The Chase Sapphire Reserve® was once a no-brainer for travelers seeking valuable rewards and benefits to help boost their travels. But when the annual fee spiked to $550, the card lost some of its overall appeal. The question now becomes: Is the Chase Sapphire Reserve card still worth it?
Simply put, it is — depending on your situation. This may not be the resounding “yes” you would have received in years past, but there’s still plenty of value to be found with this premium travel card. Let’s look at what the Sapphire Reserve has to offer and see whether it aligns with your travel and financial goals.
Chase Sapphire Reserve basics
Sign-up bonus: Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening
Rewards rate: 5X points on flights and 10X points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards® immediately after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually; 3X points on other travel and dining & 1X points per dollar on all other purchases
Annual fee: $550
As a premium travel card, the Chase Sapphire Reserve offers a robust suite of benefits, but it also comes with a high annual fee. With most credit cards that fit into the premium card category, you can typically work to offset the annual fee through the welcome bonus, increased earning rates, and taking advantage of benefits.
For more details about the card, check out our full Chase Sapphire Reserve review.
Chase Sapphire Reserve benefits and perks
To help determine whether this card is worth it, consider the Chase Sapphire Reserve benefits and the potential value they could offer you. For example, a Priority Pass membership is likely more valuable if you fly 10 or more times per year rather than just occasionally. Here are some popular Chase Sapphire Reserve benefits.
$300 travel credit
You receive $300 in annual travel credit for each account anniversary. Chase is often lenient with what’s included as a travel purchase, which is a bonus for Sapphire Reserve card members. This includes purchases from airlines, hotels, car rental agencies, travel agencies, taxis, buses, and even parking lots and garages.
Depending on how you like to travel, this benefit could act as a hotel credit, airline credit, car rental credit, and more. You might even be able to find some creative uses for the credit, such as using it for seat upgrades on flights.
Chase Ultimate Rewards
If you compare credit cards, it’s common to find rewards programs attached to rewards credit cards. These programs make it easy to earn bonus points, miles, or cash back with credit card purchases which you can then redeem for different bonuses.
The Chase Sapphire Reserve lets you earn Chase Ultimate Rewards points. These rewards have multiple redemption options, but some of the most valuable include using the Ultimate Rewards portal for travel and using the Pay Yourself Back feature for statement credits. These options offer more value compared to the typical cashback or gift card redemptions.
50% travel redemption bonus
One of the best features of the Sapphire Reserve is receiving a 50% bonus to award travel redemptions made through the Chase travel portal. This includes using your points for airfare, hotel stays, and rental cars. If you have multiple Chase cards, you can combine your rewards onto the Sapphire Reserve and get more value from them.
This 50% bonus also applies to redemptions made with the Pay Yourself Back feature. With this feature, you can redeem points for statement credits against certain eligible purchases in different categories. Pay Yourself Back categories typically change every few months, so keep an eye out for categories that could align with your typical spending habits.
A Priority Pass Select membership is complimentary for Sapphire Reserve cardholders. This membership gives you unlimited access to Priority Pass lounges and other Priority Pass experiences, including receiving credit at eligible airport restaurants.
If you frequently travel through airports with Priority Pass lounges, this free membership can be extremely valuable. The membership typically costs $429 per year if you were to buy it directly from Priority Pass, but it’s included at no additional cost on the Sapphire Reserve. Typical airport lounge benefits include free food and drinks, Wi-Fi, and seating away from the busy terminal gates.
TSA PreCheck or Global Entry
If you want to get through U.S. airport security screenings and customs faster, consider joining the TSA PreCheck or Global Entry programs. Being a member of either program can help you avoid certain long lines at the airport and reduce your overall travel time.
TSA PreCheck has an $78 application fee and lasts for five years, whereas Global Entry has a $100 application fee and also lasts for five years.
The Sapphire Reserve offers a fee reimbursement every four years for TSA PreCheck or Global Entry applications. Since a Global Entry membership includes TSA PreCheck and offers additional benefits, it typically makes sense to choose Global Entry over TSA PreCheck.
It’s hard to calculate the value of travel protection or insurance until you actually use it. For frequent travelers, the value of these coverages is often high because they have more opportunities to use them.
The Sapphire Reserve is often rated as one of the best credit cards for travel insurance and offers the following coverages:
- Trip cancellation and interruption insurance
- Lost luggage reimbursement
- Trip delay reimbursement
- Emergency evacuation and transportation
- Auto rental collision damage waiver (considered primary rental car insurance)\
In addition to travel insurance, the Sapphire Reserve also offers purchase coverage in the form of purchase protection, return protection, and extended warranty protection. These protections can cover your purchases if they are damaged or stolen or if the manufacturer’s warranty runs out.
Foreign transaction fees
The Chase Sapphire Reserve doesn’t have any foreign transaction fees, which means you won’t have this added expense when making purchases abroad. This may seem like a simple benefit, but you might be surprised how quickly your credit card purchases can add up while traveling.
Chase has many hotel and travel partners, including Hyatt, Marriott Bonvoy, Southwest, and JetBlue. You have the option to transfer points to the loyalty programs of these partner companies at a 1:1 ratio. This increases the flexibility of your rewards because you get many more redemption options to choose from.
For example, if you want to book hotel stays directly with Hyatt, you can transfer points to your World of Hyatt account. If you have a specific itinerary in mind with United, you can transfer points to your United MileagePlus account.
Chase also partners with other companies to provide you with additional benefits. These include earning 10X on hotels and car rentals purchased through Ultimate Rewards® (after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually).
When the Chase Sapphire Reserve is worth it
The Sapphire Reserve is typically only worth it if it offers you enough value to offset the $550 annual fee. The best way to do this is by taking advantage of the card’s benefits and by spending in the bonus categories.
The Sapphire Reserve offers many benefits, including a $300 annual travel credit, a Priority Pass Select membership, travel and purchase protections, TSA PreCheck or Global Entry fee credit, no foreign transaction fees, and much more.
If you were to purchase a similar Priority Pass membership, it would cost $429 per year. A Global Entry membership would cost $100 for five years. With the travel credit, Priority Pass, and Global Entry, you’ve already offset the annual fee without using any other benefits.
Your Sapphire Reserve can add value through its sign-up bonus (if applicable) and everyday purchases. For example, the 60,000 points earned via the sign-up bonus (by spending $4,000 in the first first 3 months) would be worth at least $900 toward travel redemptions in the Chase portal. If you frequently use your card for purchases in its bonus categories, some of the purchases you already make can help offset the annual fee.
When the Chase Sapphire Reserve is not worth it
The Sapphire Reserve isn’t worth it if you aren’t able to get enough value from its benefits and spending categories to offset the $550 annual fee. Because this is a premium travel card, most of its benefits are travel perks. If you don’t travel frequently enough or use the card’s benefits when traveling, the card might not be the right fit for you.
The Sapphire Reserve card also typically requires an excellent credit score to qualify. If you want to avoid a high annual fee and these strict credit qualifications, consider one of many other Chase credit cards. These cards range from cashback credit cards to travel cards, with options for lower annual fees and unique benefits.
For instance, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card could make sense if you want travel rewards and benefits but only travel occasionally. It has a lower $95 annual fee but still earns you Chase Ultimate Rewards points along with travel and purchase coverages. Learn more in our Chase Sapphire Preferred review.
What card is better than the Chase Sapphire Reserve?
Not many travel credit cards offer more robust benefits than the Chase Sapphire Reserve, but you might consider other cards for a few different reasons.
For example, The Platinum Card® from American Express offers complimentary elite status with Hilton Honors and Marriott Bonvoy, as well as access to The Centurion Lounge. If you want Capital One Lounge access and at least 2 miles per dollar on all your purchases, consider the Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card.
How much do you have to spend to make the Chase Sapphire Reserve worth it?
The Sapphire Reserve has a $550 annual fee, but it also comes with a $300 annual travel credit, a Priority Pass membership, travel insurance, and more. All of these benefits together could offset your annual fee by themselves, but it depends on whether you use them. If you only use the $300 travel credit, you would still need to offset $250.
To offset this amount through spending, you would need to spend about $5,566 in the 3X categories of other travel and dining. This would net you $250.47 worth of points toward travel on the Sapphire Reserve. If only spending in the 1X category for all other purchases, you would need to spend about $16,700 to earn enough points to offset the remaining $250 of the annual fee.
Is the Chase Sapphire Reserve worth it after the first year?
It depends on whether you use the card’s many travel benefits. The $300 travel credit is typically easy to use, but other benefits make more sense if you frequently travel. This includes Priority Pass airport lounge access, travel insurance, TSA PreCheck or Global Entry fee reimbursement, and access to The Luxury Hotel & Resort Collection.
If you aren’t able to take advantage of these additional benefits, it could be difficult to offset the $550 annual fee. But remember, the $300 travel credit essentially lowers your annual fee to $250, which is an easier amount to offset through benefits and spending.
The Chase Sapphire Reserve can be the ideal solution for many situations, especially if you plan on traveling frequently. It has benefits that are typically easy to use and can provide loads of value. To learn more about this card, check out these Chase Sapphire Reserve common questions.
If the Sapphire Reserve doesn’t seem like the right fit for you, there are plenty of other options to choose from. To help narrow down your choices, we’ve compiled a list of the top travel cards from major credit card issuers such as American Express, Chase, and Capital One. Check out our list of the best travel credit cards.
Premium Travel Benefits
Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening
5X points on flights and 10X points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards® immediately after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually; 3X points on other travel and dining & 1X points per dollar on all other purchases