When the Chase Sapphire Reserve card debuted 4 years ago, it made a huge splash with its 100,000 point welcome offer. Combined with the ability to purchase travel through Chase at a value of 1.5 cents per point, that offer was worth at least $1,500 in travel. That was so awesome that I made a point of contacting friends who aren’t into points and miles. I never did that before or since, but at that time I let them know that it was an opportunity too good to pass up.
Eventually the offer dropped to only 50,000 points. That’s still $750 in travel value, but obviously less exciting than before.
Now, Chase is offering a whopping 80,000 points for the lesser Sapphire Preferred card. Even though points on this card are worth less towards travel (1.25 cents), this offer still delivers a whopping $1,000 in travel value. Is Chase going to let the Sapphire Preferred continue to eat the Sapphire Reserve’s lunch indefinitely? Or, is Chase going to introduce an increased offer for the Sapphire Reserve?
In my post analyzing the new Sapphire Preferred offer (Chase Sapphire Preferred 80K Offer – Should you go for it?) I suggested waiting a few weeks to see if Chase increases the Sapphire Reserve offer. You can’t get welcome bonuses for both cards, so most of us would be better off signing up for the 100K offer if it reappears. But will it?
Arguments for a Chase Sapphire Reserve 100K offer
Chase recently dramatically increased the offers for its Freedom cards. For a long time, the offers sat at 20K points. Now, though, with either the Freedom Unlimited or new Freedom Flex you will still get 20K points after $500 spend, but now you’ll also get a big extra: 5X points on grocery purchases for the first year, on up to $12K spend. If you spend the full $12K at grocery stores in your first year with the card, you’ll end up with a total of 80,000 points (20K after $500 spend plus 60K from grocery spend). The only other consumer cards in Chase’s Ultimate Rewards line-up are the Sapphire Preferred and the Sapphire Reserve. We know that the Preferred offer has increased to 80K, so that leaves only the Sapphire Reserve’s offer un-enhanced.
Chase is clearly eager to get more people signed up for their Ultimate Rewards cards. And based on the current Freedom and Sapphire Preferred offers, it’s clear they’re willing to give us huge offers to entice us. Chase started with enhanced offers for the fee-free Freedom cards in mid July. Two months later, they added the enhanced 80K offer for the $95 Sapphire Preferred. Is there a pattern here? Maybe they’ll wait a month or two to introduce a bigger offer for the $550 Sapphire Reserve?
Of course, if they do increase the Sapphire Reserve offer, it might go to 80K instead of 100K. After all, you can argue that all 3 of the other cards are sort-of 80K offers, so why not the Sapphire Reserve too? The main argument for a 100K offer is that the Sapphire Reserve’s $550 annual fee can be hard to swallow. It would take a huge 100K offer to get many people to see past that fee to understand that the card will offer huge value in the first year of card membership.
Arguments against a Chase Sapphire Reserve 100K offer
Some have pointed to the fact that Chase has lost money on Sapphire Reserve cardholders (see this article, for example) as proof that Chase won’t increase the Sapphire Reserve’s welcome bonus. The argument is that Chase doesn’t want lots of new customers for this card and so they certainly won’t increase the incentives to get the card. A counter-argument to this is that Chase has continued to offer a welcome bonus for the Sapphire Reserve and has continued to pay affiliates who encourage others to get the card. If Chase didn’t want more customers, it would be crazy to continue to do either of these things.
A better argument against a 100K offer, is the fact that Chase has long settled on a smaller offer for the Sapphire Reserve than the Sapphire Preferred. For the past couple of years the Sapphire Reserve’s offer has been 50K while the Sapphire Preferred’s offer has been 60K. So, why would they swap things around now?
Another way to look at the historic welcome bonuses is that they offered equal travel value. With the Sapphire Preferred card, 60K points equals $750 in travel booked through Chase. And with the Sapphire Reserve card, 50K points equals $750 in travel booked through Chase. If Chase wanted to continue this approach, they could match the Sapphire Preferred’s 80K offer with a Sapphire Reserve 67K offer (likely rounded up to 70K). Both would give you $1,000 in travel value.
Finally, a good argument against a 100K offer is that they’ve gone with 80K-ish offers for all of the other consumer Ultimate Rewards cards. Why wouldn’t they do the same with the Sapphire Reserve?
My Best Guess
I don’t have a crystal ball. Not a functioning one anyway. After all, I’m the guy that infamously predicted that Chase wouldn’t increase the Sapphire Reserve’s annual fee just a week or two before they announced the new $550 fee. So, take these guesses with a huge grain of salt… Here’s my prediction for what will happen to the Sapphire Reserve card’s welcome bonus (at least through the next few months):
- Probability of the offer remaining 50K: High
- Probability of a 70K offer: Very Low
- Probability of a 80K offer: High
- Probability of a 100K offer: Low
In short, I think that the offer will either remain at 50K or increase to 80K. I won’t be surprised if Chase goes with 100K but I don’t really expect it.