The Chase Sapphire Reserve® is a top choice premium credit card for the frequent traveler. It comes with excellent benefits, but a high annual fee! It’s the sort of card you need to understand before you decide to take it out. This article will help you do that – explaining how the card works, what is costs and what the main benefits are.
The basics – annual fee and rates
The Chase Sapphire Reserve® card has an annual fee of $450. This is clearly one of the main differences that sets it apart from other cards. There are no reductions or waivers for the first year – but as we will explain, the benefits and annual bonuses can easily make this worth it!
Another annual fee of $75 applies for any authorized users added to the card, but they will get their own set of travel benefits (explained later).
Standard APR rates are between 18.99 and 25.99 per cent, and there are no promotional rates offered on purchases or balance transfers with this card.
Zero foreign transaction fees on purchases
There are may ways that the Chase Sapphire Reserve® card benefits frequent travelers. The first of these is the zero transaction fee for foreign exchange. The savings here can really add up when using the card overseas, or online in a foreign currency. Many other credit cards add a surcharge of around three per cent on foreign purchases.
Note, though, that this only applies to purchases with the card and not to cash advances. ATM withdrawals will still incur charges.
Great sign up bonus
The card offers an excellent sign up bonus for new cardholders of 50,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points for initial spending of $4,000 within the first three months.
This is worth at least $750 when redeemed for travel (at a rate of 1.5 cents per point).
Earning Ultimate Rewards points – triple bonus for travel spend
All spend on the card is rewarded with Chase Ultimate Rewards points. We really like Ultimate Rewards – it is one of the strongest of the financial rewards schemes. There are a good choice of partners and earning, redeeming and transfer rates are reliable and high.
The Chase Sapphire Reserve® card awards Ultimate Rewards points at the following rates, for all spending in the US and overseas:
- Three points per dollar on all travel and dining spend
- One point per dollar on all other spending
Travel spend with these cards is not just limited to flights and hotels. Chase have a comprehensive definition of this which includes extras such as cruise liners, all travel agency spend, car hire, trains, buses, taxis, parking and road toll fees. And dining includes not just restaurants, but food delivery too.
This can be much more rewarding than the popular alternative, the Chase Sapphire Preferred card. This awards two points per dollar for travel and dining – for high travel spenders the differences add up!
Spending Ultimate Rewards points – High value with the Chase Sapphire Reserve®
There are several ways that Ultimate Rewards points can be redeemed. For more details see our complete guide to redeeming.
- They can be used for direct cashback (as a statement credit) at a rate of one cent per point. This is lower than using it for travel so is best avoided, but is a useful option if you really have no travel expenses.
- Points can be redeemed for travel bookings through the Chase travel portal, at a rate of 1.5 cents per point. This is a standard style travel booking portal (run in partnership with Expedia and offering a wide selection of flights, hotels and more) and most regular travelers should have no problem finding something they can book this way.
- Transferring points to one of nine airline and three hotel partners, for potential higher value.
Note that Ultimate Rewards Points earned from other Chase cards can be combined into one account. Holding the Sapphire Reserve card means all these points can be redeemed for the better rate of 1.5 cents per point for travel (compared to only 1.25 cents per point with other cards including Sapphire Preferred).
Redeeming points with airlines and hotels
One of the best choices for getting the most value out of Ultimate Rewards Points is to transfer to other airline and hotel loyalty schemes and redeem for high value rewards there. The Sapphire Reserve card gives full access to all transfer options with Ultimate Rewards.
There are currently nine airline transfer partners:
- Aer Lingus AerClub
- Air France/KLM Flying Blue
- British Airways Executive Club
- Iberia Airlines Iberia Plus
- JetBlue TrueBlue
- Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer
- Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards
- United Airlines MileagePlus
- Virgin Atlantic Flying Club
And three hotel transfer partners:
- IHG Rewards Club
- Hyatt, World of Hyatt
- Marriott Bonvoy
All points transfer at the excellent rate of 1:1. This is better than with some other programs which offer lower transfer rates for some or all of their partners.
These transfers open up some great redemption options, and the chance to use points for excellent value premium cabin tickets! For a full guide to these possibilities and some great value examples see our guide to redeeming Ultimate Reward points.
Premium benefits and perks with the Chase Sapphire Reserve®
What really sets the Chase Sapphire Reserve® card apart from Chase’s other card products is its premium travel benefits. These are what justify the $450 annual fee. The many benefits include the following.
A $300 annual travel credit
One of the top benefits of the Sapphire Reserve card is a $300 credit each year for travel purchases with the card. Chase will automatically credit this for relevant spending. The definition of travel is the same wide one used for bonus point earning.
As long as you spend enough on travel, this effectively reduces the annual fee paid for the card to just $150.
Free lounge access with Priority Pass
The card comes with a free Priority Pass membership, offering unlimited airport lounge access. for the cardholder and up to two guests. The Priority Pass network covers over 1,200 lounges worldwide. There are many great options here in most of the main airports globally – a great way to relax before (and sometimes after) a flight.
In addition, any additional users added to the account (for a $75 fee) will receive their own Priority Pass membership. For more details on the advantages and possibilities of membership see our Priority Pass guide.
Application fee credit for Global Entry
The Chase Sapphire Reserve® card offers up to a $100 application fee rebate when you apply for membership with Global Entry or the TSA PreCheck scheme. This is offered once every four years and needs to be paid for using the card.
This is another benefit that every traveler can make use of, and get through the airport faster and easier. If you already have enrolled, the application credit can be for someone else.
Use of the Visa Infinite Concierge Service
This is a premium travel service that can assist with restaurant and show bookings, and also offers access to special deals on hotels through the Luxury Hotel Collection. Membership is included with the Chase Sapphire Reserve® card, but is also available with other cards.
Travel Insurance benefits with the Sapphire Reserve card
Like many mid- and top-range credit cards, the Chase Sapphire Reserve® card provides a range of travel cover and insurance benefits. These are noticeably better with the Sapphire Reserve card than with many others, including the Sapphire Preferred card. There are better cover inclusions and higher limits in many areas.
This area is sometimes overlooked as a travel benefit in favor of the more obvious point earning and travel benefits. Travel protection is, however, a worthwhile benefit – just make sure the cover offered is sufficient for your needs. Check the full details on the Chase website.
The main areas that the card covers include:
- Trip interruption and cancellation cover (up to $10,000 per person and $20,000 per trip)
- Trip delay reimbursement (up to $500 per person to cover expenses when a trip is delayed by over six hours)
- Emergency medical cover (up to $2,500)
- Travel accident insurance
- Baggage delay (up to $100 per day. Cover applies after six hours baggage delay)
- Baggage loss (up to $3,000 per person)
Auto assistance and Collision Damage Waiver
The Chase Sapphire Reserve® card has a couple of auto-related benefits, for use at home and when renting. Both of these can save significant money if you are aware of them when arranging other cover and rentals.
- Any car rental paid with the card (in the US or overseas) will include free Collision Damage Waiver. This covers theft or damage, up to $75,000.
- Roadside assistance cover is provided, which allows up to four free roadside call-outs per year. This is valid in the US when driving your own vehicle or another vehicle with owners permission.
Purchase protection and extended warranty
Many credit cards offer some form of purchase protection cover, but the details can vary. The offering with the Chase Sapphire Reserve® card is very good. It offers additional purchase protection on new purchases for 120 days – covering damage and theft. The cover is up to a limit of $10,000 per claim – making this a great card for larger purchases. In comparison, the Sapphire Preferred card only offers up to $500 per claim.
Extended warranty is also offered on all eligible purchases with the card. This extends the original warranty of a US manufacturer by one additional year, for original warranties of three years or less.
The Chase Sapphire Reserve® card is a great card for the higher spending frequent traveler. With higher spending, you can take advantage of the stronger earning and redeeming rates offered. And the more you travel, the more value you will get out of the included benefits.
There is no doubt this is a travel-focused card! The best points earning and redeeming rates are for travel, and some of the top benefits of lounge access, insurance and Global Entry credit are great travel benefits. On top of this, the card offers an annual generous travel rebate and no foreign exchange fees on purchases!
In our opinion, the Chase Sapphire Reserve® is one of the best premium cards on the market. The annual fee of $450 is high, but with the annual travel credit, this is effectively reduced to just $150. This is great value for all the included benefits!
The rewards scheme of Ultimate Rewards also sets this apart from other cards – this is one of the best rewards programs out there with a strong set of partners and excellent value transfer rates.
Our main caution would be to make sure you can use, and need, the benefits. There are other cards that offer some similar premium benefits and it makes little sense to repeat these at the same time.