Chase Sapphire Reserve credit card review
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Chase Sapphire Reserve Card Overview
The Chase Sapphire Reserve is one of the best rewards credit cards of all time. In January 2020 it got a long-expected refresh that saw the annual fee climb to $550 in exchange for new discounts on Lyft rides and food delivery credits with DoorDash. Offering 3 points per dollar on travel and dining, it earns incredibly valuable Ultimate Rewards points that can be transferred to 13 hotel and airline partners or redeemed directly for flights at a rate of 1.5 cents per point. Add in a $300 annual travel credit, airport lounge access and a free concierge service, and this card is guaranteed to upgrade your travel lifestyle.
Card Rating*: ⭐⭐⭐⭐½
*Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG’s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
The Chase Sapphire Reserve is the card that convinced average consumers that they could come out ahead with a premium credit card even after paying an annual fee of several hundred dollars a year. In fact, the Sapphire Reserve was so successful from the moment it launched in August 2016 (with a short-lived 100,000-point welcome bonus) that Chase ran out of the metal slabs needed to produce the cards.
There has been intense competition in the premium credit card space in recent years, as issuers continue to raise annual fees and add new perks such as food delivery and credits for ride-hailing services. Chase has now followed this path with the Sapphire Reserve. The CSR’s annual fee has increased by $100 to $550 a year. At the same time, the card offers up to $120 in DoorDash credits ($60 in 2020 and $60 in 2021) and a Lyft Pink membership, which includes ride discounts and priority airport pickups.
Related Reading: Significant changes confirmed for Chase’s Sapphire Reserve Card
The Sapphire Reserve has remained incredibly popular among rewards travelers in the years since its launch. It’s not the absolute best card in most categories; for those with sticker shock about the $550 annual fee, the little brother of CSR — the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card — is a solid option. It has an annual fee of $95 and has a higher sign-up bonus of 60,000 points after $4,000 in spend in the first three months. But the Sapphire Reserve combines strong value with simplicity. Unlike other issuers, there’s little ambiguity– Chase defines travel and dining broadly for those 3x bonus categories so it’s easy to reap the full benefits of your card.
Let’s review the features that continue to make the Sapphire Reserve such an attractive card and one that has earned a permanent spot at the top of my wallet.
Who is this card for?
The Chase Sapphire Reserve would be great for most people. First, Chase Ultimate Rewards are one of the most valuable points currencies. They’re easy to redeem, with a wide range of airline and hotel transfer partners and a friendly user interface. (Because of Chase’s 5/24 rule, you’ll want to apply for Chase cards first before turning to other issuers.)
The Reserve’s $550 annual fee is a valid concern, but the $300 annual travel credit drops your real out-of-pocket cost to $250 before you factor in other perks such as the DoorDash credits, Lyft Pink membership and Priority Pass lounge access. Like the bonus categories, this annual credit is automatically applied to a broad range of travel purchases in the U.S. and abroad. Some people might be better off applying for the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, but before making that decision, crunch the numbers on your spending habits and don’t make a decision based on the annual fees alone.
Welcome bonus: Worth a minimum of $750
At 2 cents apiece for Ultimate Rewards points according to TPG valuations, the 50,000-point bonus (after you spend $4,000 in the first three months) on the Sapphire Reserve is worth $1,000. That’s equivalent to nearly two years of the annual fee.
Plus, as mentioned, when you take out the $300 in travel you get each year as a perk, the annual fee is really only $250, because it’s simple to spend $300 a year on travel. 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, 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 in the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal. Even if you’re a novice in the travel rewards field and don’t know how to maximize transfer partners, you’re guaranteed to get at least $750 in travel from the welcome bonus if you use your points to book travel through the portal.
Not only are you getting great value out of bookings through the portal, but any flight you book this way also counts as a revenue booking. This means you’ll earn airline miles and elite credit as well, getting you even more value.
Related reading: How to get more than 1.5 cents in value from Ultimate Rewards Points
The Chase Sapphire Reserve doesn’t offer as many perks as other premium cards such as The Platinum Card® from American Express, but with the card’s new benefits with DoorDash and Lyft that were announced in January 2020, the perk package is useful and valuable for a wide range of travelers. There are even a few areas where the Sapphire Reserve clearly excels, such as its travel credit and the fact that it still allows access to Priority Pass restaurants.
Annual travel credit. One of the biggest benefits of the card is the $300 annual travel credit. Chase will automatically credit your account $300 when you use it to make eligible purchases.
Unlimited DoorDash delivery. Even before Chase revealed the full details of the Sapphire Reserve refresh, it announced that cardholders would be eligible for a total of $120 in DoorDash credits as part of the issuer’s new partnership, which also includes a minimum of one free year of DashPass. Cardholders receive up to $60 in DoorDash credits in 2020 and $60 in DoorDash credits in 2021. DashPass members receive free delivery and reduced service fees on all orders over $12. With the membership normally costing $9.99 a month, this equates to nearly $120 in value and appears to be a direct response to the $10 monthly dining credit Amex added to the American Express® Gold Card in 2019.
Lyft Pink membership. Sapphire Reserve cardholders now also receive a Lyft Pink membership. Launched late in 2019, this program (which normally costs $19.99 a month) offers 15% savings on all car rides, priority airport pickups, surprise offers, relaxed cancellation fees and more. Sapphire Reserve cardmembers will also automatically earn 10x total points every time they use their card for a Lyft ride through March 2022.
Priority Pass Lounge access. Although you won’t have access to Delta Sky Clubs (as you do with the Platinum Amex card) or American Airlines Admirals Clubs (as you do with the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ Mastercard®), the Sapphire Reserve does include a Priority Pass Select membership, which gets you into more than 1,200 airport lounges around 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 CSR account but they’ll be able to take advantage of one of the card’s nicest perks.
The Priority Pass network includes some premium lounges, both in the U.S. and abroad. For example, the Turkish Airlines Lounge at Washington Dulles (IAD), the Alaska Airlines Lounge in New York (JFK), the SkyTeam Lounge in Vancouver (YVR), the Oman Air Lounge in Bangkok (BKK) and the SATS Premier Lounge in Singapore (SIN) are all part of this program. In recent years Priority Pass has also begun adding airport restaurants to its network (you can see the full list here). Amex recently cut these restaurants from its Priority Pass benefit, but Chase Sapphire Reserve cardholders will continue to get free food (usually ~$28 per person) at all of these locations.
Application fee credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck. Like many other premium cards, the Sapphire Reserve 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 have already enrolled, you can use the credit to cover the application fee for a friend or family member.
Visa Infinite Perks. Because the Sapphire Reserve is a Visa Infinite card, you’ll receive the perks that come along with the program. Highlights include primary rental car insurance, trip cancellation and delay coverage, lost luggage reimbursement, a concierge service and access to the Luxury Hotel & Resort Collection.
The ability to redeem with a number of partners is one of the most important aspects of a travel rewards credit card. Besides the welcome bonus, the bonus earning categories will also help built your Ultimate Rewards account. With the card, you’ll earn 3x points on all travel (excluding the $300 travel credit) and dining purchases worldwide and 1x points on everything else. The bonus categories are extensive — ride-hailing services, food delivery, etc.
To get an idea of how much more value you can get from the Sapphire Reserve card on the travel and dining bonus earning categories, here’s a comparison with what you’d earn with the Sapphire Preferred. The table takes into consideration that you won’t earn points on the $300 in travel that is reimbursed by the Sapphire Reserve’s travel credit.
|Travel & Dining 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||2,925 points per month; 35,100 per year||11,100-point difference per year; worth $222 in extra value|
|$2,000/month; $24,000/year||4,000/month; 48,000/year||5,925/month; 71,100/year||23,100-point difference; $462 in value|
|$3,000/month; $36,000/year||6,000/month; 72,000/year||8,925/month; 107,100/year||35,100-point difference; $702 in value|
|$5,000/month; $60,000/year||10,000/month; 120,000/year||14,925/month; 179,100/year||59,100-point difference; $1,182 in value|
|$10,000/month; $120,000/year||20,000/month; 240,000/year||29,925/month; 359,100/year||119,100-point difference; $2,382 in value|
Once you factor in the $300 travel credit, the difference in annual fee between the two cards is $155 ($250-$95). That means you’d need to earn an extra 7,750 Ultimate Rewards points a year with the Reserve to come out ahead. You can hit that mark by spending as little as $750 a month on travel and dining.
If you choose to transfer your points from the welcome bonus to one of Chase’s 13 travel partners, there’s potential for some amazing redemptions. You can book short-haul flights of up to 1,151 miles on American Airlines for only 9,000 British Airways Avios each way — so you could get up to five of these short-haul flights with this welcome bonus. Another great option would be to book one-way economy awards to Europe on Star Alliance airlines. United has switched to dynamic award pricing for its own flights, but Star Alliance partners such as Lufthansa or Swiss Air Lines will still cost a fixed 30,000 miles each way. The possibilities are endless.
If you’re new to Chase Ultimate Rewards, make sure to see Redeeming Chase Ultimate Rewards for maximum value, as well as our guides for maximizing Chase redemptions with each major airline alliance:
Related reading: Best sweet spots with Chase Ultimate Rewards
Which cards compete with the Chase Sapphire Reserve?
The Sapphire Reserve‘s most natural competitors, besides the Chase Sapphire Preferred, are other premium cards, such as The Platinum Card® from American Express. The Amex Platinum, with its $550 annual fee (see rates and fees), is a strong pick when it comes to airfare purchases, since it earns 5x Membership Rewards points on flights booked directly through airlines or via Amex Travel (starting Jan. 1, 2021, earn 5x points on up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year). Also, 5x points on prepaid hotels booked through Amex Travel. But for more general travel purchases, as well as dining spending, you’re getting just 1 point per dollar, compared to the Sapphire Reserve’s 3x points. The Amex Platinum does offer complimentary Gold elite status with Hilton and Marriott, along with access to Fine Hotels & Resorts, while the Sapphire Reserve only offers access to the Luxury Hotel & Resort Collection.
The Platinum Card’s annual airline fee credit of up to $200 is also much less flexible than the Sapphire Reserve’s $300 annual travel credit, since you can only use the Platinum’s with one designated airline. Unlike the Sapphire’s credit, it’s not even valid for actual airfare and Amex has recently cracked down on some popular workarounds.
There’s also the Citi Prestige® Card, which relaunched in January 2019, with 5x earning for both dining and air travel. The Citi ThankYou Rewards program’s selection of transfer partners isn’t as impressive as Chase’s list (there are currently no hotel partners), but the Prestige does stand out for its 4th Night Free benefit. Unfortunately, this benefit is now capped at twice per year. Even so, if you make paid hotel stays at high-end properties, it could be worth using the Citi Prestige Card for that perk but still using the Sapphire Reserve for the majority of your travel and dining spending. Also note that Citi cut most of the card’s travel and purchase perks as of September 2019. The information for the Citi Prestige has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
Other premium cards such as the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card are harder to compare because they are cobranded cards that focus on providing high-end benefits and status to travelers within the Hilton or other loyalty programs 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 because of the issuer’s restrictive application requirements — specifically, the 5/24 rule. The 5/24 rule is an unconfirmed policy (but one that 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 despite having opened five or more cards within the past 24 months, an overwhelming majority are being declined. Before you apply, make sure to check your own credit report and see how many cards you’ve opened in the last two years.
If you aren’t approved, you may be able to upgrade your Chase Sapphire Preferred Card to the Sapphire Reserve, but you won’t qualify for the welcome bonus. You will be able to reap the other benefits of the card, however, so the decision whether to upgrade the card will vary on a case-by-case basis.
Featured Image by The Points Guy
The Chase Sapphire Reserve is a complete no-brainer — especially for big spenders and frequent travelers. The $300 travel credit effectively brings the card’s annual fee down from $550 to $250. This means the annual fee can be justified even for small spenders if the primary goal is points earning. With 3x travel and dining bonus categories, industry-leading travel protections, valuable Chase Ultimate Rewards points and various perks, the Chase Sapphire Reserve is one of our best credit cards.
Here’s the link to apply for the Chase Sapphire Reserve with a 50,000-point bonus.
For rates and fees of the Amex Platinum Card, please click here.
Welcome to The Points Guy!
SIGN-UP BONUS: 50,000 Points
TPG'S BONUS VALUATION*: $1,000
CARD HIGHLIGHTS: 3X points on all travel and dining, $300 annual travel credit, 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.
- Earn 50,000 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®
- $300 Annual Travel Credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year. From 6/1/20 through 6/30/21, gas station & grocery store purchases will also count towards earning your Travel Credit
- 3X points on travel immediately after earning your $300 travel credit. 3X points on dining at restaurants including eligible delivery services, takeout and dining out & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
- 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
- With Pay Yourself Back℠, your points are worth 50% more during the current offer when you redeem them for statement credits against existing purchases in select, rotating categories
- 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 and up to $100 application fee credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®
- Earn 3x total points on up to $1,000 in grocery store purchases per month from November 1, 2020 to April 30, 2021. Includes eligible pick-up and delivery services