Is The Chase Sapphire Reserve Still Worth It? [2019]

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The Chase Sapphire Reserve® Card was introduced nearly 2.5 years ago, in the summer of 2016. It quickly became one of the most popular premium credit cards, and demand greatly exceeded what anyone was likely expecting.

However, the credit card landscape has no doubt evolved over the past couple of years, as we’ve seen the major credit card issuers racing to outdo one another. When the Sapphire Reserve was introduced, the triple points on dining and travel were revolutionary bonus categories, though arguably that’s no longer the case.

So in this post I wanted to take an updated look at this card, and really crunch the numbers as to whether this card still makes sense, or whether you should consider another card instead.

The benefits of the Chase Sapphire Reserve

The Chase Sapphire Reserve has a $450 annual fee, and offers a variety of benefits, including:

  • 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
  • A 20% discount on Silvercar rentals


Priority Pass lounge access is an awesome perk

The way I view it, the card really costs me about $150 per year “out of pocket.” That’s because I value the $300 travel credit more or less at face value, since any purchase coded as travel is automatically deducted up to that limit. There’s no effort required to maximizing that benefit.

In the past this card more than justified itself for the 3x points on dining and travel, since those are categories many of us spend a ton in.

Then there’s the Citi Prestige

Within the past week, huge changes have been made to the Citi Prestige Card. The card now offers 5x points on dining and airfare purchases. That card earns Citi ThankYou points, and personally I value Chase Ultimate Rewards points and Citi ThankYou points roughly equally (about 1.7 cents each).

So what does this mean? I’m no longer using the Chase Sapphire Reserve for my dining and airfare purchases. At this point the only “bonused” spend going on my card is non-airfare travel purchases. For hotel purchases 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 Ubers, many hotels, and more, on the card.

The value I’m personally getting out of the Sapphire Reserve

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, or maybe just keep the Ink Business Preferred℠ Credit Card.

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 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
  • Personally the 20% discount on Silvercar rentals is one of the most underrated benefits of the card, as that benefit saves me a significant amount every year


I rent from Silvercar with some frequency, so the discount comes in handy

So, 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?

Why I want to keep one of those three cards

On the most basic level, the reason I want to keep one of those three cards is because 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®Chase Freedom Unlimited®Ink Business UnlimitedSM Credit Card, and Ink Business Cash℠ Credit Card, to the Ultimate Rewards partners.

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

Option #1: downgrade to the Sapphire Preferred

One option is to downgrade the Sapphire Reserve to the Sapphire Preferred.

Based on my personal situation, the pros of this would be that I’d essentially save $55 per year (one card has a $450 annual fee though offers a $300 travel credit, while the other card has a $95 annual fee).

The downside here is that I’d give up a point per dollar on my non-airfare travel purchases, and I’d also no longer get the 20% Silvercar discount.

The 20% Silvercar discount saves me more than $55 per year, so I don’t think this would be worth it to me.

Option #2: Cancel my Sapphire 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 the equivalent of $150 ($450 minus the $300 travel credit). I’d still be able to transfer points to partners, and I’d still earn 3x points on travel.

The way I view it, the only thing I’d really be losing is the Silvercar discount.

It’s funny how for me the value proposition of the Sapphire Reserve is coming down to a car rental discount code.

I like renting from Silvercar, though it’s tough for me to say with certainty whether or not I’d save $150 per year using that code. I don’t rent cars often, but when I do, I use Silvercar whenever possible. So if I spent $750 per year with Silvercar I’d break even here.

So yeah, I’m not 100% sure how the math on that would work out in the future.

Bottom line

Having a card earning Ultimate Rewards points is still very much worth it, especially since it opens up value with four fantastic no annual fee cards — the Chase FreedomChase Freedom UnlimitedInk Business Unlimited, and Ink Business Cash.

However, with the Citi Prestige offering 5x points on dining and airfare, the Sapphire Reserve isn’t quite the slam dunk it used to be.

Based on my situation, downgrading from the Sapphire Reserve to Sapphire Preferred doesn’t make sense. However, giving up a Sapphire Card and just using an Ink Preferred seems like it could be a good option — I’d still earn 3x points on travel, I’d just be giving up the Silvercar discount.

Given that I think the Sapphire Reserve is more or less breakeven for me at this point, I plan to hold onto the card for now. We’ve seen so many credit card changes lately that I want to see how things evolve. But it is interesting to me how things are changing.

Has the Citi Prestige changed your math on the Sapphire Reserve? Where do you stand?

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Comments

  1. Why have the disclaimers been in such a large font lately? It’s confusing to read the first sentence of the article because it’s buried under legal speak. If it’s a legal requirement to make the disclaimer so large, can you at least separate the first sentence of the post from it?

  2. Is the CSR your only Visa Infinite card? The CNB Crystal Visa Infinite would make sense for you, and would get you the 20% off at Silvercar.

  3. I read this with interest, since I have the same question, and indeed spend much less on my Reserve than I used to (in part because I I have plenty of UR and I’m trying to increase my MR stash with Amex Gold). I also have a Prestige.

    However, I value UR substantially more than TY. Our use cases must be fairly different. I get great use from United for domestic travel, in particular, and in general I think their award ticket prices are better than others’. Further, dealing with partner award tickets is I’m sure trivial for many, but I find it to be an enormous time suck. Well worth it when I score an international business class seat, but not something I want to regularly deal with for domestic flying.

    Being able to family pool UR points is also a huge benefit.

    And for me, the 1.5cpp option as a fallback option is huge. Especially because when I need PQM, I can get them that way. Getting 1cpp or 1.25cpp feels really unappealing, but I can bear 1.5.

    I too am tempted to use Prestige for 5x, but I just am not sure I value the transfer partners enough, especially once the card starts costing me $250 a year out of pocket rather than the $100 it does now.

  4. Chase has the best transfer partners hands down which makes UR incredibly valuable over Citi. The real decision would be deciding between Reserve and Preferred like you mentioned.

  5. Doesn’t the Citi Prestige refresh also have 3x for hotels? If so, your only spend on the CSR is travel that isn’t airfare or hotels (Uber and other small various things). Keeping the card just for the option of a 20% discount when you admit you don’t rent often doesn’t seem the best.

    I’m thinking of dropping the CSR as well. They’ve been beat.

  6. I dropped mine. I loved using the points for hyatt and united but I wasn’t getting anything for the annual fee except the ability to transfer. The annual fee on the hyatt card gets you a nigjt at the hotel. The annual fee for the united card-checked baggage. I prefer ur points to ty points but I put my travel on citi because of the better trip insurance/cancelation benes. And citi waives annual fees much more than chase.

  7. Why can’t you downgrade to the Chase Sapphire (plain, the one with no fee)? Would you be giving up your ability to transfer UR points to travel partners with that as well?

  8. Curious that there’s no comparison with the Amex Gold?

    Also, the answer to the question raised in the headline will of course heavily depend on the value you assign to specific transfer partners. Most people in the real world choose their rewards currencies by how well they serve their flight needs, not their flights by how well they maximize their rewards currencies.

  9. I think you should keep it. 3x for misc travel expenses for $150 is a great reward structure. And, given just about everyone expenses, $150/year isn’t that expensive.

    On another hand, for an average person, CSR is enormously valuable. I would imagine 80-90% of people don’t need/want more than 1 premium credit cards. Of the major 3 (Citi, Chase, and Amex), CSR is the most versatile and easy to use. Amex Platinum is worthless, obviously, without any travel coverage. Citi prestige is not enough by itself. Plus, Chase ecosystem is just richer. That means CSR still rocks.

    Just my 2 cents.

  10. City TY doesnt have a direct points transfer to a US carrier such as AA, UA or DL. Without that, the Citi Premier, despite having 5x points on airfare and dining, is worthless. I had citi premier for a year and found the interace when trying to redeem/ transfter points, as well as the transfer partners, inferior to what I got with Chase and their overall ecosystem. I’ll stick with Sapphire Reserve and its family, and have Amex and its family as my backup. I dont have the business expenses that some do, and I dont have the overall spend that some do. So, for me, I have to focus, and the overall chase family plus Amex as a backup really works for me. Citi not so much, for the reasons mentioned.

  11. For the $55 difference between the Reserve and Preferred, I still see the Reserve as the better value with the transfer partner, .015 points value, Priority Pass and primary rental car insurance. I’ve used the primary for a claim before and it saved me from a claim in my insurance. Well worth $55.

  12. Gee, all that reading to find out that Lucky did NOT cancel CSR. What a shocker. I saw the ending coming from the first sentence. When was the last time Lucky suggested cancelling any card that is not American Express?

    Ok, now to be serious. If this is going to boil down to straight CSR vs. Prestige, I’m still going with CSR. If there are people who buy plane tix but do not buy hotel nights when they get there, I’m not one of them. CSR is not for everyone, but for me the 3x on hotels pays for the card.

    Besides, I’ve been around long enough to remember many Citi cards rewards that were unsustainable. The 4th night free is already gone, why would I trust the 5x to stick around, or all the transfer partners?

  13. Like @SR said, the primary rental car insurance can be quite valuable ($20 per day or more at many car rental companies) and is a benefit almost every traveler will/can use at one time or another. Few other credit cards offer it (most only offer secondary insurance).

  14. @Katie – the regular old Sapphire charges foreign transaction fees, only has 2xUR on dining, doesn’t have a bonus in the UR travel portal, and doesn’t let you transfer UR to partners (need a card with an AF for that). It’s not terrible, but it won’t help fill the gaps left by a CSR and un-filled by an AmEx Gold (notably bonus points on international dining).

    Personally, I ended up keeping a CIP and dropping Sapphire-family cards down to Freedoms.

  15. Again you leave out that Prestige has 3 times points on hotels as well. So its not better, but its equal. Which means CSR has no advantage there. Basically the only advantage it will get you is all those Greyhound tickets you buy Lucky!

    If I just straight do the math I think I should cancel it. On the other hand I think I could breakeven on the $150 from extra points on “other travel”.

    I would hold it as a “break even” because I feel like the war will continue. Chase will have to respond no? I was going to switch a bunch of spend to Gold AMEX, then Citi came out with a new Prestige and I canceled it.

    I have the Chase Biz Preferred, but that is for my business spending; I like keeping them separate.

    So I may hold another year or two just to see how it goes. I want to keep my credit history longer if I can.

  16. I’m downgrading my Reserve to the regular Sapphire at the end of this year. With the Ink Preferred and the Amex Gold, I’m getting enough value on points for dining and travel. Unless the Reserve makes some drastic upgrades in 2019, which I doubt they will, I’m out. No need to carry this card anymore. The only thing I see as a loss is Priority Pass and my Global Entry credit that I get from the Reserve.

  17. I like Citi Cards too and the 5x bonus is no doubt awesome. However, Chase not only has more Partners, but more diverse partners. Transferring to a hotel partner, especially during a sale requiring fewer points, is a plus for me.

  18. @ Ricsea — No doubt true, but at the same time I think one of the advantages of Citi is that they have transfer bonuses to their partners sometimes, which Chase never has. So while I prefer Chase partners overall, a 25-40% bonus on points transfers to Citi partners can change the math.

  19. Lucky

    How does CSR compare against Citi Prestige on –

    1. Flight delay benefits
    2. Primary insurance on rentals

  20. Lucky, from an insurance coverage, looks like primary cdw isn’t offered by Citi Prestige — so that alone could be reason to at least keep the sapphire preferred? Do you value that?

  21. Lounge access is important to anyone doing much flying. So I guess it also depends on what other lounge access one has. Most people I am guessing – myself included – don’t have an excess of lounge access, so the Sapphire Reserve makes sense on its own. I actually just picked up the Reserve this week and plan to let my AAdvantage Executive card lapse prior to its $450 renewal date, since the Priority Pass is so much more advantageous for the international trips I take than the Admirals Club that comes with the AA card.

  22. Lucky, but regarding the transfer bonuses, you gain some extra miles, but you lose the versatility of transferring to the airline you need when you need it. I have seen some transfer bonuses e.g. to JetBlue, but have not taken advantage of them because it may turn out they don’t fit in my travel in the near future, and the miles will be stuck. Your usage is probably different.

  23. So this long post basically to say you want an incremental 2x on airfare and hotels with Citi Prestige. Keep the Ink Preferred then and downgrade to CSP.

  24. Is anybody actually checking your CSR before you rent with Silvercar?! These seem like very generic codes. You don’t have another Visa Infinite? Those are very very thin reasons to keep the card. Probably should just rent from National anyway.

  25. If the Amex Plat and the Citi Prestige have made substantial positive changes to compete with the CSR, would it be reasonable to expect that Chase makes changes to make the Reserve more competitive? Is it worth keeping the card in anticipation of positive changes?

    Also, as has been mentioned, United and Hyatt are valuable and unique transfer partners, so there is a benefit to accruing these points at a higher rate than on United or Hyatt cards…

  26. Primary CDW on CSR.
    1.5 points redemptions to allow purchasing mileage earning/qualifying mile-earning tickets.
    Better trip coverage on award tickets (Prestige has a weakness there).
    Oh, and this Silvercar thing (I guess, I personally find that worthless).

    This is what you need to find $150 worth of benefit for.

    Personally, I rent a car about 1.5x per year, once for almost a week. Seems like the coverage is worth maybe $50 to me for peace of mind.
    The points redemption thing maybe a couple times per year? Worth maybe $50 on the margins?
    The coverage on award tickets? Hope to never need, nice when it’s there. Worth maybe $50?

    This seems like a card one now keeps for insurance. And I’ll likely keep using for hotels not because it beats Prestige but because it gets UR points into the funnel. (Though I guess the fair point here is the CIP does the exact same thing there.)

  27. Don’t expect Chase to enhance CSR benefits. They only make money on folks who use for un-bonused spend and Private Client/Sapphire Banking conversions. They’ll be happy to see unprofitable optimizers defect to Citi. Best we can hope for is another UR transfer partner, but Chase wouldn’t spend more than 1.3 cent per mile on new partner.

  28. I’m keeping the CSR as long as I can ! The one fact that it bailed me out of $9800 trip accident protection is massive ! Plus the 1.5 is great especially at non chain hotels ! Have used that many many times .

  29. I think we should also compare Hilton Aspire vs CSR
    – $250 (airline) & $250 towards hilton (room rates included)
    – Priority pass (similar to CSR)
    – 1 annual night (+ 1 you get for signing up)

    Am tempted for let CSR go and stick with Hilton Aspire as a single premium card per family (also I have used up my UR points by now (still have 35K)
    Would be interesting to see what you guys think?

  30. The travel portal is trash now in terms of dropped destinations (Disney), and general difficulty with availability – I think that should be taken into consideration.

  31. I mostly keep mine for the travel insurance, which is best in class. Flight delay, trip cancellation, car rental primary CDW, and even $2k worth of injury coverage are allbasically unmatched by any other card. It’s worth the peace of mind to me (not to mebtion never needing to drop $20 for insurance).

  32. A lot of the decision point revolves around whether or not you have a healthy balance of UR. If so, it makes sense to keep accruing into the program and keeping the card for transfers and 1.5c redemptions. If you’ve burned through most UR and actively apply for many credit cards, UR is basically dead since it will be near impossible to rack up serious amounts of the currency to make it worthwhile to keep on spending.

    Hence, this is why Amex is getting more of my share of spend these days. And, Amex provides a lot of spending bonuses, so if you are short, you can bet you’ll get a 15-20K offer to boost your account.

  33. Problem with Chase occurs when you use the 10k trip cancellation benefit. Chase uses an outside benefit management company that is apparently not beholden to Chase. It’s a miserable experience, a time and effort sucker, makes you jump through hoops that wouldn’t be needed if it weren’t outsourced.

  34. I currently have both of these cards. For me it comes down to the transfer partners. Some of Citi and Chase transfer partners overlap, but some are more unique. If one of them added Emirates as a transfer partner (or MilesandMore) – that would be a definite sway.

  35. Which has better Trip Cancellation insurance? This seems even more important today as more hotels are lengthening the penalty period for cancellations.

  36. @Amit, I have Hilton Aspire too. I am also AU on my husband’s CSR, so have thought about dropping that, but then I wouldn’t have primary rental insurance which paid a $300 claim paid for a flat tire I had last year. And I occasionally pay for dining on my own, and need to have some card with an AF to get 3x then. So all in all it works for us to each have one and be AU on the other.

  37. I think the PenFed Pathfinder is also a good alternate. It’s 5x travel (really ~3.3%), $100 travel credit, some travel insurance and no annual fee.

  38. You should establish a think tank in Aspen of the world’s brightest minds to ponder this horrible dilemma.
    When they solve that problem maybe you can have them work on world hunger, Ebola and climate change.

  39. Lots of comments on this one. My take….
    I signed on in the early days because of the the 100k perk, the $300 travel credit and the priority pass. The 100k are long gone so I stay for the $300 travel and the Priority pass. To keep the card is no problem as the Ultimate rewards are worth 1.5 and the redemption site is very easy to use. The Priority pass has been hit or miss as a few times the place was full and they would not let me in. I still use this card for travel and restaurants for the 3x.
    Don’t laugh….. but another reason is loyalty. Chase has been good to me with this card and I have also added the Chase Business INK (80k bonus), and the Chase United card (50k bonus). All three are used and this is my way to say thank you to Chase for letting me sign up and get all those points. I’m retired now, but when I was working, and even now, I believe business/personal transactions should be win-win for both parties.

  40. @Joel does some fuzzy match that actually nicely illustrates the collective one-dimensional and erroneous thinking:

    “Hilton Aspire + Amex Gold + Citi Premier >>> CSR”

    What’s wrong with that inequality? Simply this:

    HH + MR + TY are different points currencies that cannot be combined. Therefore, the result of earning points in all those currency is “points currency dilution”, where one winds up with limited number of points in many different currencies. By contrast, someone like me who has CSR+ Ink Biz Cash + CFU winds up with lots of points in a single currency…the increasingly powerful UR point. So, here’s the inequality after taking into account “points currency dilution”

    Hilton Aspire + Amex Gold + Citi Premier <<< CSR + Ink Biz Cash + CFU

    G'day!

  41. im also wondering if CSR is even worth keeping now and days. with Citi Prestige with 5x dining, 5x travel, it seems like a very good replacement. I guess with no access to the big 3 in the US, its great for international travels.

    The Gold Card + Platinum +BBP in my opinion could be a good contender to Chase’s Trifecta.
    Chase Trifecta would be 3x travel, 3x dining, 5x rotating cats, 1.5x everything else.
    Amex trifecta would be 5x travel(amex travel though), 4x grocery store, 4xdining, 2x everything else. its a very nice contender…

    i know i listed a business card in the amex trifecta but they hand cards out like candy haha. Idk, its a good toss up.

  42. @DCS — that’s actually a good point. I should have thrown in a disclaimer that it works best, in my case. Obviously you are of the opinion that a UR centric strategy works well for you. I am not here that much, but I definitely have read that you like United’s program. They’ve been good to me, but for a variety of reasons losing the perks of the CSR, not having access to URs for United xfers and other, and having a variety of currencies (really just Hilton points, Amex MR, and Citi TYP) works for me due to my patterns and needs.

  43. I’m keeping it! Just got new Amex Gold so US restaurant spend will go on that but airline delay insurance and unlimited Priority Pass more than make up for $150 fee.

  44. @Joel – Yes, YMMV, so fair enough. I fly almost exclusively with United as a UA 1K/1MM/lifetime *G. Given that there is no light between Chase/UR and UA, my preferring to collect UR points is a no-brainer, as I view UA miles as an extension of my UR points and vice versa, with the UR points giving me the flexibility that I need because it is so greatly transferable (to other airline and hotel programs). Of course, I also have the ASPIRE card, which is a truly special card, but that is separate from my UA/Chase redemptions.

    The rush to drop the CSR for the beefed up Prestige is premature, in my view, especially considering how unreliable Citi has been in the past with discontinuing or downgrading benefits on its rewards cards.

    The CSR remains the real deal…

  45. I wouldn’t personally keep this card just because of the Silvercar discount. I used it one time just because I had the $25 referral credit and this 20% discount. But otherwise I find their rates way too expensive to make sense for me. At big airports (like TPA where I most frequently need to rent) the major companies are easy enough to deal with. Join Hertz membership program and you can pick any car you want from the garage without having to go to the rental desk. It just takes a couple of minutes to check out at the gate and you’re on your way. With BJ’s or AAA rates you can get a car for quite cheap. And since SC is offsite at TPA you have to take their shuttle back and forth. The primary rental car insurance offered by the CSR might be a better reason to hang onto it.

    I have been putting most of my spend on the Amex Gold and Citi Premier cards lately though since I value UR points a bit less now that KE is gone. My CSR anniversary date isn’t until August so I’ll need to make a keep or axe decision by then. I do use my Priority Pass membership a bit though.

  46. Anyone compare the new Amexp SPG luxary card against Citi or sapphire reserve? I have both now as well as the preferred for my son attending the university.

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