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

Updated April 23, 2018
Credit Cards, Travel Credit Cards
Chase Sapphire Reserve Review: A First-Class Premium Travel Card
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For avid travelers, the Chase Sapphire Reserve® is a flat-out bargain — even with its $450 annual fee.

That’s because this premium travel card offers incredibly high long-term value with a potpourri of goodies, including an annual travel credit worth up to $300 and airport lounge access. In a crowded field of luxury cards, easy-to-use perks like these make it stand out as one of the most practical, valuable choices for folks who travel often.

Chase Sapphire Reserve®

Chase Sapphire Reserve®

Apply Now on Chase's secure site
  • Recommended Credit Score
  • 720
    850
    Excellent
  • Card Details
  • Pros

    • A large bonus
    • High rewards rate
    • High value benefits
    • Cool factor - metal card
    • No foreign transaction fee

    Cons

    • High annual fee
    • Needs excellent credit

    Annual Fees

    $450

    APR

    • APR: 17.49% - 24.49% Variable APR
    • Cash Advance APR: 26.49%, Variable

    Bonus Offers

    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®

    Intro APR

    • N/A
  • Additional Information
    • 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®
    • $300 Annual Travel Credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year
    • Named a Best Travel Credit Card for 2017 by MONEY® Magazine
    • 3X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases. Plus, no 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 PassTM Select
    • Up to $100 application fee credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre√®

Key features of the Chase Sapphire Reserve®

Here’s a quick run-down of what this card offers:

  • Sign-up bonus: 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®
  • Annual fee: $450; $75 for each authorized user

Points earned on this card are worth 1.5 cents each when redeemed through the Chase travel portal — but you can generally get much more per point by transferring to the issuer’s 1:1 loyalty program partners.

  • Ongoing rewards:
    • Earn 3 points per dollar spent on travel and dining
    • Earn 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases
  • Foreign transaction fees: None
  • Other benefits:
    • Up to $300 a year in statement credit automatically applied to travel purchases
    • Complimentary Priority Pass Select lounge membership
    • 1:1 transfer partners
    • Primary rental car coverage up to $75,000 for theft and collision damage

Points earned on this card are worth 1.5 cents each when redeemed for travel booked through Chase. But you can often get even more value per point by transferring them to Chase’s airline and hotel partners and then taking advantage of good redemption deals. Partners include United Airlines, Southwest Airlines, British Airways, Marriott and Hyatt.

It’s also possible to redeem for cash back, gift cards and other products and services, although those options provide less value per point. For a quick primer on how to transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards® points, watch the issuer’s video on this topic.

To find out whether the card is worth the $450 annual fee for you based on your spending and travel habits, use the calculator below.

Chase Sapphire Reserve®: Is it worth the annual fee?

Chase Sapphire Reserve®: Is it worth the annual fee?

Why you should get the Chase Sapphire Reserve®

The Chase Sapphire Reserve® is a premium credit card, but its benefits are more about practicality than superficial pizzazz.

Big sign-up bonus. Even though the sign-up bonus on the Chase Sapphire Reserve® was sliced in half several months after it was launched, it’s still a real head-turner when compared to sign-up promotions on other travel cards. The bonus: 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® — enough in many cases to cover an international round-trip flight.

To find out whether you prequalify for this card, check out NerdWallet’s prequalification tool.

High ongoing rewards for dining and travel. This card earns 3 points per dollar spent on travel and dining purchases. With points worth 1.5 cents each when redeemed through Chase for travel, that gives the card an impressive 4.5% effective rewards rate in those popular categories. That’s a boon for folks who spend plenty in these areas. Also, you get the 3 points per dollar on purchases worldwide — not just in the U.S.

Travel statement credit of up to $300. While many premium cards offer airline fee credits for baggage fees and other select purchases, the travel credit of up to $300 on the Chase Sapphire Reserve® covers a much broader range of travel purchases, including taxi rides, campground fees and train fares.

Because this credit is applied automatically, taking advantage of it is effortless. Use this card to pay for a $20 Uber ride and — poof! — that travel credit is applied to your credit card statement right away. 

Airport lounge access and Global Entry or TSA Pre-Check reimbursement. With the Chase Sapphire Reserve®, your next layover could be spent in an exclusive lounge with a complimentary cocktail in hand. The card comes with Priority Pass Select membership, with access to more than 1,000 airport lounges internationally and meal credits at select airport restaurants and bars.

With the card’s TSA Pre-Check or Global Entry reimbursement, you can also speed through security and get to those swanky lounges a little sooner. The card offers reimbursement for the application fee for TSA PreCheck ($85) or Global Entry ($100) once every four years.

Transfer partners. With the Chase Sapphire Reserve®, you can move points to several other loyalty programs — listed on NerdWallet’s Chase Ultimate Rewards® review page — at a 1:1 ratio.

On the Chase Sapphire Reserve®, transferring points and redeeming them strategically can be incredibly lucrative. For example, say you turn 50,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards® points into 50,000 United miles, then redeem those miles for a flight that would have otherwise cost $2,000. Taxes and fees aside, you’d be getting 4 cents per point, an outstanding value. 

How it compares to the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

While checking out the Chase Sapphire Reserve®, you might also have your eye on Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, its lower-cost sibling. That card has an annual fee of $0 for the first year, then $95, but it lacks the same rich benefits. Comparing the two might make you wonder: Is paying a higher annual fee for more benefits actually a better deal?

The answer ultimately depends on your spending. For frequent travelers, the Chase Sapphire Reserve® offers far more long-term value. The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is a better choice for those who don’t plan on using so many benefits but still want a large sign-up bonus.

For a more thorough breakdown of the differences, read NerdWallet’s full comparison of these two cards. Here’s how they stack up at a glance:

Table: Comparing the Sapphire cards

Table: Comparing the Sapphire cards

 Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card Chase Sapphire Reserve®
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® .
Annual fee$0 for the first year, then $95 $450
Rewards
  • 2 points per $1 spent on travel and dining.

  • 1 point per $1 spent on everything else.
  • 3 points per $1 spent on travel and dining.

  • 1 point per $1 spent on everything else.
Point value1.25 cents apiece when redeemed for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards1.5 cents apiece when redeemed for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards
Annual credit for travel expensesNone$300, automatically applied to travel spending
Other notable benefits
  • 1:1 transfer partners, including British Airways, United, Southwest Airlines and Hyatt, among others.
  • 1:1 transfer partners (same as the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card).
  • Unlimited access to more than 1,000 airport lounges worldwide through Priority Pass Select.
  • Up to $100 reimbursement every four years for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fees charged to your card.

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Apply Now on Chase's secure site
  • Recommended Credit Score
  • 690
    850
    Good - Excellent
  • Card Details
  • Pros

    • A large bonus
    • No foreign transaction fee
    • Cool factor - metal card
    • Earn more points on travel and dining at restaurants
    • Premium travel protection benefits

    Cons

    • $0 intro annual fee for the first year, after that $95 per year

    Annual Fees

    $0 for the first year, then $95

    APR

    • APR: 17.49% - 24.49% Variable APR
    • Cash Advance APR: 26.49%, Variable

    Bonus Offers

    Earn 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®

    Intro APR

    • N/A
  • Additional Information
    • Earn 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®
    • Chase Sapphire Preferred® named a 'Best Travel Credit Card' by MONEY® Magazine, 2016-2017
    • 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
    • Earn 5,000 bonus points after you add the first authorized user and make a purchase in the first 3 months from account opening
    • No foreign transaction fees
    • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
    • Get 25% more value when you redeem for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 50,000 points are worth $625 toward travel.
    • No blackout dates or travel restrictions - as long as there's a seat on the flight, you can book it through Chase Ultimate Rewards

To see which card makes the most sense for you, use the calculator below.

Reserve vs. Preferred: Which is more valuable, based on your spending?

Reserve vs. Preferred: Which is more valuable, based on your spending?

Why you should go with another card

If you can’t use all the over-the-top benefits on the Chase Sapphire Reserve®, consider applying for one of these cards, instead.

You want access to more lounges. If your go-to airport doesn’t have a Priority Pass lounge, the Chase Sapphire Reserve® might not be of much use to you. The Platinum Card® from American Express could be a better alternative.

With an annual fee of $550, this card isn’t cheap. But it comes with much broader airport lounge coverage, along with plenty of other top-flight benefits. In addition to giving cardholders Priority Pass Select coverage, the card also offers access to several other lounge networks, including AmEx’s own Centurion lounges and Delta Sky Clubs (for folks flying with Delta on the same day).

You can’t stomach the $450 annual fee. If the Chase Sapphire Reserve® seems a little rich for your blood — even with all of its big perks — go with the less-expensive Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card instead.

As we mentioned earlier, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card has an annual fee of $0 for the first year, then $95. It comes with the same 1:1 transfer partners as the Chase Sapphire Reserve® and a robust sign-up bonus. Although it lacks the most attention-grabbing perks, such as the $300 travel credit, it’s ideal for folks looking for a versatile travel card with a lower price tag.

You’re not big on travel. The Chase Sapphire Reserve® is an ideal card for frequent travelers, but it’s not the best option for people who only travel once or twice a year.

If you don’t travel often, try the Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer instead. Although it’s not a premium card, it offers a top-notch cash-back rewards rate on all purchases. You’ll get 1% back on every dollar spent, and another 1% back on every dollar paid off. The annual fee is $0.

Is the Chase Sapphire Reserve® right for you?

Spending $450 a year on a credit card is a big deal — and probably isn’t worth it in this case if you’re not a frequent traveler. But if you fly often, the Chase Sapphire Reserve® is worth every penny.