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Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available. View the current offers here – Chase Sapphire Reserve
Living abroad, I have to be fairly selective about my credit card choices. It’s just too complicated to have more than five or six cards, as most of my banking is done in Spain with a Spanish bank account and Spanish credit cards. However, when the Chase Sapphire Reserve Card came out last month, I knew I’d be able to truly reap its benefits. Here’s why:
1. Priority Pass Lounge Access
While the Platinum Card from American Express offers access to the wonderful network of Centurion Lounges, this doesn’t benefit me much, as all these spots are currently located in airports within the United States. The Amex Platinum does offer Priority Pass Select access as well (in addition to Sky Club access when you’re flying Delta), but it’s not necessarily worth paying the $450 annual fee for this benefit alone.
There are also airline co-branded cards that offer lounge access, like the Citi AAdvantage Executive World Elite MasterCard, which comes with Admirals Club membership. The downside here is that most of these lounges are in the US (though American Airlines does have a handful of Admirals Club locations outside the US, including at London-Heathrow and in Mexico City), though at some foreign airports you can access partner lounges.
Meanwhile, Priority Pass boasts more than 900 lounges worldwide, with tons of locations in Europe, Asia and Africa as well as in Latin America and the US. This makes the lounge brand one of the best options for travelers who are frequently outside of the States. In fact, some of the Priority Pass program’s most luxurious spots are found abroad, such as the Plaza Premium Lounge in Hong Kong and the Club Kingston in Jamaica. Some international airports, like Singapore’s Changi, give Priority Pass members access to more than 10 different lounges!
2. Plenty of Transfer Partners You Can Use Worldwide
With transfer partners like Flying Blue and British Airways, I can easily get around Europe using Ultimate Rewards points earned with my Chase Sapphire Reserve. For example, utilizing British Airways’ award chart for economy flights when your origin and destination cities are outside of North America and you’re flying distances of less than 651 miles only requires 9,000 miles for a round-trip itinerary, an award rate that was removed for US travel in February. As a result, if you transfer 108,000 points (just slightly more than the 100,000 you’ll earn from the sign-up bonus bonus) to British Airways, you’ll be able to book 12 round-trip awards. This could take me between London and Paris a dozen times! Plus, other Ultimate Rewards transfer partners such as Korean Air and Singapore Airlines are ideal for traveling around Asia or flying between the US and Asia.
Similarly, the Ultimate Rewards program’s hotel transfer partners come in handy all over the world. Marriott has properties in 78 countries, while IHG has hotel locations in almost 100 countries. Plus, if I transferred the sign-up bonus of 100,000 points to Hyatt, I could stay 20 nights at Hyatt Category 1 properties (for 5,000 per night) — and there are plenty of them around around the world, like the Hyatt Regency in Bali and the Hyatt Place Los Cabos in Mexico.
Finally, while it may not be as lucrative, you can also use Chase points to book hotels and flights directly. This could be particularly useful for those remote, far-flung destinations that don’t have hotels with loyalty programs. Plus, with the Chase Sapphire Reserve Card you’ll get 1.5 cents per point in value when you redeem through the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal, compared to 1.25 cents per point with the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card.
3. Chip Technology
While many US credit cards now have chip technology, there are still a few that don’t — and most vendors in Europe no longer have credit card readers where you can swipe a magnetic strip. In the past, I’ve sometimes had trouble with US chips in Europe, but Chase cards almost always work. I’ve been actively using my Reserve Card without any issues.
4. Elite Benefits at Relais & Châteaux Properties
If you stay two nights at qualifying properties in this luxury collection of hotels (in a 12-month period), you can earn Club 5C status, which gets you perks such as room upgrades, event invitations and a complimentary experience unique to each property. In lieu of these aforementioned benefits, you can instead choose to get a VIP welcome and complimentary breakfast. Don’t forget that you’ll need to book your stay through the Visa Infinite Concierge with your Chase Sapphire Reserve Card. This benefit is much more valuable, though, if you’re traveling or living abroad, especially in Europe where there are 363 properties, compared to just 80 in North America.
5. Luxury Hotel & Resort Collection Perks
When you book at eligible properties that are part of this program, you’ll enjoy benefits such as complimentary room upgrades, complimentary meals for you and a guest, early check-in and late checkout, special discounts and credits, extra amenities, gifts and more. There are plenty of these properties available abroad — including 21 in Paris and 34 in London vs. just 12 in Chicago and 16 in San Francisco.
6. No Foreign Transaction Fees
Many top travel rewards cards have eliminated foreign transaction fees, but unfortunately some still charge them. Living abroad, I refuse to own any card with foreign transaction fees. To me, it’s simply throwing away money, as 85% of my transactions are made outside of the US. The Chase Sapphire Reserve Card doesn’t have these fees, so it’s a great card to use when traveling or living abroad.
7. Massive Points-Earning Potential on Travel and Dining Purchases
This is probably the best card out there for maximizing points earnings on travel, as you’ll get 3 points per dollar on all travel and dining purchases, which equals a 6.3% return based on TPG’s latest valuations. If you frequently travel abroad, it’s likely a lot of your purchases will be travel-related — and you may also be dining out quite a bit — so this is a great card to bring along.
8. Global Entry Fee Credit
Many cards offer a reimbursement for the Global Entry or PreCheck application fee, and the Chase Sapphire Reserve Card is one of them. I fly between Europe and the US several times a year, and fast-tracked immigration clearance via Global Entry has saved me hours and hours of time (not to mention the time I’ve saved with priority security access through TSA PreCheck, which is included with Global Entry). This benefit is available for Sapphire Reserve cardholders once every four years, and as I already have it, I’m thrilled to offer this perk as a gift membership to a fellow expat and frequent traveler.
9. $300 Annual Travel Credit
We’ve spoken extensively about the fact that this card offers you $300 in travel credit, but this really is a great benefit — especially since virtually any travel-related purchase will be eligible, from parking fees to Uber rides to airfare. Aside from the amount I spend on hotels and flights, I plan to use this benefit for monthly metro and subway passes. Some cards don’t allow train passes to count as travel, so I’m thrilled with this benefit. Plus, the $300 credit is available once per calendar year, so it’s possible to get $600 in travel credits for a single $450 annual fee.
While the Chase Sapphire Reserve Card is a great choice for pretty much anyone who travels, it can be particularly awesome for those living or traveling frequently abroad, as there are many ways to enjoy the card’s benefits in places outside the US.
What’s your favorite travel rewards card to use abroad?