Why We’re Absolutely Obsessed With the Chase Sapphire Reserve

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.

Why We’re Absolutely Obsessed With the Chase Sapphire Reserve

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AFAR partners with CreditCards.com and may receive a commission from card issuers. Our coverage is independent and objective, and has not been reviewed, approved, or endorsed by any of these entities. Opinions expressed here are entirely those of the AFAR editorial team. Some of the offers mentioned below are no longer available.

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 bonus that is currently available—60,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first three months and an even better points earning structure. 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 Chase Sapphire Reserve card went viral without any marketing has been the subject of magazine cover stories.

The biggest Chase Sapphire Reserve card benefits

I decided to ditch my Chase Sapphire Preferred for the Chase Sapphire Reserve, and I haven’t looked back. This card currently earns:

  • Ten points per dollar on Chase Dining purchases
  • Ten points per dollar on hotel stays and car rentals made through Chase Travel
  • Five points per dollar on flights made through Chase Travel
  • Three points per dollar on other travel and dining, including takeout and delivery
  • One point per dollar on all other eligible purchases

Those points are worth 1.5 cents each when redeemed through the Chase Travel portal for travel. 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, 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. 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.

Value summary:

  • 60,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening
  • $300 annual travel statement credits
  • Statement credit toward Global Entry or TSA PreCheck worth up to $100 every four years
  • The card earns 10 points per dollar on Chase Dining purchases as well as hotel stays and car rentals booked through Chase Travel, five points per dollar on flights made through Chase Travel, and three points per dollar on other eligible dining and travel purchases, then one point per dollar on other eligible purchases
  • Complimentary access to 1,300 airport lounges
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • 1:1 points transfer to select airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Enhanced travel protection benefits

How to earn points and rewards

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.

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 also has partnerships with Lyft with additional value-added benefits. With Lyft, Chase Sapphire Reserve cardholders can earns 10 points per dollar on Lyft rides through March 2025.

On the redemption side, it’s worth noting that Chase Ultimate Rewards points are potentially even more valuable when booked through the Chase Travel 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, 60,000 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 2016; it was most recently updated on December 7, 2022.

Ashlea Halpern is a contributing editor at Condé Nast Traveler and cofounder of Minnevangelist, a site dedicated to all things Minnesota. She’s on the road four to six months a year (sometimes with her toddler in tow) and contributes to Afar, New York Magazine, Time, the Wall Street Journal, T: The New York Times Style Magazine, Bon Appétit, Oprah, Midwest Living, and more. Follow her adventures on Instagram at @ashleahalpern.
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