Is the $550 Sapphire Reserve worth keeping? Here’s how to decide.

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Is the Sapphire Reserve worth keeping?
Is the Sapphire Reserve worth keeping?

As we’ve previously reported, Chase is adding new features to their Sapphire Reserve card and raising the annual fee.  The annual fee will increase from $450 to $550 on the following schedule:

  • January 12th 2020: $550 for new cardholders
  • April 2020: $550 for existing cardholders (this change won’t affect you until your next annual fee is due).

Given these changes, Is the card worth keeping when your next annual fee comes due?

Nick is already on the record saying that he won’t renew when his next annual fee comes due.  He doesn’t get enough value from the card to justify the annual fee, especially at $550.  My gut reaction to the new fee matched Nick’s.  In my recent post about Chase’s new annual fee, I wrote:

Will I keep the card? My annual fee won’t hit again until October 2020. At that point I’ll assess whether the card still presents enough value to be a keeper. My guess is that the answer will be no, but we’ll see.

But of course, I try not to make too many decisions based on gut reactions.  In this case, I already have a tool to use to help make the decision.  Remember the Ultra-Premium Credit Card Worksheet?  I’ve updated it with the latest Sapphire Reserve changes.  Now we can use the updated spreadsheet to help decide whether or not its a keeper.

To read about the spreadsheet, click here: Which Ultra Premium Cards are Keepers? Version 3.2.

To view the latest spreadsheet directly: Click here to open the spreadsheet.

Make a copy of the spreadsheet for yourself so that you can edit the green cells on the card-specific tabs.  Then you can go to the Summary tab to see your overall results.

Surprise: Sapphire Reserve is still a keeper for me

It turns out that even with the higher annual fee, my conservative valuation says that the card is a keeper.  Here’s a picture of my Sapphire Reserve entries (The “Your Value” and “Why?” columns are my personal valuations — you should copy the sheet and enter your own):

It turns out that I currently value the card’s combination of perks at $695 per year.  The biggest driver of value for me is the fact that the Sapphire Reserve offers 1.5 cents per point value for travel booked through the Ultimate Rewards portal.  I’ve been booking reimbursable travel this way, so the difference between getting 1.5 and 1.25 cents per point (which I’d get with the Sapphire Preferred or Ink Business Preferred) amounts to real money.  If you rarely use this feature then I expect you’ll likely find that the Sapphire Reserve is not worth keeping.

Below is my overall summary view.  Given my particular situation, the ultra premium cards worth keeping include: Sapphire Reserve, Amex Gold (barely), Altitude Reserve, Delta Reserve for Business, Delta Platinum Business, Ritz, Bonvoy Brilliant (barely), and Hilton Aspire.  Please keep in mind that I’m not recommending this particular lineup to you.  We have different situations that will lead to different valuations.  To see why I valued each card the way I did, open the spreadsheet and find the tab for the particular card of interest.

Understanding the spreadsheet

Most ultra-premium cards are worth signing up for because they have good to excellent signup bonuses that are worth more than the first year’s annual fee. That’s not the question. The question is whether the cards are worth keeping past the first year. When the second year annual fee comes due, do you keep or cancel?

Do the card’s benefits outweigh the annual fee? Each person should conservatively estimate the value of each benefit to them to figure this out. In most cases, I recommend trying to estimate how much you’d be willing to pay for this feature if it was available stand-alone as a subscription. For example, if a card offers free checked bags, you could save hundreds of dollars if you use that benefit often enough. But how much would you pay for an annual subscription to get free checked bags? That answer should be substantially lower than the amount that you think you’ll save. Otherwise, why prepay for that benefit?

Tips for using the spreadsheet effectively

  • Be conservative with your estimates. Enter values that you would pay for a subscription for that benefit rather than the amount you expect to save.
  • Don’t double count perks.  Once you identify cards that you know that you’ll keep year after year, make sure to consider that when evaluating overlapping benefits on other cards. For example, I get an excellent Priority Pass subscription from my Ritz card (which I plan to keep) so I haven’t assigned any value to Priority Pass benefits that come with other cards.

What’s your final answer?

Is the Sapphire Reserve worth keeping?  Please comment below.

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James
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James

When you book travel using UR points, does it show up on the receipt as $$$? If it even mentions that I use points anywhere on it, I can’t get it reimbursed.

miafll
Guest
miafll

For hotel booking it will show up in $ first, then paid with pts.

Pam
Guest
Pam

I burn thru URs on luxury/boutique/niche brand hotel stays. No other card offers the redemption power on hotel bookings that Chase does. Unless I relegate my lodging to Hyatt Place & Hamptons I will always keep this card. Wondering if the CSR AU fee stays the same, though, might be time to get them their own cards depending. Nice analysis.

Parts Unknown
Guest
Parts Unknown

AU fee is staying the same $75 per

Pam
Guest
Pam

Thanks! Def worth keeping family as AUs then, because they will add a ton to the Lyft/Door Dash volume.

A B
Guest
A B

Or just add your card to their account and save the $75?

Pam
Guest
Pam

they need the travel/rental car protection

frugalman
Guest
frugalman

Like your rational way to assess the card. I probably will keep it as well, but t just feel not that comfortable.

frugalman
Guest
frugalman

Greg, I used your chart. It feel headache at the beginning, but once you know what is what, it is so super easy. OK, my own evaluation using your chart is $465, $85 shorter than the AF. However, since I don’t have other premium card keeper, I think I will keep CSR for now. The biggest reason that I value different from yours is that I don’t use that much 1.5 cpp redemption even though it is available and I do have enough points. So I evaluate the 1.5cpp at $20 only where you evaluate at $300 with $2000 travel expense assumption.

KC Rippstein
Guest
KC Rippstein

How interesting! We actually had similar misgivings as expressed by Nick, particularly after Rakuten went to MR. So the new annual fee is causing me to sadly think about dumping CSR (still mulling it over and will use your tool). We just got the Chase Marriott (to eventually convert to a Ritz, which will give me Priority Pass), a CIP to take over UR duties, and Amex Gold. Main value that’s hard to dump are travel protections. I saw how WOW air impacted travelers, and not sure I’m confident any of these other cards come close (especially if trying to use CIP for personal travel). So might have wife get CSP for welcome bonus and travel protections.

Nick Reyes
Editor

If you eventually get the Ritz, it has identical travel protections to the CSR.

Sarah
Guest
Sarah

How do you convert the chase Marriott card to ritz? I thought ritz isn’t taking new apps anymore.

​​o0o0o0o0o0o...Points!
Guest
​​o0o0o0o0o0o...Points!

Not a new app, product change from the Marriott card to the Ritz card

Sarah K Aheron
Guest
Sarah K Aheron

That’s possible even now? I just applied for Marriott Chase card. Could I product change to ritz after some time? It seems like a really great card. I’m based abroad so amex is not a good option cause no one accepts it.

Rob
Guest
Rob

Due to the CARD Act, you will need to wait one year before you can product change the Marriott credit card.

Rob
Guest
Rob

A slight drawback: earning Marriott points as oppose to UR.

Larry
Guest
Larry

Holy crap, Greg. Your content is unbeatable. This is an awesome resource.

I don’t know if it’s spreadsheet worthy, but one consideration that is specific to the Reserve keep decision is whether your’e at or near 5/24 and how you are doing on the sapphire 48 month clock. I guess if you are eligible for another sapphire bonus, it makes sense to cancel reserve anyway but with an extra $100 in annual fee this year, I think it will be a little easier for me. I have 48 months coming up. There is a chance I’ll have a 5/24 slot. I’ve been debating whether or not to blow past 5/24. $100 isn’t that big of a deal, but it makes it incrementally more attractive for me to cancel Reserve, keep a 5/24 slot open, get whatever sapphire bonus is best in month 49, and then do my blow-by-5/24 app-o-ramas.

farnorthtrader
Guest
farnorthtrader

A very tough call for this and our two Aspire cards. While I have used roughly 1.4 million UR points through the portal over the last 3 years, I only used 62,000 last year (making it a breakeven with CSP) and it is hard to tell how many I might use this way in future years. New benefits are useless to me as I live outside of the US now. PP lounge for my family of 6 is a nice to have that gets used for probably at least a dozen visits per year, but could be had from Aspire cards. Probably will keep the CSR, but it is an edge case and will have to take a closer look at this decision closer to December renewal.
Aspire cards are even tougher, with the increased difficulty in using airline credits. Particular difficulty is with valuing diamond status which is required to value the cards 9and valuing the first diamond status in the family versus the second one). Have averaged about $600/night with the free nights (across 32 nights over the years), but one was only $150. At $600, it is a no brainer to keep. At $150, not so much.

SAR
Guest
SAR

Greg, thanks for this easy to understand analysis. It’s uncanny how your spreadsheet coincides with my situation. I hope my family Uber account can be replaced by something as easy with Lyft and then I’ll even be a bit better off than your results. I value various transfer partners of the UR ecosystem so I’m glad I won’t have to re-think my approach too much with this change!

Miles Ahead
Guest
Miles Ahead

Never had this card and continue to believe like I have missed out on nothing. Your analysis is good, but it continues to feel like oher alternatives are way inderplayed. For example CSP has pretty good travel insurance too, plus it now gets Doordash and Lyft benefits too, albeit not as high but for a fraction of the cost. Regarding travel, one of the great things about Chase’s ins travel benefit is that you can pay just part of the fare and get the full insurance beneift. So given that, why would you “settle” for a 3x benefit when others are offering 5x and gift card options are available? Finally, I know I will get an argument on this one, but why would I get “excited” about the ability to redeem UR for 1.5 on their portal? I feel like without this card I can get a .5 redemption without CSR by booking United, SW or whatever, if that’s all I want. Maybe for those that are so flush with points they can’t possibly redeem all of them for points bookings with partners? But if that’s the case, then why would you want or setle for 3x YR when so many 4 or 5 point options are available or even just go for straight cashback with something like BofA Premium Travel (if you have the 100k invested with with Merrill). All in all $550 (or $250) seems like it’s an expensive option to get insurance, a little extra return when going through their portal for travel when their other options to get to the exact same place more cheaply for something which would otherwise be a sock drawer card now given other better earning options.

Jacob
Guest
Jacob

I was going to cancel the CITI Prestige card after they gutted the travel insurance benefits. But when I did the math for the 4th night free benefit, It more than saved me the cost of the annual fee. I’ve used the benefit 3 times last year and am way ahead. I don’t mind forgoing the loyalty hotel benefits in exchange for saving $300+ per stay. Of course, I can only use it twice a year.

CaveDweller
Guest
CaveDweller

Jacob
My Prestige card will be DOA ASAP after I book the (2) 4 nites . I did the loyalty stuff when u could get 5 nites @ sign up . My green card will get me 20% off hotel.com GC’s ($3k) when they offer it .But there’s lots of 15% offers out there IF u got time .
CHEERs

SteveH
Guest
SteveH

I’d be curious on your take if you were going to limit yourself to one premium card, which one it would be? And not the Ritz, since most people can’t get that one 😉

Steve
Guest
Steve

I’m lucky as my renewal is in March. But you have to look at the fee increase vs all the other potential ways they could have gone (and rumors have come and gone) – restricted points transfer, cut back on travel definition (still good for parking, tolls, commute), or on the 1.5 redemption (so book on say, Alaska, and get 1.5 redemption plus the miles flown; most airline points are valued at 1.2-1.4, which is less than 1.5, and you don’t need to find award space). Still good at Priority Pass restaurants (as opposed to Amex). And, if you have the Business Cash, still good to get a gift card at Staples for anything on Amazon (so for almost anything you could possibly buy) at 5x and transfer. (Or Visa fee free this week) I’m not happy, but it’s still valuable.

Jeff
Guest
Jeff

You discount $300 travel rebate for Ritz on your spreadsheet by 10% because it isn’t automatic. But Reserve is automatic so why do you discount that too? To me, that’s the clearest dollar-for-dollar value of any card benefit. Anyone who doesn’t spend $300 on travel isn’t getting one of these premium cards.

Bill
Guest
Bill

For me, the upside of the 1.5x travel portal more than covers the CSR fee increase. There have just been too many times this past year that award inventory stunk for the destinations, dates and itineraries I wanted. I’ve recently booked about $2400 in paid tickets, costing roughly 159,500 UR points. That same number of points with the SP card would have been worth only $1,995. That additional .25 on the portal translated to $400+ in point value.

Beth
Guest
Beth

A bit unrelated but relevant to the “keep or dump” thought process. Seems that two-player mode should not keep two of these. Transfer all points to one player and the other should downgrade or close.

Lara S.
Guest
Lara S.

Awesome charts, thank you. Confused re Sapphire Reserve first two lines. How is the $300 travel credit worth less than $300 (it says $270). And I could not follow the way you computed the second one re 1.5 cents per point since you used a different method to calculate the estimated annual value versus the column of what you value it. The first clearly shows 50,000 points example redeemed via this card is worth $125 more than redeemed via the Chase preferred with the lower fee, but then in the your value column you say you want to redeem $2,000 worth of points, not how many points. It would just be more simple if you said “in reality I expect to use X thousand points which redeemed via CSR gets me Y value, versus CSP which is Z value and the difference is (presumably) $300.

Lara S.
Guest
Lara S.

Sorry one more question- for American Express Platinum (consumer) on your chart (line 8) it says there is an option to get cheaper international premium cabin flights via their website or some sort of portal, and you valued that low, but since I pay for my own business class fares (company will only reimburse economy fare) I would value this incredibly highly but can’t seem to find mention of it on the American Express Platinum (consumer) website. I would seriously consider this card if this was a perk! Thanks again!

Aaron
Guest
Aaron

I wonder if you have to max out the $300 travel credit before earning the 10X on Lyft.

isobro
Guest
isobro

Is the doordash credit good right now? Or does it come into effect later?

Solo
Guest
Solo

Isn’t the primary auto rental coverage and the 4x uses of roadside assistance valuable to you? I included valuations for those in my my spreadsheet.

Patrick
Guest
Patrick

I’m not sure why everyone is hating on the new benefits unless you live outside a major city. I live in downtown Houston and use Uber/Lyft all the time so the Pink membership is great. Signed up for it last night after flying back from Japan while waiting for my bags and it already saved me $9 on the ride home from the airport and I got picked up quickly while everyone else waited around. +7 extra pts per dollar (10 total) on rides in addition to the Delta & Hilton points I was already getting! Basically means I’ll be using Lyft over Uber now. Also the Doordash credits and membership that gets rid of delivery fees will be super handy as I already order food to be delivered somewhat regularly. After the annual $300 travel credit (which I already used by January 5th) the annual fee is basically $250 (or $155 more than the CSP) which I will easily recoup. Just used UR to fly Singapore Airlines to/from Japan and for a couple of Hyatt stays while there. I value UR quite highly still and will definitely keep the card.

Mike
Guest
Mike

My annual fee hit on 4/1 last year. If it goes up, I’ll have to downgrade. No large UR redemptions in the near future, and no use for Lyft or Doordash.

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[…] people to keep an ultra-premium card with a high annual fee? Given the fact that Chase recently increased the annual fee from $450 to $550, I’m not sure that a $100 credit will be enough to get people to keep it. As Greg and I […]