Chase Sapphire Preferred vs. Chase Sapphire Reserve: Which travel rewards credit card should a consultant choose?

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Prepare for the ultimate rewards card showdown: the Chase Sapphire Preferred vs. Chase Sapphire Reserve. Consultants put tens of thousands of dollars in travel spend on their personal credit cards every year. If you are strategic, it’s the ultimate way to earn points by spending the project’s travel budget on your own travel rewards credit card. (BCG and McKinsey are now requiring airfare spend go on a corporate card, but hotels, rental cars, and meals are still reimbursed later).

Two of the most popular travel rewards credit card offerings (and two of our favorites) are the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card and Chase Sapphire Reserve. Both have taken the points and miles world by storm, but recently, the uber-premium Reserve has gotten all of the buzz.

However, both give you generous sign-up bonuses, attractive point earning potential, and travel perks to boot. So if you’re spending thousands of dollars per year on travel and dining, which one is best for you?

If you know that transferring points to Chase travel partners (i.e. United, Southwest) and having a Visa are preferable to American Express (not accepted everywhere; partners include Delta and British Airways), then the Chase Sapphire cards should be the Top 2 contenders for much of your credit card spend.

There’s been a lot written about these credit cards, but as a consultant, you should care about 4 things above all else:

  1. Welcome bonus
  2. Points earning
  3. Points redemption
  4. Travel perks

The good news? Both Chase Sapphire cards ace all 4 criteria. So which one to choose?

Contender 1: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

The original Chase Sapphire is a fantastic travel rewards credit card, especially for younger consultants with shorter credit histories (while the Sapphire Preferred still requires a solid credit score, the requirements are less stringent than for the Sapphire Reserve). Some have even billed the Chase Sapphire Preferred® the best travel rewards credit card out there, and there’s a lot to like, starting with only a $95 annual fee. As you’ll see, this is a fantastic deal for all of the benefits the Sapphire Preferred bestows upon you.

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Credit Card
Image courtesy of The Points Guy

1. Welcome Bonus

The Chase Sapphire Preferred® gives you a 60,000 point bonus after spending $4,000 in the first 3 months after card opening. These bonus points are worth $750 in travel credit through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal, and can be redeemed for flights on United and Southwest, as well as multiple international airlines and hotel brands. Consultants putting firm travel expenses on the Sapphire Preferred should have no issue hitting the spend requirement in the 1st month.

According to our friends at The Points Guy, Chase Ultimate Rewards points are some of the most valuable points of any credit card rewards program, which makes this sign up bonus even more attractive.

Plus, the Chase Sapphire Preferred was named “Best Credit Card for Flexible Travel Redemption” by Kiplinger’s Personal Finance (June 2018).

2. Earning Categories

The Sapphire Preferred gives you 2 points for every $1 spent on all travel and dining, and 1 point for every $1 spent on everything else. The even better news? Chase is very liberal in its definition of travel – airfare, taxis, Ubers, subway tickets and more count as spend in the travel category, and earn you 2x points. Dining is also all encompassing – we earn 2x the points at our favorite coffee shops as well as our favorite restaurants.

3. Travel Credits

The Sapphire Preferred does not offer travel credits.

4. Lounge Access

The Sapphire Preferred does not offer Lounge access.

5. Other Travel Perks

The Sapphire Preferred does offer travel perks including rental car insurance and no foreign transaction fees.

6. Chase Ultimate Rewards Portal

With the Sapphire Preferred, you get access to the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal. Book your travel through the portal, and your points are worth 25% more. Or, if you prefer to spend your points to shop, you can use the points as cash at hundreds of name brand retailers – right there in the portal.

7. Authorized Users

The Chase Sapphire Preferred doesn’t charge you an additional fee for adding authorized users. So if you want to add your child to the card to build up their credit history, or add your spouse to hit the spending bonus faster, you can do so without paying any extra.


Overall, we love the Chase Sapphire Preferred®. It’s easy to rack up the points because travel and dining are categories where we consistently spend, we have a dedicated phone line to customer support, and some of the additional perks are nice to have (i.e. rental car insurance, extended product warranties). We took multiple free trips last year because of our earnings on the Chase Sapphire Preferred, and already have a business class seat lined up this year from Auckland to San Francisco – all due to points.

Official Application

Apply for the Chase Sapphire Preferred®. Earn 60,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 in the first 3 months. Don’t forget 2x the points on travel and dining expenses, and no foreign transaction fees!

Contender 2: Chase Sapphire Reserve®

The Chase Sapphire Reserve® entered the premium travel card market to great fanfare, and for good reason. Building upon the great benefits of the Chase Sapphire Preferred®, the Sapphire Reserve takes travel rewards to the extreme for the consultant. Let’s address the elephant in the room right away – yes, the Sapphire Reserve has a $550 annual fee. However, as you’ll see, this fee can be effectively reduced to $250/yr, and may be well worth it for the frequent traveler.

1.Welcome Bonus

The Chase Sapphire Reserve® offers a 50,000 point bonus after you spend $4,000 in your first 3 months. Even if you don’t want to go through the process of transferring these points to travel partners (it’s actually really easy), you can spend your points directly in the Chase Ultimate Rewards Portal (and get a 25% bonus for doing so). This makes your 50,000 bonus points worth $625 in travel rewards via the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal.

2. Earning Categories

If you spend a bulk of your money on travel and dining (for consultants, this is 100% of your spend), the Sapphire Reserve is even more generous than the Sapphire Preferred. The Sapphire Reserve gives you 3 points for every $1 spent on all travel and dining, and 1 point for every $1 spent on everything else. Hotels, rental cars, team meals out – you’ll be tripping over yourself to “treat” the team when you’re on the road!

Travel credit cards
Image courtesy of The Points Guy

3. Travel Credits

Unlike its cousin, the Sapphire Reserve offers $300 in annual travel credits. What does this mean? The first $300 you spend on travel every year will be credited back to your account. Don’t forget, travel can mean a lot of things: airfare, hotels, Ubers, Metro rides, and more. This brings the “real cost” of the card down to just $250/yr – for many of you, the extra $155/yr spent on the annual fee as compared to the Sapphire Preferred will pay itself back many times over throughout the course of the year.

4. Lounge Access

The Sapphire Reserve gives you membership to the Priority Pass lounge network, with 1200+ locations worldwide. This is an especially great perk for those of you who don’t play the airline status game – now, you can still have a 1st class experience at the airport with complimentary refreshments, a quiet place to work, and, depending on the lounge, a hot shower.

5. Other Travel Perks

The Sapphire Reserve also offers primary rental car insurance, trip cancellation and delay coverage, a concierge service, lost luggage reimbursement, no foreign transaction fees, and a credit toward either your Global Entry or TSA PRE® fee.

6. Chase Ultimate Rewards Portal

The same rules apply here as for the Sapphire Preferred. The 50,000 bonus points you earn are worth $625 in travel rewards when utilized via the portal.

7. Authorized Users

It will cost you an additional $75 per year to add one authorized user to your Sapphire Reserve. Presumably, this is because all cardholders receive Priority Pass membership. Still, if your partner will be traveling without you more than once a year, $75 is a small price to pay for international lounge access.


This card is for the serious travelers among us (and those with excellent credit). The 3x bonus earning categories accelerate your points earnings, and the lounge and other travel perks make travel a breeze, all for an additional “real cost” of only $155 per year compared to the Chase Sapphire Preferred®.

Official Application

Apply for the Chase Sapphire Reserve®. Earn 50,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 in the first 3 months, and 3x the points on travel and dining expenses!

Final Recommendation

In our estimation, you can’t go wrong with either one, although, for the consultant, the Chase Sapphire Reserve® seems to make the most sense because of the 3x point earnings on travel and dining spend, as well as Priority Pass lounge access.

Do you have one of these cards? Which do you prefer? Are you racking up the points on a different travel rewards credit card? Share your points stories with us!

Filed Under: consulting travel