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Chase’s premium travel card is now even better: Here’s how to use it to leap back into the travel game

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For a long time, I’ve used a combination of Chase credit cards known as the Chase trifecta for all my family’s spending. The trifecta also includes the Chase Freedom Unlimited® and the Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card, but my favorite rewards credit card of the bunch by far is the Chase Sapphire Reserve®.

While I’ve had the Chase Sapphire Reserve since it was introduced as a Chase premium card in 2016, this card now has an even better rewards proposition. In August 2021, Chase announced some improvements to what was already an incredible premium travel card. Its boosted rewards rates on travel booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards mean you can now earn up to 10X points on certain travel purchases.

While the Sapphire Reserve does have a $550 annual fee, both my husband and I each have this card, and we come out way ahead considering all we get in return. This was true well before the pandemic started, and it’s especially true now that travel is returning to a “new normal” and people are getting back on the road again.

I’m even in Verona, Italy, as I write this piece—a trip made possible in part by the rewards I have earned with my Chase Sapphire Reserve.

5 reasons to love the Chase Sapphire Reserve

You may be wondering why I continued to pay the Chase Sapphire Reserve’s high annual fee over a period of time where I couldn’t really travel. The thing is, I knew travel would come back eventually once the pandemic started winding down. Not only did I want to continue earning rewards for when that day came, but I also wanted to maintain the exceptional perks I get with the Sapphire Reserve.

Here are the major reasons why this card is my favorite:

Exceptional earning rate

The Sapphire Reserve earns 3X points on general travel and dining purchases, which are two categories I am able to maximize quite a bit. As of August 2021, Chase has increased that rate to reward cardholders for booking through their own travel portal. Now, cardholders get 5X points on air travel booked through Ultimate Rewards as well as 10X points on hotels and car rentals booked through Ultimate Rewards (after first earning the $300 travel credit).

As a side note, I don’t typically use my Sapphire Reserve for everyday spending and bills. Since it only gives 1X points on non-bonus category spending, I use my Freedom Unlimited to make sure I earn a minimum of 1.5X points on everything I buy.

The best airline and hotel partners among flexible cards

We mostly travel internationally to the Caribbean and Europe, and Chase transfer partners work splendidly for our goals. Specifically, we transfer a ton of Chase points to the Air France / Flying Blue program for cheap flights to Europe as well as to the Southwest Rapid Rewards program for cheap flights to Mexico and the Caribbean. Other popular transfer partners include World of Hyatt, Marriott Bonvoy, United MileagePlus and British Airways.

For the particular trip I’m on in Italy right now, I transferred 120,000 Chase points to the United MileagePlus program to pay for one-way flights home to Indianapolis from Milan. This was an especially good deal considering I snagged four one-way flights that were going for more than $1,200 each on the day I booked them.

In my opinion, Chase Ultimate Rewards has the best airline and hotel partners of any of the flexible travel programs, including American Express Membership Rewards and the Citi ThankYou program.

I love getting 50 percent off travel through Chase

Another reason to love the Sapphire Reserve is the fact that it gives you 1.5 cents per point in value when you redeem rewards for travel through the Chase portal, which partners with Expedia.

This is part of the reason I use the Chase trifecta to maximize rewards on all our personal and business spending. I use each card strategically to earn as much in rewards as possible, then I pool them in my Sapphire Reserve account, so I can redeem them for airfare, excursions, hotels and more.

Not only do I book quite a bit of airfare with points through Chase, but I frequently book “things to do,” or excursions. I even sometimes use my points to splurge for something out of the ordinary!

In fact, tonight, we have a four-person cooking class in Verona with a Cesarine, which we paid for with Chase Ultimate Rewards points. (Cesarines are certified home cooks in Italy that teach travelers how to cook homemade pasta and other Italian dishes.)

Screenshot of a receipt from the Chase portal

While this special tour would normally cost over $644 for four people if we paid in cash, I redeemed 42,994 Chase points to make it free.

Travel benefits I can use

I love the fact that the Chase Sapphire Reserve comes with a $300 annual travel credit. This credit is incredibly easy to use since it applies to any travel purchase and is automatically added to your card as you use it.

Further, I frequently use the Priority Pass Select membership that comes with this card, which allows entry into more than 1,300 airport lounges around the globe. The lounge benefit is particularly useful to me since it gives me a quiet place to escape in the airport. Plus, I save money by popping into the airport lounge for drinks and snacks.

Consumer protections and insurance

Finally, it’s important to note that the Chase Sapphire Reserve comes with more travel insurance benefits than any other travel credit card. Perks include primary auto rental coverage, trip cancellation and interruption insurance, lost luggage reimbursement, trip delay reimbursement, emergency evacuation and transportation coverage and so much more.

These benefits are the main reason I charge all our paid travel expenses to this card. Just the trip cancellation and interruption insurance are worth up to $10,000 per person and $20,000 per trip, and it’s free when you use the card to pay for travel.

This is yet another way the Chase Sapphire Reserve actually saves me money. Each time I use the travel insurance instead of buying a separate travel insurance plan, that’s money I don’t have to spend.

The bottom line

The Chase Sapphire Reserve is a premium Chase credit card that comes with a slew of luxury benefits for the frequent traveler. While it wasn’t the only card to see curtailed travel spending since the pandemic started, Chase’s boosted rewards for travel purchases through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal are a great incentive for cardholders to resume spending on travel.

If you held steady with the Sapphire Reserve during the pandemic as I did, this is the moment you’ve been waiting for to ramp up your travel rewards strategy again. And if you’re an ardent traveler and have been waiting for a sign to finally take the leap on the CSR, this is your moment, too.

Written by
Holly D. Johnson
Author, Award-Winning Writer
Holly Johnson writes expert content on personal finance, credit cards, loyalty and insurance topics. In addition to writing for Bankrate and CreditCards.com, Johnson does ongoing work for clients that include CNN, Forbes Advisor, LendingTree, Time Magazine and more.
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