Chase Sapphire Reserve® Review: Best Travel Card Ever?

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While there are plenty of premier rewards credit cards on the market, the Chase Sapphire Reserve® might be the best deal yet. Part of the lucrative Chase Ultimate Rewards® program but with higher earning tiers and better redemption values, the Chase Sapphire Reserve® offers optimal value and a sweet new offer for Chase enthusiasts and travel lovers alike.

Not only does this card offer a huge signup bonus, but you earn three points per dollar spent on travel and dining and one point per dollar on all other purchases. As an added bonus, your points are worth 50% more when redeemed for travel through the Chase Ultimate Rewards® portal. The only downside? Carrying this card means paying a whopping $450 annual fee.

If you’re wondering whether the perks are worth the cost, keep reading to learn more.

Chase Sapphire Reserve® Key Takeaways:

  • Get an annual travel credit. Receive up to $300 in statement credits annually as reimbursement for travel purchases such as airfare and hotels charged to your card.
  • Earn points faster. Earn 3x points on all travel and dining purchases, along with 1x points on everything else you buy.
  • Your points are more lucrative than ever. Redeem points for 50% more when you book travel through the Chase Ultimate Rewards® portal.
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Enjoy premier travel benefits. Score benefits such as trip cancellation/interruption insurance, primary auto rental coverage, and a complimentary Priority Pass™ Select membership.

Chase Sapphire Reserve® Review: Best Travel Card Ever?

From the moment word of a new Chase travel credit card hit the streets, travel bloggers and major news outlets pored over card rumors and speculated this may be the #besttravelcardever. But, is it? At the end of the day, the value of this card depends on your personal spending habits and travel goals.

If you’re a hardcore Chase Ultimate Rewards® fan, have other Chase credit cards in your wallet, and spend a lot on travel and dining, this could easily be the most lucrative card for your wallet. If you don’t spend a lot or don’t travel much, on the other hand, you’ll probably find better options elsewhere — it takes a lot of rewards to make that $450 annual fee worthwhile. Let’s dig into this card’s details to see where it shines and where it flops.

Let’s start with the elephant in the room – this card’s enormous welcome offer. If you’re in it for the signup bonus alone, Chase Sapphire Reserve® is a clear winner. At the moment, this card is offering a 50,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards® bonus points after you spend $4,000 on the card within the first three months. As an added bonus, you’ll get three points for every dollar you spend on travel and dining in addition to the one point per dollar spent elsewhere. To sweeten the pot even further, you get 50% more value for those points when you book travel through the Chase Ultimate Rewards® portal.

Not only that, but like other top travel cards from Chase, you can transfer your points to an array of travel partners at a 1:1 ratio. As of right now, here are your options:

Airlines

  • British Airways
  • JetBlue
  • Singapore Airlines
  • Southwest Airlines
  • United Airlines
  • Virgin Atlantic
  • Air France/Flying Blue
  • Aer Lingus

Hotels

  • Hyatt Gold Passport
  • IHG
  • Marriott Rewards
  • Ritz-Carlton Rewards

If you belong to any of these loyalty programs already, you know how lucrative and useful each of them can be. Now imagine earning 3x points on all travel and dining purchases then transferring your points to these programs. With the ability to rack up points at a much faster pace, you have the potential to earn considerably more free travel.

If you have other Chase cards in your wallet, on the other hand, your earnings opportunities are even better. Let’s say you pair this card with the Chase Freedom®, which has no annual fee. With that combination, you would earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter you activate. After transferring those points to your Reserve account, you would get 50% more on travel booked through the Chase Ultimate Rewards® portal. The same can be said for the Chase Freedom Unlimited® as a companion card as well, except that it doles out 1.5x cash back for every dollar you spend with no limits.

While redeeming your points for 50% more through the Chase Ultimate Rewards® portal may sound great, it’s hard to know what that means without a concrete example.

To illustrate how this works, I shopped for a hotel in San Diego for Thanksgiving weekend with three different Chase cards – the Chase Freedom®, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card (whose points are worth 25% more through the Chase portal), and Chase Sapphire Reserve®, which lets you redeem points for 50% more value.

Hotel Values with the Chase Freedom®:

chase-freedom-ss

Hotel Values with the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card:

chase-sapphire-ss

Hotel Values with the Chase Sapphire Reserve®:

chase-reserve-ss

As you can see, your points are worth considerably more when you have the Chase Sapphire Reserve® in your wallet. For the same dates and same hotel, I’d pay nearly 10,000 fewer points to stay at one of the top-rated San Diego hotels on TripAdvisor Thanksgiving weekend. This fact makes it worthwhile to keep your other Chase cards for their premier earning categories, then pool all of your points in your Chase Sapphire Reserve® account. When you do, you’ll get a lot more bang for your buck.

On top of all of this, the Chase Sapphire Reserve® offers a $300 travel credit based on the calendar year. This credit is automatic, meaning you don’t have to apply for it. Whenever you make a purchase coded as travel, the credit will be applied to your account automatically. And since it’s based on the calendar year, you can potentially use this credit twice with just one annual fee.

Chase Sapphire Reserve®: Where it Falls Flat

Speaking of the annual fee, the $450 fee this card requires is steep. While it’s certainly worth it even if you just redeem your signup bonus points for cash back or a statement credit, paying an annual fee this large is untenable for many people If the Chase Sapphire Reserve® has any real downside, the annual fee is most certainly it.

Another notable drawback is the fact that Chase has made qualifying for their credit cards considerably harder. Where you could once apply for a dozen or more cards and still get approved for new ones, Chase has tightened their standards and limited people to no more than five cards in the last 24 months (including authorized user cards). If you have quite a few credit cards already, you may not qualify for the Chase Sapphire Reserve® – even if you have an excellent credit score and high income.

Who this Card is Good for:

  • Chase Ultimate Rewards® enthusiasts who know how to maximize points
  • Anyone who spends a lot on travel and dining
  • People who travel frequently

Who Should Pass:

  • Anyone who doesn’t want to pay a big annual fee
  • People who spend little on travel or dining
  • Someone who doesn’t spend much on credit each year

How Does it Compare to Other Travel Credit Cards?

When it comes to other premier travel credit cards, the closest comparable card from another issuer is the The Platinum Card® from American Express. With this card, you’ll earn comparable travel benefits and points that belong in the lucrative Membership Rewards program. The following chart highlights some of the best perks of each card:

 Chase Sapphire Reserve® (currently unavailable)The Platinum Card® from American Express
Annual Fee$450$550
Intro BonusEarn 50K bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards® 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you use your new Card to make $5,000 in purchases in your first 3 months. Terms Apply.
Earnings StructureEarn 3x points on travel and dining, 1x points elsewhereEarn 1x points on all eligible purchases. Terms Apply.
Lounge AccessComplimentary Priority Pass™ Select membershipComplimentary access to The Centurion® lounge network, the International American Express lounges, Delta Sky Clubs®, and Priority Pass™ Select
Airline Credit$300 for any travel purchase$200 for select incidentals including checked baggage and in-flight refreshments
Transferable Points Transfer to Chase Ultimate Rewards partners at a 1:1 RatioTransfer to Membership Rewards partners at a 1:1 ratio or less
Redeeming PointsGet 50 percent more value through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portalRedeem for 1 point/$1 or less through American Express travel
Fee Credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓™YesYes

As you can see, the Chase Sapphire Reserve® comes out ahead in nearly every category. Not only is the signup bonus large, but your points are worth considerably more, too. Not only that, but the travel credit is worth $100 more and good for a broader range of travel charges as well.

Meanwhile, both cards come with a fee credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓™, the same annual fee, and many of the same travel perks. And since the Chase Sapphire Reserve® lets you earn 3x points on travel and dining, this card may be a no-brainer if you spend a lot in those categories.

The Platinum Card® from American Express may be a better option if you fly plenty of alternative airlines, however. By and large, this card offers a wider range of international transfer partners to choose from. Make sure to read our review of The Platinum Card® from American Express for additional information.

The Platinum Card® from American Express

Partner Offer
Apply Now on American Express's secure website

Highlights
  • Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you use your new Card to make $5,000 in purchases in your first 3 months.
  • Enjoy Uber VIP status and free rides in the U.S. up to $15 each month, plus a bonus $20 in December. That can be up to $200 in annual Uber savings.
  • 5X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel.
  • 5X Membership Rewards points on prepaid hotels booked on amextravel.com.
  • Enjoy access to the Global Lounge Collection, the only credit card airport lounge access program that includes proprietary lounge locations around the world.
  • Receive complimentary benefits with an average total value of $550 with Fine Hotels & Resorts. Learn More.
  • $200 Airline Fee Credit, up to $200 per calendar year in baggage fees and more at one qualifying airline.
  • Get up to $100 in statement credits annually for purchases at Saks Fifth Avenue on your Platinum Card®. Enrollment required.
  • $550 annual fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees

Hate Huge Annual Fees? Try the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

If you love Chase Ultimate Rewards® but don’t like staring down a huge annual fees, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is a smart alternative. With this card, you’ll score a large signup bonus, but with fewer perks overall.

The best part about the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is that, unlike the Reserve version, this card’s annual fee (only $95) is waived the first year. This gives you 12 full months to try the card’s benefits before paying a single cent out-of-pocket.

A notable drawback that comes with getting the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is the fact you only earn 2x points on travel and dining. Plus, you can only extract 25% more value when you redeem your points for airfare, hotel stays, or rental cars through the Chase Ultimate Rewards® portal. By getting this card instead, you’ll also miss out on the $300 travel credit the Chase Sapphire Reserve® offers.

When all is said and done, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is merely a toned down and more affordable version of the new Chase Sapphire Reserve®. Both cards remain popular, but the right card for your wallet depends on your thirst for rewards, your spending habits, and how comfortable you are with annual fees.

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Apply Now on Chase's secure website

Highlights
  • Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $625 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Chase Sapphire Preferred® named a 'Best Travel Credit Card' by MONEY® Magazine, 2016-2017
  • 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 50,000 points are worth $625 toward travel
  • No blackout dates or travel restrictions - as long as there's a seat on the flight, you can book it through Chase Ultimate Rewards

Final Thoughts

If you love Ultimate Rewards points like I do, the Chase Sapphire Reserve® should be on your radar. With an awesome earnings structure, plenty of travel perks, and a huge signup bonus, there’s a lot to like.

Still, many consumers have no desire to pay a $450 annual fee no matter what they get in return. For people who fall into that category, it’s smart to shop around for an alternative option with a lower annual fee.

Related:

Credit Card Directory

To find the best rewards credit card for your needs, it pays to shop around and compare all of your options. Check out the credit card directory below for updated information on all of the top cash back, travel, and rewards credit cards:

Sort, filter, or search for what matters most to find the best rewards credit card for you.

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Apply Online
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$0 for the first year, then $95 See Details
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Holly Johnson is an award-winning personal finance writer who is obsessed with frugality, budgeting, and travel. She blogs at ClubThrifty.com and teaches others how to write online at EarnMoreWriting.com.