Chase Sapphire Reserve Review: Is the Annual Fee Worth It?

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Updated on Thursday, August 17, 2017

Looking for a travel rewards card with a big bang for your buck? Chase Sapphire Reserve® may be right for you.It comes with a litany of benefits for frequent travelers including:

  • 3X points on travel immediately after earning your $300 travel credit. 3X points on dining at restaurants & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases.
  • Your points are worth 50% more when you redeem through the Chase Ultimate Rewards® portal.
  • Ability to transfer your points on a 1:1 basis to major airline and hotel rewards programs.
  • $100 statement credit after you pay for your TSA PreCheck or Global Entry application.
  • The first $300 you spend on travel during each 12-month period measured by your sign-up date will be automatically reimbursed through statement credits.
  • Currently, you can earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.

These benefits do come at a cost. The card has a $550 annual fee — and it is not waived in the first year. While the benefits are top-notch, they’re only accessible to those who can float the $550 in upfront costs.

Chase Sapphire Reserve®

The information related to Chase Sapphire Reserve® has been independently collected by MagnifyMoney and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card prior to publication.

Chase Sapphire Reserve®

Annual fee
$550
Rewards Rate
3X points on travel immediately after earning your $300 travel credit. 3X points on dining at restaurants & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases.
Regular Purchase APR
16.99%-23.99% Variable
Credit required
excellent-credit

Excellent

How to earn points

The best way to earn points with Chase Sapphire Reserve® is by placing all of your travel and dining purchases on this card exclusively. These purchases will get you 3X points on travel immediately after earning your $300 travel credit. 3X points on dining at restaurants & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases.

What, exactly, qualifies as a travel purchase? The obvious things, like hotels and car rentals, are included. But don’t forget merchants like Airbnb, Expedia, or even your state DOT when you drive on toll roads.

Certain travel-related expenses do not count as travel purchases. Amusement park tickets, excursions purchased directly through tour companies, and that Starbucks latte you purchased at the airport will not be counted as a 3-point-per-dollar travel expense, for example.

If you’re making a big purchase, but you’re not sure if it will qualify as a travel expense, it’s worth it to call the company you will be purchasing from. You want to find out how they are coded to credit card companies. Do they come through as “travel” or is the business classified into another category? Finding the answer to this question can help you decide if you should make the purchase on your Chase Sapphire Reserve® or if you should charge it somewhere else where you’ll get more than one measly point per dollar.

Best ways to redeem points

Whether you’re purchasing a plane ticket for a work trip or booking your next family vacation, you want to make sure you’re maximizing all those points you’ve earned.

One of the best ways to redeem your points at booking is by using the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal. Here, you’ll be able to find flights, hotels, and more with no blackout dates. Because you’re a Chase Sapphire Reserve® holder, your points will be worth 50% more here. That means that instead of your 50,000-point bonus being worth $500, it will actually be worth $750.

Another potentially great way to book is by transferring your points to one of Chase’s partner airline or hotel rewards programs. This can be done in real time on a 1:1 basis. Sometimes, it may even be a better deal than booking through Chase’s Ultimate Rewards portal.

For example, a flight from New York City to Tokyo may run you $1,200. If you booked within the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal, that would cost you 80,000 points.

However, if you transferred your points to United MileagePlus® miles, you could score a flight for 70,000 points if you booked at the “Saver Award” level in economy class. There is limited seating at this award level, so you would want to book far ahead, but doing so would save you 10,000 points.

Chase Ultimate Rewards has several transfer partners aside from United. The full list includes:

  • British Airways Avios
  • Flying Blue (Air France/KLM)
  • JetBlue TrueBlue
  • Singapore Airlines Krisflyer
  • Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards
  • United MileagePlus
  • Virgin Atlantic Flying Club
  • Hyatt Gold Passport
  • IHG Rewards
  • Marriott Rewards/Ritz Carlton Rewards

How to qualify

Those with the best chance of qualifying for Chase Sapphire Reserve® will have a credit score of 700 or above without a history of chronically late payments. Those with a credit score below 650 are unlikely to qualify.

This card is only for people with excellent credit. In general, that means your score should be above 700. In addition, Chase (and other credit card issuers) have been cracking down on people who go from one bonus offer to the next. If you apply for a lot of credit cards, don’t be surprised if you are declined.

What we like about the card

There are a lot of reasons to love Chase Sapphire Reserve® if you’re big on travel.

The bonus is nothing to laugh at.

Fifty thousand points is on the high end of standard spending bonuses for credit cards, but when you book through the Ultimate Rewards portal, Chase’s offer is even more stellar.

Your annual fee is effectively lowered to $150 every year.

Because you will receive up to $300 in statement credits for travel reimbursements per year, the $550 annual fee is effectively lowered to $150 — as long as you actually spend $300 on travel.

Rewards points are generous on dining and travel purchases.

Three points per dollar is a large multiplier in the world of travel rewards credit cards.

No foreign transaction fees.

When you’re traveling, the last thing you want to deal with is foreign transaction fees. They can quickly eat away at any value you’re getting with your rewards points, so we’re glad to see that this card doesn’t have any.

Additional $100 statement credit specifically for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck.

Both of these programs can save you a ton of time and hassle, especially if you travel frequently. The $100 statement credit reduces or even eliminates the application fees, depending on which product you pursue.

Plentiful travel protection benefits. When you book your travel with your Chase Sapphire Reserve® card, you automatically have a lot of coverage as long as 100% of the purchase goes on the card. Coverage includes:

  • Auto rental collision damage waiver. You won’t have to purchase collision insurance from your rental company as physical damages to the vehicle will be covered by this waiver provided via Chase.
  • Roadside assistance. You’re covered up to $50, four times per year. Covered services include locksmiths, tows, tire changes, jump-starts, and gas.
  • Baggage delay insurance. If the airline has issues locating your luggage at your destination airport for six hours or more, this insurance policy will reimburse you for essential purchases, like shampoo or slacks. The policy maxes out at $100 per day over the course of five days.
  • Lost luggage reimbursement. What if the airport never finds your bag? Or damages your belongings? Chase will reimburse the value of your belongings up to $3,000.
  • Trip cancellation/interruption insurance.Certain emergencies, such as severe weather or illness, will merit a reimbursement of up to $10,000 if they force you to cancel or cut your trip short.
  • Trip delay reimbursement. If your flight is delayed for over six hours and the airline is offering little to nothing in the way of reimbursement, Chase will pay you back $500 per ticket to cover things like food and hotel stays.
  • Emergency coverages. Chase provides coverage for emergency evacuations, emergency medical and dental services, and accidental death or dismemberment while you’re on a trip that you’ve paid for 100% with your Chase Sapphire Rewards card.

What we don’t like about the card

While Chase Sapphire Reserve®’s rewards are out of this world, they do come at a steep price.

The annual fee is colossal.

A $550 annual fee is huge—especially since it is not waived in the first year. This limits the number of people who will even be able to afford to open a card, nonetheless justify the expense.

Rewards points are scant on everyday purchases.

While this card is generous with rewards points for dining and travel, purchases in every other category only earn 1 point per dollar. Even when you account for the 50% bonus when booking through the Ultimate Rewards portal, it would be wise to put these purchases on one of many other cards on the market that will earn you more points.

Travel hackers will have a hard time qualifying.

Banks (and not just Chase) are making it more difficult for people to jump from bonus offer to bonus offer. If that sounds like you, it will probably be difficult to get approved.

Who the Chase Sapphire Reserve® best for

Those who travel frequently, spending a good portion of their budget on related purchases including dining, will benefit most from this card. These applicants have a solid credit history and score and are more likely to have a higher income as they have the funds available to front the $550 annual fee without hurting their budget. Their travels enable them to get the most out of not only the rewards points but also the statement credits that make this offer so attractive.

Chase Sapphire Reserve® vs. Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

If you have the $550 to spend up front, and know that you will be able to take advantage of the annual $300 travel reimbursement, Chase Sapphire Reserve® is likely a better card for you than the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card.

While the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card‘s annual fee of $95 is only $55 less than the Chase Sapphire Reserve® effective $150 fee after travel reimbursements ($300 Annual Travel Credit – $550 annual fee).

For an additional $55, your Chase Sapphire Reserve® points are worth 1.5 points each when you book through the Ultimate Rewards portal versus the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card‘s 1.25 points. Let’s look back at our trip from New York City to Tokyo. With the Chase Sapphire Reserve®, you would need 80,000 points to book your $1,200 flight. With the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, you would need 96,000 points. That’s a 16,000-point difference. In order to make up the difference, you’d have to spend $6,400 on travel or dining on your Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card.

Fifty-five dollars starts to look like a deal.

You also earn 3 points instead of the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card rate of 2 points on each dollar you spend on travel and dining.

Given the increased point values, making up the $55 difference is easy. Having the income to support opening the Chase Sapphire Reserve® in the first place is the challenge. Not only do you need to have on hand $550 up front, but you’ll also need to have an income that justifies a credit line of $10,000+. If you will have trouble achieving either of these things, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card may be a better card for you.

Alternatives

While Chase Sapphire Reserve® offers fantastic benefits, it’s not for everyone. If you want a credit card that offers travel rewards without such large impositions, you do have other options.

 Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

The information related to Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card has been independently collected by MagnifyMoney and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card prior to publication.

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Regular Purchase APR
15.99% - 22.99% Variable
Annual fee
$95
Rewards Rate
2X points on travel and dining at restaurants & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases worldwide

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is much like the Chase Sapphire Reserve® option, except the annual fee is $95. It doesn’t have all the same benefits, but it does offer 2 points per dollar spent on dining and travel while offering 1 point on all other purchases. When you redeem points in the Ultimate Rewards portal, they’ll be worth 25% more instead of Chase Sapphire Reserve®‘s 50% incentive.

The Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card offers 2 Miles per dollar on every purchase, every day, with each mile worth one cent when redeemed against a past travel purchase. The annual fee is waived in the first year ($0 intro for first year; $95 after that), and the current sign-up bonus is a One-time bonus of 50,000 miles once you spend $3,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $500 in travel.

FAQ

Yes, though you should keep in mind the credit requirements above. If you currently have Chase Ultimate Rewards points, it’s wise to transfer them to the Reserve so you can take full advantage of the 1.5-point redemption rate in the Ultimate Rewards portal.

Yes. As long as you share the same address, you will be able to transfer points one to another instantaneously. You cannot combine or share points with a family member who lives at a different address.

No. Once you transfer points to another program, you cannot convert them back to Ultimate Rewards points. Be sure you understand the redemption process for each program before you transfer to ensure you’re getting the maximum value for your points.

No. As long as you keep your account open, your points will not expire. If you have other Chase cards that are eligible for the Ultimate Rewards program, you could close your Chase Sapphire Reserve® account and transfer them to your other card, but as of today Chase Sapphire Reserve® offers the best redemption rate in the Ultimate Rewards portal, so this may not be the best move.

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