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

5d ago

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Editor’s note: This story has been updated with the latest information.


In addition to the bonus points on travel and dining charges, a marquee benefit of the Chase Sapphire Reserve since its debut in 2016 has been its $300 travel credit each year. And unlike similar perks on competing cards, this credit is incredibly easy to use.

Annual statement credits 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 up to $50 Saks Fifth Avenue credit available with The Platinum Card® from American Express every six months; up to $100 annually; enrollment is required) — or they can be quite broad.

The Chase Sapphire Reserve now comes with a $550 annual fee, but if you’ll spend at least $300 per year on travel, the effective 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 every four years, $120 in credits toward Peloton memberships (through June 30, 2022), bonus points on Lyft rides and up to $5 in monthly DoorDash credits plus a DashPass membership through Dec. 31, 2024 — which together make it an easier call to continue holding the card.

But how do you use the Sapphire Reserve’s travel credit?

Thankfully, it’s really, really easy. The (sorta) bad news? It’s so simple and automatic that 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 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.

This stands in contrast to American Express’ airline fee credits from cards such as the Amex Platinum, as those are awarded on a calendar-year basis (enrollment required).

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 types of charges it covers.

Essentially, you can typically use the annual travel credit on anything that codes as travel on your Sapphire Reserve. Remember, you’ll earn 3 points per dollar on travel charges by swiping the card, so the charges that award bonus points 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.

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, points.com purchases, some airline or travel gift card purchases, inflight purchases that are processed by a third party or some meals eaten at a hotel but not charged to a room.

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, and this will continue 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 report using their credits up each year on everyday travel charges such as tolls, parking, cabs or subway fares before they could purposefully use it for something bigger.

 

Related: Best travel credit cards

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 looking at the rewards activity for your Reserve card.

Overview of rewards activity on the Chase Sapphire Reserve in the Ultimate Rewards portal
Screenshot courtesy of Chase

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 the $300 travel credit on the Chase Sapphire Reserve is about as simple as it comes. Every year, you’ll automatically get $300 in statement credits whenever your card is used on a travel purchase — effectively lowering the fee on the card to $250 per year.

Of course, if you decide you simply can’t make the most of the Sapphire Reserve benefits, 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 Eric Rosen/The Points Guy.

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