Full Review of Chase Sapphire Reserve Credit Card
Excellent points rewards rate for travel and dining
Large bonus for new cardholders
Premium travel perks
Points are worth 50% more for travel bought through Chase
$550 annual fee
Limited high-rewards categories
Strong credit appears to be required
- Excellent Points Rewards for Travel and Dining: At 3 points per dollar spent for travel and dining purchases, this card offers one of the best rewards rates among premium travel cards—better, even, than its lower-priced sibling, the Chase Sapphire Preferred. Both cards pay 1 point per dollar on all other purchases. You can also transfer points back and forth between the Chase Sapphire Reserve card and other Chase Ultimate Rewards points-rewards cards you might have. That allows you to charge a purchase to the Chase card that best rewards it and then transfer the points to maximize your payout.
- Points are Worth 50% More for Travel Bought Through Chase: The value of points increases from 1 cent per point to 1.5 cents per point when redeemed for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards. That boost gives you an effective rewards rate of 4.5% on travel and dining purchases since you earn 3 points per dollar in those categories. While the Chase portal allows points to be redeemed for cash back, gift cards, and transfers to Chase points partners, the bonus applies only if points are used to make travel purchases.
- Large Bonus for New Cardholders: Few travel cards offer a bonus as substantial as the Chase Sapphire Reserve, which partly explains the card's popularity. New members can earn 50,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 on purchases within the first three months of opening an account. While that’s fewer points than the 60,000 you receive with the introductory offer for the Chase Sapphire Preferred card, the value of both bonuses is the same, $750, provided the bonus points are used to buy travel from Chase Ultimate Rewards. That's because Chase Sapphire Reserve provides a higher points bonus (of 50%, compared with 25% with its sibling) for points used in that manner. That difference in bonus rate compensates for the 10,000 fewer points awarded by the Chase Sapphire Reserve compared with its cheaper sibling.
- Exceptional Luxury Travel Benefits: Cardholders get a $300 travel credit each year, which essentially offsets two-thirds of the card’s $550 annual fee. There’s also a $100 statement credit (every four years) towards Global Entry or TSA Precheck, complimentary access to more than 1,000 VIP airport lounges worldwide, and benefits with the Luxury Hotel & Resort Collection.
- $550 Annual Fee: With its $550 annual fee, this is among the priciest cards on the market. Using the $300 annual travel credit can help offset over half the annual fee, though. Still, this card's cost increases the incentive to determine in advance the likelihood that you’ll travel and eat out enough to have the investment pay off.
- Limited High-Rewards Categories: Some cards offer their best rewards in a range of categories, and so offer strong earnings on many or most purchases. The Chase Sapphire Reserve isn’t such a card. Chase limits the 3-points-per-dollar rewards on this card to travel and dining. Beyond that, all other purchases earn just 1 point per dollar spent.
- Strong Credit Appears to Be Required: Unlike many other card issuers, Chase doesn't specify the minimum credit score range to qualify for each of its cards. But the best indications are the Chase Sapphire Reserve recommends excellent credit, which is to say a score of at least 750.
This Card is Best For
Seeks to maximize points or miles earnings across spending categories
Flies often for business or leisure
Dines out regularly while traveling or in home city
Travels outside of U.S. on occasion or frequently
The Chase Sapphire Reserve is a compelling choice for devoted travelers with excellent credit in search of a premium travel card. Yet it can also be a good option for average consumers who take only a few trips per year, but want to enjoy luxury benefits when they're on the go. Even occasional travelers benefit from the card’s $300 annual travel credit, which can help justify the large annual fee. The $100 credit (every four years) for Global Entry or TSA Precheck further adds to the card’s value, and complimentary access to more than 1,000 airport lounges boosts travel comfort.
With the travel credit factored in, you could more than break even on the card’s annual fee if you spent around $108 per week on a combination of travel and dining—both of which earn 3 points per dollar spent—and redeem those points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards.
This card is particularly rewarding for those who also hold, or are open to getting, other Chase cards that earn Ultimate Rewards points. That's because you can transfer points back and forth between those cards and your account for this one. For each transaction, then, you can choose the Chase card on which you’ll earn the most and transfer points you earn with it to your Chase Sapphire Reserve account. That allows you to take advantage of the bonus rate on travel bought via Chase Ultimate Rewards.
Chase Sapphire Reserve Credit Card One-Time Offer
New cardholders can receive 50,000 bonus points after making $4,000 or more in purchases within the first three months of opening an account. That's a value of $750 when the points are used to book travel through Ultimate Rewards. After you qualify for the bonus, points are credited to your balance within six to eight weeks.
Rewards Earning Details
Cardholders can use this card to earn 3 points per dollar spent on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide. Redeeming points through Chase for travel increases this card's effective rewards rate to 4.5% for those categories. That's one of the highest rates available among premium travel cards. Purchases outside those categories earn 1 point per dollar.
Chase has broad definitions of the spending that qualifies as travel. Eligible purchases encompass not only those from airlines, hotels, and motels but timeshares, discount travel sites, campgrounds, car rental agencies, and cruises (not counting purchases made on board the boat). Public transportation, limousines, taxis, ferries, highways, toll bridges, parking lots, and garages are also included, though not spending on gasoline or other fuels. Dining includes both fast food outlets and fine-dining restaurants.
Rewards Redemption Details
This card shines in offering diverse ways in which to redeem its rewards. Any points you earn can be used directly to book travel and a range of other experiences, using the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal. But points can also be redeemed for cash back, gift cards, Amazon.com orders, and Apple purchases.
Points are worth 1.5 cents per point when redeemed for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards, and at 1 cent per point for cash back, experiences, and gift cards. You make a little less, 0.8 cents per dollar, on redemptions for Amazon.com and Apple purchases. That makes these transactions a poor option unless you can’t wait to convert points into cash back before you buy from these companies.
Ultimate Rewards points don't expire as long as your card is open.
Points can be moved at a 1:1 ratio to one of Chase's travel partners. That can be very advantageous if you're a member of a loyalty program and find a good deal through a travel partner. By leveraging your Ultimate Rewards points to take advantage of limited-time offers through Chase's travel partners, you might be able to greatly increase the value of a point.
Chase's airline travel partners include:
- Aer Lingus, AerClub
- British Airways Executive Club
- Emirates Skywards
- Flying Blue Air France KLM
- Iberia Plus
- JetBlue TrueBlue
- Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer
- Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards
- United Mileage Plus
- Virgin Atlantic Flying Club
Its hotel travel partners include:
- IHG Rewards Club
- Marriott Bonvoy
- World of Hyatt
How to Maximize Your Rewards
You can begin getting the most value out of this card by ensuring you take advantage of its introductory bonus. That may take some planning, such as moving up some anticipated big purchases, since you need to spend at least $4,000 in your first three months with the card in order to earn the 50,000-point bonus reward. (Just be careful to consider when and how you will pay back the purchases, to avoid having interest charges eat into your net gain from the bonus.)
Next, if you have any other Chase cards that earn Ultimate Rewards points, look carefully at the points rewards you receive from those. Compare them to the rates you’re making with the Chase Sapphire Reserve. Because you can transfer points from those cards to this one, for any particular purchase consider using the Chase card that offers the best reward. In the long run, you may even want to acquire other Chase cards that offer higher points in some categories so as to make the most of this helpful points-transfer capability.
If you're a member of a loyalty program, look into transferring points to Chase's travel partners. While using points to buy travel at Chase Ultimate Rewards portal earns you a 50% bonus in their value, you may get greater value still by transferring points to partners. Points transfer at a 1:1 ratio, which increases the possibility that using them in a partner program might pay off.
Remember to use this card's money-saving benefits as well. It offers trip cancellation and interruption insurance, for example, which isn’t part of the benefits packages for all other travel cards.
Let's estimate spending and rewards for an average household which, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, spends $3,459 on dining out annually. Those meals would earn about 7,000 points with the Chase Sapphire Reserve. Adding a vacation per year that costs $1,500 in airfare and lodging would log 3,000 additional points. (We’ve omitted earnings at the 1 point per dollar spent for regular purchases, because comparable earnings are available with many or most points cards, including some no-fee ones.)
In total, then, our family might earn about 10,000 points with this card in travel and dining rewards. Exchanged for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards, those points would, with the 50% bonus at that site, be worth $150 (If they were instead traded for cash back, they’d be worth $100).
Now let’s add to the benefits the $300 annual travel credit for the card, assuming travel-related charges of at least $300 are made during the year. Used at Chase Ultimate Rewards, that would yield a grand total of $450 in value—$150 in points value from travel and dining spending, plus the $300 annual travel credit. Given its $550 annual fee, that sum could greatly offset much of the cost for our average family. (They'd be well into the black on their first year with the card, though, provided they spent enough to earn its hefty one time points bonus.)
Avid travelers who take more than a few trips per year and dine out at restaurants regularly will predictably reap higher rewards with this card. They'll also be able to take full advantage of its perks.
Now let's calculate the benefits compared with the fee for a household that spends triple the typical amounts on both dining and travel—a plausible scenario for a family who pays for a premium travel and dining card like the Chase Sapphire Reserve. Exchanged for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards, the 30,000 or so points they'd earn from trips and dining would, with the 50% bonus at that site, be worth $450 (If they were instead redeemed for cash back, they’d be worth $300).
Now let's add to those rewards the $300 annual travel credit for the card, again assuming that $300 in travel expenses were charged to the card in the first year. That would yield a total of $750 in value for use at Chase Ultimate Rewards—$450 from travel and dining spending plus the $300 credit. Given the $550 annual fee for the Chase Sapphire Reserve, that sum would net our frequent-traveller family $200 for the year, and that’s before considering the value of such benefits as lounge access. Even a family who chose to take their points rewards from such travel and dining as cash back would be in the black by $50; they'd earn $600 in rewards and credits, more than offsetting the $550 annual fee.
Chase Sapphire Reserve Credit Card's Outstanding Benefits
- $300 annual travel credit
- $100 credit every four years for Global Entry or TSAPrecheck
- Access to more than 1,000 airport VIP lounges worldwide
- Complimentary benefits with the Luxury Hotel & Resort Collection
- 24/7 access to customer service specialists
- No foreign transaction fees
- Trip cancellation and interruption insurance
- Primary auto rental collision insurance
- $3,000 in lost luggage reimbursement
- Trip delay reimbursement up to $500
- Emergency evacuation and transportation up to $100,000
- Purchase and return protection
- Extended warranties
Chase received a rating of 807 in J.D. Power's 2019 customer satisfaction survey, tying for third place with Capital One. Discover came in first place with a score of 842, while American Express came in second with a score of 838.
Cardholders get a number of free features that are also standard with most other cards, including 24/7 access to a customer service specialist from anywhere in the world and a free credit tool, which Chase calls Credit Journey, that automatically alerts you of potential fraud. There’s also a free credit score with the card.
Customers can use Chase's credit card resources center to get answers to common questions about their credit card, access education information about credit cards, learn what to do in case of fraud, and take steps to dispute a charge.
The self-service tool kit can help you perform tasks like signing up for automatic payments, verify and replace your card, add authorized users, and set up account alerts.
Chase's online customer service information for credit cards indicates no email or chat options for customer service, only assistance by phone or physical mail. The customer service call center is available 24/7 at 800-432-3117. Customers can also message Chase on Twitter at @ChaseSupport.
Credit card customers at Chase get a number of security benefits, all fairly standard among card providers. At a high level, Chase offers safety precautions like multiple authentication checks when you're logging in via the website or mobile app. It also monitors your profile in order to detect fraud and encrypts your username, password, and other personal account information.
For its credit cards, Chase provides 24/7 fraud monitoring—the bank will text, email, or call you if any unusual activity occurs on your account. It also provides card replacement services in case your card is lost or stolen, and it doesn't hold you responsible for unauthorized charges made with your card.
This card comes with chip-enabled technology in order to provide enhanced security when making purchases.
Fees to Watch Out For
There's a fee of $75 for each additional authorized user of your Chase Sapphire Reserve card; while it’s not uncommon for premium cards to impose such charges, not all do so. Other fees are in line with industry standards.
Chase Sapphire Reserve vs. Sapphire Preferred
Chase offers a less expensive alternative to the Sapphire Reserve Card in the form of the Sapphire Preferred card. The Sapphire Preferred actually predated Sapphire Reserve by a number of years before Chase decided to launch a higher-end luxury card to properly compete with the Platinum Card from American Express. The cards are quite similar in their general rewards structure offering bonus Ultimate Rewards points on worldwide travel and dining expenditures, though Sapphire Preferred only offers 2X points on those categories vs. 3X points for Sapphire Reserve. Both Sapphires feature metal cards that can provide a satisfying clunk when dropped on the table for payment. Even their bonuses are similar, though oddly Sapphire Preferred offers 60,000 points after meeting spending requirements vs. 50,000 for Sapphire Reserve. When the Chase Sapphire Reserve card first launched in late 2016 it offered a whopping 100,000 Ultimate Rewards bonus but that was an unprofitable incentive level that proved unsustainable for Chase.
In addition to the enhanced earning rate the Sapphire Reserve card offers premium travel benefits such as a $300 annual travel credit, airport lounge access and TSA Pre Check or Global Entry credit every four years as where Sapphire Reserve does not. Both cards do provide primary auto rental insurance coverage, though.
Another important thing that distinguishes the two cards is on the redemption side. While both offer a redemption bonus when using Ultimate Rewards to book travel through Chase, Sapphire Reserve offers a 50% bump in value compared to only 25% for Sapphire Preferred.
So, to truly understand whether one is better than the other you must determine the value of the rewards earned and redeemed from the one-time bonus, likely annual spending along with the value of the travel credits and airport lounge access. Once you arrive at the number for each card using your annual category spending simply subtract the cost of the annual fee in each scenario to see where you come out for which better fits your situation and rewards aspirations.
Below is a head to head comparison of rewards and benefits of each:
|Chase Sapphire Reserve Vs. Chase Sapphire Preferred|
|Features||Sapphire Reserve||Sapphire Preferred|
|One-time Bonus||50,000 Points||60,000 Points|
|Bonus on Travel/Restaurant Spend||3X Points||2X Points|
|Bonus on Lyft Spending||10X Points||5X Points|
|Points on All Other Spending||1X Point||1X Point|
|Point Value for Travel Redemption||1.5||1.25|
|Annual Travel Credit||$300||None|
|Global Entry/TSA Pre App Fee Credit||Yes||No|
|Airport Lounge Access Credit||Priority Pass Select||None|
|Additional Credits||Lyft Pink, DashPass||None|
|Authorized User Fee||$75||$0|
If you're trying to decide on which Sapphire card to apply for start by determining on how your likely annual rewards earning will compare between the two cards and whether the combination of the one-time bonus and any other perks justify the cost of the annual fee.
With premium perks, generous rewards, and an outstanding bonus offer, Chase Sapphire Reserve is a top entry among premium travel cards. Travel maximalists will get the most benefit from this card, but its rewards and perks are substantial enough that even typical diners and travelers might come out ahead after paying the $550 annual fee.
Chase’s redemption program adds to this card’s appeal. Extremely flexible, the plan allows cardholders to redeem points for nearly any type of purchase or to transfer points to a loyalty program. There’s also an outstanding 50% bonus when points are used to buy travel from Chase Ultimate Rewards.
Yet another plus: People who hold this card and other Chase cards that earn Ultimate Rewards can use the additional cards, perhaps at better rates for certain purchases than the Chase Sapphire Reserve, and then transfer the points earned to this card’s account to buy travel at Chase Ultimate Rewards, thus enjoying the 50% points redemption bonus of Sapphire Reserve.
Yet if your travel and dining habits are merely typical, the Chase Sapphire Preferred might be a better option. Its benefits and rewards aren't quite as robust as the Sapphire Reserve, but they’re fine nonetheless and it’s more likely you’ll be able to justify its lower ($95) annual fee. This sibling card comes with a comparably substantial bonus.