The Chase Sapphire Reserve

sapphire reserve

Image courtesy of freeimages.com

Earlier this year, Chase rattled the cage by introducing their very own premium credit card, the Chase Sapphire Reserve (CSR). Chase already had the Ritz-Carlton Rewards card, but not their own, non co-branded, premium credit card. The card seems to be directly aimed at the likes of the American Express Platinum and the Citibank Prestige Card. The reason this card is so significant is due to the recent trend of rewards credit cards reducing their benefits. The Citi Prestige card is the prime example, as the bank recently announced a massive overhaul (reduction) of benefits for their flagship card. The Barclay Arrival Plus card also had its 10 percent mile return offer reduced down to 5 percent not too long ago. The list goes on, but when the Chase Sapphire Reserve was announced, everything changed, because Chase did not hold back on perks. The benefits of this card are so great, in fact, that American Express announced their own set of new benefits to their Platinum and Business Platinum cards just a weeks after the launch of the CSR. I’m not sure how Citibank will respond to this, but I’m sure they’re regretting the decision to “overhaul” the Prestige card. The CSR is made of all metal, just like the Chase Sapphire Preferred (CSP). But demand was so high for this card after its launch, Chase literally ran out of metal and had to issue plastic cards. I believe the backorder is now resolved and all, or at least most, plastic card holders received their metal card by now. Here are some of the card’s benefits:

  • $300 annual travel credit
  • 3x points on dining and travel, worldwide
  • 50% more in travel redemption
  • Global Entry or TSA PreCheck refund
  • Priority Pass Select membership
  • Rental car elite status (National, Avis and Silvercar)
  • No foreign transaction fee
  • Worldwide travel assistance
  • 100,000 points sign-up offer (when you spend $4000 in 3 months on purchases)
  • 11 Ultimate Rewards transfer partners (4 hotel and 7 airline partners)
  • Free primary rental car coverage

The $300 annual travel credit does include airfare. That alone already sets it apart from the American Express Platinum, which only has a $200 travel credit and does not include airfare. The 3x points on dining and travel is also very generous. The CSP, in contrast, only offers 2x points in those same categories, and American Express is notorious for mostly offering bonus points on domestic purchases only, with a few exceptions. One of the greatest benefits of the card (it has so many) is the “50% more in travel redemption” feature. What this means is that, for instance, 100,000 Ultimate Rewards (UR) points are worth $1,500 in the UR Travel Portal. With the CSP, that same amount of points is worth only $1,250. The Chase Sapphire Reserve is also the only other Visa Infinite credit card in the United States, with the other being the Chase Ritz-Carlton Rewards credit card. Visa Infinite comes with a great set of benefits all by itself. Keep in mind, however, that Chase decided to exclude the Visa Infinite $100 airline credit benefit from the CSR and make that a Ritz-Carlton Rewards card benefit only. This is, presumably, to prevent the CSR from cannibalizing the Ritz-Carlton. Last, but not least, the CSR’s primary rental car coverage also deserves some attention. The benefit will fully cover your rental car, worth up to $75,000, in case of an accident, negating the need for you to go through your personal auto insurance or the need to buy a collision damage waiver at the rental car counter. Please bear in mind that this does not include liability coverage. So if another car or property is involved in the accident, you may need to resort to your auto insurance in those cases. American Express also offers primary rental car coverage on some of their cards, but for $25-$35 per rental, state depending. The CSR offers primary rental coverage free of charge, as long as the card is used for the entire transaction.

 

Why you should consider the Chase Sapphire Reserve

Even with all the great features this card offers, it is not for everyone. There is a $450 annual fee, plus $75 for each additional cardholder. To make matters worse, Chase is usually pretty stringent with its SCRA benefits, so even as an active duty military member, there is probably no way around that annual fee. That means sitting down and crunching numbers. $450 annually may seem steep, but if you spend just $300 a year on travel (hotel, airfare, metro, parking, etc.), that annual fee is now, essentially, $150. That’s a lot easier to justify, especially given the fact that you earn such a great amount of points with this card and are able to capitalize on the other perks. The rental car benefits alone could save you hundreds of dollar a year. Also, let’s not overlook the huge sign-up bonus. That, by itself, pays for the annual fee three times over, and that’s without transferring points to airline or hotel partners. Three years should be enough time to evaluate if this card is worth it to you and if your spending pattern and habits allow you to maximize the benefits of this card. I’m definitely considering the CSR, simply because the benefits of this card essentially pay for the annual fee in my case. But I will have to wait to apply, due to Chase’s infamous 5/24 rule. I’ve opened more than 5 credit card accounts in the past 24 months, so I am not eligible for any Chase cards (except for co-branded cards) at this time.

 

When you should skip this card

If you’re just starting out collecting points, this juggernaut of a card may not be your best option at this point. You should always do your research before applying for any new cards, especially if they come with a high annual fee. Also, this card does require an excellent credit score (750+), so make sure your credit score is up for that before applying.

Another reason to skip this card is if your spending habits simply do not allow you to acquire enough points to offset the annual fee. Even though Chase is very generous with their travel and dining category, everyone’s lifestyle is different. Bottom line, evaluate your situation to see if this card is right for you. If you decide that it isn’t, the Chase Sapphire Preferred card is a great alternative. It still gives you access to UR points (and turns points acquired with the Chase Freedom and Freedom Unlimited into UR points), but for a $95 annual fee. The CSP also comes with a host of benefits and offers an amazing opportunity to earn points.

 

Do you have the Chase Sapphire Reserve, or the Preferred? What’s your experience and which benefits do you value the most?