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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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.