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Is the Chase Sapphire Reserve Worth Its Annual Fee?

Sept. 14, 2018
Reward Optimization, Travel, Travel Credit Cards
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When everyone’s talking about a great new credit card, it’s natural to want to get in on the action. Few cards have gotten more buzz in recent years than the Chase Sapphire Reserve®, a travel rewards card offering high points-earning opportunities and other lucrative benefits.

But the card comes with a $550 annual fee. For some users, the perks are well worth it. For others, the math doesn’t work out so well. Here’s how to decide whether the Chase Sapphire Reserve® is for you.

The annual fee is worth it if you:

  • Spend at least $300 a year on travel. The saving grace of the Chase Sapphire Reserve®’s $550 annual fee is that it’s partly offset by a $300 annual statement credit for travel purchases. Use the card to pay for hotels, plane tickets, Uber and Lyft rides, taxis or even campground fees and those purchases get reimbursed for a total of up to $300 a year, offsetting all but $150 of the annual fee.
  • Can responsibly spend $4,000 on the card in the first 90 days. Chase Sapphire Reserve®’s biggest lure is its welcome offer: 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® . If you can’t responsibly spend that much, look for cards with lower minimum-spending requirements.
  • Eat out a lot. Chase Sapphire Reserve®’s 3X points at restaurants is among the most competitive in the business, and the $120 in DoorDash credits (through 2020 and 2021) is useful if you often order food delivery.
  • Spend a lot on travel. Travel purchases, like restaurant spending, earn an impressive 3X points after using your $300 travel credit. Through March 2022, you’ll also earn 10 points per $1 on all Lyft rides.
  • Regularly fly out of terminals with Priority Pass lounges. The Chase Sapphire Reserve® comes with complimentary Priority Pass Select membership, offering access to more than 1,000 airport lounges across the globe. Nearly every major U.S. airport has one, but you should browse lounge locations to see if you’ll actually use this benefit.
  • Will use other perks. This card also comes with a complimentary one-year membership to Lyft Pink, as well as a one-year subscription to DashPass (via DoorDash), which are useful if you’re a frequent Lyft rider and someone who orders food delivery.

The annual fee is not worth it if you:

  • Carry a balance or incur late fees. This should go without saying for any credit card: Interest rates and late fees can add up faster than rewards. The ongoing APR is 18.49% - 25.49% Variable APR for the Chase Sapphire Reserve®. If you don’t pay off the balance in full every month, the “free travel” you’re earning could cost you more than you would pay if you had just bought plane tickets and hotel rooms out of pocket.
  • Don’t spend at least $300 a year on travel, including Ubers, taxis and hotels. If you don’t spend enough to take advantage of the Chase Sapphire Reserve®’s $300 annual travel credit, the card’s $550 annual fee will actually cost you that much.
  • Have problems justifying $250 in annual costs (if you don’t use other perks). Once you’ve gotten that $300 travel credit every year, you’re still looking at a $250-a-year cost for this card. Will you actually use it enough to rack up more than $250 worth of rewards, or should you check out other travel credit cards that might be a better fit? To find out, look at the numbers. Our calculator can help:

How to maximize your rewards

You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2020, including those best for:

Planning a trip? Check out these articles for more inspiration and advice:
Chase Sapphire Reserve loses some luster with tweaks to travel perks
NerdWallet’s best Chase credit cards of 2018
How to get started with frequent flyer programs

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