Why I always book flights and non-refundable travel with the Chase Sapphire Reserve
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If you have been paying attention to the credit card game lately, then you already know about the Chase Sapphire collection, including the Chase Sapphire Reserve and the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card. As a frequent traveler, the Chase Sapphire Reserve is one of the most powerful cards in my wallet and I frequently book non-refundable travel, as long as I can book it using my CSR. Here are a few reasons why I won’t leave the house without my trusty CSR:
First, let’s talk about what this card can do. The Chase Sapphire Reserve is currently offering a 50,000 point sign-up bonus, which, by TPG valuations, is worth $1,000 in travel at 2 cents per point. When those points are redeemed through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal for travel, each point is worth 1.5 cents, which puts the welcome bonus at $900. You can hit that $1,000 value by maximizing your points through travel partners. New cardholders qualify for the sign-up bonus once they spend $4,000 within three months of the account opening, which is likely achievable for cardholders and definitely worth it.
The Sign-Up Bonus & Benefits
The card does come with a $550 annual fee — which is immediately offset by earning the sign-up bonus — but what about the value of your account moving forward? Each year, CSR cardholders have access to $300 in travel credit that can be easily spent on a variety of travel expenses. That alone effectively reduces the annual fee to $250, but the card also comes with up to $100 every four years as reimbursement for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fees. If the fees were holding you back from applying for Global Entry, you won’t have to worry about that with your CSR. Expedited U.S. border crossing, plus an expedited domestic security program for no additional charge, is a great perk of this card.
Speaking of crossing borders and travel, CSR cardholders and up to two guests get complimentary access to the Priority Pass Select network of more than 1,300 airport lounges and restaurants worldwide. Authorized users, which cost only $75 per year in additional annual fees, also get complimentary access to lounges. Enjoy free entry to airport lounges worldwide as well as ~US$28 towards select restaurants within the network. Access to Priority Pass Select alone can cover (if not exceed) the value of the rest of the annual fee, depending on how often you travel, since a yearly standard plus membership costs $249 a year and includes 10 free visits, with subsequent visits for $32 each.
The Earning Potential
The CSR earning potential isn’t bad, either. I especially like that cardholders can earn 3x points on all travel and dining worldwide, not just with certain partners or dining limited to the U.S. On all other purchases, you’ll earn 1x points. Chase is incredibly generous with what is considered a travel or dining purchase; everything from restaurants to cafes to university dining halls to vending machines can count as dining, and everything from flights to hotels to campsites to public transportation and parking can be considered a travel expense.
Note that grocery stores, bakeries, and in-flight meals are among the expenses that do not count as dining purchases, and sightseeing activities or in-flight goods are among the expenses that are not considered travel purchases. Even so, the earning and redeeming potential for CSR is pretty decent; especially because you can redeem your Chase Ultimate Rewards points with a variety of partners for even more value.
Besides these great benefits, why would a frequent traveler rely so heavily on this card? The benefits are good, but as it turns out, the suite of insurances can be even better if you wind up needing to use them. The Chase Sapphire Reserve is a Visa Infinite card that carries primary car rental insurance, trip cancellation and interruption insurance, lost luggage insurance, trip delay reimbursement, and emergency evacuation and relocation services. These benefits automatically kick in when I book my flights, hotels, transportation, etc. with my CSR.
Because I already have coverage with the CSR, I don’t need to hesitate while booking non-refundable travel through an airline, hotel, or other booking agency. I can also decline any external insurances provided through airlines or car rentals because those trips are already covered when I use my CSR. And I don't have to worry if I get caught up in a delay due to weather or a mechanical issue.
It’s nice to be covered during emergency situations, but I particularly appreciate the package of delay insurances. Nobody likes a delay, but when you travel as much as I do, delays can become par for the course. It gives me peace of mind to know that if I need to make some last-minute changes or purchases, I’ll be covered.
The card's trip delay reimbursement applies when my common carrier travel is delayed by six hours or more, or when the delay results in a necessary overnight stay. In the event of a significant trip delay, CSR will cover my meals and lodging up to $500. For families traveling together, the coverage extends to the immediate family for up to $500 per ticket. This is the main reason why I always book my travel with my Sapphire Reserve.
If the itinerary goes as scheduled but my baggage is delayed or misdirected for six hours or more, CSR will cover any emergency clothing or toiletry purchases up to $100 per day for a maximum of five days. Similar to the trip delay insurance, coverage extends to the immediate family.
The Chase Sapphire Preferred
If you are a Chase Sapphire Preferred cardholder, a few of the benefits and insurances differ from the CSR but this card still offers great insurance coverage — all with a lower $95 annual fee. Other card highlights include: 2x on travel and 3x on dining worldwide; earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening; 1.25x when redeemed for travel in the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal; and similar travel and purchase protections as the CSR. CSP is another spectacular card and, depending on your investment into learning about credit card rewards, it could be a better fit for you than the CSR.
The Chase Sapphire Reserve and the Chase Sapphire Preferred are powerhouse cards that carry important travel coverage packages. If you are a frequent traveler, I suggest picking up one of these cards and enjoying the benefits, rewards, and coverage for yourself.