Courtesy of Chase
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What travel benefits and rewards do Chase Sapphire Reserve cardholders really receive? An AFAR editor gives her honest review of the credit card in almost every dedicated traveler’s wallet.
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For years, I resisted the siren call of rewards credit cards. So many numbers to calculate! So much fine print! The thought of putting effort into collecting points and converting them to miles was simply too much for my math-averse brain to handle.
But eventually, I caved and got myself a Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card. At the time, I was thrilled with the 50,000-point sign-up bonus and double points for travel and dining. I’d be even more thrilled if that the card were offering the historically high sign-up bonus that is currently available - 80,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first three months, plus up to $50 in statement credits on grocery purchases within the first year. Timing is everything.
I still didn’t know what I was doing, but I figured I must be on the right track if I was able to redeem points for travel benefits like a pair of one-way Qantas tickets from Melbourne to Los Angeles. I’ll be damned, I was finally starting to see the light: If I put most of my charges on my travel credit card and I pay my bill monthly, I get free things. Ding! Ding! Ding!
Just as I wrapped my head around the Sapphire Preferred card, though, along came the flashy, splashy Chase Sapphire Reserve®. When it was first introduced, the card ignited a veritable premium rewards race. Demand was so high, in fact, that Chase ran out of the metal material it uses to manufacture cards. Slowpokes who didn’t sign up in time were issued flimsy plastic, much to their chagrin. How the Sapphire Reserve card went viral without any marketing has been the subject of magazine cover stories.
I decided to ditch my Chase Sapphire Preferred for the Chase Sapphire Reserve, and I haven’t looked back. With my new card, I earn three points per dollar on travel and dining purchases, including takeout and delivery. From November 1, 2020 through April 30, 2021, the card also earns three points per dollar on up to $1,000 in purchases per month at grocery stores. It earns one point per dollar spent on everything else.
Those points are worth 1.5 cents each when redeemed through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal for travel, or, through April 30, 2021, for statement credits toward grocery store spending, restaurants, and home improvement stores. There are no foreign transaction fees, and, so long as my account remains open and in good standing, no expiration date for my points.
At first blush, the fees for Sapphire Reserve might seem steep: a $550 annual fee (though this has been lowered to $450 for 2020), plus $75 for each authorized user. Then I subtract the $300 annual travel credit—essentially a reimbursement for travel purchases that can be applied toward airline passenger fares, car rentals, hotels, Airbnb bookings, timeshares, campgrounds, cruise lines, taxis, ferries, toll bridges, parking meters, rideshares, and more. Through June 30, 2021, this can also be put toward groceries and gas. I also consider the card’s Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee statement credit, worth up to $100 once every four years.
I can also register for complimentary Priority Pass Select membership, which grants me access to more than 1,300 airport lounges around the world. I make mental notes about all of the perks I hope I never need to use, including roadside assistance, primary rental car insurance, trip cancellation and delay coverage, plus reimbursement for lost luggage and emergency evacuation.
Lastly, I remember the lucrative sign-up bonus: After spending $4,000 within the first three months of opening the account, cardholders earn 60,000 points, which are worth $900 toward travel. With all of these benefits and features in mind, it’s almost as if Chase pays me to use the Sapphire Reserve card.
Here’s what it meant IRL to earn those 60,000 bonus points after opening my account: Unless a place was cash-only or I was buying, say, a pack of gum, I paid for everything with my Reserve card. I didn’t care if some barista gave me the death stare for charging a $3.95 latte. Every point mattered.
The trick in earning and redeeming the most benefits, of course, is paying your bill in full, every single month. With a relatively high variable interest rate, any interest or penalties owed could very well negate the rewards earned from the Chase Sapphire Reserve card.
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Of course, the Sapphire Reserve should be your default form of payment on every airline and hotel website where you regularly book travel. (You might want to set the card to default on ridesharing apps like Uber and Lyft since those count toward travel, too.)
The card recently launched new partnerships with DoorDash and Lyft with additional value-added benefits. Cardholders are eligible for up to $120 in credits with DoorDash when using their card to pay: $60 to put toward orders in 2020 and $60 for 2021. They can also register for up to two years of complimentary DashPass membership, which usually costs $10 per month and saves an average of $4 to $5 per order. Members enjoy waived delivery fees and reduced service fees on orders of $12 or more from participating restaurants. You just need to activate this offer by December 31, 2021.
With Lyft, Chase Sapphire Reserve cardholders can enroll for a year of complimentary Lyft Pink membership, which normally costs $20 per month and includes perks like a 15 percent discount on car rides, priority airport pickups and more. The card also earns 10 points per dollar on Lyft rides through March 2022. Plus, if you have Lyft Pink, you can also now register for free Grubhub+ or Seamless+ membership, with unlimited free delivery from participating restaurants, exclusive perks including free food and discounts from popular restaurants among other benefits. Basically, this makes the Chase Sapphire Reserve your new to-go takeout card.
On the redemption side, it’s worth noting that Chase Ultimate Rewards points are potentially even more valuable when booked through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal or when transferred to loyalty programs with one of Chase’s 13 travel partners including Hyatt, Marriott, British Airways, Air France/KLM, United, JetBlue, Southwest, and more. That way, 50,000 points might be worth a one-way business class ticket in Delta One Suites using Virgin Atlantic miles, or more than enough for a night at luxury hotels like Ventana Big Sur in California.
While I’m still no points dork on the level of the pros at sites like The Points Guy, I am a convert. What I love about the Chase Sapphire Reserve is that it makes earning and redeeming points as well as taking advantage of the card’s other benefits super easy so I can concentrate on the fun of traveling.
While the offers mentioned above are accurate at the time of publication, they are subject to change at any time, and may have changed or may no longer be available.
This article originally appeared online in December 2016; it was updated in March 2021 to include current information.
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