If You Want Chase Sapphire Reserve, Get Sapphire Preferred

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Chase Sapphire Preferred Card

There’s a huge debate amongst my readers, every time I talk about the Chase Sapphire Reserve someone will argue that the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card is clearly the better card (usually pointing out the slightly better signup bonus and the lower fee).

But if I cover the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card — highlighting the lower fee and suggesting it’s the best card for getting started in this hobby — readers will rightly point out just how valuable the Chase Sapphire Reserve is.

There’s one slam dunk answer to the question though — all else aside, the better card for you is the one you can get approved for.

Last month Chase revealed some fascinating data about Sapphire Reserve cardholders.

Cardholders have an average income of $180,000 and an average credit score of 785. It’s not surprising to me that I’ve heard from several readers who applied for Chase Sapphire Reserve and didn’t get approved (and they were below ‘5/24’ meaning fewer than 5 new cards in the last 24 months).

In contrast we’ve seen much lower credit scores get approved for the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card.

The Sapphire Preferred has the better signup bonus. Both give you 50,000 points after $4000 spend within 3 months, Sapphire Preferred also gives you 5000 points for adding an authorized user to the account and making a purchase within the same time period. Sapphire Preferred also has a $0 annual fee the first year, then $95.

Points from both cards transfer to:

  • Airlines: United, British Airways, Singapore Airlines, Air France KLM, Southwest Airlines, Virgin Atlantic, Iberia, Aer Lingus
  • Hotels: Hyatt, IHG, Marriott, Ritz-Carlton

Singapore Airlines Suites

And you cannot get approved for one card if you currently hold the other. So why not just product change? Sign up for the card with the bigger bonus (Chase Sapphire Preferred Card), wait a year — because banks can’t raise your annual fee during your first year as a cardmember — and then as to product change to Chase Sapphire Reserve.

If you change your Sapphire Preferred to Reserve you’ll then be able to take advantage of the $300 travel credit, Global Entry or TSA PreCheck benefit, Priority Pass airport lounge access, and Chase Sapphire Reserve‘s lesser known benefits.

At the very least if you apply for the Chase Sapphire Reserve and aren’t approved, definitely go for the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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Editorial note: any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any card issuer. Comments made in response to this post are not provided or commissioned nor have they been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any bank. It is not the responsibility of any advertiser to ensure that questions are answered, either. Terms and limitations apply to all offers.


  1. I was approved for the CSR with a MUCH lower annual income, but higher score on all 3 credit reports. Frankly, I was surprised I got instant approval – and they gave me the largest credit line I’ve ever had with a credit card.

    I’m curious though, if Chase won’t approve an application for the CSR, why would they do a product change from the CSP later? Are they basing it off your payment history with the CSP?

  2. @Garrett

    No, unless you’re requesting a credit line increase at the same time. Last I checked the Reserve required a minimum $10,000 credit line, but you can reallocate between existing Chase accounts as well without a hard pull.

  3. Would your advice be the same if I already have CSP, Ink Cash, Amex Plat and can’t use my personal card for company travel ?

  4. @Red thanks for the reply! Chase has always been good about shifting credit here and there. Luckily I wouldn’t have to do that to get the CSR. I’m just trying to figure out how that works into my wallet. I’ve been going hard with AmEx/MR for the last couple years, and I need to make sure that I”m not spreading myself too thin for spend. I really don’t need another +$400 annual fee though…

  5. What about current CSP customers product changing (downgrading) to one of the Freedom cards then applying for the CSR 1-2 billing cycles later?

  6. My husband has the CSR and we use it for all our dining and travel expenses. We only travel 2x per year, but can easily justify the fee. I recently downgraded my CSP (which I opened 6 years ago) to the Freedom Unlimited, so I no longer have a card of my own that let’s me transfer UR points to airlines/hotels.
    I’m planning to apply for the CSP again in May to get the bonus again. Then I can always downgrade the following year to avoid the renewal fee, and become an AU on my husband’s CSR.

  7. @Marilynn B You can transfer your UR points into your husband’s account. No need to get another card except for the sign up bonus. With the 1.5 points per dollar, the Freedom Unlimited should be your everyday card except for travel and dining because the CSR only earns 1 point per dollar.

  8. Gary, I have one major problem with this. CHASE will only allow you to hold one of the Sapphire range at any one time. I was told by CHASE that there is no way to simply product change and swop one card for another. If you want to apply for the Sapphire Reserve you have to cancel the Sapphire Preferred. If you are declined there is no guarantee that you will get your Preferred back and even if you do it will involve a hard pull and be subject to the 5/24 rule. Comments please!

  9. @Harry

    I think you’re mixing up a few things here.
    “CHASE will only allow you to hold one of the Sapphire range at any one time.”
    Yes, Chase will not let you apply for another Sapphire card while you already have one open, but this does not affect product changes.
    “I was told by CHASE that there is no way to simply product change and swop one card for another.”
    That is incorrect. You can easily make product changes over the phone or secure message. There are certain limited circumstances where it won’t work, such as swapping to a higher annual fee card in the first year.

  10. @Red, @golfingboy

    I read the same thing in the conditions about bonus not applying to holders of another Sapphire.

    I’m a fairly long time CSP holder (probably 4+ years at this point?) and I’d like to switch to the CSR but not sure if the hassle and fee is worth it unless I can get the 50k signup bonus. I have no fear about qualifying generally other than the fact that I currently hold the CSP.

    Can I downgrade my CSP to Freedom Unlimited and then apply for the CSR and get the bonus? Also, does anyone know if you keep all of your UR points assuming you downgrade your CSP to Freedom Unlimited?

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