 annual fee on the Chase Sapphire Preferred, but the Sapphire Preferred has a similar Peloton statement credit of up to $60 back for 2021, meaning it also has a lower effective annual fee this year.
• Travel and purchase benefits
Aside from all the bonus points and statement credits, both of these credit cards offer a number of benefits just by having them.
For starters, one of the best benefits of the Chase Sapphire Reserve is a complimentary Priority Pass™ Select membership, which provides free access to over 1,200 airport lounges, saving you money on food and beverages at many airports worldwide and also giving you a quiet place to relax when you’re traveling.
The Ambassador Transit Lounge in Singapore’s Terminal 2, accessible with a Priority Pass membership.
Both the Chase Sapphire Preferred and Chase Sapphire Reserve also come with a complimentary DashPass membership for at least 12 months if you activate it by December 31, 2021. DashPass provides DoorDash deliveries with no delivery fee and reduced service fees on orders over $12, so this is a perk that can save you money if you’ve gotten accustomed to ordering food at home in the last year.
Additionally, both cards offer primary auto rental collision damage coverage, trip cancellation and interruption insurance, travel and emergency assistance services, extended warranty protection and purchase protection. In simple terms: You’ll be well protected with either of these credit cards.
Related: Chase Sapphire Preferred vs. Chase Sapphire Reserve: Which credit card is best for you?
Both the Chase Sapphire Preferred and Chase Sapphire Reserve are part of Chase’s Ultimate Rewards family of cards. You can always redeem Ultimate Rewards points for cash back at a value of 1 cent per point, but you can get much more value for your points by redeeming them in other ways.
When you redeem Ultimate Rewards points for travel using the Chase travel portal, you’ll get 1.25 cents per point in value with the Sapphire Preferred and 1.5 cents per point with the Sapphire Reserve. That’s as much as 50% more value versus just using the points for cash back.
Plus, now through September 30, 2021, you can also use the issuer’s “Pay Yourself Back” tool to redeem your Chase points for purchases made at grocery stores, dining establishments (including delivery and takeout) and home improvement stores. You’ll even get the same value for your points this way as you do when you redeem them for travel with Chase.
Finally, travel redemption experts can transfer Chase points to 13 different airline and hotel loyalty programs, such as Hyatt, Marriott, United, British Airways and more, all at a 1:1 ratio (meaning 1 Chase point equals 1 point or mile in the partner program). You’ll need to be flexible and put in some time and effort to find award space in other programs, but you can end up with some fantastic values when redeeming this way, especially if you use your points for tickets in first or business class.
One thing to keep in mind with all Chase credit cards — including these two cards — is that they’re subject to what’s colloquially known as the “5/24” rule. This means that if you’ve gotten five or more credit cards across all banks in the last 24 months you won’t be able to get a new credit card from Chase. You also can’t have both a Sapphire Preferred and a Sapphire Reserve at the same time.
Additionally, Chase won’t approve you for either of these cards if you’ve previously received a new card bonus for any Sapphire card in the past 48 months. That means, for example, if you applied for the Sapphire Preferred last year and received a bonus for it, you’re not currently eligible for the Sapphire Reserve, even if you’ve since closed your Sapphire Preferred card.
But if you’re eligible for either of these cards, then yes, you should absolutely consider getting one of them now. They’re both offering impressive sign-up bonuses worth over $1,000 in travel, and the rewards and benefits on both cards are top-notch. The Chase Sapphire Preferred in particular is a great choice for people who want to start earning travel rewards to use as the pandemic wanes.
So if you’ve been waiting for the right moment, take a look now at both the Chase Sapphire Preferred and Chase Sapphire Reserve, and see if one of them fits your post-pandemic travel needs.
Find out which cards CNN Underscored chose as our best credit cards of 2021.
Get all the latest personal finance deals, news and advice at CNN Underscored Money.