The Verdict: The Chase Sapphire Reserve® is a great option for high-spending frequent travelers who spend a lot of time in airport lounges. On the bright side, it offers an initial bonus worth $750 as well as the points equivalent of 4.5% cash back on travel, dining and, for a limited time, on groceries on up to $1,000 spent per month. Sapphire Reserve also gives you a $300 annual travel credit and complimentary access to a network of 1,000+ airport lounges.
There are a few downsides, though. Chase Sapphire Reserve charges one of the highest annual fees on the market, at $550. Reserve’s annual travel credit and airport-lounge membership can offset most of that fixed cost. But you have to travel to make it work. Not only that, but you also have to book your travel through Chase to get maximum value for your rewards points. Furthermore, as is the case with most rewards cards, you need to pay your bill in full every month. Sapphire Reserve’s high APR will wind up eating away at your earnings if you don’t. You also need excellent credit to qualify, which is a deal breaker for roughly 60% of people, according to WalletHub data.
If you meet those criteria, Sapphire Reserve could provide a windfall of savings, despite the high annual fee. You’d just need to close your account when you stop using the card regularly. For the vast majority of us, however, Reserve is simply too expensive to bypass all the hugely rewarding credit card deals available at a lower price point.
Below, you can find all of the information you’ll need to make up your own mind, including a closer look at both Reserve and its competition. You can also quickly check your credit score for free on WalletHub if you don’t know where you stand.
- 50,000 Bonus Points: If you normally spend more than $1,333 per month and have a trip coming up in a few months, Reserve’s hefty bonus will save you a bundle. Charging at least $4,000 to the Reserve Card in the first 3 months after account opening will earn you 50,000 bonus points. That’s more than 2 times what the average card with an initial bonus gives you, according to WalletHub’s latest Credit Card Landscape Report.
A lot of points don’t always translate into a lot of dollars, but Sapphire Reserve’s sure do. They’re worth $750 when redeemed for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards and $500 as a statement credit.
- Up To 4.5% Back On Travel: You will earn 3 points per $1 spent on travel, dining and, until April 2021, on groceries (on up to $1,000 spent per month). This translates to as much as 4.5% back when redeemed for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards. So the more you spend in those two categories each month, the more likely Sapphire Reserve is for you.
For your convenience, here’s how Chase defines travel and dining:
|Airlines||Real estate agents|
|Discount travel sites||Goods/services on a cruise|
|Car rental agencies||Sightseeing activities|
|Cruise lines||Tourist attractions|
|Taxis||Merchants in airports/hotels|
|Buses||Hauling-vehicle rental companies|
|Passenger trains||Purchased points|
|Toll bridge/highway operators||Info|
|Included||Possibly Not Included*|
|Merchants whose primary business is sit-down/eat-in dining, including:
Fast food restaurants
|Dining establishments within larger merchants, such as:
*Not included unless the merchant has classified the purchase as being dining-specific.
- $300 Annual Travel Credit: You will automatically receive statement credits to cover the first $300 in travel purchases that you charge to the Sapphire Reserve Card each year. Credits will post to your account the same day qualifying purchases do and will appear on your monthly statement within 1-2 billing cycles.
It’s also worth noting that you can get the most out of this feature by applying toward the end of the calendar year. Your first $300 credit applies to purchases made between the date of account opening and the end of your first December billing period. So if you get this card in October, for example, you’ll have $300 in free travel to use by the end of the year (perhaps a bit sooner, depending on your billing cycle). And at that time, you’ll get a fresh $300 to use over the next 12 months. That would give you $600 in free travel in just 15 months instead of 24.
- Complimentary Airport Lounge Access: Having the Sapphire Reserve Card enables you to sign up for a free membership with the airport-lounge operator Priority Pass Select. Membership would ordinarily cost at least $99 per year, but how valuable this perk actually proves to be depends on how often you frequent one of Priority Pass’s more than 1,000 lounges worldwide.
- $550 Annual Fee: Very few credit cards charge higher annual fees than Chase Sapphire Reserve. In fact, Reserve’s $550 yearly charge is about 28 times higher than the average credit card’s annual fee.
- Potential For A Very High APR: Granted, this card was not built for financing, but a $550 annual fee still should command a better rate than the average credit card for excellent credit (13.04% APR). That’s not the case, however. Reserve offers a regular APR that could be 16.99% to 23.99% (V), depending on creditworthiness.
Other Things To Consider
- Rebate for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck: If you hate waiting in line for security at the airport, you’re going to like this. You can apply for TSA PreCheck at no cost, as Sapphire Reserve will refund the one-time $85 fee. Alternatively, if you’re an international traveler, Reserve will cover the $100 application fee for Global Entry, helping connect you to a smoother customs experience.
- Ability to Transfer Rewards Points: If you have multiple Chase credit cards, you can transfer your rewards points between them at no cost. You’ll want to transfer them to your Sapphire Reserve account, not from it, though. Sapphire Reserve points are worth more than most Chase Ultimate Rewards points.
- Luxury Hotel & Resort Collection: As a Sapphire Reserve cardholder, you’ll have access to complimentary room upgrades, meals, discounts and other amenities at Chase’s hand-picked list of lodging establishments. Just make sure you don’t have to overpay on other aspects of your visit to offset these “free” perks.
- Earning Maximum Value Limits Booking Options: Points are worth 50% more only when redeemed for travel booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards. This doesn’t necessarily limit the number of travel providers you’ll have to choose from, as Chase’s booking portal seems to have all the major airlines and hotel chains. But it does prevent you from shopping around to find the best price. You therefore need to consider how much that flexibility is worth to you.
- Excellent Credit Required: You need excellent credit to even have a chance at qualifying for the Chase Sapphire Reserve Card. If you’re unsure whether your credit measures up, check your latest score for free on WalletHub.
Compared To The Competition
The Chase Sapphire Reserve Card isn’t the only plane in the sky as far as travel rewards credit cards are concerned. So we crunched the numbers on how Reserve compares to its top competitors. You can check out our findings below.
Chase Sapphire Reserve®
Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
Chase Freedom Unlimited®
|Rewards Bonus||50,000 points||60,000 miles||60,000 points||$200|
|Rewards Rate||1 - 3 points / $1||2 miles / $1||1 - 2 points / $1||1.5 - 5% Cash Back|
|Purchase Intro APR||N/A||N/A||N/A||0% for 15 months|
|Transfer Intro APR||N/A||N/A||N/A||N/A|
|Regular APR||16.99% - 23.99% (V)||17.24% - 24.49% (V)||15.99% - 22.99% (V)||14.99% - 23.74% (V)|
|Editors' Rating||4.4 / 5||5.0 / 5||4.8 / 5||4.7 / 5|
|Details, Rates & Fees||Learn More||Learn More||Learn More||Learn More|
*Earnings are based on the $28,523 in purchases that the average person can pay for with a credit card each year, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.