One year of earning and burning with Chase Sapphire Reserve

Apr 28, 2020

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Editor’s note: This post has been updated with current information.

If you’re new to rewards credit cards, one of the best ways to get started is by choosing a solid travel rewards credit card. If you aren’t already a road warrior, your everyday spending habits play a huge role in earning points and miles — especially since TPG’s recent survey on credit cards shows that most Americans have between zero and two credit cards.

So, let’s consider how easy it is to earn rewards by opening and using a single card for one year, as well as what types of rewards one year of spending could provide. Today, I’ll consider one of the most popular premium travel rewards cards on the market: the Chase Sapphire Reserve.

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In This Post

Sign-up bonus and benefits

Chase Sapphire Reserve card (Photo by Wyatt Smith/The Points Guy)
(Photo by Wyatt Smith/The Points Guy)

The Chase Sapphire Reserve is currently offering a sign-up bonus of 60,000 Ultimate Rewards points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening.

This bonus is worth $1,200 based on TPG’s most recent valuations, thanks to the various ways you can redeem Ultimate Rewards points. The card also offers 3 points per dollar spent on travel and dining purchases as well as 10x points per dollar spent on Lyft rides through March 2022.

Related reading: Sapphire showdown: Chase Sapphire Preferred vs. Chase Sapphire Reserve

Even though the Sapphire Reserve carries a $550 annual fee, numerous other benefits can add significant value:

Related reading: Six little-known Chase Sapphire Reserve perks

Earning points in your first year

So, if you open the Chase Sapphire Reserve, earn the sign-up bonus and use the card exclusively for the first year, where does that leave you? Obviously, the answer depends on your spending patterns. For this analysis, I used consumer-expenditure data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics for the most recent year available (2017) to estimate what an “average” household would spend (and thus earn) on the Chase Sapphire Reserve in one year.

In doing so, I made the following assumptions:

  • Only the “other lodging” category under “shelter” can easily be paid with a credit card (since you’ll usually pay a fee for paying mortgage and rent payments with credit cards), and these transactions earn 3x points as travel purchases.
  • The “vehicle purchases” category under “transportation” can’t be paid with a credit card, but all other transportation expenses can.
  • 10% of the “public and other transportation” consists of Lyft rides
  • 50% of the “healthcare” category consists of premiums and thus can’t be paid with a credit card.
  • All “personal insurance and pensions” expenditures can’t be paid with a credit card.
  • All other expenses (including “entertainment” and “education“) can be paid with a credit card.

Your situation may differ substantially, so feel free to adjust these assumptions to calculate your earning potential. Likewise, if you plan to use another card for some expenses, be sure to consider that as well.

Related reading: Credit card showdown: Chase Sapphire Reserve versus Ink Business Preferred

Here’s a quick table that shows how these spending patterns in the first year of card membership would translate to Ultimate Rewards points:

Category Spending Earning rate Points
Sign-up bonus N/A N/A 60,000
Food at home $4,363 1 point/$ 4,363
Food away from home $3,365 3 points/$ 10,095
Alcoholic beverages $558 1 point/$ 558
Housing (other lodging) $782 3 points/$ 2,346
Utilities, fuels and public services $3,836 1 point/$ 3,836
Household operations $1,412 1 point/$ 1,412
Housekeeping supplies $755 1 point/$ 755
Household furnishings and equipment $1,987 1 point/$ 1,987
Apparel and services $1,833 1 point/$ 1,833
Transportation (gasoline) $1,968 1 point/$ 1,968
Other vehicle expenses $2,842 1 point/$ 2,842
Public and other transportation $712 3 points/$ for 90%

10 points/$ for 10%

Healthcare $2,464 1 point/$ 2,464
All other expenses $6,908 1 point/$ 6,908
TOTALS $33,785 N/A 104,001

As you can see, the “average” American consumer would earn 104,001 Ultimate Rewards points in his or her first year of using the Chase Sapphire Reserve. Not too shabby!

Related reading: Chase Sapphire Reserve credit card review

Redeeming points from your first year

Of course, earning points is one thing, but knowing how to redeem Ultimate Rewards points for maximum value is a completely different story. Fortunately, the Ultimate Rewards program has a variety of valuable redemptions, most of which involve transferring to the program’s partners at a 1:1 ratio.

Here’s a sample of what the average consumer could get from one year of using the Chase Sapphire Reserve.

Up to four round-trip economy tickets to Hawaii

Honolulu, Hawaii. (Photo by Timur Alexandrov / EyeEm)
Your points could take you to Honolulu, Hawaii. (Photo by Timur Alexandrov/EyeEm)

Planning a trip using points and miles to the Aloha State isn’t always the easiest goal. However, you have a wealth of options at your disposal through the Ultimate Rewards program.

My personal favorite is for West Coast residents. By transferring points to British Airways, you can take advantage of BA’s distance-based award chart to book tickets from several gateways to Hawaii for just 26,000 Avios round-trip per person. For example, you could fly from Los Angeles (LAX) and Phoenix (PHX) on American Airlines or San Diego (SAN), Oakland (OAK), Portland (PDX) and Seattle (SEA) on Alaska Airlines. This means you can book three round-trip tickets and even have 16,000 Ultimate Rewards points left over.

Transferring to Singapore Airlines Krisflyer for economy-class flights to Hawaii on Alaska is also a great option. Flights from most Rocky Mountain states cost 23,000 Krisflyer miles round-trip, while flights from California, Oregon and Washington cost 24,000 miles round-trip (see this pdf for rates). Flights from many central U.S. states cost 25,000 miles round-trip. So, if you happen to be traveling from an eligible Rocky Mountain state, you may be able to stretch your Ultimate Rewards points to four round-trip flights.

Finally, you could always transfer to Singapore (35,000 miles) for round-trip flights from anywhere in the continental U.S. on United. But this would only get you two round-trip economy tickets with your haul of Ultimate Rewards points.

Related reading: The best ways to use credit card award-night certificates in Hawaii

Three nights in a top-tier Hyatt property

(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)
The Park Hyatt St. Kitts is a beautiful Category 7 property. (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

Another incredibly valuable transfer partner through Ultimate Rewards is World of Hyatt. After a year of spending on the Chase Sapphire Reserve, you’ll have enough points for three free nights at Hyatt’s excellent Category 7 properties or 18 free nights at Hyatt’s impressive Category 1 properties.

Note that World of Hyatt will move to peak, standard and off-peak pricing in 2021. Once that happens you may only be able to get two Category 7 nights during peak times — but you also may be able to get up to 26 nights at Category 1 properties during off-peak times. Whether you want to splurge for a couple of nights or stretch your points to the max, you can get a ton of value from the World of Hyatt program.

Related reading: Should I get the World Of Hyatt Credit Card or transfer points from Chase instead?

Two or three nights in New York City plus airfare from multiple U.S. cities

Manhattan view from the Top of the Rock (Miguel Sanz / Getty Images)
Use your Ultimate Rewards points to “pay” for a weekend trip to New York City. (Photo by Miguel Sanz/Getty Images)

If you’re looking to redeem your points for a trip that includes both flights and hotel, consider a weekend trip to the Big Apple.

For flights, one of the most economical options would be for those readers east of the Mississippi and would again use British Airways. Flights under 651 miles in distance on partner airlines such as American require only 6,000 Avios per person each way. So, if you can find availability on American, you and a friend could fly to New York City and back from cities like Charlotte (CTL) and Detroit (DTW) for just 24,000 Avios round-trip. Slightly more distant cities such as Miami (MIA) and Chicago (ORD) would cost 9,000 Avios per person each way, for a total of 36,000 Avios for you and a friend round-trip.

You also could consider transferring to Southwest Rapid Rewards, as the carrier serves New York-LaGuardia (LGA) and Long Island MacArthur Airport (ISP). Even though Southwest follows a revenue-based redemption scheme, you can still get some great value on Wanna Get Away fares. At a very quick glance, I was able to find round-trip, nonstop tickets from Atlanta (ATL) to New York (LGA) for a random weekend in October for just 11,760 points each. Or you could redeem your Ultimate Rewards points through the Chase travel portal to book Southwest flights.

Related reading: How to get to New York City on points and miles

For hotels, you could always look at spending a couple of nights at one of the many World of Hyatt properties in Manhattan. My favorites are the Andaz Fifth Avenue (25,000 Hyatt points per night) and the Andaz Wall Street (20,000 Hyatt points per night), but the Gild Hall (15,000 Hyatt points per night) isn’t a bad choice, either. You also have the option of transferring points to Marriott, which has several Category 4 and Category 5 properties in the city. I’d recommend going the Hyatt route, but it’s always nice to have alternatives.

Related reading: From budget to luxe: Use hotel points at these 9 NYC hotels

Bottom line

Many Chase Sapphire Reserve cardholders got a $100 statement credit due to coronavirus. (Photo by Wyatt Smith/The Points Guy)
(Photo by Wyatt Smith/The Points Guy)

The Ultimate Rewards program is one of my favorite transferable currencies and regularly clocks in as one of the most valuable currencies on TPG’s monthly valuations. The Chase Sapphire Reserve, meanwhile, is generally regarded as one of the best travel rewards credit cards out there, giving you a potent combination and unlocking a variety of redemptions.

Keep in mind, too, that the above calculation may even be a bit too conservative because:

The information for the Chase Freedom has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

I hope this post has illustrated just how rewarding a single card (especially in the first year) can be when it comes to free travel.

Apply here for the Chase Sapphire Reserve with a 60,000 point bonus

Additional reporting by Katie Genter.

Featured image by John Gribben/The Points Guy.

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

WELCOME OFFER: 80,000 Points


CARD HIGHLIGHTS: 2X points on all travel and dining, 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.

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More Things to Know
  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,000 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. Plus earn up to $50 in statement credits towards grocery store purchases within your first year of account opening.
  • Earn 2X points on dining including eligible delivery services, takeout and dining out and travel. Plus, earn 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,000 toward travel.
  • With Pay Yourself Back℠, your points are worth 25% more during the current offer when you redeem them for statement credits against existing purchases in select, rotating categories.
  • Get unlimited deliveries with a $0 delivery fee and reduced service fees on eligible orders over $12 for a minimum of one year with DashPass, DoorDash's subscription service. Activate by 12/31/21.
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more.
  • Get up to $60 back on an eligible Peloton Digital or All-Access Membership through 12/31/2021, and get full access to their workout library through the Peloton app, including cardio, running, strength, yoga, and more. Take classes using a phone, tablet, or TV. No fitness equipment is required.
Regular APR
15.99%-22.99% Variable
Annual Fee
Balance Transfer Fee
Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
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Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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