Reader credit card question: What are some alternatives to the Chase Sapphire Reserve?
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$450 was already pushing it for me, $550 is just way too much. What alternatives are there to this card that gives me as many points for eating out and travel? Ideally with Priority Pass too?Jazzy
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The recent annual fee increase on the Chase Sapphire Reserve has caused many cardholders to reconsider whether the card is worth a $550 annual fee. It can certainly make sense to keep the Sapphire Reserve for some cardholders. But, especially for cardholders that believe they’ll get little to no added value from the card’s new Lyft and DoorDash benefits, it may be time to consider replacing the Sapphire Reserve.
Related reading: Consider your options before canceling your Chase Sapphire Reserve
Based on Jazzy’s question, she is primarily interested in maximizing the points she earns at restaurants and on travel purchases, but she would also ideally like access to Priority Pass lounges. Enrollment required for select benefits. I assume since she is looking for replacements for the Chase Sapphire Reserve that she would prefer to earn transferable points.
So, let’s focus on some of the best consumer cards that can provide the benefits Jazzy wants for a modest annual fee:
- American Express® Green Card: Best for modern travelers who want to earn Amex Membership Rewards points
- Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card: Best for getting 10 Priority Pass visits each membership year (enrollment required for select benefits).
- American Express® Gold Card: Best for foodies who want to earn Amex Membership Rewards points at restaurants
- Chase Sapphire Preferred Card: Best for earning Chase Ultimate Rewards points
- Citi Premier® Card: Best for earning Citi ThankYou Rewards points
Related reading: The no-annual-fee cards that best the Chase Sapphire Reserve
Comparing the best low annual fee cards for travel, restaurants and lounge access
|Annual fee||Earning rate for restaurants (Return based on TPG’s valuations)||Earning rate for travel (Return based on TPG’s valuations)||Lounge access|
|American Express Green Card||$150 (see rates and fees)||3x Membership Rewards points (6%)||3x Membership Rewards points (6%)||Up to $100 LoungeBuddy statement credit each calendar year|
|Hilton Honors American Express Surpass Card||$0 intro annual fee (see rates & fees) for the first year, then $95 (see rates & fees). Offer ends 8/25/2021.||6x Hilton points at U.S. restaurants (3.6%)||12x Hilton points on purchases made directly with hotels and resorts within the Hilton portfolio (7.2%)||10 free lounge visits each Priority Pass Membership year once enrolled (enrollment required for select benefits).|
|American Express Gold Card||$250 (see rates and fees)||4x Membership Rewards points (8%)||3x Membership Rewards points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com (6%)||None|
|Chase Sapphire Preferred Card||$95||2x Ultimate Rewards points (4%)||2x Ultimate Rewards points (4%)||None|
|Citi Premier® Card||$95||2x ThankYou points (3.4%)||3x ThankYou points (5.1%)||None|
The information for the Amex Green has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
Welcome bonus: 30,000 Membership Rewards points after you spend $2,000 on purchases on your new card in your first three months of card membership. Based on TPG’s valuation of Membership Rewards points at two cents each, this bonus is worth about $600.
Annual fee: $150
Lounge benefits: Purchase lounge access through LoungeBuddy and receive up to $100 in statement credits per calendar year
The American Express Green Card provides just as good of a return on travel and dining purchases as the Chase Sapphire Reserve for a much lower annual fee. It also offers two $100 statement credits each calendar year that can more than offset the $150 annual fee for some travelers.
Granted, the travel protections offered by the Amex Green aren’t as extensive as those offered by the Chase Sapphire Reserve, and the lounge access is more limited. But for some travelers, the lower annual fee will easily justify the switch.
- For the modern traveler: American Express Green Card review
- Who should and who shouldn’t get the Amex Green?
- Why the Amex Green is my new favorite card for points-and-miles beginners
Apply here for the American Express Green Card
Welcome bonus: Earn 130,000 Hilton bonus points after you spend $2,000 in purchases on the card in the first three months of card membership. Offer ends 8/25/2021. Based on TPG’s valuation of Hilton points at 0.6 cents each, this bonus is worth about $780.
Earning: 12x Hilton points at hotels and resorts within the Hilton portfolio (7.2% return based on TPG valuations); 6x points at U.S. restaurants, at U.S. supermarkets, and at U.S. gas stations (3.6%); 3x points on everything else (1.8%)
Enrollment required for select benefits
The Hilton Honors American Express Surpass Card provides decent earning at U.S. restaurants and at Hilton properties — but the real reason to have this card is the 10 free lounge visits each Priority Pass Membership year. If you use all 10 visits and don’t get value from any of the cards other benefits, you’ll get each lounge visit for $9.50 — which is a great value, especially if you use your visits at some of the best Priority Pass lounges. Enrollment required for select benefits
The Hilton Surpass also comes with Hilton Gold status, which is enough to get you complimentary breakfast at all Hilton hotels and space-available room upgrades up to executive type. And you can earn a free weekend night reward from Hilton after you spend $15,000 on eligible purchases on your card in a calendar year. It may be worth having the Hilton Surpass Card even if you put most of your spending on another card.
- Hilton Honors American Express Surpass Card review
- Hilton Surpass vs. Hilton Aspire: Which card is right for you?
- The best credit cards for Priority Pass lounge access
Apply here for the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass Card
Welcome bonus: 60,000 Membership Rewards points after you spend $4,000 on purchases on your new card in your first six months of card membership. Based on TPG’s valuation of Membership Rewards points at two cents each, this bonus is worth about $700.
Annual fee: $250 (see rates and fees)
Earning: 4x Membership Rewards points when you dine at restaurants (8% return based on TPG’s valuations); 4x points at U.S. supermarkets on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases (8% return); 3x points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com (6% return); 1x points on everything else (2% return)
Lounge benefits: None
The American Express Gold Card earns an 8% return at restaurants, which is better than what is earned by the Chase Sapphire Reserve. But the Amex Gold only earns 3x points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com, so many types of travel expenses will only earn 1x. The Amex Gold also doesn’t provide Priority Pass lounge access, so it will only be a good pick if you can maximize the $10 monthly dining credit at select restaurants. Enrollment required for select benefits
- American Express Gold credit card review
- Who should (and who shouldn’t) get the Amex Gold card?
- Maximizing the American Express Gold Card
Apply here for the American Express Gold Card
Welcome bonus: 100,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months after account opening. Based on TPG’s valuation of Chase Ultimate Rewards points at 2 cents each, this bonus is worth up to $2,000.
Annual fee: $95
Lounge benefits: None
The Chase Sapphire Preferred Card earns 2x points instead of 3x points on travel and dining when compared to the Chase Sapphire Reserve, doesn’t come with a Priority Pass Select membership, offers weaker travel protections and only gets 1.25 cents per point when booking through the Chase Travel portal (instead of 1.5 cents per point with the Sapphire Reserve). Enrollment required for select benefits
But the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card can be a solid downgrade option — or a good option to sign up for once you’re eligible for the sign-up bonus after downgrading to the Chase Freedom (No longer open to new applicants) or Chase Freedom Unlimited — that will allow you to maintain the rewards you’ve earned with your Sapphire Reserve. Your rewards will only be worth 1 cent each if you downgrade your Sapphire Reserve to the Chase Freedom or Chase Freedom Unlimited. But your rewards can become transferrable again once you add an Ultimate Rewards-earning card like the Chase Sapphire Preferred or Ink Business Preferred Credit Card to your wallet.
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.
- Chase Sapphire Preferred credit card review
- Should the Chase Sapphire Preferred be your next card?
- Chase Sapphire Preferred vs. Chase Sapphire Reserve: Which card is right for you?
Apply here for the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card
Citi Premier® Card
Welcome bonus: 80,000 Bonus Points after you make $4,000 in purchases with your card within the first three months of account opening
Annual fee: $95
Earning: 3x ThankYou points on travel including gas stations (5.1% return based on TPG’s valuations), 2x points at restaurants and on entertainment (3.4% return); 1x points on all other purchases (1.7% return)
Lounge benefits: None
If you’d rather earn Citi ThankYou points than American Express Membership Rewards points, the Citi Premier® Card is your best bet due to 3x points on travel including gas stations and 2x points at restaurants. Although Citi removed all travel protections from its cards in 2019, the Citi Premier still offers solid extended warranty protection.
- Citi Premier credit card review
- 4 reasons to get the Citi Premier® Card
- Citi Premier: Should this be your next card?
Apply here for the Citi Premier® Card
If you’re set on not paying the Chase Sapphire Reserve‘s $550 annual fee, this guide hopefully showed you that there are other options that still provide some of the Sapphire Reserve’s most popular benefits. The most appealing option may be to use the American Express Green Card for travel and restaurant expenses and use the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass Card for Hilton stays and Priority Pass access. Enrollment required for select benefits. Together, the annual fees of these two cards total $245, which is a nice decrease from the Sapphire Reserve’s $550 annual fee.
Alternatively, if you prefer using the Chase Ultimate Rewards program or still have points in your account when the annual fee comes due on your Sapphire Reserve, you may want to downgrade your Sapphire Reserve to the Chase Freedom or Chase Freedom Unlimited. Then, you can apply for the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card once you’re eligible for the sign-up bonus and regain the ability to transfer rewards to partners.
- Chase Sapphire Reserve credit card review
- Consider your options before canceling your Chase Sapphire Reserve
- Best credit cards for dining out and ordering in
- The best travel credit cards
- Best credit cards for airport lounge access
- Best credit cards with no foreign transaction fees
Featured image by Wyatt Smith/The Points Guy.
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