The Chase Sapphire Reserve is the flagship card of Chase’s Ultimate Rewards program. Ultimate Rewards is an ecosystem of several credit cards that when taken together, grant industry-best returns in most shopping categories. We’ll be covering all of the Ultimate Rewards cards in greater detail in future guides, but today we’re focusing on why the Reserve is well worth its high annual fee.
The Chase Sapphire Reserve is worth getting for its sign-up bonus alone. You’ll net 50,000 Ultimate Rewards points after spending $4,000 on the card in the first three months after opening. That’s worth around $1100 if you play your points right, or to put it another way, you’re getting an amazing return on that $4,000 you were probably going to spend anyway.
With the Reserve, you’ll earn 3X Ultimate Rewards Points for every dollar spent on Dining (including things like Seamless), and Travel (including things like Uber), which are likely two of your biggest spending categories if you’re a frequent traveler. 2% is the baseline return I recommend everyone earn on every purchase they ever make, and by maximizing your Ultimate Rewards redemptions, these points are worth far more than that. Shep and I have both cashed in 25,000 points for roundtrip flights to Hawaii, for example.
On paper, the Chase Sapphire Reserve has a $450 annual fee, but that’s immediately cut down to $150 by an annual $300 travel credit that automatically applies to pretty much any relevant purchases you can think of. You’ll also receive a $100 credit to cover the application fees of Global Entry or TSA Pre✓, Priority Pass Select Membership which gets you in the door of more than 1000 airport lounges, elite status at multiple car rental services, and more.
But if you’re a points maximizer, the most important benefit of the Reserve may be the increased redemption value of Ultimate Rewards points. UR Points on your Reserve are worth 1.5 cents/point when using them to book travel through Chase, and you can move all the rest of your UR Points to your Reserve to get that boosted redemption. At three points per dollar on travel and dining, that means you’re basically getting a 4.5% return towards travel booked through the Chase portal. Of course, Ultimate Rewards points can be worth far more than even that when transferring to Chase’s travel partners.
Chase currently has 11 transfer partners, including the likes of United, Southwest, Hyatt, and Marriott. Points transfer at a ratio of 1:1, but the value of a point varies not only between partners, but depending on what you’re using them to book at any one particular partner. In short, the Reserve offers a killer base value when redeeming points for travel through Chase, and with a little homework can net you even more return.
Chase Ultimate Rewards is the best and most user-friendly travel rewards system out there, and the Chase Sapphire Reserve is the most rewarding card in the program. That said, if you’re scared off by that annual fee and don’t think you’d use the $300 annual travel credit, the less expensive Sapphire Preferred still offers the same 50,000 point sign-up bonus.
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