The summer of 2016 was a very memorable one in the world of points and miles. It was then when Chase had entered the “Premium Cards” market with a beefed-up version of their Sapphire Preferred. This new card was called the Sapphire Reserve. The rest of 2016 saw Chase losing millions of dollars but gaining many new customers.

The Sapphire Reserve is a great card for most travelers because of its earning structure and perks. Its membership in the Chase Ultimate Rewards (UR) points “ecosystem” also makes it very versatile.

Is this premium card right for you?

Earning

The Sapphire Reserve has a sign-up bonus of 50,000 UR points after spending $4,000 in the first 3 months. This bonus is still amazing, even though it offered 100,000 UR points when it first came out.

It earns 3x UR points on travel and dining and 1x points on everything else. Chase has a broad list of what includes travel and dining. Some travel purchases that count include airfare, hotel stays, a car rental, and toll road fees. Dining purchases include restaurants, coffee shops, and bars.

The Sapphire Reserve is a fantastic card on its own. But its potential can truly be maximized if you have multiple UR-earning Chase cards. If you have either Freedom card and/or an Ink Business card, you can earn points with those cards and transfer them to your Sapphire Reserve account. This feature is arguably the most powerful that Chase has to offer.

Burning

Earning points is fantastic, but points earned are useless if you cannot redeem them for anything of value. Chase has multiple options for redemption:

Transfer Partners

Transfer partners are by far Chase’s most valuable option. They are the reason why so many points and miles enthusiasts love Ultimate Rewards so much. With Chase, the name of the game is quality over quantity. Chase has 13 travel partners:

Hotels

  • IHG
  • Marriott
  • Ritz-Carlton
  • World of Hyatt

Airlines

  • Aer Lingus
  • Air France / KLM Flying Blue
  • British Airways
  • Iberia
  • JetBlue
  • Singapore Airlines
  • Southwest Airlines
  • United Airlines
  • Virgin Atlantic

Your mileage may vary for each partner. But for most partners, you should be able to easily redeem your points for at least 1.5 cents per point (CPP).

Other Options

Chase provides cardholders the option of booking travel through its travel portal at a fixed rate of 1.5 CPP. You should use the portal if you cannot redeem your points for more than the fixed rate. The Sapphire Reserve is the only card that earns the higher 1.5 CPP rate for the travel portal.

Chase also lets cardholders redeem their points for cash back and gift cards at 1 CPP. Sometimes, Chase discounts some of their gift card options, enabling cardholders to redeem for more than 1 CPP. Neither cash back or gift cards are recommended.

If cash back is more attractive than points, then the Chase Sapphire Reserve is probably not for you.

Benefits

As a premium travel card, Chase includes some great benefits to make life easier when away from home. The Sapphire Reserve is nice because it strikes a balance between perks and earning. Because of this balance, it doesn’t have as many perks as the Amex Platinum Card or the Citi Prestige.

$300 General Travel Credit

This perk is a favorite of many travelers. You receive $300 in statement credits for general travel purchases. This credit is the best way to make up for most of the Reserve’s $450 annual fee. The credit is not restricted to just airfare, hotels, or incidentals, which makes it very accessible.

All purchases that are normally under Chase’s “Travel” bonus category are eligible. But you can’t receive 3x points and use the credit at the same time.

Priority Pass Airport Lounge Access

This perk gives you access to over 10,000 Priority Pass airport lounges around the world. The lounges give you a nice space to relax, eat, drink, and get ready before boarding your flight.

Global Entry / Pre-TSA Fee Credits

You will receive a credit once every 4-5 years to waive the fee for either program. I suggest going with Global Entry because Pre-TSA comes with that membership automatically.

Primary Car Rental Insurance

This benefit covers the entire loss, damage, or theft of your car rental. Because Chase offers Primary coverage with this card, you don’t have to accept the car rental company’s insurance policy if you use your Sapphire Reserve.

No Foreign Exchange Fees

This increasingly common benefit saves you 3% on all purchases made outside of the United States.

Trip Cancellation / Trip Interruption Insurance

If you need to cancel your trip because of an unexpected event, this benefit gives you up to $10,000 per trip for non-refundable expenses. Plane tickets, hotel rooms, and tours are included.

Trip Delay Insurance

This benefit covers you up to $500 per ticket if your plane, train, or other common carrier is delayed at least 6 hours. It also kicks in if you require an overnight stay as a result of a delay. The $500 helps cover unreimbursed expenses such as meals and lodging.

Baggage Delay Insurance

This benefit gives you $100 per day up to 5 days if your luggage is lost or delayed. If your luggage is delayed for more than 6 hours, you can redeem for toiletries, clothing, and other essentials.

Rules & Regulations

Chase has two major rules in place to prevent “churners” from scoring their sign-up bonuses too many times. These rules are the 5/24 Rule and the One Sapphire Rule.

The 5/24 rule states that you will not be approved for any UR-earning card if you were approved for five or more new accounts in the last 24-months. Some Chase co-branded cards also fall under this rule as well.

The One Sapphire Rule states that your will not be approved for the Sapphire Preferred or Sapphire Reserve if you received a sign-up bonus within the last 48 months. It also applies to the discontinued no annual fee Sapphire card.

Similar Cards

What if the Chase Sapphire Reserve is not for you? Here are some alternatives that might be better:

Chase Sapphire Preferred

This card is the Sapphire Reserve’s little “sibling”. It earns just 2x UR points in the same bonus categories as the Reserve. The Sapphire Preferred has a $95 annual fee (waived the first year) and is a better card for those who are just starting out. Those who don’t like the $450 annual fee but want the Reserve are better off with the Preferred.

You have access to the same travel partners and other redemption options as the Sapphire Reserve. But the travel portal fixed rate is lower, and the insurances are a bit more restrictive.

Like the Sapphire Reserve, this card has a 50,000 UR point sign-up bonus. It can be earned after spending $4,000 in the first 3 months.

American Express Platinum Card

The American Express Platinum Card earns Membership Rewards (MR) points. You earn 5x MR points on airfare booked directly with the airline. It also earns one point per dollar spent on everything else.

But the perks are where this card shines. The Sapphire Reserve offers only a few of the benefits that the Platinum offers. The Platinum Card has the potential to earn you thousands in value from perks.

Both cards can be complements to each other if you’re willing to pay at least $1,000 per year in total annual fees. The Sapphire Reserve can be used for spending while the Platinum can be used for perks.

This card has a $550 annual fee (NOT waived the first year). It also has a sign-up bonus of 60,000 MR points after spending $5,000 in the first 3 months.

Citi Prestige

Citi’s premium card is a more balanced alternative to the Chase Sapphire Reserve. It earns a huge 5x Citi Thank You (TY) points on Dining and Airfare and 1x points on everything else.

The Citi Prestige is known for its Fourth Night Free benefit. If you stay at a hotel for at least four nights, Citi will credit you back the rate for your fourth night. Even though Citi has limited the benefit to twice per year, you can still save thousands on hotel purchases.

You will also receive a $250 general travel credit like the one from the Sapphire Reserve. This credit is a great way to justify the annual fee. Citi recently raised the annual fee to $495 (NOT waived the first year).

Final Draw

The Chase Sapphire Reserve has been one of the hottest travel cards on the market since its introduction in 2016. It’s a great card for people who have varied travel and dining expenditures. While the $450 annual fee might be high for some, the travel credit and other benefits are there to soften the blow.

For me, this card is a good upgrade option for my Sapphire Preferred. But I don’t want to have more than $1,000 in annual fees (I also have the Amex Business Platinum Card for perks). I will upgrade my Sapphire Preferred only if I cancel or downgrade my Platinum card.