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Sapphire Reserve Redraws Calendar for Annual Travel Credit

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Chase is redefining the word “annual” for a major feature of its popular Chase Sapphire Reserve℠. As a result, carrying the card could be less lucrative in the first year.

This card comes with an annual travel credit of $300. For applications received May 21, 2017, and after, the “annual” in annual travel credit will be defined as the cardholder year, which is based on the date the card account was opened. So if you open an account in July 2017, then you will get a fresh $300 worth of credit every July.

Previously, “annual” referred to the calendar year. In that case, cardholders could be approved in October, for example, get $300 worth of travel credit, then be eligible for another $300 in credit a couple of months later in the new calendar year.

With the change, new cardholders can get just one $300 credit in their first year carrying the card. Current cardholders aren’t affected by the change.

The travel credit, if fully used, essentially reduces the card’s substantial annual fee, $450, by $300. Chase applies the credit automatically to travel purchases, essentially erasing the first $300 worth each year.

If you’re confused, Chase urges current customers to call the number on the back of the card to find out when you’re eligible for your next $300 annual travel credit.

The recently introduced U.S. Bank Altitude Reserve Visa Infinite Card has a $325 travel credit that also is based on a cardmember’s year, not calendar year.

It’s not the first time Chase has changed the value of the card. Earlier this year, it cut its original sign-up bonus in half.

Gregory Karp is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: gkarp@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @spendingsmart.