Chase Sapphire Reserve military benefits, fee reductions

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The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card and Chase Sapphire Reserve® are two favorites here amongst the MMS team. Both cards are unignorably some of the best credit cards for travel, with strong welcome bonuses and the ability to earn valuable Ultimate Rewards points on your everyday purchases.

The Chase Sapphire Preferred and Chase Sapphire Reserve typically have annual fees of $95 and $550. But those fees are waived for active U.S. military, making them among the best credit cards for military members. I’ll show you why this can mean $300 in completely free travel every year, as well as a free lounge membership (worth $400+ annually).

If you’re in the military, you can’t go wrong with either card.

If you are in the military, you can contact Chase to have the annual fee waived on your Chase Sapphire Preferred or Chase Sapphire Reserve card. (Photo by BPTU/Shutterstock)

Chase Sapphire military benefits

Welcome bonus

Both the Chase Sapphire Preferred and Chase Sapphire Reserve earn the same Ultimate Rewards points, so it’s easy to compare these two cards in this area.

With the Sapphire Preferred you can earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening. Points redeemed through the Chase travel portal are worth 25% more, so this bonus is worth at least $1,000 in travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards.

With the Sapphire Reserve, you can earn 50,000 Ultimate Rewards points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening. The Sapphire Reserve receives a 50% bonus when you redeem points through the Chase travel portal, so this bonus is also worth at least $750 in travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards.

The bonus isn’t the only way to accrue points in a hurry. Read our guide on how to earn Chase Ultimate Rewards points.

Winner: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Although you can do a ton with either welcome bonus, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® currently has a higher welcome bonus, so you have the opportunity of getting more value out of this redemption.

Earning ability

With the Sapphire Preferred, you can earn 2 points per dollar on travel and dining at restaurants, which can include airfare, hotels, fine dining, and cafes. You’ll earn 1 point per dollar on all other purchases.

The Sapphire Reserve earns slightly more, at 3 Chase Ultimate Rewards points on travel and dining, with the same ability to earn 1X Chase Ultimate Rewards point on all other purchases.

Winner: Chase Sapphire Reserve

Redemption value

Chase Ultimate Rewards points are very valuable, and if you know how to redeem them, you can get some amazing value. For example, I redeemed 90,000 Ultimate Rewards points earlier this year for three nights at the Park Hyatt New York. Had I paid in cash, it would have cost a whopping $3,000.

Both cards earn the same Ultimate Rewards points, so regardless of which card you go for, you’ll be able to transfer them to any of Chase’s travel partners to book hotels, airfare, etc. This is the best way to use Chase points.

You can book flights to Europe for as little as 34,000 points by transferring your Chase Ultimate Rewards to Iberia. (Photo by Christian Kramer)

The Chase Sapphire Reserve has a slight advantage, though. Chase points value redeemed on the card is increased by 50% if redeemed through the Chase travel portal, compared to just 25% more on the Chase Sapphire Preferred.

Winner: Chase Sapphire Reserve

Annual fee

If you’re thinking you might be leaving the military soon or just don’t want to potentially be on the hook for a larger annual fee, then you may want to consider the Chase Sapphire Preferred® because it carries a smaller annual fee of $95. The Chase Sapphire Reserve® on the other hand, carries a $550 annual fee.

Winner: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Premium travel benefits

Both the Chase Sapphire Preferred and Chase Sapphire Reserve carry strong travel perks, like primary rental car insurance, trip delay reimbursement, no foreign transaction fees and trip cancellation/trip interruption insurance. Because of these benefits, it’s often a better idea to book your travel with these cards instead of even the best airline credit cards.

The Chase Sapphire Reserve, with its higher annual fee, carries a ton of additional perks that eclipse the Chase Sapphire Preferred:

  • Up to $300 annual travel credit: This annual credit can effectively reduce the annual fee from $550 down to just $250. It’s automatically applied on travel purchases like airfare and hotels, so there’s no need to go through a separate process to have the credits applied to your account. Because your annual fee is waived, this perk essentially gives you $300 in free travel every year!
  • Airport lounge access: With a Priority Pass membership, you’ll be able to relax in a quiet area before your flight. And depending on the lounge, you could be treated to complimentary food, beverages, and even get the chance to shower.
  • Up to a $100 credit for TSA PreCheck/Global Entry credit: TSA PreCheck and Global Entry are trusted traveler programs that can help speed you through security lines at the airport. According to the TSA’s website, 93% of passengers waited less than five minutes for the month of July 2019. Membership typically costs $85 for TSA PreCheck and $100 for Global Entry, but you can get that fee reimbursed if you pay with your Chase Sapphire Reserve® card.

Check out our easy-to-understand breakdown of Chase Sapphire Reserve benefits.

Winner: Chase Sapphire Reserve

Bottom line

Because the annual fee is waived for active U.S. military, you really can’t go wrong with either Chase Sapphire card. Both cards offer strong welcome bonuses as well as many premium travel benefits like primary rental car insurance, trip delay reimbursement, no foreign transaction fees, and trip cancellation/trip interruption insurance.

The Chase Sapphire Preferred is the #1 card for beginners, but for those who travel often, the Chase Sapphire Reserve offers many more useful perks. It’s especially a no-brainer if you get your annual fees waived — airport lounge access, up to a $100 credit for TSA PreCheck/Global Entry, and a $300 annual travel credit (that’s $300 in absolutely free travel annually if your annual fee is waived).

For the latest tips and tricks on traveling big without spending a fortune, please subscribe to the Million Mile Secrets daily email newsletter.

Joseph Hostetler is a full-time writer for Million Mile Secrets, covering miles and points tips and tricks, as well as helpful travel-related news and deals.

Editorial Note: We're the Million Mile Secrets team. And we're proud of our content, opinions and analysis, and of our reader's comments. These haven’t been reviewed, approved or endorsed by any of the airlines, hotels, or credit card issuers which we often write about. And that’s just how we like it! :)

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