My First Year With Chase Sapphire Reserve
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It’s been a year since I finally got my Chase Sapphire Reserve, and I’m eager to share my experiences with the card. I’ve had plenty of time to test some of the lesser-known perks, and to see how it works with other Chase cards, and overall I’m very satisfied with the ROI.
In the last year I’ve spent a lot on travel and dining — which is where the Reserve shines. Because of the 3x I get on those bonus categories (excluding the $300 travel credit), I’ve earned tens of thousands of extra Ultimate Rewards points in the process. Had I still been using the Sapphire Preferred, I’d only be getting 2x on travel and dining. That additional 1 point per dollar has made a huge difference.
And even though the annual fee is $450, the $300 travel credit is so easy to get that it essentially makes the Reserve a $150-a-year card. And that doesn’t include the value of the Priority Pass lounge membership, Global Entry credit and other perks. This card is a no-brainer for me and will stay in my wallet until something better comes along — which is hard to imagine.
Below, I’ve broken down some of the benefits and value I’ve received from the Chase Sapphire Reserve over my first year of card membership.
One of the most amazing perks of the CSR is that it comes with a $300 travel credit that’s extremely easy to use. It can cover airfare, cabs, car rentals, hotels, Uber/Lyft, subway, train tickets, tolls and more — plus it automatically applies to all these purchases and you don’t have to pick an airline or hotel that the credit is attached to (as you do with Amex).
If you plan on spending $300 dollars on travel, you can look at this card as having an effective annual fee of $150 — which is significantly lower than any of the other high-end cards.
Protection Insurance Saved My Art
Another valuable benefit is that the Reserve offers serious purchase protection, and boy did I put that to good use this year. While I was in Guatemala earlier this year for a PeaceJam conference, I bought a piece of artwork there with my CSR (since the card has no foreign transaction fees) and had it shipped back to the States. On its return journey, the artwork somehow got damaged — but luckily, since I used my Reserve, I thought the item might be eligible for the purchase protection benefit.
The Reserve’s purchase protection works like this: If you purchase an item on your card and — if in the first 120 days of purchasing you experience theft, damage or involuntary and accidental parting with your property — then purchase protection will replace, repair or reimburse you up to a maximum of $10,000 for each claim and up to $50,000 a year.
In this case I submitted my claim to Chase, which only required me to take photos of the damaged artwork and submit the receipt. A few weeks later I received a check for $2,600 dollars! That’s a huge value just for putting a purchase on that card. Had I used a card without purchase protection, I would have been out a whole lot of cash.
Primary Insurance for Car Rentals
One of the biggest costs associated with renting a car is insurance for the vehicle. Now, many cards do offer coverage when you’re renting a car, but most of them only provide secondary rental car insurance (even the Amex Platinum charges extra). The Reserve offers primary insurance, meaning it will apply before your own personal car insurance and will cover full damages due to collision or theft of most rental cars (secondary only kicks in after you’ve filed a claim with your personal insurance). The Reserve provides reimbursement for up to $75,000 of theft or damage to a rental car. This card also codes rental car purchases under the travel category, meaning you’ll receive 3x points on all rental car transactions.
3X on Hotels and Many Transfer Partners
Another great use I’ve had with this card is booking hotels. While I use the Citi Prestige a lot because of the 4th Night Free program, I’ll book with the Reserve if I’m staying for less than four nights since it gets me 3x on travel purchases (after the $300 travel credit is exhausted). The only other cards I use for travel are the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express when booking SPG or Marriott properties (since it gets me 2 Starpoints per dollar) and the Amex Platinum because I get 5x on hotels when booking through Amex Travel. Note: I only use Amex when booking through Fine Hotels and Resorts since that gets me a slew of added benefits like free nights, room upgrades and resort credits.
Additionally, Chase is transfer partners with Hyatt, where I can get some serious value from my points. I love staying at Park Hyatts, and it’s one of the best redemptions of Chase points, especially at properties like the Park Hyatt Maldives or Park Hyatt Tokyo. Rooms at the Park Hyatt Maldives normally go for ⁓$1,000 a night, but you’ll only have to use 25,000 Hyatt points a night… meaning you’re getting about 4 cents in value per point, an incredible redemption!
Great Redemptions on Airfare Too
Chase has some great airline transfer partners including United, Korean Air and Singapore Airlines. Ultimate Rewards transfer to these programs at a 1:1 ratio and I’ve gotten a few great redemptions in the first year with all the Ultimate Reward points I’ve gained from the Reserve.
Just the sign-up bonus alone got me a first-class ticket home from Bali on Korean Air, which is one of the best products in the sky. Korean has fantastic award availability and I redeemed 95,000 miles for a one-way flight in first class for a ticket that normally goes for ⁓$6,500.
I also love transferring my points to United and booking Lufthansa first class. It’ll run you 110,000 miles but the experience is totally worth it. It actually saved the day when I got sick in Europe last fall and needed to book a one-way ticket from Toulouse (TLS) to Miami (MIA). I was able to find first-class award availability on Lufthansa via United and booked the ticket immediately, all thanks to my Ultimate Rewards points.
Maximizing Spend with the Chase Trifecta
As I’ve shifted my loyalty away from airlines and more toward credit cards, I’ve found that the Chase Trifecta is one of the most powerful strategies one can wield when playing the credit card game.
Here’s how it worked: I downgraded my Chase Sapphire Preferred Card to a Chase Freedom Unlimited, which I use for everyday, non-category bonus spend with 1.5X on all purchases. and I hold the Chase Ink Business Preferred Credit Card because it nets me a sizable amount of points on advertising spend. This maximizes my spending across all categories.
To sum it up: The Reserve gets me 3x on travel (excluding $300 travel credit) and dining purchases and the Ink Preferred offers 3x points on all on travel, shipping, internet, cable, phone services and advertising purchases made with social media sites and search engines (on the first $150,000 in combined purchases each account anniversary year). Freedom Unlimited brings up the rear with get 1.5x points on all other purchases. And I love that I can transfer points from these other cards to the Reserve, where the points are worth 1.5 cents instead of 1.25 cents through the Chase travel portal. So at minimum I’m getting 2.25% on all purchases or 3.3% back according to our valuations — and at the top I’m getting at least 4.5% back or 6.6% back according to our valuations.
Better Events and Great Customer Service
In addition to just strong points earning, Chase is really upping the events you can access with the Sapphire cards — including access to the New York Seaport lounge, the Emmys and the Sundance Film Festival. I’ve also been getting fantastic customer service and rarely have to wait more than a few minutes to get on the phone with a customer service rep. That’s better than my experience with a lot of the other banks.
So overall the Chase Sapphire Reserve is my number one card in terms of how often I use it. There are other cards that I put more spend on for the business, but in terms of an all-around points workhorse card, the Sapphire Reserve can’t be beat. The points are valuable and flexible, and it’s easy to earn a lot of them. Unfortunately, the sign-up bonus isn’t the insane 100,000 points it once was, but the current 50,000-point bonus is still one of the best around. For these reasons, the Reserve is a must-have for almost everyone.
SIGN-UP BONUS: 50,000 Points
TPG'S BONUS VALUATION*: $1,000
CARD HIGHLIGHTS: 3X points on all travel and dining, $300 annual travel credit, points transferrable to over a dozen travel partners
*Bonus value is an estimated value calculated by TPG and not the card issuer. View our latest valuations here.
- Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
- $300 Annual Travel Credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year
- 3X points on travel immediately after earning your $300 travel credit. 3X points on dining at restaurants & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases. $0 foreign transaction fees.
- Get 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 50,000 points are worth $750 toward travel
- 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
- Access to 1,000+ airport lounges worldwide after an easy, one-time enrollment in Priority Pass™ Select
- Up to $100 application fee credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®
- One Year Complimentary Lyft Pink ($199 minimum value). Complimentary DashPass subscription from DoorDash after activating by 12/31/21.