Why I’m waiting to upgrade to the Chase Sapphire Reserve

Sep 4, 2020

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Earlier this year, Chase dropped some significant changes to its premium card option, the Chase Sapphire Reserve. The card now earns additional rewards on Lyft rides, offers at least one year of DashPass through DoorDash food delivery service and up to $60 in annual credits to DoorDash for the next two years.

(Photo by The Points Guy)
(Photo by The Points Guy)

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While many were disappointed with the changes, since they came with an increased $550 annual fee, I was one of the people who was actually excited about the new card details. In fact, I’d planned to upgrade from my Chase Sapphire Preferred Card to the Chase Sapphire Reserve after the new benefits took effect.

Fast forward almost eight months, and I still have my Chase Sapphire Preferred. I haven’t changed my mind about the Reserve, but I did make the decision to wait before I upgrade. Today, I’m walking through why I decided to wait, and why it can pay off to time any product changes.

I’m not traveling much right now

Like many of you, COVID-19 did a number to my 2020 travel plans. I was lucky to get in a quick trip to Spain before travel became too risky and governments started shutting down international travel, but the rest of my planned trips — Ghana, London and Hawaii among them — were canceled, as was the hope to schedule any last-minute international getaways (which was on my 2020 travel goals list).

Even though Chase has offered a number of temporary perks to help cardholders make the most of their wallet while travel has been put on the back burner, the card’s main benefits still revolve around travel — lounge access, the $300 travel credit and travel protections. Since I know I most likely won’t be able to take advantage of those benefits in 2020, it makes more sense to hold off before upgrading until I know I’ll make the most out of all the card’s benefits.

The Priority Pass-accessible Air France lounge at JFK. (Photo by Nick Ellis/The Points Guy)
Lounge access with Priority Pass Select membership is just one of the great perks of the CSR, but since I’ve put air travel on hold for the time being, I can’t justify a higher annual fee without being able to use these benefits. (Photo by Nick Ellis/The Points Guy)

CSP temporary perks

My Chase Sapphire Preferred also got a number of temporary benefits throughout the summer (many similar to the CSR), which I’ve enjoyed using without having the increased annual fee of the Reserve.

Earlier this year, my CSP was earning 3x on groceries and 5x on Doordash and Tock (offers no longer available). I definitely took advantage of the 5x on Doordash (although my American Express® Gold Card and Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card had me covered on groceries at U.S. supermarkets).

Both of those bonus categories have since expired, but though Sept. 30, 2020, I’m earning 3x on up to $3,000 spent with Instacart, up to $50 in statement credits on an Instacart Express membership, 3x on up to $1,500 spent at gas stations and 5x on up to $1,500 for select streaming services — all of which I’ve used.

Related reading: Chase adds new Sapphire perks and benefits with up to 10x on limited-time categories

I did a precautionary quarantine before making a road trip home to Arkansas to see my family earlier this summer, and Instacart helped make sure I was stocked up on groceries without leaving my apartments. The gas station bonus was perfect for my road trip. And 5x on streaming is always useful between my Spotify, Netflix, Hulu and Disney+ accounts.

Related: Best credit cards for gas purchases

Yes, the Chase Sapphire Reserve also got a number of temporary benefits — most of which were more valuable than the Chase Sapphire Preferred’s — but it wasn’t enough to warrant a switch to the more expensive card while my spending has been lower throughout 2020.

Saving money on the annual fee

Ultimately, the decision came down to cost. Right now, I’m not spending enough or traveling enough to warrant the Chase Sapphire Reserve’s $550 annual fee.

(Photo by John Gribben for The Points Guy)

When I do make the jump to the Chase Sapphire Reserve, I’ll have to pay that annual fee immediately. And if I’m going to pay $550, I want to be able to cash in on the signature perks of the card. If I wait, I can save $455 in annual fees this year while I rack up Ultimate Rewards points for a dream trip (or more likely multiple dream trips) in 2021.

Related: How I used Chase Ultimate Rewards to book my trip to Croatia

Bottom line

I’m absolutely still planning to upgrade to the Chase Sapphire Reserve — that hasn’t changed. However, I’m being strategic about when I decide to make the jump to a card that charges more than five times what my CSP charges each year. 2020 has been filled with uncertainty, and I didn’t want to add “will I be able to fully utilize the CSR’s benefits?” to that list.

Choosing the right cards for you isn’t just about knowing which cards to get — it’s also about timing when you get those cards. Right now, the Chase Sapphire Preferred (along with my other credit cards) is serving me well.

Once COVID-19 becomes less of a concern and my travel spending increases again, I’ll reevaluate and make the product change to the Chase Sapphire Reserve. With any luck, there will be even more benefits that come with the card that I can utilize by then.

Featured image by John Gribben for The Points Guy.

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