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 annual fee was increased by $100, from $450 to $550; however, existing cardmembers are being renewed at $450 through at least March 2021
- The card offers 10x Ultimate Rewards points on Lyft rides through March 2022
- The card offers a free Lyft Pink membership for a year
- The card offers $60 in DoorDash credits in 2021
- The card offers a DoorDash DashPass membership through December 2021
- The card offers a $120 Peloton credit through December 2021
- With the Pay Yourself Back feature, Ultimate Rewards points can be redeemed for grocery store and dining purchases at the rate of 1.5 cents each through at least September 2021
- The $300 travel credit can be used towards gas station and grocery store purchases through at least June 2021
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:
- I put all of my dining spending on the Citi Prestige Card, since it offers 5x ThankYou points on dining (which I value at an ~8.5% return)
- I put all of my airfare spending on The Platinum Card® from American Express (review), since it offers 5x Membership Rewards points on airfare (which I value at an ~8.5% return), along with great travel coverage
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
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.
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 Flex, Chase Freedom Unlimited, Ink 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?