Chase Sapphire Reserve Review

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Even over a year after being released, the Chase Sapphire Reserve remains at the top of the premium card list. In spite of a decreased sign-up bonus, a new one-Sapphire card rule, and a change in how annual travel credit is earned, the Reserve is still miles ahead of the competition. Before going further, it’s important to note that because this is a premium credit card, there is an annual fee of $450. In the first year of use however, you’ll make all that back on the sign-up bonus alone. Let’s take a look at some of the benefits.

Our Referral Link to the Chase Sapphire Reserve Application Page

Link to Chase Application Page

Summary of Benefits

  • 50,000 Ultimate Rewards Point Sign-up Bonus
  • $300 Annual Travel Credit
  • $100 Global Entry/TSA Pre-check Reimbursement
  • Priority Pass Lounge membership
  • Purchase Protection
  • Chase Concierge
  • 3% return on travel/dining

Cons

  • $450 Annual Fee
Chase Sapphire Reserve
Chase Sapphire Reserve. Click the image above to use our referral link. Source: Chase
50,000 Point Sign-up Bonus

While not as good as the Chase Sapphire Reserve’s original 100,000 point sign-up bonus, the 50,000 points will still literally give you money back for getting the card. To get the 50,000 points, you must spend $3,000 in the first 3 months of getting approved for the card.This bonus is only for new cardmembers. There is no bonus if you upgrade another Chase card into the Sapphire Reserve.

At its lowest redemption (the cash back option), each point is worth 1 cent. This means the 50,000 points are worth $500 in cash, already offsetting the $450 annual fee.

Don’t bother with gift cards, because you can use the cash to buy gift cards yourself, and also get extra cash back on those gift card purchases if made on a credit card. Why bother with cash equivalents when you can get actual cash?

Of course, the true value of UR points comes from transfer partners and travel portal redemption.

Travel Portal + Transfer Partners

If you use Chase Ultimate Rewards (UR) points on Chase’s own travel portal to book a flight, hotel, car rentals, or cruises, you get a 50% bonus in point value. This means each point automatically earns a 1.5x multiplier. On the Chase travel portal, the value of those 50,000 points would go from $500 to $750 (500×1.5). If you were planning to book a trip anyway, then definitely redeem your points on the UR portal instead of cashing out.

If you use other Chase UR earning cards like the Freedom, Freedom Unlimited, Ink Cash, or Ink Preferred cards, then you can accrue points even faster. Then you can transfer points earned on those cards to your Chase Sapphire Reserve account to maximize your benefits by getting that extra 1.5x. For instance, the 5x points you get on your Chase Freedom would be worth 6.5% return when redeemed through the Chase Sapphire Reserve portal.

Another excellent way to use Chase Ultimate Rewards points is to move your points over to Chase’s 11 hotel and airline transfer partners. You can transfer your Chase points to a partner at a 1:1 transfer ratio. Therefore, 50,000 Chase UR points could become 50,000 Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer miles.

As an example of what the savings may look like, here is the current price to book a round-trip Korean Air flight from JFK (New York City) to Incheon (Seoul) with cash.

Cash price of RT flight from JFK-ICN. Screenshot: Koreanair.com

This flight would cost $1,250.06 in April. However, during the same date range earlier this year, I took that flight for 80,000 UR points transferred to Korean Air. If I had converted that 80,000 UR to cash instead of transferring, I would have only gotten an $800 value out of it. However, by transferring, I gained an additional $450 value.

You can also book this price by using your points directly on the Chase Travel Portal with the 1.5x redemption instead of transferring. As pictured below, the same flight would cost me 84,670 UR points. This is a way better deal than booking with cash, but you could save 4,000 points by transferring 80,000 directly to Korean Air for a RT Award flight instead.

Chase UR Portal Point cost for RT flight from JFK-ICN. Screenshot: Chase

Depending on award availability or time of travel, these numbers may change drastically. I’ve taken the same RT flights on Korean Air for airfare that went up to $1,800 during peak seasons. Make sure to always check what the current award flight or hotel night would cost in points directly from the airline/chain, then compare it to booking directly on the Chase Portal at 1.5x to see which would give you a best deal.

3x Points on Dining/Travel

This is still one of the biggest draws of the Chase Sapphire Reserve, and why I intend to keep my card in my wallet for the long-term. I spend a good amount per year on dining and travel, so getting 3% back on all those purchases is a no brainer. For instance, if you spend a total of at least $5,000 a year on dining, you would accrue 15,000 UR points, or $150 in cash back. Adding the value of the $300 annual travel credit, you’ve already broken even with the $450 Annual Fee. This is one of my main credit cards and I never leave the house without it.

If you want to maximize the 3x earning ability of this, be the one to pay the bill when you go out to dinner with friends, then have them pay you back later.

Of course, you should take a look at your own annual expenses and see if the numbers add up in your favor.

Chase Sapphire Reserve
Chase Sapphire Reserve
$300 Annual Travel Credit

The $300 Annual Travel Credit is the most flexible travel credit among premium credit cards. This $300 can be used for flights, hotels, airBnBs, taxis, Ubers, parking, and a majority of other things that relate to travel. It’s not restricted like the American Express Platinum’s airline credit. For those of you who signed up for the Chase Sapphire Reserve before May 21, 2017, the travel credit resets every calendar year. That means you get a new $300 for travel every January 1st. For those who signed up for the card before that May 21 cutoff, in the first 12 months would received the travel credit twice, totaling $600.

If you spend $300 a year anyway on travel, then the $300 offsets the price of your $450 annual fee, and effectively brings it to only $150. If you are not someone who ever spends $300 a year on travel though, then this travel credit probably won’t hold as much value for you. Take that into consideration when considering applying for this card.

$100 Global Entry fee

The $100 Global Entry/TSA Pre-check credit works once every four years. If you are a frequent traveler, the time you can save on TSA lines is well worth it. TSA Pre-Check is $85, but you should apply for the $100 Global Entry because it comes with TSA Pre-check as well. Thus it’s the better deal.

If you already have Global Entry/TSA Pre-check, you can also pay for someone else’s Global Entry/TSA Pre-check application.

Priority Pass Membership

The Chase Sapphire Reserve comes with a free Priority Pass membership. Priority Pass gives you access to 900 airport lounges around the world. While many premium cards on the market come with a Priority Pass, each card has different terms and restrictions. For instance, some PP memberships only let you use the lounge for free a limited number of times. Others limit the number of guests you can bring. The Chase Sapphire Reserve comes with the highest tier Priority Pass Membership, which doesn’t limit how often you can use it, nor does it limit the number of guests you can bring in.

If you add an Authorized User onto your account, that Authorized User also receives his/her own Priority Pass membership. Keep in mind that adding an Authorized User is an additional $75 per year to your annual fee.

Priority Pass has added restaurants and bars in several airports, so you can use your pass to get free food and drinks at certain locations if you don’t care much for airport lounges.

This is a great benefit for frequent travelers, but if you rarely fly or there aren’t any Priority Pass Lounges at your pimary airport, then you shouldn’t factor this into your decision to get this card.

One Sapphire Rule

This is an important consideration before applying for this card. A new rule that Chase has recently began enforcing is to only allow consumers to apply for one card in the Chase Sapphire family. Cards impacted by this are the Chase Sapphire Reserve, the Chase Sapphire Preferred, and the lowest tier Chase Sapphire.

If you have a Sapphire-branded card, you won’t be eligible to apply for the Reserve card. You can cancel your current Sapphire card and then apply for this, but you might not be eligible for the sign-up bonus. This is because another stipulation is that you cannot get a new Sapphire sign-up bonus if you’ve received any Sapphire bonus in the last 24 months. So even if you canceled your Sapphire Preferred before applying for the Reserve, if you received a Preferred bonus in the last 24 months, you can get the Reserve, but not the Reserve sign-up bonus.

Thoughts

Even after a few nerfed perks, the Chase Sapphire Reserve is still king among travel credit cards. Very few cards have this many benefits. The $450 is definitely hefty. However, the sign-up bonus alone pushes you over the breakeven point because the cash redemption value of 50,000 UR points is $500. Factor in the $300 travel credit, and you’re further into the green. There is no lucrative sign-up bonus the second year, but the 3x on dining and travel will yield you a solid second year return if combined with the annual $300 travel credit. If you haven’t used your $100 Global Entry fee, you can use it for yourself or for someone else. Just remember that at the end of the day, you need to look at your finances and lifestyle before making sure the $450 credit card is worth your time and money.

Are you thinking of applying? Do you already have one? Let us know in the comments below.

I’ve included direct links to the application page for the Chase Sapphire Reserve, as well as my own referral link. If you feel like using my referral, it can go a long way to help maintain this website. 

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