While some other premium credit cards are all about the perks, one of the things that make the Chase Sapphire Reserve® Card so well rounded is that it’s also a fantastic card for everyday spending. Specifically, the card has two valuable bonus categories, as it offers triple points on dining and travel.
Why I View This As A $250 Fee Card
The Sapphire Reserve Card has a $550 annual fee, though offers a $300 annual travel credit that’s automatically applied to any travel purchases. For all practical purposes, I consider that to more or less be worth face value, meaning that the out of pocket on the card is ~$250 per year.
Some will disagree, though I’d argue if that you don’t spend at least $300 on travel per year (and that’s a widely defined category) then this card isn’t right for you (you’d be much better off with a cash back card).
For that relatively low cost, you’re getting triple points on dining and travel, a Priority Pass membership, fantastic travel and car rental coverage, no foreign transaction fees, the ability to redeem points for 1.5 cents each, a Global Entry fee credit, and more.
Even if you don’t value most of those perks, the triple points on dining and travel are valuable for anyone who wants to earn Ultimate Rewards points, given the redemption options that having this card unlocks.
In this post, I wanted to look at the triple points categories more closely, since they’re the best way to supercharge points earning with this card.
Apply your $300 travel credit towards an airfare purchase
Are Triple Points On Dining & Travel That Generous?
The Chase Sapphire Reserve® Card offers triple points on dining and travel without any sort of caps. Personally, I value Ultimate Rewards points at 1.7 cents each, meaning to me that’s the equivalent of a return of 5.1%.
Many people value Ultimate Rewards points even higher than I do, though at a minimum you can redeem the points for 1.5 cents each towards a travel purchase. So at an absolute minimum, you’re earning the equivalent of a 4.5% return on dining and travel.
That’s a solid return, and keep in mind there’s no skill required for those redemptions. You can book all kinds of travel experiences through the Ultimate Rewards website at that rate.
Is this industry-leading, though? It definitely used to be, though in the meantime there have been some other great categories introduced:
- When it comes to dining, the Citi Prestige Card offers 5x points and the American Express® Gold Card offers 4x points at restaurants, though arguably neither of those cards is as well-rounded
- When it comes to travel, the Citi Prestige Card offers 5x points on airfare, though that’s limited to airfare (and not travel on the whole), and the card also won’t offer nearly as good travel protection as of September
So everyone has to decide for themselves how much those perks are worth.
How The Sapphire Reserve 3x Points Categories Work
Before we talk about what qualifies as dining and travel on the Chase Sapphire Reserve® Card, let’s talk about the basics of how these bonus categories work.
First of all, the triple points post to your statement at the same time the usual points do. Unfortunately Chase no longer explicitly breaks down the points earnings rates for each transaction, though when you look at a purchase on your statement you’ll see it marked as “food & drink” or “travel,” for example. If you see it marked as such, you can expect that you’re earning 3x points on that purchase.
Next, a merchant’s eligibility for triple points is all based on how they choose to categorize themselves when they set up their merchant contract. So while it’s rare, sometimes a restaurant won’t be correctly categorized, though that can work both ways, as sometimes non-traditional travel or dining retailers will be categorized as such (for example, vending machines are often categorized as “dining,” even though you may not traditionally think of them as such).
Also keep in mind that with services like Square, etc., it’s more likely that businesses won’t be set up correctly. While it’s fairly rare, it all comes down to the merchant to decide how they’re going to categorize themselves.
What Qualifies As Travel With The Sapphire Reserve?
What qualifies as travel for the purposes of the Chase Sapphire Reserve® Card? Here’s Chase’s definition:
Merchants in the travel category 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.
Meanwhile here’s what Chase says doesn’t qualify as travel:
Please note that some merchants that provide transportation and travel-related services are not included in this category; for example, real estate agents, educational merchants arranging travel, in-flight goods and services, on-board cruise line goods and services, sightseeing activities, excursions, tourist attractions, merchants within hotels and airports, and merchants that rent vehicles for the purpose of hauling. In addition, the purchasing of gift cards, points or miles does not qualify in this category unless the merchant has set up such purchases to be classified in the travel category.
I think most people don’t realize just how broad the travel category is. We think of travel spending as being when we actually go on a trip somewhere, but for many, a significant amount of their everyday spending is actually travel. Uber, parking, subway tickets, train tickets, etc., all qualify as travel.
Furthermore, this really is an incredible card for when you’re traveling internationally. Most people are just looking for a card with no foreign transaction fees when traveling internationally, but you also earn triple points in the dining and travel category when abroad. For many people, a vast majority of their spending when traveling abroad would be eligible for triple points.
Lastly, I’d note that the ability to earn triple points on mileage purchases is entirely dependent on how the airline or hotel loyalty program categorizes those purchases. Some airlines sell points directly, in which case they’d qualify as travel.
This includes American AAdvantage, Avianca LifeMiles, etc. Meanwhile, other companies sell points through points.com, which wouldn’t qualify as travel — this includes Alaska Mileage Plan, Hilton Honors, World of Hyatt, etc.
Earn 3x points on travel purchases globally
What Qualifies As Dining With The Sapphire Reserve?
What qualifies as restaurants for the purposes of the Chase Sapphire Reserve® Card? Here’s Chase’s definition:
Merchants in the restaurant category are merchants whose primary business is sit-down or eat-in dining, including fast food restaurants as well as fine dining establishments.
Meanwhile here’s what Chase says doesn’t qualify as dining:
Please note that merchants that sell food and drinks located within larger merchants such as sports stadiums, hotels and casinos, theme parks, grocery and department stores will not be included in this category unless the merchant has set up such purchases to be classified in a restaurant category. In addition, gift card and delivery service merchants will not be included in this category unless the merchant has set up such purchases to be classified in the restaurant category.
In practice most coffeeshops also qualify as dining, so you can earn triple points for everything from a Michelin star restaurant to Chipotle to Starbucks.
However, many food delivery services don’t qualify. For example, I love Postmates for having food delivered whenever I’m in a major US city, and unfortunately, that doesn’t quality as dining due to how they’re categorized. They view themselves as a technology company rather than a dining company (which is fair enough). Grocery stores also don’t generally qualify as dining.
Earn 3x points on dining purchases globally
Sapphire Reserve 3x Points Summary
The Chase Sapphire Reserve® Card offers a generous welcome bonus, a great return on everyday spending, and excellent benefits. Many people don’t realize just how many things are included in the dining and travel categories, which can really help you maximize your points.
At a minimum, you’re looking at a 4.5% return on dining and travel spending, given that you can redeem the points for 1.5 cents each towards a travel purchase. In many cases, it gets even better than that, if you’re like me and value Ultimate Rewards points at more, for the ability to transfer them to airline and hotel partners.