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, and it’s currently offering a rare elevated sign-up bonus. 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 3x 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 temporarily 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 Chase Sapphire Reserve’s annual fee has increased to $550 a year in recent years, but that fee increase came with new perks. For example, the card now also offers DoorDash credits ($60 in 2021), a Lyft Pink membership and up to $120 on Peloton Digital or All-Access memberships through Dec. 31, 2021.
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?
Even with its annual fee, the Chase Sapphire Reserve is a great card for most travelers.
First, Chase Ultimate Rewards are one of the most valuable points currencies. They’re easy to redeem, with a wide range of 13 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.
For those with sticker shock about the $550 annual fee, the little sister of Chase Sapphire Reserve — the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card — is a solid option.
The Sapphire Preferred is our most-recommended first rewards credit card to get, has an annual fee of just $95 and currently has a higher current sign-up bonus of 80,000 points after $4,000 in spend in the first three months of account opening (plus up to $50 in statement credits for grocery purchases made in the first year).
But the Sapphire Reserve combines strong value with simplicity and a better-earning structure than the Sapphire Preferred. Chase defines travel and dining broadly for 3x bonus categories on the Sapphire Reserve (vs. 2x on the Preferred), so it’s easy to reap the full benefits of your card.
Sign-up bonus: Worth a minimum of $900
Until recently, we haven’t seen an elevated sign-up bonus on the Chase Sapphire Reserve in years, so right now, new applicants have the opportunity to really take advantage of a great offer. With a value of 2 cents apiece for Ultimate Rewards points (according to TPG valuations), the current 60,000-point bonus (after you spend $4,000 in the first three months of account opening) on the Sapphire Reserve is worth $1,200. That’s equivalent to more than 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 not hard for most travelers to spend $300 a year on airfare, hotels, car rentals or other travel expenses.
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. On top of that, you can use the travel credit towards groceries and gas until June 30, 2021.
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 $900 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.
The Chase Sapphire Reserve doesn’t offer quite as many perks as The Platinum Card® from American Express, but with the card’s new benefits with DoorDash, Lyft and Peloton, 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 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.
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.
Peloton statement credits – Earn up to $120 back in statement credits on eligible Peloton Digital or All-Access memberships through Dec. 31, 2021. These memberships come with full access to Peloton’s workout library through the app, and no equipment is required. These memberships are great for anyone who makes it a habit to workout even while traveling for work or on vacation.
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 several 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 build your Ultimate Rewards account. 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 Chase 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 annual fee difference 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 without considering any other perks and benefits. You can hit that mark by spending as little as $750 a month on travel and dining.
If you choose to transfer your points to one of Chase’s 13 travel partners, there’s potential for some amazing redemptions. You could get a two-night stay at Le Grand Bellevue (a Hyatt property) in Switzerland or a flight to Europe in Delta One business class (by transferring to Virgin Atlantic) with this bonus alone.
In addition to redeeming with transfer partners, you can also book travel through the Chase travel portal at 1.5 cents each. While it’s not always the best value, this is a great option for boutique hotels that don’t belong to a larger brand such as Marriott or Hyatt. It’s also great for booking flights when cash prices are low.
Chase did add a new redemption option in 2020 — the Pay Yourself Back program. You can currently also redeem your points at 1.5 cents each for grocery purchases, home improvement store purchases, and dining/takeout spending (bonus categories valid through Sept. 30, 2021)
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:
- Best ways to redeem Chase points on Star Alliance airlines
- Best ways to redeem Chase points on Oneworld airlines
- Best ways to redeem Chase points on SkyTeam airlines
Which cards compete with the Chase Sapphire Reserve?
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 and with American Express Travel (starting Jan. 1, 2021, earn 5x points on up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year) and 5x points on prepaid hotels booked with American Express Travel. 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. But 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 and only for specific ancillary fees. Unlike the Sapphire’s credit, it’s not even valid for actual airfare and Amex has recently cracked down on some popular workarounds. Enrollment required for select benefits.
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, 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.
The information for the Hilton Aspire Amex card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
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.
Related: The best ways to use your 5/24 slots
Additionally, the Sapphire Reserve is not available to either current cardmembers of any Sapphire credit card, or previous cardmembers of any Sapphire credit card who received a new cardmember bonus within the last 48 months.
If you currently have the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, you can call Chase to see if you are eligible to upgrade to the Sapphire Reserve even if you aren’t otherwise eligible.
The Chase Sapphire Reserve is a complete no-brainer credit card for those who love travel rewards — especially for more frequent travelers.
The $300 travel credit effectively brings the true card’s annual fee down from $550 to $250. This means the annual fee can be justified even for smaller 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 60,000-point bonus.
Additional reporting by Madison Blancaflor.
Featured image by The Points Guy.
For rates and fees of the Amex Platinum Card, please click here.
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