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

The card earns bonus points for travel and dining-related spending, which can be redeemed for more value through Chase. It piles on the perks, too, but they come at a price.
Claire TsosieOct 8, 2021

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Our Take

4.7

NerdWallet rating 

The bottom line: With a big sign-up bonus, elevated rewards on travel and dining, hundreds of dollars in annual credits and other perks, this card is a good choice for frequent travelers.

Chase Chase Sapphire Reserve Credit Card

on Chase's website

Annual fee

$550

Regular APR

16.99% - 23.99% Variable APR

Intro APR

N/A

Recommended Credit Score

Quick Facts

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • High rewards rate
  • Luxury perks
  • Premium travel protections
  • Transfer partners
  • Primary rental car coverage

Cons

  • High annual fee
  • Requires excellent credit

Alternate Pick: Simpler rewards, lower annual fee

Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
NerdWallet rating 

Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card

Earn 2 miles per $1 spent on anything

No appetite for actively managing your credit card travel rewards? This card gives you a flat 2 miles per dollar spent on every purchase. Redeem miles to "erase" any travel purchase at a penny per mile. There's a great sign-up bonus, and the annual fee is $95.

Read our review

Compare to Other Cards

NerdWallet rating 
NerdWallet rating 
NerdWallet rating 
Annual fee

$550

Annual fee

$95

Annual fee

$250

Regular APR

16.99% - 23.99% Variable APR

Regular APR

15.99% - 22.99% Variable APR

Regular APR

See Pay Over Time APR

Rates & Fees

Intro APR

N/A

Intro APR

N/A

Intro APR

N/A

Recommended Credit Score
Recommended Credit Score
Recommended Credit Score

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Full Review

Nerdy tip: The annual fee for the Chase Sapphire Reserve® increased to $550 as of Jan. 12, 2020. At that time, the card also added new features. See our story for more information on those changes, which are also reflected in this review.

For avid travelers, the Chase Sapphire Reserve® is a good deal — even with its $550 annual fee.

Thanks to features such as an annual $300 travel credit, as well as bonus rewards that can be transferred at a 1:1 ratio to several loyalty programs, it stands out as one of the best premium travel cards available. For a limited time, it's also offering perks for the meal delivery platform DoorDash and the rideshare platform Lyft, which might sweeten the deal if you use those services.

However, to earn the card’s highest rewards rate, you’ll have to make purchases through the Chase Ultimate Rewards® portal, which can be limiting. And while the card offers excellent overall value for those who spend heavily on travel and dining, if you can't take advantage of its more niche benefits, a different travel card could be a better fit.

Chase Sapphire Reserve®: Basics

Card type: Travel.

Sign-up bonus: Earn 50,000 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: $550.

Ongoing rewards:

  • 10 points per dollar spent on Chase Dining purchases through Ultimate Rewards®.

  • 10 points per dollar spent on hotel stays and car rentals purchased through Ultimate Rewards®.

  • 5 points per dollar spent on air travel purchased through Ultimate Rewards®.

  • 3 points per dollar spent on travel and dining not booked with Chase.

  • 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.

  • Through March 2022: 10 points per $1 spent on Lyft (7 points per dollar spent on Lyft plus 3 points per dollar spent on travel).

Foreign transaction fees: None.

Other benefits:

  • Up to $300 a year in statement credit automatically applied to travel purchases.

  • Complimentary Priority Pass Select airport lounge membership.

  • Multiple hotel and airline transfer partners.

  • Primary rental car coverage of up to $75,000 for theft and collision damage.

  • TSA PreCheck or Global Entry credit, worth up to $100.

  • $60 credit for DoorDash in 2021.

  • Complimentary DashPass subscription for at least one year. (Must activate by Dec. 31, 2021.)

  • Complimentary Lyft Pink membership for one year when you or an authorized user activates the benefit by March 31, 2022.

  • “Reserved by Sapphire” restaurant-booking feature, which grants cardholders access to reservations at popular restaurants across the country.

  • Trip delay reimbursement.

  • Trip cancellation or interruption insurance.

How much is a point worth?

Chase Ultimate Rewards® points earned on this card are worth 1.5 cents each when redeemed for travel booked through Chase. Cardholders can also get more value per point by transferring them to Chase's airline and hotel partners.

Otherwise, points are worth less when redeemed for cash back, gift cards and merchandise.

Benefits of the Chase Sapphire Reserve®

Big sign-up bonus

The Chase Sapphire Reserve® features the following generous sign-up bonus: Earn 50,000 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®. This is enough in many cases to cover an international round-trip flight.

To find out whether you pre-qualify for this card, check out NerdWallet’s pre-qualification tool.

Bonus rewards

Holders of the Chase Sapphire Reserve® can earn the following:

  • 10 points per dollar spent on Chase Dining purchases through Ultimate Rewards®.

  • 10 points per dollar spent on hotel stays and car rentals purchased through Ultimate Rewards®.

  • 5 points per dollar spent on air travel purchased through Ultimate Rewards®.

  • 3 points per dollar spent on travel and dining not booked with Chase.

  • 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.

Travel and dining-related purchases made through the Chase Ultimate Rewards® portal will get you the highest rewards rates, which are lucrative for those who spend heavily in those categories.

And even for travel and dining purchases not made through the issuer, cardholders will still earn bonus rewards.

Plus, if you redeem those points through Chase for travel, they are worth an elevated 1.5 cents, which 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 — in the U.S. and worldwide as well.

Additionally, through March 2022, you can earn a total of 10 points per $1 spent on Lyft (7 points per dollar on Lyft plus 3 points per dollar on travel). That’s one of the highest earn rates you’ll find for ridesharing purchases on any credit card.

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/TSA PreCheck 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 over 1,000 airport lounges internationally and meal credits at select airport restaurants and bars.

With the card's TSA PreCheck 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 at a 1:1 ratio. 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 would be getting 4 cents per point, an outstanding value. 

Here are Chase’s transfer partners:

Airlines

  • Air Canada (Aeroplan).

  • Aer Lingus.

  • Air France/KLM.

  • British Airways.

  • Emirates.

  • Iberia.

  • JetBlue.

  • Singapore.

  • Southwest.

  • United.

  • Virgin Atlantic.

Hotels

  • Hyatt.

  • InterContinental Hotels Group.

  • Marriott.

Complementary cards

Like a handful of other Chase cards, the Chase Sapphire Reserve® earns Ultimate Rewards® points. That means if you already have another card in the Ultimate Rewards® family, you can generally transfer points to your Chase Sapphire Reserve®, potentially allowing you to get more value on the points earned.

Say you already have the Chase Freedom Unlimited®, which earns a minimum of 1.5% cash back on purchases, but lacks 1:1 transfer partners and bonuses when redeeming for travel through Chase. When you log on to your Chase account, you have the option of moving the rewards earned on that card to your Chase Sapphire Reserve®, where you can then transfer them to partners or book travel for 1.5 cents per point. That could effectively boost your rewards rate on the Chase Freedom Unlimited® to 2.25% or more.

Sapphire Reserve vs. Sapphire Preferred

If you're looking at the Chase Sapphire Reserve®, you might also have your eye on its lower-cost sibling, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card. That card has an annual fee of $95, but it lacks the same rich benefits.

Which card is the better deal for you 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 perks but still want a large sign-up bonus and elevated point values.

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:

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Chase Sapphire Reserve®

Complete card details and application link:

Chase Sapphire Preferred Credit Card
NerdWallet rating 
Learn More

Complete card details and application link:

Chase Chase Sapphire Reserve Credit Card
NerdWallet rating 
Learn More

Annual fee

$95.

$550.

Sign-up bonus

Earn 60,000 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®.

Earn 50,000 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

  • 5 points per $1 spent on all travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.

  • 3 points per $1 spent on dining (including eligible delivery services and takeout).

  • 3 points per $1 spent on select streaming services.

  • 3 points per $1 spent on online grocery purchases (not including Target, Walmart and wholesale clubs).

  • 2 points per $1 spent on travel not purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.

  • 1 point per $1 spent on other purchases.

  • Through March 2022: 5 points per $1 spent on Lyft.

Points are worth 1.25 cents apiece when redeemed for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.

  • 10 points per $1 spent on Chase Dining purchases through Ultimate Rewards®.

  • 10 points per $1 spent on hotel stays and car rentals purchased through Ultimate Rewards®.

  • 5 points per $1 spent on air travel purchased through Ultimate Rewards®.

  • 3 points per $1 spent on travel and dining not booked with Chase.

  • 1 point per $1 spent on other purchases.

  • Through March 2022: 10 points per $1 spent on Lyft.

Points are worth 1.5 cents apiece when redeemed for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.

Other benefits

  • A $50 annual credit on hotel stays purchased through Ultimate Rewards®.

  • Each account anniversary, cardmembers will earn bonus points equal to 10% of total purchases made the previous year.

  • 1:1 transfer partners, including United, Southwest, JetBlue, Marriott and Hyatt.

  • Complimentary DashPass subscription for DoorDash for at least one year (must activate by Dec. 31, 2021).

  • $300 annual credit, automatically applied to travel spending.

  • 1:1 transfer partners (same as the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card).

  • 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.

  • $60 credit for DoorDash in 2021.

  • Complimentary DashPass subscription for DoorDash for at least one year (must activate by Dec. 31, 2021).

  • Complimentary Lyft Pink membership for one year.

  • Access to “Reserved by Sapphire” restaurant-booking feature.

Why you might want a different card

Restricting rewards

Although the Chase Sapphire Reserve® offers competitive earn rates for dining and travel spending, you’ll be able to get the highest rewards rate only if you make purchases through the Chase portal. This can significantly limit your options.

For example, restaurants available to you through the Chase Dining portal will depend on your location. This means that cardholders based in larger cities like New York, for instance, will have more options available to them than those based in smaller areas.

Similarly, to earn the card's 10x and 5x rate for travel-related spending, you’ll have to book through the Chase Ultimate Rewards® travel portal, which can prove limiting compared with buying flights or renting cars directly, for example.

Moreover, if you're not an avid spender in either of the card’s bonus categories, travel and dining, you won’t get much use out of the card. Another cash-back credit card that offers more diverse and flexible rewards options would be a better fit.

Some benefits are relatively niche

The Chase Sapphire Reserve® offers major DoorDash and Lyft perks. You'll get a $60 DoorDash credit for 2021 and a complimentary DashPass membership for at least one year upon activation, which means you won't have to pay delivery fees on DoorDash deliveries over $12 (although service fees and other fees apply). The card also gets you an impressive 10 points per dollar spent on Lyft through March 2022 (7 points per dollar spent at Lyft plus 3 points per dollar spent on travel) and one year of Lyft Pink membership upon activation, which gets you up to 15% off car rides, relaxed cancellations, priority airport pickups, and up to three 30-minute bike and scooter rides per month.

Of course, to get any real value from these perks, you have to actually use these services. And if you live in a more rural area where these services aren't available, that might be impossible.

For greater versatility, consider the Bank of America® Premium Rewards® credit card instead. For a significantly lower annual fee, it comes with up to $100 a year in statement credit for airline incidentals, which can be used to cover a range of expenses, such as baggage fees, select lounge fees or seat upgrades, for example. It earns 2 points for every dollar spent on travel and dining purchases and an unlimited 1.5 points per dollar spent on all other purchases. Plus, you'll receive 2 points per dollar on grocery store spending now through Dec. 31, 2021. Like the Chase Sapphire Reserve®, it offers up to $100 in statement credit for a Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application. It also comes with a robust sign-up bonus.

Limited lounge choice

If your go-to airport doesn’t have a Priority Pass lounge, you'll be missing out on a key benefit of the Chase Sapphire Reserve®. A better option might be The Platinum Card® from American Express.

With an annual fee more or less comparable to that on the Chase Sapphire Reserve®, this card comes with much broader airport lounge coverage, along with plenty of other top-tier benefits. In addition to giving cardholders Priority Pass Select coverage (once you enroll), 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). Keep in mind, however, that the Priority Pass Select coverage on this card no longer includes credits to select airport restaurants, unlike the Chase Sapphire Reserve®. The card also offers several other premium benefits and statement credits, including up to $200 in Uber Cash, which can be used toward free Uber rides in the U.S. (up to $15 each month, plus a bonus $20 in December). Plus, it comes with a big welcome offer.

High annual fee

If the $550 fee on the Chase Sapphire Reserve® is too rich for your blood — even with all of its big perks — look to the less-expensive Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card instead.

As mentioned earlier, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card has an annual fee of $95. It has the same 1:1 transfer partners as the Chase Sapphire Reserve® and a similarly robust sign-up bonus: Earn 60,000 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®. 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. Check out NerdWallet's best credit card deals to see how these cards stack up.

Is the Chase Sapphire Reserve® right for you?

Spending $550 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 and can take advantage of the card's many perks, the Chase Sapphire Reserve® is worth every penny.

To view rates and fees of the The Platinum Card® from American Express, please visit this page.

Frequently asked questions