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Chase Sapphire Reserve review: This #1 premium travel credit card pays for itself

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Chase Sapphire Reserve review: This #1 premium travel credit card pays for itself

Million Mile SecretsChase Sapphire Reserve review: This #1 premium travel credit card pays for itselfMillion Mile Secrets Team

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INSIDER SECRET: If you already have the wildly popular Chase Sapphire Preferred, you aren’t eligible for this card. I’ll show you what you need to do to get it.

It’s not surprising that the Chase Sapphire Reserve continues to be one of the most exciting credit cards available. We think this is the best premium travel rewards credit card.

The Sapphire Reserve sign-up bonus is worth at least $750 in travel. You also get a $300 annual credit for travel purchases every cardmember anniversary. That’s $1,050 in value in the first year, which doesn’t include other money-saving perks.

Folks looking to unlock free travel can do really well with the Chase Sapphire Reserve. We’ll share our full review of the card, so you can decide if it’s a good fit for your wallet. You can apply for the Chase Sapphire Reserve card here.

Earn Chase Ultimate Rewards points to save money on travel and get a ton of valuable perks. (Photo by Dudarev Mikhail/Shutterstock.)

Chase Sapphire Reserve bonus

When you sign up for the Chase Sapphire Reserve card, you’ll earn 50,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening. Redeeming your points through the Chase Travel Portal is worth at least $750 in travel — and potentially much more when you transfer them to airline and hotel partners.

For example, you can book a round-trip coach flight from West Coast cities to Hawaii on Alaska Airlines by transferring 24,000 points to Singapore Airlines. That means this bonus is enough to get you two round-trip tickets to Hawaii, which could easily cost $1,000+ otherwise.

Further reading: Chase transfer partners

Benefits and perks of the Chase Sapphire Reserve

Annual $300 travel credit

Every cardmember year, you’ll get the first $300 spent on travel automatically reimbursed as a statement credit. Chase has a broad definition of travel that triggers this statement credit:

  • Hotels
  • Airfare
  • Rental cars
  • Cruises
  • Tolls
  • Parking
  • Uber
  • Timeshares
  • Campgrounds
  • Trains
  • Buses
  • Ferries

There are two things to note about the travel credit. The first is that although you normally earn 3 Chase Ultimate Rewards points per dollar on travel purchases, the $300 in travel that is reimbursed as part of the credit won’t earn any points. So you’re sacrificing 900 Chase Ultimate Rewards points in exchange for $300. I’ll take that trade any day of the week.

The second is that some charges, which seem to be travel-related, might not qualify for the travel credit. Some vacation rentals fall into this category because they might code as a real estate transaction instead of travel. Many people report that Airbnb stays do count as travel, but sometimes rentals through VBRO or HomeAway don’t end up coding that way.

TSA PreCheck or Global Entry credit

Being stuck in the airport security line can really muck up a trip. Instead of dreading the airport experience, enroll in TSA PreCheck or Global Entry (which comes with TSA PreCheck). Once you’re approved, you can use an expedited security line (if your airport has one) when you’re flying with any of the 60+ participating airlines. Plus, you won’t have to remove your shoes, belt or laptop. It makes airport security a breeze.

Further reading: TSA PreCheck versus Global Entry

It saved me from missing my flight and having to purchase a nearly $600 ticket for another flight. You can’t beat that.

Normally, TSA PreCheck costs $85 and Global Entry costs $100, but if you pay either of those fees with your Chase Sapphire Reserve the fee will be reimbursed up to $100. Both are valid for five years.

You can use this credit once every four years. Every time you need to renew your TSA PreCheck or Global Entry, it will be free as long as you keep your Chase Sapphire Reserve.

Airport lounge access

The Chase Sapphire Reserve makes your airport experience beyond the security line more tolerable, as well. You’ll get access to comfortable airport lounges with fast Wi-Fi and complimentary food. The card comes with a Priority Pass membership that is more valuable than the most expensive Priority Pass membership you can purchase.

The best Priority Pass membership you can buy costs $429 per year, which gives you free unlimited access to the 1,200+ lounges in the network. But you’ll need to pay $32 for each guest you bring along. With the Chase Sapphire Reserve Priority Pass membership, you get the same unlimited lounge access for yourself and two guests. And if you need to bring a third person, it’s only $27 extra. If you travel with a partner and child, that’s an easy $64 in savings per visit over purchasing a membership.

There are a growing number of airport restaurants that accept your Priority Pass membership. Right now, there are ~30 in the U.S. alone. The rules vary slightly depending on the location, but in general, you’ll need a same-day boarding pass and proof of your Priority Pass membership and you’ll get between $28 and $32 off your bill per person for up to two people. That’s an easy $56 to $64 free meal and afterward, you’ll still have the option to relax in an airport lounge.

I ate at Bobby Vans Steakhouse in New York-JFK airport and received a $28 discount. (Photo by Joseph Hostetler/Million Mile Secrets.)

Primary rental car insurance

The rental car insurance that comes with Chase Sapphire Reserve is primary coverage. That means you can decline the rental company’s collision damage waiver and it will cover you for theft or damage. That’s a real cost savings that could easily be worth $15+ per day.

Filing a claim is pretty straightforward. Harlan, an MMS team member, was reimbursed for almost $700 in charges thanks to the rental insurance he got by paying for a rental with his Chase Sapphire Reserve.

Trip delay insurance

Trip delay insurance is one of those perks that’s easy to overlook until you need it. Just last year, I was reimbursed for more than $500 in expenses from two separate trip delay insurance claims with my Ink Business Preferred and Chase Sapphire Preferred cards.

The trip delay insurance for both of these cards covers expenses you incur as the result of an eligible trip delay, including:

  • Ground transportation (rental, taxi, etc.)
  • Lodging
  • Food
  • Incidentals (toiletries, clothing, medications, etc.)

The coverage you get with those cards only applies to delays that are 12+ hours long or require an overnight stay and will cover you for up to $500 per ticket. What you get with the Chase Sapphire Reserve is much more useful.

The Chase Sapphire Reserve’s trip delay coverage will reimburse you for the same $500 per ticket, but it covers delays of six hours or more, or ones that require an overnight stay. That’s a big difference.

Delayed baggage insurance

The Chase Sapphire Reserve gives travelers $100 per day for up to five days if a bag has been delayed for six hours or more. This is a benefit many of us on the team have had to use. If you’ve never had a lost or delayed bag, it’s only a matter of time!

No foreign transaction fees

The Chase Sapphire Reserve is a great card to use while you’re traveling, because it doesn’t incur absurd foreign transaction fees. Some credit cards will charge you 3% just for swiping when outside the U.S.

Lost luggage insurance

The Chase Sapphire Reserve will cover the cost to repair or replace lost luggage and personal items. You’ll receive up to $3,000 per person each trip, with a limit of $500 for items such as jewelry and electronics.

Emergency evacuation and transportation

When you pay for a trip with your Chase Sapphire Reserve card, you’ll have emergency evacuation and transportation benefits if you are injured or become ill during your trip. The maximum coverage amount is $100,000, which may seem like a lot, but evacuation from a remote location can be extremely expensive.

Coverage with the Sapphire Reserve is supplemental, meaning you’ll be covered after any primary coverage you may have. The following people will have emergency evacuation coverage as long as you pay for all or part of their trip with your Chase Sapphire Reserve:

  • Cardholder
  • Cardholder’s spouse
  • Legally dependent children under age 18 (age 25 if enrolled as a full-time student)

Further reading: Chase Sapphire Reserve emergency evacuation coverage

Trip cancellation and interruption insurance

This perk will provide you with up to $10,000 per person per covered trip (maximum $20,000 per occurrence). You’ll receive up to $40,000 per 12-month period.

Chase Sapphire Reserve cardholders can take advantage of the roadside assistance benefits, which means you can save on annual fees with programs like AAA.

Some of the coverage could be so valuable that just using it once could pay for the card many times over.

Is the Chase Sapphire Reserve worth it?

This is a fair question, because the Chase Sapphire Reserve comes with a $450 annual fee, which can be a tad intimidating. It shouldn’t be. The card has some of the best travel credit card perks of any premium credit card, namely, the annual $300 travel credit.

If you spend at least $300 per year on travel (most people I know certainly do), that effectively lowers the annual fee to $150 per year. So as long as you get $150 in value from the card each year, it’s worth keeping. As you can see from the above benefits, that’s not hard to do. This card is a no-brainer if you value airport lounge access.

How to earn points with the Chase Sapphire Reserve

If you want to collect Chase Ultimate Rewards points quickly, spending with the Chase Sapphire Reserve is the one of the best ways to accomplish that goal. You’ll earn 3 Chase Ultimate Rewards points per dollar on travel and dining, and 1 point for everything else. MMS writer Harlan say this is the number one card in his wallet right now. He makes frequent travel and dining purchases, so he earns lots of valuable points.

Note: The 3x dining bonus applies to worldwide purchases, which isn’t always the case with other credit cards.

With the Sapphire Reserve, you earn what we consider to be the most useful credit card points. Chase Ultimate Rewards points are flexible, which means you can use them for travel or redeem points for cash back.

Further reading: How to transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards points (video guide)

My favorite way to use Chase points is to transfer them directly to Chase’s terrific travel partners, like Hyatt or United Airlines. For folks with other Chase Ultimate Rewards points-earning credit cards, you can combine points to your Sapphire Reserve account before transferring them directly to an airline or hotel partner.

Here are a couple of ways you can redeem 50,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points:

Book airfare, hotels and rental cars at the Chase Travel Portal ($750 worth of travel)

Using the Chase Ultimate Rewards Travel Portal, you can book flights, hotels and rental cars for less with points linked to your Chase Sapphire Reserve. That’s because they’re worth 1.5 cents each when you redeem for travel through the Chase Travel Portal.

Further reading: How to book travel through the Chase Travel Portal

You’ll get $750 worth of travel with the 50,000-point Chase Sapphire Reserve sign-up bonus (50,000 points x 1.5 cents each). You can combine points from other cards like the no-annual-fee Ink Business Cash℠ Credit Card or Ink Business Unlimited℠ Credit Card to get the higher redemption value.

Perhaps the best part about redeeming your points this way is that you never have to worry about blackout dates or finding award seats. And you’ll still earn miles for your flight. Prices are usually the same as what you’ll find through online travel agencies.

Chase Sapphire Reserve Review

When redeeming points through the Chase Travel Portal, you’re not restricted to booking with one of Chase’s travel partners (listed above). You can book hotel stays at boutique hotels or airfare on budget airlines.

Hyatt award stay ($900+ in value)

We’re all in agreement at MMS. We love transferring Chase Ultimate Rewards points to Hyatt to book fantastic hotel stays.

You can book a free night for as few as 5,000 Hyatt points. This means the Chase Sapphire Reserve could get you up to 10 free nights at Hyatt hotels around the world. Or, you can splurge for a special occasion and use more points to stay at a higher category Hyatt hotel, which might be very expensive if you paid cash.

Enjoy a wide food selection, top-shelf alcohol and gorgeous views for free by transferring Chase Ultimate Rewards points to Hyatt to stay at all-inclusive hotels, like the Hyatt Zilara Cancun. (Photo by Joseph Hostetler/Million Mile Secrets.)

Hyatt has a no-blackout-date policy, which makes it easier to use points to book award stays. You can even use points to stay at top-rated all-inclusive Hyatt hotels, like Hyatt Zilara Cancun, which MMS team member Scott highly recommends. Room nights at this hotel can cost $450+ per night. But you can book the same room for 20,000 Hyatt points.

So the Chase Sapphire Reserve sign-up bonus is enough for two free nights at this Category 5 hotel.

Does the Chase Sapphire Reserve have foreign transaction fees?

No.

Chase Sapphire Reserve customer service

Chase’s customer service, in general, is grand. A human will answer the phone when you call instead of an annoying automated menu. They’re quick to fix any fraudulent charges and express ship a new card to you, as well.

Cards Similar to the Chase Sapphire Reserve

The Chase Sapphire Preferred is the less premium version of this card, and one we tout as the number one card pick for beginners. It comes with 60,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 on purchases within the first three months of opening your account. Its $95 annual fee is not frightening.

You’ll earn 2 Chase Ultimate Rewards points per dollar for travel and dining, and 1 point per dollar for everything else. It has many of the same travel benefits, such as delayed baggage insurance, primary rental car insurance, etc. It doesn’t have an annual travel credit, TSA PreCheck/Global Entry credit, or a Priority Pass membership, however.

Be sure to do the math when deciding between the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card and Chase Sapphire Reserve. Remember, you’re effectively paying a $150 annual fee with the Chase Sapphire Reserve ($450 annual fee minus the $300 travel credit). You’ll pay effectively $55 more each year ($150 – $95) to get many extra perks, such as lounge access, more bonus points on travel and dining purchases.

Note that Chase has restrictions for their Sapphire-branded credit cards:

  • You no longer can have more than one Sapphire-branded credit card. For example, if you currently have the Chase Sapphire Preferred card, you won’t be eligible for the Chase Sapphire Reserve card.
  • If you close a Chase Sapphire card account, you won’t be eligible for any Sapphire-branded credit cards if you’ve earned the sign-up bonus on a Sapphire-branded product within the last 48 months.

Note: If you are willing to forego the Chase Sapphire Reserve sign-up bonus, you can upgrade your Chase Sapphire Preferred.

Further reading: Chase Sapphire restrictions

You should also consider the Chase “5/24 rule.”  If you’ve opened 5+ cards in the past 24 months from any bank (excluding Chase business cards and certain other small-business cards), you will not be approved for Chase Sapphire Reserve. If you’re just over the “5/24 limit,” it might be worth waiting to apply for other cards to make yourself eligible to get the Sapphire Reserve.

Bottom Line

There are lots of reasons the Chase Sapphire Reserve is such a popular premium travel rewards credit card.

When you open the Chase Sapphire Reserve card, you’ll earn 50,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points after meeting minimum spending requirements. You can use the sign-up bonus points to get $750 worth of travel by booking airfare, hotels or rental cars through the Chase Travel PortalBut you can potentially get much more value by transferring points directly to Chase’s terrific travel partners, like Hyatt or United Airlines.

The Chase Sapphire Reserve card comes with a $300 annual credit for travel purchases every cardmember anniversary, which effectively reduces the annual fee to $150 ($450 annual fee minus $300 annual travel credit). And it’s easy to accumulate points with this card because you earn 3x points for travel and dining purchases.

You can apply for the Chase Sapphire Reserve card here.

Let me know your favorite Chase Sapphire Reserve card perk. And subscribe to our newsletter for more credit card reviews like this delivered to your inbox once per day.

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

  • Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 60,000 points are worth $750 toward travel

More Info

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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I was looking at this card and I see that it gives you all the perks but requires an additional $75 to add an authorized user. If my wife and I were to share this card, would she also receive the benefits? Or do we “split” the $300 travel credit and $100 for Global Entry? Also, I didnt know if that allowed us both into the airport lounges? Important for our decision! Big honeymoon planned in Europe so planning options

Most of the cards these days offer primary or secondary car rental insurance. However, almost all rental companies now bundle insurance into the cost of renting a car and will not give a price without insurance. There is normally a large deductable associated with this insurance, would this be covered by the chase card insurance.

Will the annual travel credit of $300 reset on January 1 or on the card anniversary?

For new cardmembers, it resets on your card anniversary.

Primary insurance coverage claim is nonsense in the US car rental. When I showed Chase Reserve card and explained them it covers primary insurance, they were laughing at me and waving same Chase card he has. Reason why they decline is Chase dragging claim for months(+6) so they want your other car insurance info so that they can charge right away. Then somehow you have to figure it out between Chase and your insurance company.

I agree. This is the best card for those who enjoy travelling. I add my son as his bday gift, just for the lounge privilege, he loves it. Lounge privilege is the top benefit for me, can’t tell how many times I was glad I got stranded for up to 6 hours with this card. I could just wait in lounge instead. I no longer use AAA nor purchase travel insurance anymore. The travel insurance reimbursement is more complicated than the one I purchased seperately – but after 3 months of going back and forth, it finally reimbursed my husband’s as well.

I don’t travel anywhere without this card. And airport lounge access has been amazing for me. Nothing like getting away from the hustle and bustle and even enjoying some free snacks, food, and drinks.

I got the AU card for each of my children as college graduation gifts specifically for the lounge membership. They travel a lot and live in different parts of the country than I do so they’re often traveling separate from me. It’s come in handy so far. The only regret ..I should have done it earlier.

Please note: their renewal coincides with your annual renewal date, so if your card renews in January and you add them in March, they lose 2 months. You don’t get a 2 month credit and their membership is only good while you’re still a member yourself, so if you don’t renew the following January, their card expires in January also, essentially only getting 10 months’ of benefits instead of 12.

Very nice! Being frequent travelers, I’m sure they love the lounge access.

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