Chase Sapphire Reserve For Couples: Authorized User Vs. Separate Accounts

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There are many great benefits to the  Chase Sapphire Reserve® Card — it offers perks like a $300 annual travel credit, triple points on dining and travel, the ability to redeem points for 1.5 cents each towards the cost of a travel purchase, a Priority Pass membership with guesting privileges, a Global Entry fee credit, and much more.

One question I get pretty often is from people wondering if they’re better off adding their spouse as an authorized user on their Sapphire Reserve Card, or if they’re better off having their spouse use their own Sapphire Reserve Card. On the surface you may think the obvious answer is to add your spouse as an authorized user, given that the authorized user fee is $75, and the annual fee for the primary account holder is $450. However, the math isn’t quite that straightforward.

Crunching the numbers

The fee per authorized user on the  Chase Sapphire Reserve® Card is $75, so the math on that is pretty straightforward.

The alternative is having your spouse carry their own Sapphire Reserve, which would cost an additional $450. However, on the most basic level the Sapphire Reserve offers a $300 annual travel credit, which is automatically applied towards any travel coded purchase. There’s virtually no one out there who shouldn’t get the full value of that. So to me the real out of pocket on the card is $150 per year.

If the “out of pocket” to having your own Sapphire Reserve is $150, and the cost to add an authorized user is $75, the real incremental annual cost of having your own card rather than being an authorized user on someone else’s account is the $75 per year. What do you get for that?

  • You can earn the sign-up bonus on the Sapphire Reserve, which offers 50,000 Ultimate Rewards points upon completing minimum spend, which I value at a minimum of $750 (since points can be redeemed for 1.5 cents each towards a travel purchase)
  • Primary cardmembers receive a Global Entry fee credit (worth up to $100) once every four years, so if you want to spread out the value of that over the years, that’s like a value of $25 per year

One other consideration, if it’s a concern, is that having your own account can make accounting easier if you want to keep credit card spend separate. Chase doesn’t issue separate card numbers for authorized users, and separating the spend by person can be challenging.

Bottom line

If two people splitting expenses want the  Chase Sapphire Reserve® Card you will end up paying a bit less annually if you add the second person as an authorized user. By my math, you’re paying about $50 extra per year to have your own account, once you subtract the travel credit, what you’d otherwise pay for an authorized user, and the Global Entry fee credit. In many ways it’s great that Chase gives so many benefits to authorized users, including a Priority Pass membership, travel protection, and more.

The big advantage of getting your own card is that you get your own sign-up bonus of 50,000+ points, which is worth $750+. If you want to look at the math differently, the $50 “out of pocket” difference will be covered by that sign-up bonus for 15 years.

If you’re strictly looking to pay as little as possible for two Reserve cards, add the second person as an authorized user. If you’d get value out of the sign-up bonus and the ability to separate expenses a bit, have both people get their own accounts.

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  1. Being able to redeem at 1.5 cents is also a reason to keep if the spouse has a large balance and wants the ability to book flights with points without having to worry about award availability. That is the main reason I keep our spouse card.

  2. Lucky, thanks for the post, a related question – I am an authorized user on my wife’s Sapphire Preferred account and would like to apply for my own Sapphire Reserve account. How does Chase considered authorized users under their rule of only one Sapphire card?

  3. @ M2 — Being an authorized user doesn’t preclude you from getting a bonus on the Sapphire Preferred or Sapphire Reserve, so you could apply right away. 🙂

  4. Will UR transfer to an authorized users mile program or can they only be transferred to the primary card holder?

  5. My wife went from thinking I’m a nut job to not wanting to give up her separate CSR, pretty amazing turn around, but she’s totally on board with the points game life now. It certainly helped we both scored the 100k sign up bonus when we first signed up, but both having global entry and her having priority pass access for when she travels alone pretty much seals the deal.

  6. I have a question for you. When I removed my wife as AU on my Prestige card, they stopped billing me but didn’t change the account number. Her second card we just held on to, and it still works as it did before as mine does.

    Is the CSR the same? If I add my wife as an AU and then remove her after she gets the card, should the card continue working?

    Granted, for now, the easiest free way is adding my card to her apple pay, but it would be nice for her to have a card for physical swipes, and I cant justify the AF since the AU benefits we get free on other cards.

  7. Can anyone explain to me why CSR AU spend isn’t separated out from the primary card holder? All the spend is lumped together on the statements… whereas Amex clearly separates it. Is there any logical reason for this?

  8. An Amex AU card has its own unique number. An AU card from Chase is identical to the original except for the name on the card, so Chase has no way of knowing which card made which transaction.

  9. Hugh Mann, Lucky
    Would not the UR points automatically accrue to the main user’s account since she/he is the one paying the monthly CC bill?

  10. Don’t overlook the opportunity to use Chase Refer a Friend and pocket 10,000 UR points for yourself, in addition to your spouse receiving normal sign up benefits. Just did it, and then did the Ink Preferred and got my 20,000. Next up, United, then maybe Marriott. Ymmv. Cheers.

  11. My wife and I have been getting only business cards from Amex and Bank of America for over 1 year in order to get some 5/24 slots open. She just got the Ink Preferred to get the 80000 bonus. Next she will refer me for the same card so I can get the 80000 and she gets 20000 referral bonus. Next she will get the CSR 50000 and then refer me for the referral bonus and I can get the 50000 myself. In 2 player mode we each want the big sign up bonus and take the referral bonus after one of us is a card holder with the ability to get a referral bonus. We stopped making each other authorized users when Chase started counting authorized user cards against you in their 5/24 count. I would never trade an open 5/24 slot for the small benefit of an authorized user card.

  12. If splitting charges, it’s a significant challenge to determine where they charges come from. There is a single number for ‘the account’ and all charges end up in the same section. There is no tagging or ability to distinguish who charged what. If looking to add an authorized user to a premium account, I’d look to the AmEx Platinum instead which gives additional cardmembers full access to their own portal and all benefits. They get their own number and statements. With Chase and Citi, if there is any need to distinguish charges, there is a huge challenge there.

    If that’s not an issue I agree with the article — it’s close enough in cost to just get another account and get the great benefits all round.

  13. I agree with your calculations, except for the very last part. The annual fee is $450 and you get the travel credit of $300. That makes the difference, as you said of $150, but in reality is just $75 because each user is $75, however, there are a few assumptions which may not equal the $75:

    You assume that everyone finds the Global Entry useful. With the machines at the airport these days the entry into the United States is a much faster process than it used to be if you do not have Global Entry. Also, you assume that the user does not have another card that provides Global Entry (e.g. Plat AmEx).

    The extra $75 is an annual fee difference, but you do not get the sign up bonus each year, so while for the first year, I do see the benefit with the sign up bonus, if you do not value the Global Entry, or obtained it via another card, I do not see what makes it valuable for the spouse to have his or her own card.

    Furthermore, if you say you will swap Global Entry with Reserve and not obtain it from another card anymore, that would downgrade the value of the annual fee of that card. It’s like a catch 22.

    Taking all of this into account, I think the authorized user is a better option. It also puts all of the points in one account to it is easier for managing and maintaining.

  14. My wife has a Freedom Unlimited (downgraded from a CSP) that she accrues ‘points’ in. If I add her as an AU on my CSR, would she become a Ultimate Rewards user, and be able to transfer her points from her Freedom Unlimited to my CSR for potential use with travel partners?

  15. @ ChadMC, my wife and I actually prefer having all the charges lumped into one sum, because it makes it easier when one of us buys something, we can ask the other to go to the store and return. When we were putting all our spend on the Amex PRG a few years ago, it was tough because of the different account numbers. We would get a lot of pushback from stores refusing to complete the return because the card used to make the purchase was not present. We just use YNAB to track the spending and place notes in the transaction to differentiate who made each charge

  16. Hey Lucky, I think saying the $450 annual fee is really only $150 because of the $300 travel credit is a little dishonest. I’m relatively new to the points game, and you certainly know more than I do, but as someone who has thought about upgrading to the CSR (and is kind of kicking himself for missing out on the 100,000 UR points initial sign-up offer), I tried thinking through the cost of the card and if it’s worth it for me. I don’t travel as much as I would like, but the benefits of the CSR still sound really good. Here’s why I think it’s dishonest, and correct me if I’m wrong.

    You pay the $450 annual fee regardless if you have spent on travel, so it’s a “sunk cost.”

    $450 (spent)

    You buy a cheap flight ticket and take an Uber to the airport, which totals $300, and the $300 credit kicks in to cover that.

    $450 (spent on AF) + $300 (spent) – $300 (credit) = $450.

    The $300 credit wipes out the travel spend, not deducts from the AF, so the real out of pocket is still $450 for the AF. I know other factors like the Global Entry fee and lounge access (which I would like to have) could factor into the lowering what would be considered the “real” out of pocket, but I think it still stands that the $300 only affects travel-spend on the card, not the annual fee.

    Yes? No?

    I just thinks it’s a bit dishonest to “play” slight of hand or the shell game and tell people that they’re not actually spending (again, a sunk cost) $450 to use the card. I realized this while reading TPG and your blogs the other day, so it’s not just you; you’re the blog I just happened to comment on, and I thought you might actually respond.

    With that said, great stuff! I enjoy your writing and appreciate the knowledge and expertise you share. Safe travels!

  17. Jared… I think you’re assuming someone would buy the $300 flight just to get the $300 credit. Yes, that is dumb. But many people buy flights all the time that the $300 covers. It definitely reduces the cost of the card by $300.

    Ie, I’m buying a $1000 ticket. It’s only costing me $700. I just saved $300 of the $450 fee.

  18. CSue, not necessarily. It applies regardless. Even in your example:

    $450 annual fee + $1,000 ticket – $300 credit = $1,150 ($450 AF + $700 ticket). You have to spend money on any time of travel, $300 ticket or not, in order to get the credit. The credit isn’t taken from the annual fee.

  19. @ Jared — That’s correct, it’s not deducted from the annual fee, but the point is that over the course of a year, the card would really only be costing you $150, assuming you’d otherwise make travel purchases totaling $300. Yes, you pay the $450 upfront, but over the course of the year you’ll recover $300 of that, *assuming* you’d spend at least $300 per year on travel.

  20. @ Lucky – question I can’t find the answer to. My wife is considering getting a CSR and adding me as an authorized user. I am personally over 5/24. I know being an authorized user counts against 5/24, but can I be _rejected_ as an authorized user since I am over 5/24?

  21. @Jared: You are approaching your computation result differently.
    Let us take @CSue’s plane ticket.
    $450 AF + $1000 ticket= $1450. Let that sink it a little bit. BUT, @CSue will not be paying that. $300 will be deducted. Take it as a discount to your ticket, or discount on your AF.
    Your other examples.
    $450 AF+ [cheap tickets+uber rides, etc ($300)]= $750. This part you skipped. Let that $750 sink it a little more. Remember, you now have a cheap ticket (for that price it can be a southwest RT ticket from SF><LV), did uber rides, etc. When you get your statement, you will be paying $450.
    Wait.. what? $450?! Yes. Because you now have a statement credit of $300 courtesy of your CSR.
    a. take that as a free trip, uber ride or,
    b. take it out from the AF.

    To argue that you have to spend $300 in order to even out $300 is very wrong when the topic is a credit card. It is implied that you will spend in thousands esp when CSR min limit is $10k. And since it is a travel card, paying $450 with $300 statement credit counting towards (insert whatever the CSR agreements says), makes a lot of sense.

    This is my calculation in the simplest terms. I have $1450 in my bank account.
    I plan to fly to NY from SF, $1000 round trip but first I applied for the CSR card. When I got my statement, It is $1000 + 450 (-300). I paid with my bank account, I have $300 left.
    But wait, it gets better, I was able to get free food when I stopped by the lounge before boarding!

    So.. here is the kicker. I don't have CSR, CSP. I don't even have any freedom cards. Or any chase cards. Why am I here? I just love reading.

    Thanks @Jared. Your approach made me think twice and have to think hard to make sense. I might apply for this card. CSR.

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