Chase Sapphire Reserve℠

Which Purchases Count as Travel with Chase Sapphire Preferred and Chase Sapphire Reserve?

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Now that you can apply for the Chase Sapphire Reserve Card, you may be taking a closer look at some of its benefits to determine whether it’s worth the $450. TPG covers the main features in his review, and makes a strong case for getting the card if you can maximize the bonus categories. That 3x earning opportunity is what I’ll be focusing on today, so you’ll know exactly which spending will get you this return (as opposed to just 1 point per dollar).

To recap for those unfamiliar with the card’s main features, here’s a quick overview. You can currently earn a sign-up bonus of 100,000 Ultimate Rewards points after spending $4,000 on the card in the first three months, worth $2,100 based on TPG’s valuations. The card earns 3x points on all travel and dining purchases and 1 point per dollar on everything else. Cardholders also get a $300 annual travel credit that they can use toward pretty much any travel purchase. The card comes along with a $450 annual fee, and doesn’t have foreign transaction fees. Keep in mind that these are just some of the highlights — if you want a more in-depth look at Chase Sapphire Reserve perks, check out this post.

One of the best features of this new card is the ability to earn 3 Ultimate Rewards points per dollar on dining and travel purchases — equal to a 6.3% return based on TPG’s valuations. This is even better than the 2x points (a 4.2% return) you’ll get on the same purchases with the Sapphire Preferred Card, and those points can really add up if you make the Reserve card your go-to pick for all your meals out and other qualifying spending.

How Chase Defines Travel

uber - featued
Uber rides, along with many other purchases, count toward the travel category bonus.

We’ve established that earning 3x points on travel and dining is pretty impressive, but how do you know if a given purchase qualifies? While the dining half of the equation is relatively straightforward — all restaurants and even some bars that don’t serve food should earn you the bonus points, as should delivery services like Seamless — on the surface it’s less clear what counts as a travel purchase. Luckily, the answer is pretty much everything.

Here’s how “travel” is defined, according to Chase’s website:

Merchants in the travel category include airlines, hotels, motels, timeshares, campgrounds, car rental agencies, cruise lines, travel agencies, discount travel sites, and operators of passenger trains, buses, taxis, limousines, ferries, toll bridges and highways, and parking lots and garages.

Compared to other credit cards’ bonus categories, this one is extremely generous. While cards like the  Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express offer bonus points for airfare purchases made directly with the airline, with the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card and Chase Sapphire Reserve, you’ll earn a bonus (2x and 3x, respectively) on virtually every trip-related charge — from hotels and airfare to cruises, tolls and even parking fees. This includes Uber and Airbnb purchases as well.

The following purchases do not apply toward the 2x or 3x bonus categories on these cards, but none of them should be a huge surprise or disappointment:

Please note that some merchants that provide transportation and travel-related services are not included in this category; for example, real estate agents, websites or owners that rent vacation properties, in-flight goods and services, on-board cruise line goods and services, sightseeing activities, tourist attractions, merchants within airports, and merchants that rent vehicles for the purpose of hauling. In addition, the purchasing of points or miles does not qualify in this category.

Chase Sapphire Reserve card featured
The Chase Sapphire Reserve Card offers a great opportunity to maximize travel and dining purchases.

If you’re ever unsure of whether a given purchase counts as travel, it could be worth making a small charge and checking to see whether it earns any bonus points on your online Chase account — we’ll be making and tracking similar purchases in the days and weeks to come. Additionally, if you feel like a travel purchase should have earned bonus points but didn’t, you can always try calling and taking it up with a phone representative. Even if you don’t get the outcome you’re looking for, you’ll at least get some clarity on how certain charges are coded, and can plan future spending accordingly.

Bottom Line

TPG originally tackled the question of what Chase counts as a travel purchase last year, but now that the newly released Chase Sapphire Reserve Card is getting plenty of attention, it’s worth a revisit to clarify just how broad this category is. Then as now, a wide range of transportation- and accommodation-related purchases will earn you bonus Ultimate Rewards points. If you get the Sapphire Reserve, that means you can earn up to a 6.3% return on these purchases and put those points to use with some great travel partners.

Chase Sapphire Reserve℠

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  • New! Earn 100K bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,500 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • $300 Annual Travel Credit as reimbursement for travel purchases such as airfare and hotels charged to your card
  • 3X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases. Plus, no foreign transaction fees
  • Get 50% more value when you redeem your points for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 100,000 points are worth $1,500 toward travel
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Access to 900+ airport lounges worldwide with complimentary Priority Pass™ Select membership
  • Up to $100 application fee credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre√®
  • No blackout dates or travel restrictions - as long as there's a seat on the flight, you can book it through Chase Ultimate Rewards
Intro APR Regular APR Annual Fee Foreign Transaction Fee Credit Rating
N/A 16.24%-23.24% Variable $450 0% Excellent Credit