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The Chase Sapphire Reserve carries a $550 annual fee, plus an additional $75 for authorized users, though the perks and benefits can cancel out a large portion of that expense, as we'll explain later.
New cardholders can also get a 50,000 point welcome bonus after spending $4,000 on purchases within the first three months. Those 50,000 points alone are worth at least $750 in travel, so as long as you hit your minimum spend threshold, you’ll come out well ahead of the annual fee.
While the Sapphire Preferred earns 2 points per dollar on dining and travel, the Reserve bumps those bonus categories to 3 points. And like the Preferred, dining still encompasses everything from fast food to Michelin starred restaurants around the world, and the travel category includes everything from taxis and taxi rides to plane tickets and hotel rooms. New for 2020, you'll also earn a whopping 10 points per dollar on Lyft rides, in addition to other Lyft benefits that we'll get to below. You’ll also get 1 point per dollar on all other purchases.
The points you earn by spending with the Sapphire Reserve are called Chase Ultimate Rewards points, and while you can use them at a rate of $.01 per dollar towards statement credits and gift cards, they're best used for booking travel.
Chase Travel Portal
Like the Sapphire Preferred, the Sapphire Reserve includes access to the Chase Travel portal. The Expedia-powered platform lets you search for and book almost any flight, hotel room, or rental car worldwide with your points, with cash, or with any combination thereof.
If you have the Sapphire Reserve, and use your points book anything through the portal, they’ll be worth 1.5 cents each, compared to 1.25 cents with the Sapphire Preferred, which is why that 50,000 point sign-up bonus is worth $750 in travel when redeemed through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal. And if you don’t have quite enough points to pay for a booking, you can use any combination of points and cash that you wish; the value of the points you redeem will just be subtracted from the total that gets charged to your card.
A 1.5 cent point valuation compares favorably to most domestic airline rewards programs--it's not impossible to find an American, Delta, or United redemption at a better valuation, but it's pretty rare in economy class--and the flexibility of the portal means that you can use that generous rate on basically any booking, at any time.
The Sapphire Reserve also allows you to move your Ultimate Rewards points in 1,000 point increments to any of the following airline or hotel chains’ reward programs, at a 1:1 ratio:
- Aer Lingus
- British Airways
- Air France/KLM
- Virgin Atlantic
In most cases, your points will be available in the transfer program within minutes. Need 7,000 more JetBlue points to book a certain flight? Just send 7,000 of your Ultimate Rewards points to your TrueBlue account, and you should be able to book your flight almost immediately.
Where it gets less simple is figuring out when it makes sense to transfer points. For example, if there’s a $200 United Airlines flight that costs 10,000 MileagePlus miles, you should transfer to United since your points would be worth $.02 each ($200/10,000 = $.02).
If, however, that same $200 flight would set you back 20,000 MileagePlus miles, you’d be better off using the Chase Travel Portal, since your points would be worth 1.5 cents there, vs. 1 cent if you converted them to United miles ($200/20,000 = $.01). It’s not complicated to figure out, and with the 1.5 cent valuation, you'll likely use the portal more often than not, but it is an extra layer of complexity to think about when you're planning a trip.
But transferring is where you can wring every bit of value out of your points, especially for flashy redemptions like first class seats, or suites at 5-star hotels. If you need to get to a certain destination, on a certain day, at a certain time, you'll probably just use the portal (which, again, is great!). But if you're planning a vacation months in advance and want to splurge, that's when researching Ultimate Rewards redemption sweet spots can really pay off.
If the only differences between the Sapphire Preferred and the Sapphire Reserve were point earning and redemption rates, the latter probably wouldn't be worth a $450 annual fee. But it's the card's additional perks that set it apart, and make that fee easier to digest.
Up To $300 Travel Credit
Every year you have the card, you'll receive an automatic statement credit towards your first $300 in travel purchases. You don't need to do anything to receive this credit other than use the card to pay for travel expenses, so you should have no trouble taking full advantage of this benefit.
Priority Pass Lounge Access
Cardmembers (plus up to two guests) and authorized users will receive Priority Pass Select memberships, which grant access to over 1,000 airport lounges worldwide. Many U.S. airports also have participating restaurants where you and your guests can each save $28 on your final bill.
Lyft Pink For One Year
Activate your free year of Lyft Pink to get 15% off all Lyft rides, three free 30 minute bike or scooter rentals per month, priority airport pickups, and other benefits. You'll also earn 10x points per dollar spent with Lyft.
In 2020 and 2021, you'll have access to DoorDash statement credits of up to $60 per year. Just charge your order to your card, and the credits will apply automatically.
TSA Precheck/Global Entry Credit
Every four years, your application fee for TSA Precheck or Global Entry will be credited back to your account (up to $100), if you use the Sapphire Reserve to pay for the application.
Primary Rental Car Insurance
A lot of credit cards include secondary rental car insurance, which kicks in only after your own car insurance policy is exhausted. But the Sapphire Reserve is one of the few to include primary insurance that you can file a claim to before alerting your own insurance company. Just be sure to decline the rental car company's insurance waivers when you reserve your car.
If you pay for your travel with the Sapphire Reserve, you'll be covered for all sorts of travel mishaps, including expenses incurred due to travel delays, non-refundable purchases on trips you had to cancel for covered reasons, and even lost luggage reimbursement of up to $3,000 per traveler.
Why to Apply
If you reliably spend at least $300 on travel annually, then the Sapphire Reserve will effectively cost you $250 per year, rather than the eye-popping $550 that might have initially scared you off. That's effectively $155 more than the Sapphire Preferred, and it gets you 3x bonus points on dining and travel compared to 2x, 1.5 cent points in the Chase travel portal compared to 1.25 cents, and a host of additional perks. That may not be worth it for everyone, but for frequent travelers, we don't think the annual fee should deter you.
Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.
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