Here’s Why I Was Happy My Chase Credit Card Annual Fee Came Due Just Before a Big Trip (Hint: The Most Valuable Perk Resets Every Year)

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I’m currently in the middle of a three-week road trip, taking advantage of some time off for the holidays.  My husband and I (plus our dog!) are traveling from Boulder, Colorado to Santa Fe to Arizona, then we’ll continue on to camp out in the Mojave desert (with hopes of warm weather).  This is one of my favorite ways to travel.  Yes, I love exploring new countries and racking up miles to get there for free.  But there’s something so exciting about just getting in the car and marking up a route on a map, then seeing where you end up.

In the past, I’ve found some beautiful, wild, and weird places throughout the more remote areas of Southern California.  That’s my goal on this trip as well.  The stranger the better, that’s my motto.

Right around this time of year is when my Chase Sapphire Reserve® annual fee renews.  And I always think “ugggghhh…$450 to keep a Chase credit card, that’s so much money!”  But, then I remember why I signed up for this card in the first place.  It’s definitely a great card for travel, but it’s more than that.

It allows me to be flexible with how I travel.  Meaning, it’s just as valuable on a road trip or even taking an Uber out to dinner as it is when I’m booking flights to Panama.  Plus, I always earn that $450 back in benefits (and then some).

So actually, having the card renew right before my trip was really helpful.  Here’s why.

My Chase Credit Card Made Taking in the Strange Scenery at Salvation Mountain, Near East Jesus, California a Bit Cheaper

My Top Three Favorite Chase Credit Card Benefits That Come With My Sapphire Reserve

When I initially signed up for this card, there was an incredible bonus of 100,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points.  Although the current offer will earn you 50,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months of account opening (which is still enough for a free round-trip ticket to many destinations).  Those 50,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points are worth at least $750 in travel booked through the Chase Travel Portal, so that’s more than the annual fee right there.

There are a lot of benefits that come along with this Chase credit card, here are the ones that I appreciate (and use) the most:

  • Priority Pass Membership:   I’ve written about this before.  Having access to over 1,200 airport lounges across the world has been a complete game changer in the way I travel.  Now I actually look forward to an extended connection between flights.  It means eating a meal and drinking some wine in a quiet, clean place.  If you paid for a Priority Pass membership it could cost up to $429 a year (and that doesn’t even include free guests).
  • $300 Annual Travel Credit:   It’s a lot easier to swallow the $450 annual fee when I know that the first $300 I spent on travel will be automatically credited back to my card.  So what counts as travel?  There’s a lot.  Chase outlines everything that’s included in this category here.
  • 3x Chase Ultimate Rewards Points on Travel and Dining:   I’ve gotten to the point where I’m starting to think strategically before using a credit card.  This means I pay more attention to the rewards I receive from the cards I use.  I know that I’ll receive 3x Chase Ultimate Rewards points per $1 I spend on travel and dining with my Sapphire Reserve.  For example, I’ve got my Uber account linked to my CSR, this way I’m automatically earning extra points every time I schedule a ride.  I’ll also take this card out whenever I’m eating at a restaurant.  If friends are paying with cash, I’ll offer to put everything on my card (and get the extra points for free!).

Here’s How I Saved Money and Earned Points on This Trip

To start, I know that the first $300 I spend on travel-related purchases will be credited back to my card.  That includes hotels, even staying at campgrounds.  That’s good news.

Here’s an estimate of all the extra miles I earned by using my Chase Sapphire Reserve on this roadtrip.

Camping:   We do a lot of remote camping in the national preserves, but there are times when we’ll need to stay at more of an established campsite.  I’m guessing we’ll spend about $100 on campsites.  Total points: 300 Restaurants:   Although we like to cook a lot (it’s part of the fun of camping, plus what else is there to do after the sun goes down?), I know we’ll also eat out a fair amount.  It’s just unavoidable when you’re on a road trip.  We’re both vegetarians, so lunch at Subway has become a not-so-funny inside joke.  How much Subway will we eat on this trip?  Too much.  We’re also both somewhat reliant on caffeine in the morning.  We do have a camping espresso maker, but sometimes it’s just nice to check out a new coffee shop while on the road.  I’m guessing we’ll eat out once a day on average.  We might spend $500 at restaurants over these three weeks.  Total points: 1,500 Hotels:   Yes, we are mostly camping on this trip, but sometimes you just need to spend the night in a real bed (and enjoy a real shower!).  We’ve already spent two nights at a hotel in Santa Fe, and let’s just say we’ll spend two more nights at a hotel (especially if the weather drops).  That’s an estimated $400 at hotels.  Total points: 1,200
Spencer Sets Up His Makeshift Kitchen at our Campsite in the Mojave Desert

One thing to know is that you won’t earn Chase Ultimate Rewards points for the $300 in travel purchases that are credited back to you.  Adding up all of the estimated points I think we’ll earn on this trip we’re at 3,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points minus the 900 points we won’t earn because of the travel credit.  Those 2,100 Chase Ultimate Rewards points are worth ~$31 in travel booked through the Chase Travel Portal with my Chase Sapphire Reserve.  So the savings adds up quickly.

I know it’s daunting to pay $450 for a credit card, but I think it’s totally worth it, especially because I’ve already made most of that money back in the first two weeks!

Would you spend $450 upfront to receive the rewards of a credit card?  Or would you feel safer with a card that doesn’t have an annual fee, but offers fewer benefits?  Let me know what you think in the comments section below!

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