Chase Sapphire Reserve Credit Card Review

The Chase Sapphire Reserve Card is an elite credit card that Chase created to cater to frequent travelers. I’ve carried the card since Chase first introduced it in 2016. While it’s well known for its signup bonus and earning Chase Ultimate Rewards, some of its most valuable features are not as well known. We’ll cover all of this, and even a Chase Sapphire Reserve Rewards Calculator, in this detailed review.

A word about my approach to credit cards. As regular readers know, I save and invest ALL of my credit card rewards. For Chase Ultimate Rewards, I use them to book travel through Chase, thereby taking advantage of the 50% rewards bonus offered by the Chase Sapphire Reserve Card (more on that below). When I book this “free” travel, I then take what the trip would have cost me out of my checking account and deposit it into what I call my Credit Card Financial Freedom Fund (CCFFF). As of March 2020, my CCFFF totals nearly $10,000.

I mention this because I evaluate all credit cards based on numbers and nothing else. Save the Instagram pictures of somebody sipping champaign on an 8-hour flight in first class. What you never see on Instagram is the same person a week later back in their cubicle grinding away in real life. I’d prefer the financial freedom I can enjoy investing the rewards I earn.

Chase Sapphire Reserve Card At a Glance

While it does come with a high annual fee ($550), the rewards that come from using this card will make up for the annual fee cost for those who travel frequently. You’ll receive a valuable signup bonus if you meet the spending requirements, earn 3x points on travel and dining purchases, and earn $300 in annual travel credit.

Pros

  • Signup Bonus of 50,000 points
  • $300 in annual travel credit
  • 3x points on worldwide travel and dining
  • 50% more value when redeeming through Chase Ultimate Rewards
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • $100 Global Entry or $85 TSA Precheck Application Fee Statement Credit
  • $120 DoorDash Credit
  • $199 Lyft Membership Credit
  • Complimentary Airport Lounge Access (through Priority Pass Select)
  • Excellent travel and purchase protections
  • Transfer points 1:1 to Chase airline and hotel travel partners

Cons

  • $550 annual fee that Chase does NOT waive the first year
  • Requires excellent credit
  • Base rewards rate is 1%, which is not ideal for those who want to use just one credit cards.

Chase Sapphire Reserve Card Rewards

The Chase Sapphire Reserve Card reward structure centers around Chase Ultimate Reward (CUR) points. That’s the “currency” Chase uses for rewards on several of its credit cards (Chase Sapphire Reserve Card, Chase Sapphire Preferred Card and Chase Freedom, to name a few). The key is to understand that this “currency” has different values depending on how you use it.

Before we can use CUR points, however, we must earn them. That’s where the Chase Sapphire Reserve Card comes in. With the card you earn CUR points in one of three ways: the Signup Bonus, 3x rewards, and 1x rewards.

Signup Bonus Points

The Chase Sapphire Reserve Card offers 50,000 CUR bonus points once you spend $4,000 or more within your first 3 months after opening your account.

So how much are 50,000 CUR points worth? Simply put, they are worth 1 cent each. As we’ll cover in more detail below, however, CUR points earned from the Chase Sapphire Reserve Card enjoy a 50% bonus when you redeem them for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards. Thus, 50,000 CUR points redeemed for travel through CUR are worth $750.

The 48-Month Rule

Here we need to add an important caveat. If you have any other Sapphire cards and received a bonus within the past 48 months, you will not be eligible for this offer. I call this the 48-Month Penalty Box.

Here’s some language from the Chase Sapphire Reserve Card application website: “This product is not available to either current cardmembers of any Sapphire credit card, or previous cardmembers who received a new cardmember bonus for any Sapphire credit card within the last 48 months.”

3x Rewards

The Chase Sapphire Reserve Card pays 3x CUR points for every $1 spent on worldwide travel and dining. With the 50% bonus when used for travel through CUR, the reward rate clocks in at 4.5%.

There are a few things to keep in mind about 3x rewards. First, you don’t earn 3x points on the first $300 spent on travel. Why? Because the card offers a $300 annual travel credit that covers these costs (more on credits below).

Second, whether a purchase qualifies for the 3x rewards depends on what are called Merchant Category Codes (MCC). Every purchase on a credit card is placed into a merchant code. Sometimes the merchant code is obvious, like when you buy gas at a gas station. Sometimes it’s not so obvious, like when you buy gas at a warehouse such as Costco.

For the most part, travel is travel and dining is dining. But keep in mind that sometimes how a purchase will be categorized may surprise you. If it’s a big purchase and you have any doubts, confirm the MCC ahead of time.

1x Rewards

All purchases other than traveling and dining earn 1x rewards. Given that there are plenty of cards that pay 1.5%, 2.0% and even 2.5% on all purchases, I don’t use this card for anything other than travel and dining. That said, if you use all rewards for travel through Chase, the 50% bonus when book travel through CUR turns 1x rewards into a 1.5% rewards rate. Not the highest, but still a good rate.

As a result, the Chase Sapphire Reserve Card could be the only card you carry.

Shop through Chase

You can also earn CUR points when you shop through the Chase website. Once you are a card member, you’ll have access to the Chase Ultimate Rewards website. In the Deals section, you’ll see shopping deals that can also earn enhanced points.

For example, as of the time of this review, shopping through the Chase website at ProFlowers earns 7 points per $1; Nike 2 points per $1; and Noton LifeLock 15 points per $1. These deals can and do change.

Here’s what some of the deals look like in my Chase Sapphire Reserve account:

Chase Ultimate Rewards Deals

Combining Points with Other Chase Credit Cards

A little known secret is that you can move Chase Ultimate Reward points between Chase credit cards. Each card must be eligible to earn CUR points. One way to take advantage of this is to get the Chase Freedom card, which pays up to 5% cash back. Those rewards can be turned into CUR points and transferred to the Chase Sapphire Reserve Card where the enjoy the 50% bonus on travel purchased through CUR (see below).

Transactions that Do Not Earn Points

There are some transactions on the card that will not earn CUR points:

  • travel purchases that qualify for the $300 Annual Travel Credit
  • balance transfers
  • cash advances
  • travelers checks, foreign currency, money orders, wire transfers or similar cash-like transactions
  • lottery tickets, casino gaming chips, race track wagers or similar betting transactions
  • any checks that access your account
  • interest
  • unauthorized or fraudulent charges
  • fees of any kind, including an annual fee, if applicable

Redeeming Rewards

Chase offers its card holders many options when it comes to redeeming their rewards. These redemption options, however, are not created equal. We’ll get into the details, but here’s a table on redemption values:

Redemption MethodValue per Point
Checkout$0.008
Cash$0.01
Gift Cards$0.01*
Travel through Chase
Ultimate Rewards
$0.15
Transfer to Travel PartnersVaries, but as high as $0.02 or higher

*Some gift cards are sold at a 10% discount, increasing the value of Chase Ultimate Reward points.

The takeaway here is clear. Chase Ultimate Reward points should be redeemed for one of two things, and only two things–travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards or transferred to travel partners. We’ll cover those two options first, and then look at the remaining redemption methods.

50% Chase Ultimate Rewards Bonus

A key feature of the Chase Sapphire Reserve Card is its 50% point bonus when you redeem points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards. The bonus turns points normally worth 1 cent into 1.5 cents. The effective result is that travel and dining purchases earn a rewards rate of 4.5% (3x points + the 50% bonus).

A word of caution. I’ve found that sometimes the cost of travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards is higher than what I can find on other websites. This is particularly true with hotels, in my experience. Chase even points this out in the fine print of Chase Ultimate Rewards terms and conditions:

The cost of travel is based on the rates and fares available through the Ultimate Rewards website and travel center, and may not reflect all rates and fares that are available through other sales channels.

Chase

So compare prices before making a final decision on any travel.

Transferring Points to Chase Travel Partners

There is no set value for points transferred to Chase travel partners. It all depends on the airline or hotel, and how you use the points or miles after the transfer. As a general rule of thumb, we assume the Chase points have a value of 1 to 2 cents after the transfer. Of course, you’ll need to do your own assessment based on the specific transfer partner and how you’ll use the rewards.

What we do know is how many points or miles you earn for each CUR point–it’s 1:1. We also know that points must be transferred in 1,000 point increments. Here are the travel partners:

  • Airline Partners
    • Aer Lingus AerClub
    • British Airways Executive Club
    • Emirates Skywards
    • Flying Blue AIR FRANCE KLM
    • Iberia Plus
    • JetBlue
    • Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer
    • Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards
    • United Airlines MileagePlus
    • Virgin Atlantic Flying Club
  • Hotel Partners
    • IHG Rewards Club
    • Marriott Bonvoy (including Ritz-Carlton)
    • World of Hyatt

Here are more details on the other redemption option:

  • Cash
    • Redeem points for cash through an account statement credit
    • Redeem points for cash through an electronic deposit into an eligible savings or checking account located in the U.S.
  • Gift Cards
    • Choose from over 150 different companies for gift cards such as Lowe’s, Amazon, Home Depot, Airbnb, and more. Points that are used for redeeming gift cards are currently valued at 0.1 cents each, although some cards offer a 10% discount.
  • Checkout
    • When using points at checkout, such as on Amazon, the current point value is 0.8 cents.
  • Shop on Amazon
    • Connect your Chase Sapphire Reserve card account to your Amazon account and begin shopping. With this option, you can use points to help pay part or even all of an order.

Chase Sapphire Reserve Card Rewards Calculator

To help you estimate the value of the Chase Sapphire Reserve Card based on your specific spending habits, we’ve created the following calculator. Just enter an estimate of how much you spend with the card each month for travel, dining, and all other purchases.

Note that the first $300 spent on travel does not earn CUR points due to the $300 travel credit. Keep in mind that if you redeem points for something other than travel through CUR, the value will be higher or lower than what’s reflected in the calculator.

Chase Sapphire Reserve Card Travel Credits

One key feature of the Chase Sapphire Reserve Card are its travel credits. The primary credit is $300 toward travel purchases, but that’s just the start.

  • $300 Travel Credit: An annual credit of $300 will automatically be applied to travel purchases on the card.
  • $100 Global Entry or $85 TSA Precheck Application Fee Statement Credit: From the Chase website, “To be eligible for this statement credit you must use your Chase Sapphire Reserve card to either complete the Global Entry application and pay the $100 application fee, or complete the TSA Precheck application and pay the $85 application fee. A statement credit will be processed after the Global Entry program application fee OR TSA Precheck application fee (whichever program is applied for first) is charged to your Chase Sapphire Reserve card. You are entitled to either: one (1) $100 statement credit per account, OR one (1) $85 statement credit per account, every 4 years in connection with the Global Entry or TSA Precheck program application fee.”
  • $120 DoorDash Credit: Earn up to $120 in statement credits on qualifying DoorDash purchases through 12/31/2021. You can earn $60 in statement credits through 12/31/2020 and another $60 in statement credits through 12/31/2021. Statement credits will automatically be applied to your account when you make qualifying DoorDash purchases, up to an annual maximum accumulation of $60.
  • $199 Lyft Membership Credit: Your Chase Sapphire Reserve account will receive one complimentary Lyft Pink membership for 12 consecutive months, a minimum value of $199, when the membership is activated with a Chase Sapphire Reserve Card by 03/31/2022.

Chase Sapphire Reserve Card Travel and Insurance Protection

Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver: When using your Chase Sapphire Reserve Card for rental car usage, you can receive primary collision and theft coverage. To be eligible you have to decline the waiver from the rental car company collision insurance. Coverage is primary and provides reimbursement up to $75,000 for theft and collision damage for rental cars in the U.S. and abroad.

Extended Warranty Protection: Upon purchasing an item with your Chase Sapphire Reserve Card, Chase will extend the U.S. manufacturer’s warranty by one year on eligible warranties of 3 years or less.

Purchase Protection: Items bought with a Chase Sapphire Reserve Card will be protected up to 120 days from the date of purchase against damage or theft. This card will cover up to $10,000 for each claim and $50,000 each year.

Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance: If your trip is canceled or cut short by sickness, severe weather and other covered situations, you can be reimbursed up to $10,000 per person and $20,000 per trip for your pre-paid, non-refundable travel expenses, including passenger fares, tours, and hotels.

Lost Luggage Reimbursement: If you or an immediate family member bring any luggage that becomes damaged or lost by the carrier, you will be covered up to $3,000 per passenger.

Trip Delay Reimbursement: If your carrier service becomes delayed for more than 6 hours, or requires an overnight stay, you and your family will be covered for unreimbursed expenses up to $500 per ticket.

Emergency Evacuation & Transportation: This benefit helps cover you or an immediate family member up to $100,000 in medical expenses. This is only accepted if you or the family member get injured or become sick on a trip away from home that results in an emergency evacuation.

Complimentary Airport Lounge Access: This allows you access to the 1,000+ VIP lounges in over 500 cities worldwide after an easy, one-time enrollment in Priority Pass™ Select. This gives you great relaxation time prior to your flight departure.

Lyft: You can earn 10X points on Lyft rides through March 2022.

Annual Fee

The annual fee for the Chase Sapphire Reserve Card is $550. Of course, the $300 travel credit makes up more than half of this amount. The other credits, if you use them, can make up much of the rest. Ultimately, however, how you use the card will determine if the card is worth the cost.

Last year the card generated $1,151.72 in rewards for me. The vast majority of this came from earning 3x rewards on travel and dining (only $28.93 came from 1x rewards). Factor in the $300 travel credit and subtract the $550 annual fee, and the net value to us was $901.72.

In contrast, had I used a 2% cash back card with no annual fee, the total rewards value would have been $537.59. So clearly the Chase Sapphire Reserve Card was well worth the cost for us. And these calculations don’t account for the other benefits, such as lounge access and travel protections.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long does it take to transfer points to an airline or hotel?

According to Chase, most transfers are processed by the next business day. However, in some cases, the transfer can take up to 7 business days.

What credit score do you need to qualify for the Chase Sapphire Reserve Card ?

Chase does not disclose the exact underwriting standards need to get the card. Furthermore, factors beyond credit score are important, such as income. However, the Chase Sapphire Reserve Card does require excellent credit, which is typically above 720. That said, I’ve seen reports of some qualifying for the card with scores in the high 600s.

Is the Chase Sapphire Reserve Card worth its annual fee?

The answer depends on how you use the card. For me, the card is worth several times the annual fee. You can use this calculator to estimate the value of CSR rewards.

Final Thoughts

For my money, the Chase Sapphire Reserve Card is the best travel card available today. Its rewards are easily worth $1,000 or more each year, even after factoring in the annual fee. Of course, your mileage may vary, so make sure to do the math before applying.

Chase Sapphire Reserve Card

$550
4.75

Signup Bonus

5.0/5

Rewards

5.0/5

Other Benefits

5.0/5

Fees

4.0/5

Pros

  • Earn 50,000 Bonus Points
  • Up to 3x Rewards per $1
  • 50% Point Bonus Available
  • Excellent Travel Protections
  • Airport Lounge Access

Cons

  • $550 Annual Fee
  • Excellent Credit Required

We'd love to hear what you think in the comments below. Please be respectful of others. And keep in mind that the comments are not reviewed, approved or endorsed by the financial institutions of the reviewed products.