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

May 29, 2020

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In addition to the bonus points on travel and dining charges, a marquee benefit of the Chase Sapphire Reserve is its $300 per year travel credit.

Annual credits like these are likely to increase the odds that a credit card stays safely in your wallet despite the annual fees. These built-in credits can be pretty narrow (think the $50 Saks Fifth Avenue credit available with The Platinum Card® from American Express every six months; up to $100 annually), or they can be quite broad.

The Chase Sapphire Reserve comes with a $550 annual fee (though some with upcoming renewal dates are receiving a $100 statement credit to lessen the blow from coronavirus-related travel slowdowns), but if you can maximize the card’s $300 annual travel credit, that annual fee is a lot less painful.

This annual credit is in addition to other Sapphire Reserve perks, such as Priority Pass membership, the application fee credit toward Global Entry/PreCheck, the Lyft Pink membership and up to $60 per year in DoorDash credits (at least for 2020 and 2021), which together make it an easier call to continue holding the card.

But how do you use the Sapphire Reserve’s travel credit? Moreover, how do you use the card when you aren’t traveling very much? The good news, at least during normal times, is that it’s really, really easy to use. The bad news? You may use the credit before you even realize it.

Related related: Complete review of the Chase Sapphire Reserve

(Photo by The Points Guy)
(Photo by The Points Guy)

When do you earn the $300 Chase Sapphire Reserve travel credit

The Chase Sapphire Reserve annual $300 travel credit is awarded each year that you have the card and it is ready to use as soon as you open your new account.

In most cases, when this credit resets, it is tied to a cardmember year, not a calendar year. That means when you first opened the card will influence the date each year that you get a fresh $300 travel credit. However, those who opened a Sapphire Reserve before May 21, 2017, are awarded the annual travel credit based on a calendar year. In that case, the credit is awarded after the last statement closure date in December, regardless of when during the year the account was opened.

American Express airline fee credits from cards such as the Amex Platinum and American Express® Gold Card are awarded on a calendar-year basis.

Related reading: Chase Sapphire Reserve vs. the Amex Platinum

What counts toward the travel credit?

A great element of the Sapphire Reserve travel credit is that it is quite broad in what types of charges it covers. Essentially, you can use the annual travel credit on anything that codes as travel on your Sapphire Reserve. Remember, you’ll earn 3x points per dollar awarded by the card on travel charges, so the same sort of charges that you earn 3x points for on travel will be the same charges you can use toward the travel credit. (Though just know you don’t actually earn points on the travel charges offset by the $300 travel credit.)

Some examples of types of purchases that count for the Sapphire Reserve’s travel credit include:

  • Airlines
  • Hotels
  • Timeshares
  • Campgrounds
  • Car rental agencies
  • Cruise lines
  • Travel agency services
  • Trains
  • Buses
  • Taxis and car services
  • Toll bridges and highways
  • Parking lots and garages

Because airline charges generally code as travel, this means you can use the credit on purchases such as your airline tickets, taxes on award tickets, upgrades, seat assignment fees, checked bag fees, onboard snacks, change fees, lap infant fees, etc.

Your cruise deposits and payments should also count, as do hotel bookings and deposits. If you have to pay for parking, taxis, or road tolls in your normal life, you can even use the travel credit toward those everyday charges.

Related reading: How to use credit card credits from home 

Upgrade that seat with your CSR travel credit (Photo by Zach Griff/ The Points Guy)
Upgrade that seat with your CSR travel credit. (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

What does not count toward the Sapphire Reserve travel credit?

Of course, not all purchases in the travel space code as travel charges. If a purchase doesn’t code as a travel charge, you won’t be able to use the $300 travel credit from the Sapphire Reserve.

Items that code as travel vary and can also change at any time. Some things that may not code as travel include theme park tickets brought directly from theme parks, ski lift tickets, purchases, some airline or travel gift card purchases, inflight purchases that are processed by a third party, some meals eaten at a hotel but not charged to a room, etc.

Pro tip: If you want Disney tickets to code as a travel charge, book them via a third-party travel site such as Get Away Today or Undercover Tourist.

(Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)
(Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

How do you use the Sapphire Reserve travel credit?

Using your Sapphire Reserve travel credit is very simple — just use the card to pay for eligible travel purchases. That’s it. There is nothing to activate; no codes to use or special sites to book through. The offsetting statement credits will usually appear on your account within a couple of days, until you’ve used the year’s travel credit in full.

The credit is so easy to use that several travelers in the TPG Facebook Lounge reported using their credits up each year on everyday travel charges such as tolls, parking, cabs, subway fares, etc. before they could purposefully use it for something bigger.

Related reading: Best travel credit cards

How do you use the Sapphire Reserve travel credit from home

It’s easy to (quickly) use the Sapphire Reserve annual travel credit as you travel, commute to work, hop in an Uber, etc. But because we are all (mostly) staying safe within the confines of our homes during the pandemic, it is admittedly a bit harder to use up a travel credit. But it’s not impossible.

First, you have a full year to use the credit, so if you aren’t close to running out of time to use up your travel credit, don’t panic right now. A lot could change in the next six to nine months.

If you are jumping on some of those $35 flight deals for travel later in 2020 or even the Hawaii deals valid until 2021, that’s an easy way to use some of the credit. If you still make payments toward parking lots or garages, that could work, as could using the credit to load up your toll tag, even if you aren’t driving a lot at the moment.

Most airlines and hotels have flexible change policies for future travel, so you could book future travel leveraging those policies using your Sapphire Reserve’s travel credit into 2021, as far out as the booking calendars allow.

Related reading: 8 credit card credits you can use from home

How to see if you’ve used your travel credit

If you’ve lost track of whether you’ve used up your Sapphire Reserve annual travel credit, you can easily figure it out by logging into the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal and checking the dashboard for your Reserve card. This will also tell you when next year’s credit becomes available, so you know to use up this year’s credit before then.

Bottom line

It’s great when credit cards give you annual travel credits that are easy to use, and in normal times, it really doesn’t get any easier to use than the annual $300 travel credit that comes with the Chase Sapphire Reserve. But even now, using the credit isn’t impossible and hopefully will become even easier as we learn more about what travel will look like as the coronavirus pandemic evolves. Of course, if you have decided you simply can’t make the most of the Sapphire Reserve benefits at the moment, you could also talk to Chase about potentially downgrading to the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card or even the no-annual-fee Chase Freedom Unlimited®.

Featured photo by The Points Guy

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

WELCOME OFFER: 60,000 Points


CARD HIGHLIGHTS: 2X points on all travel and dining, 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.

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More Things to Know
  • Earn 60,000 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®
  • 2X points on dining at restaurants including eligible delivery services, takeout and dining out and travel & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 60,000 points are worth $750 toward travel.
Regular APR
15.99%-22.99% Variable
Annual Fee
Balance Transfer Fee
Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
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