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

Feb 13, 2020

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Some credit cards provide annual credits each year, likely to increase the odds that the 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), or they can be quite broad.

The Chase Sapphire Reserve comes with a $300 annual travel credit on each cardmember anniversary in exchange for paying the card’s $550 annual fee.

Even if you never used other built-in Sapphire Reserve perks, such as Priority Pass membership, the application fee credit toward Global Entry/PreCheck, the Lyft Pink membership or $60 per year in DoorDash credits (at least for 2020 and 2021), the $300 annual travel credit drops the pain of paying the annual fee by a big chunk.

But how do you use this travel credit? The good news is it’s really, really easy. The bad news? You may use the credit before you even realize it.

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‘s annual $300 travel credit is awarded each year you have the card. In most cases, this credit is tied to a cardmember year, not a calendar year. 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: Chase Sapphire Reserve vs. the Amex Platinum

What counts toward the travel credit?

A great element of the Sapphire Reserve’s travel credit is that it is quite broad in what 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, though not on the portion of the travel charge offset by the $300 travel credit.

Some examples 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

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

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.

While any of this could change at any time and does vary, some things that may not code as travel include theme park tickets brought directly from theme parks, ski lift tickets, points.com purchases, some airline or travel gift card purchases, in-flight purchases that are processed by a third party, some meals eaten at a hotel but not charged to a room while at a hotels, etc.

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

How do you use the Sapphire Reserve’s travel credit?

We’ve established when you get the Chase Sapphire Reserve’s travel credit and what it can be used for. But how do you actually use it?

Just use your Sapphire Reserve to pay for eligible travel purchases. The offsetting statement credits will usually appear on your account within a couple of days, until you’ve used the travel credit all up.

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: Top travel credit cards for 2020

How to see if you’ve used your travel credit

If you’ve lost track of whether you’ve used up your Sapphire Reserve’s annual travel credit, you can easily figure it out by logging into the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal and checking the dashboard for your Reserve.

Bottom line

It’s great when credit cards give you annual travel credits that are easy to use, and it really doesn’t get any easier to use than the annual $300 travel credit that comes with the Chase Sapphire Reserve.

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