Chase Sapphire Reserve® review: One of the most valuable rewards cards on the planet

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In a Nutshell

We used to call the Chase Sapphire Reserve® card the “Michael Jordan of credit cards” — but these days it’s more like the Washington Wizards version of Michael Jordan. To put it another way, it’s still one of the most valuable and powerful travel cards on the market — but it’s not quite as good as it used to be. Just make sure you’ll be able to get enough value to offset the high annual fee before you apply.

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Pros

  • Big sign-up bonus
  • Flexible travel credit
  • Competitive travel and dining rewards
  • Potential for big savings on Lyft and DoorDash purchases
  • Access to more than 1,200 airport lounges
  • TSA PreCheck or Global Entry fee credit to help you speed through airport security lines

Cons

  • Big annual fee
  • Must have good credit
  • Bonus rewards rate on travel only kicks in after travel credit has been used
  • Lyft and DoorDash perks may not appeal to everyone

3 things you need to know about the Chase Sapphire Reserve®

1. The sign-up bonus could be worth at least $750 toward travel

You’ll earn 50,000 bonus points when you spend $4,000 on purchases during the first 3 months after opening the account.

When redeemed toward travel through the Chase Ultimate Rewards® portal, that sign-up bonus is worth $750. But if you transfer your sign-up bonus points to one of Chase’s travel partners, they could be worth even more. For example, if you redeem through the World of Hyatt® program, they could be worth an estimated $935.

That might sound like a lot of value, but we’d encourage you to not fall into the trap of spending more money than you typically do just to earn the sign-up bonus.

You should look at your budget and ask yourself whether you can afford to spend an average of $1,333.34 per month on this card, which is the amount it will take to earn the sign-up bonus.

Don’t spend that much money on a regular basis? You deserve credit for living frugally. If your regular spending isn’t high enough, there could be other ways to qualify for the sign-up bonus. Instead of spending more on everyday purchases, you could use the Chase Sapphire Reserve®  to pay for an upcoming trip or a big purchase you’re already planning on making.

No matter your choice, the key is to only earn the sign-up bonus without spending beyond your means.

2. The annual travel credit helps offset the annual fee

The card’s $550 annual fee can be a tough pill to swallow.

But the Chase Sapphire Reserve® also features a flexible travel credit of up to $300 that you can use each card anniversary year to pay for flights, hotels and even certain ride-sharing services, like Uber and Lyft. The benefit is applied automatically as a statement credit, too, so you don’t have to apply for reimbursement.

If you travel often, this essentially brings the annual fee for carrying the Chase Sapphire Reserve® down to a more manageable $250. Depending on your spending habits, you may be able to cover — or even exceed — that cost through the card’s other perks and rewards.

3. Competitive travel and dining rewards

The Chase Sapphire Reserve® offers three points for every $1 spent on eligible travel purchases after your $300 travel statement credit. You’ll also get 10 points for every $1 you spend on Lyft rides through March 2022 — that’s three points (after you hit the $300 travel credit) plus an additional seven points. You’ll also earn three points per $1 spent on dining purchases, which includes purchases from DoorDash. These are some of the most lucrative points-earning rates among rewards cards. You’ll also receive one point per $1 on all other purchases.

To put this in the context of the annual fee, we calculated that you could break even if you spend at least $1,757 each year on Lyft or $5,555.55 on dining and all other travel purchases (after your $300 travel credit), and then redeem your points toward travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards.

That break-even spending figure would be higher if you focused more of your card activity away from the travel and dining categories, but the monthly average could still be attainable for many cardholders.

The perks boast hundreds of dollars in potential value — but consider if you’ll use them

The Chase Sapphire Reserve® features some generous benefits that are commonly associated with premium rewards cards — as well as a few unique perks you might have trouble finding elsewhere.

If you think you can use these perks, that’s great. But you should ask yourself whether you’d pay for them if they weren’t free, or if you even have access to some of these services where you live. Depending on your answer, you can determine whether a particular feature provides enough added value for your needs, or if it’s just something that might cause you to change your habits.

Lyft Pink

In addition to the points you can earn on Lyft rides we mentioned above, the Chase Sapphire Reserve® comes with a one-year membership to Lyft Pink.

When you activate your complimentary membership, you’ll be eligible for up to 15% off Lyft rides.

You’ll also enjoy priority pickups at the airport, three waived cancellation fees per month, unlimited waived lost-and-found fees and three 30-minute bike or scooter rentals each month for free.

What’s nice (if you tend to be forgetful like me) is that after your complimentary Lyft Pink membership expires, your Chase Sapphire Reserve® won’t be automatically charged. Instead, you’ll have the option to pay for the next year if you choose. 

DoorDash

If your kitchen is empty or you don’t feel like leaving your home to walk to a restaurant, you might enjoy ordering from the food delivery service DoorDash.

When you pay for DoorDash with your Chase Sapphire Reserve®, you’ll receive up to $60 worth of automatic statement credits in 2020, plus up to another $60 in 2021.

You’ll also receive a complimentary DashPass membership that will be good for at least 12 months when you activate by Dec. 31, 2021. With DashPass, your delivery fee is waived on orders that total more than $12.

DashPass customers typically save an average of $4 to $5 on each order, according to DoorDash.

Priority PassTM lounges

The Chase Sapphire Reserve® comes with a complimentary Priority Pass Select membership after one-time enrollment.

This perk gives you and up to two guests access to more than 1,200 airport lounges around the world where you can relax while you’re waiting for your flight. And you can indulge in a snack while waiting — most lounges provide free food and drinks.

But the program doesn’t only cover lounges. Certain airport restaurants, cafes and markets also participate.

A Priority Pass Select membership would typically cost you more than $400 — but with the Chase Sapphire Reserve®, it’s included at no extra charge once you enroll. 

Breeze through airport security checkpoints

The Chase Sapphire Reserve® also comes with a statement credit of up to $100 every four years to cover your Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee.

TSA PreCheck helps you move through airport security screening more easily when you’re flying domestically. Global Entry includes access to TSA PreCheck lanes and expedites the customs process for international travelers entering the U.S.

It’s important to note that your Chase Sapphire Reserve® membership has no impact on whether you qualify for one of these airport security programs. But if you pay with your credit card, Chase will credit the charge on your monthly billing statement. 

You’re covered when something goes wrong on your trip

The Chase Sapphire Reserve® also offers a full slate of travel insurance.

This includes coverage for trip delay, trip cancellation, lost luggage and emergency evacuation if you’re injured during your vacation.

Travel insurance is one of the most overlooked features of this credit card. You never know when you’ll need it, but it sure could come in handy when you’re stranded at the airport. 

Understanding your points and redemption options

The Chase Sapphire Reserve® offers some of the most valuable points on the market.

Your points are worth 1.5 cents each when you factor in the 50% bonus you receive for redeeming for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards.

You can also transfer your points 1-to-1 to several airline and hotel partners, where you might possibly get more bang for your buck.

Who this card is good for

The Chase Sapphire Reserve® is geared toward frequent travelers. Whether you’re taking a vacation or commuting to and from work, you’ll be pampered with points and perks that make your trip more rewarding.

This card could be a popular choice if you like to eat out, frequently find yourself in restaurants or prefer food delivery.

Before you sign up for this premium rewards card though, make sure you’re not afraid to commit to the high $550 annual fee and determine if you’ll end up saving money in the long run.

To get the most benefit from the Chase Sapphire Reserve®, you should plan to take advantage of the travel credit of up to $300, DoorDash credits of up to $60, up to 15% Lyft discounts, the $100 application fee credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck, and Priority Pass Select membership.

You should also plan to use your points for a trip. Whether you redeem them toward flights or hotel stays through Chase Ultimate Rewards, or transfer to one of Chase’s travel partners, you’ll get the best value for your rewards when you use them to pay for travel.

Not sure this card is right for you? Consider these alternatives.

The Chase Sapphire Reserve® offers great value, but only for those who get a lot of value out of travel and dining perks — and who are willing to commit to a large annual fee. If that’s not you, you might want to check out one of these other cards instead.