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How I Use Chase Sapphire Reserve: Traveling With Twins

Feb. 15, 2017
Credit Cards, Travel Credit Cards
How I Use Chase Sapphire Reserve: Traveling With Twins
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Premium travel credit cards like the Chase Sapphire Reserve® are designed for people with excellent credit who travel often enough to justify the high annual fee. But Chase has an underwriting rule that can make this card inaccessible for some people who otherwise fit the profile — including NerdWallet co-founder Jake Gibson.

Because Gibson had opened five new credit accounts within the previous 24 months, he ran afoul of Chase’s 5/24 rule, which disqualifies people who have recently accessed a lot of new credit. Nevertheless, he found a simple, honest way to get his hands on the card, and he’s now enjoying the benefits.

Why were you excited about this card?

Like many others, Gibson found the sign-up bonus hard to resist. 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® . (When the card was first launched, the bonus was actually twice as big — 100,000 points. Even at its reduced size, the bonus alone is enough to wipe out the card’s $450 annual fee for the first year and change.)

Aside from that? “The card is built from the ground up to be the best card for frequent travelers,” Gibson says. “Chase is competing directly with The Platinum Card® from American Express here and winning.”

Jake Gibson

Jake Gibson

The Chase Sapphire Reserve® offers a generous rewards structure:

  • 3 points per dollar spent on travel and dining.
  • 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.

Points are worth 1.5 cents each when redeemed for travel through the Chase portal. That makes the effective rewards rate 4.5% for travel and dining and 1.5% for other spending, when redeemed for travel. For other redemptions, points are usually 1 cent apiece.

The card also has plenty of perks for frequent travelers:

  • A statement credit to reimburse you for up to $300 in travel expenses annually.
  • The ability to transfer points to nearly a dozen other airline and hotel loyalty programs, including United, Southwest, British Airways, Air France, Marriott and Hyatt.
  • Access to more than 900 airport lounges worldwide through Priority Pass Select.
  • A credit of up to $100 once every four years when you apply for the Global Entry or TSA PreCheck programs.

What happened when you first applied for the Chase Sapphire Reserve®?

“I got an ‘application pending’ notice, which I thought was unusual because my credit score is fine. But then about a week later, I got a letter in the mail telling me I got rejected because I had applied for too many cards recently. They didn’t explicitly mention the 5/24 rule, but I’d heard enough about it that I assumed that was the problem.”

What did you do after you were rejected?

“I made my wife sign up for it, and I take it from her all the time,” Gibson jokes in an email. Ultimately, he became an authorized user on his wife’s card.

“I called Chase and asked them to just upgrade my Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, since they didn’t want to approve me for the Chase Sapphire Reserve®. But they warned me I wouldn’t get the sign-up bonus, so I just decided to have myself added to my wife’s account instead.”

What’s your favorite feature?

“I’d say I have two favorite features (other than the sign-up bonus). First, triple points on restaurants and travel is huge. The Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express has been my primary credit card for close to six years now because of the value of its reward points. But with triple Chase Ultimate Rewards for restaurants and travel (which are a huge portion of our family expenses), the Chase Sapphire Reserve® might become my primary.

“Second, the $300 travel credit each year is huge. It’s automatic, no-hassle (we already got ours) and cancels out a huge portion of the annual fee.”

Is there anything you dislike about the Chase Sapphire Reserve®?

“The annual fee, of course!

“But in all honesty, the Priority Pass membership is pretty useless. I’ve had it for a few years now and have never used it. It doesn’t work in most domestic airports, and in international airports, you still have to apply for the membership separately and bring an extra card along with you everywhere. You can’t just show them your credit card and walk in.”

What have you been able to do with your rewards?

“We haven’t used these points just yet, but we’ve used tons of Chase Ultimate Rewards points for travel in the past. Now that our twins are old enough to require their own plane tickets, travel has gotten a lot more expensive. The credit card points and airline miles we’ve collected in the past couple of years have taken out a lot of the pain. I’m really looking forward to the 50% bonus for booking through Chase!”

What kind of purchases go on the card?

“I’m definitely going out of my way to use it for restaurants and travel, but there’s a good chance it just becomes the primary credit card for us, since those two categories are so much of our spending.”

How do you think this card complements your other credit cards?

“The Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express is still the best card for hotel stays most places. We almost never have to pay for hotels anymore. And with the card, we get Gold status, which means we often get upgraded to larger rooms that are a huge help with the kids.

“Then, with The Platinum Card® from American Express, we get status at rental car places, so that when we get off a long flight, we don’t have to stand in line for hours with a couple of tired young’uns to pick up our minivan.

That leaves the Chase Sapphire Reserve® for all the other travel expenses.”

Anything else we should know about the Chase Sapphire Reserve®?

“One other fun fact about the Chase cards, if you didn’t already know.

“Once my wife got the new card, we canceled her Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card. But because those cards are metal, you can’t cut them up or shred them. So instead you have to call Chase and tell them you need to destroy the card, and they’ll send you a postage-paid return envelope. Doesn’t seem very efficient for Chase, especially when you factor in how expensive it must be to print the metal in the first place.”

Interview by Virginia C. McGuire. McGuire is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: Twitter: @vcmcguire.