Last August, Chase launched a new premium travel credit card: the Sapphire Reserve (“CSR”). Chase positioned the CSR to compete with other top-end travel cards, namely the American Express Platinum card and the Citi Prestige card, enticing prospective customers with 100,000 Ultimate Rewards points. With that signup bonus set to drop from 100,000 points to 50,000 points Wednesday, January 11, here’s a look at the CSR features and whether it’s worth getting.
Working the Math
The CSR has a $450 annual fee that is not waived in the first year. The big short-term value proposition is the 100,000-point signup bonus for spending $4,000 in the first 3 months. Those 100,000 Ultimate Rewards points can be 1) transferred 1:1 directly to Chase’s travel partners for award redemptions, or 2) redeemed against travel purchases made through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal at a rate of 1.5 cents per point. Many milebloggers value certain airline miles in excess of 1.5 cents per mile/point (and I would encourage readers to always calculate the comparative costs of redeeming with miles vs. Ultimate Rewards points), but I’ll use this 1.5 cpm as a conservative backstop for estimating the value of Chase Ultimate Rewards points.
So that one-time bonus of 100,000 points is worth roughly $1,500. On top of that, the CSR features a $300 travel credit per calendar year. Not only is this amount higher than the travel credit offered by its competitors, but it’s also easier to use. For example, with the Amex Platinum card, the $200 travel credit is only redeemable for airline expenses and you must designate the airline beforehand. In contrast, the CSR’s $300 travel credit automatically gets applied to any travel purchase (including tolls or public transit). One additional quirk is that the $300 travel credit applies per calendar year. So it’s possible if you time your travel purchases right, to get $600 of travel credits in your first year holding the CSR.
The CSR’s other quantifiable benefits include a $100 Global Entry/TSA Pre-check application credit every four years (I already had Global Entry, but used the credit to gift a free application to my brother) and 3x Ultimate Rewards per $1 spent on travel and dining/1x Ultimate Reward per $1 spent elsewhere (with the 1.5x Chase portal redemption rate, that’s effectively 4.5% on travel and dining and 1.5% on everything else). If you’re keeping score at home, in the first year your $450 annual fee gets you:
$1,560 worth of Ultimate Rewards points ((100,000 + the 4,000 you’d get by hitting the spending requirements) x 1.5 cpm; if you hit your signup bonus by spending $4,000 on travel and dining, this would be worth (100,000 + 12,000) x 1.5 = $1,680));
$300 worth of travel credits ($600 if you spend you redeem your second calendar year travel credit right away); and
$100 Global Entry application free. In other words…
At least $1,960worth of travel money.
In addition to the quantifiable monetary benefits, the CSR has some nice extra perks.
Travel Insurance. If you book a trip with the CSR, you automatically get a host of insurance benefits including auto rental collision damage waiver, trip cancellation/interruption insurance, baggage delay insurance, trip delay reimbursement, roadside assistance, lost luggage reimbursement, and travel accident insurance. There’s a lot written about these benefits online, and I certainly hope to go into more detail later, but if you scuff your rental car, you flight gets delayed more than 6 hours due to weather and you need to book a hotel, or your luggage gets lost, you can file a claim and have Chase pay for it. Hopefully you never need it, but when you do, it’s great to have.
Priority Pass Select (“PPS”). PPS gives you and your guests complementary access to over 1,000 airport lounges around the world. If you’re traveling internationally or with a connection, lounges can be a nice opportunity to grab some snacks and an adult beverage, kick your feet up, and enjoy the view with some free wifi. PPS’s domestic coverage is spotty: of the 25 busiest airports in the U.S., PPS is completely absent from Denver (#6), Charlotte (#8), Detroit (#18), Philadelphia (#19), Ft. Lauderdale (#21), Washington-Reagan (#23), Chicago-Midway (#24), and Salt Lake City (#25), and even in those U.S. airports where PPS does have a lounge, it’s often only in the international terminal (e.g., ATL, SFO). I’m generally a no-frills traveler, so I would probably never pay for lounge access; however, if PPS’s footprint fits your travel patterns, free access can be a nice bonus.
Chase Triple Play. The CSR, like its poorer cousin, the Chase Sapphire Preferred, allows you to transfer Ultimate Rewards points from other household Chase accounts to your CSR where you can then transfer them to travel partner or redeem directly for 1.5 cpm. This sets up the Chase Triple Play, where you can hold the Chase Freedom (5% earning in rotating categories), Chase Freedom Unlimited (1.5% earning universally), and CSR. Since the Freedom cards’ points can only be redeemed for cashback at the rate of 1 cpm, you instead transfer those points to the CSR, effectively giving you 7.5% earning on the Freedom’s rotating categories and 2.25% on everyday spend with the Freedom Unlimited.
No Foreign Transaction Fees. As you might expect from a travel credit card, the CSR does not charge you a fee for conduction a transaction in a foreign currency. This is a relatively common feature among credit cards, especially those issued by Capital One, but it’s nice to be aware of here.
Miscellaneous Luxury Perks. CSR cardholders also get car rental privileges with National, Avis, and Silvercar, and benefits at properties within The Luxury Hotel & Resort Collection. I don’t ever use these providers, so I don’t ascribe any value to these benefits, but you may depending on your rental/hotel preferences.
Who Shouldn’t Get the CSR. If you don’t have $1,333/month in credit card-able spend that you can put on this card to hit the signup bonus, or if you don’t travel enough for the travel credit, Global Entry credit, and other travel-oriented benefits to be worth much to you, then the CSR may not be worth getting (that said, even if you redeemed the 100,000 points for cashback at 1 cpm and don’t use any of the travel benefits, you’re still making $1,000 of a $450 annual fee). If you’ve opened 5 new credit cards in the last 24 months (Chase’s dreaded “5/24” rule- fortunately business cards and store charge cards don’t seem to count), then you probably won’t be able to apply for this card.
Who Should Get the CSR. If you travel at least a couple times per year and can comfortably hit the initial spending requirement of $4,000 in 3 months ($1,333 per month) without changing your spending habits, then it’s hard to argue with the value proposition of the CSR, especially with it’s whopper 100,000-point signup bonus ending this week. Y2C doesn’t have a referral link for the CSR, so apply directly at the Chase website.