Home Credit Cards Chase Credit Cards Chase Sapphire Reserve Card Review (2021)

Chase Sapphire Reserve Card Review (2021)


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The Chase Sapphire Reserve Card has long been one of my favorite cards and is one of the few cards that I hold that never leaves my wallet. While it’s primarily a card that’s focused on travel, the Sapphire Reserve’s strong earnings on dining and fantastic earnings on all Lyft spending (10 points/dollar through March 2022), mean that it’s also a great card to hold for some day-to-day spending.

The Chase Sapphire Reserve Card

In Brief

The Chase Sapphire Reserve Card is Chase’s top-level credit card that offers cardholders great earnings on travel and dining, excellent travel benefits, and access to Chase’s highly regarded Ultimate Rewards program from where cardholders can transfer points to a variety of airline and hotel loyalty programs in a 1:1 ratio.

With bonus points offered for spending on travel and on dining and with benefits that include excellent rental car protection, no foreign transaction fees, a fantastic travel spending rebate, and good trip insurances, this is a card that anyone who likes to travel should definitely consider holding.

In Detail

Here’s what you need to know about the Chase Sapphire Reserve Card:

Annual Fee

  • $550

Cost of Authorised User Cards

  • $75

Current Welcome Bonus

  • 50,000 Ultimate Rewards Points after a successful new applicant spends $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months (find out more).

Holders of the Chase Sapphire Reserve Card can use Ultimate Rewards points to book travel at a redemption rate of 1.50 cents per point so that values the current welcome bonus at $750.

Note: You can only apply for a Chase Sapphire Reserve Card if you don’t already hold one of the Sapphire Cards and you’ll only be eligible for the welcome bonus if you haven’t received a welcome bonus on a Sapphire card in the past 48 months.

Earnings

  • 10 points/dollar on hotels and car rentals booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards*
  • 10 points/dollar on Lyft rides through 22 March 2022
  • 5 points/dollar on flights booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards*
  • 3 points/dollar for spending on travel that isn’t made through Chase*^
  • 3 points/dollar for spending on dining worldwide
  • 1 point/dollar for spending in all other categories

*After the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually

^Chase’s “travel” category is very broad so you’ll earn 3 points per dollar on everything from airfare, rental cars, and hotel bookings through to car parking, tolls, and ride-sharing services.

Key Benefits

  • Annual $300 travel credit
  • Redeem points at 1.5 cents each when booking travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards.
  • Priority Pass Membership
  • Credit towards the cost of Global Entry or TSA Precheck
  • Lyft Pink Membership
  • Primary auto rental cover
  • Trip cancellation/interruption insurance
  • Trip delay reimbursement
  • DoorDash DashPass membership (minimum 1 year)
  • Up to $60 in DoorDash Credits (in 2021)
  • Up to $120 back on a Peloton Digital or All-Access Membership (through 2021)
  • No foreign transaction fees

Why This Is A Great Card (And Why I Love It)

Redeem Points For 1.5 Cents Each…Easily!

Holders of the Chase Sapphire Reserve Card can use the points that their card earns to book travel through the Ultimate Rewards portal with each point worth 1.50 cents towards whatever travel is booked.

Book airfares through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal using just your points.

The beauty of booking travel in this way is that a cardholder hands over points in exchange for a travel booking that Chase then books with cash, so there’s no need for cardholders to have to search for award availability. If a fare or hotel is bookable with cash it’s also bookable with Chase Ultimate Rewards Points and that makes this an incredibly easy currency to use.

Flights booked through the Ultimate Rewards travel portal will earn frequent flyer miles/points and credits towards elite status but because hotels view portal bookings as 3rd party bookings, hotel reservations made using Ultimate Rewards points will not qualify guests for loyalty program points/credits and elite status benefits are unlikely to be honored.

The $300 Annual Travel Credit

The $550 annual fee that the Chase Sapphire Reserve Card charges usually raises quite a few eyebrows but as the card offers cardholders a $300 rebate on the first $300 of travel costs that they charge to their card every card membership year, the net annual fee (not taking any other benefits into consideration) should, for most people, be no more than $250.

It’s worth keeping in mind that the travel costs that will trigger this rebate aren’t just limited to airfares and hotels. Spending on tolls, rideshare services, parking, taxis, trains, subways, buses, and a lot more will all trigger the credit so the $300 rebate is a genuine saving and it takes no effort to use.

The Welcome Bonus

The Chase Sapphire Reserve Card is currently offering a welcome bonus of 50,000 points and as I’ve already established that the points earned by the card can be used to book travel at 1.5 cents each, the welcome bonus is effectively worth at least $750 – that’s a very nice” welcome” to the Chase Sapphire Reserve Card.

Strong Earning Rates

The Chase Sapphire Reserve Card earns 3 Ultimate Rewards points/dollar on all travel spending and on dining worldwide (which can include everything from Michelin-starred restaurants to a coffee booth on a station platform) and based on Ultimate Rewards points being valued at 1.5 cents each, that means that the card offers an effective rebate of 4.5% on all travel and all dining – those are excellent rates of return that few credit cards can beat.

Importantly, the Chase Sapphire Reserve Card doesn’t require cardholders to book directly with airlines or hotels if they want to earn the bonus points that are on offer – bookings made through 3rd parties like Expedia, Orbitz, and Hotels.com will all qualify for enhanced earnings.

Things are much the same when it comes to earning bonus points from eating out. Where people have been known to have issues earning bonus points from dining when using cards like the American Express® Gold Card (review) there are rarely such issues with the Sapphire card.

Whether I’ve been dining at a Michelin-starred restaurant, eating at a fast-food outlet, or having a drink in a bar/pub (with no food consumed at all) I’ve always earned 3 points/dollar when using my Sapphire Reserve card to pay the bill.

The Chase Sapphire Reserve Card also earns 10 Ultimate Rewards points/dollar on hotels and car rentals booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards but this benefit comes with a warning. Cardholders should be careful to make sure that the Ultimate Rewards portal isn’t charging more than it would cost to make a booking directly with the hotel or car rental company before they choose not to book directly.

In addition, it’s worth noting that hotel bookings made through Chase will be viewed as 3rd party bookings” by the hotels and most hotel chains will not honor elite benefits or award loyalty points for bookings of this kind. If you’re booking a property that isn’t part of a large loyalty program or if you simply don’t care about a hotel’s loyalty program, this won’t be an issue. If, however, you’re hoping to make the most of any elite benefits that you’re entitled to, you should avoid booking through Chase.

Lastly (in this section), the Chase Sapphire Reserve Card earns an impressive 5 points/dollar on all airfare booked through the Ultimate Rewards portal and as most airlines don’t discriminate against 3rd party bookings in the same way as the hotel chains do, and as the Sapphire Reserve card offers some of the best travel protections in the credit card world, this is an earnings rate that can be valuable.

Ultimate Rewards Partners

I’ve already mentioned that the points that the Chase Sapphire Reserve Card earns can be used to book travel through the Ultimate Rewards portal, but they can often be put to considerably better (more valuable) use by a cardholder transferring them to one of Chase’s loyalty program partners.

Chase Ultimate Rewards Points convert over to loyalty programs like United’s MileagePlus, Singapore Airlines Kris Flyer, and the World of Hyatt in a 1:1 ratio (more details here) where they can be used to book premium cabin airfares and luxury hotel stays which often see cardholders getting considerably more than just 1.5 cents of value out of their points.

Also, as there is no cost incurred when transferring points, a cardholder who uses their card when paying for a meal or when booking travel is effectively earning 3 points/dollar in any of the loyalty programs that Chase partners with – that’s a better earning rate than some co-branded cards offer for the same loyalty partners.

Keep in mind that there’s no deadline by which a cardholder has to transfer over their points, so they can hold all the points they earn as an Ultimate Rewards balance until they know what program they’d like to use them with and then, when the timing is right, they can simply transfer them across.

When you earn points in a single loyalty program (e.g. United MileagePlus) you’re limited to using those points through that one program only and, to make things worse, you’re also at the mercy of that one program (when it devalues, your balance devalues too). By holding your points as a transferable currency like Ultimate Rewards Points, you limit your exposure to single program devaluations and give yourself considerably more flexibility when it comes to how those points can be used.

Priority Pass Select Membership (Includes Priority Pass Restaurants)

There are three Priority Pass-related reasons why I like the Chase Sapphire Reserve Card.

Firstly, I like having a Priority Pass membership which gets me and two guests into a variety of lounges worldwide. Not only do some of my trips take me to locations where my airline status doesn’t get me into a lounge (and Priority Pass has me covered) but, even when I can enter a lounge courtesy of my airline status, my status generally only allows me to bring a single guest with me into the lounge – that’s not of much use to me when I’m traveling with both Joanna and our teenager – so it’s nice to be able to fall back on a Priority Pass membership to get us all into a lounge.

Secondly, for a fee of $75 Joanna is an authorized user on my Sapphire Reserve card and, as an authorized user, she gets her very own Priority Pass membership. This is exactly the same type of membership that I get so she’s guaranteed lounge access when she’s traveling without me (assuming there’s a Priority Pass lounge where she’s traveling) and she can guest 2 people into the lounges free of charge too. For $75 that’s a pretty good deal.

Thirdly, unlike the Priority Pass membership offered by various American Express cards, the Priority Pass membership that comes with the Chase Sapphire Reserve Card gives cardholders a credit for dining at Priority Pass restaurants as well as access to Priority Pass lounges. With the restaurants sometimes offering a better (or more convenient) option than the lounges, this is a very good aspect of the membership offered by the Sapphire Reserve.

Primary Rental Car Cover

The Chase Sapphire Reserve Card gives cardholders primary rental car cover when they decline the rental company’s collision insurance and pay for the whole of their rental using their card.

As coverage is primary, there’s no need for a cardholder to get their own car insurance company involved in the case of an accident and they can feel safe in the knowledge that the card’s coverage provides reimbursement up to the actual cash value of the vehicle for theft and collision.

Importantly, this protection covers most rental cars in the U.S. and abroad.

Up To $100 To Cover Global Entry/TSA Precheck Membership

The Chase Sapphire Reserve Card gives cardholders a statement credit available every 4 years after they apply for Global Entry ($100) or membership of the TSA Precheck program (up to $85).

As someone who travels internationally, I love having Global Entry membership (it makes returning to the US easy and mostly line-free) and as Global Entry membership also includes membership of the TSA Precheck program, this Chase Sapphire Reserve credit is a benefit that I value highly and that I never fail to use.

Trip Delay Reimbursement

Now that the Platinum Card® from American Express (review) offers trip delay insurance (on top of the 5 points/dollar on airfare spending) you may think that the trip delay insurance that comes with the Chase Sapphire Reserve Card (up to $500/ticket when travel is delayed more than 6 hours or requires an overnight stay) isn’t such a big deal, but you’d be wrong.

The Platinum Card only offers 5 points/dollar on spending that’s made directly with the airlines while Chase’s broad travel category will see a cardholder earn 3 points/dollar on airfares regardless of how they’re booked (e.g. through Orbitz, Priceline, etc…).

What this means is that when a Sapphire Reserve cardholder finds a great airfare on a consolidator site which they then cannot replicate on the airline’s own site (something that happens disappointingly often), they will not earn more than 1 point/dollar if they book the fare using the Amex Platinum card. There’s no such issue with the Chase Sapphire Reserve.

Also, the Platinum Card from American Express stipulates that a roundtrip or open-jaw booking is required for a cardholder to be covered for trip delay insurance while the Chase Sapphire Reserve’s cover imposes no such restriction and that makes the Reserve Card’s protection considerably more useful.

Pairing The Chase Sapphire Reserve Card With Other Cards

The Chase Sapphire Reserve Card can be seen as a “king-maker” card because it turns a number of other good credit cards into truly fantastic, must-have cards.

  • The fantastic Chase Freedom Flex Card comes with no annual fee and, on its own, will earn a cardholder 5% cash back in rotating quarterly categories (on up to $1,500 in spending) and on travel purchased through Chase as well as 3% cash back on dining and on drugstore spending. If a Freedom Flex cardholder also holds the Chase Sapphire Reserve Card, all of that cash back can be converted to valuable Ultimate Rewards Points at a rate of 1% to 1 point.

  • Like the Flex Card, the Chase Freedom Unlimited Card also doesn’t charge an annual fee and, on its own, earns 5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase, 3% cash back on dining and on drugstore spending, and an impressive 1.5% cashback on spending in all other categories. If a Freedom Unlimited cardholder also holds the Chase Sapphire Reserve Card, that cash back can be converted to valuable Ultimate Rewards Points at a rate of 1% to 1 point.

  • The Chase Ink Business Cash Card comes with no annual fee and, on its own, earns a hugely impressive 5% cash back on the first $25,000 spent in combined purchases at office supply stores and on internet/cable/phone services. It also earns 2% cash back on the first $25,000 spent in combined purchases at gas stations and at restaurants. When paired with a Chase Sapphire Reserve Card all that cashback can be converted to Ultimate Rewards Points (1% = 1 Point) making this one of the most valuable cards on the market.

In summary, the Chase Sapphire Reserve Card can be paired with a number of no-annual-fee credit cards to offer great all-around earnings for the cardholder (read this review of the Chase Ink Business Cash Card to see how combined with a Sapphire Card, it can earn 5 points/dollar on spending at more places than you may realize.)

Other Reasons To Like The Chase Sapphire Reserve Card

  • The fact that the card doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees means that it can be used globally without costing the cardholder anything extra.
  • The card earns 10 points/dollar with Lyft (through 22 March 2022) which represents an effective saving of 15% on all rides and, although this is a niche benefit, this is an earning rate that isn’t matched or beaten by any other card.
  • Not only is the complimentary 1-year Lyft Membership that the Chase Sapphire Reserve Card offers worth at least $199, but it also gives cardholders up to 15% off every car ride as well as benefits such as priority airport pickups and “relaxed cancellations”.

The Lyft benefits and earning rates that the Chase Sapphire Reserve Card offers are not matched by any other credit card.

  • The DoorDash membership (1 year) that comes with the Chase Sapphire Reserve Card means that the delivery service will not charge cardholders a delivery fee and will reduce the service fee as long as the order being placed is for $12 or more.
  • In the right hands, the $60 DoorDash credit (in 2021 only) and the $120 credit towards a Peleton subscription/membership will offer a cardholder a significant rebate on the card’s annual fee. A cardholder who then also uses the $300 annual travel credit will have reduced the net cost of holding the card to just $70.
  • The card offers cardholders emergency evacuation and transportation if they or their immediate family are injured or become sick on a trip. The cover offers up to $100,000 towards medical services and transportation
  • The Chase Sapphire Reserve Card now comes as a contactless card so, if you prefer not to use a mobile wallet, you can still use the card to pay without swiping and signing. This becomes extra useful in areas of the world where cards are expected to have a pin when not paying via contactless technology (most US-issued cards still do not have chip and pin technology).

Bottom Line

The Chase Sapphire Reserve Card offers great earnings on travel spending and at restaurants worldwide, it offers a variety of statement credits and rebates that can be used to offset the card’s annual fee (partially or entirely), it offers cardholders valuable travel benefits, it grants access to the wonderful world of Ultimate Rewards, it doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees, and it has the power to make other credit cards truly amazing. As an all-around “travel card”, the Chase Sapphire Reserve is very hard to beat.

Click here to find out how to apply for the Chase Sapphire Reserve Card

A Favourite Card

The Chase Sapphire Preferred Card is Chase’s incredibly popular entry-level travel rewards card which has recently been refreshed and made better than ever.

It currently comes with a welcome offer of 60,000 points after a successful applicant spends $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months of card membership and it charges an annual fee of $95 in return for a list of good earning rates and benefits.

Our Favorite Benefits:

  • 5 points/dollar on most travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards
  • 5 points/dollar on Lyft rides through 22 March 2022
  • 3 points/dollar for spending on dining worldwide
  • 3 points/dollar for spending on select streaming services
  • 2 points/dollar for spending on travel worldwide
  • Redeem points at 1.25 cents each when booking travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards.
  • Annual $50 credit for hotels booked through Chase 
  • Primary auto rental cover
  • Trip delay reimbursement

Click for more details on the Chase Sapphire Preferred Credit Card

Regarding Comments

Responses are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser or any other advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility or any other advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

3 COMMENTS

  1. Hi Ziggy,

    Did the travel portal bookings change to not be interpreted as an OTA anymore? I could’ve sworn back in 2016/17, it was widely considered that hotels would not recognize elite status or give credit towards status because the portal was like an OTA, and so I never used the portal when booking hotel stays or flights. I’m wondering if you can find language of such somewhere in their T&C or elsewhere.

    • You’re 100% correct with respect to hotels. I thought I’d taken that parageraph out but clearly I hadn’t. Good spot.

      When it comes to airlines, however, airfare bookings through CHase UR will earn elite status credits and miles/points just as they would if they were booked through Orbitz/Expedia. The only downside may be that if there’s a major issue with a booking the airline may refer the customer to Chase UR rather than dealing with the issue itself.

Comments are closed.

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