At the end of the summer last year I made the decision to downgrade my Chase Sapphire Reserve card. I’d had it for about 18 months, and the second annual fee came due. With little need to redeem or transfer Ultimate Rewards (UR) over the next several months, keeping $450 in my pocket was the best play.
The isn’t to say I didn’t see value in the card. With a $300 travel credit, Priority Pass membership that includes restaurants, and higher value for UR redeemed through the travel portal, the card begged me to keep it. I nearly did.
But now Chase just pulled an Amex, deciding to offer cardholders less, for more.
Chase Just Nerfed Its Best Card
Chase is adding a couple new benefits to its flagship card: a Lyft Pink Membership and DoorDash credits. The fact that I know basically zero about either of these should tell you how valuable these changes are to me. Simultaneously, the annual fee is going up by $100.
I don’t need free bike and scooter rides, nor “surprise offers”. We won’t use food delivery service (if it even exists where we live…unlikely). There’s nothing on the table that offers more value. Chase is going in the way of American Express, adding things that supposedly provide value. The actual goal is breakage.
Chase is now effectively charging $100 more for…nothing! At least that’s how I see it.
The math sure doesn’t pencil like it used to. Before, you had a $450 annual fee where you got 2/3 back with a $300 travel credit. The first year I used the card to pay for a work flight and got reimbursed, so it was like cash back in my pocket. I only needed to justify $150, which was easy considering that I would have kept a Sapphire Preferred with a $95 annual fee. I really only needed to justify $55.
But now I need to justify $250 (or $155, depending on how you look at it). There are certainly situations where this is possible, and I’m sure many people will decide to keep the card. But this is a much harder sell, especially since I already have a keeper premium card: The Hilton Honors Aspire. The Priority Pass membership offered by the CSR is superfluous.
So, again I say goodbye, Chase Sapphire Reserve!
The Only Time I’d Consider The Chase Sapphire Reserve
There are two primary benefits the Chase Sapphire Reserve offers that I don’t currently have with other cards: Priority Pass restaurant access and the ability to redeem Ultimate Rewards for 1.5 cents each. The Sapphire Reserve is the only card that offers the extra 0.25% redemption value. The restaurant access is fairly low value. I only used it 5-6 times while I had the card.
It is the UR redemption value that would tip the scales for me. If we decide to fly to Europe as a family and I need to book five tickets, we might be looking at somewhere between $1,700 and $2,100 in airfare on a good award sale. Assuming we need to hit the higher figure, we would need 140,000 Ultimate Rewards. Contrast this with the 168,000 Ultimate Rewards we’d need, if redeeming with a Chase Ink Preferred.
Those 28,000 Ultimate Rewards are worth a minimum of $280, so I’d certainly come out ahead by upgrading to the CSR and making the booking. We would essentially pay $550 for $580 ($280 in UR value plus $300 travel credit). The math pencils in this case.
Considering the other benefits of the card, my breakeven point is somewhat lower, ~100,000 UR redeemed in a year. We haven’t come close to that yet (I think I redeemed ~70,000 through the portal over the 18 months I had the CSR). But I could see upgrading for the higher UR redemption value. That’s about it.
Maybe the card was too good to be true. The initial sign-up bonus certainly made it seem that way. Maybe I should be glad that we had it good as long as we did. These changes just really move the needle for me.
I’d tossed around the idea of converting one of my other cards to the Chase Sapphire Reserve later this yes, if the need arose. With the $300 travel credit, Priority Pass lounge access that includes restaurants, and the ability to redeem Ultimate Rewards at 1.5 cents each, I could foresee a situation where the card would more than pay for itself.
But now this is less likely. Unless I find I need to redeem 100,000 or more Ultimate Rewards through the travel portal, I’m not gonna make the move. The Chase Ink Preferred will be my keeper for the long-haul, with its 3x travel earning and ability to transfer UR to partners.
What do you think of the CSR changes?