Chase Sapphire Reserve® review: Chase’s premier credit card
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Chase Sapphire Reserve® Overview
The Chase Sapphire Reserve credit card stands out as the top dog among all Chase credit cards. Although it also poses a “best in show” annual fee of $550, its portfolio of top-tier rewards rates, luxury travel perks and exhaustive travel protections might make the Sapphire Reserve worth it as Chase’s premier card for world travelers.
However, Chase’s latest upgrade makes it an invaluable asset to Ultimate Rewards enthusiasts who initially eyed the Sapphire Reserve for its exclusive travel and dining opportunities. On top of the incredible 10X points on Chase Ultimate Reward hotel stays, car rentals and Chase Dining purchases—plus 5X points on Ultimate Reward air travel (after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually)—the Sapphire Reserve will provide a much-needed boost to its luxury perks later this year with three airport locations for the brand-new Chase Sapphire Lounge by The Club and access to a handful of the United States’ top dining experiences via the new Reserved by Sapphire booking program.
Although these new features might not be as valuable to everyday cardholders as those in the recent The Platinum Card® from American Express upgrade, the Sapphire Reserve is still a stiff rival on account of its unchanged $550 annual fee, and it remains one of the flagship elite credit cards on the market.
Want more details? Jump to the following sections:
What are the advantages and disadvantages?
- $550 annual fee, $75 annual fee per authorized user
- Although the Sapphire Preferred has a lower $95 annual fee, its sign-up bonus offers 60,000 points for the same spending requirements as the Sapphire Reserve’s 50,000-point offer (after spending $4,000 within the first three months)
- Doesn’t offer as many luxury airport lounge and hotel perks as its competitors, although new Chase Sapphire Lounge locations are in development
A deeper look into the current card offer
- Rewards rate: 3X points on general travel and restaurant purchases; 10X total points on Lyft purchases (through March 31, 2022); 10X total points on Chase Dining purchases through Ultimate Rewards; 10X total points on hotel stays and car rentals through Ultimate Rewards; 5X total points on air travel through Ultimate Rewards (after earning your $300 travel credit); 1X points on all other purchases
- Welcome offer: 50,000 points after spending $4,000 on purchases within the first three months
- Annual fee: $550 for new cardmembers
- Purchase intro APR: N/A
- Balance transfer intro APR: N/A
- Regular APR: 16.99 percent to 23.99 percent variable
Current sign-up bonus
The current Chase Sapphire Reserve sign-up bonus will earn you 50,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points after spending $4,000 within your first three months.
Considering the cost of luxury travel, this spending requirement could certainly be within reach if you plan to make good use of your travel perks early on. One of the main draws is that your points receive a 50 percent boost by redeeming for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards, which would make your sign-up bonus worth a whopping $750.
This is one of the largest sign-up bonuses available, slightly outranked among Chase cards by its little sibling—the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card. For a mere $95 annual fee, the Sapphire Preferred delivers 60,000 points (worth $750 toward travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards) after spending the same $4,000 within three months.
The Sapphire Reserve’s current bonus was reduced slightly from 60,000 points, while the Sapphire Preferred’s offer plummeted from 100,000 points. Considering that both cards’ bonuses ask for the same spending requirements as their higher versions did previously, the current offer isn’t worth scrambling for, but it’s still a good value despite the $150 value drop (toward Ultimate Rewards travel).
The Chase Sapphire Reserve earns Chase Ultimate Rewards points, renowned as some of the most flexible and valuable credit card rewards on the market. Especially considering the aforementioned 50 percent boost in point value toward travel redemption, you’ll definitely get your mileage out of these rewards.
You’ll earn 3 points per dollar spent on general dining and travel worldwide, including airfare, hotels and more. Besides 1 point per dollar on all other purchases, you’ll also earn a total of 10 points per dollar (an additional 7 points per dollar) on qualifying Lyft rides through March 31, 2022, and in several other categories through Chase’s online portal. Booking through Chase Ultimate Rewards will earn you a heaping 10 points per dollar on hotel stays, car rentals and Chase Dining purchases, along with 5 total points per dollar on air travel.
However, keep in mind that your initial travel, grocery and gas purchases each year will count toward the annual $300 travel credit benefit (grocery and gas count through Dec. 31, 2021). Once the first $300 you’ve spent after your cardmember anniversary has been applied back to your account, you’ll begin earning elevated rewards rates on eligible purchases.
Bonus category purchases are the main methods to earn Ultimate Rewards, but the Chase Offers and Shop Through Chase programs can net you a few extra points. Both allow you to earn additional points on limited-time promotions (up to a threshold) with participating retailers.
Chase Offers focus more on retailers in your everyday categories, while Shop Through Chase retailers lean more toward apparel. You won’t earn a fortune in bonus points, but maximizing your spending with these deals can rack up sizable rewards over time.
Ultimate Rewards points are more flexible than typical frequent flyer miles since they can be redeemed for a wide variety of options, such as gift cards, merchandise (including shopping with points on eligible Amazon and PayPal purchases), travel experiences, cash back or statement credits.
However, the potential redemption boosts mean that using your points to book travel or transferring your points to Chase travel partners are usually the most valuable redemption choices.
If you’re not planning to travel any time soon, fortunately, you have a few other valuable redemption options at your disposal. Chase has extended the Pay Yourself Back feature through March 31, 2022, so you can also redeem your points toward statement credits for Airbnb and Away purchases (through awaytravel.com) at an extra 50 percent value. Your extra 50 percent redemption value also extends to Chase Dining purchases through March 31, 2022.
How much are the rewards worth?
Value-wise, your points are all worth 1 cent per piece when you redeem for cash back, travel, gift cards and merchandise through the Ultimate Rewards store. Paying with rewards on Amazon.com slightly devalues your rewards to 0.8 cents per point, however.
On the other hand, you can squeeze even more value from your Chase points by pooling them with a premier Chase travel card.
Your points gain far more value if you redeem them for travel in the Ultimate Rewards portal using either the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card at a boosted 1.25 cents per point or the Chase Sapphire Reserve® at 1.5 cents per point. If you’re feeling generous, your Chase Freedom Flex℠ rewards can also bump up to 1.25 cents per point when you contribute them to participating charities using Chase’s Pay Yourself Back feature. But if you’ve been eagerly waiting to dine in at your favorite restaurant again or finally book that cozy Airbnb or Away stay you’ve had your eye on, you’ll also be able to use your points through Chase Ultimate Rewards at a boosted 1.5-cent rate toward until March 31, 2022 (Airbnb and Away purchases must be through awaytravel.com).
Other cardholder perks
As a top-tier travel credit card, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better collection of travel perks than the Sapphire Reserve benefits on display, with luxury features, fee waivers, complimentary services and comprehensive insurance coverage.
$300 annual travel credit
Every 12 months from your account anniversary, you’re eligible for up to $300 in statement credits on qualifying travel, grocery and gas purchases. Outside the grocery and gas qualifying purchases through Dec. 2021, this annual credit can cover anything that falls within your travel bonus category, including airfare, hotels, ride-shares, vacation packages and more.
Just remember: You won’t earn 3X points on general travel purchases until you’ve collected your $300 travel credit.
Complimentary Lyft Pink and DoorDash DashPass membership
Chase Sapphire Reserve cardholders will receive a complimentary DoorDash DashPass if activated using your card by Dec. 31, 2021, and 12 months of complimentary Lyft Pink membership if activated using your card by March 31, 2022. On top of these memberships, you can also earn up to $60 in DoorDash statement credits through Dec. 31, 2021.
Luxury travel benefits
The Chase Sapphire Reserve is one of the best cards for travel insurance and luxury benefits around. With this card, you’ll receive valuable perks including the following:
- Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee statement credit: By using your card, you’ll receive up to $100 statement credit to cover the Global Entry application fee or up to an $85 credit for the TSA PreCheck application fee.
- Priority Pass Select membership: You’ll have complimentary access to over 1,300 VIP airport lounges across more than 500 cities worldwide. What’s more, your Sapphire Reserve and Priority Pass membership will admit you to lounges in the Chase Sapphire Lounge by The Club network when they open later in 2021. More details will be available in the future, but the refreshment, entertainment and wellness amenities announced in Chase’s first three locations—in the New York LaGuardia Airport, the Boston Logan International Airport and the Hong Kong International Airport—further cement the Sapphire Reserve as one of the best credit cards for airport lounge access.
- Luxury Hotel and Resort Collection amenities: When staying with a property in this portfolio, you’ll have valuable amenities, program benefits, guest privileges and complimentary Wi-Fi based on the location.
- Travel insurances: The Sapphire Reserve carries one of the most extensive lists of travel protections, including coveted coverage like trip cancellation/interruption insurance (up to $10,000 per person, $20,000 per trip), emergency evacuation and transportation coverage (up to $100,000) and primary rental car insurance.
- Reserved by Sapphire: Whether you’re looking for a high-class meal while traveling or you’re a local patron, Chase’s new program exclusively for Sapphire Reserve cardholders will help you secure reservations at some of the highest-rated restaurants in the nation. More information will be announced when the program launches later this year, but the current line-up includes Canlis (Seattle, WA), Redbird (Los Angeles, CA), SingleThread Farms (Healdsburg, CA) Reverence (New York, NY) and One Off Hospitality (Chicago, IL).
$120 credit toward Peloton membership
If you’re a Peloton member, the Sapphire Reserve offers the best value of any card inside Chase’s Peloton partnership or otherwise. Through Dec. 31, 2021, cardholders can earn up to $120 in statement credits toward Peloton Digital or All-Access memberships purchased and paid with your Sapphire Reserve, or by an authorized user on your card. Statement credits for each eligible purchase will be posted to your account the same day as your transaction.
Rates and Fees
Of course, a key consideration is that the Chase Sapphire Reserve poses a $550 annual fee. As we discuss below, benefits and rewards spending can easily recoup this sizable fee, which gets easier with authorized users on your account. Authorized users incur a $75 annual fee, although this isn’t too bad for a card at this price point—the Amex Platinum Card charges a flat $175 fee for one to three authorized users. However, it’s worth nothing that the Platinum Card’s authorized account fee is less expensive than the Sapphire Reserve’s if you’re adding three users.
Fortunately, there are also no foreign transaction fees to worry about if a large part of your rewards spending occurs abroad.
Cardholders should make sure to keep spending in control and avoid carrying a balance, however. If you go overboard, there is a 16.99 percent to 23.99 percent variable APR.
First-year value vs. ongoing value
Naturally, the most intimidating aspect of the Chase Sapphire Reserve is it’s $550 annual fee. The question that follows isn’t whether the features can recoup the annual fee, but, if you’ll travel enough, take advantage of them.
The 50,000-point sign-up bonus’ $750 value toward Chase travel more than makes up for the annual fee in the first year, but there are plenty of perks and reward opportunities to sustain that momentum year after year. Benefits like the $300 annual travel credit and complimentary memberships alone can nearly recover the cost, and the up to 1.5-cent point value means you’ll need to spend about $1,019 per month in your 3X-point categories to break even. Taking advantage of the new Chase Ultimate Reward purchase bonus categories can greatly reduce that spend to just $612 in monthly flights or about $306 per month across hotel stays, car rentals and Chase Dining purchases instead.
Although the first-year value is extraordinary and the barrier to entry hangs heavier the year after, the Sapphire Reserve is a model card for long-term value.
|Benefits and Costs||First-year value||Ongoing value (no welcome offers)|
|Welcome offers||+$750 value (50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months)||—|
|Perks (of monetary value)||
|Compared ongoing variable APR value**||
*Based on our formula used to calculate each card’s average rewards rates and average ongoing rewards value, using Bureau of Labor Statistics spending data and an assumed $15,900 yearly spend over three years ($1,325 per month).
**Based on the average credit card interest rate at the time of writing.
Bankrate staff experience
The Chase Sapphire Reserve offers a lot of travel benefits I have been enjoying since I first got the card a few years ago, including primary car rental insurance, access to airport lounges and an application credit for TSA PreCheck or Global Entry. What I have found it most useful for, however, is booking hotels in Europe through the Ultimate Rewards portal. Traditional hotel chains like Marriott, Hilton or Hyatt do not have a huge presence in several European countries like Spain, Portugal, Sweden, Norway or the U.K., but there are countless independent hotels that offer great service and stays through the Chase travel portal. Redeeming points toward travel for a 50 percent bonus value along with the opportunity to transfer points to major hotel and airline partners make the Sapphire Reserve an invaluable tool in my travel rewards strategy. Also, since the issuer definition of “travel” is very broad, it is easy to earn 3X points on a lot of purchases and earn the annual $300 travel credit very quickly.
I have to say, I initially applied for the Chase Sapphire Preferred but quickly realized I would be better off with Reserve card, so I upgraded a year later. I was intimidated by the hefty annual fee at first, however, I soon saw that I would actually get more value out of this card since the benefits and rewards it yields more than paid for its fee.
— Antonio Ruiz-Camacho, Senior Director of Content at Bankrate
How the Chase Sapphire Reserve compares to other travel cards
Chase Sapphire Reserve vs. Chase Sapphire Preferred
The Sapphire Reserve is a leading travel credit card, but a much smaller annual fee and higher sign-up bonus might make the Chase Sapphire Preferred a competitive option.
If you’re on the fence about the Sapphire Reserve vs. Sapphire Preferred debate, the better choice boils down to whether you’ll utilize the rewards and benefits enough during your travels to offset the $550 annual fee. Naturally, the Sapphire Preferred offers a better value if you travel less, but its upgraded dining category and new online grocery, select streaming service and Chase Ultimate Rewards travel categories make it a better all-around card for everyday spenders.
Chase Sapphire Reserve vs. The Platinum Card from American Express
Compared to other premium travel cards at the $450+ annual fee level, such as The Platinum Card® from American Express and the Citi Prestige® Card* (no longer available for new applicants), the Sapphire Reserve lags behind when it comes to some bonus categories, annual reward credits and hotel benefits. However, it could be the standout pick if you have other Chase cards or prefer travel protections, Lyft/DoorDash benefits and the Ultimate Rewards program.
The Sapphire Reserve also gets a leg up over the Amex Platinum and other competing cards due to how well it pairs with most other cards in Chase’s portfolio, especially its no-annual-fee credit cards since you can pool rewards for a higher value toward travel. The Sapphire Preferred’s new bonus categories now make it an excellent partner for the Reserve as well, which can make all of the new categories between these cards a far more effective couple for the price than the Amex Platinum with or without the American Express® Gold Card.
Take a look at these competing cards to see how they stack up to the Sapphire Reserve:
5X total points on air travel through Ultimate Rewards (after earning your $300 travel credit) ; 1X points on all other purchases
|Feature||Chase Sapphire Reserve®||Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card||The Platinum Card® from American Express|
|Welcome Offer||50,000 points
(after spending $4,000 within the first three months)
(after spending $4,000 within the first three months)
(after spending $6,000 within the first six months)
Best cards to pair with the Chase Sapphire Reserve
The Sapphire Reserve card works best with other Chase credit cards. Since many earn Chase Ultimate Rewards points, they can all be channeled into one pool and redeemed at a higher value with your Sapphire Reserve.
One of the cards in the Chase Freedom family can gather points from non-travel purchases like groceries or gas, and then you can add the Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card if you have a business and want to complete the Chase trifecta. Although the travel-oriented categories are a little redundant, the Chase Sapphire Preferred may also be a good candidate to pair for its new streaming service category, online grocery category and $50 annual hotel stay credit.
Thanks to the help of the Chase Freedom Unlimited® with its 1.5 percent rewards on all purchases and the Chase Freedom Flex℠ or Ink Business Preferred’s bonus category rewards, you can maximize your Ultimate Rewards earnings across the broadest array of categories possible.
Bankrate’s Take: Is the Chase Sapphire Reserve worth it?
As Chase’s premier travel credit card, the Chase Sapphire Reserve delivers the best the issuer has to offer for frequent jet setters. Its rewards on travel, dining and transit set up fantastic reward-earning combos, not to mention luxury travel benefits and top-of-the-line travel protections.
Chase’s latest upgrade to the Chase Sapphire Reserve and Sapphire Preferred strengthens its all-around value with new bonus categories and pairing opportunities, which give the Reserve card an edge over competitors like the American Express Platinum for some cardholders.
The Sapphire Reserve faces some fierce competition among other elite travel cards, but it’s the best choice among Chase cards if you can maximize its features for the annual fee.
Learn More: Is the Chase Sapphire Reserve worth it?
*All information about the Citi Prestige® Card has been collected independently by Bankrate and has not been reviewed or approved by the issuer.