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New perks the Chase Sapphire Reserve should offer to stay competitive

Oct. 27, 2021
8 min read
New perks the Chase Sapphire Reserve should offer to stay competitive
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The Chase Sapphire Reserve is a well-rounded and respectable travel credit card. It's been a TPG reader favorite since its launch in 2016.

But not a whole lot has changed with the card since then. The card's fee recently increased to $550 (previously $450), with only the addition of a few niche perks to show for it (Lyft Pink membership comes to mind). Otherwise, the card has been stagnant since its inception.

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A $550 price tag is on the high end of the travel rewards card spectrum. And competitors, notably The Platinum Card® from American Express, have been busily evolving their suites of benefits.

It got us thinking, what are some things the Chase Sapphire Reserve could do to maintain relevance?

How Chase can improve the Chase Sapphire Reserve

(Photo by Wyatt Smith/The Points Guy.)

Don't get me wrong — the Chase Sapphire Reserve is still a winner. Here's a list of its most notable benefits:

Still, Chase could do a lot to take the Sapphire Reserve to the next level. Here are a few ideas:

Exclusive transfer bonuses

We'd love for Chase to improve transfer ratios to travel partners for the Chase Sapphire Reserve, but that's not likely. A willingness Chase has exhibited in the past is to occasionally offer transfer bonuses to select airline and hotel partners like British Airways and Marriott. However, competing flexible points currencies offer transfer bonuses more regularly than Chase. American Express conducted 12 transfer bonuses at once in September!

A sizable carrot Chase could attach to the end of this $550 stick could be exclusive (and frequent) transfer bonuses to various partners such as Hyatt, Southwest, United Airlines, and Aeroplan. Partners such as these tend to provide outsized value per point.

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For example, the Andaz Maui costs 30,000 Hyatt points, or $700+, per night. If Chase offered a modest 25% transfer bonus to Hyatt, you could reserve a night for just 24,000 Chase points (a value of 2.9 cents per point). This bonus would increase the value of your points by 0.58 cents. That's significant.

Andaz Maui (Photo by Joseph Hostetler/The Points Guy)

Or, if Southwest received a similar 25% transfer ratio, Chase points would increase in value by 0.375 cents. Southwest points are worth 1.5 cents each, per TPG valuations.

Increase redemption value via Chase Travel Portal

One of the simplest and most popular ways to redeem Chase Ultimate Rewards points is through the Chase Travel Portal. You can redeem your points for a flat rate for things like airfare, hotels, and rental cars without having to worry about transfer partners, blackout dates, available award seats, and other concerns.

However, the value you'll receive from your points depends on the card you hold:

The Chase Sapphire Reserve already offers the highest value proposition when redeeming your points this way, but a 20% advantage isn't enough to warrant a higher fee for many of us. If the Sapphire Reserve offered a value of 1.75 cents per point toward travel via the Chase Travel Portal, this benefit would garner more attention.

Improve Chase Pay Yourself Back

Perhaps the most successful credit card benefit Chase has debuted in recent memory is Chase Pay Yourself Back. This allows you to redeem your Chase points through the Ultimate Rewards portal at the same flat rate as booking travel but for more common everyday spending categories. This makes Ultimate Rewards-earning cards more valuable for those who don't travel quite as often.

Currently, Chase Sapphire Reserve cardholders can redeem points at 1.5 cents each to offset:

  • Airbnb
  • Away (through awaytravel.com)
  • Dining at restaurants (including takeout and eligible delivery services)
  • Select charities

Chase shuffles these categories periodically. The current categories are scheduled to disappear on March 31, 2022.

Previously, eligible Pay Yourself Back categories have included grocery stores and home improvement stores. Chase could improve the Sapphire Reserve by broadening the card's categories – and making those categories dependably permanent. Chase could also improve the Pay Yourself Back redemption rate to 1.75 cents, similar to the above proposed increased redemption value through the Chase Travel Portal.

Expand Chase lounge access

One of the most popular benefits of The Platinum Card® from American Express is its exclusive access to Centurion Lounges. They're high-quality airport lounges serving free hot meals and mixed drinks. Amex has steadily increased its Centurion Lounge locations, aggressively pursuing luxury travelers. And Capital One has recently announced its own collection of similar lounges.

With no desire to become obsolete, Chase intends to launch its own proprietary airport lounges within the next year or so. Access to these lounges will only be available for Chase Sapphire Reserve cardholders and those who have Priority Pass lounge access. However, Chase has only announced three locations:

Far from ubiquitous — but if Chase manages to increase their lounge locations rapidly, this could be a needle-mover for the Chase Sapphire Reserve.

Offer complimentary Clear membership

Clear is a membership that offers you expedited security through the TSA security lines at many domestic airports. It offers an exclusive security lane that uses biometric data like fingerprint and iris scanning and gives you the ability to cut the long lines. You won't even need to present your identification to a TSA agent.

While still rare, we're beginning to see other travel rewards cards offer some form of a statement credit to offset Clear's $189 annual membership:

Enrollment required.

The information for the Amex Green Card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

The Chase Sapphire Reserve already offers statement credits reimbursing TSA PreCheck and Global Entry. Clear stacks with TSA PreCheck to give you the ultimate expedited airport security experience:

  • Enter designated Clear lane and enter your biometric data
  • A Clear agent will escort you to the front of the TSA line and send you into the TSA PreCheck area
  • Set your carry-on luggage on the conveyor belt without removing your laptop or approved toiletries
  • Pass through the metal detector without removing your belt, shoes or light jacket

I have both of these memberships, and I consistently save between 15 and 30 minutes each time I pass the security checkpoint.

Bottom line

Implementing one or two of these benefits could be a game-changer for cardholders and even prompt those content with the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card (like me) to shell out an extra $455 per year for an upgrade. Implementing transfer bonuses regularly and generously with valuable partners like Hyatt and United Airlines could give the card a considerable edge, as transferring points is the preferred redemption method for many of us.

And with the ability to effectively "cash out" my points at a favorable rate via Pay Yourself Back for purchases outside of travel, the card is a worthwhile investment even if there are no immediate travel plans in our future.

Let us know what you'd like to see from the Chase Sapphire Reserve – and if you're being drawn to a competitor card instead.

Featured image by (Photo by John Gribben for The Points Guy)
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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Our points-obsessed staff uses a plethora of credit cards on a daily basis. If anyone on our team wouldn’t recommend it to a friend or a family member, we wouldn’t recommend it on The Points Guy either. Our opinions are our own, and have not been reviewed, approved, or endorsed by our advertising partners.
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TPG featured card

Best premium travel card for value
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards

1 - 10X points
10xEarn 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
5xEarn 5x total points on flights through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
3xEarn 3x points on other travel and dining.
1xEarn 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases

Intro offer

80,000 bonus points
Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®

Annual Fee

$550

Recommended Credit

740-850
Excellent
Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

Why We Chose It

If you are looking to take your premium rewards to the highest level, this card is really a no brainer in our eyes. Chase's Ultimate Rewards make points easy to redeem, with a wide range of 10 airline and three hotel transfer partners and a friendly user interface. Despite the high annual fee, Chase is consistently adding new benefits to keep the card competitive in a fierce premium rewards field.

Pros

  • $300 annual travel credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year
  • Access to Chase Ultimate Rewards hotel and airline travel partners
  • Unlimited 3x points on the broad category of travel and dining
  • 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Broad definitions for travel and dining bonus categories

Cons

  • Steep $550 annual fee
  • May not make sense for people that don't travel frequently
  • You must spend the $300 travel credit before earning 3x points for travel and dining
  • No automatic hotel elite status
  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 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.
  • Earn 5x total points on flights and 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards® immediately after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually. Earn 3x points on other travel and dining & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Get 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,200 toward travel
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Access to 1,300+ airport lounges worldwide after an easy, one-time enrollment in Priority Pass™ Select and up to $100 application fee credit every four years for Global Entry, NEXUS, or TSA PreCheck®
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more
Best premium travel card for value
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

10xEarn 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
5xEarn 5x total points on flights through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
3xEarn 3x points on other travel and dining.
1xEarn 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Intro Offer
    Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®

    80,000 bonus points
  • Annual Fee

    $550
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    740-850
    Excellent

Why We Chose It

If you are looking to take your premium rewards to the highest level, this card is really a no brainer in our eyes. Chase's Ultimate Rewards make points easy to redeem, with a wide range of 10 airline and three hotel transfer partners and a friendly user interface. Despite the high annual fee, Chase is consistently adding new benefits to keep the card competitive in a fierce premium rewards field.

Pros

  • $300 annual travel credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year
  • Access to Chase Ultimate Rewards hotel and airline travel partners
  • Unlimited 3x points on the broad category of travel and dining
  • 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Broad definitions for travel and dining bonus categories

Cons

  • Steep $550 annual fee
  • May not make sense for people that don't travel frequently
  • You must spend the $300 travel credit before earning 3x points for travel and dining
  • No automatic hotel elite status
  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 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.
  • Earn 5x total points on flights and 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards® immediately after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually. Earn 3x points on other travel and dining & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Get 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,200 toward travel
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Access to 1,300+ airport lounges worldwide after an easy, one-time enrollment in Priority Pass™ Select and up to $100 application fee credit every four years for Global Entry, NEXUS, or TSA PreCheck®
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more