Chase Sapphire Reserve® Review: A Premier Travel Credit Card

Lyle is a writer specializing in credit cards, travel rewards programs, and banking. His work has also appeared on MSN Money, USA Today, and Yahoo! Finance.

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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.

Ratings Methodology
Chase Sapphire Reserve®

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Chase Sapphire Reserve®

Chase Sapphire Reserve®

Apply Now

On Chase's Secure Website.

Apply Now

On Chase's Secure Website.

Rewards

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

Annual Fee

$550

Intro APR

Purchases: N/A
Balance Transfers: N/A

Ongoing APR

18.49% - 25.49% Variable

Bonuses & Perks

50,000 points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months. Worth $750 redeemed for travel through Chase, 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 $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • 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✓®
  • One Year Complimentary Lyft Pink ($199 minimum value). Complimentary DashPass subscription from DoorDash after activating by 12/31/21.

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

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.

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 popular ways to redeem them and what Chase Ultimate Rewards points are 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.

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®, as you can optimize purchases across cards to earn the most rewards, and then transfer points to your Chase Sapphire Reserve® to redeem them for the most travel value.

As of Jan. 28, 2020
Chase Freedom® Chase Freedom Unlimited®
Rating image, 4.5 out of 5 stars.
4.5 stars
ToolTip Icon for Star Rating. 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.
Our ratings are based on a 5 star scale. 5 stars equals Best. 4 stars equals Excellent. 3 stars equals Good. 2 stars equals Fair. 1 star equals Poor.
Rating image, 4.5 out of 5 stars.
4.5 stars
ToolTip Icon for Star Rating. 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.
Our ratings are based on a 5 star scale. 5 stars equals Best. 4 stars equals Excellent. 3 stars equals Good. 2 stars equals Fair. 1 star equals Poor.
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Credit Rating Requirement: Good/Excellent Clickable tooltip icon for credit rating info.

Credit Rating Requirement: Good/Excellent Clickable tooltip icon for credit rating info.

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, no minimum to redeem, rewards don't expire
Intro APR: Purchases: 0%, 15 months Balance Transfers: 0%, 15 months Intro APR: Purchases: 0%, 15 months Balance Transfers: 0%, 15 months
Regular APR: 16.49% - 25.24% Variable Regular APR: 16.49% - 25.24% Variable
Annual Fee: $0 Annual Fee: $0

Highlights:

  • 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
  • 0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases and balance transfers, then a variable APR of 16.49 - 25.24%.
  • 3% intro balance transfer fee when you transfer a balance during the first 60 days your account is open, with a minimum of $5.
  • No annual fee
  • 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℠

Highlights:

  • Earn a $150 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening.
  • Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on all purchases.
  • 0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases and balance transfers, then a variable APR of 16.49 - 25.24%.
  • 3% intro balance transfer fee when you transfer a balance during the first 60 days your account is open, with a minimum of $5
  • No annual fee
  • No minimum to redeem for cash back
  • Cash Back rewards do not expire as long as your account is open

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Another possibility: Chase Sapphire Reserve® vs. The Platinum Card® from American Express

The Chase Sapphire Reserve® versus The Platinum Card® from American Express is, to put it simply, the credit card version of Mike Tyson versus Muhammad Ali. The Platinum Card® from American Express was once the most prestigious of the premium credit cards until the Chase Sapphire Reserve® came along to challenge for that mantle.

It’s natural to compare the cards. They have similar fees and features, and they come from the two card issuers with the best rewards programs. But which is the superior option? Here's a quick side-by-side comparison:

As of Jan. 28, 2020
Chase Sapphire Reserve® The Platinum Card® from American Express
Rating image, 4.5 out of 5 stars.
4.5 stars
ToolTip Icon for Star Rating. 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.
Our ratings are based on a 5 star scale. 5 stars equals Best. 4 stars equals Excellent. 3 stars equals Good. 2 stars equals Fair. 1 star equals Poor.
Rating image, 4.0 out of 5 stars.
4.0 stars
ToolTip Icon for Star Rating. 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.
Our ratings are based on a 5 star scale. 5 stars equals Best. 4 stars equals Excellent. 3 stars equals Good. 2 stars equals Fair. 1 star equals Poor.
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On Chase's Secure Website.

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On American Express' Secure Website.

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Rates & Fees

Credit Rating Requirement: Good/Excellent Clickable tooltip icon for credit rating info.

Credit Rating Requirement: Good/Excellent Clickable tooltip icon for credit rating info.

Bonus: 50,000 points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months. Worth $750 redeemed for travel through Chase Bonus: 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after spending $5,000 in purchases in your first 3 months
Rewards Program: 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 Rewards Program: 5 points per $1 on flights booked with airlines and American Express Travel, and on eligible hotels booked on amextravel.com, 1 point per $1 on all else
Intro APR: Purchases: N/A Balance Transfers: N/A Intro APR: Purchases: N/A Balance Transfers: N/A
Regular APR: 18.49% - 25.49% Variable Regular APR: N/A
Annual Fee: $550 Annual Fee: $550
Foreign Transaction Fee: None Foreign Transaction Fee: None

Highlights:

  • Earn 50,000 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®
  • 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✓®
  • One Year Complimentary Lyft Pink ($199 minimum value). Complimentary DashPass subscription from DoorDash after activating by 12/31/21.

Highlights:

  • Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you use your new Card to make $5,000 in purchases in your first 3 months.
  • Enjoy Uber VIP status and free rides in the U.S. up to $15 each month, plus a bonus $20 in December. That can be up to $200 in annual Uber savings.
  • 5X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel.
  • 5X Membership Rewards points on prepaid hotels booked on amextravel.com.
  • Enjoy access to the Global Lounge Collection, the only credit card airport lounge access program that includes proprietary lounge locations around the world.
  • Receive complimentary benefits with an average total value of $550 with Fine Hotels & Resorts. Learn More.
  • $200 Airline Fee Credit, up to $200 per calendar year in baggage fees and more at one qualifying airline.
  • Get up to $100 in statement credits annually for purchases at Saks Fifth Avenue on your Platinum Card®. Enrollment required.
  • $550 annual fee.
  • Terms Apply.

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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 the annual 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.

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.

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