Chase Sapphire Reserve Review 2021Credit Cards
- Chase Sapphire Reserve
- Basics: The Chase Sapphire Reserve credit card is one of the best credit cards for frequent travelers. Although the annual fee is high and the rewards system isn’t for beginners, this credit card will definitely serve jet setters who won’t mind doing a little work to maximize benefits.
- Pros: With massive benefits like a $300 annual travel credit and 50% bonuses through Pay Yourself Back and Chase Ultimate Rewards, the Chase Sapphire Reserve is worth it for luxury-minded travelers who are savvy with points.
- Cons: There’s a high annual fee of $550, it might not be worth it if you don’t travel often, and the points system is more complex for those seeking to earn rewards with little effort.
- WELCOME OFFER:
60,000 points if you spend at least $4,000 within 3 months of opening (equivalent to $600 if redeemed for cash, or $900 if redeemed for travel through Chase or through the Chase Pay Yourself Back program)
- ANNUAL FEE:
$550 per year
- CASH BACK:
3% back on travel and dining, 1% back on everything else, 5% back on flights booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards, 10% back on hotel, car rentals and Chase Dining through Chase Ultimate Rewards
- FOREIGN TRANSACTION FEE:
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The Sapphire Reserve credit card is the premium card in Chase’s Sapphire line. While it’s more complicated to maximize all the benefits the Reserve has to offer, it’s ultimately one of the best rewards cards for frequent travelers, who likely won’t have any trouble justifying the annual fee
In this review, I’ll cover the fees, rewards, and benefits of the Chase Sapphire card, as well as the pros and cons of owning the card. I’ll also provide examples of different situations where I would recommend or not recommend the Sapphire Reserve.
If you’re deciding between the Sapphire Reserve or the Sapphire Preferred, check out this in-depth comparison. If you’d rather watch a video review about the Chase Sapphire Reserve, check out my Youtube video below!
Chase is currently offering 60,000 points as a welcome bonus for new Sapphire Reserve cardholders who spend at least $4,000 within three months of opening the card. If you redeem those points for cash, it comes out equivalent to $600. But if you redeem for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards or use the Pay Yourself Back program, those 60,000 points could be worth $900.
If you decide to open a Chase Sapphire Reserve account after reading this review, I’d appreciate it if you used my link to sign up. If you use it and are approved, I will receive a small commission so I can continue to make trustworthy financial content for you.
Chase Sapphire Reserve Rewards
The Chase Sapphire Reserve’s rewards structure is pretty straightforward. There are two bonus categories – travel and dining – which give 3% back. You can also earn 10% cash back on hotels, car rentals and Chase Dining through Chase Ultimate Rewards. Chase Dining includes prepaid hotel reservations, takeout or virtual cooking events. Additionally, cardholders earn 5% cash back on flights booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards. All other purchases are 1% cash back.
You’ll also be able to get 50% more out of your rewards if you use the Pay Yourself Back program or book travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards, which will bring your cashback up to 1.5% and 4.5% respectively.
Chase Sapphire Reserve uses a program called Pay Yourself Back, which allows cardholders to get the same 50% bonus as booking through Chase Ultimate Rewards when they use their points to cover past purchases in particular categories: dining, grocery stores, home improvement stores, and some charities.
When you use the Pay Yourself Back program, you’ll retroactively apply your points to a purchase you made in one of those categories over the last 90 days, and those points will cover 50% more than they would if redeemed for cash. For example, if you charged $30 at a restaurant two months ago, you can cover that $30 with 2000 points, which will be subtracted out of your current balance. However, if you redeemed those 2,000 points for cash, they would only be worth $20.
But the real value of the Sapphire Reserve lies in the alternate redemption options; you can also transfer your points between your Chase cards or to third-party rewards platforms.
To transfer points to a third-party platform, take your points from Chase Ultimate Rewards and send them to a third-party rewards account associated with one of their participating partners at a 1:1 value. The supported partners include:
- Aer Lingus AerClub
- British Airways Executive Club
- Emirates Skywards
- Air France KLM
- Flying Blue
- Iberia Plus
- JetBlue TrueBlue
- Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer
- Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards
- United Airlines MileagePlus
- Virgin Atlantic Flying Club
- Intercontinental Hotels Group Rewards Club
- Marriott Bonvoy
- World of Hyatt
While it may seem strange to transfer points at a 1:1 value when you could get 50% extra through one of Chase’s programs, these third parties occasionally run their own promotions or deals with even more than a 50% bonus.
For example, if you want to book a flight through one of the airline partners that was offering double the cash value when you use miles, you could transfer your Sapphire Reserve points at 1:1, which would end up being 2:1 when you factor in those benefits. Obviously, the value with third-party platforms is on a case-by-case basis, but occasionally you can get more for your points by transferring them to another platform.
Other Chase cards
Fortunately, you can also transfer your points between Chase cards. Sometimes it doesn’t make sense to have two cards from the same provider, but in this case, combining multiple Chase cards actually comes with some benefits.
For example, if you have the Freedom Unlimited and the Sapphire Reserve, the Freedom Unlimited will give you 1.5% back on non-bonus spending, which is higher than the 1% you’ll get with the Sapphire Reserve. So, instead of taking that 1% from Sapphire Reserve and converting it to 1.5% through Pay Yourself Back or Chase Ultimate Rewards, you can transfer the 1.5% from your Freedom Unlimited to your Sapphire Reserve and then convert it into 2.25% through one of Sapphire Reserve’s programs.
Chase Sapphire Reserve Benefits
With an annual fee of $550, the Sapphire Reserve is one of the more expensive cards I’ve reviewed. However, it offsets more than half of its annual cost by giving cardholders an annual $300 travel credit, which covers the first $300 in travel spending each year. Given the circumstances surrounding the pandemic, Chase actually extended that $300 credit to cover grocery store and gas station purchases through the end of 2021.
The Sapphire Reserve also comes with a few other perks that really solidify its position as a premium travel card. Sapphire Reserve cardholders get complimentary access to airport lounges around the world through the Priority Pass Select membership, along with some exclusive benefits at over 1,000 members of the Luxury Hotel and Resort Collection program. These benefits include free daily breakfast for two, automatic room upgrades (when available), free Wi-Fi, and a complimentary gift at each participating destination.
The Chase Sapphire Reserve also gives you 10% back on all Lyft rides and subscriptions through the end of March 2022, along with 12 free months of Lyft Pink and DashPass for DoorDash. Lyft Pink allows users to save 15% on all rides, and DashPass waives delivery fees from eligible restaurants on orders more than $12.
Chase also reimburses up to $100 when you apply for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck (you can be reimbursed for one of the two every four years).
Finally, the Sapphire Reserve gives you a $60 statement credit for DoorDash and a $120 statement credit for a Peloton membership, both of which won’t expire until the end of 2021.
For the full list of Chase Sapphire Reserve perks, click here.
Purchase and Travel Protection
Chase’s Sapphire Reserve comes with several purchase and travel protection features. Chase doesn’t promote these as much as some of the other rewards offered, but they can be extremely helpful in terms of peace of mind, especially for those who travel frequently.
Chase’s insurance partners will cover new purchases made on your Sapphire Reserve for 120 days and will compensate you up to $10,000 per claim and $50,000 per year.
This policy comes with several caveats: it doesn’t cover anything bought used, and Chase probably won’t compensate you if you just lost the item. These claims go through a third-party insurance company, so if you’re making a claim for theft, they’ll likely require you to file a police report and go through a specific process. While it’s not as simple as saying “this was damaged” and getting reimbursed, the Sapphire Reserve will provide coverage in cases of damage or theft.
You can also be reimbursed up to 90 days after making a purchase (up to $550 per claim and $1,000 per year) for items you want to return but that the store won’t take back.
Finally, Chase Sapphire Reserve cardholders receive an extra year of warranty coverage beyond any eligible U.S. manufacturer’s warranty of up to three years. In other words, if something comes with a two-year warranty but breaks during the third year, you can make a claim through your Sapphire Reserve card.
Keep in mind that these benefits only apply to purchases made with your Sapphire Reserve card, so you have to use the Sapphire Reserve if you want to secure this coverage on a particular item.
The Sapphire Reserve provides trip cancellation and interruption insurance up to $10,000 per person and $20,000 per trip. This applies to situations where you’ve been forced to cancel or leave early due to illness, severe weather conditions, etc. I would recommend first attempting to get refunds from the providers themselves (like the airline or hotel), but if you can’t get your money back from them, your Sapphire Reserve will cover you within the constraints I’ve mentioned.
The Sapphire Reserve also allows you to decline rental car insurance and use Chase’s protection plan instead. Chase offers primary coverage of up to $75,000 for collision and theft, so unless you’re renting a Ferrari, this insurance should be more than enough.
Additionally, if your flight is delayed for more than six hours, your Sapphire Reserve will cover up to $500 per traveler for food, lodging, and other delay-related expenses. Sapphire Reserve will also reimburse you up to $3,000 per traveler if your baggage is lost or damaged by the airline. Finally, Sapphire Reserve cardholders get emergency medical evacuation coverage of up to $100,000.
Obviously, you would hope to not have to file any of these claims, but I personally think they give a lot of peace of mind for frequent travelers in the knowledge that you’ll be able to rely on your credit card coverage in case of unexpected mishaps.
Pros and Cons
Chase Sapphire Reserve Pros
- The Chase Sapphire Reserve comes with $300 annual travel credit. The $550 annual fee looks huge, but you’re effectively only paying $250 per year, assuming you already book at least $300 in travel. The Chase Sapphire Reserve has also extended that same $300 credit to apply to gas station and grocery store purchases, as well as travel until the end of 2021, so you can take advantage of this benefit even if you aren’t travelling that much.
- The Sapphire Reserve allows you to transfer and redeem your points in many different ways, which is really what separates it from other Chase cards like the Freedom Unlimited. This transfer ability unlocks a lot of lucrative opportunities if you’re smart with how you use it.
- There’s the opportunity to get a 50% bonus if you use the Pay Yourself Back Program or book travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards, but you can also get more than that by transferring your points to third-party platforms. You can even transfer points from another Chase card to your Sapphire Reserve, which will allow you to get more points than you otherwise would.
- The 60,000 point sign-up reward can end up being worth $900 or more if you use the Pay Yourself Back program, book travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards, or find a good offer from a third-party rewards platform. Combined with the $300 travel credit and the $100 credit for Global Entry, that equals a net gain of $750 in your first year, without including the cashback you’ll earn on each purchase.
- The Chase Sapphire Reserve comes with a lot of extra travel perks. If you’re a frequent traveler, then you’ll get a lot of use out of the access to airport lounges, free breakfast, free Wi-Fi, and more. You’ll also have robust travel coverage and no foreign transaction fees.
Chase Sapphire Reserve Cons
- $550 as an annual fee is one of the highest fees I’ve ever seen on a mainstream credit card. Some people choose to use the Sapphire Preferred instead since it only costs $95 per year. If you’re interested in learning more about which Sapphire card is the best fit for you, check out this comparison video.
- Even though the Sapphire Reserve comes with great reward opportunities, the base cash-back percentages (1% on non-bonus categories and 3% on travel and dining) aren’t anything special compared to many other cards. Rather, the real value comes from other ways to maximize your rewards, like transfering points between cards or to other rewards platforms, and getting those 50% bonuses.
- A benefit of the Sapphire Reserve is the access to airport lounges, but that access actually only applies to lounges that are part of the Priority Pass Network. While many airports are part of the Priority Pass Network, other cards, like the American Express Platinum card, come with access to several other lounge networks in addition to the Priority Pass Network.
Alternatives to the Chase Sapphire Reserve
|Chase Sapphire Reserve||Chase Sapphire Preferred||Amex Platinum||Amex Gold|
|Foreign transaction fee|
Chase Sapphire Reserve
The Chase Sapphire Reserve credit card is the more affordable option between the Chase Sapphires, with an annual fee of $95 and similar (although relatively smaller) benefits. With the Sapphire Reserve, you can earn 25% more cash back if you redeem points for travel through Chase. You also get 3% back on dining, select streaming services, and online grocery services (excluding Walmart, Target and wholesale clubs), as well as 1% back on all other purchases. Reserve cardholders earn more points as a part of the introductory offer (100,000 points if you spend at least $4,000 within 3 months of opening), as compared to the Reserve’s introductory offer of 60,000 points.
American Express Platinum Card
Another competitor to the Chase Sapphire Reserve is the American Express Platinum credit card, which boasts over $1,400 in value in exchange for a comparatively higher annual fee of $695. With the Amex Platinum, cardholders earn 5% Membership Rewards* points on flights and hotels, as well as 2% Membership Rewards points on all other travel (these travel-related purchases need to be booked through American Express Travel). Additionally, you can earn 10% Membership Rewards points on restaurants and small businesses in the U.S., as well as earn 1% back on everything else.
American Express Gold
The American Express Gold card has an annual fee of $250, but that price might be a suitable alternative to the Reserve if your travel tends to be more food-focused. Amex Gold cardholders get 4% Membership Rewards* points at restaurants worldwide and 4% Membership Rewards points at U.S. supermarkets (up to $25,000 per year for the latter). The bonus offer is the same as the Chase Reserve’s (60,000 Membership Rewards points), and you get 1% back on all other purchases. Additionally, you can earn up to $10 per month on Dining Credits for an annual total of $120.
*The value for Membership Rewards points depends on how you redeem them. For more information, check out this article by American Express.
Chase Sapphire Reserve vs. Preferred
Perhaps the biggest difference between the Chase Sapphire cards is the annual fee. The Chase Sapphire Reserve has an annual fee of $550 but offers competitive rewards like a $300 annual travel credit, 50% more in travel redemption through Chase Ultimate Rewards, and premium travel benefits and protection.
The Chase Sapphire Preferred has a more affordable annual fee of $95, but has relatively smaller rewards like a $50 annual credit for hotels, 25% more in travel redemption through Chase Ultimate Rewards, and standard (relatively) travel benefits and protection.
Choose your card carefully, as Chase does not allow cardholders to have both the Reserve and the Preferred at the same time. However, Preferred cardholders have the option of upgrading to the Reserve after 13 months.
Is the Chase Sapphire Reserve Worth It?
While I can’t speak to your specific situation, I can share two categories of people to whom I would recommend this card, along with two categories of people for whom this card would not be a good fit.
Who the Chase Sapphire Reserve is Best For
I might recommend the Sapphire Reserve to you if you already earn a lot of points through a Chase card with no annual fee. For example, if you put an average of $30,000 in non-bonus spending on your Freedom Unlimited each year, you’re earning 45,000 points that equal to $450 when you redeem those points for cash. But, if you add a Sapphire Reserve card to your existing Freedom Unlimited, you can transfer those 45,000 points to your Sapphire Reserve card to get the 50% bonus from Pay Yourself Back or Chase Unlimited Rewards, or even a greater bonus through a third-party platform.
As a result, you would end up with $675 or more instead of the $450 you would have earned through the Freedom Unlimited alone.
I would also recommend the Sapphire Reserve if you travel enough to justify the $550 annual fee. For many people, $550 is a lot to invest in a credit card, so they end up getting the Sapphire Preferred instead, which comes with a more affordable annual fee of $95.
Who the Chase Sapphire Reserve is Not For
I would not recommend the Sapphire Reserve to you if you’re just looking for a simple cashback setup. Because the Reserve’s bonuses are nothing special compared to other cards, the main value of the Sapphire Reserve lies in the ability to transfer points, get a 50% bonus, and more.
So, if you’re looking for straightforward rewards without having to worry about details, I would recommend the Citi Double Cash card instead, which gives 2% back on all purchases.
I also would not recommend the Sapphire Reserve to you if you’re a smaller spender, want a starter credit card, or don’t travel as often. In general, the larger the annual fee for a card, the more you have to spend throughout the year to make up for that fee. Even counting the $300 travel credit, you still have $250 to make up before you break even on your initial investment.
Frequently Asked Questions
- Is Chase Sapphire Reserve Hard to Get?
The Chase Sapphire Reserve credit card is not hard to get if you have a very good or excellent credit score, which is generally considered to be a 740 or above. However, keep in mind Chase’s 5/24 Rule, which restricts you from obtaining another Chase card if you have opened five or more credit cards within the past 24 months.
- Do You Need a Good Credit Score for the Chase Sapphire Reserve?
Yes, you need a very good or excellent credit score (740 or higher) in order to improve your odds of being approved for the Chase Sapphire Reserve card. If your credit score is lower than 740, check out this article for ways to bump it up.
- Is the Chase Sapphire Reserve Card Worth It?
The Chase Sapphire Reserve credit card is worth it for frequent travelers who can take advantage of enough rewards to offset the $550 annual fee. If the rewards outweigh the cost of keeping the card, and if the rewards align with your spending values, then the Sapphire Reserve card can be worth it. However, if you’re participating in unnecessary spending to justify the annual fee, then the card might not be worth it.
- What Income Do You Need for Chase Sapphire Reserve?
While Chase does not publicly disclose which incomes are approved for the Chase Sapphire Reserve, I can assume that given the high annual fee, your income needs to be relatively high if you want to be approved.
- What is the Annual Fee for Chase Sapphire Reserve?
The Chase Sapphire Reserve credit card has an annual fee of $550.
- Is it Worth Keeping Chase Sapphire Reserve?
It’s worth keeping the Chase Sapphire Reserve in your wallet if the benefits outweigh the costs. One way to calculate this is to compare the annual fee with the rewards you would receive or activate. If you earn or use more than $550 in cash back and value, then it’s safe to assume that the card benefits you more than it burdens you.
Logan is a practicing CPA, Certified Student Loan Professional, and founder of Money Done Right, which he launched in 2017. After spending nearly a decade in the corporate world helping big businesses save money, he launched his blog with the goal of helping everyday Americans earn, save, and invest more money. Learn more about Logan.