Review: Chase Sapphire Reserve Card

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Chase Sapphire Reserve℠

When they launched the Chase Sapphire Reserve card in the second half of 2016 Chase seemed to be clearly overspending to acquire customers.

They had a big signup bonus and a $300 travel credit that was based on calendar year – not cardmember year – so people were double dipping on the credit during their first year. There was talk at the time that it would take Chase over six years with a customer just to recoup their initial acquisition cost.

Chase was quieter with the card than when it first launched, but they still believe in the product even though it’s costly and generous to consumers. In the fall they launched their first television commercial for it.

This has been the ‘it’ card ever since it first came out. They’re offering a generous 50,000 point signup bonus (after $4000 spend within 3 months of account opening). The card earns triple points on travel and dining. There’s a $300 travel credit, $100 Global Entry credit, unlimited visit Priority Pass Select, and points that are worth more than usual towards paid travel and that transfer to airlines and hotel programs.

Money where my mouth is, here’s my Chase Sapphire Reserve Card:

The Fastest Earning Card for Many People

This card earns triple points on travel and dining, and one point per dollar on everything else. I used to think that double points on travel and dining from the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card was huge and it is — these are great categories for anyone who travels frequently.

It’s the ideal card for someone who travels for work and pays for expenses themselves and can be reimbursed. It’s the ideal card for someone who travels for leisure out of pocket and spends even $1000 a month in these categories.

I use a (no annual fee) Chase Freedom Unlimited card to supplement this. I put much of my unbonused spend on that card, it earns 1.5 points per dollar – period – and I transfer those points to my Sapphire Reserve card to make them even more valuable. That way I earn 3x on travel and dining, and 1.5x on most everything else.

These are valuable points, how can they give you so many? Obviously Chase hopes you’ll do more than just put travel and dining spend on the card. They do better awarding you 1 point per dollar than 3 points. However Chase signed a unique 10 year deal to lease Visa’s network with big upfront fees but without additional charges for each dollar spent. Their costs for incremental charges are low.

You’re Earning Highly Valuable Points

Chase Sapphire Reserve Card points are worth 1.5 cents apiece towards paid travel booked through the Ultimate Rewards portal. That’s better than the standard 1 penny apiece, or 1.25 cents with the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card.

Look at it this way, travel and dining spend earns a minimum 4.5% rebate when points are used this way. And you can transfer points from other Chase Ultimate Rewards card to your Sapphire Reserve and those points become worth 1.5 cents apiece, too.

I prefer to transfer my points to airline miles and hotel points.

  • Airlines: United, Air France, Korean, Singapore, Southwest, British Airways, Virgin Atlantic
  • Hotels: Marriott, Hyatt, Ritz-Carlton, IHG Rewards Club


Singapore Airlines Suites

Points transfer 1:1 and most points transfers are instant (Singapore, for instance, is on a delay of 12-48 hours in my experience). I use my points for premium cabin international awards, for instance Air France and Singapore give their own members better award space than gets offered to partners like Delta and Aeroplan respectively.

I also transfer points to Hyatt, which has high end properties, cash and points awards, and roughly charges just 60% more points to book an award as a suite instead of a regular room which is a better deal on suites than any other program offers.


Park Hyatt Aviara

Airport Lounge Access

Priority Pass Select is a card that gets you into lounges around the world. You don’t have to belong to an individual lounge program, this program works to have lounges in most of the places you go.

Your Chase Sapphire Reserve Card comes with Priority Pass Select. You get unlimited visits to participating lounges, and each time you go you get unlimited guests (subject to lounge capacity) included as well.

Additional cards on your Sapphire Reserve account cost $75, and those are eligible for Priority Pass as well. So your family members can have lounge access when you’re not with them, too (and their spending can rack up your points balance faster).

Priority Pass has over 1000 participating lounges around the world. As I write this there are 59 participating places in airports around the U.S. where you’ll have benefits.

Global Entry or TSA PreCheck Credit

Global Entry is fantastic skipping the immigration and customs queues when you return to the U.S. And I haven’t missed getting PreCheck for airport security since signing up for Global Entry except for getting SSSS’d for extra screening in Paris, my connecting boarding pass printed without PreCheck (but reprinting the connecting boarding pass in the states gave it to me anyway).

You can get a statement credit of up to $100 for Global Entry applications (which cost $100) or TSA PreCheck applications (which cost $85). This is good once every five years, because your status is valid for five years.

I already had PreCheck when I got my Sapphire Reserve Card so I gave away my Global Entry credit. I just had someone else use my card to pay their application fee and it was rebated right back to me.

TSA PreCheck is much quicker to get, but if you want Global Entry (my preference) then:

  1. Consider an alternate interview location. When I first signed up for Global Entry I figured I’d do my registration in DC, but I wanted my appointment faster. There were available appointments at New York JFK so I made an appointment there when I could conveniently pass through the airport.

  2. Keep checking for available appointments. People make appointments and cancel them especially close in. The system updates in close to real time. Refresh the appointment times page and you may see dates open up.

  3. Just go in. Many readers report they signed up for an appointment in the future. As long as they were signed up for an appointment at some time, somewhere, they could show up at any enrollment center. And if the enrollment center wasn’t busy they could get their interview done on a walk-in basis. There is no guarantee this will work. And some bureaucrats will be less than helpful of course, since they don’t have to take you. Often appointments take much less time than scheduled and employees sit around, if they’re bored they’ll take you.

$300 Travel Credit Makes the Chase Sapphire Reserve Card Almost Inexpensive

You’re paying a $450 annual fee but you’re going to get $300 of that back pretty much straight off the bat. That’s because the card has a $300 travel credit. You get rebated for pretty much anything that’s travel, no need to mess around with picking an airline or figuring out what counts as a fee. And the rebates are automatic.

Here are the merchant types Chase says count as travel,

Merchants in the travel category include airlines, hotels, motels, timeshares, campgrounds, car rental agencies, cruise lines, travel agencies, discount travel sites, and operators of passenger trains, buses, taxis, limousines, ferries, toll bridges and highways, and parking lots and garages.

It has to actually code as travel, and vacation rental properties may not for instance. Chase warns about “in-flight goods and services, on-board cruise line goods and services, sightseeing activities, tourist attractions, merchants within airports, and merchants that rent vehicles for the purpose of hauling” as examples of things that might not trigger the rebate. In addition “the purchasing of points or miles does not qualify in this category.”

Buy an airline ticket, stay at a hotel, use this as the default payment card for Uber or Lyft and you’re reducing your effective cost for the card significantly. The travel credit runs with your cardmember – or annual fee – year.

So why not just offer a $150 annual fee card? A $450 card positions Chase Sapphire Reserve as premium, the kind of product that customers who will spend a lot would get. A $150 card would lead more people to get the card, enjoy the bonus, but who might not be as likely to spend as much and become profitable for Chase. Better to charge you the fee and rebate it back to you.

I still think that the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card is the best starter card — $0 annual fee the first year, then $95 — it’s much lower commitment, great to ease someone into rewards. You’re earning valuable points quickly, and that may entice into a Sapphire Reserve later.

Visa Infinite Travel Protections and Other Benefits of the Chase Sapphire Reserve Card

The Chase Sapphire Reserve Card is a Visa Infinite and comes with several premium travel protections. Most people gloss over these, which is why they can offer rich benefits like these, those who know about them really benefit while it costs little to fulfill for most people.

  • Primary collision damage waiver for rental cars decline your rental company’s collision coverage and you get up to $75,000 in coverage — so if you ding the car your own insurance may not even need to know.

  • Baggage Delay if your bags are lost for more than 6 hours you can get up to $100 a day for 5 days reimbursed, save those receipts for purchases of essential items.

  • Trip Delay Coverage if your flight is delayed more than 6 hours — or overnight —
    you get up to $500 per ticket in expenses like hotel, meals, and ground transportation.

  • Trip Cancellation or Interruption if it’s a once in a lifetime trip you couldn’t replace you may still want trip insurance, but you can get reimbursement up to $10,000 for trips cancelled or ended early due to sickness, severe weather and other covered events.

There are other benefits too like medical evacuation (one reader’s father had a quarter million dollar expense covered by American Express).

There’s even a roadside assistance benefit covering a tow, locksmith, gas, tire change, or jump start up to 4 times per year, up to $50 each time.

Can You Get the Chase Sapphire Reserve Card?

Judging from the people I see pulling out the Chase Sapphire Reserve Card it’s not a difficult product to get, although as a Visa Infinite card it’s not for approval with low available credit. The biggest wrinkle is that those in the miles and points hobby who have already been picking up cards for the bonus for awhile may run into trouble. Chase’s “5/24” policy applies, where if you’ve had 5 or more new cards in the last 24 months they’re not likely to approve you.

That’s also why it’s a great idea to start with Chase cards like the Sapphire Reserve, getting these makes it possible to freely get other cards you may be interested in without giving up the ability to get these later.

The Important Role This Card Plays in Your Wallet

This card has a great signup bonus and the strongest earning in categories many people spend the most. Use it for travel and dining. Indeed, even though the Platinum Card by American Express earns 5 points per dollar on airfare many people will use this for airline tickets instead because it comes with trip delay coverage that the Amex Platinum does not.

It has the best Priority Pass membership – unlimited visits and unlimited guests, too. However the Platinum Card has the best benefits like hotel elite status and access to even more lounges.

The Chase Sapphire Reserve Card for spending on travel and dining.

Chase Sapphire Reserve℠

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

More articles by Gary Leff »

Editorial note: any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any card issuer. Comments made in response to this post are not provided or commissioned nor have they been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any bank. It is not the responsibility of any advertiser to ensure that questions are answered, either. Terms and limitations apply to all offers.

Comments

  1. My travel credit DOES NOT run with my annual fee year. My card renewal is in October, but the credit only became active on my most recent statement. Also, I think the card’s biggest weakness is the fact that the credit automatically triggers based on travel spending. I inadvertently spent it on a ferry trip with my family this weekend instead of a nice trip in a couple months. It would be so much more valuable to me, if I could apply the credit to specific items.

  2. I use this card and have enjoyed the benefits connected with travel.
    But
    On my last trip to Asia on asiana my $$$ rimowa bag will severely damaged by the airline on the return flight. Seeing this at LAX I filed a claim with asiana. I also notified chase. I filed the claim with Chase when the airline declined any responsibility. Even Though I had booked the flight thru ultimate rewards and hotels with the card chase refused the compensate me for the damage to my luggage- 250.00. The reason was I did not still have the original receipt for the bag. Very disappointed because chase told me the card included insurance coverage for this. Hmmm. Not sure I will continue with this card
    Beware the stated “insurance coverage” is a complicated time consuming marketing joke !

  3. Lucky, help me with something that I haven’t been able to get a coherent answer from Chase.

    A ‘feature’ of the UR Program is that ability to transfer into a spouse/employee frequent traveler account. They tightened the security of this by requiring the person to be an additional card holder/authorized user or employee.

    The problem I found is that they charge $75 for this on the Sapphire Reserve. If I only have a Sapphire Reserve and want to transfer to my wife’s account, I have to pay $75 for something that costs $0 on the Sapphire Preferred/Ink products. Can you ask Chase about this discrepancy/incoherence? Charge the premium cardmember for a feature they get free with a mid-tier card. I’ve asked Ben as well. TIA

  4. Gary, did you get this card because you were under 5/24, or did you do a product change from another Sapphire/Freedom product?

    – a reader who got in through the early leaked link in August 2016, which allowed people over 5/24 to get the card

  5. I’ve currently got the Sapphire Reserve and the Citi Prestige. That seems like overkill. Many of the Prestige benefits (Priority Pass, Global Entry, Trip Delay Protection) duplicate what I get from the Reserve. And the Citi card is a definite keeper, since with my travel patterns, the 4th night free rebates much more than the effective annual fee. So the question is, is it worth it to keep the Reserve too? How much travel & dining spend annually would need to go on the Reserve instead of the Prestige to make it worthwhile?

  6. ” However Chase signed a unique 10 year deal to lease Visa’s network with big upfront fees but without additional charges for each dollar spent. Their costs for incremental charges are low.”

    They would have got this without giving OTT benefits on the CSR, right?

    They are a top 2 card issuer.

  7. May I ask when you got the Reserve card? Maybe I missed it but I don’t remember your ever mentioning that you had it before and that that’s why you spoke a lot about the Preferred card up to now.

  8. I have two questions:
    1. When transferring points from Chase Saphire Reserve to Marriott, I did not get the benefit of the 1.5 chase points when transferring. They transferred 1:1, as far as I know. When transferring points as for the 5-night or 7-night package, how can I be assured I am getting the best value in terms of those points?
    2. If using points for a hotel stay or for an airline, is one still covered for things like luggage loss, trip delays, etc? or only if you are a paying customer?

  9. @Sean
    Why is it more valuable to have the credit applied to a specific travel item than it is applied to your ferry trip with the family? It is the SAME $300 returned to your wallet.

    If it is for accounting purpose, just marked it that the family ferry trip has “borrowed” $$ from a big trip a few months later, and “budget” it accordingly, i.e. put the $$ refund to the big trip bucket Though other than a psychology “benefit” I truly dont see what the difference is – it is the same money from your own pocket!

    This mindset reminds me those people who were excited getting an outsize refund from their tax returns, while such money was their own money to begin with.

    No wonder the banks want to issue a $450 card with a $300 credit instead of a $150 card – play the mind game !

  10. Why do you and Lucky both have Chase articles today?

    Additional Visa Infinite privileges: FastTrack security access at YUL, YOW and YVR

    For Global Entry, you should try to get an interview upon arrival from an international flight while in the passport control area. CBP recently expanded the number of airports that offer this.

  11. @Nick (I also responded on Lucky’s article). The Authorized user on a CSR gets their own Priority Pass card where as the CSP/Ink cards do not give this.

  12. So I do put (almost) all of my dining and travel on my Chase Reserved (I use my SPG for Starwood and Marriott hotels )

    But do you really find that it’s better to put your everyday spend on the Chase Freedom versus the Starwood card?

    My Starwood points pay for most of my vacations.

  13. @FLL

    Took the words right out of me. I was hoping someone would bring this up! IF Sean would make the choice to take a ferry ride regardless of what card he’s using, then it makes no difference whether the credit is applying to the ferry or the nicer trip later. If Sean was heavily influenced BY a brand new Reserve card to make some travel purchase… well, then it’s still the same $300 credit but the card has effectively coaxed Sean into spending more than he otherwise would have. I’ll admit I bet I have been encouraged to spend a bit more by the Reserve!

  14. @Peggy – I have written quite regularly about both, I write about the Preferred Card because it gets less attention than it should and I believe it’s the best card for getting started in the hobby (and then this is a card to ‘graduate to’).

  15. So within the past 24 hours both you and One Mile At A Time “reviewed” this card. That seems a bit odd. Is there some sort of spiff / incentive offered for reviewing this card?

  16. First, sorry to Gary for not copy editing my comment on Ben’s post.

    Hi everyone, my post about authorized users was meant to point out the feature disparity of points transfers. I understand the authorized users get extra benefit of priority pass, but I’m not sure Chase intends for them to have to pay to get to transfer points into the spouse account. It was designed that way when there were no UR cards with authorized user fees, and I think it was overlooked. Wondering if they will create a way for spouse account transfers without this fee.

    Thoughts Gary?

  17. Wait what?!

    “I use a (no annual fee) Chase Freedom Unlimited card to supplement this. I put much of my unbonused spend on that card, it earns 1.5 points per dollar – period – and I transfer those points to my Sapphire Reserve card to make them even more valuable. That way I earn 3x on travel and dining, and 1.5x on most everything else.”

    How does this work exactly? You just use the 1.5x for nonbonus spend?

  18. I always get smile when I see a picture of the KLM /Priority Pass club at IAH (pictured above). This club is small, sad, with extremely limited food/drink options. It does well because the only other Priority Pass club at IAH (Air France) is only open 5 hours a day.

  19. The CSR trip cancellation insurance is probably an underutilized benefit. I had to cancel two trips this fall on very short notice; was out $6,000 in non-refundable payments to the outfitter that runs the trips. I had not purchased travel insurance, so figured I was out of luck. Then a blog article reminded me of CSR’s coverage. I submitted claims (process was straightforward; documentation requirements were reasonable) and received reimbursement checks for the full $6,000. Needless to say I was delighted.

  20. Ann – to clarify:

    -CSR UR points are worth 1.5 cents each when used to purchase airfare (or other travel services) on the Chase portal. For example, you can purchase a $300 air ticket by “spending” 20,000 CSR UR points. (When you do this, Chase purchases a revenue ticket for you, so you earn miles for the trip.)
    -Or you can transfer CSR points to United Mileage Plus, Southwest Rapid Rewards, World of Hyatt, British Airways Avios, Marriott, and other travel providers at a 1:1 rate. (This is a very fair deal for United, Southwest., and Hyatt, since their miles/points are worth 1.5 cents each or more. But it is a very poor deal for Marriott, whose points are only worth about 0.75 cents each. It can be a good deal for British Airways if you want to redeem Avios for short-haul flights within the US or Europe; in general it is a bad deal for long-haul BA flights.)

  21. @Jeff – I use the Freedom Unlimited for unbonused spend, it earns 1.5x per dollar. The Freedom’s points do not transfer to miles or hotel points. However I transfer the points from Freedom Unlimited to Sapphire Reserve and then they are just like the rest of my Sapphire Reserve points.

  22. @Former UA Plat – I have never taken a payment to write a specific post, though I have been offered such many times. I do disclose that like many credit cards I will receive a benefit if you apply through my link, that’s noted on the top of my post.

  23. Notice how, in replying to Peggy and Former UA Plat, Gary Leff artfully avoids saying what should be obvious: along with One Mile at a Time, Award Wallet, and others who have suddenly decided that now is the time to blog enthusiastically about the card, he is now earning commissions on links to the Chase Sapphire Reserve. The lack of forthrightness is much more annoying than the profit motive.

  24. Andy: Gary says he is earning commissions from the links in this post at the very top of the post. Nothing is hidden at all.

  25. Calm down everyone, of course they get benefits from the link. What do you think funds sites like these?

    The important question is whether or not the info is valuable. I learned a few things for free, so it was worth it to me. If I don’t have a referral link from a friend, I gladly support blogs like this by using their links.

    There’s no fire, so let’s not call 911.

  26. @Truth Teller, the issue is that the commissions for the Sapphire Reserve, specifically, just became available this week, after being denied to the bloggers last year. At least that is what we should infer until the bloggers specifically deny it, which they have artfully avoided doing. And the new commissions happen to coincide with newly glowing reviews of Sapphire Reserve, after countless glowing reviews of the (commission-earning) Sapphire Preferred back when the Reserve product did not confer such commissions.

    It’s not a huge deal. No one is calling 911. But the lack of directness about how these reviews correlate with compensation (as opposed to generalized disclosures at the top of every post) should certainly affect how you read these sites and evaluate the timing and enthusiasm of their endorsements of various products.

  27. The real test will be whether or not the bloggers will dare to do side-by-side comparisons of the CSP and the CSR, because the CSR beats the CSP in every single category, including required spending to earn back the annual fee. Once those comparisons are published, the CSP will lose cardholders rapidly. It’s not even a good starter card.

  28. I am shocked when I see people reporting claims being paid. I have been waiting 4 months and it is clear their policy is to keep asking for things you already gave them until you give up and go away. And that is for a $400 claim, not a $6000 claim!

    Also, Gary, can you confirm the round trip requirements on travel insurance. It seems some of the travel coverage is only for round trips from your primary residence, but what does that really mean? On one ticket? Or just that you’re going home eventually? I almost always book one ways, and sometimes back to a different house than I started from (first/second home). So I’ve still been buying travel insurance to cover those things.

  29. Hi, I have a question about the annual fee on the card. If I successfully apply for the card and transfer all but ~1500 of the credit limit to my Sapphire Preferred or another chase card, will the refund me the annual fee? And would this same concept apply for the United Club card? Thanks.

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