10 reasons the Chase Sapphire Reserve is ideal for living or traveling abroad
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Editor’s note: This post has been updated with current information and offers. It was originally published on Sept. 12, 2016.
Living abroad, I have to be selective about my credit card choices. It’s too complicated to have more than five or six cards, as most of my banking is done in Spain with a Spanish bank account and Spanish credit cards. Despite the recent changes, here’s why the Chase Sapphire Reserve is still in my wallet.
Priority Pass lounge access
Priority Pass boasts more than 1,300 lounges worldwide, with tons of locations in Europe, Asia and Africa as well as in Latin America and the United States. This makes a Priority Pass membership ideal for travelers who are frequently outside the United States. In fact, some of the Priority Pass program’s most luxurious spots are found abroad, such as the SkyTeam Lounge in Vancouver and the Oman Air Lounge in Bangkok. Some international airports, like Singapore’s Changi, give Priority Pass members access to several different lounges.
By comparison, The Platinum Card® from American Express offers access to the wonderful network of Centurion Lounges, but this doesn’t benefit me much since most of these lounges are in airports within the United States. The Amex Platinum does offer a Priority Pass Select membership as well as lounge access through the American Express Global Lounge Collection — but it’s not necessarily worth paying the Amex Platinum’s $550 annual fee (see rates and fees) primarily for lounge access.
There are also airline cobranded cards that offer lounge access, such as the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ Mastercard®’s Admirals Club airport lounge membership. The downside, again, is that most of these lounges are in the United States, although American Airlines does have a handful of Admirals Club locations outside the United States and primary cardholders may get some value from accessing partner lounges at select foreign airports.
Related reading: Best credit cards for airport lounge access
Plenty of transfer partners you can use worldwide
With transfer partners that include Air France/KLM’s Flying Blue and British Airways, I can easily get around Europe using Ultimate Rewards points earned with my Chase Sapphire Reserve. For example, utilizing British Airways’ award chart for economy flights on British Airways, Iberia or Aer Lingus for a nonstop flight of 650 miles or less requires as few as 4,000 miles each way. This means the Chase Sapphire Reserve’s 50,000-point sign-up bonus could fly me round-trip between London and Paris six times. Plus, other Ultimate Rewards transfer partners such as Singapore Airlines are ideal for traveling around Asia or flying between the U.S. and Asia.
Similarly, the Ultimate Rewards program’s hotel transfer partners come in handy all over the world. Marriott has properties in 130 countries, and IHG has hotel locations in more than 100. Or, if I transferred the sign-up bonus of 50,000 points to Hyatt, I could stay 10 nights at Hyatt Category 1 properties for 5,000 points per night — and there are plenty of them around the world, such as the Hyatt House Mexico City/Santa Fe in Mexico and the Hyatt Recency Kuantan Resort in Malaysia.
Finally, although it may not be as lucrative, you can also use Chase points to book hotels and flights through the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal. This could be particularly useful for those remote, far-flung destinations that don’t have hotels with loyalty programs. Plus, with the Chase Sapphire Reserve you’ll get 1.5 cents per point in value when you redeem through the travel portal, compared to 1.25 cents per point with the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card.
Related reading: How to maximize your Chase Ultimate Rewards points
Many U.S. credit cards now have chip technology, but there are still a few that don’t — and some vendors in Europe no longer have credit card readers where you can swipe a magnetic strip. In the past, I’ve also sometimes had trouble with U.S. chip cards in Europe, but Chase cards usually work. I’ve only rarely had issues with my Chase Sapphire Reserve.
Related reading: The top chip and PIN credit cards
Benefits at Relais & Châteaux properties
When you book a stay at Relais & Châteaux properties through the Visa Infinite Concierge and pay for your stay with your U.S.-issued Chase Sapphire Reserve, you’ll get a VIP welcome and complimentary breakfast. However, you must book the best available rate or public rate, and complimentary breakfast is only valid at select properties for a maximum of seven consecutive nights.
This benefit is much more valuable if you’re traveling or living abroad, especially in Europe where there are 364 properties, compared to just 78 in North America.
Luxury Hotel & Resort Collection perks
When you book through Chase’s Luxury Hotel & Resort Collection, you’ll enjoy benefits such as daily breakfast for you and a guest, complimentary Wi-Fi and a special benefit unique to each property. Plus, you’ll get an upgraded room, early check-in and late checkout when available. There are plenty of properties abroad that participate in this program — including 21 in Paris and 41 in London versus just 11 in Chicago and 15 in San Francisco.
Related reading: Guide to Chase’s Luxury Hotel & Resort Collection
No foreign transaction fees
Many top travel rewards cards have eliminated foreign transaction fees, but some still charge them. Living abroad, I refuse to own any card with foreign transaction fees. It’s simply throwing away money, as 85% of my transactions are made outside of the U.S. The Chase Sapphire Reserve doesn’t have these fees, so it’s a great card to use when traveling or living abroad.
Related reading: Best credit cards with no foreign transaction fees
Massive points-earning potential on travel and dining purchases
The Chase Sapphire Reserve is one of the best cards out there for maximizing points earnings on travel and dining; you get three points per dollar spent on purchases in these broad categories. This equals a 6% return based on TPG’s latest valuations. If you frequently travel abroad, it’s likely a lot of your purchases will be travel-related — and you may also be dining out quite a bit — so the Chase Sapphire Reserve is a great card to bring along.
Related reading: Best credit cards for travel purchases
Global Entry fee credit
Many cards offer a statement credit to reimburse your Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee (up to $100), and the Chase Sapphire Reserve is one of them. I fly between Europe and the U.S. several times a year, and fast-tracked immigration clearance via Global Entry has saved me hours and hours of time. Plus, I’ve saved a lot of time with priority security access through TSA PreCheck when traveling from U.S. airports since TSA PreCheck is included with Global Entry.
This benefit is available for Chase Sapphire Reserve cardholders once every four years, but if you already have it (or don’t need it) you can offer to pay for a friend’s application fee using your card and that fee will be reimbursed.
Related reading: Top credit cards for Global Entry and TSA PreCheck
$300 annual travel credit
The Chase Sapphire Reserve offers you $300 in travel credit each year — a great benefit since virtually any travel-related purchase will be eligible, from parking fees to Uber rides to airfare. Aside from spending on hotels and flights, I can also use this benefit for monthly metro and subway passes. Plus, the $300 credit is available once per calendar year, so it’s possible to get $600 in travel credits for a single $550 annual fee during your first 12 months with the card.
Related reading: How to use the Chase Sapphire Reserve $300 annual travel credit
When you use your Chase Sapphire Reserve to purchase travel — including paying the taxes and fees on award tickets — you’ll be covered by the card’s various travel protections. These protections include trip delay insurance, baggage delay insurance and trip cancellation and interruption insurance, all of which can all be useful for frequent travelers.
Related reading: The best credit cards with travel insurance
The Chase Sapphire Reserve is a great choice for pretty much anyone who travels, but it can be particularly awesome for those living or traveling frequently abroad. There are many ways to enjoy the card’s benefits in places outside the U.S.
- Chase Sapphire Reserve credit card review
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- Why one TPG staffer is keeping her Chase Sapphire Reserve
- The power of the Chase Trifecta
- Chase Sapphire Preferred vs. Chase Sapphire Reserve
- Amex Platinum vs. Chase Sapphire Reserve
- Reader credit card question: What are some alternatives to the Chase Sapphire Reserve?
- The best credit cards for digital nomads and long-term travelers
- Battle of the premium travel rewards cards: Which is the best?
- The best travel credit cards
Additional reporting by Katie Genter.
Featured photo by Wyatt Smith/The Points Guy.
For rates and fees of the Amex Platinum card, click here.
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
- 3X points on travel immediately after earning your $300 travel credit. 3X points on dining at restaurants & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases. $0 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✓®
- One Year Complimentary Lyft Pink ($199 minimum value). Complimentary DashPass subscription from DoorDash after activating by 12/31/21.