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Chase Sapphire Reserve® Review: Is the Premium Travel Card Worth It?

The Chase Sapphire Reserve® credit card commands a $550 annual fee that may raise eyebrows, but for cardholders who know how to use it, this premium card can offer thousands of dollars in value every single year.

In fact, for travelers who want premium travel perks and to maximize rewards that can be used for free travel in the future, it doesn’t get much better than the Chase Sapphire Reserve®.

Chase Sapphire Reserve®

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  • Earn 75,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,125 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Travel℠.
  • $300 Annual Travel Credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year.
  • Earn 5x total points on flights and 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Travel℠ immediately after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually. Earn 3x points on other travel and dining & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Get 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Travel℠. For example, 75,000 points are worth $1125 toward travel.
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Access to 1,300+ airport lounges worldwide after an easy, one-time enrollment in Priority Pass™ Select and up to $100 application fee credit every four years for Global Entry, NEXUS, or TSA PreCheck®
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more.
  • Member FDIC
Annual Fee Intro APR, Purchases Intro APR, Balance Transfers Regular APR Credit Needed
$550 N/A N/A 22.49% - 29.49% Variable Excellent

Key Facts of the Chase Sapphire Reserve®

  • Best for: Travelers who want to travel in luxury
  • Sign-up bonus: Earn Earn 75,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,125 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Travel℠..
  • Rewards:
    • 5x total points on flights and 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Travel℠ immediately after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually.
    • 3x points on other travel and dining 
    • 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Intro APR: N/A
  • Regular APR: 22.49% - 29.49% Variable
  • Perks and unique features:
    • $300 annual travel credit
    • Global Entry/TSA PreCheck/NEXUS application fee credit
    • Priority Pass airport lounge access
    • Trip cancellation/interruption insurance
    • Primary rental car insurance
    • Purchase protection
    • Extended warranty

Pros & Cons of the Chase Sapphire Reserve®

Pros

  • Earn bonus points on travel and dining — With 3x points on all travel and dining purchases, you’ll rack up rewards in no time. By using the Chase Travel℠ portal, you could even earn up to 10x points on these purchases.
  • Excellent redemption opportunities — There’s no greater feeling than getting your flight or hotel “for free,” entirely made possible through points. Chase also provides a diverse range of other redemption options, all visible through the Chase Travel℠ portal.
  • Improve your airport experience tenfold — TSA PreCheck can be a lifesaver if you’re in a time crunch. Once you make it through security, you can eat, drink, and relax in the airport lounge, which can save you from spending money at expensive airport bars and restaurants. Lastly, when returning to the U.S. from an international trip, you’ll make it through customs in a jiffy with Global Entry.
  • Top-tier purchase and travel insurance — The Chase Sapphire Reserve® has your back if your flight is delayed or canceled, the airline loses your luggage, or you fall sick during your trip.

Cons

  • High annual fee — The $550 annual fee can be hard to stomach. If you can live without some of the premium travel perks — such as airport lounge access — you’ll want to consider the more affordable Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card (more information below).
  • You’ll only earn 1x points on non-bonus purchases — There are many life expenses that don’t fall into travel and dining — and you’ll only earn 1x points.
  • Average sign-up bonus — The introductory bonus for a premium travel card could be better, as other travel credit cards with a lower annual fee offer a bigger payout for new applicants.
  • You’ll likely need good or excellent credit to qualify — You’ll need at least a few years of credit history under your belt and a strong credit history to get the Chase Sapphire Reserve®.

In-Depth Analysis of the Chase Sapphire Reserve®

The Chase Sapphire Reserve® is the issuer’s top product. However, you don’t necessarily need to make a six-figure salary or fly every week to find tremendous value from this rewards credit card.

First, let’s discuss the $300 annual travel credit. “Travel” is a broad category and encompasses purchases from flights to hotels, Uber rides, parking fees — you name it.

Not to mention, it’s very likely that most of us spend at least $300 on travel within a year. Simply charge these purchases to your card, and Chase will provide a reimbursement in the form of a statement credit, up to the $300 limit annually.

That’s why, in practice, the Chase Sapphire Reserve® really costs more like $250 per year. But do the rest of the card’s benefits justify this ongoing cost?

Rewards

Chase Sapphire Reserve® cardholders will earn up to 10x bonus points in a variety of categories, offering one of the best rewards rates we’ve seen:

  • 10x points on hotel and car rentals booked through Chase Travel℠
  • 5x points on flights booked through Chase Travel℠
  • 3x points on restaurants
  • 3x points on all other travel (purchased outside of Chase Travel℠)
  • 1x points on all other eligible purchases

You can earn points effortlessly on your travel and dining purchases. And when it comes time to redeem your points, you’ve got tons of options.

Through the Chase Travel℠ portal, you can book flights, hotels, car rentals, cruises, tours, and more. You can then redeem your points at a rate of 1.5 cents each — so a $900 flight, for example, would cost just 60,000 points. Simply put, booking travel through the Chase Travel℠ portal offers some of the best bang for your buck.

Chase partners with popular loyalty programs (that are all free to join) like Southwest Rapid Rewards, United MileagePlus, Marriott Bonvoy, World of Hyatt, and more. Your Chase points transfer to all these programs at a 1:1 ratio, so 10,000 Chase points could be worth 10,000 United miles, for example.

This will take more elbow grease, as you’ll have to price out flights or hotels using rewards and transfer your points to the right programs. But this is where you can find extraordinary value for your rewards — often more than 2 cents of value.

For context, you could fly Iberia business class to Madrid for 34,000 points or stay at the $1,000-per-night Park Hyatt New York for 25,000 points per night.

Finally, Chase offers other redemption options through its handy Chase Travel℠ portal, from gift cards to statement credits, Amazon purchases, Apple products, and more. However, these options, while tempting, yield only 1 cent per point (or less), compared to the at least 1.5+ cents per point you’ll get from travel.

Benefits

In addition to potentially earning thousands of points every year, there are tons of other awesome benefits with the Chase Sapphire Reserve®:

Up to $300 Annual Travel Credit

You’ll automatically receive this statement credit for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year.

Global Entry, TSA PreCheck, or NEXUS Application Fee Credit

You’ll get the full cost as a statement credit when applying for any of these trusted traveler programs, which will enhance your travel experience by breezing through airport security faster.

Pro tip: Global Entry not only clears you at customs quickly but offers TSA PreCheck as well.

Priority Pass Airport Lounge Access

Visit more than 1,300 airport lounges around the world with a complimentary Priority Pass membership, offering a space to relax, grab a snack or drink, and work. Plus, bring two guests for no additional charge.

Premium Travel and Purchase Protections

You’ll automatically receive travel insurance, lost luggage reimbursement, purchase protection, and so much more.

No Foreign Transaction Fees

When traveling internationally, you won’t pay any fees for using a different currency.

Bonuses

New applicants of the Chase Sapphire Reserve® will earn Earn 75,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,125 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Travel℠.

When redeemed for travel through Chase Travel℠, your points are worth at least 1.5 cents each. Therefore, this introductory bonus is worth $1,125 toward travel. But again, by leveraging Chase’s unique airline and hotel transfer partners, you can stretch the value of your points for greater value.

At least for the first year of card ownership, $1,200 in value more than covers the cost of the annual fee. From then on, you can assess if the other benefits are worth paying the annual fee for years to come.

APR

While the Chase Sapphire Reserve® does not offer an introductory APR rate, its ongoing APR is 22.49% - 29.49% Variable, depending on your creditworthiness.

Like its annual fee, this regular APR is steep. You’ll want to avoid missing a payment at all costs to avoid incurring this hefty surcharge and hurting your credit score.

Annual Fee

As discussed, the Chase Sapphire Reserve® comes with a $550 annual fee. You’ll be charged the full amount at once, so you’ll need to be ready to pay for this fee from the get-go.

But after you factor in the $300 annual travel credit — which is very easy to use — the annual fee is more like $250. That’s much easier to swallow, and that’s before you factor in the sign-up bonus, strong rewards opportunities, and excellent travel perks and protections.

Other Fees

You’ll want to be aware of the full package you’re signing up for with the Chase Sapphire Reserve®. Here are some other fees that you’ll want to consider, although they seem comparable with other travel cards on the market:

  • Balance transfer fee: Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater
  • Cash advance fee: Either $10 or 5% of the amount of each transaction, whichever is greater
  • Late fee: Up to $40

How Does the Chase Sapphire Reserve® Compare to Similar Cards?

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

  • Credit required: Good to excellent
  • Annual fee: $95
  • Regular APR: 21.49% - 28.49% Variable

The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card offers a signup bonus of 75,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $900 when you redeem through Chase Travel℠.

It also comes with a much lower annual fee of $95 and a lower APR, but that’s offset by a more modest rewards structure — but one that’s still pretty impressive.

Cardholders can earn 5x points on flights and travel purchased through Chase Travel℠, 3x points on dining, online grocery purchases and on select streaming services, 2x points on all other travel purchases, and 1x points on all other eligible purchases.

Other perks include a $50 annual Chase Travel℠ hotel credit, trip cancellation/interruption insurance, primary rental car insurance, baggage delay insurance, purchase protection, extended warranty, and more.

Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card

  • Credit required: Excellent
  • Annual fee: $395

With the Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card, you’ll get an annual fee of $395, which, while pricey, is still lower than the Chase Sapphire Reserve®.

The card comes with an impressive welcome bonus of 75,000 bonus miles once you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first 3 months from account opening.

Beyond that, cardholders can earn 10x miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel, 5x miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel, and 2x miles on all other eligible purchases.

Other perks include a $300 annual Capital One travel credit, 10,000 anniversary bonus miles, Global Entry/TSA PreCheck credit, Priority Pass and Capital One airport lounge access, cellphone insurance, trip cancellation/interruption insurance, and more.

Should You Get the Chase Sapphire Reserve®?

The Chase Sapphire Reserve® is for those who want to take their travels to the next level. For those who travel often, the annual fee seems to be a fair price to pay for these travel benefits.

Additionally, the Chase Sapphire Reserve® can make for a great standalone card. While no card is perfect, the Chase Sapphire Reserve® is certainly up there.

How to Apply for the Chase Sapphire Reserve®

Before you apply, you’ll also want to familiarize yourself with Chase’s 5/24 rule. You likely won’t qualify for any Chase-issued credit card if you’ve applied for five or more credit cards (from any bank) in the past 24 months.

Once you confirm that you’re outside the infamous 5/24 rule, the application process for the Chase Sapphire Reserve® is simple. You’ll need to enter basic information, such as your Social Security number, annual income, and monthly housing payment.

You could receive instant approval, typically within one minute. There’s also a chance that Chase may need to review further information before granting approval.

The Bottom Line

If you were to pay for the Chase Sapphire Reserve®’s benefits individually (i.e., airport lounge access, Global Entry, and travel insurance), it would cost you hundreds or thousands of dollars per year, depending on how often you travel. Instead, the Chase Sapphire Reserve® offers these significant travel benefits, on top of the ability to earn credit card rewards.

Learn more about/apply for the Chase Sapphire Reserve®.

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