Chase Sapphire Reserve Review

Introduction

2016 marked a very big year for Chase with the launch of the Chase Sapphire Reserve. Until then, their travel card of choice was the Chase Sapphire Preferred. That card was enough of a pioneer in the credit card world when it launched a decade ago. The big draw of course was that the categories of travel and dining are just perfectly curated for those that are traveling. Chase wanted to create a premium travel credit card on the basis of the Sapphire Preferred. Have they accomplished their goal? 

Summary

Pros Cons
$300 Travel Credit  $450 Annual Fee
Global Entry/TSA Precheck Credit No Visa Infinite Airline Discount
3x on Travel and Dining Points aren’t earned for the $300 travel credit
No Foreign Transaction Fee Chase’s 5/24 Rule Applies
1.5x on points redeemed through Chase Travel Portal
Travel Partners (Point Transfers) 

Considerations Before Applying/Credit Score Needed

Before applying for the card make sure your credit scores are at least 730 or higher. It’s possible to get approved with a lower score of course, but it just makes it easy if your score is already this high in the first place. Remember that this is a premium travel credit card. 

Additionally, there are a few things you should consider. First and foremost is Chase’s infamous 5/24 rule that states you cannot have been approved for 5 or more credit cards from any issuer. If you are 5/24 or above, you will not be approved

Finally, when it comes to the Reserve, you need to pay attention to the credit limit. Being a Visa Infinite card, it comes with a $10,000 credit limit minimum. If you are applying directly, then you will need to take a look and see if your profile is ideal for a $10,000 credit limit; this is much easier if you already have other cards that have this much of a credit limit. If you would like to product chance to the Reserve from a different Chase card, it will need a credit limit of $10,000 or higher. If it isn’t that high, make sure to ask for credit limit increase (hard inquiry with Chase), or transfer some credit limit from a different card to exceed the minimum. 

Sign Up Bonus/Annual Fee/Foreign Transaction Fee

When Chase originally launched the Sapphire Reserve they didn’t spend too much on advertising. They were hoping the huge 100,000 Ultimate Reward point sign up bonus would be enough to convince people to sign up for the card, and they were right. 

Nowadays, the sign up bonus is cut in half, at 50,000 points. That can be earned by spending $5,000 within the first 3 months. According to TPG, Ultimate Reward points are worth 2 cents per point, which means that sign up bonus is worth about $1,000. The return on spend, would then be 20%.

As far as the annual fee, the annual fee on the Sapphire Reserve is $450. Before closing your web browser, there are ways to make up for the annual fee that should be considered. There is a $300 travel credit (more on that below), which effectively brings the annual fee down to $150; that’s only $55 more than the Sapphire Preferred. With the theme of the Sapphire Reserve being a premium travel focused credit card, there are no foreign transaction fees!

Reward Categories

The reward categories on the Sapphire Reserve are pretty easy to remember as they are the two biggest categories you would probably spend money on when you actually do travel. 

  • 3x: Travel and Dining
  • 1x: Everything Else

There is one exception to these reward categories. Chase updated the card to not give out points on travel when you are getting your $300 travel credit. Once you spend more than $300 during the year, you will be earning your 3x normal points. 

Other Notable Benefits

As you would imagine from a premium travel credit card, there are some pretty important benefits that can make up for the annual fee.

  1. $300 Travel Credit
    1. Anytime you spend money on travel related purchases, you will automatically be refunded as a statement credit for up to $300. Chase’s definition of travel is very broad, and includes purchases like: hotels, airplane tickets, public transportation, taxis, ride sharing services (Uber/Lyft), car rentals, timeshares, cruises, travel agency, campgrounds, limousines, ferries, tolls, and parking lots.
  2. 1.5X Point Redemption on Points Redeemed on Chase’s Travel Portal
    1. Whenever you redeem your Ultimate Reward points, make sure you are getting at least 1.5 cents per point. This is because in the worst case, you can redeem your points through Chase’s travel portal for 1.5 cents per points. If there is more value by transferring them out, I would go that route instead. 
  3. Ability to Transfer Out Points
    1. Alternatively, instead of directly redeeming the points for travel through Chase, you can transfer the points over on this card. Chase currently has 12 travel partners.  
  4. Global Entry/TSA Precheck
    1. These are both programs from the US customs and border patrol. They  each allow expedited service at the airports, however Global Entry includes TSA Precheck. The programs are good for 5 years, and the credit will cover the cost of the application, and can be redeemed every 4 years.
  5. Priority Pass Select
    1. If you happen to be inside of an airport, check around to see if there are any Priority Pass Lounges. This is because the Sapphire Reserve offers unlimited access to Priority Pass lounges for the cardholder and up to two different guests. This membership also includes access to the Priority Pass non-lounge properties such as their restaurants. Be aware that lounges have the right to restrict access based on how much time there is before a flight (3 hours or less if there’s a restriction), or on the number of guests allowed (some only allow one for free). Any additional guest cost ~$30. Any authorized user on the card will also get this benefit. 
  6. Primary Car Rental Insurance
    1. Typically when renting a car, the agency will try to push you to get their insurance on the car. This comes into play if you happen to damage the car, and then anything else not covered will go through your insurance. While most credit cards offer secondary insurance, the Sapphire Reserve offers primary insurance if you decline the insurance waiver (unless the country you’re in requires you to accept the insurance) and pay for the entire rental with the card. The Sapphire Reserve offers $75,000 for damage or theft for rentals that are 31 days or less. Be aware of any other restrictions to this benefit which I wont list here. Luckily, this benefit also covers the authorized user if they book a car.   
  7. Avis/National/Silvercar Status
    1. Speaking of renting cars, the Sapphire Reserve includes status at Avis and National. Avis Preferred members can save up to 30% on a rental if booked directly through Avis. National Emerald Club Executive Level comes with a 25% discount. This level of status allows you to book the base rate for the economy car, and pick up any car on the lot. Finally, Chase has a partnership with another car rental agency that you may be less familiar with called Silvercar. Silvercar got its name because it is an all Audi fleet. If you use your Sapphire Reserve to pay, you can also receive a discount. For all three of these car rental agencies, be sure to book with your special promo code that shows up in your Sapphire Reserve account. Also remember to decline the insurance!
  8. Trip Delay/Cancelation
    1. If you get stuck in a situation where your trip is delayed by more than six hours (or even requiring an overnight stay, then you can can get reimbursed up to $500 per ticket on lodging accommodations and food.
    2. If your trip happens to get canceled or cut short due to severe weather or sickness, you can be reimbursed up to $10,000 per person and $20,000 per trip for pre paid non refundable travel expenses including passenger fares, tours and hotels. 
  9. Baggage Insurance
    1. If your baggage is delayed more than 6 hours, you can get reimbursed up to $100 per day (up to 5) in essential purchases such as clothing or toiletries 

Cards This Competes With

Unfortunately for Chase, there are a couple of other notable premium travel credit cards, the two most popular being the Amex Platinum card and Citi Prestige. 

The Platinum card is American Express’ premium travel card. The standard sign up bonus is 60,000 points vs 50,000 points on the Sapphire Reserve. They are both worth about 2 cents per point (TPG), so with the Platinum you’d be getting an extra $200 worth of sign up bonus. As far as the reward categories, the Platinum only awards 5x on airfare and hotels (prepaid) booked directly through amextravel whereas the Sapphire Reserve award you 3x back on travel and dining. The Platinum card does come with better lounge access as it not only gives you Priority Pass, but also access to the Centurion Lounges. Keep in mind, American Express card recently lost the ability to go to non-lounges through Priority Pass. Both cards come with a high annual fee $550 vs $450, and both cards come with credits that can make up for the annual fee. The Platinum comes with $100 at Saks, $200 at Uber and $200 airline credits vs Sapphire Reserve’s $300 travel credit. Assuming you can use all of them, that brings the effective annual fee down to $50 on the Platinum vs $150 on the Reserve, though it’ll be a lot easier to use Chase’s travel credit as it’s not split up into smaller increments. Both cards come with the ability to transfer points to partners, though American Express has more travel partners than Chase.    

The Citi Prestige is Citi’s answer to the Sapphire Reserve. The sign up bonus on the Prestige is also 50,000 points, however the points are worth a little bit less at 1.7 cents per point (TPG). As far as reward categories, you can earn 5x points on dining, and air travel and 3x points on hotels and cruise lines on the Citi Prestige vs Sapphire Reserve’s 3x on dining and travel. The Prestige comes with a $495 annual fee vs Sapphire’s $450. Both cards come with a travel credit to help offset the annual fee on the card; Prestiege’s is $250 vs Sapphire Reserve’s $300. Both travel categories are very broad, however Citi does include gas whereas Chase doesn’t. Unique to the Citi Prestige, that card comes with a 4th night free benefit that you can use a few different times throughout the year. Both cards come with the ability to transfer points over to different transfer partners to increase the value of the points you would earn.   

Cards This Pairs Well With

Outside of all of the obvious reasons, the Sapphire Reserve is also a very popular card because of its importance in the Chase Trifecta/Quadfecta. If you happen to own the other Chase credit cards that make up either “fecta” then you would use the Sapphire Reserve to pool your points together and either transfer or redeem points. 

Chase Freedom: The Freedom is a no annual fee credit card from Chase that gives the cardholder the opportunity to earn 5% cashback on categories that rotate every quarter with a maximum spend of $1500. That would give you $75 back per quarter. The interesting thing about this card is that you can transfer the cashback you’ve earn into Ultimate Reward points by transferring them over to the Sapphire Reserve

Chase Freedom Unlimited: The Freedom Unlimited is also a no annual fee credit card from Chase. This card earns 1.5% back on every purchase made with no cap. The points can also be transfer to the Sapphire Reserve to turn into Ultimate Reward points. 

Final Thoughts

The Sapphire Reserve is Chase’s answer to the premium travel credit card segment. They took their wildly popular Sapphire Preferred and really upgraded it, not only in terms of reward categories, but also benefits. Unlike some of it’s competitors, it’s very easy to use the travel credits that help offset the higher annual fee. 

The Sapphire Reserve gets even better if you get the other cards in Chase’s trifecta/quadfecta. All of the points earned on the other cards can be transferred to the Sapphire Reserve. Once there, you can either redeem them on the Chase travel portal for 1.5 cents per point, or transfer them out to different transfer patterns for even more value. 

When it comes to which card you should have in your wallet whenever you’re traveling, this is the first card I choose. The Sapphire Reserve is just purpose built for traveling and earning as many reward points as possible in a very straightforward way. Not to mention it’s also is a leader in the coverage that it offers for whenever something goes wrong like a delayed/canceled airplane ticket for the piece of mind. It’s no wonder that this is probably my favorite card out there!

What do you think about the Sapphire Reserve? Is it your favorite travel credit card? Let us know below!

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