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Late last summer, many of us were lucky enough to get in on the offer for 100,000 bonus Ultimate Reward points via the brand new Chase Sapphire Reserve when it was first introduced. Even though it had a $450 annual fee, it was an easy card to say yes to as it carried with it 100,000 sign-up bonus points worth 1.5 cents each when booked for travel through Chase, assuming you met the minimum spending requirement to trigger the bonus.
It also awarded $300 in travel credits each calendar year. This means if you got the card just over a year ago, you likely got not only $1,500 in travel from the points, but also $600 in travel credits, Priority Pass Select membership, a $100 statement credit reimbursement every 4 years as reimbursement for TSA PreCheck or Global Entry, earned 3x points on travel and dining, enjoyed built-in travel protections, and have had the ability to transfer points 1:1 to Ultimate Reward partners like Hyatt, United, Southwest, Marriott, British Airways, and more. It really is and was a heck of a deal.
For many travelers in the rewards game it was relatively easy to fork over the $450 annual fee in exchange for all of that the first time. However, if you got the card when it was first released, you now are about to have to pay for it again. Not surprisingly, $450 is harder to pay the second time without the corresponding 100,000 sign-up bonus points. I know many people got the card with the intention of only keeping it for a year before the $450 fee was due again, but now that the time is here, it is time to be sure you are making the right decision.
You aren’t necessarily wrong if you decide one round of a $450 annual fee was enough, but make the decision based on math, not on an initial gut reaction that $450 is a lot of money…which of course it is.
Do you still have Ultimate Reward points left?
The first thing to consider is whether you have any Ultimate Reward points left. If you do, you will want to make sure they don’t go to waste if you decide to close your account. You will want to either use them, transfer them to a partner like United or Hyatt where you know you will use them, or you will need to ensure that you have another Ultimate Rewards earning card where you can keep them safe.
There are other Ultimate Reward cards that also have the ability to transfer points 1:1 to transfer partners, including the Sapphire Preferred or the Ink Preferred. However, there is no other Ultimate Rewards card that will make the points worth 1.5 cents each towards travel booked through Chase. The best you will get from another card is 1.25 cents each, so if you like to use your points at a fixed value towards travel, they will become less valuable if you don’t have the Sapphire Reserve and instead turn to a Sapphire Preferred or similar.
If you had 100,000 Ultimate Reward points they are worth $1,500 towards travel with the Reserve, but only $1,250 towards travel with the Preferred.
Do you have another Ultimate Rewards card?
We have already hit on this, but you will want to consider if you have another card that will at least keep the points safe and transferrable to Ultimate Rewards partners. If the answer is yes, you have less to lose by closing your Reserve. However, you should consider whether you actually need that other Ultimate Rewards earning card or the Reserve more. It is possible the card you should be closing is the other Ultimate Rewards card that you have. Or, in some cases having multiples makes sense, depending on how much you spend on them and what type of expenses you charge.
$450 is really sort of only $150.
If you use the annual $300 travel credit, then the $450 annual fee in many ways is really only $150 in additional out-of-pocket spending each year. That is still a lot of money, but if you were going to have a Sapphire Preferred or Ink Preferred anyway, then the difference between their $95 annual fees and the additional $150 the Reserve will cost you is only $55. If you want to cancel a card, think through whether it really is the Reserve that should go.
The Sapphire Preferred awards 2x on travel and dining and the Reserve awards 3x. Just looking at that one difference, and there are many others, it would only take about $4,000 in spending per year ($300 per month) in those categories to make up the difference in points earned between the 2x of the Preferred and the 3x of the Reserve if you agree with a value of 1.5 cents per point.
What’s your 5/24 status?
Chase cards that earn Ultimate Reward points really aren’t that easy to get since you can only get them if you have fewer than five new card accounts across all banks in the last 24 months. In other words, if you think you are going to dump the Reserve and just apply for the Sapphire Preferred then make sure you are under 5/24 or you are unlikely to get approved for another Chase card at this time.
Additionally, if you are certain that keeping the Reserve isn’t the right move for you, then consider requesting for a product change to a Freedom Unlimited that earns 1.5x points on pretty much everything without an annual fee. That is the kind of card that is great to have, but that you might not want to normally ‘waste’ a new Chase application on. The Freedom Unlimited or regular Freedom cards can keep your Ultimate Reward points safe if you combine them, but they do not on their own have the ability to transfer those points out to hotel and airline partner programs.
Do you have duplicate perks elsewhere?
The Sapphire Reserve has some better than average built-in travel protections in the event you have a seriously delayed or cancelled flight, the airline loses your bag, you need primary rental car coverage, Global Entry/PreCheck reimbursement, and/or Priority Pass Select membership. All of those benefits are duplicated on some other premium rewards cards, so while they are all useful, you may have them elsewhere. If you don’t have any of those perks on another card, that is something to be aware of as well. If you aren’t sure which cards offer you which perks you can usually find the various card benefit guides online by searching “card name benefits guide”. Here is the link to the Sapphire Reserve’s benefits guide.
Does your partner have a Sapphire Reserve?
A final piece of the puzzle to consider is whether there is another Reserve card in your household and whether you have the ability to transfer points between those accounts. The terms surrounding combining Ultimate Reward points state that you can move your points, but only to another Chase card with Ultimate Rewards belonging to you, or one member of your household, or owner of the company in the case of a business card.
This is actually the situation we are in as my husband and I both have a Sapphire Reserve, but I am not sure that we actually need both into perpetuity. Once you factor in the travel credit, our actual outlay to have both isn’t huge, but it isn’t zero either. I’m leaning towards canceling his and keeping mine, but we haven’t fully committed yet.
Now that Chase Sapphire Reserve’s renewal time is upon us for those who got the card first, I’m curious whether you have decided to pay the $450 annual fee and keep the card or part ways in favor of cards with lower annual fees.
Editorial Note: The opinions expressed here are mine and not provided, reviewed, by any bank, card issuer, or other company unless otherwise stated.