The Chase Sapphire Reserve® Card (review) was introduced nearly five 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 several of years, as we’ve seen the major credit card issuers racing to outdo one another. Not only that, but some changes were recently made to the Sapphire Reserve, as the card’s annual fee was increased, while a few limited-time benefits were added as well.
When the Sapphire Reserve was introduced just about everyone agreed it was worth it. 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.
Chase Sapphire Reserve benefits
The Chase Sapphire Reserve has a $550 annual fee, and has long offered a variety of benefits, including the following:
- 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
- Excellent travel coverage and car rental coverage
Priority Pass lounge access is an awesome perk
On top of that, at the beginning of 2020 we saw some changes made to the Sapphire Reserve:
- The annual fee was increased by $100, from $450 to $550
- 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 2020, and $60 in DoorDash credits in 2021
- The card offers a DoorDash DashPass membership through December 2021
The Sapphire Reserve now offers a one year Lyft Pink membership
How much is the Sapphire Reserve “costing” me?
The challenge with crunching the “real” numbers on the Sapphire Reserve is that most of the new benefits are just valid for a year or two.
In my opinion the best we can do is decide on the value the card has for us each year, since we don’t know what the credit card landscape will look like in a couple of years, and we also don’t know if Chase will add more benefits to the card when the current limited time benefits expire.
On the most basic level, I’m paying a $550 annual fee, and I’m getting:
- 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. I’m paying $550 and am getting $360 from the above two benefits, and then on top of that:
- 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
Why I’ve shifted some spend away from the Sapphire Reserve
I have all three of the most popular premium credit cards. Back in the day I put all of my dining and travel spending on the Sapphire Reserve, but 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 Membership Rewards 5x points on airfare (which I value at an ~8.5% return), and now offers 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. In many ways this category also got better recently, as I’m now earning 10x points on Lyft rides.
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
- Personally the 20% discount on Silvercar rentals is one of the most underrated benefits of the card, though I’ve been renting fewer cars lately
I rent from Silvercar with some frequency, so the discount comes in handy
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 their 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, and I’d lose out on the 20% Silvercar discount.
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).
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.
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 Freedom Flex, Chase Freedom Unlimited, Ink Business Unlimited, and Ink Business Cash.
However, with me having shifted my dining spending to the Citi Prestige and my airfare 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.
While I’m not happy about the annual fee increase, I can’t deny that the term perks that have been added more than justify the hike for this year. The question is what benefits will be added to the card long term, if any.
How are you feeling about the value proposition of the Sapphire Reserve nowadays?