Points, Miles & Credit Cards

Review: The Chase Sapphire Reserve® Is the Easiest to Use Premium Travel Rewards Card

Matt Ortile

Matt Ortile

September 6, 2023

9 min read

Table of Contents

Going has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Going and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. Opinions, reviews, analyses, and recommendations are the author's alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed, or approved by any of these entities.

There is perhaps no more notorious credit card on the market today than the Chase Sapphire Reserve®. It made a huge splash when it first debuted in 2016 as something of a “viral” credit card. People who never really thought about points and miles, lounge access, or TSA PreCheck® became curious. “This isn’t your father’s stodgy titanium credit card,” the marketing strategy seemed to say, and the product was positioned as the must-have luxury travel credit card for young professional millennials. It had—and still has—an easy to use travel credit, benefits that most people can actually use on a day to day basis, and access to airport lounges all over the world. 

In the last seven years, the Reserve has stayed on the forefront of most people’s minds when they think of credit cards that earn points and miles. It’s changed in a few ways; its competitors have too—and so has its more junior counterpart within the family of Chase credit cards. But even as the competition gets stiffer, there are still good reasons to keep the Reserve in your wallet, regardless of your level of expertise with using points and miles for travel.

I recommend the card_name for travelers looking for a card that grants them plenty of benefits like lounge access, increased points-earning rates for travel spending, an easy to use travel credit, a Global Entry/TSA PreCheck(R) credit, and plenty of memberships they can use on the road and at home.

Learn more about the card here, and read on for our review.

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What is the annual fee for the Chase Sapphire Reserve®?

The annual fee for the card_name is annual_fees. The sticker shock on this card is not unusual, but the card comes with a bunch of benefits that offset this annual fee. More on those below.

What is the welcome offer on the Chase Sapphire Reserve®?

bonus_miles_full (that's Chase's travel portal), where each point is worth 1.5¢. More often than not, however, I recommend that you do not redeem your points through the Chase travel portal, and instead transfer them to airline partners to maximize the value of your points. More on this below.

How do you earn points with the Chase Sapphire Reserve®?

Given that it’s a premium-tier travel rewards card, the card_name offers higher points-earning rates in spending categories related to travel.

You earn 10 points per dollar spent on hotels and car rentals purchased through the Chase Ultimate Rewards® travel portal; and 5 points per dollar spent on flights purchased through the Chase Ultimate Rewards® travel portal. If you find, say, a flight or a hotel stay sold in the Chase travel portal that’s cheaper than or equal to the price you’d pay if you booked directly with an airline or hotel, then I suggest using your card to make the purchase through the portal. 

(Attenzione, nota bene! You must use your Reserve card to make the purchase in order to earn the points. It may seem obvious, but I should say: You do not earn points when you redeem your points in the travel portal. All the more reason to instead transfer points directly to airline loyalty programs and redeem them for flights directly with an airline or its partners.)

For all other travel purchases made outside of the Chase travel portal, the Reserve earns 3 points per dollar spent (3x). Keep in mind that Chase defines the “travel” category broadly. It counts the obvious (“car rental agencies, cruise lines, travel agencies”) and the less obvious (“buses, taxis, limousines, ferries, toll bridges and highways, and parking lots and garages”) as travel expenses, so you have the opportunity to earn more points throughout your tip with this card.

You also get 3x on dining at restaurants (including eligible delivery services, takeout, and dining out), which makes sense, since you’ll presumably be dining out a lot while you’re traveling. All other non-travel and non-dining purchases earn you one point per dollar. So if you use this card on, say, souvenirs at a gift shop, that thirty-dollar “I <3 NY” shirt will only get you thirty points.

What are the points transfer partners of the Chase Sapphire Reserve®?

You can transfer Chase points to these airlines. 

  • Aer Lingus AerClub
  • Air Canada Aeroplan
  • Air France / 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

All points transfer at a one to one (1:1) ratio, which means that one Chase point is equivalent to one mile or point with all of these loyalty programs, once transferred. Anecdotally, transfers to all these partners are relatively instantaneous, with one exception: transfers to Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer usually take 24 hours to process. 

And these are Chase’s current hotel partners. All points transfer at a 1:1 ratio to these programs. Transfers to Choice Privileges and World of Hyatt are instantaneous, but transfers to Marriott take a day or two. 

  • Choice Privileges
  • Marriott Bonvoy
  • World of Hyatt

On the whole, transferring points to hotels rarely maximizes the value of your points, with the exception of transfers to World of Hyatt. You’re better off sticking to points transfers to airlines to get the most value out of your points.

What kinds of flights can I take using the points I earn from the Chase Sapphire Reserve®?

The current welcome offer of 60,000 points can get you a wide variety of travel experiences. Here are some ideas of what you could do with those points.

  • Take your family to Disney World by transferring points to British Airways Executive Club and booking partner awards for three (3) roundtrip economy tickets on American Airlines between Dallas and Orlando for a total of 54,000 Avios (that’s British’s miles currency) 
  • Fly in comfort and style to see the Eiffel Tower by transferring points to Air France-KLM Flying Blue and booking a one-way award flight from New York to Paris in Air France business class for 55,000 Flying Blue miles
  • Go on a besties vacay to Hawai’i by transferring points to Air Canada Aeroplan and booking partner awards for two (2) roundtrip economy tickets on United between San Francisco and Honolulu for as low as 50,000 Aeroplan miles in total
  • Make a flight or hotel booking through the Chase Travel portal that would cost you $900 dollars (more on this below)

That said, finding flights bookable with points does take time and patience. We at Going can do the work for you. We send email alerts to our Elite members when we find a good deal bookable with points and miles—often for even fewer points than the prices I’ve listed above. Here’s how it works.

What are the other benefits of the Chase Sapphire Reserve®?

Like many credit cards in this tier or price range, the card_name comes with a variety of yearly credits and memberships that help offset its high annual fee.

First is the Reserve’s famous annual travel credit, worth $300. It’s incredibly easy to use: Every year (when you first get the card or on your card’s anniversary), the first $300 that you spend on travel charges will be reimbursed to you on your credit card statement. So, for example, if you spend $250 on a flight in June, you’ll get a $250 credit on your statement for that month. Then if you spend $300 on another flight in July, you’ll get $50 as a credit on your July statement—the rest of your $300 credit after spending $250 on travel in the previous month. You can use it all at once, or slowly over time. (I once blew it all on some very expensive Uber rides during a particularly messy birthday month.) 

Additionally, the Reserve offers two complimentary years of Lyft Pink All Access (enrollment required)—a value of $199 per year; a complimentary year of DashPass, a membership for both DoorDash and Caviar (enrollment required)—a value of $120; a monthly $5 DoorDash credit through December 2024—a value of up to $60; a complimentary year of Instacart+ (enrollment required)—a value of $99 per year; a monthly $15 Instacart+ credit through July 2024—a value of up to $180 for the year. Altogether with the $300 credit, that’s up to $958 in credits, which more than pays off your first annual fee.

Every four years, you get a statement credit of up to $100 as reimbursement for the Global Entry/TSA PreCheck® application fee charged to the card. For those unfamiliar, TSA PreCheck® lets you expedite your security process at the airport upon departure within or from the United States (there’s no TSA PreCheck® in Europe, for example), and Global Entry speeds up the immigration process when you enter the US. If you go through the interview process for Global Entry and are approved, you automatically get TSA PreCheck®. (If you apply only for TSA PreCheck®, you do not get Global Entry automatically.)

As for lounge access, the card comes with a Priority Pass™ Select membership (enrollment required), a value of $469 per year, which grants access to over 1,300 lounges across the world. And of course, this card does not charge foreign transaction fees, which means you can freely use this credit card while traveling abroad without worrying about any extra charges for paying with a card.

What’s the deal with the Chase travel portal and the 1.5¢/point valuation?

Now, it’s time to talk about how the Chase Sapphire Reserve® works in conjunction with the Chase Ultimate Rewards® travel portal. When you hold the Chase Sapphire Reserve®, each of your Chase points are worth 1.5¢ in the Chase travel portal. This means, for example, the 60,000 bonus points you earn through the welcome offer are worth $900 in the travel portal (60,000 points multiplied by 1.5¢ equals $900.00)—a fact that Chase loves to advertise when it comes to the Reserve.

The reason they shout this feature from the rooftops is because, in most other credit card travel portals, a credit card point is worth just one cent (1¢). They’re essentially offering you a way to use your points as you would cash-back: If you pay off the $2,000 on your credit card bill, you get $20 in cash back, at a rate of one cent earned per dollar paid off (yes, 1¢ multiplied by 2000 is just $20; I triple-checked). So if you have 100,000 credit card points, valued at 1¢ each in a travel portal, you have $1,000 you can use to purchase flights, lodging, or other travel experiences. 

Compare that to the valuation Chase puts on a credit card point when you carry one of their Sapphire cards—as I said, 1.5¢/point if you hold the Reserve; a slightly lower 1.25¢/point if you hold the Preferred—and it appears as if redeeming your points through the Chase travel portal is the way to go. If you earn 100,000 Chase points through spending on the Reserve, you have $1,500 for travel. Sounds great, right? Sure, but it could be better.

I’m happy to repeat it ad nauseam: You stretch and maximize the value of your points by transferring your points directly to airline loyalty programs for award flight redemptions. For example, that same 100,000 Chase points could be transferred to Air Canada Aeroplan to book a first class one-way flight between New York and Athens via Munich on their partner airline Lufthansa, which could cost about $7,500 if you paid for it in cash. At about a valuation of about 7.5¢ per point vs. 1.5¢ per point, that’s a higher-value redemption compared to whatever you buy through the Chase travel portal worth just $1,500. (This is an actual points redemption I made this year! For more details, and to learn how to calculate the value of your credit card points when you redeem them directly with airlines, read this guide.) 

Sure, there will be times where redeeming your points through the Chase travel portal at a valuation of 1.5¢ could represent a good value. Sometimes there will be no award availability for a flight that you want through a loyalty program, and it may be better to go through a travel portal and just book the darn thing. You just have to do the math and compare points prices to see which option will cost fewer points. (More info here.)

Who is the Chase Sapphire Reserve® for?

The Chase Sapphire Reserve® is a good option for folks who want to get a feel for using a luxury travel rewards card. The credits easily “negate” the annual fee for the first year of card membership. In subsequent years, without all the limited-time credits, the easy-to-use annual $300 credit brings down the net annual fee to $250. In a year where you apply for Global Entry and/or TSA PreCheck®, the credits bring it down to $150. And if you use airport lounges at all, the value of the Priority Pass™ Select membership covers almost the entirety of the sticker price.

Learn more about the card here.

What are my other options, if I don’t think the Chase Sapphire Reserve® is right for me?

All that said, here’s something to consider: The Reserve out-earns its more “junior” counterpart, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, in only one spending category: travel purchases. With the Reserve, you get 10x on hotels and rental cars, and 5x on flights, when purchasing through the Chase Travel portal; non-portal travel spending nets you 3x. On the other hand, the Preferred earns 5x on all travel spending through the Chase portal, and only 2x on non-portal travel purchases. 

To its credit, the Preferred has a wider variety of bonused spending categories. On top of the travel categories, the Preferred earns 3 points per dollar spent on online grocery purchases (excluding Walmart, Target and wholesale clubs) and on select streaming services. For dining at restaurants (including eligible delivery services, takeout, and dining out), the Preferred’s earning rate is the same as the Reserve’s, 3x. All this to say, depending on your needs and spending habits, you may actually get more points-earning value out of the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card.

Going has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Going and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. Opinions, reviews, analyses, and recommendations are the author's alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed, or approved by any of these entities.

Matt Ortile

Matt Ortile

Marketing

Matt Ortile writes the Going With Points newsletter at Going. He is the author of the essay collection The Groom Will Keep His Name, a columnist at Condé Nast Traveler, and working on a novel about a flight attendant. He lives in Brooklyn.

Published September 6, 2023

Last updated February 13, 2024

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