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Chase Sapphire Reserve Review: A First-Class Premium Travel Card

Credit Cards, Travel Credit Cards
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Chase Sapphire Reserve Review: A First-Class Premium Travel Card

Chase Sapphire Reserve℠: Quick review

Even after cutting its big sign-up bonus in half, the Chase Sapphire Reserve℠ remains the No. 1 premium travel card. The rewards are generous (an effective rate as high as 4.5% on travel and dining), and the perks are outstanding (including $300 a year in travel credits). For heavy travelers, it’s well worth the $450 annual fee.


With its combination of high rewards and valuable perks, the Chase Sapphire Reserve℠ more than justifies the hype that has surrounded it since it debuted in late 2016.

As the name implies, the new card is an enhanced version of the popular Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card. Everything about the Chase Sapphire Reserve℠ is a step up. There’s a more valuable sign-up bonus, improved redemption options — and, yes, a significantly higher annual fee.

Let’s dig into the details.

To apply

The Chase Sapphire Reserve℠ is available only by applying directly through Chase. Visit Chase’s page for this card.

Basics of the Chase Sapphire Reserve℠

Like the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, the Chase Sapphire Reserve℠ is a general travel credit card that doesn’t require loyalty to a specific airline or hotel chain. But the card is also designed to compete with premium cards like the Citi Prestige® Card or The Platinum Card® from American Express.

Like those cards, it has an annual fee of $450. But its high rewards rate and top-shelf perks can more than make up for the fee, assuming you use the card regularly.

The sign-up bonus covers the first year-plus of card membership. Chase describes it this way: 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®. While not as rich as the card’s original sign-up bonus offer of 100,000 points (with a $1,500 value), it’s still one of the most valuable sign-up bonuses available.

If you already carry the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, you can still apply for this new card and earn the sign-up bonus, assuming you meet Chase’s criteria for approval.

Beyond the bonus, it really does depend on how much you spend. The card gives you 3 Ultimate Rewards points per $1 spent on travel and restaurants and 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases.

But how much are those rewards actually worth? If you use your points to book travel through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal, they’re worth 1.5 cents apiece. So earning 3 points per dollar on travel and dining works out to a fantastic 4.5% rewards rate, if you use the points to book travel. Getting 1 point per dollar spent on everything else isn’t too shabby either, when you can turn it into a 1.5% rate by redeeming for travel.

As with the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, you also have the option of transferring your points to one of Chase’s partner airline or hotel loyalty programs at a 1:1 rate.

» MORE: What’s the best travel credit card?

Other perks of the Chase Sapphire Reserve℠

Aside from the rewards you get from making purchases, the Chase Sapphire Reserve℠ offers a few other ways to recoup the annual fee.

  • Up to $300 a year in credits for travel purchases such as airfare and hotels charged to your card. Unlike similar (and smaller) credits from The Platinum Card® from American Express ($200) and the Citi Prestige® Card ($250), this credit can apply to any travel spending, not just airlines.
  • Access to more than 900 airport lounges worldwide with complimentary Priority Pass Select membership.
  • Credit of up to $100 for the application fee for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck. This credit is available once every four years.

Chase Sapphire Reserve℠ vs. Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Because the new card is a souped-up version of the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, it makes sense to look at their perks side by side:

 Chase Sapphire Preferred® CardChase Sapphire Reserve℠
Annual fee$0 for the first year, then $95$450
Sign-up bonusEarn 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® 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®
Rewards rate2X points on travel and dining at restaurants & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases3X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases
Redemption rate1.25 cents per point when redeemed for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards1.5 cents per point when redeemed for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards
Foreign transaction feesNoNo
Other perksEarn 5,000 bonus points after you add the first authorized user and make a purchase in the first 3 months from account opening$300 Annual Travel Credit as reimbursement for travel purchases such as airfare and hotels charged to your card

» MORE: Read our full review of the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Is the Chase Sapphire Reserve℠ worth it?

The short answer? Yes, as long as you spend enough on travel and dining. But how much is enough?

The $300 credit for travel expenses paid with the card effectively reduces the annual fee by two-thirds. Let’s ignore the sign-up bonus and the other perks for a minute (but only a minute).

Remember, you’ll earn 3 points per dollar on travel and dining, and you can redeem points for 1.5 cents apiece through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. That means you need to spend about $3,333 on travel and dining per year to wipe out the rest of that annual fee. That’s a figure that should be easy for frequent travelers to hit — especially if they eat a lot of restaurant meals while they’re on the road. Any money you spend on other categories, earning a flat 1 point per dollar spent, is just gravy.

All in all, the Chase Sapphire Reserve℠ is a great addition to Chase’s suite of credit cards. It competes favorably with other premium travel cards, and the generous rewards rate paired with the better points redemption value more than justify the high annual fee.

» MORE: The best premium credit cards

Information related to the Chase Sapphire Reserve℠ has been collected by NerdWallet and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card.

This article has been updated. It was originally published Aug. 16, 2016.

Virginia C. McGuire is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: virginia@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @vcmcguire.