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Wins and Losses: Is the Chase Sapphire Reserve Card the Elite Travel Card You Need?
The Chase Sapphire line of credit cards has long been known for providing frequent travelers with a straightforward rewards program for earning points that you can use for travel. Plus, with the Chase Sapphire Preferred card, travelers found it particularly useful for transferring points to loyalty programs such as Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards and Hilton HHonors, often at a ratio of 1:1.
The new Chase Sapphire Reserve credit card is Chase’s solution for an elite travel card that provides the flexibility that the Sapphire cards are known for along with the benefits you would expect from an elite credit card. If you’re already a fan of the Chase Sapphire program and considering an upgrade to the Reserve card, or if you’re new and unsure if the Chase Sapphire Reserve credit card is the travel card for you, here’s what you should know.
Chase Sapphire Reserve Elite Travel Benefits
With elite credit cards, you typically get elite travel benefits that you wouldn’t normally get with other credit cards. This card is no different, except that the benefits might be a little more flexible because the Chase Sapphire Reserve isn’t dedicated to a particular brand like cobranded credit cards. Some of the elite travel benefits you get with this card include the following:
- $100 application fee credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✔®
- Access to more than 900 airport lounges with complimentary Priority Pass Select membership
- Car rental privileges with National Car Rental, Avis, and Silvercar
- Special benefits when you stay with The Luxury Hotel & Resort Collection
- Extensive travel and purchase protections
Transfer to Airline and Hotel Loyalty Programs
As mentioned earlier, one of the most popular benefits of the Chase Sapphire rewards program is the ability to transfer the points you earn to airline and hotel loyalty programs. You have this feature with the Reserve card as well and can transfer your points to programs such as United MileagePlus, Hyatt Gold Passport, and Marriott Rewards, just to name a few, usually at a rate of one for one. This means that if you have 100,000 Sapphire Reserve points, you can transfer them to your favorite frequent flyer program as 100,000 miles.
Valuable Sign-Up Offer
Because the Chase Sapphire Reserve is considered an elite travel credit card, it also comes with a higher annual fee of $450 per year. With elite credit cards, it’s important that you calculate how much you will use the card and its benefits to help offset the annual fee. One of the ways you can do this is by taking advantage of any sign-up or new cardholder offers. This card currently offers new cardholders a bonus of 100,000 points after you spend $4,000 on purchases with the card in the first three months of opening the account. This bonus is worth $1,500 in travel if you redeem your points through the Chase Ultimate Rewards program, and can help pay the annual fee for at least three years. This is one of the most valuable sign-up bonuses being offered by any travel rewards credit card.
Rewards and Bonuses with the Chase Sapphire Reserve Card
This card awards 3x points for each dollar you spend on travel and dining at restaurants, and 1x point for each dollar you spend on all other purchases. You can redeem your points starting at 2,000 points for a statement credit or electronic deposit into a checking or savings account, or you can redeem for gift cards and travel. If you redeem your points for travel through the Chase Ultimate Rewards program, you get 50% more in travel redemption.
This means that 100,000 points would be worth $1,500 in travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards or $1,000 if you redeem for cash.
Each year you also get a $300 annual travel credit that can be applied to your statement to cover purchases you make in the travel category such as baggage fees or other travel expenses. This is another way that the rewards and benefits you get with the card can help cover the annual fee each year.
How the Chase Sapphire Reserve Card Stacks Up
When you compare the features of the Chase Sapphire Reserve credit card to other elite travel cards and other travel rewards programs, the Reserve card comes out ahead in a couple different areas. Here’s how it stacks up to competing credit cards.
- 3x points on purchases in travel and dining categories
- 1x regular rewards rate
- 100,000 points intro rewards for spending $4,000 in the first three months of the account. That's $1,500 to spend towards travel if you purchase through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
- $300 annual travel credit
- $100 credit towards Global Entry or TSA Pre-Check purchase.
$450 annual fee
$300 annual travel credit
$100 credit on Global Entry/TSA Pre-Check
50,000 intro bonus for spending $4,000 in the first 3 months.
50% bonus on redeeming through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
Chase Sapphire Reserve vs. Chase Sapphire Preferred
Although it really isn’t its competition because both cards are in the same line, there are some notable differences between the two cards that you might want to consider. For instance, the annual fee for the Reserve card is $450 per year, and for the Sapphire Preferred is only $95 after the first waived year. If you aren’t able to use the extra benefits that the Reserve card offers, but you still want to earn travel rewards, you can get a similar rewards program with the Preferred card for a much lower annual fee. However, there are still a number of reasons that the Reserve card could be a more valuable option for you.
$95 annual fee, waived for the first year
or no annual fee for basic Sapphire card
2x points on travel and dining
1 point per dollar on all other purchases as usual
the card is made of metal
Where the Chase Sapphire Reserve Wins Against the Chase Sapphire Preferred
There are similar rewards programs, but the Reserve card version offers extensive benefits and rewards that you just don’t get with the lower annual fee version. For instance, you only get 2x points for dining and travel purchases with the Preferred card, and you don’t get the extra travel perks. Further, the sign-up bonus with the Preferred card is only 50,000 points if you spend $4,000 in the first three months, which is only half of the bonus you would get with the Reserve card if you spend the same amount of money.
Chase Sapphire Reserve vs. Delta SkyMiles Reserve from American Express
The Delta SkyMiles Reserve Credit Card from American Express is also considered an elite travel rewards card and carries a similar annual fee of $450 per year. Although it offers extra perks and benefits, it is tailored toward frequent flyers of Delta Airlines and doesn’t award or provide benefits for other types of travel. If you do frequently fly with Delta Airlines, you may be able to get more out of one of the Delta SkyMiles credit cards.
Gold: $95 annual fee, waived for the first year
Platinum: $195 fee
Reserve: $450 fee
Where the Chase Sapphire Reserve Wins Against Delta SkyMiles Reserve
The Chase Sapphire Reserve isn’t a cobranded card, so its rewards and benefits cover a variety of types of travel purchases and brands, not just one. And although the Delta SkyMiles Reserve card provides its users with elite benefits such as a companion certificate each year and access to Delta Sky Clubs, it isn’t as beneficial to users who travel with different airlines or stay with different hotel brands. Further, the value of the sign-up bonus with the Delta SkyMiles Reserve is significantly less than the bonus with the Sapphire Reserve. You only get 10,000 MQMs and 10,000 miles after your first purchase with the Delta SkyMiles Reserve card.
Chase Sapphire Reserve vs. Citi Prestige Card
The Citi Prestige Card also has an annual fee of $450 and provides travelers with extra perks and benefits. Some of the benefits include a $250 air travel credit each year, 24/7 access to Citi Prestige global concierge, and special access to events with Citi Private Pass Beyond. This card also awards 3x points for air travel and hotels and 2x points for restaurants and entertainment.
Where the Chase Sapphire Reserve Wins Against Citi Prestige
Although there are similar benefits and perks with the two cards, the Chase Sapphire Reserve comes out a little bit further ahead with things like the annual travel credit. While the Citi card provides $250 per year in air travel credit, the Sapphire Reserve offers $300 per year in all around travel credit – not just air travel. Plus, the Sapphire Reserve awards 3x points for travel and dining out, while the Citi Prestige only awards 3x point for air travel and hotels and 2x for restaurants and entertainment. Last, the Citi Prestige sign-up bonus is much less at 40,000 points if you spend $4,000 in the first 3 months, worth $400 in gift cards or $523 in airfare.
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