Chase Sapphire Reserve® Review: A Premier Travel Credit Card

Explore the benefits of the Chase Sapphire Reserve® to see if it’s the right travel rewards credit card for you.

Chase Sapphire Reserve®

Chase Sapphire Reserve®

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Great for: Travel sign-up bonus and travel & dining spending Chase Sapphire Reserve®

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Our Bottom Line

The annual fee isn't cheap but the sign-up bonus, premium rewards for travel & dining, and array of valuable travel credits make this a compelling offer that will offset the cost of the annual fee for many.

Credit Rating Requirement: Good/Excellent
Highlights

  • Earn 50K bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Named "Best Premium Travel Credit Card" for 2018 by MONEY® Magazine
  • $300 Annual Travel Credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year
  • 3X points on travel immediately after earning your $300 travel credit. 3X points on dining at restaurants & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases. $0 foreign transaction fees.
  • Get 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 50,000 points are worth $750 toward travel
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Access to 1,000+ airport lounges worldwide after an easy, one-time enrollment in Priority Pass™ Select
  • Up to $100 application fee credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®

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The Chase Sapphire Reserve® took the credit card world by storm in August of 2016, offering a huge signup bonus, several useful travel benefits, and a rewards program packed with different airline and hotel transfer partners. Its popularity may have even taken Chase by surprise, as the card issuer ran out of metal cards at one point due to high demand.

I’ve been a Chase Sapphire Reserve® cardholder since the beginning, and it has been worth its weight in gold. To see if the card is right for your lifestyle, let’s dive in to what it offers.

Why I carry the card

For anyone who enjoys traveling, the benefits of the Chase Sapphire Reserve® are just too good to pass up. Don’t let the $450 annual fee scare you off. Between the 50,000-point signup bonus (worth $750 for travel purchases through the Ultimate Rewards portal) and the $300 travel credit, you can get over $1,000 in value from the card in a matter of months.

Those points can be worth even more when you transfer them, and the Ultimate Rewards program has an extensive list of partners. It’s easy to book flights and hotels all over the world with your points.

What I like about Chase Sapphire Reserve®

50,000-point signup bonus -- You earn 50,000 bonus points when you spend $4,000 in the first three months after opening your account. Keep in mind that the annual fee doesn’t count towards that spending minimum.

$300 annual travel credit -- Chase reimburses you for up to $300 in travel purchases every account anniversary year. Credits are applied to your statement automatically, so there’s no work required on your part.

Unlimited 3 points per $1 spent on travel and dining -- Any time you use your card for a travel or dining purchase, you’ll earn 3 points per dollar spent instead of the typical 1 point. There isn’t any cap on this, which is nice if you’re a heavy spender.

Priority Pass airport lounge access -- You’ll receive a complimentary Priority Pass Select membership (a one-time account activation is required), allowing you and up to two guests to access airport lounges in the program free of charge. Priority Pass has lounges in many major airports within the United States, and coverage is even better worldwide.

These airport lounges are a great place to relax and grab a free drink before a flight, and they’re an absolute godsend if you have a lengthy layover or a delay. When mechanical issues turned my 90-minute layover at San Jose International into a six-hour stay there, free coffee and alcohol in a comfortable lounge made a world of difference.

Global Entry/TSA Precheck credit -- Chase reimburses you either $100 for your Global Entry fee or $85 for your TSA Precheck fee every four years, so you can register as a trusted traveler and get through airport security more quickly. It’s better to sign up for Global Entry, because that also includes TSA Precheck, so you get the benefits of both. TSA Precheck doesn’t include Global Entry.

Chase Ultimate Rewards transfer partners -- Chase’s roster of airline and hotel transfer partners give you more ways to use Ultimate Rewards points. Here are the current transfer partners:

  • Airlines -- Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards, United MileagePlus, Aer Lingus AerClub, British Airways Executive Club, Flying Blue Air France/KLM, Iberia Plus, JetBlue TrueBlue, Singapore Airlines, Virgin Atlantic Flying Club
  • Hotels -- IHG Rewards Club, Marriott Rewards, The Ritz-Carlton Rewards, World of Hyatt

50% more on travel redemptions through Chase Ultimate Rewards -- On the Ultimate Rewards portal, you can book travel by applying your points towards the purchase as cash. Chase gives you a respectable rate of $0.015 per point this way. While I don’t use this method much because I prefer transferring my points to travel partners, it’s a nice option to have when you either can’t book travel by transferring or wouldn’t get a good deal in doing so.

Why you can trust me

By staying on top of the best credit card offers, I’ve earned 350,000 bonus points in the last 18 months without paying a penny of interest. I’ve been approved for personal and business credit cards, taken advantage of targeted offers that card issuers haven’t made public, and hadgotten a denied application overturned through one card issuer’s reconsideration line. I’m also a current cardholder of the Chase Sapphire Reserve®, which I’ve used to cover my travel expenses and access airport lounges.

What could be improved

The signup bonus -- Yes, I pointed out the signup bonus as a selling point of this card, and 50,000 bonus points is nothing to laugh at. But it would be nice to see Chase bump the bonus up or add extra bonuses you can reach with more spending.

$450 annual fee -- As a premium credit card, the Chase Sapphire Reserve® carries a $450 annual fee. With all the perks and that $300 travel credit, this is to be expected, but it’s still a lot to pay, especially if you carry multiple cards.

Is it worth a $450 annual fee?

This card is worth the fee for most travelers, and the more you spend, the more value you’ll get from it. Of the premium credit cards that cost $400 or more, the Chase Sapphire Reserve® has the most versatile benefits.

After you subtract the $300 annual travel credit and $20 per year for the Global Entry fee (although Chase will credit you for this every four years, a membership lasts five years before you need to renew it), you’re looking at a true cost of $130 per year for the card. You’ll also have that airport lounge access and an excellent rewards rate on travel and dining.

If you want to know the magic number where you’ll be earning more from rewards than you spend on the card, the most accurate answer is either $4,334 in travel and dining spending or $13,000 in any other spending. There are a couple caveats, though:

  • This assumes you always use the travel credit and the Global Entry credit
  • This assumes you get $0.01 per point, but savvy cardholders can get much more than that.

Suggested credit score for approval

You’ll have the best odds of approval on your Chase Sapphire Reserve® application with a credit score in the excellent range, which is 720 or higher. It’s possible to get approved with a lower score, as applicants have reported approval with credit scores in the mid and even low-600s. Chase will also consider your income and debts in its decision.

What to know about Chase’s 5/24 rule before applying

Chase has what is called the 5/24 rule, which is one way it avoids issuing cards to people who are only after signup bonuses. This rule means that Chase will automatically deny your credit card application if you’ve already opened five or more credit cards within the last 24 months. I recommend applying for any Chase cards you want first before getting cards from other issuers.

Chase Ultimate Rewards points value

Chase Ultimate Rewards points are an extremely valuable rewards currency. Here are the most popular ways to redeem them and what they’re worth with each option:

Transfers to travel partners -- By transferring your points to a partner airline or hotel to make a booking, you generally get anywhere from $0.01 to $0.05 per point. This option offers the highest potential return on your points, and in select cases, you could even get over $0.10 per point (usually when booking an international first-class flight).

Booking travel through the Ultimate Rewards portal -- As a Chase Sapphire Reserve® cardholder, you can redeem Ultimate Rewards points for cash towards travel purchases at a rate of $0.015 per point.

Cash back -- You get $0.01 per point when you redeem your points for cash back. Although this is a solid cash-back rate for a travel credit card, it’s a poor use of Ultimate Rewards points since the options above provide a better value. If you want cash back, you should go with a cash-back credit card.

Chase Sapphire Reserve® vs. Chase Sapphire Preferred®

Consumers often wonder which Chase Sapphire® card is the superior choice. The Chase Sapphire Preferred® is the less expensive option, with a $95 annual fee that’s waived the first year, but it earns 2 points per $1 spent on travel and dining instead of 3. It also lacks many of the Chase Sapphire Reserve® travel benefits, including the airport lounge access, the $300 travel credit, and the Global Entry/TSA Precheck credit.

It all comes down to whether you’re willing to pay the higher annual fee for more features. If you factor in the credits of the Chase Sapphire Reserve® and look at its true cost as $130 per year, then that’s only a $35 difference. Not everyone will maximize those benefits, though, and the Chase Sapphire Preferred® is good if you want something cheaper.

Chase Sapphire Reserve® Chase Sapphire Preferred®
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Credit Rating Requirement: Good/Excellent

Credit Rating Requirement: Good/Excellent

Bonus: 50,000 points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months. Worth $750 redeemed for travel through Chase's portal. Bonus: 50,000 points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months. Worth $625 redeemed for travel through Chase's portal.
Rewards Program: 3 points per $1 on travel and dining, 1 point per $1 on all other purchases. 50% more points on travel booked through Chase's portal. Rewards Program: 2 points per $1 on travel and dining, 1 point per $1 on all other purchases. 25% more points for travel booked through Chase's portal.
Intro APR: Purchases: N/A Balance Transfers: N/A Intro APR: Purchases: N/A Balance Transfers: N/A
Regular APR: 17.99% - 24.99%, variable Regular APR: 17.99% - 24.99%, variable
Annual Fee: $450 Annual Fee: $95, waived first year

Highlights:

  • Earn 50K bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Named "Best Premium Travel Credit Card" for 2018 by MONEY® Magazine
  • $300 Annual Travel Credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year
  • 3X points on travel immediately after earning your $300 travel credit. 3X points on dining at restaurants & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases. $0 foreign transaction fees.
  • Get 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 50,000 points are worth $750 toward travel
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Access to 1,000+ airport lounges worldwide after an easy, one-time enrollment in Priority Pass™ Select
  • Up to $100 application fee credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®

Highlights:

  • Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $625 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Chase Sapphire Preferred named "Best Credit Card for Flexible Travel Redemption" - Kiplinger's Personal Finance, June 2018
  • 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 50,000 points are worth $625 toward travel
  • No blackout dates or travel restrictions - as long as there's a seat on the flight, you can book it through Chase Ultimate Rewards

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Carrying a companion Chase card

A popular strategy for maximizing your rewards is using multiple Chase credit cards that earn bonus points in different spending categories. This works because Chase lets you transfer your rewards between your cards, and you can even turn cash back into Ultimate Rewards points if you have at least one card in the reward program.

The best cards to combine with the Chase Sapphire Reserve® are the Chase Freedom® and the Chase Freedom Unlimited®. The Chase Freedom® earns an unlimited flat rate of 1.5% on every purchase, and the Chase Freedom Unlimited® earns 5% back on the first $1,500 you spend in rotating bonus categories you activate that rotate every quarter. And to top it off, neither has an annual fee.

With the method above, you could earn 5 points per $1 spent (up to $1,500/7,500 points per quarter) on purchases in the Chase Freedom bonus categories, 3 points per $1 on travel and dining with the Chase Sapphire Reserve®, and 1.5 points per $1 spent on everything else with the Chase Freedom®.

Chase Freedom® Chase Freedom Unlimited®
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4.5 stars Info icon We want your money to work harder for you. Which is why our ratings are biased toward offers that deliver versatility while cutting out-of-pocket costs.
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4.5 stars Info icon We want your money to work harder for you. Which is why our ratings are biased toward offers that deliver versatility while cutting out-of-pocket costs.
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Star Review Icon Star Review Icon Star Review Icon Star Review Icon = Excellent
Star Review Icon Star Review Icon Star Review Icon = Good
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Credit Rating Requirement: Good/Excellent

Credit Rating Requirement: Good/Excellent

Bonus: $150 After Spending $500 Within Three Months Bonus: $150 after spending $500 within three months
Rewards Program: 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter you activate, 1% on all else Rewards Program: Unlimited 1.5% cash back
Intro APR: Purchases: 0%, 15 months Balance Transfers: 0%, 15 months Intro APR: Purchases: 0%, 15 months Balance Transfers: 0%, 15 months
Regular APR: 16.99% - 25.74%, variable Regular APR: 16.99% - 25.74%, variable
Annual Fee: $0 Annual Fee: $0

Highlights:

  • 0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases and balance transfers, then a variable APR of 16.99-25.74%. Balance transfer fee is 3% of the amount transferred, $5 minimum
  • Earn a $150 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening
  • Earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter you activate
  • Enjoy new 5% categories each quarter
  • Unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases - it's automatic
  • Cash Back rewards do not expire as long as your account is open and there is no minimum to redeem for cash back.
  • Free credit score, updated weekly with Credit Journey℠
  • No annual fee

Highlights:

  • 0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases and balance transfers, then a variable APR of 16.99-25.74%. Balance transfer fee is 3% of the amount transferred, $5 minimum
  • Unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase - it's automatic
  • Earn a $150 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening
  • No minimum to redeem for cash back
  • Cash Back rewards do not expire as long as your account is open
  • Free credit score, updated weekly with Credit Journey℠
  • No annual fee

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How to apply

You can apply for the Chase Sapphire Reserve® on the Chase website, and the process is like any other credit card application. From the card’s webpage, click “Apply Now” to go to the application form.

There are three short sections to complete:

  • The personal section asks for your full name and address.
  • The financial section asks for your income, the types of bank accounts you have, and your monthly housing costs.
  • The security section asks for your Social Security number, date of birth, mother’s maiden name, phone number, and email address.

After you submit the application, Chase may approve it immediately, put it under review, or deny it. For applications that get denied, you can try calling Chase’s reconsideration line to see if they’ll overturn it.

The card is right for you if...

The deciding factor for many consumers is the annual fee. If you’re willing to pay $450 every year for a credit card and it won’t hurt your budget, then the Chase Sapphire Reserve® is the best travel card you can get. It has the most versatile benefits and points, even compared to other premium credit cards.

If you’re looking for something less expensive, the Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card is an excellent alternative, as is the Chase Sapphire Preferred®. Or, you could opt for a no-annual fee credit card.

Now, it’s also important to consider your chances of approval for the card. Besides a good credit score, you’ll need enough income that Chase is comfortable giving you a $10,000 credit limit or higher, because that’s the minimum for Visa Infinite cards.