The Chase Sapphire Reserve® Card (review) is one of the most popular premium credit cards. Since the card was introduced about five years ago, it has been a no brainer for many. However, a lot has changed, both in absolute and relative terms — the card’s annual fee has increased, coronavirus changed a lot of consumer behavior, and we recently saw significant changes to both Sapphire cards.
With that in mind, I wanted to tackle the question of whether the Sapphire Reserve is still worth it, both in absolute terms, and relative to other cards, including the Sapphire Preferred.
Chase Sapphire Reserve benefits
The Chase Sapphire Reserve has a $550 annual fee, and offers the following long term major benefits:
- 3x points on all dining and travel purchases, plus 5x points on flights booked through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal, and 10x points on hotels and car rentals booked through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal
- A $300 annual travel credit, which can be applied towards virtually any travel purchase (I’d say that’s good as cash)
- 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
Since early 2020 we’ve seen many changes made to the Chase Sapphire Reserve, both for better and worse. Some of the new perks are temporary, while others are permanent. These changes include the following:
- The annual fee was increased by $100, from $450 to $550
- The card offers 5-10x Ultimate Rewards points on select purchases through Chase Travel
- 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 30, 2021
- The $300 travel credit can be used towards gas station and grocery store purchases through at least December 31, 2021
How much is the Sapphire Reserve “costing” me?
For the past year it has been quite easy to justify the Chase Sapphire Reserve, given all the temporary perks, from a Lyft Pink membership to a DoorDash credit. However, I’ve now used those credits, and don’t receive any more of them, so what happens next? While I imagine card benefits will continue to evolve (perhaps with new limited time offers), I wanted to crunch the numbers as best I could on the current value proposition of the Sapphire Reserve.
My Chase Sapphire Reserve has a $550 annual fee, and for that I’ll receive a $300 annual travel credit. Since that’s more or less good as cash, I’d consider this card to really “cost” me $250 per year, since I’d spend $300 on travel anyway.
For $250(ish) per year I’m receiving the best Chase Ultimate Rewards “hub” card, 3x points on dining and travel, excellent travel coverage and car rental coverage, a comprehensive Priority Pass membership, and more. Given how much value I get from the Ultimate Rewards program overall, paying an annual fee like this isn’t unreasonable, at least on the surface. Is there a better option, though?
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 competitive advantage that it once was:
- 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 I consider it to be the best card for buying airline tickets — it offers 5x Membership Rewards points on airfare (which I value at an ~8.5% return), along with great travel coverage
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, car rentals, trains, hotels, and more, on the card. The 10x points on Lyft is a huge category for me, though as of now that’s only valid through March 2022.
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
- I value the travel and car rental protection, as that really comes in handy for my travels
- 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 think that’s worth much
- 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
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
- The Sapphire Preferred now offers 3x points on dining, so it’s on par with the Sapphire Reserve
- The Sapphire Preferred now offers 10% anniversary bonus points, so it’s actually more compelling for dining and everyday spending than the Sapphire Reserve
- The Sapphire Preferred now offers a $50 annual hotel credit, which many could get value from
- The Sapphire Preferred also offers great travel protection
- I’d essentially be giving up an incremental Priority Pass membership (not a big deal), the ability to redeem points for 1.5 cents each towards travel (which I don’t really value), and 3x points on my non-airfare travel purchases (which is the only real loss here)
To me the question comes down to whether it’s worth paying the higher annual fee (minus the annual travel credit), in order to earn some bonus points on travel purchases. I’m seriously considering this card downgrade option when my next annual fee comes due.
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.
The Chase Sapphire Reserve is an incredibly well rounded travel rewards card that has maintained its value 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. Now add in the major improvements we saw to the Chase Sapphire Preferred, and there’s not that much incremental value for some of us to having the Reserve over the Preferred.
My annual fee is due in a couple of months, and at that point I’m going to have some serious thinking to do…
How are you feeling about the value proposition of the Sapphire Reserve nowadays?