The Chase Sapphire Reserve card is one of the best and most lucrative premium travel credit card on the market. It’s very similar to the the Chase Sapphire Preferred – but has many more benefits.
The Important Stuff
- Good sign-up bonus: Earn 50,000 miles after spending $4,000 in 3 months of being approved for the card ($750 in value when redeemed through Chase)
- $450 annual fee (NOT waived for the first year)
- 3x points on all travel and restaurant purchases & 1x per dollar on all other purchases
- Premium travel benefits like Priority Pass Lounge access, TSA Pre✓ credit and $300 travel credit
- No foreign transaction fees
- Good redemption options: 1:1 transfer ratio to 13 partners OR 1.5 cents in value redeemed through the Chase Travel Portal.
- Pairs with Chase Freedom and Chase Freedom Unlimited card for better earning potential
- NerdWallet suggests a needed credit score above 720 to be approved for this card
Who should get this card?
- has good credit and wants a starter travel rewards card
- spends money on travel and dining.
- is willing to pay an annual fee but also have access to Ultimate Rewards.
- values primary rental car insurance, lounge access at select airports, and TSA Pre✓ & Global Entry credit.
- would like no foreign transaction fees.
If you travel 4-6 times per year, I think this card is an absolute no brainer. It’s important to point out that you can only get the bonus once from the Sapphire product unless you wait two years. These rules continue to get more strict hurting the consumers. If you do start with the Sapphire Preferred, you can always product change to the Reserve down the road, but you won’t receive the sign-up bonus.
When this card was launched, there was a massive 100,000 point bonus offer. I don’t think we’ll ever see that again, so it’s probably not worth holding out in hopes of a huge sign-up bonus. Even though the minimum spend requirements are hard, check out some ways to make it easier.
So, why would you want this card instead of the Sapphire Preferred? Even though there is a high annual fee which is not waived for the first year, the difference between the Sapphire Preferred and the Sapphire Reserve is much closer than you think.
After the $300 travel credit, the annual fee is effectively knocked down to $150. That’s just $55 more than the Sapphire Preferred. If you spend $8 per week “more” on travel and restaurants, the bonus points alone will make up that amount.
But, you’re also getting a plethora of more travel perks. We’ll get into it later in the post, but the card comes with Priority Pass Lounge Access, statement credit every four years for TSA Pre✓ or Global Entry, as well as better travel and purchase protection than the Sapphire Preferred.
It’s not for everyone, but if you travel just a little bit, it’s worth it.
How to earn Ultimate Rewards
Similar to the Sapphire Preferred, this is a great card to rack up bonus points if you have travel-related expenses or eat out since you will get 3x points. Travel is super generous, as well, as it covers everything from parking to commuter trains to Uber/Lyft to airfare and hotel. It’s really easy to get the travel bonus when you’re not even traveling.
Shop through Chase
Using the Chase Shopping Portal is another easy way to earn bonus points without doing anything extra. There are hundreds of retailers offering bonus points – all you have to do is simply use the link to their website from your Chase Shopping Portal. You can earn 4 points per dollar at Macy’s, 2 points per dollar with Apple, 6 points per dollar at Shoes.com – you get the point. The list goes on and on. You can check out all the redemptions for Chase (as well as other credit cards) by clicking here.
The Chase Trifecta
We have an entire article on the Chase Trifecta, but we’ll give you the rundown here. Pairing the Sapphire Reserve with one of or both of the Freedom or Freedom Unlimited Card is even more powerful. The Freedom (5x on quarterly rotating categories) and Freedom Unlimited (1.5x on every purchase) are both cash-back cards earning cash back instead of points. However, when a cardholder has the Sapphire Reserve card, the cash back credits can be transferred to become Ultimate Rewards.
Ways to Redeem Ultimate Rewards
The transfer partners for the Sapphire Reserve are the same as it’s Sapphire Preferred counterpart. Most of the time the transfer of points from your Chase account to the transfer partner will be instantaneous.
While I’ve used many transfer partners, I especially like having Hyatt as a transfer partner. I have transferred more than 200,000 Ultimate Rewards points to Hyatt over the last several years and have found a lot of great value. And while it’s also great having Southwest Airlines and United Airlines as domestic transfer partners, I’ve also have used Virgin Atlantic to book a domestic ticket on Delta.
- Aer Lingus AerClub
- British Airways Executive Club
- Flying Blue (KLM & Air France)
- Iberia Plus
- JetBlue TrueBlue
- Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer
- Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards
- United Mileage Plus
- Virgin Atlantic Flying Club
- IHG Rewards Club
- Marriott Rewards
- Ritz-Carlton Rewards
- World of Hyatt
Chase Travel Portal
The other way to redeem your points is through the Chase Travel Portal. The portal, which is run by Expedia, is like booking a flight on Expedia, except it’s done through your Chase account.
When cardholders redeem Ultimate Rewards directly through Chase, you get 1.5 cents per point. The whole cost of the flight or hotel can be covered or just some of it. When booking a hotel, you most likely won’t get points or elite benefits since you’re booking through a third party. However, when booking a flight, you will still earn frequent flyer miles for your flight (as long as you enter your frequent flyer number).
I’ve been fortunate enough to gain low-tier elite status on Alaska Airlines, but because I don’t fly a ton, I need just about every flight to earn miles. I’ve paid for an Alaska flight this way in order to get a “free” flight but also earn miles in order to qualify for status. The other nice part is you don’t have to find award space, if a flight is available, you can book it.
Priority Pass Lounge Access
One of the best travel benefits of this card is an annual membership to Priority Pass. The Priority Pass is a worldwide network of over 1,200 lounges. While this is without a doubt a nice benefit – lounge access before a flight or during a layover is nice and can save you money – don’t go jumping for joy. First, lounges might not be at your airport or any airports that you transit through. Secondly, if they are, sometimes lounges won’t accept Priority Pass meaning they are full from their own members. The value of Priority Pass for casual travelers is varied – it’s an extra benefit for a card that already carries a lot of value.
TSA Pre✓/Global Entry Credit
Cardholders receive a statement credit once every four years for TSA Pre✓ or Global Entry. TSA Pre✓ comes with Global Entry, so while it’s a little more of a hassle, it makes sense to get Global Entry. First, TSA Pre✓ is awesome. It’s so nice to get through security quick, not have to take off shoes or take out your computer. I’ve only used Global Entry once, but we cleared customs in literally 30 seconds. It is absolutely worth the hassle of doing an in-person interview (especially if you live close to an airport/interview location).
Primary Rental Car Insurance
The most valuable is primary rental car insurance. While many credit cards have secondary rental car protection, primary coverage means that you can initially make a claim to Chase instead of having to tell your own insurance company about it.
Delayed/Lost Bag Reimbursement
Has an airline ever lost your bag? The Sapphire Reserve will pay you up to $100 per day and up to $3,000 in lost luggage reimbursement. It’s no good to lose your things, but this card will make it sting a tad less.
Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance
The card also comes with trip cancellation/interruption insurance which covers both the card holder and immediate family members. It covers up to $10,000 per trip with a maximum of $20,000 per occurrence. If you and your three family members are on a a trip that cost roughly $6,000 per person, Chase will be reimburse you up to that $20,000 threshold. Similarly, if a cardholder spends $3,000 (or redeems $3,000 worth of points) on a trip that is cancelled, Chase will reimburse up to $3,000. There are a ton of details and it’s worth checking out here on what is covered and what isn’t covered, but nevertheless, it’s a nice perk to have in the back pocket.
Purchase protection comes in a few different ways with the Sapphire Reserve.
The first allows you be reimbursed in the event that new purchases are damaged or stolen within the first 120 days of ownership (up to $10,000 per claim and $50,000 per account). This card allows you to be reimbursed for an item a store will not accept when returned. The value is up to $500 per item and $1,000 per year. Items must have been purchased within 90 days and in new condition. Finally, an extended warranty of one year on top of the manufacturer’s warranty is given to the cardholder.
There is a caveat with all of these. In order to file a claim, you must have all the necessary paperwork. It can also be a pain to go through the process. Nevertheless, the protection is there as a benefit.
The annual fee is without a doubt a deterrent to this card. However, the annual travel credit essentially knocks down the fee to $150. For someone who travels a little bit, I think this is the best starter card. This card is subject to Chase’s “5/24” rule. If you’ve been approved for five credit cards in the last 24 months, you most likely won’t get approved.
Additionally, this card requires good credit history to be approved. But, the potential to earn Ultimate Rewards is great with this card! The ancillary benefits come with good purchase protection and travel benefits with are a nice perk. And the ability to have Global Entry for four years is underrated. Nothing beats zipping through security or customs.
If you’re not ready to jump into this with an annual fee card or worried about getting approved, you should still check out the Chase Freedom or Chase Freedom Unlimited card. The Chase Sapphire Preferred card is a similar card with a fewer benefits, but also a lower annual fee which us waived for the first year.