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Is the Chase Sapphire Reserve's $450 Annual Fee Worth It?

Jan. 09, 2017
6 min read
Is the Chase Sapphire Reserve's $450 Annual Fee Worth It?
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This is the week when the online Chase Sapphire Reserve credit card sign up bonus drops from an amazing 100,000 points to just 50,000 points. In other words, this is the week to get off your tail and hit apply if you are interested in getting this card before the 100,000 point bonus ends. You will reportedly still be able to get the 100k sign-up bonus if you go into a physical Chase branch until March, but I'm an online girl myself, so I went ahead and got the card last week. I really am loving the 3x points I am earning on travel and dining as I inch towards hitting the $4,000 in spending in the first 3 months needed to trigger the 100,000 point sign-up bonus.

Not surprisingly, 100,000 sign-up bonus points is an eye-catching number, and now that the increased bonus is drawing to a close, I have had a number of 'real life' friends and family members asking me if the Chase Sapphire Reserve is really worth it given the $450 annual fee. That's a totally fair question since that is a large annual fee, and probably 3-4 times larger than any credit card annual fee that many people have ever paid.

Those asking me if the Chase Sapphire Reserve and the $450 annual fee are really worth it are typically asking from the point of view of those who travel a couple times a year, but who aren't insanely deep into the miles, points, and travel world. You know, normal people. Believe it or not, my own travel patterns are actually pretty normal these days, so I feel totally comfortable answering this question.

Is the Chase Sapphire Reserve's $450 Annual Fee Really Worth It?

Yes, I think the Chase Sapphire Reserve and its 100,000 sign-up bonus points are absolutely worth it even with the $450 annual fee, at least for the first year. Even for normal people, as long as they spend at least several hundred dollars a year on travel. Here's why...

The Chase Sapphire Reserve has a $300 annual travel credit that can be used to offset $300 in travel expenses charged to the card each year. It works on a "sort-of calendar year" basis in that you could use the 2017 credit right away, and then your 2018 credit becomes available as soon as your first statement in December ends. For example, if you have a statement end December 11, 2017, your 2018 credit becomes available on December 12, 2017. This means that in the first 12 months of having this card you will have two $300 travel credits available to you if you pay attention to the statement dates.

You can use the $300 travel credit on airline tickets, hotel reservations, car rentals, train tickets, and pretty much anything else that codes as travel. If you need to use a travel credit quickly and don't have actual immediate travel plans, getting airline gift certificates directly from airlines is an easy way to use the credit. For people who travel, I think the annual travel credit is as good as cash, and getting $600 in the first 12 months easily offsets the $450 annual fee by itself.

Let's be honest, the travel credit is solid and it really does help offset the annual fee, but that is not why this card has been flying off the proverbial Chase shelves to the point that they even ran out of the metal cards for a while. It is the 100,000 sign-up bonus points that are worth $1,500 (or potentially more) towards travel that is eliciting the miles and points Pavlovian drool response.

The 100,000 Ultimate Rewards sign-up bonus points can be used a variety of ways for travel. A super easy way that anyone can get 1.5 cents in value per Ultimate Reward point is to use them via the Chase Ultimate Rewards booking site for flights, hotels, car rentals, and even activities. When using the points via this method you can book virtually any flight, hotel, etc. that you want without worrying about award availability, blackout dates, etc. In fact, in most cases you will even earn airline miles on your tickets booked via this way when you fly! If you used your 100,000 points in this manner they are worth a nice even $1,500 towards travel.

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You can also transfer some or all of your 100,000 bonus Ultimate Reward points to Ultimate Rewards travel partners that include: United, Southwest, British Airways, Air France/KLM, Korean Air, Singapore Airlines, Virgin Atlantic, Hyatt, IHG, Marriott, and Ritz Carlton.

I like to use my Ultimate Reward points in that manner via a transfer to partners like Hyatt and United to sometimes get 2 cents or more in value per point when using them for business class awards to Europe, over-the-top Park Hyatt stays, and even Category 1 Hyatt stays for just 5,000 points per night.

However, even if you never use the transfer partners and just go with the 1.5 cents per point valuation, then adding the $1,500 in sign-up bonus points to the $600 in travel credits in the first 12 months gets you to over $2,000 from just those two card perks. That is easy math that makes the $450 Chase Sapphire Reserve annual fee easily worth it in my view for those who usually spend at least that amount per year on travel.

I think the math for travelers is simple enough to stop there, but there are additional card benefits that also have value and are worth a mention. The Chase Sapphire Reserve earns 3x points on travel and dining making it my easy go-to for most of those purchases which are all-to-common in my family.

The Chase Sapphire Reserve also awards a $100 statement credit for your Global Entry or TSA Pre√ application fee every four years. With the Chase Sapphire Reserve you also get access to a Priority Pass Select membership that permits access to over 900 airport lounges for all cardmembers on your account, a code for 30% off Silvercar rentals of 2 days or more, trip cancellation and delay benefits, and several other travel and purchase protection perks.

Again, there is value in all of those perks, but the simple Chase Sapphire Reserve math is a $300 travel credit in 2017, a $300 travel credit for 2018 beginning when your December statement closes, and 100,000 sign-up bonus points worth $1,500 or more towards travel. I wish there wasn't a $450 annual fee, but I have little hesitation paying the fee when it gets me so much in return!

I got the card, my husband got the card, and I'm telling my eligible traveling friends and family members to get the card before the 100,000 point online offer ends on January 12, 2017!