The $550 Chase Sapphire Reserve card is my pick for the best all around travel rewards card. It has decent perks, best-in-class travel protections, and excellent rewards for spend: 3X points for both travel and dining. This card earns valuable Chase Ultimate Rewards points. With the Sapphire Reserve card, points are worth 1.5 cents each when redeemed for travel through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal.
Chase Application Tips
Call (888) 338-2586 to check your application status
If you spend a lot on travel and/or dining, then I highly recommend this card. That said, you might do better signing up for a different card… The Chase Sapphire Preferred. The Sapphire Preferred often has a better signup bonus than the Sapphire Reserve and so it can make sense to sign up for the Sapphire Preferred and later upgrade to the Sapphire Reserve.
For reference, here are the current signup bonuses for both cards:
To get this card you must be under 5/24, you must not be a current Sapphire Preferred or Sapphire Reserve cardholder, and at least 48 months must have passed since you last received a new cardmember bonus for the Sapphire Preferred or Sapphire Reserve card.
|Chase's 5/24 Rule: With most Chase credit cards, Chase will not approve your application if you have opened 5 or more cards with any bank in the past 24 months.
To determine your 5/24 status, see: 3 Easy Ways to Count Your 5/24 Status. The easiest option is to track all of your cards for free with Travel Freely.
You can find the best current signup offer and application link here: Chase Sapphire Reserve.
After you apply, call (888) 338-2586 to check your application status.
If your application is denied, I recommend calling for reconsideration (1-888-270-2127). It’s surprising how often denials can be changed to approvals just by asking.
$300 Travel CreditAutomatically earn $300 in statement credits each membership year as reimbursement for travel purchases. For those who spend at least that much each year on travel, this effectively lowers the $550 annual fee to approximately $250. Note though that you will not earn rewards on the $300 in spend that is reimbursed.
Ultra-Premium Ultimate RewardsSince this is an ultra-premium Ultimate Rewards card, the following rewards are available:
- Redeem Points for 50% More Value: Points are worth 1.5 cents each when used to book travel through the Ultimate Rewards portal.
- Transfer Points to Partners: Points can be transferred one to one to a number of airline and hotel loyalty programs.
- Priority Pass Select Lounge Membership: Membership includes free access to lounges for yourself and up to two guests. Unlike Priority Pass memberships issued by American Express, this version includes Priority Pass restaurants.
- Global Entry or TSA Pre✔® Fee Credit: Receive a statement credit of up to $100 every 4 years as reimbursement for the Global Entry or TSA Pre Check application fee charged to your card.
- Car rental privileges: "Enroll in leading car rental rewards programs from National Car Rental, Avis, and Silvercar.6 Log into Chase Ultimate Rewards® to access the Special Car Rental Privileges section of your Travel Benefits page to book with your card. Enjoy enhanced benefits, such as upgrades and car rental discounts, savings on luxury and premium rental car rates, plus promotions and other offers."
- The Luxury Hotel & Resort Collection: Book selected hotels and receive perks such as room upgrades, free breakfast, early check-in and late check-out, discounts and credits, and more.
- Elite Hotel Benefits at Relais & Châteaux: Receive "a VIP welcome" and complimentary breakfast daily at select properties.
- Visa Infinite Concierge Service: "Access to Visa Infinite Concierge who can help you with requests, like dinner reservations, or Broadway, music and sporting event tickets. Call 1-877-660-0905 to reach the Visa Infinite Concierge.1 Traveling outside the U.S.? Call us collect at 1-312-800-4290."
- No foreign transaction fees
Travel ProtectionsIn my opinion, the Sapphire Reserve has the best automatic travel protections of any card on the market today. Most of the following protections kick in even if you pay with points or pay only in part with your card. More details and a comparison to other ultra-premium cards can be found here: Ultra-Premium Credit Card Travel Insurance.
- Auto Rental Coverage: Chase offers primary auto rental CDW (collision damage waiver). Here's the description directly from Chase: "Decline the rental company’s collision insurance and charge the entire rental cost to your card. Coverage is primary and provides reimbursement up to $75,000 for theft and collision damage for rental cars in the U.S. and abroad."
- Roadside Assistance: "If you have a roadside emergency, you can call for a tow, jumpstart, tire change, locksmith or gas. You’re covered up to $50 per incident 4 times a year."
- Trip Cancellation / Interruption Insurance: "If your trip is cancelled or cut short by sickness, severe weather and other covered situations, you can be reimbursed up to $10,000 per person and $20,000 per trip for your pre-paid, non-refundable travel expenses, including passenger fares, tours, and hotels."
- Trip Delay Reimbursement: "If your common carrier travel is delayed more than 6 hours or requires an overnight stay, you and your family are covered for unreimbursed expenses, such as meals and lodging, up to $500 per ticket."
- Lost Luggage Reimbursement: If you or an immediate family member check or carry on luggage that is damaged or lost by the carrier, you're covered up to $3,000 per passenger."
- Baggage Delay Insurance: "Reimburses you for essential purchases like toiletries and clothing for baggage delays over 6 hours by passenger carrier up to $100 a day for 5 days."
- Travel Accident Insurance: "When you pay for your air, bus, train or cruise transportation with your card, you are eligible to receive accidental death or dismemberment coverage of up to $1,000,000."
- Emergency Evacuation & Transportation: "If you or a member of your immediate family are injured or become sick during a trip far from home that results in an emergency evacuation, you can be covered for medical services and transportation up to $100,000."
- Emergency Medical and Dental Benefit: "If you’re 100 miles or more from home on a trip, you can be reimbursed up to $2,500 for medical expenses if you or your immediate family member become sick or injured."
- Extended Warranty: "Extends the time period of the U.S. manufacturer's warranty by an additional year, on eligible warranties of three years or less."
- Damage and Theft Protection: "Covers your new purchases for 120 days against damage or theft up to $10,000 per claim and $50,000 per year."
- Return Protection: "You can be reimbursed for eligible items that the store won’t take back within 90 days of purchase, up to $500 per item, $1,000 per year."
This card earns super-valuable Ultimate Rewards points. Here’s the current signup offer:
The Sapphire Reserve card offers 3X travel and dining.
Cardholders can redeem points for 1 cent each either as statement credits or as cash back. Cash back can be taken as a statement credit or via check or ACH transfer.
Redeem points for travel: 1.5 cents per point
This card offers 1.5 cents per point value towards travel booked through Chase. Log into Chase under this account, and go to the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal to book your travel. A $600 flight would cost 60,000 points if you used a no-fee Ultimate Rewards card, but with this ultra-premium card it would cost only 40,000 points.
Details about booking travel through ChaseYou can use the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal to book airfare, hotels, cruises, activities, and car rentals. Airfare purchased through the portal still earns airline miles and elite qualifying miles. Hotels booked this way do not earn hotel rewards. Worse, hotels booked through the portal often won't offer you elite benefits even if you have status. Unfortunately, Chase switched to an Expedia-backed portal and removed some ultra low cost carriers. For example, you can no longer book Spirit Airlines or Southwest through Chase Ultimate Rewards. There is a work-around for some carriers though. Please see this post for details: How to book the cheapest flights with Chase Ultimate Rewards.
Travel protections applyWhen you pay with points for travel, Chase's automatic travel protections do apply. So, you can be covered for things like car rentals, trip delays, trip cancellation & interruption, lost luggage, etc. The coverage you receive will be based on which card's rewards were used to book the trip. For example, if you have both a Chase Sapphire Preferred and a Sapphire Reserve, you would want to move your Ultimate Rewards points from the Preferred to the Reserve and then use the Reserve points to book your trip. You will get both better value (1.5 cents per point) and better travel protections. See: Sapphire Reserve Travel Insurance.
Move points to premium or ultra-premium card firstYou cannot transfer points directly from a no-fee Chase Ultimate Rewards card to airline and hotel partners, but you can move points first to a premium card (Sapphire Preferred or Ink Business Preferred, for example) or ultra-premium card (Sapphire Reserve) and then transfer the points to airline or hotel partners. Points can be transferred to the loyalty accounts of the primary cardholder or any authorized user on the account. Points can also be transferred to the loyalty account of a joint business owner, but they do need to be an authorized user on the associated business account.
|Rewards Program||Best Uses|
|Air France KLM Flying Blue||Monthly Air France Promo Awards often represent very good value. Air France miles can be used to book Sky Team awards, including Delta awards.|
|Avios||While flights on British Airways itself often incur outrageously high fuel surcharges, many BA partners charge low or no fuel surcharges. Great value can be had in redeeming BA points for short distance flights. Iberia offers very low award prices on their own flights. Round trip partner awards can offer good value under some circumstances as well. Fuel surcharges are often lower than when booking through British Airways. Aer Lingus shares the "Avios" currency with British Airways and Iberia. In most cases it is best to move points to one of those programs in order to book awards for less.|
|Emirates Skywards||Emirates has different award charts for each airline partner. Sometimes they allow one-way awards, sometimes they do not. In general, award prices are fairly high, but there are a few sweet spots such as New York to Milan for 90K round trip in business class.|
|Hyatt||Use for Hyatt free nights or points + cash nights. Hyatt points are often worth at least 1.7 cents each towards free nights, but they’re sometimes worth far more. One hidden bonus: award nights are not subject to resort fees.|
|JetBlue||JetBlue points offer the most value when cheap ticket prices are available and when award taxes are high relative to the overall cost of the ticket (more details can be found here). The JetBlue Plus Card and the JetBlue Business Card offer a 10% rebate on awards, so you can get more value by holding one or both cards.|
|Marriott Bonvoy||5th Night Free awards|
|Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer||Use to book Singapore Airlines First Class awards (generally reserved for their own members) or for Star Alliance awards. Low change fees and no close-in booking fees make this a very good program for booking United Airlines flights.|
|Southwest Rapid Rewards||Award flights are fully refundable. Point values vary due to certain taxes not being charged on awards, but tend to average around 1.5 cents per point.|
|United MileagePlus||Even though Singapore Airlines miles have a number of advantages over United miles for booking Star Alliance flights, United has advantages too. For one, it is possible to book most Star Alliance awards online at United.com. Additionally, United awards sometimes cost fewer miles with United than with Singapore (especially premium awards on United’s own flights). And, most importantly, United never charges fuel surcharges for awards. In some cases, United is far cheaper than Singapore Airlines for this reason alone.|
|Virgin Atlantic Flying Club||Virgin Atlantic miles can be usefully thought of as a way to get a discount off Virgin Atlantic flights (high fuel surcharges make the flights far from free), but there are some better uses. Use miles to upgrade paid flights or to fly partner airlines. A fantastic use is to fly ANA in business or first class thanks to Virgin’s generous ANA partner award chart. Or, if you can find saver level Delta awards for nonstop international travel, you can often book through Virgin Atlantic far cheaper than with Delta directly.|
You can also use points to pay some merchants directly (Amazon.com, for example or via Chase Pay). Don't do this. These options offer very poor value. Further, they may compromise the security of your account (i.e. if someone hacks into your Amazon account, they might spend your Ultimate Rewards points - causing you a headache in getting your points reinstated).
If you intend to cancel a Chase Ultimate Rewards card, you should first combine your points with a card you intend to keep active. Once you cancel, you will forfeit any unused points in that account (See: My 90,000 Ultimate Rewards Points mistake). A product change should not affect your balance, but some people prefer moving points before a product change as well just to be safe.
Why this is valuable:
- You earn points with the card offering the best return on purchases and then use points with the card offering the best redemption rate.
- Only one member of your household needs to maintain a premium card for transferring to partners or booking travel (though note that the primary cardholder can only transfer points to partner loyalty programs in the name of the primary cardholder or authorized users).
Transfer difficulties? Create a loopIf you have trouble transferring between accounts, some users have been able to combine points between their own accounts — like from Bob’s Ink Business Cash to Bob’s Sapphire Reserve — via secure message.
However, you may run into an issue if you try to connect more than one of your cards to a single card that belongs to someone else. Chase allows you to combine/transfer to someone else who lives in your household (or a co-owner of your business for business cards), but I’ve had complications with this from time to time.
For example, let’s say that Joe and Suzy live in the same household and are joint owners of a business and have the following accounts:
Joe first combines points from his Freedom Unlimited to Suzy’s Sapphire Reserve. Later, he logs into his Ink Business Cash account and tries to combine points with Suzy’s Sapphire Reserve. Joe may run into an error adding Suzy’s Sapphire Reserve card to combine points. This has happened in our household several times. In that case, Joe should log into his Freedom Unlimited account and remove Suzy as a household member (click “remove saved card). About 24 hours later, he should be able to add Suzy to his Ink Business Cash in order to combine his points to her account.
The easy solution I’ve found is to create a loop. In the example scenario they should transfer like this:
Joe’s Freedom Unlimited —> Joe’s Ink Business Cash —> Suzy’s Sapphire Reserve —> Joe’s Freedom Unlimited
Creating a loop chain has solved that problem in my household. As noted, it took 24 hours after removing accounts to re-add them to other cards, so be aware of that limitation.
- Annual fee: $75 per authorized user
- $300 travel credit? Authorized users do not get their own travel credits. Travel purchases made on authorized user cards do get reimbursed but the reimbursement comes out of the same $300 per year bucket as the primary card.
- Airport Lounge Access? Authorized users get Priority Pass Select membership like the primary user.
- Primary car rental collision damage waiver? Yes
- Global Entry or TSA Pre Fee Credit? Authorized users do not get their own Global Entry or TSA Pre reimbursements. Enrollment fees charged to authorized user cards do get reimbursed but it comes out of the same single reimbursement every 4 years as the primary card.
- Why consider paying for authorized user cards? Many will find that it is not worth adding authorized users. However, it can be worth it to earn 3X for travel & dining for authorized user spend, and to give Priority Pass to your authorized users. See also: The Sapphire Reserve Couple Conundrum.
How to meet minimum spend requirements
Keep, cancel, or product change?
The decision of whether to keep this card year after year can be complex. On the one hand, if you spend a lot in its bonus categories, then it’s a no-brainer to keep this card instead of the Sapphire Preferred. On the other hand, if you spend that much on travel and dining, you might do even better with cards like the Amex Gold Card or Citi Prestige. These posts may help you make a decision:
If you do decide to get rid of the card, I recommend downgrading to a fee free card rather than cancelling outright. That way, you’ll be sure to keep your points alive and you’ll most likely have the option to upgrade back to the Sapphire Reserve if you ever need to.
Ultimate Rewards Consumer Cards
Ultimate Rewards Business Cards
Last updated on January 14th, 2020