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Chase Sapphire Reserve: The Best Rewards Program of Premium Travel Cards

Besides a great rewards program, you can take advantage of several travel credits -- like for TSA Precheck or Global Entry.

The Chase Sapphire Reserve® is the most flexible and far-reaching premium travel rewards card on the market. It's a direct competitor of The Platinum Card® from American Express, but it offers a more robust rewards program and is less expensive to maintain. Premium travel cards are designed for frequent flyers and avid travelers trying to maximize their budgets and enjoy deluxe perks like credits and travel upgrades. They're notoriously expensive, and the Sapphire Reserve comes in near the middle of the spread at $550 per year. 

If you're willing to make your travel reservations -- like flights, hotels and rental cars -- through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal, you can ignite a feedback loop with even better travel rewards thanks to a boosted points redemption value.

Below we review the rewards program and how to derive the most value from it, as well as the other benefits this card comes with. We'll also compare the offer to its two main competitors.

Read more: Chase Sapphire Reserve vs. The Platinum Card from American Express

In this article

Chase Sapphire Reserve®

8/10 CNET Rating
Card Highlights
Intro OfferEarn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $900 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
APR20.74% - 27.74% Variable
Intro Purchase APRN/A
Recommended Credit Excellent
Reward Rates
  • Earn 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
  • Earn 5x total points on flights through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
  • Earn 3x points on other travel and dining.
  • Earn 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
Annual Fee$550
Additional Details
Balance Transfer APR20.74% - 27.74% Variable
Balance Transfer Fee Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each balance transfer, whichever is greater
Foreign Transaction Fees $0
Penalty APR Up to 29.99%
Rewards & Redemption Details
  • Earn 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
  • Earn 5x total points on flights through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
  • Earn 3x points on other travel and dining.
  • Earn 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases

Rewards program

The Chase Sapphire Reserve is focused on travel and dining purchases and the rewards within those categories are among the best available for travel rewards credit cards.

Cardholders will earn significantly more in rewards when using the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal to book travel and dining. When booking through Ultimate Rewards, you'll earn 5x points on flights and 10x points on hotels and car rentals. When booking outside of Chase with airlines, hotels or other third-party platforms, you'll earn 3x points on travel and 3x points on dining (earn elevated rewards on travel purchases after earning the $300 annual travel credit). You'll also earn 10x points on dining purchases made through Chase Dining, but keep in mind the current options available are limited, and will depend a lot on where you live. We'll get into the finer details of Chase Dining later on in our review.

The rewards points you earn with Chase are called Ultimate Rewards points. If you redeem them as a statement credit, you'll receive 1 cent per Ultimate Rewards point. If you redeem them for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards, each point will be worth 1.5 cents. For example, that means 5x points on flights will be worth 7.5% back when those rewards are redeemed for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards.

Finally, don't sleep on the 3x rate for "other" travel and dining purchases, which includes all those outside the Ultimate Rewards portal. That's still an excellent rate, especially considering Chase's redemption bonus when redeeming toward travel, which makes the 3x rewards worth 4.5% back. If it turns out that the Ultimate Rewards travel portal isn't your cup of tea, you'll still earn considerable rewards when booking directly with airlines.

Welcome bonus

The welcome bonus for the Chase Sapphire Reserve is 60,000 points currently, which is worth $900 when redeemed toward travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards, and $600 when redeemed as a statement credit. To earn the welcome bonus, you'll need to spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening.

The welcome bonus spending threshold is rather high, given the market. But if you're planning trips often enough to make this card worth it anyway, you'll likely hit the threshold just between accommodations and everyday expenses without even trying.

Annual travel credit

The $300 annual travel credit is the easiest reward to take advantage of, among the Reserve's many perks. A statement credit will be automatically applied to your account when you use your card for most major types of travel expenses -- booked with or without the Ultimate Rewards portal -- up until the $300 mark. So as long as you spend at least $300 a year on travel, the credit is as good as cash. It's important to note that any transactions that are covered by this statement credit do not earn rewards otherwise.

Rewards redemption

Chase offers a variety of ways to redeem your Ultimate Rewards points, but there's a significant difference between them, so make sure you understand the landscape before cashing in.

Points can be redeemed for cash, gift cards, travel and statement credits (through Chase's "Pay Yourself Back" program), or they can be transferred to one of Chase's 14 different travel partners at a 1-to-1 ratio. Partners include:

  • Aer Lingus AerClub
  • Air Canada Aeroplan
  • AirFrance-KLM Flying Blue
  • British Airways Executive Club
  • Emirates Skywards
  • Iberia Plus
  • JetBlue TrueBlue
  • Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer
  • Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards
  • United MileagePlus
  • Virgin Atlantic Flying Club
  • IHG Rewards Club
  • Marriott Bonvoy
  • World of Hyatt 

Chase Ultimate Rewards points would be worth 1 point for the respective program.

Cash and gift card redemptions are worth 1 cent per point, a standard conversion rate across credit cards. Applying your points to checkout on Amazon will yield 0.8 cents per point.

The best option for redeeming Ultimate Rewards points is to apply them toward travel through the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal. If you redeem them this way, you'll receive 1.5 cents per point (you'll still want to compare the prices on Chase's portal with the airlines themselves to ensure they're consistent).

Chase is also currently offering a "Pay Yourself Back" statement credit option worth up to 1.5 cents per point, but the categories and eligibility have fluctuated considerably over the last several months, and may continue to do so.

Using the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal

Given that the highest reward rates are for purchases made through the travel portal, it's important to get a preview of that experience. The Ultimate Rewards platform uses a third-party booking tool that looks across a variety of airlines and hotels for the best prices, similar to Expedia or Priceline. 

The tool itself is accessible and easy to use. However, you can't always choose between the main cabin and basic economy. You also won't earn miles or elite status points on the respective airline or hotel, since you're not booking directly with them. When it comes to customer service, there can sometimes be issues resolving problems with third-party bookings.

That said, the rewards rate bump is worth it for most people. But if you always prefer to book directly with an airline, you'll still get 3x rewards points and can transfer them to your favorite travel partner for redemption.

Using Chase Dining

The Chase Sapphire Reserve currently offers 10x points on dining booked through Chase Dining -- but  we don't think it's a platform you'll regularly use. 

Chase currently has over 4,000 restaurants and "dining experiences," but the number of restaurants available will depend on where you live. Those living in larger cities like New York or Chicago will have a lot more options than other areas. 

The 10x rate also only applies to prepaid reservations, so if you're interested in dining out, you need to pay in advance. This applies most often for things like events with five-course set menus, for example. You can also order takeout from any available restaurants, but again, the options may be limited.

To summarize, Chase Dining has a lot of potential, but it isn't very practical right now.

Additional perks

In addition to the welcome bonus, rewards and annual travel credit, the Chase Sapphire Reserve offers a number of other notable perks. 

Priority Pass lounge access: Available for you and two guests at over 1,300 locations in more than 500 cities worldwide. 

Global Entry or TSA PreCheck credit: You'll receive a statement credit of up to $100 every four years to cover either Global Entry or TSA PreCheck fees. Other perks include trip cancellation/interruption insurance, lost luggage reimbursement, trip delay reimbursement, emergency evacuation and transportation, purchase protection and extended warranty protection.

Luxury Hotel & Resort Collection: This includes perks like complimentary upgrades and late check-out.

The Chase Sapphire Reserve -- like all travel cards -- boasts no foreign transaction fees. Additionally, it's a good idea to keep an eye on Chase's "partner benefits," which have included deals for cardholders with companies like Lyft and DoorDash.

Comparable Cards

The Chase Sapphire Reserve is on a short list of top premium travel rewards credit cards. The two main contenders are The Platinum Card® from American Express and the Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card.

The Platinum Card from American Express

The Platinum Card from American Express functions a bit differently from the Chase Sapphire Reserve, and has a $695 annual fee. The Platinum Card earns 5x points on flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel (on up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year) and 5x points on prepaid hotels booked with American Express Travel. It also offers a long list of perks, including up to $200 back in statement credits each year on prepaid Fine Hotels + Resorts and The Hotel Collection  bookings through American Express Travel (two-night minimum stay required), up to $300 Equinox credit (up to $25 back each month on the Equinox+ digital fitness app or eligible Equinox club memberships), and access to AmEx's Centurion Lounge collection of airport lounges.

The main draw of the Platinum Card is access to Centurion Lounges and annual credits. If you prefer Centurion Lounges over Priority Pass, and can take advantage of many of the annual credits available, the Platinum card could be worth a look.

Terms apply to American Express benefits and offers. Enrollment may be required for select American Express benefits and offers. Visit americanexpress.com to learn more.

Check out our full review of The Platinum Card from American Express for more details.

Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card

The Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card offers a competitive deal -- its annual fee of $395 comes in lower than Chase and American Express's premium cards, and its reward rates are similar. Venture X cardholders earn 10x miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel, 5x miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel and 2x miles on all other purchases. Check out our full review of the Capital One Venture X for more information about redemption methods and rates.

Check out our full review of the Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card for more details.

FAQs

How do travel credit cards work?

Travel credit cards turn purchases into points or miles that can be redeemed for travel purchases, like flights and hotel stays. Sometimes you can redeem those points for cash or a gift card, but you typically get the best rate when using them to book travel. The top cards have their own travel booking portals where you can find flights, hotels and rental cars. Sometimes, points are worth more when used in those credit card company portals.

Airline credit cards and hotel credit cards operate like loyalty programs in that you stay in a closed-loop rewards system. You earn rewards when you purchase flights or hotels through your chosen airline or hotel company, and you can use those points for perks or future bookings through the same airline or hotel group.

What extra benefits do travel credit cards usually offer?

Most premium travel credit cards -- which carry hefty annual fees -- include benefits that add value to those cards. The most typical benefits are travel accident insurance, trip cancellation insurance, trip delay reimbursement or protection, lost luggage reimbursement and rental car collision insurance.

How do you choose the best travel credit card?

The points and travel benefits that you accrue through a travel rewards program are often redeemed through your credit card issuer's website (or app) or appear as a statement credit that reimburses you for past travel-related and everyday purchases you made with your travel credit card. Points or miles can also be transferred to travel partners -- mostly hotels and airlines -- at a fluctuating conversion rate, where they can then be used to book a flight or hotel room. To choose the best travel credit card, there are a few key factors to consider: 

  • Annual fees: Most travel rewards programs have annual fees, with some climbing as high as $695, but those fees are usually mitigated by monthly or annual credits. 
  • Exclusive perks: Some travel rewards card options also grant access to exclusive travel perks, like airline lounges, priority boarding or VIP welcomes at hotels. The value of those perks is subjective and something you'll have to evaluate based on your needs and wants.
  • Foreign transaction fees: The best travel cards don't make users pay a foreign transaction fee, so that's not something you have to worry about.

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