How to use the Chase Sapphire Reserve travel credit

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The Chase Sapphire Reserve is easily one of the top travel credit cards available today. For a $550 annual fee, not only does this card offer 50,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points when you spend $4,000 on purchases within three months of account opening, but you also earn 10x points with Lyft (through March 2022), 3x points on travel (after earning your $300 annual travel credit) and dining and 1x points on all other purchases.

To sweeten the pot, the Chase Sapphire Reserve comes with a Priority Pass Select membership, up to $100 in credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck and 50 percent boosted value when you use points to book through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal. Recently, Chase also introduced a complimentary DashPass membership with free delivery and up to $120 in credits toward DoorDash you can use ($60 in credits in 2020 and $60 in credits for 2021).

On top of that, you’ll receive an annual travel credit that is considerably easier to use than credits offered by some competing cards, and particularly travel credit cards from American Express.

Everything you need to know about the Chase Sapphire Reserve travel credit

The annual travel credit offered by the Chase Sapphire Reserve is worth $300 per year. Each year is determined by the anniversary of when you signed up for the card and not the calendar year. Further, this credit is applied to your account automatically as a statement credit when you make qualifying travel purchases with your credit card.

However, you should note a few details in the fine print. For starters, this card’s $300 annual travel credit does not roll over. You have to use it within your cardmember anniversary year, and any unused amounts will be forfeited.

You should also know that you won’t earn any points on travel purchases that are covered with your annual travel credit and you will not start earning 3x points on travel purchases until you earn this credit.

What can you purchase with the Chase Sapphire Reserve travel credit?

What counts as travel? According to Chase, travel can include “airlines, hotels, motels, timeshares, car rental agencies, cruise lines, travel agencies, discount travel sites, campgrounds and operators of passenger trains, buses, taxis, limousines, ferries, toll bridges and highways and parking lots and garages.”

That’s a pretty broad selection of purchases that count as travel, so you shouldn’t have too much difficulty putting this credit to good use.

However, you should be aware that travel gift cards and points or miles that you buy through a frequent flyer or comparable rewards program “do not qualify in this category unless the merchant has set up such purchases to be classified in the travel category,” according to Chase.

It’s also important to know and understand that the Chase Sapphire Reserve travel credit is superior to credits offered by comparable cards. For example, The Platinum Card® from American Express offers up to a $200 airline fee credit each calendar year, but it only applies to a single airline that you have to choose in January of each year. Not only that, but this credit is only good for travel incidentals like seat selection, checked baggage fees and in-flight food and beverage purchases — you can’t use it to buy plane tickets or for upgrades.

Tips to maximize the credit

To get the most out of the Chase Sapphire Reserve travel credit, you should try to time your credit with your travel purchases. This could be part of a flight, a hotel stay that’s slightly beyond what you wanted to spend or some kind of travel “splurge” you wouldn’t pay for otherwise.

Really, you can use your travel credit however you want, whether you want to plan a luxury trip or prefer to use it for travel “extras” like checked baggage fees. This part is totally up to you.

You also don’t have to make a single $300 travel purchase to qualify. Your travel credit will be awarded to you in any increments you incur travel expenses, up to $300 per year. This means you could use your travel credit for a $100 hotel stay, a $100 rental car purchase and a $100 discount off your next flight.

How do you receive your travel credit?

No matter what you do, you need to remember that the Chase Sapphire Reserve travel credit is applied to your account as a statement credit automatically, so you cannot “save” your credit and apply it to a specific travel purchase. This is a net positive since you’ll never forget to use it, but it also means the first travel purchases you make with your card after your annual credit resets will count toward the $300 credit threshold whether you want them to or not.

Once you make a travel purchase, Chase does the legwork and credits the amount of the purchase to your account on your behalf. You don’t have to do anything, other than verifying you did receive the $300 annual travel credit you were due.

The bottom line

If you’re considering signing up for the Chase Sapphire Reserve, the annual travel credit should definitely be on your radar. This $300 annual travel credit can be applied to almost any travel purchase you make with your card, and it’s added to your account automatically. While the annual fee on this card is a whopping $550, this travel credit alone brings down that cost by more than half. If you want to earn Chase Ultimate Rewards points without a pricey annual fee, check out the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, which offers a similar rewards structure with a lower $95 annual fee.