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The Chase Sapphire Reserve® launched in 2016 and quickly became one of the top travel credit cards you could have in your wallet. At the time, I was a credit cards writer at a fintech company and covered the card’s inaugural 100,000-point sign-up bonus, its luxury benefits and easy-to-use travel credit that made it much less expensive than it looked.

But there was one big problem: I couldn’t apply for it. A year earlier, Chase had begun declining applications for its flagship cards if the applicant had opened five or more new credit card accounts in the previous 24 months. I’ve always thought this unofficial 5/24 rule has been fair as it stops serial credit card “churners” from opening accounts just to get the bonus and then canceling them. But because I’ve opened many cards over the years, I wasn't eligible to apply for the Sapphire Reserve until 2022. Here’s why it was worth the wait.

Chase Sapphire Reserve®

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Rates & Fees
  • Our Rating 4.5/5 How our ratings work Read the review
  • APR22.49% - 29.49% (Variable)
  • Annual Fee$550
  • Sign-Up Bonus 60,000Chase Ultimate Rewards Points More Info

    Earn 60,000 bonus points after using your card to spend $4,000 within three months of account opening. Dollar Equivalent: $1,380 (60,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards Points * 0.023 base)

This card features an annual credit for travel purchases, which can offset the annual fee, plus bonus points when you sign up. You'll also get free access to tons of Priority Pass lounges and restaurant options around the world, along with access to the upcoming Chase Sapphire Lounge network.

Overview

If you’re looking to elevate your travel experience, look no further than the Chase Sapphire Reserve. When you first get approved, you’ll earn a sign-up bonus of 60,000 points after you spend $4,000 in the first three months—that’s worth at least $900 in travel-related spending booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards® and potentially more if you transfer your rewards to one of Chase’s airline or hotel partners.

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Pros

  • An array of premium travel perks including access to Priority Pass lounges
  • Easy-to-use $300 travel credit that helps offset card's annual fee
  • Generous rewards rates for spending

Cons

  • High annual fee may be a deterrent for some
  • Perks are starting to get stale relative to newer competition

The Chase Sapphire Reserve Is Affordable for a Premium Credit Card

Like other premium travel cards, the Chase Sapphire Reserve charges a steep annual fee. But what sets the card apart from similar cards, such as the Platinum Card® from American Express, is the $300 annual travel credit. That said, Amex also offers travel-related credits on its premium card, but they can be difficult to use unless you have the right travel habits. Enrollment is required for select benefits and terms apply.

In contrast, the Sapphire Reserve’s travel credit works on just about any travel-related expense. Even casual travelers will find it easy to max out the benefit every year. If spending at least $300 per year on travel is something you do anyway, that cuts the effective yearly cost of the card to $250.

The Rewards Program Is Unparalleled

Few points and miles experts would place another rewards program ahead of Chase Ultimate Rewards in terms of flexibility and value. Chase isn’t the only bank that has transfer partners, and it doesn’t even have the most.

But with premium cards from some other issuers, you have to transfer your points to a partner airline or hotel brand to have any hopes of getting more than 1 cent per point in value. In contrast, the Sapphire Reserve offers an impressive 1.5 cents per point if you use them to book travel through Chase.

Related Article

Chase Travel Rewards: Guide to Chase Ultimate Rewards

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Now, you can get more than that with certain transfer partners and the right itinerary. But this typically requires a lot of research, and if you don’t have the time, savvy or desire for that, the Sapphire Reserve still makes maximizing your points easy.

What’s more, if you have other cards that earn Ultimate Rewards, you can transfer points earned with those cards to your Reserve account. For example, I have the Chase Freedom FlexSM,  which gives me 5 points per dollar on rotating categories and travel booked through Chase. If I transfer those points to my Reserve account and use them to book travel, the effective rate is 7.5%, which you’ll be hard-pressed to find elsewhere.

Recommended Travel Credit Cards

Credit Card Intro Bonus Annual Fee Rewards Rate Learn More

Chase Sapphire Preferred®

60,000Chase Ultimate Rewards Points More Info

Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. Dollar Equivalent: $1,380 (60,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards Points * 0.023 base)

$95 1x- 5xPoints More Info

The card offers 5x points per dollar on Chase Travel℠, 3x points on dining (including eligible takeout and delivery services), as well as 3x points on select streaming services and online grocery purchases (excluding Target, Walmart and wholesale clubs). This card earns 2x points on all other travel spending and 1x point per dollar everywhere else. Chase broadly defines travel to include not just airfare, hotels and rental cars, but expenses like parking, tolls and public transit too.

Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card

50,000Southwest Rapid Rewards Points More Info

Earn 50,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. Dollar Equivalent: $700 (50,000 Southwest Rapid Rewards Points * 0.014 base)

$69 1x - 2xPoints More Info

Earn 2X points on Southwest® purchases. Earn 2X points on Rapid Rewards® hotel and car rental partners. Earn 2X points on local transit and commuting, including rideshare. Earn 2X points on internet, cable, and phone services; select streaming. Earn 1X points on all other purchases.

United Gateway℠ Card

20,000United MileagePlus Miles More Info

Earn 20,000 bonus miles after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open. Dollar Equivalent: $280 (20,000 United MileagePlus Miles * 0.014 base)

$0 1x - 2xPoints More Info

Earn 2X United miles per dollar on United purchases, local transit and commuting and at gas stations. You’ll earn 1X mile per dollar on all other purchases.

Citi Premier® Card

60,000Citi ThankYou Points More Info

Earn 60,000 bonus ThankYou Points after making $4,000 worth of purchases during the first three months of account opening. Dollar Equivalent: $1,080 (60,000 Citi ThankYou Points * 0.018 base)

$95 1X-10XPoints More Info

10X total ThankYou® Points per $1 spent on hotel, car rentals and attractions (excluding air travel) booked on the Citi Travel℠ portal through June 30, 2024. 3X -- Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Other Hotels 3X -- Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets 1X -- Earn 1 Point on All Other Purchases

The Perks Make It the Perfect Travel Companion

When it comes to airport lounge access, my favorite card is the Platinum Card from American Express. In addition to the Priority Pass lounge network, you’ll also gain access to The Centurion Lounge, Delta Sky Club, Escape lounges and more. Enrollment is required for select benefits and terms apply.

But Sapphire Reserve cardholders get a restaurant benefit through Priority Pass. At select airports, cardholders can get a credit—often $28—for themselves and one guest at designated restaurants. That’s up to $56 in free food, which can provide a better value than some airport lounges.

The card’s trip protection benefits also make buying supplemental travel insurance almost unnecessary. For starters, the rental car insurance is primary, which means you don’t need to file a claim with your personal insurance company first—most cards offer secondary coverage, which may just cover your personal policy’s deductible.

There’s also just the sheer volume of travel insurance benefits, including:

  • Trip cancellation and interruption insurance
  • Trip delay reimbursement
  • Baggage delay insurance
  • Lost luggage reimbursement
  • Travel accident insurance
  • Emergency evacuation and transportation
  • Emergency medical and dental benefit
  • Roadside assistance
  • Travel and emergency assistance

While other premium travel cards come close, I’m not aware of any other card that offers all of these.

3 friends traveling on vacation Related Article

15 Years Later, Here’s Why the Chase Sapphire Preferred Is Still the Best Travel Card for Beginners

Read More

Bottom Line

The Chase Sapphire Reserve is hard to beat if you’re a frequent traveler, and it could even be worth considering for casual travelers who can use the perks enough to make up for the annual fee. And while I don’t think the card’s rewards rates are the best—3 points on travel and dining and 1 point on everything else—the redemption value and flexibility still make it worth my while.

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Ben Luthi

Ben Luthi is a personal finance and travel writer and credit card expert. He has a degree in finance from Brigham Young University and worked in financial planning, banking and auto finance before writing full-time for NerdWallet and Student Loan Hero. Ben is now a full-time freelance writer and enjoys traveling and spending time with his two kids. His work has appeared in several publications, including U.S. News & World Report, USA Today, Money, Success and Slickdeals.