Chase Sapphire Reserve card review

Published: November 25, 2019

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Published: November 25, 2019

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Ratings Policy
Luxury Rating:
4 rating
4 rating
4 / 5
Rewards Value: 3.2
Annual Percentage Rate: 0.4
Rewards Flexibility: 4.9
Features: 4.0
Customer Experience 3.6

In a Nutshell:

Thanks to its generous $300 annual travel credit that covers nearly any travel expense, including airfare, the Chase Sapphire Reserve card is an exceptionally valuable travel card that makes luxury travel benefits accessible for travelers on a wide range of budgets.

Learn more about this card

Rewards Rate

  • 3:1 travel and restaurants (excluding purchases covered by $300 travel credit)
  • 1:1 general purchases

Sign-up Bonus
50,000 points if you spend $4,000 in first 3 months

Annual Fee
$450

Average Yearly Rewards Value ($75,000 spend)
$2,219

APR
18.49-25.49% (variable)

Rewards Redemption
Pros

  • No blackout dates
  • No expiration dates
  • No point limits
  • Redeem points for gift cards, travel, merchandise and cash back
  • Purchase travel from outside sites and redeem for statement credits
  • Pay for travel with partial points
  • 1:1 point transfer to frequent flier partners
  • 50% bonus on travel rewards redeemed through Chase website
  • Combine points from other Chase cards

Cons

  • Lower rewards value for merchandise

 

Customer Experience

Other Notable Features: $300 annual travel credit; $100 Global Entry/TSA Precheck credit; no foreign transaction fee; complimentary access to more than 1,000 airport lounges; select Visa Infinite hotel, air and car rental perks; trip cancellation and interruption insurance; car rental insurance; baggage delay insurance; lost luggage insurance; trip delay insurance; purchase protection; return protection; extended warranty; 24/7 customer service; exclusive events and experiences; zero fraud liability; year-end summary

Rewards Rating:
4.6 rating
4.6 rating
4.6 / 5
Rewards Value: 4.4
Annual Percentage Rate: 1.8
Rewards Flexibility: 4.9
Features: 4.0
Customer Experience 3.6

In a Nutshell:

The price of admission for this luxury card from J.P. Morgan Chase is steep, but its large sign-up bonus and generous travel allowance more than make up for the card’s $450 annual fee.

Learn more about this card

Rewards Rate

  • 3:1 travel and restaurants (excluding purchases covered by $300 travel credit)
  • 1:1 general purchases

Sign-up Bonus
50,000 points if you spend $4,000 in first 3 months

Annual Bonus

  • $300 annual travel credit (applies to most travel purchases)
  • Priority Pass Select membership
  • $100 Global Entry/TSA Precheck credit every 4 years

 

Annual Fee
$450

Average Yearly Rewards Value ($1,325 monthly spend)
$717

APR
18.49-25.49% (variable)

Rewards Redemption
Pros

  • No blackout dates
  • No expiration dates
  • No point limits
  • Redeem points for gift cards, travel, merchandise and cash back
  • Purchase travel from outside sites and redeem for statement credits
  • Pay for travel with partial points
  • 1:1 point transfer to frequent flier partners
  • 50% bonus on travel rewards redeemed through Chase website
  • Combine points from other Chase cards

Cons

  • Lower rewards value for merchandise

Customer Experience

Other Notable Features: $300 annual travel credit; $100 Global Entry/TSA Precheck credit; no foreign transaction fee; complimentary access to more than 1,000 airport lounges; select Visa Infinite hotel, air and car rental perks; trip cancellation and interruption insurance; car rental insurance; baggage delay insurance; lost luggage insurance; trip delay insurance; purchase protection; return protection; extended warranty; 24/7 customer service; exclusive events and experiences; zero fraud liability; year-end summary

Chase Sapphire Reserve Review: More Details

With a top-tier sign-up bonus and some of the most generous travel perks available on a rewards card, the Chase Sapphire Reserve can be a valuable addition for many users – despite a high annual fee. In addition to a flexible travel credit, lounge access and other plush benefits, it has a great rewards rate.

Generous sign-up bonus

One of the most eye-catching features of the Chase Sapphire Reserve is its generous sign-up bonus. Right now, cardholders can earn 50,000 points for spending $4,000 in the first three months. Plus, these points are worth 50 percent more when redeemed for travel purchases through Chase’s Ultimate Rewards portal. That means the sign-up bonus alone is worth $750 in Ultimate Rewards travel.

High annual fee

The $450 price tag on the Chase Sapphire Reserve can be a big deterrent for moderate spenders, but the card is not nearly as costly as it seems. In the first year for example, the value of the sign-up bonus outpaces the annual fee by more than 1.5 times. The card is also packed with travel credits and benefits that can chip away at this cost – such as a $300 annual credit for travel purchases, $100 credit for Global Entry/TSA Precheck and complimentary lounge access.

Luxury cards such as the Reserve might seem out of reach for most spenders, but in reality, cardholders who already travel every year can eke quite a bit of value out of plush travel perks.

Flexible travel credit

Each year, Chase Sapphire Reserve cardholders are awarded a $300 credit to use toward travel purchases. This credit is one of the most flexible among luxury travel credits, as it can be used toward a wide variety of purchases, including – but not limited to the following:

    • Flights
    • Hotel stays
    • Parking garages
    • Toll booths
    • Pedicab rides
    • Taxi rides (including rideshare services)
    • UberEATS purchases
    • Public transportation

While many luxury cards limit their credits to purchases with a particular airline or hotel, the travel credit on the Chase Sapphire Reserve is easy to take advantage of. Any time you make a qualifying purchase, you will be automatically awarded a statement credit to cover it – until your $300 annual credit is reached. If you already spend at least $300 on these kinds of transactions a year, this can make a huge dent in the $450 annual fee.

Tip: Not sure what purchases count as travel? Credit cards use a tool called merchant category codes to determine which transactions qualify for bonus points or travel credits like this one. If you aren’t sure if a particular purchase will code as travel, you can make a small sample purchase and see how it shows up on your credit card statement.

See related: How does the Chase Sapphire Reserve’s travel credit work?

Earning points with the Sapphire Reserve card

The rewards rate on the Chase Sapphire Reserve makes it pretty easy to earn Ultimate Rewards points. Cardholders earn 3 points per dollar on travel and dining purchases (excluding purchases covered by $300 travel credit) and 1 point per dollar on everything else.

This is not the highest rate you can earn on either travel or dining purchases. The Citi Prestige Card, for example, offers 5 points per dollar on air travel and restaurant purchases. However, the Chase Sapphire Reserve travel bonus covers any travel purchase (not just air travel), and its points are worth a bit more. While this extra value is not quite enough to catch up to the Citi Prestige’s rate on travel and dining, it is still competitive.

What are Sapphire Reserve points worth?

A big perk to the Chase Sapphire Reserve is the fact that any points you redeem for travel through the Ultimate Rewards portal have a 50 percent higher value – for an average value of 1.5 cents per point. This makes a significant impact on the card’s earning rate, as each point you rack up has a better value. In fact, when compared to other rewards cards, the Chase Sapphire Reserve cards earns one of the highest values out of each dollar (factoring in earning rates and point value).

 

Tip: Many of these cards also come with travel credits and varying annual fees that contribute to their yearly value. Don’t forget to factor in perks like statement credits for travel purchases, lounge access and travel protections when deciding which card is best for you.

See Related: Why are Chase Ultimate Rewards points so valuable?

Redeeming Sapphire Reserve points

Once you’ve racked up point with your Chase Sapphire Reserve card, you have a variety of redemption options through the Ultimate Rewards portal. When you log into your Chase account, you can view a quick snapshot of how many points you’ve earned and each of your options.

Ultimate Rewards points are one of the most flexible rewards currencies. They can be used for anything from travel credits to Apple products. You can apply points toward travel statement credits that cover practically any kind of travel purchase from any source. When you opt for a travel redemption, you won’t have to worry about any blackout dates or restrictions. Your points never expire, so you can stockpile them for a larger redemption. And, if you decide that you don’t want to use points for travel, you can redeem them for cash back at a value of 1 cent per point.

However, the value of your points shifts depending on which option you choose. Redeeming for travel through the Ultimate Rewards portal is always your best bet, as it gets a 50 percent higher point value.

Redemption option Point value (cents)
Travel purchases (through Ultimate Rewards portal) 1.5
Regular travel redemption 1
Statement credit 1
Direct deposit 1
Gift cards 1
Apple products 1
Amazon.com purchases 0.8
Chase Pay purchases 0.8

Transferring Sapphire Reserve points

Chase also allows cardholders to transfer points to 13 travel partners at a 1:1 rate. Since some airline miles and hotel points are worth more than 1.5 cents per point, you can sometimes stretch your points further this way.

Transfer partner Point value (cents)
Singapore Airlines 2.36
World of Hyatt 2
Iberia Plus 1.7
Southwest Airlines 1.6
JetBlue Airlines 1.53
United Airlines 1.52
British Airways 1.4
Emirates 1.1
Air France/KLM 1
Aer Lingus 1
Virgin Atlantic 0.8
Marriott Bonvoy 0.8
IHG 0.55

While there are several other cards that allow you to transfer points to airline and hotel partners, Chase offers some of the best transfer options, including United and Southwest Airlines.

Lounge access

The Chase Sapphire Reserve comes with complimentary access to Priority Pass lounges, with more than 1,200 locations around the world. Access is unlimited, and each cardholder can bring up to two complimentary guests ($27 per additional guest). As an added bonus, any authorized users on the card are allowed their own access – with their own guests. That means you can add a spouse or family member as an authorized user to bring more people into the lounge on each visit. Just keep in mind that there is a $75 annual fee for each authorized user.

Though this isn’t the strongest lounge offering for a credit card (the Platinum Card from American Express offers the world’s largest lounge network), the Sapphire Reserve is one of the most affordable options for gaining lounge access. While you’ll have to pay between $450 to $550 for most credit cards with lounge access, the Chase Sapphire Reserve only costs $150 per year once you factor in its $300 travel credit.

Global Entry/TSA PreCheck credit

The Chase Sapphire Reserve card will also cover the cost of your application for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck once every four years (the length of each membership). Both of these programs simplify your travel, as you can go through the PreCheck security line at the airport. With Global Entry, you’ll have additional ease when traveling abroad. Rather than visiting a border agent, you can use the Global Entry kiosk to streamline your entrance to the country.

When you apply to either one of these programs and pay with your Sapphire Reserve card, you’ll automatically receive a statement credit to cover the fee ($85 for TSA PreCheck, $100 for Global Entry).

Primary car rental insurance

One of the hidden perks of the Chase Sapphire Reserve is its top-tier car rental insurance. If you decline the rental company’s collision insurance on a car you’ve paid for with the Reserve card, Chase will cover you for up to $75,000 in theft or collision damage.

The coverage you receive with this card is primary (both in the U.S. and abroad), which means that all damages are covered by Chase. With secondary insurance – which is what most rewards cards offer in the U.S. – you’ll only be covered for anything not paid for by your normal insurance policy.

This might not seem like a super exciting benefit, but it can save you a lot of money in the case of an accident in a rental car. Since the coverage with the Reserve card is better than the standard packages offered by most rental companies, it is in your best interest to decline the company’s offer and pay with the Reserve.

See Related: When comparing premium cards, don’t forget to eye insurance perks

Other Sapphire Reserve benefits

Rental car insurance is far from the only protection included with the Chase Sapphire Reserve. Here’s a quick look at the card’s other benefits:

  • Trip cancellation and interruption insurance – If you have to cancel or cut a trip short due to illness, severe weather or another covered situation, Chase will reimburse you up to $10,000 per person ($20,000 max per trip) for non-refundable expenses.
  • Lost luggage insurance – If your luggage is damaged or lost by the carrier on your flight, you can be reimbursed up to $3,000 per passenger.
  • Purchase protection – Eligible purchases made on your Chase Sapphire Reserve card are protected against damage or theft for the first 120 days (up to $10,000 per claim, $50,000 per year).
  • Return protection – If the store won’t take back an item you purchased on your Reserve card in the first 90 days, you can be refunded $500 per item ($1,000 max per year).
  • Extended warranty – With this perk, you can extend eligible warranties of three years or less by an additional year.

All of these coverages can save you significant money when shopping or traveling if you use them strategically.

Customer experience

Chase has a relatively good customer service reputation, tied for third out of 11 major issuers in J.D. Power’s 2019 customer satisfaction survey. It’s mobile app also gets good ratings, rating 4.6 out of 5 in the Google Play Store and 4.8 out of 5 in the Apple App Store. Unfortunately, the bank does not offer an online chat feature, which can make it difficult to get a quick answer to a simple question.

Approval odds

As a luxury credit card, the Chase Sapphire Reserve is one of the more difficult rewards cards to qualify for. It is designed for users with excellent credit (above 740). To boost your chances of qualifying, be sure you have a solid history of on-time payments.

In addition, Chase is one of the strictest issuers when it comes to the number of credit card accounts you have open. It holds applicants to the 5/24 rule, which means if you have opened five or more credit card accounts with any issuer in the last 24 months, it is likely you won’t be approved.

Sapphire Preferred vs. Sapphire Reserve

If the $450 annual fee seems a bit out of your budget, the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card offers a similar rewards structure and only charges $95 per year. However, you won’t receive an annual travel credit, and you’ll only earn 2 point per dollar on travel and dining purchases. In fact, by our estimates, if you spend $3,425 per year on travel and dining, you’ll earn enough more in rewards with the Sapphire Reserve card’s higher rate and credits to make up the difference in annual fee. Before you opt for the Sapphire Preferred card because of its lower annual fee, you should figure out how much you are likely to spend on dining and travel in the next year – the Sapphire Reserve may be the better option for you.

See Related: Why the Chase Sapphire Reserve still beats the Chase Sapphire Preferred

Pairing with other Ultimate Rewards cards

If you are a fan of juggling rewards cards, the Chase Sapphire Reserve makes a great pair to other Ultimate Rewards credit cards. Chase makes it easy to transfer points between any of these accounts, so you can carry cards with bonus point in different categories of purchases to boost your overall rewards rate.

For example, imagine you also have a Chase Freedom Unlimited card – which earns 1.5 percent cash back on every purchase. Since the Chase Sapphire Reserve only earns 1 point per dollar on general purchases, you can use it just for dining and travel and then use the Chase Freedom Unlimited on everything else to earn more overall. If you want to boost earning even further, you could introduce a third card with its own unique categories – such as the Chase Freedom.

By our estimates, the average cardholder who rotates these three cards can earn around 2.06 points per dollar – a significant boost over the Sapphire Reserve’s earning rate of 1.44 points per dollar.

How does the Sapphire Reserve compare to other travel cards?

Though certainly one of the most valuable luxury cards, the Sapphire Reserve card might not be the best choice for every kind of spender. Here’s a quick look at some other great alternatives:


The Platinum Card® from American Express

Citi Prestige card

American Express® Gold Card
Rewards rate

  • 5 points per dollar on flights booked directly with airlines or amextravel.com
  • 5 points per dollar on hotels booked with amextravel.com
  • 1 point per dollar on general purchases
Rewards rate

  • 5 points per dollar on air travel and restaurants
  • 3 points per dollar on hotels and cruise lines
  • 1 point per dollar on other purchases
Rewards rate

  • 4 points per dollar at  restaurants worldwide
  • 4 points per dollar at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 in purchases per year)
  • 3 points per dollar on flights booked directly with airlines or amextravel.com
  • 1 point per dollar on other purchases
  • Terms apply
Welcome bonus

60,000 points if you spend $5,000 in first 3 months

Welcome bonus

50,000 points if you spend $4,000 in first 3 months

Welcome bonus

35,000 points if you spend $4,000 in first 3 months

Annual fee

$550

Annual fee

$495

Annual fee

$250

Other things to know

  • Extensive airport lounge access, including Priority Pass and Centurion lounges
  • $200 airline fee credit
  • Up to $100 credit for Global Entry/TSA PreCheck
  • Up to $200 Uber credit
  • $100 hotel credit for stays at The Hotel Collection
  • Boingo Wi-Fi access
Other things to know

  • Priority Pass lounge access
  • 4th night free at any hotel up to 2 times per year
  • $250 travel credit
  • Up to $100 credit for Global Entry/TSA PreCheck
Other things to know

  • $100 airline fee credit
  • Up to $120 dining credit per year at participating restaurants
  • $75 hotel credit for stays at The Hotel Collection

The Platinum Card from American Express

Though it comes with one of the highest annual fees among rewards cards, the Platinum Card from American Express is packed with travel credits and protections that make it a valuable option for frequent travelers – especially those who love luxury perks. The major downside is that its rewards rate makes it hard to earn points on non-travel purchases.

See related: Chase Sapphire Reserve vs. Amex Platinum

Citi Prestige

The Citi Prestige card offers the best rate you can earn on restaurant purchases as well as a fourth night free at any hotel up to twice a year. This can be a very valuable benefit when used strategically – enough to offset the card’s high annual fee. The card also offers a generous sign-up bonus, though it is slightly less valuable than the Sapphire Reserve card’s offer.

See relatedCiti Prestige vs. Chase Sapphire Reserve

American Express Gold card

The American Express Gold card has fewer travel credits than other luxury cards, but its annual fee is also much more affordable. It is particularly rewarding for foodies, as it includes a generous rewards rate on both restaurant and U.S. supermarket purchases.

Who should apply for the Chase Sapphire Reserve?

  • Cardholders who spend at least $3,425 on dining and travel purchases per year.
  • Travelers looking for one of the most affordable options for lounge access.
  • Frequent travelers who can take advantage of travel credits, lounge access and travel protections.
  • Ultimate Rewards cardholders looking for a good pair to maximize rewards.
  • Cardholders looking for a generous sign-up bonus.

How to use the Chase Sapphire Reserve:

  • Spend at least $4,000 in the first three months to qualify for the sign-up bonus.
  • Use the $300 travel credit as soon in the year as possible. (You start earning 3 points per dollar on travel purchases after you’ve used the whole credit.)
  • Book travel through the Ultimate Rewards portal to get the most value out of your points.
  • Consider applying for another Ultimate Rewards credit card to boost your rewards rate.
  • Check Chase Offers regularly to earn bonus points on everyday spending.

Is the Chase Sapphire Reserve worth it?

If you are already spending at least $300 per year on travel purchases – including things like parking garages or rideshare services – the Sapphire Reserve travel credit takes a huge chunk out of the annual fee. With a bevy of generous travel protections and benefits, even a moderate spender can get significant value out of the card.

See Related: Chase Sapphire cardholders can earn 100,000 points with a Chase mortgage, Earn 60,000 bonus points with Chase Sapphire Banking

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