Is The Chase Sapphire Reserve Still Worth It? (2021)

Filed Under: Chase, Credit Cards
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The Chase Sapphire Reserve® Card (review) is one of the most popular premium credit cards. For many people this card has been a no-brainer. Nonetheless the credit card landscape has evolved significantly, both as card issuers have tried to outdo one another, and also as the coronavirus pandemic has completely changed consumer behavior.

We’ve seen Chase make some significant updates to the Sapphire Reserve in the past couple of years, and in this post I wanted to try to answer the question of whether the Chase Sapphire Reserve is still worth it. I’ll try to tackle that question both generally, and also specifically given the current market conditions.

Chase Sapphire Reserve benefits

The Chase Sapphire Reserve has a $550 annual fee, and offers the following long term benefits:

  • 3x points on dining and travel
  • A $300 annual travel credit
  • The ability to redeem all of your Ultimate Rewards points for 1.5 cents each towards travel purchases (in addition to transferring them to airline and hotel partners)
  • A Priority Pass membership with unlimited visits and the ability to take two guests
  • Excellent travel coverage and car rental coverage


Priority Pass lounge access is an awesome perk

Since early 2020 we’ve seen many changes made to the Chase Sapphire Reserve, both for better and worse. These changes include the following:

The Sapphire Reserve offers great Lyft perks

How much is the Sapphire Reserve “costing” me?

With credit card issuers increasingly adding limited time perks, it can be hard to crunch the numbers on the long term value proposition of a card. All we can really do is crunch the numbers on cards annually, and decide based on that whether the card continues to make sense.

My Chase Sapphire Reserve recently renewed with the $450 annual fee (a $100 discount over the standard $550 annual fee), and I’ve received:

  • A $300 travel credit, which is more or less worth face value
  • A $60 DoorDash credit, which I’ve already gotten full value out of (and I would have spent that money on delivery regardless of whether or not the card had that benefit)

The travel credit can be used towards virtually any travel purchase

Let’s actually just stop there for a moment, since the other benefits have more “variable” value for me, especially during the pandemic. I’m paying $450 and am getting $360 from the above two benefits, and then on top of that get the following (again, some of these perks are less valuable right now due to the pandemic):

  • I get a one year Lyft Pink membership, which has made me switch from Uber to Lyft, and which I’ve found to be well worth it; this would retail for $240 per year, but let’s say it’s worth half that
  • I get a Priority Pass membership, which is valuable on the surface, though I have this through multiple cards, so I won’t place too much value on that
  • I get excellent travel coverage and car rental coverage, which is something I probably value at about $100 per year, since there aren’t many good cards offering bonus points on travel and great travel coverage
  • I get 3x points on dining and travel, and 10x points on Lyft
  • I get a $120 Peloton credit, but I don’t use Peloton, so that’s not something I particularly value
  • I save money with the Chase Offers program

Why I’m not spending much on the Sapphire Reserve

When the Chase Sapphire Reserve was first introduced, I loved the ability to earn 3x points on dining and travel, and used it for virtually all purchases in those categories. However, that’s no longer the case:

My dining spending goes on the Citi Prestige

In other words, I’m no longer using the Sapphire Reserve for my dining and airfare purchases. At this point the only “bonused” spending going on my card is non-airfare travel purchases. For hotel spending it’s also breakeven, since I earn 3x points on the Sapphire Reserve and Citi Prestige.

In fairness, this is still a significant category, as it means I’m putting things like ridesharing, hotels, and more, on the card. The 10x points on Lyft is a huge category for me under normal circumstances.

Is the Sapphire Reserve still right for me?

All of this has me wondering whether the Chase Sapphire Reserve is still right for me, or if I should downgrade it to the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card (review) or maybe just keep the Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card (review).

When considering these cards, let me share what perks of the Sapphire Reserve I do and don’t value at this point:

  • For the 3x points on dining and travel, at this point I only value 3x points on non-airfare travel purchases, since I’d rather put other purchases on the Amex Platinum and Citi Prestige
  • I value the $300 annual travel credit more or less at face value
  • The Sapphire Reserve lets you redeem points for 1.5 cents each towards travel purchases (rather than 1.25 cents), though that’s not something I personally value, since I’d rather transfer Ultimate Rewards points to airline and hotel partners
  • A Priority Pass membership is valuable, but I also get this through several other cards, so incrementally I don’t value this
  • I used to value the 20% discount on Silvercar rentals, though Silvercar has now closed down all airport locations, so it’s not something I use anymore


I don’t use Silvercar anymore since the company pulled out of airports

Where does that leave me? Should I keep the Sapphire Reserve, should I downgrade to the Sapphire Preferred, or should I just keep the Ink Preferred?

I want to keep a premium Ultimate Rewards card

On the most basic level, the reason I want to keep one of those three cards is that they allow me to unlock the full value of the Ultimate Rewards program.

If I have one of those three cards, then I can transfer the points earned on the no annual fee Chase Freedom FlexSM (review), Chase Freedom Unlimited® (review), Ink Business Unlimited® Credit Card (review), and Ink Business Cash® Credit Card (review), to Ultimate Rewards partners.

For me the value of the overall Ultimate Rewards ecosystem remains unchanged thanks to Chase’s great no annual fee cards.

If I were to consider not keeping the Sapphire Reserve, I’d have two options.

Option #1: downgrade to the Sapphire Preferred

One option is to downgrade the Sapphire Reserve to the Sapphire Preferred. Long term I could see myself doing this, because the major downside is giving up 1x points on non-airfare travel purchases.

However, for now I can’t justify this, because of the benefits the Sapphire Reserve has added in the short term with DoorDash ($60 credit) and Lyft (Lyft Pink & 10x points), which more than make up the difference for me.

Option #2: cancel my Sapphire Reserve and stick to the Ink Preferred

The Ink Business Preferred is a $95 annual fee business card that offers 3x points on the first $150,000 of combined purchases per cardmember year on travel, shipping purchases, internet, cable, phone services, and advertising purchases made with social media sites and search engines.

This is a phenomenal card given that it offers the same 3x points on travel as the Sapphire Reserve (though it’s capped).

If I canceled my Sapphire Reserve I’d save quite a bit in annual fees, I’d still be able to transfer points to partners, and I’d still earn 3x points on travel.

Long term the loss would be fairly limited. However, for the time being I do find the card worthwhile for the DoorDash and Lyft perks.

Go figure that these are limited time, so I’ll likely be doing this math again in a year.

Bottom line

The Chase Sapphire Reserve is an incredibly well rounded travel rewards card that has maintained its value quite well. Not only that, but having a card earning Ultimate Rewards points is still very much worth it. That’s especially true given that it opens up value with four fantastic no annual fee cards — the Chase Freedom FlexChase Freedom UnlimitedInk Business Unlimited, and Ink Business Cash.

However, with me having over time shifted my dining spending to the Citi Prestige and my airfare spending to the Amex Platinum, the Sapphire Reserve isn’t quite the slam dunk that it used to be.

Long term I could see myself turning in the Sapphire Reserve in favor of the Ink Preferred, though in the next year I just can’t justify it, as the perks on the Sapphire Reserve continue to be so strong.

I’ll be revisiting this next year, when I’m presumably paying the $550 annual fee, and the DoorDash $60 credit is no longer valid. Only time will tell what new benefits will be added next.

How are you feeling about the value proposition of the Sapphire Reserve nowadays?

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Comments
  1. Can you still redeem the URs at 1.5 per for travel through the Ink Biz Preferred. I have 300k points and like the ability to redeem at 1.5 instead of 1.25 on the saphire preferred i already have enough Hilton points and like the simplicity of getting a locked in 1.5 value redeeming through the Reserve.

  2. @Lucky — This is obviously a choice only you can make for yourself but in my case I cancelled the Reserve as it really doesn’t offer anything very compelling. It seems like forever ago when the Reserve hit the market with that 100k sign up bonus and getting 3x dining out and travel! At the time that was amazing. That said, amex platinum and gold both win out big. Chase UR cards have slid below Citi. Compare the Premier to the Preferred and it’s really no contest. Both have 60k sign up bonus. Premier offers 3x at grocery store, gas stations, restaurants, and all travel (airfare/hotels). Preferred 2x restaurants, travel, and grocery stores (only through april and only $1000/month)…Chase isn’t even trying to compete with Citi in the under $100 annual fee market. Chase is in desperate need of a refresh because Amex and Citi are leaving them in a very distant third place.

  3. How much Lyft are you taking to value those benefits at $200? Are they available in Europe, or did you move back?

    I’m unwilling to go exclusive with Lyft or Uber because usually one is too far away or too pricey to consider for any given situation. That means I’d need to be doing $2k a year in ride share to come out ahead on CSR Lyft benefits

  4. I can’t imagine getting in a car with someone I don’t know right now, so Lyft has zero value for me. I have the prestige and the amex plat as well. I will probably downgrade to CSP when my card renews in July especially if it’s $550. The only thing I really value is the car rental insurance but the CSP has that.

  5. I’ll be downgrading to the Preferred before year end. Doordash and Lyft Pink are nice, but Amex Gold more than covers most of my spending on dining and flights. $550 is too much, more benefits are needed.

  6. @Lucky….

    I agree with Andrew and Alonzo. I’m using the AMEX Gold for restaurant and grocery store purchases and the Chase Freedom for for everything else. $550 is my AF come renewal in fall. Just can’t justify a residual $250 AF after travel credit when I use AMEX Gold now.

    My question is if I downgrade to the Chase Sapphire Preferred do my UR reward points accrued via CSR move also? My intended use is transfer at some point when travel opens up to Virgin Atlantic. I believe the UR points have different value thru CSR if booking travel, but I would be transferring to Virgin Atlantic.

  7. After 4 years, called to cancel the CSR last month. Interesting how it went from a top-of-wallet CC to on-the-shelf last year. The introduction of all the short-term credits/benefits like Peloton smacked of retention gimmicks. Regardless of a $450 or $550 annual fee, it became apparent that the CSR wasn’t earning its keep any more, so overboard it went.

  8. For most casual travelers who aren’t churning sign-up bonuses and don’t want to deal with playing the airline award space availability game, the ability to get 50% more value out of their points is the real seller.

    My parents, for example, are a perfect case study. They care about flight schedules and being able to travel when and where they want with few hoops or restrictions. For them, getting a guaranteed 4.5% return on their bonused spend (and 2.25% on unbonused spend) is the winner. I’ve tried to walk them through the process of transferring points to miles but inevitably they find that they can’t travel when/where they want, the ancillary fees on awards are high, or they get a poor return on their points (a penny or less)… Oftentimes it’s all three.

    For those of us who like to play the points game, CSR has become passé. But for a people like my folks, the ease of using UR points provides a value on its own, and I’m certain they’re not alone.

  9. A couple things to consider:

    The Priority Pass includes restaurant access. I have PP from multiple Amex cards, but would value the CSR one at $50 minimum. My home airport has 2 PP restaurants, so I often take advantage of this.

    I would not value the Doordash money at face value, since you can often buy discounted gift cards–I bought several for 20% off. The Dashpass benefit is nice. It gives me an extra 5% off pickup orders, including when I use the discounted gift cards. I hope this continues into 2022.

    I too want to keep a premium rewards card, to preserve the ability to transfer to airline partners. For most people, one premium card per household is probably sufficient, as long as you usually travel together. Since you can transfer Chase UR points between household members, you can have separate Freedoms, Freedom Unlimiteds, etc, and transfer to the one premium rewards account.

  10. The $28 in meal credit used at my departure and connecting airport on the outbound and return legs is three visits or $84. Multiply that by 10 and I’m so far ahead before the other perks kick in that it’s hilariously great for my needs.

  11. When this card first came out, it was really for urban millennials who spent a lot on dining (3x) and some on travel, and who wanted to use the points and perks for travel. Since this card has come out, the bonus has come down, and the card’s best spend bonus category is now equalled by the Freedom cards. Lyft Pink, Doordash and other credits can make it worth it, but as someone who doesn’t need Priority Pass from the CSR, I downgraded mine last year to a CSP. I continue to earn 3x UR on dining (and 1.5x on general spend) via my Freedom cards, and I continue to transfer points to partners via CSP. At some point, if I want the 1.5 cents redemption back, or if Chase adds value to the card, you can always upgrade back. Paying a $95 fee is worth it for continued access to the Sapphire ecosystem IMO.

  12. The single most well-rounded and compelling reward card remains the CSR: 3x on broadly defined categories of dining and travel, $300 travel credit that can be easily consumed, currently 3x on groceries, 3x+7x on Lyft including a Lyft Pink membership, 1.5x redemption through Chase, Doordash,and on and on and on…

    Accept no hastily introduced imitations by spooked competitors.

    The CSR, if you don’t got it, then get it…now!

  13. I’ve fallen out of love with this card. Amex is simply trying way harder to win my loyalty at the moment.

  14. Maybe I’m just an old rich guy but frankly with a $550 fee and $300 back on travel (easy to get) that reduces the fee to $250. I agree with the other benefits but are people REALLY dropping a card like this over $250 a year? I spend more than that on a decent dinner so it seems like such a trivial amount to worry over. BTW, I have Amex Platinum as well so $1100 a year between those 2, Amex Gold and DL Amext Platinum ($250 each) so another $500 and probably $500 more in an assortment of hotel and airline cards (all of which have value to me). Total annual fees around $2100. That is a rounding error on my typical daily stock market gains (or losses) and I receive value from all of them. Just don’t understand people’s obsession with annual fees. If you can’t afford the fee maybe your shouldn’t have the card in the first place!

  15. The CSR was useful for a couple of years but now it’s impossible to justify the expense.

    I plan to hold out till the last possible minute to cancel it, though. With luck, Chase will realize people are ditching the card in droves and come up with a strategy for stanching the flow. Like maybe an additional $100 off the annual fee. Even $50 would probably keep me.

  16. I’m the same as a few others who have mentioned the Priority Pass restaurant benefit. In “normal” times I fly probably 5-8x per year and would get great value out of that for my wife and I. Honestly, that and the $300 annual travel credit more than pays for my annual fee. I don’t use Door Dash, but do for the credit on the card, and put most of my ride share spending (2-3x per month) on Lyft now.

    Honestly, I’d love to diversify and get a different high end card, but without the Priority Pass restaurant benefit, I don’t know if the numbers work for the value for me, with how little we are traveling this year, or even in normal years.

  17. @NK3 but the PP that you get with AMEX does not come with restaurant access which is a really important distinction.

  18. Even if you don’ tlike Citi TYP (I don’t), the Amex Gold is 4x dining Membership Reward points, Chase Freedom is 3x dining, and so if you have the CSP as well, the tug for CSR isn’t there for me.

    They wouldn’t let me get both CSP and CSR and since I’ve always been happy with the CSP, I never took the plunch and now it’s been lapped by it’s own fee free cars, let alone Citi or Amex.

  19. I have the Chase Business Plus rather than the Business Preferred. Does that count as a transfer into card similar to the Business Preferred?

    I’m on the fence about my Reserve card. Will definitely let it go if they charge me $550, but don’t know if I need to downgrade to Sapphire Preferred or if the Business Plus will suffice.

  20. Lucky, I’m in the same boat as you but had a different strategy in mind: downgrade to one of the freedom cards, move all UR points to Ink Preferred, wait a month, then go for one of the Sapphire sign-up bonuses. (I’m assuming it’s been 48 months since your last one as well.)

    Now CSR has reduced my annual fee from $550 to $450 so I might not bother executing this strategy, mostly to save a 5/24 slot and some legwork.

    Like some other commenters, I also value CSR’s 3x at supermarkets until May. I live overseas, so can’t get 4x on groceries via Amex Gold (which by the way, was like a 60% 4x bonus hit rate on dining in Europe, in my experience.) Not that I’m anti-Amex. Their retention strategy has been stellar of late, imo.

  21. It’s still worth calling out, for some people, that parking and tolls are covered travel categories. Living in DFW and having multiple toll agency accounts, I do use airport parking and re-up my toll accounts using the CSR which can add up depending on your usage.

  22. I will very likely keep CSR if it renews at $450 for another year. $550 might make me downgrade the card, unless the Lyft and DoorDash perks are definitely renewed for 2022 or replaced with something of equal value to me.

  23. It’s always interesting to hear how people are using and value the different perks of a card. There is no question that amex and citi have upped their game to compete with the CSR, so it’s no longer the slam dunk it was when it was introduced. The loss of KE, really damaged the UR ecosystem in my mind, but I still think there are compelling benefits. The fee credit is worth face value, available across a wide variety of purchases. It’s frankly more and more difficult to get outsized value via premium cabin redemptions, given devaluations and restricted award inventory; I find value from the choice of either 1.5 cents OR a transfer to an airline program. For those of us who can’t afford thousands of dollars a year in multiple annual fees, it really does come down to an individual assessment of these differences.

  24. A slightly different take: for “premium” cards, I carry CSR & AX Gold. I use AX Gold for Restaurant and Supermarket charges that earn AX Membership Rewards points at a high rate. I use CSR for all Travel as doing so burns through the $300 Travel credit and effectively reduces CSR’s Annual Fee. I explicitly do NOT have AX Platinum because a) AX reduced/paused airport Centurion Lounge availability, b) Platinum doesn’t earn MR points for “food” as well as Gold. Finally, one CSR benefit that I *don’t* use is the Primary CDW coverage. It’s *probably* OK. However, I have AX “Premium Rental Protection” subscribed to my AX Gold card. AX PRP costs nothing until you rent a car. Then, PRP costs $18 per *rental*, not per *day*. So, yes, I pay $18 per car rental for AX’s “CDW” coverage rather than getting it as a Free Benefit were I to rent using CSR. Why? From my actual claim experience, “for the Firepower of AX PRP customer support.” Really. “Low-end” car rental agencies especially do not even try to play (weasel) games with AX. The minute AX PRP coverage is mentioned, they surrender. Stuff like “that minor scratch on the bumper that you didn’t see when you picked the car up will cost you $800” crap just goes away. AX PRP is Your Friend. 🙂

  25. I don’t understand your strategy at all. You’d rather collect Amex points where they charge more at their travel center in points to redeem and they charge a processing fee at Amex. You can redeem Amex points or chase points for partners usually at 1:1 ratio with pretty much the same partners but chase honestly gives you the bonus for redemption with their travel. No bonus with Amex travel center and the requirement of points is higher. More importantly chase offers the support if there is a problem. If you have the business unlimited, personal unlimited, flex/regular freedom card all of your points can be combined. It’s not about by the time you’re done with the benefits the remainder of the annual fee. The difference of the cash value of points and the travel center value can be much more than the difference. I would have thought you’d rather have them handle your cancellation or refund than doing it yourself especially with some of the difficult to reach foreign airlines due to their current status during the virus…

  26. If I cancel/condense my Sapphire Reserve, would I still be able to transfer points from Chase Freedom to Chase Freedom Unlimited and use the UR portal?

  27. the only problem with substituting any Amex card for the CSR is that then you have to deal with Amex. I find their customer service to be nowhere near as good as Chase. I have the CSR and the Chase Biz Ink preferred cards. I use them both quite a bit. Gave up most of my Amex cards, including the Platinum. Also Chase is interpreting it’s credits quite liberally, for instance I spent some money at Costco and it gave me the $300 travel credit for it. Love it.

  28. My card was just assessed the $550 annual renewal fee. When I called Customer Service I was told they do not offer a $100 credit as stated in the article above. Do you have any more information on this? Am I asking the wrong question?

  29. Love having a premium card but the perks need to be seriously updated to stay relevant IMO. Haven’t been traveling and using the travel benefits at all so that’s a wash for me. The fact they included grocery shopping and gas purchases is nice though. That being said, I pretty much get my all points primarily through dining. The problem with that is since Chase updated the Unlimited Freedom card, I can get the same 3x points for dining using my $0 annual fee card. If they updated the dining and travel to 5x points then we have a clear winner again. Not sure if they plan on increasing the points per category but I would say that’s the best way to keep customers. Overall, I’ve had the card for almost 4 years now and I’ve been very happy with it…Unfortunately, my renewal is in the fall so unless they change it I’m paying $550 which is pretty hard justifying at this point.

  30. I saw greater benefit in this card 4 years ago when I first got it. I do believe the travel benefits of $60 Door Dash, $300 in travel credit, $ discount lyft rides (although I do not use this service) $120 in Peleton credits- again another feature I do not use, The Priority Pass card (which I use some) and my inital TSA Precheck credit of $85 when I signed up that first year far outweigh the $450-$550 annual fee even with an extra $75 annual fee for my authorized user’s card!

    The problem I have now in 2021 is actually booking the travel after you earn it! 3 years ago I cashed in my points for a 10 day Mediterranean cruise for my husband & I thru Chase travel. I had a dedicated travel agent, was booked directly thru Princess Cruises, awesome customer service- it was great! Fast forward to this month when I used it to book a resort for a Spring Break Ski trip in CO, I got stuck with Chase travel powered by Expedia!!! Huge difference and bad experience! The hotel room advertised on the ultimate rewards site, was not the room they booked for me. My room was run down, dirty, & had a different view. Their call center in Manila could care less! Over an hour on hold after checkin and the supervisor hung up on me. When I called after I reurned home from my trip- they told me I had already stayed & there was nothing they could do.
    The front desk staff at the hotel was kind and told me that Expedia booked the room at a “value rate”- that is why I did not get the room as advertised. If I booked direct thru the hotel, I would have. The hotel has no way of seeing Expedia’s notes. Lady at the front desk said that happens all the time with 3rd parties! ( By the way, the room rates were the exact same on the Chase website as they were on the resort’s website- no benefit there, but Chase advertises it as you’ll get a “preferred better rate” when booking thru them- LIE!) When I used points for a “premium” rental car for same trip- I was “upsold” by the rental agency because their definition of “premium” was again different from what was confirmed on Chase’s Ultimate Rewards website!
    So essentially Chase is advertising you as a “preferred” customer for “luxury travel” when you are just like every other Tom, Dick & Harry booking thru Expedia! Just for this fact alone, I am thinking of walking away from the CSR. This card has really gone downhill!

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