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At the beginning of the year Chase revealed statistics about Sapphire Reserve cardholders. The average income is $180,000 and average credit score 785.
When the card launched two years ago it was definitely a hit among consumers. Since then though anecdotally it seems their approval standards tightened up. Readers with good credit and good income who aren’t locked out by 5/24 were getting declined.
To the extent they’re losing money it would make sense to limit approvals for the card, which is why I’ve said the best path for many people to get the product is to get a Sapphire Preferred Card which has just as attractive a signup bonus and a $0 annual fee the first year (then $95) — wait a year and ask to product change to Reserve. You can only get the bonus for one of the other anyway, so you aren’t giving up anything by choosing the Sapphire Preferred Card‘s bonus.
Since the card launched Chase has made some tweaks to the card to reduce their costs,
- $300 annual travel credit is tied to cardmember year rather than calendar year, so you cannot get it twice in the first annual fee year any longer.
- You no longer earn points on the travel spend that’s credited back to you (saves them 900 points per member who maxes out their travel benefit).
- Priority Pass no longer offers unlimited guests. That means no more 35 guests entering a lounge on a single Priority Pass card and no more bringing in 19 school kids.
Here’s the thing, for all of the initial excitement around the card, in the two years since it launched it may have become passé. What are the key features of the card, and what’s unique about it today?
- Triple points on travel and dining. The Platinum Card® from American Express earns 5 points per dollar on airfare. American Express® Gold Card offers 4 points per dollar on restaurant worldwide spend and on the first $25,000 each year at US supermarkets.
Ink Business Preferred℠ Credit Card gives you the same 3 points per dollar on travel, and has a bigger initial bonus (80,000 bonus points after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening) while coming with a lower ($95) annual fee.
- Priority pass for airport lounge access. The Platinum Card® from American Express comes with Priority Pass and the same unlimited visits with 2 guests. So does The Business Platinum® Card from American Express and Citi Prestige and several other cards.
You can match and exceed Sapphire Reserve‘s earning. You can get Priority Pass access elsewhere. Indeed if you already have a Priority Pass from another card, another combination of products is likely better. In my own wallet right now that means:
- American Express® Gold Card for dining (and grocery spend)
- The Platinum Card® from American Express for airfare
- The World Of Hyatt Credit Card for Hyatt spend
- Ink Business Preferred℠ Credit Card for other travel.
To be sure these aren’t the only benefits of Sapphire Reserve, like Sapphire Preferred it comes with primary collision damage waiver when renting cars and some of the protections it comes with are stronger than alternatives (for instance American Express products don’t have trip delay coverage), though some are worse (The Platinum Card® from American Express is better for towing). The Platinum Card® from American Express is much better for airport lounge access, offering Plaza Premium, Airspace, and Escape lounges as well as their own Centurion lounges and Delta lounges if flying Delta same day.
Ultimately since changes to the Chase product have been modest what this speaks to is the arms race that it started and that the product has largely been without major updates in two years. Other cards and combination of cards have caught up and even surpassed. It’s tough for Chase to leap frog, though, because of the economic challenges of offering what they already offer!