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10 reasons the Chase Sapphire Reserve is ideal for living or traveling abroad

April 21, 2020
11 min read
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Living abroad, I have to be selective about my rewards credit card choices. It's too complicated to have more than five or six cards when most of my banking is done in Spain with a Spanish bank account and Spanish credit cards. Despite changes earlier this year, here's why the Chase Sapphire Reserve is still in my wallet.

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Related reading: 4 things to do once you get your Chase Sapphire Reserve

Priority Pass lounge access

The pool at a Priority Pass lounge in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic. (Photo by Scott Mayerowitz/The Points Guy)

Priority Pass boasts more than 1,300 lounges worldwide, with tons of locations in Europe, Asia and Africa as well as in Latin America and the United States. This makes a Priority Pass membership ideal for travelers who are frequently outside the United States. In fact, some of the Priority Pass program's best lounges are found abroad, such as the SkyTeam Lounge in Vancouver and the Oman Air Lounge in Bangkok. Some international airports, like Singapore's Changi, give Priority Pass members access to several different lounges.

By comparison, The Platinum Card® from American Express offers access to the wonderful network of Centurion Lounges, but this doesn't benefit me much since most of these lounges are in airports within the United States. The Amex Platinum does offer a Priority Pass Select membership as well as lounge access through the American Express Global Lounge Collection -- but it's not necessarily worth paying the Amex Platinum's $695 annual fee (see rates and fees) primarily for lounge access. Enrollment required for select benefits.

Related reading: Amex Platinum vs. Chase Sapphire Reserve

There are also airline cobranded cards that offer lounge access, such as the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard®'s Admirals Club airport lounge membership. The downside, again, is that most of these lounges are in the United States, although American Airlines does have a handful of Admirals Club locations outside the United States and primary cardholders may get some value from accessing partner lounges at select foreign airports.

Related reading: Best credit cards for airport lounge access

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Plenty of transfer partners you can use worldwide

Hyatt is a transfer partner for Chase Ultimate Rewards, so you can transfer points to book the Hyatt Regency Kuantan Resort for just 5,000 Hyatt points per night. (Photo by Katie Genter/The Points Guy)

With transfer partners that include Air France/KLM's Flying Blue and British Airways, I can easily get around Europe using Ultimate Rewards points earned with my Chase Sapphire Reserve. For example, using British Airways’ award chart for economy flights on BA, Iberia or Aer Lingus for a nonstop flight of 650 miles or less requires as few as 4,000 miles each way. This means the Chase Sapphire Reserve's 60,000-point sign-up bonus (after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening) could fly me round-trip between London and Paris six times. Plus, other Ultimate Rewards transfer partners such as Singapore Airlines are ideal for traveling around Asia or flying between the U.S. and Asia.

Related reading: Chase Sapphire Reserve credit card review

Similarly, the Ultimate Rewards program's hotel transfer partners come in handy all over the world. Marriott has properties in 130 countries, and IHG has hotel locations in more than 100. Or, if I transferred the sign-up bonus of 60,000 points to Hyatt, I could stay 12 nights at Hyatt Category 1 properties for 5,000 points per night — and there are plenty of them around the world, such as the Hyatt House Mexico City/Santa Fe in Mexico and the Hyatt Recency Kuantan Resort in Malaysia.

Related reading: How to maximize your Chase Ultimate Rewards points

You can also use Chase points to book hotels and flights through the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal. 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 you'll get 1.5 cents per point in value when you redeem through the travel portal, compared to 1.25 cents per point with the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card.

Related reading: Chase Sapphire Preferred vs. Chase Sapphire Reserve

Chip technology

Many U.S. credit cards now have chip technology, but there are still a few that don't — and some vendors in Europe no longer have credit card readers where you can swipe a magnetic strip. Also, in the past I've sometimes had trouble with U.S. chip cards in Europe, but Chase cards usually work. I've rarely had issues with my Chase Sapphire Reserve.

Related reading: The top chip and PIN credit cards

No foreign transaction fees

Many top travel rewards cards have eliminated foreign transaction fees, but some still charge them. Living abroad, I refuse to own any card with foreign transaction fees. It's simply throwing away money, as 85% of my transactions are made outside of the U.S. The Chase Sapphire Reserve doesn't have these fees, so it's a great card to use when traveling or living abroad.

Related reading: Best credit cards with no foreign transaction fees

Massive points-earning potential on travel and dining purchases

(Photo by Wyatt Smith/The Points Guy)

The Chase Sapphire Reserve is one of the best cards out there for maximizing points earnings on travel and dining; you get three points per dollar spent on purchases in these broad categories. This equals a 6% 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 the Chase Sapphire Reserve is a great card to bring along.

Related reading: Best credit cards for travel purchases

Benefits at Relais & Châteaux properties

When you book a stay at Relais & Châteaux properties through the Visa Infinite Concierge and pay for your stay with your U.S.-issued Chase Sapphire Reserve, you'll get a VIP welcome and complimentary breakfast. However, you must book the best available rate or public rate, and complimentary breakfast is only valid at select properties for a maximum of seven consecutive nights.

This benefit is much more valuable if you're traveling or living abroad, especially in Europe where there are 366 properties, compared to just 78 in North America.

Related reading: Everything you need to know about the Visa Infinite program’s benefits

Luxury Hotel & Resort Collection perks

The St. Regis Rome is bookable through the Chase's Luxury Hotels and Resorts Collection. (Photo by Jessica Puckett/The Points Guy)

When you book through Chase's Luxury Hotel & Resort Collection, you’ll enjoy benefits such as daily breakfast for you and a guest, complimentary Wi-Fi and a special benefit unique to each property. Plus, you'll get an upgraded room, early check-in and late checkout when available. There are plenty of properties abroad that participate in this program — including 21 in Paris and 32 in London versus just 11 in Chicago and 15 in San Francisco.

Related reading: Guide to Chase’s Luxury Hotel & Resort Collection

Global Entry fee credit

Global Entry can save you time in immigration when entering the U.S., and it includes TSA PreCheck to speed departures from most U.S. airports. (Photo by Darren Murph/The Points Guy)

Many cards offer a statement credit to reimburse your Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee (up to $100), and the Chase Sapphire Reserve is one of them. I fly between Europe and the U.S. several times a year, and fast-tracked immigration clearance via Global Entry has saved me hours and hours of time. Plus, I've saved a lot of time with priority security access through TSA PreCheck when traveling from U.S. airports since TSA PreCheck is included with Global Entry.

Related reading: Top credit cards for Global Entry and TSA PreCheck

This benefit is available for Chase Sapphire Reserve cardholders once every four years, but if you already have it (or don't need it), you can pay for a friend's application fee using your card and the fee will be reimbursed.

Related reading: 6 little-known Chase Sapphire Reserve perks

$300 annual travel credit

The Chase Sapphire Reserve offers you $300 in travel credit each year -- a great benefit since virtually any travel-related purchase will be eligible, from parking fees to Uber rides to airfare. Aside from spending on hotels and flights, I can also use this benefit for monthly metro and subway passes. Plus, the $300 credit is available once per calendar year, so it's possible to get $600 in travel credits for a single $550 annual fee during your first 12 months with the card.

Related reading: How to use the Chase Sapphire Reserve $300 annual travel credit

Travel protections

When you use your Chase Sapphire Reserve to purchase travel -- including paying the taxes and fees on award tickets -- you'll be covered by the card's various travel protections. These protections include trip delay insurance, baggage delay insurance and trip cancellation and interruption insurance, all of which can all be useful for frequent travelers.

Related reading: The best credit cards with travel insurance

Bottom line

The Chase Sapphire Reserve is a great choice for pretty much anyone who travels, but it can be particularly awesome for those living or traveling frequently abroad. Even though some of the card's benefits may not be useful if you're living abroad -- primarily the new Lyft perks and DoorDash benefits -- there are still many ways to enjoy the card's benefits in places outside the U.S.

Official application link: Chase Sapphire Reserve

Related reading: Best travel credit cards

For rates and fees of the Amex Platinum card, click here.

Additional reporting by Katie Genter.

Featured photo by Wyatt Smith/The Points Guy.

Featured image by (Photo by Wyatt Smith)
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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