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Between the new and improved 10x total points on hotel stays and car rentals purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, access to the latest chain of airport lounges — dubbed Chase Sapphire Lounge by The Club — and plenty more bonus points opportunities, the Chase Sapphire Reserve® just got a lot more appealing. It was already one of the best credit cards to pay for travel, and now it’s even better.
Yet the ongoing pandemic may have you cutting back on travel, and you might be wondering if it’s still worth keeping the Chase Sapphire Reserve®. After all, the $550 annual fee is hefty. And while big annual fees can be easy to justify given the bonus points on travel spending, it’s less easy to justify when you’re not certain when your next trip will occur.
Is it worth keeping the Chase Sapphire Reserve® in 2021? Here’s what you need to consider:
The latest benefits of the Chase Sapphire Reserve® card
In August 2021, Chase announced more bonus categories that make the card more appealing for spending on travel and some dining.
10x total points on hotel stays and car rentals purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
You’ll earn 10x total points on hotel stays and car rentals purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, which is one of the highest rates you’ll find. That’s up from the previous earnings rate of just 3x points.
That means $1,000 spent on hotels would earn you 10,000 points, which you can turn around and redeem for $150 on travel in the Chase Ultimate Rewards® portal (that’s because points earned on the Chase Sapphire Reserve® are worth 1.5 cents each toward travel redemptions through the portal).
Or, transfer those points to one of the Chase transfer partners, which includes United Airlines and Hyatt, for a potentially even higher return.
A 15% return (or more) in the form of Chase Ultimate Rewards® points from your travel spending is a pretty swell deal.
10x total points on Chase Dining purchases through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
You’ll also earn 10x points (a 15% return) on Chase Dining purchases through Ultimate Rewards®. Chase Dining is a program where you can browse and book reservations at participating restaurants; the restaurants tend to be pretty upscale, so this is likely not the spot to come for a sweet deal on food.
Though, because most of the restaurants are pricey (expect to see names like The French Laundry in California or New York’s Per Se up for grabs), you’ll likely earn a pretty pile of points, especially given the high 10x points return.
5x total points on air travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
You’ll now earn 5x total points on air travel purchased through Ultimate Rewards®, up from just 3x previously. That makes this card one of the best you can use for booking airfare.
A thousand dollars spent on air travel translates to 5,000 points, which are worth $75 when redeemed for travel through the Chase Ultimate Rewards® portal. A 7.5% return on airfare in the form of Chase Ultimate Rewards® points is among the best you’ll find.
Access to new airport lounges
Existing Chase Sapphire Reserve® cardholders already had access to Priority Pass lounges, which is a network of more than 1,300 airport lounges serving up free snacks (and sometimes full meals), power outlets and a calmer ambiance than your standard terminal. And the number of lounges you can access will soon grow.
Chase announced the locations of three new lounges that are set to open this year, all of which will be accessible on the Priority Pass network. Dubbed Chase Sapphire Lounge by The Club, lounges will be located in New York’s LaGuardia Airport, Boston Logan International Airport and Hong Kong International Airport. Chase said exact opening dates and future lounge locations will be announced later.
Other reasons to love the Chase Sapphire Reserve® card
The August news marks the second major overhaul of the Chase Sapphire Reserve® this year. In early 2021, Chase added new benefits to the card in an effort to make it more appealing to non-travelers. Here are the biggest updates from earlier in 2021.
Peloton subscription credits
If you already consider yourself a loyal member of Cody Rigsby’s Boo Crew (or maybe you’ve never sat on a Peloton but want to know what all the hype is about), then this one’s for you.
Chase Sapphire Reserve® cardmembers get up to $120 in credits through Dec. 31, 2021. The credits apply to qualifying Peloton purchases, which include Peloton Digital or All-Access Memberships. Statement credits are automatically applied to your credit card account after you make the purchases, up to a maximum accumulation of $120.
Cardmembers receive one-year complimentary DashPass subscription, a service offered by DoorDash. This service gives members access to $0 delivery fees on qualifying orders as well as other incentives like occasional discounts. Chase Sapphire Reserve® cardmembers are also eligible for up to $60 in DoorDash statement credits in 2021. This credit is available through Dec. 31, 2021.
» Learn more: How to transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards® between cards
The Chase Sapphire Reserve® also offers cardmembers a complimentary Lyft Pink subscription. This membership provides 15% off car rides, priority airport pickups and other incentives once you activate the complimentary offer. Cardmembers can also earn 10 points per $1 on Lyft purchases through March 2022.
Pay yourself back and get more value out of your points
If you have an extensive collection of Chase Ultimate Rewards® points and don’t feel ready to redeem for travel, you can take advantage of Chase’s Pay Yourself Back feature. Currently, points are worth 50% more when using this tool to redeem them for statement credits on select purchases. If you want to lower your credit card bill a bit and don’t have plans to use your points for travel, this is an excellent option. This feature is available through Sept. 30, 2021.
» Learn more: The best airline credit cards right now
The case for dumping the Chase Sapphire Reserve®
The Chase Sapphire Reserve® improved dramatically with this latest announcement. The 10x points on hotels and car rentals, plus 5x points on air travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, is nearly unbeatable. With the summer 2021 news, the Chase Sapphire Reserve® certainly didn’t get worse.
But this card is still primarily a travel card, and if you’re just not traveling like you used to, then it may be time to break up.
Maybe your road trips start from your own home, so you use your own car. Maybe your preferred lodging these days is a camping tent or staying with friends and family. If that’s you, you won’t be able to take advantage of the big 10x points.
If you’ve cut back on air travel, then you also won’t benefit from the 5x points there. Plus, you won’t have an opportunity to take advantage of existing airport perks, like TSA PreCheck and Global Entry and Priority Pass Select lounge access.
Downgrade to the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card instead
Sure, the Chase Sapphire Reserve® got an upgrade, but its little sibling card, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, got an upgrade too, with elevated earning rates on categories that might be more appealing amidst a pandemic. Here are the new bonus categories on that card:
5x total points on all travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
5x points on Lyft rides through March 2022 (that's 3x points in addition to the 2x points you already earn on travel).
3x points on dining, including eligible delivery services, takeout and dining out (previously 2x).
3x points on select streaming services.
3x points on online grocery purchases (excluding Target, Walmart and wholesale clubs).
You earn 1 point per $1 spent on everything else — but it doesn’t stop there. You earn a 10% bonus each account anniversary where Chase will award you bonus points equal to 10% of total purchases made the previous year.
That means every $500 in spend earns an additional 50 bonus points. That’s not huge, but it’s enough of a little bonus to encourage using the card for non-bonus category purchases too.
Both cards are valuable to travelers given that they unlock redemptions in the Chase Ultimate Rewards® portal (though the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card only gets you a value of 1.25 cents per point versus the 1.5 cents per point on the Chase Sapphire Reserve®).
But some travelers perceive the cards as even more valuable when you take advantage of Chase’s transfer partners, which include Southwest and Hyatt. The exact value you get per point depends on which program you transfer to and how you redeem the points within that program, but NerdWallet estimates the overall transfer value at 1.8 cents per point.
Given that both the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card and Chase Sapphire Reserve® transfer points at the same rate, it might make sense to simply hold the lower-annual-fee card if your primary reason for card ownership is access to high-value point transfers.
If you're considering the Chase Sapphire Reserve® ...
The Chase Sapphire Reserve® card has a $550 annual fee, but its benefits can outweigh this yearly fee if you use them all strategically.
If you travel often, then the high earnings rate on travel spending can easily justify the annual fee. But even if you’re staying at home this year, holding the card can make sense for some people. If you’re an avid Peloton rider, a lover of takeout willing to order through DoorDash or Chase Dining, and you still hop in Lyft rides around town, you’ll still find value in the Chase Sapphire Reserve®.