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When I first heard the details of the Chase Sapphire Reserve, I had to sit down, because it sounded way too good to be true. When I evaluate credit cards, I look at three factors: sign-up bonus, points (earning and redeeming) and perks — and this card blows me away on all fronts.
There’s a $450 annual fee, which, at first, seems quite steep. But when you dig into the benefits the card offers (the $300 rebate in travel brings it down to $150 a year in my eyes), you quickly realize that even an infrequent traveler can get tremendous value out of the card.
Note: That said, you may want to get the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card first because it has a much lower annual fee of $95 (waived the first year), and it’s a good way to see just how much value you can get out of the Ultimate Rewards program. Also, note that you can’t get the sign-up bonuses on both cards.
At 2.1 cents apiece for Ultimate Rewards points according to my valuations, the 50,000-point bonus on the Sapphire Reserve is worth $1,050. That’s equivalent to more than two years of the annual fee. When you take out the $300 in travel you get a year as a perk, the annual fee is really only $150, because it’s simple to spend $300 a year on travel — especially because Chase has a wide description of what counts: airlines, hotels (including Airbnb), motels, timeshares, campgrounds, car rental agencies, cruise lines, travel agencies, discount travel sites, operators of passenger trains, buses, taxis (including Uber and Lyft), limousines, ferries, toll bridges and highways and parking lots and garages.
Chase Sapphire Reserve cardholders get a value of 1.5 cents per Ultimate Rewards point when redeeming for travel on the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal, which is something that’s unique to the Reserve card. So, even if you’re a novice in the travel rewards field and don’t know how to maximize transfer partners, you’re getting $750 in travel on pretty much any airlines or hotel from the sign-up bonus if you choose to use your points toward travel through the portal — more than three years of the annual fee.
Not only are you getting great value out of those bookings made through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal, but any flight you book also counts as a revenue booking, so you’ll earn miles and elite credit as well, getting you even more value.
The ability to redeem with a number of partners is one of the most important aspects of a credit card. And, beyond the massive sign-up bonus, the bonus earning categories will also help add to the value and your earning structure. With the card, you’ll earn 3x points on all travel and dining purchases worldwide and 1x points on everything else. What’s often not known is just how extensive these categories are — ridesharing services, food delivery, etc.
To get an idea of how much more value you can get from the Reserve card on the travel and dining bonus earning categories, let’s break it down in a comparison with what you’d earn with its predecessor.
|Spend (Month; Year)||Chase Sapphire Preferred||Chase Sapphire Reserve||Total Difference (Added Value)|
|$1,000/month; $12,000/year||2,000 points per month; 24,000 per year||3,000 points per month; 36,000 per year||12,000-point difference per year; worth $252 in extra value|
|$2,000/month; $24,000/year||4,000/month; 48,000/year||6,000/month; 72,000/year||24,000-point difference; $504 in value|
|$3,000/month; $36,000/year||6,000/month; 72,000/year||9,000/month; 108,000/year||36,000-point difference; $756 in value|
|$5,000/month; $60,000/year||10,000/month; 120,000/year||15,000/month; 180,000/year||60,000-point difference; $1,260 in value|
|$10,000/month; $120,000/year||20,000/month; 240,000/year||30,000/month; 360,000/year||120,000-point difference; $2,520 in value|
If you choose to transfer your points from the sign-up bonus to one of Chase’s 13 travel partners, there’s potential for some great value for amazing premium-class redemptions. You can transfer 35,000 miles to United for a one-way business-class flight on a transcon route. Another great option is to book short-haul flights for 9,000 British Airways Avios each in a premium cabin (outside the US) — you can get 5 of them with this sign-up bonus. The possibilities are endless.
Annual Travel Credit — One of the biggest benefits of the card is the $300 annual travel credit because it can be applied toward purchases that qualify as travel (defined above). There’s no need to specify what kind of travel you want to use it for because Chase will automatically credit your account $300 when you use it to make eligible purchases.
Priority Pass Lounge Access — Although you won’t be able to access Delta Sky Clubs (as you can with Amex Platinum) or Admirals Clubs, the Reserve card does include a Priority Pass Select membership, which gives you access to more than 1,000 airport lounges across the world. In addition, authorized users receive a Priority Pass Select membership of their own. You’ll pay $75 to add each authorized user to your Reserve account, but they’ll be able to take advantage of at least one of the card’s nicest perks.
Priority Pass’ network of lounges includes some premium lounges, both in the US and abroad. For example, the Virgin America Loft at LAX, the Air France Lounge at JFK and the SkyTeam Lounge at London-Heathrow (LHR) are all part of this program.
Application Fee Credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck — Like many other premium cards, the CSR will reimburse you when you charge the application fee for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck to the card. Remember that Global Entry includes PreCheck, so that’s the smarter choice. This benefit is available to cardholders once every four years, and if you already have enrolled, you can use the credit to cover a friend or family member’s application fee.
Visa Infinite Perks — Because the Sapphire Reserve is a Visa Infinite card, you’ll have access to a selection of the perks that come along with the program. Highlights of the program (that also apply to this card) include a $100 Global Entry fee credit, primary rental car insurance, trip cancellation and delay coverage, lost luggage reimbursement, a concierge service and access to the Luxury Hotel & Resort Collection.
Which cards compete with the Chase Sapphire Reserve?
The CSR’s most natural competitors, besides the Chase Sapphire Preferred, are other premium cards like the Platinum Card from American Express. The Amex Platinum, which now has a $550 annual fee, is a strong pick when it comes to airfare purchases, since it earns 5x Membership Rewards, but for more general travel purchases as well as dining spending you’re getting just 1 point per dollar compared to the Chase Sapphire Reserve’s 3x points. The Amex Platinum does offer complimentary Gold elite status with Hilton and Starwood (which can be matched to Marriott), while the Sapphire Reserve only comes with a shortcut to status in the Relais & Châteaux Club 5C program. On the other hand, the Platinum Card’s $200 annual airline fee credit is much less flexible than the Reserve’s $300 annual travel credit, since you can only use the Platinum’s with one designated airline and in that case it’s not even valid for actual airfare — though there are some workarounds.
There’s also the Citi Prestige, which like the CSR has a $450 annual fee. The Citi ThankYou Rewards program’s selection of transfer partners isn’t as impressive as Chase’s list (there’s currently no hotel partner), but the Prestige does stand out for its 4th Night Free benefit. If you make a lot of paid hotel stays at high-end properties, it could be worth using this card for that but still using the Sapphire Reserve for the majority of your travel and dining spending.
Other premium cards like the Ritz-Carlton Rewards Card and Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card make less of an apples-to-apples comparison, since they’re co-branded hotel cards that focus on providing high-end benefits and status to travelers within a specific loyalty program rather than premium perks that aren’t tied to a specific brand. Plus, the points the Chase Sapphire Reserve earns are more valuable.
Who’s eligible for the Chase Sapphire Reserve?
It can be difficult to get approved for some Chase cards due to the issuer’s restrictive application requirements — more specifically, the 5/24 rule. For those who haven’t heard of it, the 5/24 rule with Chase is an unconfirmed policy (but it has been widely reported) that if you’ve opened five credit card accounts with any issuer in the past 24 months, your application will be automatically declined. Although there are reports of some customers being approved for the Chase Sapphire Reserve Card despite having opened five or more cards within the past 24 months, it looks like many are being declined. The only way to tell if you’re eligible for the card is to apply!
If you aren’t approved, you may be able to upgrade to Reserve. Unfortunately, if you choose to upgrade your Chase Sapphire Preferred Card to the Reserve, you won’t qualify for the sign-up bonus. However, you will be able to reap the other benefits of the card. So, the decision whether or not to upgrade the card will vary on a case-by-case basis.
The Chase Sapphire Reserve is great news for the consumer, because not only are we getting a top-of-the-line credit card with premium perks, but it also puts the pressure on other issuers to up their games. I’ve been saying forever that the Amex Platinum Card is great to have because of its benefits, such as Centurion Lounge and Delta Sky Club access, but it’s terrible for points earning. And, in fact, the card now offers 5x Membership Rewards points on airfare — likely in an effort to stay competitive with the CSR.
I think this card is a complete no-brainer — especially for big spenders and frequent travelers. The card’s annual fee could easily be justified even for small spenders if the primary goal is points earning. While the new Sapphire Reserve Card lacks major airline lounge access, you can pay $50 for entrance six times a year with the $300 travel credit and still come out ahead with the 3x earning structure and other benefits.
This is one of the top premium cards out there since you earn 3x on all travel and dining and have access to great perks like a $300 travel credit each cardmember year, 50% more value when you redeem points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards and you get elite travel benefits like Global Entry application fee rebate, Priority Pass Select and special rental car privileges.
- Earn 50K 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®
- $300 Annual Travel Credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year
- Named a ‘Best Travel Credit Card for 2017’ by MONEY® Magazine
- 3X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases. Plus, no foreign transaction fees
- Get 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 50,000 points are worth $750 toward travel
- 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
- Access to 1,000+ airport lounges worldwide after an easy, one-time enrollment in Priority Pass™ Select
- Up to $100 application fee credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®