Is the Chase Sapphire Reserve’s $450 Annual Fee Worth It?

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This is the week when the online Chase Sapphire Reserve credit card sign up bonus drops from an amazing 100,000 points to just 50,000 points. In other words, this is the week to get off your tail and hit apply if you are interested in getting this card before the 100,000 point bonus ends. You will reportedly still be able to get the 100k sign-up bonus if you go into a physical Chase branch until March, but I’m an online girl myself, so I went ahead and got the card last week. I really am loving the 3x points I am earning on travel and dining as I inch towards hitting the $4,000 in spending in the first 3 months needed to trigger the 100,000 point sign-up bonus.

Not surprisingly, 100,000 sign-up bonus points is an eye-catching number, and now that the increased bonus is drawing to a close, I have had a number of ‘real life’ friends and family members asking me if the Chase Sapphire Reserve is really worth it given the $450 annual fee. That’s a totally fair question since that is a large annual fee, and probably 3-4 times larger than any credit card annual fee that many people have ever paid.

Those asking me if the Chase Sapphire Reserve and the $450 annual fee are really worth it are typically asking from the point of view of those who travel a couple times a year, but who aren’t insanely deep into the miles, points, and travel world. You know, normal people. Believe it or not, my own travel patterns are actually pretty normal these days, so I feel totally comfortable answering this question.

I'm seriously loving my Sapphire Reserve and it is totally worth it to me

I’m seriously loving my Sapphire Reserve and it is totally worth it to me

Is the Chase Sapphire Reserve’s $450 Annual Fee Really Worth It?

Yes, I think the Chase Sapphire Reserve and its 100,000 sign-up bonus points are absolutely worth it even with the $450 annual fee, at least for the first year. Even for normal people, as long as they spend at least several hundred dollars a year on travel. Here’s why…

The Chase Sapphire Reserve has a $300 annual travel credit that can be used to offset $300 in travel expenses charged to the card each year. It works on a “sort-of calendar year” basis in that you could use the 2017 credit right away, and then your 2018 credit becomes available as soon as your first statement in December ends. For example, if you have a statement end December 11, 2017, your 2018 credit becomes available on December 12, 2017. This means that in the first 12 months of having this card you will have two $300 travel credits available to you if you pay attention to the statement dates.

sapphire-reserve-300-travel-credit

You can use the $300 travel credit on airline tickets, hotel reservations, car rentals, train tickets, and pretty much anything else that codes as travel. If you need to use a travel credit quickly and don’t have actual immediate travel plans, getting airline gift certificates directly from airlines is an easy way to use the credit. For people who travel, I think the annual travel credit is as good as cash, and getting $600 in the first 12 months easily offsets the $450 annual fee by itself.

Let’s be honest, the travel credit is solid and it really does help offset the annual fee, but that is not why this card has been flying off the proverbial Chase shelves to the point that they even ran out of the metal cards for a while. It is the 100,000 sign-up bonus points that are worth $1,500 (or potentially more) towards travel that is eliciting the miles and points Pavlovian drool response.

The 100,000 Ultimate Rewards sign-up bonus points can be used a variety of ways for travel. A super easy way that anyone can get 1.5 cents in value per Ultimate Reward point is to use them via the Chase Ultimate Rewards booking site for flights, hotels, car rentals, and even activities. When using the points via this method you can book virtually any flight, hotel, etc. that you want without worrying about award availability, blackout dates, etc. In fact, in most cases you will even earn airline miles on your tickets booked via this way when you fly! If you used your 100,000 points in this manner they are worth a nice even $1,500 towards travel.

You can also transfer some or all of your 100,000 bonus Ultimate Reward points to Ultimate Rewards travel partners that include: United, Southwest, British Airways, Air France/KLM, Korean Air, Singapore Airlines, Virgin Atlantic, Hyatt, IHG, Marriott, and Ritz Carlton.

I like to use my Ultimate Reward points in that manner via a transfer to partners like Hyatt and United to sometimes get 2 cents or more in value per point when using them for business class awards to Europe, over-the-top Park Hyatt stays, and even Category 1 Hyatt stays for just 5,000 points per night.

Using points at the Park Hyatt Maldives

Using points at the Park Hyatt Maldives

However, even if you never use the transfer partners and just go with the 1.5 cents per point valuation, then adding the $1,500 in sign-up bonus points to the $600 in travel credits in the first 12 months gets you to over $2,000 from just those two card perks. That is easy math that makes the $450 Chase Sapphire Reserve annual fee easily worth it in my view for those who usually spend at least that amount per year on travel.

Fly

Fly in the good seats via United awards and more

I think the math for travelers is simple enough to stop there, but there are additional card benefits that also have value and are worth a mention. The Chase Sapphire Reserve earns 3x points on travel and dining making it my easy go-to for most of those purchases which are all-to-common in my family.

3x-dining-jpg

The Chase Sapphire Reserve also awards a $100 statement credit for your Global Entry or TSA Pre√ application fee every four years. With the Chase Sapphire Reserve you also get access to a Priority Pass Select membership that permits access to over 900 airport lounges for all cardmembers on your account, a code for 30% off Silvercar rentals of 2 days or more, trip cancellation and delay benefits, and several other travel and purchase protection perks.

Again, there is value in all of those perks, but the simple Chase Sapphire Reserve math is a $300 travel credit in 2017, a $300 travel credit for 2018 beginning when your December statement closes, and 100,000 sign-up bonus points worth $1,500 or more towards travel. I wish there wasn’t a $450 annual fee, but I have little hesitation paying the fee when it gets me so much in return!

I got the card, my husband got the card, and I’m telling my eligible traveling friends and family members to get the card before the 100,000 point online offer ends on January 12, 2017!

 

Editorial Note: The opinions expressed here are mine and not provided, reviewed, by any bank, card issuer, or other company unless otherwise stated.

Comments

  1. If you were to cancel the card prior to the annual fee hitting do you get to keep Chase Points already in the bank or do you have to transfer them somewhere to keep them. And if you booked something with the $300 statement credit for December then cancelled the card in January before the annual fee hits, how soon does the statement credit get posted? Or is it worth renewing each year? Inquiring minds wanna know. 😉

    • *By the terms, you have 30 days after closing the card to use or transfer your earned points to another program
      *The $300 worth of travel credits post immediately after each purchase made, in my experience

  2. …and if I signed up through your link do you get rewarded for that from Chase? Because you are awesome and deserve some rewards for all the info you help us newbies out with. I follow several points travel writers, but you are by far my favorite. So I would love for you to get rewarded when I sign up.

    • Passports almost certainly do not count, below is from Chase’s FAQ. (Furthermore, unless you’re applying at a Passport Agency, the fee to the Dept of State can only be check / money order)

      “Merchants in the travel category include airlines, hotels, motels, timeshares, car rental agencies, cruise lines, travel agencies, discount travel sites, campgrounds and operators of passenger trains, buses, taxis, limousines, ferries, toll bridges and highways, and parking lots and garages. Please note that some merchants that provide transportation and travel-related services are not included in this category; for example, real estate agents, in-flight goods and services, on-board cruise line goods and services, sightseeing activities, excursions, tourist attractions, merchants within hotels and airports, and merchants that rent vehicles for the purpose of hauling. In addition, the purchasing of points or miles does not qualify in this category.”

      • Funny enough a passport application was actually my first charge with the CSR to renew C’s passport. Correct that the State Dept fees were paid with a check and the only thing I paid with the card was the processing fee and photo fee at the courthouse, which was certainly not coded as travel. But…it got me that much closer to the $4k required spending!

  3. Chase Sapphire Preferred is the Ultimate Rewards card I had previously decided I was keeping to unlock UR travel benefits. The CSR card costs $55 more out-of-pocket than the CSP ($450 – $300 annual reimbursement – $95 CSP annual fee = $55). For the $55, you get an airport lounge benefit (we recently visited Priority Club Honolulu, which was kinda ehhhh. But it had free beer, wine and snacks), +1x more on travel and restaurants spend. To me this isn’t a *no brainer* but it is a solid value. If you spend $5500/year on travel and restaurants, you break even on a cash basis. If you use UR points to buy travel through Chase, you spend 0.25 points/$1 less by using this card. I’m still not sure if I’ll keep this card or downshift to CSP; when you break-down the math, they’re VERY comparable. And they’ll be even more comparable (comparabler?) after the 12th.

    • Agreed on the long term math. We certainly will not keep both my and my wife’s card long term. It’s likely we’ll keep one of them for the perks given the small additional fee over CSP. Of course, 1 or 2 years down the road the equation will likely have changed again.

  4. Yes. Just had another $300 in travel credits hit and I’ve had the card 4 months. I’ve made money thus far.
    Yeah, I know I’m done until next Jan but 3X on food and travel with transferable points? Yes thank you.

    • We put a cruise on my wife’s card and the final payment was Jan 6th, so we’ve already used her 2017 credit. No concern if I’ll remember to use mine since most charges go on my card. I ‘accidentally’ consumed $70 of the 2017 in December. Gotta love Chase!

      We’re just about to do GE. I waited because my wife was due for a new passport, and I didn’t want to get stuck 3 months waiting for an appointment then have a nearly-expired passport for the cruise (not that it’s critical since it’s a closed-loop cruise.) We really would not have done GE if we were paying, so I can’t honestly call that $100 of benefit. However, my wife will appreciate having PreCheck when she travels with the kids by herself.

  5. So I was declined for this card several months ago and decided to PC to it from the Preffered. Reasons being the $300 annual rebates and increased value of UR points. I had the Preffered for over a year and so was charge the $95 annual fee. After doing a PC, I was refunded ~$50. I have taken advantage of the the travel credit for last year and this year and still no annual fee (not been one year yet).

  6. When is the annual fee charged? I have a Chase Sapphire that will be up for its annual fee renewal next month. Don’t really see the point in having both. Can I apply to upgrade the one I already have and get the bonus? Or cancel and apply for the Chase Sapphire reserve? Could I then downgrade back to a regular Chase Sapphire in a year if I feel the reserve isn’t worth it?

    • Nicole, I suspect the fee is charged pretty quickly. Hasn’t been yet on my week old account, but I suspect in the first month. I agree keeping both the CSP and CSR would be redundant. You cannot upgrade one and get the bonus, you need to apply for a new account. I can’t guarantee they would let you downgrade, but it is possible. If it was me I would apply for the CSR, if approved then cancel the CSP after you move its points over to the CSR. Then in a year re-evaluate and go from there.

    • In my case, the $450 was charged after about 3 weeks. On my wife’s card, it was about 2 weeks… but that wound up on the second statement since her first billing cycle was ~10 days for some reason. My card was issued when they had run out of metal cards and there was some backlog, so it’s possible they added a week onto mine due to the delay.

      As MP says, if you have any points try to get the CSR first and transfer them, or transfer them to some partner. If you close the account with points on it, they will be gone with no recovery possible. The CSR will show up in a couple of days once approved, and if necessary you should be able to cancel the CSP within some time (30 days?) after the fee is charged and have it refunded. I had to do this, and Chase stated it would be prorated to the tune of a few $ but it was reversed entirely.

  7. I just saw that its another $75 to add an authorized used (my husband in this case). My question is this: if we don’t add him to save the $75, does that mean he won’t have access to the lounges as part of that perk? $75 seems steep, on top of the $450 just to have another user/card on there.

  8. I just applied online: 3:20 1-11.

    Just got
    The online thank you for your request. Will
    That count as making the deadline or do I need to call?

    Also interest if my partner. We’d to be on the card to use lounge ( above question).
    Thanks

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