Chase Sapphire Reserve Loses Some Luster With Tweaks to Travel Perks

Kenley Young
By Kenley Young 
Edited by Paul Soucy
Chase Sapphire Reserve Loses Some Luster With Tweaks to Travel Perks

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When the Chase Sapphire Reserve® debuted in 2016, it was the toast of the premium-travel-card town, thanks in large part to its massive sign-up bonus, its flexible $300 annual travel credit and its airport lounge access.

All of those perks have since undergone changes — and not for the better for cardholders shelling out a hefty $550 annual fee.

Chase this week announced a flurry of updates to the Chase Sapphire Reserve® that will take effect Aug. 26, including:

  • Cardholders will no longer earn points on purchases that qualify for the $300 annual travel credit. In other words, the card — which otherwise earns 3 Chase Ultimate Rewards® points per dollar spent on eligible travel purchases — won't start earning that rate in that category until after you spend your first $300 annually on travel.

  • The card is discontinuing the price protection perk, which refunds a portion of the purchase price of an item you've bought if you find it advertised for less.

  • Cardholders who activate and use the card's airport lounge benefit — a complimentary Priority Pass Select membership — are now limited to two guests per membership card. Previously, the card didn't set a limit. Cardholders will be charged $27 per additional guest.

Individually, these rollbacks aren't huge deals — and not even close to the effect in January 2017 when the card slashed its 100,000-point sign-up bonus in half.

The change in how travel points are earned merely prohibits a double-dip, much as you wouldn't earn frequent-flyer miles on a free flight you booked with miles. From a dollar value, it represents a potential rewards loss of $9 to $13.50 per year, depending on how you redeem Chase Ultimate Rewards® points.

The loss of price protection is not unique to the Chase Sapphire Reserve®, but rather part of a trend, and the lounge policy tweak will affect mainly large groups traveling together.

Plus, many of the card's most valuable benefits are unchanged. Its travel credit effectively slashes the annual fee to $150, points are still worth 1.5 cents each when redeemed through Chase, and cardholders can still transfer their points at a 1:1 ratio to multiple partner airlines and hotels.

Cumulatively, though, these changes constitute a significant blow to the value proposition of a premium travel credit card with a steep annual fee. If you're considering applying for the Chase Sapphire Reserve®, it's worth doing some comparison-shopping to make sure it's still the right card for you.

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