What’s in My Wallet: Chase Sapphire Reserve

The Chase Sapphire Reserve card is a cornerstone for me and is always in my wallet. It’s the card I most frequently bug people about. There are a ton of benefits that come along with it, some I use and some I don’t. Since signing up in April 2017 I haven’t regretted owning this card for a second. If you don’t travel at all, it might not be a good fit. But even a small amount of domestic travel every year can make it a worthwhile card.

Universal credit card caveat: Pay your statement balance off completely every month. If you can’t do so or having a credit card invites you to overspend, don’t open the door to more debt. More of the basics here.


Costs

Intro Bonus

In order to get the intro bonus (as you should always do with a new card), you’ll need to spend $4,000 on the card in the first 90 days. That averages to $333 per week for 3 months, but timing your application before a big, planned purchase can make mettingthe spend requirement a cinch.

Annual Fee

$450 a year looks a tough pill to swallow at first blush, but with even a small amount of travel the benefits listed below can easily provide more than $450 value every year.


Benefits

You can review Chase’s own extensive rundown of benefits here.

Annual Travel Credit

The first $300 you spend on Travel every year is immediately credited back to your card. Chase’s definition of Travel is generously broad and effectively reduces the annual fee to $150 very quickly.

Earn Rates

  • 3x Ultimate Rewards points for every $1 spent on Travel (after the annual credit) and Restaurant (and bar) purchases

  • 1x on all other categories

Intro Bonus Points

After meeting the $4k spend threshold you’ll get 50,000 Ultimate Rewards points. Typically the most valuable ways to use them are in the Chase travel portal or transferring to one of the 10 airline partners. Transferable points like these are typically more valuable than branded points due to their flexibility.

No Foreign Transaction Fees

Don’t worry about where you use the card, Chase never charges a transaction fee.

Global Entry or TSA Pre-Check Credit

Available every 4 years for up to $100. The former includes the latter.

Priority Pass Select Membership

This is an airport lounge membership that also offers credits at some airport restaurants. It typically won’t get you into many airline lounges, but some major domestic airports and most mid to major international airports have a lounge or restaurant you can visit. Most places allow you and a guest to use the benefit. Not a gateway to luxury, but a real treat when it works out.

Insurance

There is an array of travel and purchase insurance policies for purchases made on the card, but the two that I can personally vouch for are Primary Auto Rental coverage (confidently turn down car rental policies, but be aware of excluded countries) and Trip Delay Protection (Chase’s policy covered a hotel room, taxis and meal after Newark airport shut down). NerdWallet has a good article on how the policies work.

Other benefits

I haven’t used these much if at all, but other benefits include special hotel rates and benefits (Luxury Hotel & Resort Collection, Relais & Chateaux, sbe), rental status and discounts (National, Avis and Silvercar), event offers, roadside and travel assistance, and Visa Infinite concierge.


Showing My Work

The list above or Chase’s own site might seem like a bunch of inflated marketing. Malarkey if you will. So here’s the reality of what my first year (May 17 - Apr 18) looked like:

  • Travel & Restaurants: $7,360 spent x3 => 22,080 points

  • All other categories: $10,080 spent x1 => 10,080 points

  • Intro bonus: 50,000 points

  • $300 credit on Travel spending (no points)

  • Global Entry membership ($100 credit)

  • Priority Pass Select membership

Add in the 50,000 intro bonus points and I ended up with over 80,000 Ultimate Rewards points in the first year. That’d be worth $1,200 at the Chase Travel portal.

At minimum you could spend $4,000 on 1x categories to get the intro bonus and stop spending on the card, you’d end up with 54,000 points. If you spent them at the Chase travel portal they’d be worth $810 in flights or hotels, which works out to 18% of $4,450 ($4k spend + $450 annual fee). The more you spend on travel or utilize the other benefits, the more value you get out of the card.


In Sum

Obviously I’m a big fan of this card, so forgive me if I sound like an advertisement. The amount of travel I do throughout the year may put me at the high end of average value one can get from the card, but I think that nearly anyone who’s going to spend $4,000 in 3 months can easily get value out of the card.

If you’re thinking about applying but need some questions answered before you’re comfortable, let me know.


Alternatives to Consider

  • If you do the math and find that the Reserve doesn’t offer enough value to justify the fee consider its sibling, the Chase Sapphire Preferred card. The annual fee is $95 and there’s a 60k intro bonus after spending $4k in 3 months.

  • If a premium/high annual fee card works for you, consider the American Express Platinum card as well. There are a handful of credits to soften the $550 annual fee and there’s an array of benefits that rival the Chase Sapphire Reserve. Like Chase Ultimate Rewards, Amex Membership Rewards are transferrable.