3x points on travel and dining. It’s not hard to keep racking up points fast.
$300 annual travel credit. It’s good on just about any travel purchases you make, including airfare, hotels, parking, and tolls. You get it every year you hold the card, and it’s all automatic, and that makes the $450 annual fee a lot more palatable. There’s also a $100 credit toward Global Entry or TSA Precheck enrollment on top of this.
Lots of point transfer partners. You can turn your points into real airline miles with United MileagePlus, Southwest Rapid Rewards, and more instantly. So it’s a great alternative to your airline credit card.
(The information related to the Chase Sapphire Reserve credit card has been collected by MileCards.com and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card.)
$450 annual fee. It’s an upfront fee, no getting around it. But the $300 annual travel credit makes it a lot easier to swallow.
No major U.S. airline lounge membership. The card offers Priority Pass lounge membership that covers 900+ airport lounges with complimentary access for you and your traveling companions. While there are many Priority Pass lounges in U.S. airports, you don’t get access to United Clubs, American Admirals Clubs, or Delta Sky Clubs.
In this in-depth review of the Chase Sapphire Reserve, we’ll cover all the questions you might have before deciding whether to get this card. With a $450 annual fee, you’ll want to read carefully, and we’re happy to answer any questions you have before making a decision.
It’s been a while since a new credit card made a splash as big and loud as Chase Sapphire Reserve, and there is a good reason for that. It had a big 100,000 point intro bonus when it first launched, so even with a $450 annual fee, it made a lot of sense upfront.
Now, the offer is for 50,000 points, which can still get you lots of travel value, but you have to think harder about whether it’s worth it versus its still powerful sibling, the Chase Sapphire Preferred, which has a $0 introductory annual fee the first year, then $95.
Basically, if you spend about $800 a month on dining or travel, which gets 3x points, you’ll come out ahead of the Chase Sapphire Preferred, which also has a 50,000 point bonus. $800 a month on dining and travel will earn you 10,000 extra points a year vs the Preferred, which are worth $150, which is what the Reserve would cost you out of pocket with the $450 annual fee less your first $300 travel credit.
The Sapphire Preferred only earns 2x points on dining and travel and only offers a value of 1.25 cents per point when you book travel on the Chase site, compared to 1.5 cents per point for the Sapphire Reserve. But it has a $0 introductory annual fee the first year, versus $450 for the Sapphire Reserve less its $300 travel credit.
Now, if you’re aggressive, you could get two $300 travel credits in the first year of holding the Reserve (one before this year’s December statement closes, and one beginning with next January’s statement before your next annual fee comes due). That essentially gives you $600 in travel credits vs a single $450 annual fee before you decide whether you want to keep the card.
The Sapphire Reserve earns Ultimate Rewards points (see our full guide to using them), and you can redeem them in a number of ways:
There are other ways to redeem Ultimate Rewards points, like gift cards and merchandise, but the ones listed above get you the best value for your points.
100,000 points or 50,000 points to start makes the card an easy upfront choice. But after the first year, do the benefits and rewards make up for the $450 annual fee?
Let’s crunch some numbers and see if Chase Sapphire Reserve is worth keeping after the first year.
Annual travel credit is not a novel idea, as many premium credit cards like the Citi Prestige offer a similar benefit, however the Chase Sapphire Reserve travel credit is arguably the most comprehensive of them all.
When you make a travel purchase with your card, you’ll get the full amount credited to your account the same day, up to $300 worth a year. It’s automatic – no need to call and request the credit to be applied. There’s even a handy tracker when you login to your account online.
You’ll get credit for airline tickets and even public transportation, tolls, car rentals, lodging, and cruises.
Just be aware you won’t get the credit for vacation rentals, in-flight or on-board cruise goods and services (like onboard internet). Tickets to sightseeing and travel attractions don’t count either.
There’s a list of what merchant types count as a’travel’ on the Chase website.
Remember that in order to be credited each year, your travel charges must be posted before your December statement closing date. The credit doesn’t roll over from year to year.
But if you take full advantage of the $300 credit, the card costs you just $150 to hold per year, rather than $450.
Then the question becomes, can you get $150 in value a year from the card from the points you earn and other benefits?
When you hold a Chase Sapphire Reserve, your Ultimate Rewards points have a value of 1.5 cents per point for travel booked via the Chase website, rather than 1.25 cents that you get with the Chase Sapphire Preferred and Ink Plus cards. So, 10,000 points gets you $150 worth of travel, instead of $125 with the Sapphire Preferred.
Spending $10,000 in a year on the card will earn you at least 10,000 points, and that works out to less than $1,000 a month in spending on your card.
So it’s not hard to earn $150 worth of rewards each year you hold the card.
You also earn whopping 3x points per dollar on travel and dining spending. That’s better than 2x you earn with Chase Sapphire Preferred, and it’s not hard to get $150 in extra travel rewards a year to make up the extra cost of holding the Sapphire Reserve.
When you combine the 3x points with the 1.5 cent per point value for travel, you can earn over $150 in travel rewards a year with just under $300 a month in dining or travel spending. That easily makes up the cost of the $450 annual fee less the $300 travel credit and it’s like earning an incredible 4.5% cash for travel value from all your travel and dining spending.
The Chase Sapphire Reserve card won’t get you into United Clubs, but it will get you into over 900 Priority Pass lounges worldwide. And you can bring your traveling companions in the lounge for no additional charge, so there are no guest fees to worry about.
The Priority Pass lounges are located in most major airports, though in the United States you’ll typically find them in the terminals that serve international flights, so it’s not the most convenient lounge program if you do a lot of domestic flying. But for family vacations overseas it can be a big help.
It’s hard to put a value on this benefit, since you probably wouldn’t buy a Priority Pass membership on its own, but if you did it would set you back $399 a year, plus $27 for each guest every time you visit. So getting free guests with the Sapphire Reserve is a really generous perk.
The Chase Sapphire Reserve card offers excellent travel protection benefits, such as Trip Cancellation insurance, Trip Delay coverage, and Medical Evacuation coverage. There’s even some basic Emergency Medical coverage to handle emergency care while you’re away from home.
Trip Delay coverage can reimburse you up to $500 for hotels or meals when your flight is delayed 6 hours or more.
And Trip Cancellation coverage will take care of up to $10,000 in travel you can’t get refunded if you get very sick and can’t make the trip. Even better, your family members are covered even when you’re not traveling with them. Just purchase their travel with your card to get the benefit.
When you rent a car, the card gives you collision damage coverage that’s primary, which means you won’t have to hassle with filing a claim with your own car insurance company first. As long as the car you rent is worth less than $75,000, and you pay for the rental with your card, you’re covered.
If you have excellent credit, you’re a good candidate for the card, though your you don’t need a perfect 800+ credit score.
Beware that even with excellent credit, you might not be eligible for the Chase Sapphire Reserve card if you’ve opened more than 5 bank credit cards in the last 24 months. This includes cards from other banks, and the 5 card guideline could include cards you’ve recently been added as an authorized user. The good news is if you applied for a card recently and weren’t approved, that won’t count against you.
Another thing to consider is income eligibility.
The Sapphire Reserve is a Visa Infinite card, which means the minimum credit line for this card is higher than typical Visa cards. If you don’t have the income to support $10,000 or so in credit, you might not be a good candidate for this card.
Yes, this is considered an entirely separate product from the Sapphire Preferred. If you’ve opened 5 or more bank cards in the last 2 years you might have a better shot of approval if you stop by a Chase branch and check with a banker to see if you’re pre-qualified.
If you have a Sapphire Preferred, and want the introductory bonus, don’t call to upgrade your account. You’ll only get the introductory bonus if you apply for a fresh Sapphire Reserve account.
If you’re okay with missing out on the introductory bonus, or don’t think you’ll qualify for it because you’ve opened too many cards lately, you can still call and ask to upgrade your account to a Sapphire Reserve. You’ll still get all the other Sapphire Reserve benefits, including the $300 travel credit and Priority Pass membership.
Once your Sapphire Reserve account is open, you can move your Sapphire Preferred points to your Sapphire Reserve account and choose to close your Sapphire Preferred account, or (better) ask to convert it to a no annual fee account like the Freedom Unlimited. Converting to a Freedom Unlimited also unlocks the ability to earn 1.5x points on everything you spend, instead of just 1x on non-dining and travel spending with the Sapphire Reserve.
Yes, you can transfer the points from your other Ultimate Rewards earning cards to the Sapphire Reserve. And any member of your household can share points with you as well.
According to the Chase policy, you can transfer Ultimate Rewards points to a member of your household who also shares the same address. The transfers are instant, and you can transfer points back and forth as many times as you want.
You can also transfer points to your household member’s travel partner accounts like United Mileage Plus, but the household member also has to be an authorized user of your card account to qualify. And once you transfer out of Ultimate Rewards to a travel partner, you can’t transfer the points back into Ultimate Rewards.
An authorized user costs $75 per year and gets Priority Pass membership, but they doesn’t get the annual $300 travel credit.
You can transfer your points directly into over 10 airline and hotel programs, all at 1:1 with no fee for the transfer. So 1,000 Ultimate Rewards points = 1,000 partner airline miles or hotel points. Click on the program names to see a detailed guide to the best ways to use your points, and how to handle them once you transfer. Or, read our big guide to Chase Ultimate Rewards to get your bearings. Just be aware once you transfer points out, you can’t transfer them back in.
A great companion for the Sapphire Reserve is the no annual fee Chase Freedom Unlimited.
The Chase Freedom Unlimited card earns 1.5x Ultimate Rewards points for every dollar you spent, compared to just 1x for most spending on the Sapphire Reserve.
The key is Chase lets you combine these points with your Sapphire Reserve account anytime to take advantage of its travel reward options.
So for all the spending you do that earns just 1 point per dollar with the Sapphire Reserve (basically everything that’s not travel or dining), use a Freedom Unlimited instead and you’ll earn 1.5x on your spending, or 50% more than with the Sapphire Reserve alone. Then you can transfer those points to your Sapphire Reserve account anytime.
Combined with the 1.5 cent per point value for travel booked via the Chase site with the Sapphire Reserve, that makes this a 2%+ cash value card for your everyday spending.
So, for every $10,000 you charge to the Freedom Unlimited card, you’ll get $225 in travel value once you transfer the points to your Sapphire Reserve.
And if you leverage airline partners wisely, which could net you over 2 cents per point in value, you could get over $300 in value, or a 3% return from your regular spending.
Unfortunately not yet. Chase’s premium business card is still the Ink Plus, which doesn’t offer a travel credit or lounge access.
Your points won’t expire for as long as you keep your card account open. If you want to close your account, and have another Ultimate Rewards earning card like the Freedom Unlimited, you can combine your points in the account for the card you want to keep.
You will get a complimentary Priority Pass Select membership that gives you access to about 900 airport lounges worldwide. Your traveling companions can join you for free, and you can be traveling any airline to get access. You just need to be able to access the terminal where the lounge is located.
Yes, you can bring your traveling companions along free of charge into any of the Priority Pass lounges. You’ll need to bring your separate Priority Pass membership card, which you can request from your account dashboard at Chase.com.
No. Currently only the United Club Card offers access to United Clubs.
One Ultimate Rewards point is worth 1.5 cents when you book travel on the Chase Ultimate Rewards website. So, 100,000 points is worth $1,500 in travel value.
Cardmembers get Club 5C at Relais & Chateaux, a boutique hotel chain, after they complete two stays booked with the card. Relais & Chateaux is a very expensive chain, so you probably won’t get much mileage out of this benefit.
The Chase Sapphire Reserve gets you the Emerald Club Executive Level with National Car Rental. That entitles you to guaranteed upgrades in the U.S. and Canada, Executive Selection access for better cars at the Midsize price, and a free rental day after 6 paid rentals.
You also get Primary Car Rental Collision Damage coverage. Most credit cards provide secondary coverage in the U.S., which only kicks in after your own car insurance company has paid its share, so with the Chase Sapphire Reserve you don’t have to hassle with filing a claim with your own car insurance company when there’s a problem.
With the Sapphire Reserve, your points are worth at least 1.5 cents each for travel via the Chase website, but if you take advantage of transferring points to travel partners, your points could be worth closer to 2 cents each if you use your points to save on expensive flights.
No. If you want to use the points from the Sapphire Reserve to earn Companion Pass status, simply transferring them to Southwest Rapid Rewards won’t count.
But if you first transfer them to a hotel partner like Marriott Rewards or Hyatt Gold Passport they will count toward Companion Pass status. The catch is your points get diluted when you transfer form the hotel partner to Southwest. For example, 5,000 Hyatt points only gets you 2,400 Southwest points.
The $300 credit resets every year with your January statement. So purchases through your December statement count for this year’s $300 credit. And anything on the January statement and beyond counts for next year’s $300 credit.
The clock for the credit has nothing to do with the date you signed up for your card. It’s purely based on the January – December statement period.
It’s also ‘use it or lose it.’ If you don’t use the full $300 by your December statement, the remaining credit won’t roll over to next year. And beware that your December statement closing date is often well before December 31.
The credit automatically applies to any purchase you make from travel merchants, which include airlines, hotels, car rental agencies, cruise operators, parking lots, toll roads and bridges, taxis, and limo services. Gas is not considered a travel purchase.
Here’s Chase’s explanation of what counts as travel.
If you want to see how many points you can earn with the Sapphire Reserve vs other travel rewards cards, use our rewards calculator.
And here’s how the Sapphire Reserve stacks up to its sibling the Chase Sapphire Preferred, as well as other $450 a year premium travel rewards cards.
It doesn’t take a lot of spending to justify the Reserve vs the Sapphire Preferred even with the $450 annual fee vs $95 for the Sapphire Preferred ($0 introductory annual fee the first year).
Given the $300 annual travel credit of the Reserve, unless you don’t see yourself spending $300 on travel every year, it’s hard not to make the difference between holding the Sapphire Reserve and the Preferred just $55 a year after the first year. Taking into account the $300 annual travel credit (and nothing else), you are effectively paying a $150 to keep the Reserve vs $95 for the Sapphire Preferred.
So holding the Reserve costs an extra $55 a year to hold if you take full advantage of the travel credit.
It’s not a big difference to make up, and earning 3x points on travel and dining purchases instead of 2x for the Sapphire Preferred can get you there.
If you only want to use your points for cash back, at the bare minimum rate of 1 cent per point, you’d need to earn an extra 5,500 points a year for holding the Sapphire Reserve vs the Sapphire Preferred to be even.
That works out to an extra $5,500 a year in travel or dining purchases, or less than $500 a month. So if you spend over $500 a month in dining and travel, the Reserve is a clear winner. And that’s before considering additional benefits like the Priority Pass lounge access and better travel protection.
Both the Sapphire Reserve and Sapphire Preferred let you transfer points into travel partners at the same rate, and if you take advantage of travel redemptions which have a higher value than cash back you need to spend even less to get yourself even with the $55 a year.
The Citi Prestige card is another highly valuable travel rewards card with an equally high $450 annual fee. This is how they compare.
Transfer Partners: Sapphire Reserve
Citi ThankYou has more transfer airlines than Chase Ultimate Rewards – 12 airlines and 1 hotel vs. 7 airlines and 4 hotels. In addition, Citi ThankYou has offered bonuses for transferring points to some airlines. But the Citi transfer partners are weaker. None of the major U.S. airlines is a partner, while Chase Ultimate Rewards lets you transfer to both United MileagePlus and Southwest Rapid Rewards. In addition, you can transfer Ultimate Rewards points to Hyatt, which is a very valuable hotel partner.
Lounge Access: Sapphire Reserve
Citi Prestige gives you the same Priority Pass lounge access, but you’re limited to two free guests, while the Sapphire Reserve lets you bring your whole family along.
Trip Delay: Citi Prestige
Trip Delay coverage is better with the Citi Prestige – you get reimbursed for a 3-hour delay vs 6 hours with the Sapphire Reserve.
4th Free Hotel Night: Citi Prestige
Citi Prestige offers a free hotel night when you book 4 nights with their authorized travel agency, and that includes the very lowest rates available on hotel websites, so it’s an easy benefit to use. And it can be really valuable since there’s no limit on the number of times you can use it. So if you tend to vacation more than twice a year, this could save you $500 or more a year, and make holding the Citi Prestige worth it on its own.
Travel Credit: Sapphire Reserve
The Prestige annual travel credit is weaker than the credit offered by the Sapphire Reserve – $250 vs $300. In addition, it only covers air travel, while the Reserve covers most travel and even commute expenses.
Dining Bonus: Sapphire Reserve
Citi Prestige offers 2X on dining while Chase Reserve offers 3X.
The Platinum Card from American Express wins when you are looking for some additional access and privileges, but are willing to pay more.
For example, if you frequently fly through major U.S. airports, you will appreciate access to Amex Centurion lounges that are light years ahead of most domestic lounges in terms of comfort and first-class dining. You also get access to all Delta Sky Clubs when you’re flying Delta, though guests cost extra.
With The Platinum Card you also get Gold status with Starwood and Hilton hotels. Hilton Gold status, for example, gives you free breakfast and access to the lounge at many locations.
Transfer Partners: Tie
The Amex Membership Rewards program has 17 airline transfer partners (among them Delta SkyMiles, ANA Mileage Club and Cathay Pacific Asia Miles) and 3 hotel programs vs Chase’s 7 airlines and 4 hotels. In addition, Amex Membership Rewards frequently offers bonuses for transferring points to some airlines.
If you tend to fly Delta, the Amex is a better bet. But if you prefer United or Southwest, or just want to use points for basic domestic flights, the Sapphire Reserve comes out ahead.
Lounge Access: The Platinum Card
The Platinum Card gives you access to the same Priority Club Select lounges as the Chase Sapphire Reserve.
However, Platinum cardholders have access to Amex’s own swanky Centurion Lounges, Delta SkyClubs (when flying on Delta), international American Express lounges, and Airspace lounges. That gives you a much broader network of lounges, and is the better bet if you tend to travel solo or as a couple.
Hotel Elite Status: The Platinum Card
The Platinum Card gives you instant Gold Elite status at Starwood and Hilton hotels. The Chase Sapphire Reserve doesn’t offer these benefits.
Earning Rates: Sapphire Reserve
Chase Sapphire Reserve offers more bonus earning options than The Platinum Card, which offers 5x points on airfare, and 1X for everything else. There are no dining bonuses. Chase offers a generous 3X for all travel and dining purchases and 1X for everything else, so if you tend to spend a lot on hotels and dining you’ll earn much faster with the Sapphire Reserve
Even better, Chase Sapphire Reserve Ultimate Rewards points are worth at least 1.5 cents if redeemed on travel via the Chase website. The Platinum Card only gives you 1 cent per point in value when you use points for travel on the Amex website.
Travel Credit: Sapphire Reserve
Chase Reserve annual travel credit is much stronger than airline incidental credit offered by American Express. Not only do you get $300 vs $200, but the Reserve covers travel in general while The Platinum Card credit only covers airline incidentals, such as baggage fees, upgrades or lounge access. And it’s limited to charges on one airline per year.
Travel Protection: Sapphire Reserve
The Platinum Card doesn’t offer many of the travel protection benefits that come with the Chase Reserve, such as Trip Cancellation/Interruption insurance or Trip Delay coverage.
If you are a United flyer, the United MileagePlus Club card also carries a $450 annual fee, but offers some notable benefits that are unavailable with Chase Sapphire Reserve:
However, some other benefits of Chase Sapphire Reserve more than make up for the lack of at least some of the above benefits.
The Chase Ritz Carlton Rewards card is a $450 hotel card, but it also comes with great travel benefits, which have been recently beefed up when the card was upgraded to the Visa Infinite level.
There are quite a few areas where the Ritz Carlton card shines.
However, the Ritz Carlton points-earning scheme is average at best:
In addition, Ritz Carlton points can only be used with Ritz Carlton and Marriott, while Ultimate Rewards points can be transferred to both Ritz Carlton and Marriott plus 9 other airline and hotel programs.
You can learn more about the card on the Chase website.
With such a big intro offer and easy to use travel credit, if you have travel plans this year, it’s a good time to give the card a test drive.
And be sure to read our big guide to how to get the most out of Chase Ultimate Rewards points.
But if you think meeting the $4,000 spending requirement in 3 months is a stretch, or you’re not used to paying an annual fee on a card, don’t get caught up in the excitement. It is a credit card after all. There will be other deals, and it’s best to wait until you’re sure you can handle earning the upfront rewards.
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