Chase Sapphire Reserve Very Often Best Card for Travel Purchases

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My husband and his shiny new Chase Sapphire Reserve Card are now fast friends, and needless to say the card is in very frequent wallet rotation. Because he is working towards hitting the $4,000 minimum spending requirement to trigger the massive 100,000 Ultimate Reward point sign-up bonus, he is using it for almost everything right now, but many of his regular expenses end up being meals out and in travel categories anyway. Both of these expense categories ring in at 3x Ultimate Rewards points on the Chase Sapphire Reserve, which is great. It’s just so great it makes me wonder…

At 3x points on travel specifically, I find it interesting that the Chase Sapphire Reserve Card is better at earning points with several hotels and airlines than many of the individual co-branded cards for each of those programs. When you remember that the points earned by the Sapphire Reserve can not only be used towards travel booked with Chase at 1.5 cents per point, but can also transfer 1:1 to the eleven Ultimate Rewards transfer partners, this isn’t a complex apples to oranges scenario. This is a case where this one credit card earns multiple forms of miles and points better than any other card, including the co-branded cards for those various companies!

Sapphire Reserve Best Travel Card.jpg

I know not everyone will care about this as much as I do, but I find that absolutely fascinating and slightly surprising.

As a refresher, here are the 11 1:1 transfer partners of Chase Ultimate Rewards.

  • British Airways Executive Club
  • Flying Blue AIR FRANC KLM
  • Korean Air SKYPASS
  • Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer
  • Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards®
  • United MileagePlus®
  • Virgin Atlantic Flying Club
  • Hyatt Gold Passport®
  • IHG® Rewards Club
  • Marriott Rewards®
  • The Ritz-Carlton Rewards®

Earn the Most Points on Travel with the Chase Sapphire Reserve

Now as an example, the $95 per year United MileagePlus Explorer Card, and even the $450 per year United Club Card, both earn 2x United miles on United purchases. This means a $300 United ticket bought and paid for with with that co-branded United card would earn you 600 United miles from the credit card usage itself – this does not factor in the miles you would earn directly from United when you fly on that ticket.

Buy your United tickets with the Sapphire Reserve to earn more points

Buy your United tickets with the Sapphire Reserve to earn more points

The Chase Sapphire Reserve Card earns 3x on travel charges, so you would earn 900 Ultimate Reward points if you used that card for the $300 airfare purchase, plus you would still earn the United miles you would normally earn directly from United when you fly on that ticket. Those 900 Ultimate Reward points can transfer 1:1 to United (in increments of 1,000) making it a more lucrative points earning option when purchasing United flights than the United cards themselves.

Similarly, the host of Southwest credit cards also earn 2x on Southwest purchases, but the Sapphire Reserve at 3x on travel beats that since Ultimate Reward points can also transfer 1:1 to Southwest.

The Sapphire Reserve Card ties the 3x points earned at Hyatt properties with the Hyatt Card and the 3x Avios earned on British Airways purchases with the British Airways Visa, but since Ultimate Reward points are more flexible than either of those currencies the Sapphire Reserve is still the winner for those purchases in my mind.

The IHG Credit Card and the Marriott Premier Credit Card both earn 5x on charges at their respective brands as opposed to the 3x Ultimate Reward points the Sapphire Reserve would provide, but based on how I value those points I’d still give the edge to the Sapphire Reserve. Your math on this may vary.

Solid Travel Protections with the Chase Sapphire Reserve

Unlike with some other cards that pay out more on travel or airfare, this one has some killer built-in travel protections, too. I will not earn more points on my airfare at the expense of built-in travel protections. Ever. Again.

I have used built-in trip cancellation coverages before when my youngest got sick and we had to cancel an otherwise non-refundable trip at the last minute, so I know how valuable this benefit can be. These built-in coverages don’t require an extra travel insurance policy purchase, but are automatically there when you use your Sapphire Reserve to pay for your trip. A few of these built-in protections include:

  • If your trip is canceled or cut short by sickness, severe weather and other covered situations, you can be reimbursed up to $10,000 per trip for your prepaid, non-refundable travel expenses, including passenger fares, tours and hotels.
  • Primary Rental Car Coverage up to $75,000 for theft and collision damage for most rental cars in the U.S. and abroad.
  • If you or a member of your immediate family are injured or become sick during a trip far from home that results in an emergency evacuation, you can be covered for medical services and transportation up to $100,000.
  • If you or your immediate family members’ checked or carry-on bags are damaged or lost by the carrier, you’re covered up to $3,000 per passenger.
  • If your common carrier travel is delayed more than 6 hours or requires an overnight stay, you and your family are covered for unreimbursed expenses, such as meals and lodging, up to $500 per ticket.
  • Reimburses you for essential purchases like toiletries and clothing for baggage delays over six hours by passenger carrier up to $100 a day for five days.

In my experience, these protections are as good or better than most other cards…though do a detailed benefit’s guide comparison to be sure.

Chase Sapphire Reserve Isn’t Always the Best

There are still some instances where using a different credit card for your travel purchase will make sense, such as if that is the only way to get a needed perk like free checked bags or similar. Also, some co-branded cards do still pay out better than the Sapphire Reserve, such as The JetBlue Plus Card that awards 6x on JetBlue purchases.

It will be interesting to see if the various co-branded travel cards up their earning power with their own respective companies now that the Sapphire Reserve essentially beats so many of them. It’s really hard for me to understand how a card like the United Club Card which has the same $450 annual fee as the Sapphire Reserve will essentially earn fewer United miles on United purchases than the Sapphire Reserve.

Simple Strategy for Travel Purchases with Chase Sapphire Reserve

For now I am thrilled to easily earn 3x points on travel thanks to the Sapphire Reserve Card when making purchases with: airlines, hotels, motels, timeshares, campgrounds, car rental agencies, cruise lines, travel agencies, discount travel sites, and operators of passenger trains, buses, taxis, limousines, ferries, toll bridges and highways, and parking lots and garages. Having it be the best card for so many types of travel purchases really simplifies my overall strategy.

Maybe using one credit card for so many types of travel purchases is kind of boring, but as long as boring comes with a side of 3x transferrable Ultimate Reward points, I’m okay with that. Oh yeah, and it also has the $300 per calendar year credit towards travel purchases, so that is just one more reason to swipe it the next time you need a subway card, Uber ride, hotel stay, or airline ticket.

In which cases will you not use the Sapphire Reserve for travel purchases? Are you as surprised as me that it is better at earning travel points than so many of the individual travel co-branded cards.

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

Disclaimer: The comments below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.


  1. Marriott is still better to use at Marriott. Hilton Amex is still better at Hilton properties. I’m going to cancel my SPG Amex

  2. Citi Thank You Premier also earns 3x on travel, but I dunno how good their insurance is. Do you know if all the Travel Protection you list are identical to the Sapphire Preferred coverage?

    • Citi Prestige has generous travel insurance, which has the same as CSR. However, their trip delay and baggage claim kicks in at 3 hours, instead of 6 hours like CSR.

  3. I largely agree, but not entirely. As some have said already, I still plan to use my Marriott Business Card for all Marriott stays (5x vs 3x), and I still plan to use my SPG Business Amex for all SPG stays since I’m Plat Ambassador (5x vs 3x)–at least until the SPG/Marriott merger and we find out whether Chase or Amex wins the credit card deal (I’m guessing Chase).

    I also still plan to use my Chase Freedom for this quarter’s restaurant 5x bonus…up to the $1500 limit. Then I’ll be back to the Sapphire Reserve.

    My dilemma will come for my business hotel spend–I love putting most business spend, especially big spend, on business cards…that doesn’t ever appear in my credit utilization, so such spending doesn’t ever hurt my credit score. In fact, it can help my score a bit. So moving non-SPG and non-Marriott spend from my Chase Ink Plus (2x) to the Chase Sapphire Reserve (3x) will be interesting. I’m inclined to put plenty on the Reserve…but I may also use the Ink Plus some, too.

  4. You have status with United, right? Unfortunately for us without status, we still need to use a United card for the free checked bags.

    I still want the card for the bonus, but I actually thought the supplemental benefits would have been stronger than what they are.

      • Good for you on not checking a bag! How do you do it? We just flew over Labor Day with the two kiddos, 14 months and 3 months, and there was no way we could have done it without checking a bag. Between the strollers and diaper bags, it was hard enough getting them onto the plane, even with the pre-boarding that United has:)

        • We have done it some this year with a baby along for the ride, though managed not to for short Labor Day trip. We just get the largest allowed carry-ons and max those when possible. With a 14 month old and 3 month old you may be in the checked zone for at least another year or so though.

  5. I called Citi Prestige retention. The agent asked me about my spend patterns, looked through the available offers, then offered me 4 bonus points/travel $ for the next six months, up to a maximum of 35,000 bonus points. Adding the 3 regular points, that’s 7 points/$, or about an 8.75% return. You’d better believe I’ll be using my Prestige card for travel, at least until I reach the bonus points maximum. :-).

  6. About that….

    So would you believe that I was going through DEN today and I had a real long layover between flights. So I UBER to the nearest Chase branch. My goal was to open a checking account as there is a public coupon offer for $150; posts 10 days after a direct deposit. I did make an appointment (this branch will only let you open an account if you make an appointment, I don’t know if they are all like that…)

    Anyway, during my checking account signup, I notice the place is FLOODED with marketing for CSR. As he was processing my new checking account I kept asking questions about CSR, acting very interested. So I said, BTW – am I PRE-APPROVED for any offers? He went into another screen and looked. “Yes,” I was pre-approved for CSR.

    I didn’t pull the trigger just yet. I kept questioning him as to whether or not I could be declined. I explained that my CR is well over 800 and I intended to keep it that way. He told me emphatically that when it shows “Pre-Approved” that there is NO WAY it can be declined. I made him repeat this to me at least three times. He explained further that, “all the customer has to do at that point is ACCEPT THE OFFER.” He continued and said that this was exactly how it was explained to them in training. So I believed that he was giving me good, solid information.

    I was at about 7/24. This was the moment of truth. Go ahead – make my day….

    BOOM! Approved w/21K credit line. My CSR is on the way! Yay me! And the $150 checking account bonus + $300 CSR travel bonus = $450 so in my eyes, that is like getting the card for free the first year. I would highly recommend that if you are a miles and points monger like I, GO INTO A BRANCH. Open a free checking (free w/$1500 balance). During that process, have them look for pre-approvals. Don’t risk aplying online.

    End of report.

    • Yay! I agree if you are over 5/24 don’t bother applying online. If you are under 5/24 online should be fine if you meet all the other credit criteria. My husband applied online at 4/24 and got instant approval. Congrats!!

  7. @ the other Nick

    SPG Biz was the way to go. Tonight it got me club access at a Sheraton, plus upgrade to junior suite, plus 750 bonus starpoints, plus 4pm late checkout.

  8. Beside great benefit for travel, what do you think about CSR’s Purchase protection & Extended warranty against American Express card for new IPhone 7 purchase? Thanks.

  9. Hi, newbie question:

    Hyatt credit card gives you 15% bonus right? So doesn’t that outweigh the CSR if you’re looking at straight point value? Because then you’d get 3x points plus a 15% bonus?

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