United Club Infinite Card vs Chase Sapphire Reserve — Which card is right for you?
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Editor’s note: At TPG, our top priority is providing our readers with the information you need to make educated decisions about travel and your rewards-earnings strategy. This is not the best time to travel, domestically or internationally, as airlines have cut major parts of their route network. But we are sharing these travel card offers because they could provide value to cardholders for future travel once coronavirus concerns have subsided.
A continuous battle ongoing in the credit card space is cobranded vs. transferrable credit cards. As airlines continue to devalue award charts, transferrable currencies have become more valuable than ever. However, for those loyal to a specific airline, there is still a lot of value to be had by holding a cobranded airline card, thanks to perks like free checked bags, inflight purchase discounts, the ability to spend your way to elite status and other airline-specific benefits.
So when does it make sense to get one type of card over the other? Today, we’re walking through the benefits of two top premium rewards credit cards, the new United Club Infinite Card and the Chase Sapphire Reserve, to look at which makes the most sense for you.
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|Card||United Club Infinite Card||Chase Sapphire Reserve|
|Sign-up bonus||100,000 miles after you spend $5,000 in the first three months of account opening.||50,000 after you spend $4,000 in the first three months of account opening.|
|Point/mile valuation*||1.3 cents/mile||2 cents/mile|
|Rewards structure||4x on United purchases
2x on travel and dining
1x on everything else
|10x on Lyft
3x on travel and dining
1x on everything else
|Lounge access||United Club membership||Priority Pass Select membership|
|Other benefits||Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee credit (up to $100)
First and second checked bags free
Premier access (priority access for check-in, security when available, boarding and baggage handling)
25% back on United inflight purchases
Premier upgrades on award tickets
|$300 annual travel credit
Redeem points for a 50% bonus through the Ultimate Rewards travel portal
|Travel protections||Trip cancellation/trip interruption insurance
|Trip cancellation/trip interruption insurance
Both premium credit cards have the potential to add a lot of value to your wallet. The primary difference between the two cards is that United’s benefits are geared for United flyers, while the Chase Sapphire Reserve is a more broad travel credit card.
When you should consider the United Club Infinite Card
You are a loyal United flyer
The United Club Infinite Card is best suited for frequent travelers who are loyal to United, since most of the benefits are only available when you fly with the airline. So the only way to really maximize the card and make it worth the annual fee is to fly quite frequently with United. The card rewards that loyalty with 4x miles on United purchase, which is a nice earning rate. Plus, the current limited time offer for the United Club Infinite Card is significantly higher than the Chase Sapphire Reserve‘s ($1,300 in value vs. $1,000 in value respectively based on TPG valuations).
You already have the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card
Chase doesn’t allow you to have more than one Sapphire card at the same time and the issuer makes you wait a full 48 months between earning a Sapphire bonus. So if you have had the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card within the past four years, it’s worth taking into consideration whether you’re willing to give up that 50,000-point bonus on the Chase Sapphire Reserve by applying before the 48-month period is up. If you’re willing to wait, then applying for the United Club Infinite Card may be a better option for you.
Related reading: United Club Infinite Card review
When you should consider the Chase Sapphire Reserve
You aren’t loyal to a specific airline when you travel
The Chase Sapphire Reserve earns Ultimate Rewards points, which is a valuable transferrable currency. While you can only use United miles on United and partner flights, Ultimate Rewards points can be transferred to a number of airline and hotel partners (including United) or redeemed through the Ultimate Rewards travel portal at 1.5 cents each. If you’re booking travel across different airline and hotel brands, Ultimate Rewards points will give you more flexibility than United miles.
Additionally, the Chase Sapphire Reserve offers more broad benefits. That $300 annual travel credit can be used on way more than just United flights and Lyft and DoorDash benefits go beyond just air travel. If you’re looking for a more general travel credit card with benefits that extend beyond a single airline, then the Chase Sapphire Reserve is the way to go.
You already have the United Club Card
Like with the Sapphire cards, Chase does not allow you to have the United Club Infinite Card if you have the legacy United Club Card. Also, you won’t be able to earn the stellar 100,000-mile bonus on the United Club Infinite Card if you’ve earned the bonus on the United Club Card within the last 24 months.
So if you have had the United Club Card recently, make sure you’re eligible for the bonus on the United Club Infinite Card before applying and forking over that $525 annual fee. If you are ineligible for the bonus, the Chase Sapphire Reserve is definitely the better option.
Related reading: Chase Sapphire Reserve card review
Keep in mind that no matter which card you choose, they are both issued by Chase — which means they are both subject to the infamous 5/24 rule. If you’ve opened five or more credit cards in the past two years, you almost certainly won’t be approved for either of these cards.
Both the Chase Sapphire Reserve and United Club Infinite Card are good cards, but they are geared toward different audiences. If you are what’s called a “free agent” who isn’t loyal to a single airline when you travel, the Chase Sapphire Reserve has more flexible redemption options for you to take advantage of. However, if you are someone who almost exclusively flies United, applying for the United Club Infinite Card can get you a lot of great perks with the airline.
Finally, consider the timing when applying for each of these cards. Right now, TPG isn’t advocating for any nonessential travel and there are quite a few travel restrictions in place around the globe as coronavirus concerns continue to rise. Applying for a card now could mean stocking up points and miles for an excellent redemption down the road, but that also means you’ll be stuck paying a $500+ annual fee with no immediate way to offset that cost. But if you are already making plans for when travel is once again safe, applying now is a great way to earn a big sign-up bonus and rack up rewards in advance.
Featured photo by John Gribben for The Points Guy.
WELCOME OFFER: 60,000 Points
TPG'S BONUS VALUATION*: $1,200
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.
- Earn 60,000 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®
- 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 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, 60,000 points are worth $750 toward travel
- Get unlimited deliveries with a $0 delivery fee and reduced service fees on orders over $12 for a minimum of one year on qualifying food purchases with DashPass, DoorDash's subscription service. Activate by 12/31/21.
- Earn 5X points on Lyft rides through March 2022. That’s 3X points in addition to the 2X points you already earn on travel.