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The Chase Sapphire Reserve boasts a variety of valuable benefits, from a $300 annual travel credit to primary car rental insurance, that make it fairly easy to offset the card’s high annual fee.
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Then I dive into its many benefits, like a $300 travel credit (that effectively brings the annual fee to $250), free airport lounge access, primary car rental insurance, and the ability to earn tons of valuable rewards points, and they begin to see the light.
Still, that’s a lot of money to pay for a credit card — especially when there are plenty of solid free options out there (in terms of annual fees). If you’re wondering if the Chase Sapphire Reserve is worth its cost, or if you already have the card and are curious about its many perks, keep reading.
We’ll start with a quick overview of the card’s features before exploring how to maximize each one to its full potential.
Here’s a quick overview of the features you can expect as a Sapphire Reserve cardholder:
Impressive, right? And that’s just a surface-level glance. Now, let’s talk details.
First things first: How can you justify a $550 annual fee? By essentially reducing it to $250 with a $300 annual travel credit.
Each cardmember year, Chase will reimburse your first $300 of travel purchases through automatic statement credits.
Chase’s definition of travel is generous, and according to its site, includes: airlines, hotels, motels, timeshares, car rental agencies, cruise lines, travel agencies, discount travel sites, campgrounds, passenger trains, buses, taxis, limousines, ferries, toll roads, parking lots, and garages.
As an example, let’s say you opened the card in April. Chase will automatically reimburse any charges at travel merchants, like the ones above, until you reach $300. That might mean $50 on an Uber, $100 on a train ticket, and $150 on a hotel stay — or you might use your whole credit with one $300 flight.
However it shakes out, that first $300 of travel purchases is covered by Chase. Your credit will automatically renew the following April, and every April thereafter.
You’ll get $60 in credits for DoorDash purchases in 2020, and $60 in 2021.
DoorDash is one of many popular meal delivery services, and if you’re like most people, you could use a quick and easy dinner once in a while. These annual credits will help you save time and further offset the annual fee (assuming you’d have ordered food anyway).
For many people, the most attractive quality of the Reserve is its high earning power: You’ll earn 3X Chase Ultimate Rewards (UR) points per dollar on all travel and dining purchases. (For travel, you’ll only earn Ultimate Rewards points after you’ve exhausted the $300 credit.)
Since travel and dining are some of the most common credit card expenditures, this allows you to rack up points quickly — without requiring you to spend money at a specific chain or sign up for rotating bonus categories.
If you spend an average of $1,000 per month on travel and dining, you’d earn 36,000 UR points in a single year (enough for a domestic round-trip flight on most airlines!).
You’ll also get 10X points on Lyft rides — an excellent rate you’re not likely to find anywhere else.
Another huge perk of the Reserve is its flexible rewards program. When you’re ready to transfer your UR points, you won’t be limited to one specific airline or hotel loyalty program.
Instead, you can transfer your points at a 1:1 ratio to 13 different airline and hotel partners:
|Airline Travel Partners|
|Aer Lingus AerClub||British Airways Executive Club||Flying Blue AIR FRANCE KLM||Iberia Plus||JetBlue TrueBlue|
|Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer||Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards||United MileagePlus||Virgin Atlantic Flying Club||Emirates Skywards|
|Hotel Travel Partners|
|IHG Rewards Club||Marriott Bonvoy||World of Hyatt|
Translation? With the click of a button, you can turn 50,000 UR points into 50,000 United miles or 50,000 Marriott Bonvoy points.
Redeeming through these direct point transfers can garner you an incredible value — better than the 50% bonus described below — especially when it comes to United, British Airways, Southwest, Virgin, Iberia, and Hyatt.
The Chase Sapphire Reserve generally requires good or excellent credit scores for approval. If you’re looking for a card with the same range of travel partners — with a lower minimum credit line and lower annual fee — consider the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card (Review). It may be easier to qualify for, earns 5X Ultimate Rewards points per dollar on Lyft rides and 2X points per dollar on travel and dining, and currently offers a signup bonus of 60,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first three months. Its annual fee is $95. Plus, if you’re approved for the Sapphire Preferred and would like to upgrade to the Reserve, you may be able to do so a year after approval by calling the number on the back of your card.
Although you’ll usually get more value by transferring your points directly to airlines or hotels, sometimes it’s difficult to find availability. And sometimes you just don’t want to deal with the hassle of finding a rewards flight.
In those situations, turn to the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal, where you can book flights, hotels, rental cars, cruises, and more.
On this Chase-specific booking engine, powered by Expedia, your UR points will translate to dollars, and you won’t have to worry about blackout dates. As long as a flight or hotel is available, you’ll be able to book it with your points.
With most Chase cards, UR points are only worth 1 cent each. But Sapphire Reserve cardholders get a 50% bonus on travel redemptions, receiving a value of 1.5 cents per point. Sapphire Preferred cardholders get a 25% bonus, for 1.25 cents per point.
So, whereas a $500 flight through Chase’s portal would cost most people 50,000 UR points, Reserve cardholders could get it for 33,333 points — a significant savings.
Chase’s UR portal doesn’t always provide the best prices for travel bookings. What if that $500 flight only costs $450 when booked directly with the airline? Take some time to shop around, and see if you’d get a better deal by paying with your card as normal (and earning points for the booking).
Global Entry and TSA PreCheck are “Trusted Traveler” programs from the U.S. government that allow you to fly in style.
To become a member of either of these programs, you’ll need to apply online and pay the accompanying fee. When you charge the application fee to your Reserve card, Chase will automatically reimburse the cost.
You can even charge someone else’s application fee to your card, and Chase will still cover it. Just note you’re only eligible for the benefit once every four years.
Though it’s hard to choose, this is my favorite Chase Sapphire Reserve benefit. Since I fly frequently (with a partner who eats more than you can imagine), it has allowed the card to pay for itself many times over.
After you get your Sapphire Reserve card, you’ll be able to enroll in Priority Pass Select for free. This membership grants you access to over 1,200 “experiences” — usually airport lounges — at more than 500 locations around the world.
When you visit these Priority Pass lounges, you’ll find free food and drink (including booze!), a dedicated WiFi network, and ample outlets to charge your gear. You’ll also be able to bring two guests with you for free (additional guests are $32 each).
At more than a dozen airports across the U.S., Priority Pass Select gets you restaurant credits, as well, such as $30 each for you and a guest at P.F. Changs at LAX, or $28 each at American Tap Room at DCA.
While it sounds too good to be true, it’s not. Here’s more about how Priority Pass Select works — and where you can use it.
For $75 per year, you can add an authorized user to your Chase Sapphire Reserve card. This will make him or her eligible for some of the same perks, like lounge access. If you have children, for example, you could add your partner as an authorized user, and then you’ll each get to bring two guests into the lounges with you.
In more fancy-pants news, you’ll also get special treatment at several hotel groups, like Chase’s Luxury Hotel & Resort Collection (LHRC), which includes more than 900 hotels around the world.
To receive the benefits, you must book your stay through an LHRC Travel Specialist or on LHRCollection.com, and pay for it with your Reserve card.
When you follow those steps, here’s what you’ll get at eligible properties:
At more than 140 of these luxury hotels around the world, Chase Reserve cardholders get a “VIP welcome,” such as a bottle of champagne, bouquet of flowers, and chocolate cake at the Hôtel Splendide Royal Paris, as well as complimentary breakfast for all members of the party.
To qualify, you must book through the Visa Infinite concierge at least 72 hours in advance, and pay for the reservation with your card.
sbe includes more than a dozen luxurious properties like the Delano Las Vegas, Redbury New York, and SLS hotels in Miami.
If you book your stay through Chase’s sbe portal and pay with your Reserve card, you’ll enjoy benefits like:
Ever wanted your own personal assistant? Well, as a Chase Reserve cardholder, you can get kinda close.
As the site promises: “The Visa Concierge service is available 24 hours per day, 365 days per year, to help cardholders to send gifts, purchase tickets and tours, rent vehicles, make reservations for theatre plays or provide any other information or assistance that cardholders may need, anywhere in the world.”
While I haven’t used the service yet (and have read it’s far from perfect), it’s a cool perk that could come in handy in a pinch.
If you’d like to rub shoulders with your fellow Chase cardholders, the credit card issuer also offers a range of curated “experiences.”
During a recent exploration, I found offers for a “Chase Sound Check” with artist James Bay in NYC, which included a concert, meet and greet, VIP lounge, and autographed item for 6,000 UR points, and a “Chase Sapphire Private Dinner” at Ultreia in Denver, which included a multi-course meal with wine pairings, and an appearance and menu discussion by Chef Jennifer Jasinski, for 15,000 UR points.
Although many credit cards provide rental car insurance, the vast majority offer “secondary” insurance. That means you must make a claim with your regular car insurance company before the credit card will pay out.
The Chase Sapphire Reserve, however, is among a handful of premium cards that offer “primary” car rental insurance.
So if you damage your rental car, you can file a claim directly with your credit card issuer, bypassing your car insurance company (and the potential increase in premiums). This is a huge benefit for anyone who rents cars regularly.
The Reserve also provides a significant amount of coverage: up to $75,000 in losses due to theft or damage. As long as you pay for the rental with your card, and decline the agency’s collision damage waiver, this applies to any authorized drivers on the rental agreement.
The Reserve covers damage and loss, but not liability. For coverage, you can rely on your regular car insurance — if you’re not a car owner, it’s advisable to purchase separate liability insurance. (While rental agencies are required to provide the minimum liability for their state, it’s often less than what experts recommend.) Read more about car rental insurance and credit cards here.
Lyft Pink gives you 15% off rides, relaxed cancellation fees, priority dispatch at airports, bike/scooter perks, and more.
Just set your Sapphire Reserve card as the default payment method in the Lyft app and you’ll be prompted to activate your membership.
You’ll also be eligible for discounts at the following car rental agencies:
Need a tow? Or a jumpstart? The Chase Sapphire Reserve card covers up to $50 per incident, up to four times per year.
Even if you only use this benefit once a year (when you inevitably lock yourself out of your car…), it’s like taking another $50 off the annual fee.
While interruptions to your travel plans are never fun, the Reserve card can remove some of the financial sting.
Its Trip Cancellation and Trip Interruption insurance policies cover you when your plans are stymied — either before or after your departure — because of illness, severe weather, or other covered situations. In those cases, Chase will reimburse up to $10,000 per person and $20,000 per trip for prepaid, non-refundable travel expenses like tickets, tours, or hotel reservations.
And if your trip is merely delayed, it’s got your back, too. When your flight is delayed more than six hours, or when you must stay overnight, the Reserve’s Trip Delay Reimbursement policy will grant you up to $500 per ticket to cover expenses such as meals, toiletries, medication, and lodging.
To be eligible for any of the benefits surrounding trip interruption, baggage, and travel emergencies, you must have paid for at least a portion of the trip with the Reserve. So even if you purchase your flights with miles or points, make sure to always pay the fees with your Reserve card. For full details on these policies, including exactly who and what is covered, we recommend scouring Chase’s benefits guide or calling the Benefits Administrator at 1-888-675-1461. They will always have the most up-to-date and accurate information.
Sometimes you make it to your destination just fine, but your bags are another story.
In that situation, the Reserve’s Baggage Delay benefit will reimburse you for “essential purchases like toiletries and clothing”: up to $100 per day for five days.
If your bags are never found, its Lost Luggage benefit will provide up to $3,000 in lost luggage reimbursement per person (up to $500 of which can be for jewelry, watches, cameras, video recorders, and other electronic equipment).
As for your health, the Reserve covers several different types of emergencies:
Bought a new bike with your Reserve card, only to have it stolen a week later? Chase’s Purchase Protection can come to your rescue.
If an item is stolen or damaged within 120 days of its purchase, Chase will “replace, repair, or reimburse” it, for up $10,000 per claim and $50,000 per year.
Within 90 days of making a purchase, you can also take advantage of Return Protection, which provides reimbursement if a merchant won’t accept your return. You must have made the purchase on the card, and can claim up to $500 per item, for a maximum of $1,000 per year. The item must be in “like-new/good working condition.”
So, while it’s worth doing your research, I’ve found the Chase Sapphire Reserve to be the best premium travel credit card for my needs.
Its benefits are more than I ever expected from a credit card: excellent rewards on travel and dining, primary car rental insurance, airport lounge access, and coverage for delayed or cancelled flights.
Read our Review of the Chase Sapphire Reserve Card to explore the rewards and benefits further.
If you still want to shop around for travel rewards cards, there are plenty to choose from. I recommend checking out the Citi Prestige® Card (Review) or Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card (Review), and then reading my head-to-head comparisons of the Reserve versus two popular alternatives:
Spoiler alert: In my opinion, the Reserve comes out on top every time.
Wondering about the other top cards on the market today? Check out our picks for the Best Credit Cards of all kinds.
Susan is a freelance writer who specializes in turning complex financial topics into engaging and accessible articles. She's been writing about personal finance for six years, and was previously the senior writer at The Penny Hoarder and a staff writer at Student Loan Hero. Her personal finance writing has also appeared in publications like The New York Times, MarketWatch, and Lifehacker.
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