Update: This article contains mentions of Chase Freedom Unlimited® whose terms have expired and are in the process of being updated. All other offers reflect accurate offer terms. Learn more about the current offers here.
I don’t think there’s a single card that has changed the premium credit card landscape like the Chase Sapphire Reserve® Card did back when it was introduced in the summer of 2016.
Before the Sapphire Reserve was introduced, premium cards were thought of as only being for the wealthy, while Chase created a product that truly had mass appeal, by offering a lot of value to members.
However, just recently this card has undergone some major changes, as the card’s annual fee has increased by $100, though new benefits have been added as well. So in this post I wanted to take an in-depth, updated look at this card.
Is the Chase Sapphire Reserve still worth it?
Chase Sapphire Reserve Basics For April 2020
The Chase Sapphire Reserve is a card that has it all — a great sign-up bonus, excellent perks, a rewarding points structure, and much more.
Sapphire Reserve 50K Welcome Bonus ($750 Worth Of Travel)
The Sapphire Reserve has a welcome bonus of 50,000 Ultimate Rewards points after spending $4,000 within three months.
At an absolute minimum, if you have the Sapphire Reserve then Ultimate Rewards points can be redeemed for 1.5 cents each towards a travel purchase, meaning that 50,000 Ultimate Rewards points will get you $750 worth of travel.
As I’ll explain below, there are ways to get way more value out of the points than that.
Redeem your Ultimate Rewards points for a flight in Delta business class
Card Bonus Eligibility
If you’re applying for this card, you can only be approved if you don’t currently have any Sapphire card, and haven’t received a new cardmember bonus on a Sapphire card in the past 48 months (this includes the Sapphire Preferred).
How High Of A Credit Score Do You Need To Be Approved?
Credit card issuers don’t publish a minimum credit score required to be approved for a card, though you do in general need excellent credit to get approved for this card. I wouldn’t apply if my credit score were under 720, and ideally it would be over 740.
It’s possible to get approved with a lower score, and it’s also possible to be denied with a higher score. There are many factors that go into card approval, including your income, existing relationship with Chase, and more.
Chase’s 5/24 Rule
Chase has something that’s known as the 5/24 rule. This means that if you’ve opened five or more new card accounts in the past 24 months you typically won’t be approved for this card. So if you do apply for this card, make sure you’re under that limit.
Chase will often let you product change from one card to another (either personal-to-personal or business-to-business), assuming you’ve had it for at least 12 months. So for example, one strategy could be to apply for the Sapphire Preferred, use it for 12 months, and then later you can upgrade to the Sapphire Reserve, if you’d like.
You’ll have to call Chase to find out the options available on your account.
Chase is pretty good about letting you product change between cards
Sapphire Reserve $550 Annual Fee
The Sapphire Reserve has a $550 annual fee. Among the super-premium credit cards out there, this is in line with what we can come to expect. As I’ll explain below, in reality, this card shouldn’t be costing anyone even nearly that much every year, though.
For context, this card previously had a $450 annual fee, though it was raised in January 2020.
$75 Authorized User Fee
You can add authorized users to the Sapphire Reserve, and there’s a $75 fee per person. This can be well worth it, because not only do they get your increased points earning rates, but they also get a Priority Pass membership, Visa Infinite benefits, and more.
Earning Chase Sapphire Reserve Points
The Chase Sapphire Reserve offers bonus points in two categories that some people may find useful. When picking a credit card, I always recommend getting one that has bonus categories that match up with your spending profile.
Some cards offer bonus points on travel, dining, gas stations, supermarkets, etc., so pick the one that works best for you.
Sapphire Reserve 3x Points On Travel & Dining
The Sapphire Reserve offers 3x points on dining and travel purchases globally. Meanwhile, the card offers 1x points on all other purchases.
I value Ultimate Rewards points at ~1.7 cents each, so to me, that’s the equivalent of a 5.1% return on those purchases, which is pretty incredible.
What Counts As Dining & Travel?
Chase’s dining category includes the following:
merchants whose primary business is sit-down or eat-in dining, including fast food restaurants as well as fine dining establishments.
Chase’s travel category includes the following:
airlines, airports, car rental agencies (including truck, trailer, and RV), cruise ships, hotels and motels, timeshares, local and commuter transportation (including trains, buses, taxis/limos, ferries, bridges, tolls and parking), travel agencies
Earn 3x points on dining and travel globally
Sapphire Reserve 10x Points With Lyft
This benefit was added in January 2020. The Sapphire Reserve now earns 10x points with Lyft. As of now the card is offering 10x points with Lyft through March 2022, though I imagine this benefit has the potential to be extended.
I value Ultimate Rewards points at 1.7 cents each, so to me that’s the equivalent of a 17% return on Lyft spending, which is awesome. It gets even better than that with the other Lyft benefits offered by the card, which I’ll talk more about below.
Earn 10x points on Lyft rides
No Foreign Transaction Fees
The Sapphire Reserve has no foreign transaction fees, so this is an excellent card to use for purchases globally, since you can earn valuable rewards while not being stuck with those fees, which are sometimes 3%.
Best of all, I find that a large percentage of my purchases abroad are in the travel and dining categories, so I can avoid foreign transaction fees while earning 3x points.
You can earn bonus points even on train tickets with the Sapphire Reserve
Redeeming Chase Sapphire Reserve Points
The Chase Sapphire Reserve earns Ultimate Rewards points, which I find to be one of the most valuable flexible points currencies. Not only that, but having the Sapphire Reserve means that you can redeem your points for more than you could if you had other cards.
As I’ll explain below, there are a couple of ways that you can most efficiently redeem your Ultimate Rewards points.
Redeem Points For 1.5 Cents Each Towards Travel
Ultimate Rewards points can be redeemed towards the cost of travel purchases through the Chase Travel Portal. This means you can redeem points for all kinds of travel purchases, ranging from flights to hotels to car rentals.
The value you get per point varies based on which card you have:
- If you have the Sapphire Reserve, then all your Ultimate Rewards points can be redeemed for 1.5 cents each
- Compare this to having the Sapphire Preferred or Ink Preferred, where points can “only” be redeemed for 1.25 cents each
In other words, you could use your Ultimate Rewards points to book a $750 flight for 50,000 points. This allows you to redeem with no blackout dates, and avoid the complexity of frequent flyer programs.
Furthermore, when you redeem your points towards flights through the portal you can even accrue points for those flights.
Redeem Ultimate Rewards points towards the cost of airfare
Transfer Points To Airline & Hotel Partners
My favorite way to redeem Ultimate Rewards points is to transfer them to one of the airline or hotel partners. Points transfer at a 1:1 ratio, and this is a great option if you want to book aspirational travel, like staying at a five star hotel or redeeming for first or business class travel.
Here are the Ultimate Rewards transfer partners:
|Aer Lingus Aer Club||IHG Rewards Club|
|Air France/KLM Flying Blue||Marriott Bonvoy|
|British Airways Executive Club||World Of Hyatt|
|Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards|
|Virgin Atlantic Flying Club|
How Should You Redeem Ultimate Rewards Points?
Being able to redeem points for 1.5 cents each towards a travel purchase is a great rate, especially when you consider that you won’t be dealing with any capacity controls or blackout dates.
While other transferable points currencies let you redeem points for 1-1.25 cents each, 1.5 cents is in a different league.
However, my favorite use of Ultimate Rewards points is still transferring them to partner airlines and hotels. My personal favorites are Air France-KLM Flying Blue, British Airways Executive Club, Singapore KrisFlyer, and World of Hyatt.
Why? Because if you’re redeeming for aspirational travel, this is a way to get a lot more value. For example, the Park Hyatt Maldives often costs $1,000+ per night. Meanwhile, if you transfer points to World of Hyatt, you can book it for just 30,000 points per night.
Redeem your Ultimate Rewards points for a stay at the Park Hyatt Maldives
The same is true for flights. International first-class tickets can cost $20,000+. Meanwhile, you could transfer 120,000 points to Virgin Atlantic Flying Club for a roundtrip first class ticket in ANA first class from the US to Japan.
Redeem your Ultimate Rewards points for travel in ANA first class
You can find more about all the ways to redeem Ultimate Rewards points and why I value them so highly in my Ultimate Guide to Ultimate Rewards.
Chase Sapphire Reserve Benefits
What really sets the Chase Sapphire Reserve apart is the incredible benefits that it offers. These benefits help offset the fee, and for many will more than justify the annual fee, not even taking into account the sign-up bonus, 3x points on spending, and more.
While the card’s annual fee has been increased by $100, in the process Chase has added even more benefit that will prove worthwhile for many.
$300 Annual Travel Credit
The Sapphire Reserve offers an incredible $300 annual travel credit. While quite a few credit cards offer credits, there are typically lots of strings attached. That’s not the case with the Sapphire Reserve.
There’s no registration required, and any purchases that are coded as travel will be reimbursed automatically. This could include flights, Uber rides, taxis, train tickets, hotels, and more.
You don’t have to use the entire credit in one transaction, but rather can use it across as many transactions as are needed.
Account Anniversary Year Definition
The $300 annual travel credit doesn’t reset with the calendar year, but rather resets each account anniversary year. For these purposes, the “annual” credit means the year beginning with your account open date through the first statement date after your account open date anniversary, and the 12 monthly billing cycles after that each year.
How To Track Your $300 Credit
When you log into the Ultimate Rewards website on the right side you should see a tracker that shows your progress towards spending the $300 credit. It will also indicate when you’re eligible for your next credit.
Is This Really A $250 Annual Fee Card?
While the Sapphire Reserve has a $550 annual fee, in reality, this card shouldn’t be costing anyone more than $250 per year, by the time you factor in the $300 annual travel credit. Anyone who gets this card should spend at least $300 per year on travel. If you don’t, this probably isn’t the card for you, given that it offers travel rewards.
That’s what has made this card so accessible for many — while you’re paying a much higher fee upfront, in reality, the card should only cost you $250 per year.
Priority Pass Membership
The Sapphire Reserve comes with a Priority Pass membership, which gets you access to the world’s largest collection of independent lounges. Best of all, this membership allows you to take guests with you at no additional cost.
Priority Pass has 1,300+ airport lounges around the world, so access to these lounges will prove useful to just about any traveler.
SkyTeam Lounge Dubai, which is a Priority Pass lounge
Priority Pass has even added some non-traditional locations to their network, like restaurants, where you can have a meal and Priority Pass picks up the tab.
If you add authorized users to your Sapphire Reserve, they’ll also get a Priority Pass membership, so that could be worth it for the $75 additional user fee alone.
One Year Lyft Pink Membership
As of 2020 the Sapphire Reserve is offering a one year Lyft Pink membership as a benefit. This ordinarily costs $19.99 per month, so it’s potentially nearly a $240 value.
Lyft Pink offers the following exclusive perks:
- 15% off unlimited car rides — this includes all types of rides in the US, including Shared, Standard Lyft, Lyft XL, Lux Black XL, Lux, and Lux Black
- Priority airport pickups — be matched to the closest driver at the airport
- Relaxed cancellations — don’t pay fees for up to three cancelations made within 15 minutes each month
- Waived lost and found fees — get the lost and found fee waived an unlimited number of times
- Bikes and scooters — three 30 minute bike or scooter rides per month in select markets
- Surprise offers — these can include seasonal discounts, premium mode discounts, and partnership offers
This has the potential be really valuable, in particular it stacks nicely with the ability to earn 10x Ultimate Rewards points on Lyft rides. For many of us this will translate into significant savings, and will cause us to switch business from Uber to Lyft.
Get a one year Lyft Pink membership with the Sapphire Reserve
DoorDash $60 Annual Statement Credit
For both 2020 and 2021, the Sapphire Reserve is offering a $60 annual DoorDash credit. So between this year and next year, you can save up to $120 with DoorDash. For those not familiar with DoorDash, it’s a food delivery service available in over 850 cities in North America.
This is straightforward benefit — there’s no registration required, but rather you’ll receive statement credits for your first $60 of spending in 2020 and 2021 with the Sapphire Reserve.
Save on DoorDash with the Sapphire Reserve
DoorDash DashPass Benefit
The Sapphire Reserve now offers a DoorDash DashPass membership. If you sign up now it will be valid through December 31, 2020.
With DoorDash DashPass, you pay a $0 delivery fee when ordering from thousands of restaurants nationwide. Just place an order totaling at least $12 from an eligible restaurant, and you’ll get a $0 delivery fee and reduced service fee.
Global Entry or TSA Pre-Check Credit
The Sapphire Reserve offers a Global Entry or TSA Pre-Check credit once every four years. Just charge the $85-100 membership fee to your card, and it will automatically be reimbursed. It doesn’t matter who the fee is being paid for, as long as you charge it to your eligible card.
Why You Should Register For Global Entry Over TSA Pre-Check
If you are going to take advantage of this perk, I’d highly recommend registering for Global Entry over TSA Pre-Check. For those of you not familiar, TSA Pre-Check gets you expedited US security screening, while Global Entry gets you expedited US immigration clearance.
So why should you register for Global Entry and not Pre-Check? Because Global Entry also comes with TSA Pre-Check, while the inverse isn’t true (signing up for TSA Pre-Check doesn’t get you Global Entry).
TSA Pre-Check can be a huge time saver
The Luxury Hotel & Resort Collection
The Luxury Hotel & Resort Collection gives cardmembers additional benefits at 1,000+ luxury hotels around the world. When booking through the program at an eligible rate you receive breakfast for two, complimentary wifi, a room upgrade if available, early check-in and late check-out if available, and a special property amenity.
Receive extra benefits at the Park Hyatt Saigon
20% Discount On Silvercar Rentals
Silvercar is my favorite car rental company, and you can save on rentals with them for having the Sapphire Reserve. You get 20% off rentals just by using promotion code VISAINF20.
Save 20% on Silvercar rentals with the Sapphire Reserve
Primary Car Rental Coverage
The Sapphire Reserve offers primary collision damage waiver coverage against damage up to the cost of most rental car vehicles provided you decline the CDW coverage offered by the rental agency. This includes economy through luxury class vehicles, vans that carry fewer than seven passengers, and SUVs. You’ll want to check your cardmember agreement for full details.
Travel & Purchase Coverage
The Sapphire Reserve is a Visa Infinite Card, so comes with all kinds of great travel and purchase protection.
What’s especially awesome is that you earn triple points for travel with the card, so you can put your travel purchases on this card, and then automatically be covered with the benefits.
Note that award tickets qualify for this benefit as well, assuming you put the taxes on the Reserve Card.
Here are the basic details of the coverage, though you’ll want to consult the cardmember agreement for all the details:
|Sapphire Reserve Visa Infinite Benefits||Details|
|Baggage Delay Benefit||• You can be reimbursed up to $500 when some or all of the cost of a common carrier ticket is charged to your card (therefore award tickets should be eligible if the taxes are charged to the card)|
• You can be reimbursed a maximum of $100 per day for emergency purchases of essential items at a destination other than your current residence
|Lost Luggage Reimbursement||• Receive reimbursement for lost or damaged checked or carry-on bags and personal property|
• Maximum reimbursement is $3,000
• You must report the loss or damage to the Common Carrier immediately as soon as you exit the Carrier. You will need to provide proof that you submitted a report to the Common Carrier, so be sure to keep a copy of the report for your records.
|Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance||• Receive the non-refundable amount of the passenger fare or $10,000 (whichever is less) in the event of a trip cancellation or interruption|
• The cancellation or interruption must be caused by death, accidental injury, disease, or physical illness of the passenger or immediate family member
• This also covers you if your airline goes out of business or tickets are otherwise cancelled by the carrier
|Trip Delay Reimbursement||• Receive up to $500 if your trip is delayed for more than 6 hours or requires an overnight stay|
• The trip has to be delayed by an equipment failure, inclement weather, labor strikes, or hijacking
|Purchase Protection||• Receive up to $10,000 for personal property that has been stolen, damaged, or lost within 120 days|
|Return Protection||• Receive up to $500 per item ($1,000 per year) if you are dissatisfied with a purchase and the retailer won’t return the item within 90 days|
• There are lots of exclusions, including items purchased overseas, and all items have to be returned to Chase as part of the process
|Warranty Manager Service||• Extends the free repair period under the original manufacturers repair warranty up to one additional year on eligible warranties of three (3) years or less, up to a maximum of ten thousand ($10,000.00) dollars per claim, and a fifty thousand ($50,000.00) dollars maximum per Account.|
• Motorized vehicles (boats, cars, aircraft, etc.) aren’t included
Shop Through Chase
Having the Sapphire Reserve gives you access to Shop Through Chase, which is the card’s online shopping portal and can really accelerate the points you earn. By “clicking-through” the portal you can earn extra points per dollar with purchases at dozens of online retailers.
I earn several thousand extra points each year on purchases I would have made anyway just by clicking through the Shop Through Chase portal first.
Great 24/7 Customer Service
While I try to do as much as possible online, I find that in situations where I have to call Chase, the customer service is excellent. They don’t have some of the annoying phone prompts that other issues have, and I’m almost always connected to an agent right away.
I’m not sure this is necessarily a selling point anymore nowadays, but the Sapphire Reserve was one of the first “major” metal cards. Nowadays that’s not exactly unusual anymore.
Is The Sapphire Reserve Worth It?
The Sapphire Reserve has become an extremely popular card, and in many ways it sells itself. If you travel with any frequency and spend a fair amount on dining and travel, then I think yes, the Sapphire Reserve is absolutely worth it.
However, there’s no denying that many people have been giving the card a second thought since the annual fee increase in January 2020 of $100. Personally I think that most people will come out ahead in the short term with the card, based on the new Lyft and DoorDash benefits.
I think the big question is what will happen to these extra perks when they expire in 2021-2022. Will Chase add other perks to replace them, or will the value proposition of the card worsen? Only time will tell, though personally for the time being I’ll come out ahead with the annual fee increase.
I also wanted to talk about some other considerations — how does this compare to the Sapphire Preferred and Amex Platinum, what’s the best credit card complement, and more.
Tip: Get The Freedom Unlimited As Well
If you have the Sapphire Reserve then you should definitely get the no annual fee Chase Freedom Unlimited® (review) as well. Why? Because the Freedom Unlimited offers points that can be pooled with the Sapphire Reserve, and it offers 1.5x points on all purchases.
The best strategy is to have both cards and put your dining and travel spending on the Sapphire Reserve (where you earn 3x points), and all your other spending on the Freedom Unlimited (which offers 1.5x points, rather than 1x points).
To me, that’s the single best credit card duo out there. Even if you just redeem points for 1.5 cents each towards a travel purchase, that means you’re earning a 4.5% return on dining and travel, and a 2.25% return on everyday spending.
The Sapphire Reserve & Freedom Unlimited are an unbeatable combo
Showdown: Sapphire Preferred Vs. Sapphire Reserve
- Sign-up bonus: Sapphire Preferred offers up to 60K points, Sapphire Reserve offers up to 50K points
- Annual fee: Sapphire Preferred has a $95 annual fee, Sapphire Reserve has a $550 annual fee
- Points earning: Sapphire Preferred offers 2x points on dining and travel, Sapphire Reserve offers 3x points on dining and travel
- Other perks: The cards have some overlap in terms of benefits, though the Sapphire Reserve has the edge by offering a $300 annual travel credit, a Priority Pass membership, a TSA Pre-Check or Global Entry fee credit every four years, the ability to redeem points for 1.5 cents each, Visa Infinite perks, Lyft perks, and DoorDash perks
If you spend a good amount on dining and travel, would find lounge access useful, and would get value out of the Lyft and/or DoorDash benefits, then I think the Sapphire Reserve is worth it. If you don’t, the Sapphire Preferred should do the trick.
Both the Sapphire Preferred & Sapphire Reserve are awesome
How Does The Amex Platinum Compare?
The Amex Platinum is a card I have as well, and I value it immensely. But I also don’t think it’s as well rounded. The card is better for lounge access — it offers Amex Centurion Lounge access, Delta SkyClub access, and a Priority Pass membership (with more restrictions). It also offers a $200 annual airline fee credit, $200 annual Uber credit, and $100 annual Saks credit, though all those credits come with noteworthy restrictions.
Personally, I think the Sapphire Reserve is more well rounded, and if you’re just going to get one of those two cards, that’s the one I’d choose. However, I also think both cards could be worth having.
The Amex Platinum offers Centurion Lounge access
Why The Amex Green Is The Biggest Competitor
On the surface the Amex Platinum may seem like the biggest competitor to the Sapphire Reserve, though I’d argue that the American Express® Green Card (review) is a significantly bigger competitor. The card offers 3x points on dining, travel, and transit, and offers a $100 annual CLEAR credit and $100 annual LoungeBuddy credit.
If you want to earn Amex points, this is the card to get.
Chase Sapphire Reserve Summary
The Sapphire Reserve has revolutionized the premium credit card market over the past three years, and has caused other card issuers to up their game as well.
But we’ve now also seem Chase make significant changes to this card, as the annual fee has increased by $100, while they’ve added temporary perks with DoorDash and Lyft.
To sum it up, if you want to earn travel rewards and spend a decent amount on dining and travel, and/or if you value the DoorDash and Lyft perks, then the Sapphire Reserve is a no brainer.
In reality, the card should cost you $250 per year ($550 annual fee minus a $300 travel credit), and for that you’re earning 3x points on dining and travel, 10x points on Lyft, a Priority Pass membership, a Lyft Pink membership for one year, a DoorDash membership through the end of 2021, car rental, travel, and purchase protection, and more.
If you really want to maximize your strategy, pick up the no annual fee Freedom Unlimited as well, so you can earn 1.5x points on your everyday spending.
Lastly, you can also start off with the Sapphire Preferred for the bigger bonus and lower annual fee, and then after a year you should be able to upgrade to the Sapphire Reserve.
The following links will direct you to the rates and fees for mentioned American Express Cards. These include: The Platinum Card® from American Express (Rates & Fees).