Dining & Travel On Chase Sapphire Reserve: What Counts?

Filed Under: Chase, Credit Cards
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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 $150 Fee Card

The Sapphire Reserve Card has a $450 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 ~$150 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:

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.

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Comments
  1. Ben, why is this better than the citi prestige on a whole. Is that just a blanket statement for generally or do you think the UR points are that much more valuable than TY points? It sounds like earning 3x for food and airfare from chase vs 5x for food and airfare from citi would make citi the best for you hands down as I assume that is where most of your (and my) spend goes?

  2. @Brian, for those of us Globalists who believe the World of Hyatt program consistently provides outsized value, Chase’s Ultimate Rewards are much more desirable: Hyatt is not a transfer partner for Citi’s Thank You Points. I like that Hyatt’s redemptions start at a very low cost — my family stayed outside of a national park last weekend for just 5,000 points — and I sure like how Hyatt treats its Globalists. From my perspective, we have extracted tens of thousands of dollars of value from the World of Hyatt program. From Hyatt’s perspective they’ve filled a bunch of empty suites and made sure their housekeeping staff got tipped extra-well. 😉 Everybody wins.

    For someone who is not interested in hotels, the Citi Prestige seems like an excellent card. I may pick it up and shift my spend from airline-specific cards to it, particularly since airline-specific loyalty programs like Aadvantage have been so devalued in recent years.

  3. Have to ask here again: does Uber Eats count as 3x? I think so, and it used to count as travel, but wanna confirm. Also, what about GrubHub? DoorDash?

    I know Postmates doesn’t count

  4. Just FYI on dining – my last order from Postmates on my Capital One Savor card came back categorized as dining. I don’t know if that’s specific to Capital One or the Savor card though.

  5. Ben. You can actually click in the ultimate rewards rewards activity area of chasers website and it will break down the actual point earns you get.

  6. I recently learned that a travel insurance policy does not qualify for the 3x benefit, nor do fees to obtain foreign travel Visas even though I consider both to be travel related expenses.

  7. ‘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.’

    I can see my Chase Saphire preferred earning rate on a per transaction basis through the app.

    I just checked it out to see if Mobile Suica topups still counted as travel. They’ve gone from paying ‘Japan Railways East’ to ‘Mobile Suica Payment ’ which sadly may have kicked them out of he travel category. It was a great way if turning almost any purchase in Japan into a travel purchase for the purpose of points earning.

    Transaction hasn’t posted as pending yet so I don’t know for sure.

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