Big changes are coming for the Chase Sapphire Reserve®, including a significant annual fee hike. The premium travel rewards card, which comes with awesome benefits like a $300 annual travel credit and complimentary airport lounge access, will now carry a $550 annual fee for new cardholders applying after January 12, 2020. Current cardholders will be charged the new annual fee for renewals beginning on April 1, 2020.
The good news is that Chase is adding some new benefits as well. Cardholders will now receive 10X points per dollar spent on Lyft rides, Chase Dining purchases, hotels and cars booked through Ultimate Rewards, one of the highest rewards rate of any travel rewards card. And let’s not forget that those points stretch 50% further when used toward travel on the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal.
Chase is also giving users a one-year complimentary Lyft Pink membership, which gets 15% off rides and priority airport pickup, among other perks. Cardholders can also enroll in up to two years of DoorDash’s DashPass membership and get up to $60 in annual statement credits for DoorDash deliveries in 2020 and 2021. Both new and existing cardholders will have access to these offers.
But these new offers might not be enough to offset the fee increase for some people. It’s a good idea to reevaluate your annual spending to decide if the Chase Sapphire Reserve Card is still worth it for you.
5 alternatives to the Chase Sapphire Reserve card
While you’re looking at your spending habits, you might consider whether an alternative travel rewards card will be a better fit than the Chase Sapphire Reserve. It’s worth analyzing which benefits you’ll use the most and weighing those against the annual fee for the top credit cards out there. Let’s dive in.
|Card||Noteworthy perks||Earning rate||Welcome offer||Annual fee|
|American Express® Gold Card||
||4X Membership Rewards points at U.S. supermarkets (up to $25,000 per year, after that 1X) and at restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S., 3X on flights booked directly with airlines or on Amextravel.com, and 1X on all other eligible purchases||Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards points after you make $4,000 in purchases within the first 6 months of card membership||$250 (See rates and fees) Terms apply|
|The Platinum Card® from American Express||
||5X points per dollar spent on eligible airfare (on up to $500,000 per calendar year, after that 1X) and eligible hotel purchases, and 1X points per dollar on all other eligible purchases||Earn 100,000 Membership Rewards points after spending $6,000 in the first 6 months||$695 (See rates and fees) Terms apply|
|Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card||
||5X points on Lyft rides and travel booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards; 3X points on eligible dining, select streaming services, and online grocery purchases; 2X points on travel; and 1X points per $1 on all other eligible purchases||Earn 60,000 points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months||$95|
|Citi Premier® Card||
||3X points at restaurants, supermarkets, and gas stations, and on air travel and hotels; and 1X points on all other purchases||Earn 80,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 in the first 3 months||$95|
|U.S. Bank Altitude® Reserve Visa Infinite® Card||
||5X on prepaid hotel and car rentals booked in the Altitude Rewards Center; 3X points on eligible travel and mobile wallet purchases; and 1X points for all other eligible purchases||Earn a 50,000 point bonus after spending $4,500 in the first 90 days||$400|
American Express® Gold Card
Why we like it: You can offset a portion of the $250 annual fee on the American Express Gold Card with the credits you’ll receive for dining, so if you like to travel and dine out, this card might be the perfect fit for you.
In addition, there’s an excellent rewards rate: 4X Membership Rewards points at U.S. supermarkets (up to $25,000 per year, after that 1X) and at restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S., 3X on flights booked directly with airlines or on Amextravel.com, and 1X on all other eligible purchases.
Plus, you’ll get all the travel perks you’d expect from a premium travel rewards card, including baggage insurance, car rental insurance, access to a global assist hotline, and more.
How it compares to the Chase Sapphire Reserve: The Chase Sapphire Reserve Card will rack up travel and dining points faster when you consider that points are 50% more valuable when used towards travel in the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal.
Essentially, you can get up to 4.5 points per dollar for dining and travel purchases with the Chase Sapphire Reserve Card and only 3X points per dollar spent on flights booked directly with airlines or on Amextravel.com with the Amex Gold Card. But the Chase Sapphire Reserve Card only gets you 1X point per dollar on supermarket purchases, which could make the Amex Gold Card more valuable for some people.
That said, the Amex Gold Card is missing several premium travel perks that you can enjoy with the Chase Sapphire Reserve Card; there’s no airport lounge access or TSA PreCheck/Global Entry credit.
The Platinum Card® from American Express
Why we like it: It’s hard to beat the 5X points you get on eligible airfare and hotel purchases with the Platinum Card from American Express. In addition, you’ll get a fee credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck and $15 in Uber Cash each month ($20 in December). And with free access to more than 1,200 airport lounges and other premium travel perks, this card is a real competitor to the Chase Sapphire Reserve. (Select benefits require enrollment.)
How it compares to the Chase Sapphire Reserve: While you’re getting a slightly higher return on travel purchases with the Amex Platinum, dining isn’t included in the higher rewards rate. And there’s a $300 travel credit with the Chase Sapphire Reserve, but for some the Uber Cash benefit that comes with the Amex Platinum card could offset some of that difference.
This card has a $695 annual fee, which is higher than the Sapphire Reserve's annual fee. Both cards also offer airport lounge access, but the Sapphire Reserve offers access through a Priority Pass membership while the Platinum Card offers the American Express Global Lounge Collection, including Centurion lounges. (Select benefits require enrollment.)
If you typically ride with Lyft or spend a lot on dining, the Chase Sapphire Reserve might be a better choice for you. But if you frequently spend a lot on flights, hotels, or rideshares, the Amex Platinum Card could come out ahead.
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
Why we like it: The Chase Sapphire Preferred comes with a generous sign-up offer: You can earn 60,000 points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months. And since points are worth 25% more when used to book travel on the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal, that bonus is worth a whopping $750 toward travel. That’s enough to offset the annual fee for several years.
In addition, cardmembers earn 5X points on Lyft rides and travel booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards; 3X points on eligible dining, select streaming services, and online grocery purchases; 2X points on travel; and 1X points per $1 on all other eligible purchases. This card also offers top-of-the-line travel insurance and assistance perks. And new perks are coming soon as well, thanks to Chase’s partnerships with Lyft and DoorDash. Cardholders will get at least a year of free membership to DashPass.
How it compares to the Chase Sapphire Reserve: To offset the annual fee on the Chase Sapphire Preferred, you’d need to spend $3,800 on travel (not booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards) each year. Before the recent fee hike, you’d actually need to spend less to offset the fee on the Chase Sapphire Reserve when taking into account the $300 annual travel credit.
But with the Sapphire Reserve’s changes, you would need to spend about $5,560 on travel (not booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards) each year to offset the new fee, assuming you max out the travel credit annually. So when deciding which is the best travel credit card between the two cards, consider whether the added perks, such as airport lounge access and bonus points on Lyft rides, are worth the difference.
If you typically spend more than $5,560 on travel per year anyway, the Chase Sapphire Reserve Card is likely going to be the better option. But you should also consider the additional perks that come with the Chase Sapphire Reserve, such as airport lounge access and the fee credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck, when making your final decision.
Citi Premier® Card
What we like: With the same annual fee and welcome bonus as the Chase Sapphire Preferred and a higher rewards rate on travel purchases, the Citi Premier Card is a definite contender. We love that you can earn points in some additional categories as well, including 3X points at restaurants, supermarkets, and gas stations, and on air travel and hotels; and 1X points on all other purchases.
How it compares to the Chase Sapphire Reserve: Like cards with similar annual fees, the Citi Premier card lacks some of the more robust travel perks offered with the Chase Sapphire Reserve, including airport lounge access, annual travel credits, and fee credits for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck. And the rewards rate for travel and dining is not quite as high as what you’d get with the Chase Sapphire Reserve.
That said, this card could be a great option for less frequent travelers or those who don’t plan to take advantage of some of the more premium perks.
U.S. Bank Altitude® Reserve Visa Infinite® Card
Why we like it: The best-in-class $325 annual travel credit nearly offsets the $400 annual fee on the U.S. Bank Altitude Reserve. Plus, you’ll get 5X on prepaid hotel and car rentals booked in the Altitude Rewards Center; 3X points on eligible travel and mobile wallet purchases; and 1X points for all other eligible purchases.
If you frequently use mobile wallet to pay for transactions or would like to get started doing so, this can be incredibly valuable. And all those points you rack up will be worth 50% more when used to book travel, which means the 50,000 points welcome offer translates to up to $750 towards travel.
You’ll also get added perks like a 12-month Priority Pass Select membership, 12 free Gogo in-flight WiFi passes annually, discounts on rental cars, and a fee credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck.
How it compares to the Chase Sapphire Reserve: With a higher annual travel credit and lower annual fee, there’s less to offset with the U.S. Bank Altitude Reserve. You’ll also get the same ongoing rewards rate on travel purchases, but not on dining. That said, if you can use mobile wallet at the restaurants you frequent, this card might come out to be a better value.
However, if ongoing airport lounge access is important to you, the Chase Sapphire Reserve might be a better fit for you. The U.S. Bank Altitude Reserve only gets you a 12-month Priority Pass Select membership.
The bottom line
There are a ton of factors to consider when choosing the right travel rewards credit card for you. While the Chase Sapphire Reserve is still one of the most valuable premium travel cards out there, the annual fee hike brings other alternatives to the forefront of the competition.
To determine which card is the best fit for you, analyze your annual spending and decide what premium perks like airport lounge access are worth to you. No matter your spending habits, there are plenty of cards to choose from that offer accelerated rewards on travel and dining. You’ll be on your way to earning free nights and flights in no time.