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Our quick take: The Chase Sapphire Reserve is a great credit card for people who expect to be on the road again in the latter half of 2021 and into 2022. Despite a high annual fee, the card offers luxury travel perks such as airport lounge access and strong travel insurance protections, along with a number of statement credits to help offset its cost.

Pros:

  • Earn 3 points for every dollar you spend on dining and travel purchases (after the $300 travel credit).
  • Earn 10 points per dollar on Lyft rides (through March 2022).
  • Earn 10 points per dollar on Peloton bike, tread and accessory purchases over $1,800, up to 50,000 points (through March 2022).
  • Points can be redeemed for travel through the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal at a rate of 1.5 cents per point.
  • Now through September 30, 2021, points can also be redeemed for purchases at grocery stores, dining establishments and home improvement stores at a rate of 1.5 cents per point.
  • Points can also be transferred to any of Chase’s 13 airline and hotel partners.
  • $300 annual travel credit (gas station and grocery store purchases also count through December 31, 2021).
  • Up to $60 in statement credits on DoorDash purchases through December 31, 2021.
  • Up to $120 in statement credits on eligible Peloton Digital or All-Access Memberships through December 31, 2021.
  • Complimentary Priority Pass Select membership to access over 1,200 airport lounges worldwide.
  • Complimentary DoorDash DashPash subscription when activated by December 31, 2021.
  • Strong travel and shopping protections.

Cons:

  • $550 annual fee.
  • $75 fee for each authorized user.
  • No introductory rate on purchases or balance transfers.

Current sign-up bonus: Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first three months after opening the account.

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Best for: People with larger than average travel and/or dining expenses who also want travel perks.

Digging into the Chase Sapphire Reserve

The Chase Sapphire Reserve is the big sister to the popular Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, but with a higher annual fee and more benefits. But with the ability to earn extra points and a ton of statement credits, you could find the Sapphire Reserve to be the better option, depending on your spending habits and travel needs.

Related: Chase Sapphire Preferred vs. Chase Sapphire Reserve: Which is best for you?

The Sapphire Reserve offers 3 points for every dollar you spend on all dining and travel purchases (after the annual $300 travel credit), 10 points per dollar on Lyft rides (through March 2022) and 10 points per dollar on Peloton bike, tread and accessory purchases over $1,800, up to 50,000 points (also through March 2022).

The card also comes with $300 in annual travel credits, statement credits for purchases at DoorDash and eligible Peloton subscriptions, a complimentary DashPass subscription and a complimentary Lyft Pink membership. You’ll also get a Priority Pass Select membership that will allow you to relax in over 1,200 airport lounges worldwide.

While the Chase Sapphire Reserve is clearly a desirable card with many benefits, it doesn’t come cheap. You’re looking at a $550 annual fee per year. But don’t let the sticker price scare you — we’ll dive into the details to show how the annual fee looks significantly more reasonable if you can take advantage of the card’s many credit opportunities.

Advantages of the Chase Sapphire Reserve

The Chase Sapphire Reserve is currently offering the highest sign-up bonus we’ve seen on it since the initial launch of the card back in 2016. Right now, new card holders can earn 60,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 on the card within the first three months after you open the account.

Surprisingly, that’s actually 20,000 fewer points than what new card holders can currently earn on the Chase Sapphire Preferred, so if you’re just looking for the highest sign-up bonus available, you might consider the cheaper option. But the benefits you get on the Sapphire Reserve are pretty admirable and could pay off in the long run.

Related: Now with an 80,000-point bonus: Our review of the Chase Sapphire Preferred.

The Chase Sapphire Reserve’s bonus categories can make it easy to rack up points, especially since the “travel” and “dining” categories are very broad. Travel includes not only airfare, hotels and rental cars, but also cruises, mass transit, tolls, parking and even ride-shares. Dining goes a step beyond your traditional sit-down restaurants as well and also includes coffee shops, bars, vending machines and most food delivery services.

Once you’ve earned points with the card, there are many ways to use them. With the Chase Sapphire Reserve, you can redeem points for travel through Chase’s own travel portal at a rate of 1.5 cents per point. That means the 60,000 points earned from the sign-up bonus are worth a minimum of $900 toward travel.

Or, by using the card’s “Pay Yourself Back” tool, you can currently redeem points for purchases made at grocery stores, dining establishments (including delivery and takeout) and home improvement stores at the same exact 1.5 cents per point. So if travel is truly not in your horizon right now, you can instead offset your next grocery run or home improvement project with your Chase points.

But if you’re experienced in redeeming points and miles using airline and hotel loyalty programs and want to get the most value out of your points, your best bet is to transfer your points to one of Chase’s 13 airline and hotel partners. Because of this flexibility, frequent flyer website The Points Guy values Chase Ultimate Rewards points as high as 2 cents apiece.

Here’s a complete list of Chase’s 13 travel partners, all of which transfer at a 1-to-1 ratio (meaning for every 1,000 Chase points, you’ll get 1,000 airline or hotel points or miles when you transfer them):

Depending on where you’re looking to travel, you could consider redeeming using either of these options. When utilizing the travel portal, there are no blackout dates or capacity controls on award tickets. You’re booking travel just like you would at an online travel agency such as Expedia and just paying for the flight or hotel with points instead of cash, so the sky’s the limit as far as availability.

But for a very expensive flight or hotel room, you might find that transferring your points to an airline or hotel loyalty program will give you the biggest bang for your buck.

For instance, let’s say you want to stay at a Hyatt hotel that costs $600 a night, but you can also get the room through the chain’s World of Hyatt program for 25,000 Hyatt points. Booking that room through Chase’s travel portal would require a much larger 40,000 points, since you’re only getting 1.5 cents per point when redeeming that way.

So you’re better off transferring your Chase points to Hyatt, and then booking the hotel reservation directly with Hyatt, since you’ll save yourself 15,000 points. The key is that the airline or hotel has to be offering award availability on the dates you want in order to be able to book it using transferred points.

Related: How to choose the best Chase credit cards for cash back and travel rewards.

The $300 annual travel credit that comes with the Chase Sapphire Reserve can be used for anything that falls into the same broad “travel” category. But even if you aren’t traveling right now, Chase is allowing the travel credit to be used for gas and grocery purchases as well through December 31, 2021.

You don’t have to use the entire $300 in one transaction — you can split it up over multiple purchases throughout the year. That makes using the credit quite easy, so you shouldn’t have a problem earning the entire $300 each year. And once you take that $300 into account, it effectively brings your $550 annual fee down to a more palatable $250.

On top of the annual $300 travel credit, there are also two credits available in 2021 only. Sapphire Reserve card holders can earn up to $60 in statement credits on DoorDash purchases, and up to $120 back on eligible Peloton Digital or All-Access Memberships. If you can take advantage of both of these credits, that’s another $180 back, effectively bringing your annual fee down to just $70 for this year.

And once you start traveling again, the Chase Sapphire Reserve offers a complimentary annual Priority Pass Select membership. This gives you and two accompanying guests access to over 1,200 airport lounges around the world, so you’ll have a place to get away from the bustle of the terminal whenever you’re on the road.

Some airport restaurants and cafes also participate in Priority Pass — for these establishments, you’ll get a credit to spend on any menu items. Typically the credit amount is $28 per registered guest, but many restaurants cap the credit at one guest per card holder. You can view all of the participating lounges, restaurants, cafes and markets at the Priority Pass website.

Related: 9 of our favorite credit card perks that you won’t want to miss out on.

If you’re thinking about getting back on the road, another benefit of the Sapphire Reserve is up to $100 in credits for a Global Entry or TSA PreCheck membership. You can get this credit every four years, which further offsets the card’s annual fee.

Other Chase Sapphire Reserve card benefits include a complimentary DoorDash DashPash membership, which offers unlimited deliveries with a $0 delivery fee, for at least 12 months when you activate it by December 31, 2021. The card also provides a complimentary Lyft Pink membership, good for 15% off the company’s ride-sharing trips.

Aside from all these benefits, the Sapphire Reserve also offers outstanding protection on the purchases you make with it. This includes protection against damage or theft for up to 120 days after you buy an item (up to $10,000 per claim), an additional year on eligible manufacturer warranties of three years or less and the ability to return an item within 90 days of your purchase (up to $500 per item).

Related: Protect your purchases from theft or damage with these credit cards.

With the Chase Sapphire Reserve, you’ll also be covered when you’re traveling. The card includes trip interruption and cancellation insurance, which will cover you if your trip is cut short by sickness, severe weather or other covered situations — up to $10,000 per person and $20,000 per trip.

You’ll also be covered by the card’s trip delay reimbursement protection. If your trip is delayed by six hours or more, or requires an overnight stay, you’ll be reimbursed up to $500 per ticket for your out-of-pocket expenses, such as meals and lodging. This is significantly better than the insurance that’s provided with many other travel credit cards, which doesn’t kick in until the 12-hour mark.

Other protection benefits that you hope to never have to use, but which will come in handy if the situation arises include primary auto rental collision damage insurance, baggage delay insurance, roadside assistance, lost luggage reimbursement, travel and emergency assistance, travel accident insurance, emergency evacuation and transportation and emergency medical and dental coverage.

Related: Having a credit card with trip insurance could save you thousands on your next vacation.

Disadvantages of the Chase Sapphire Reserve

Although the Chase Sapphire Reserve is loaded with perks, you’re paying for them with your annual fee. Beginners may be deterred by this understandably high cost and might prefer to stick with a starter travel credit card such as the Chase Sapphire Preferred before diving into a card that costs such a large chunk of change.

Related: Here’s why the Chase Sapphire Preferred is our favorite travel credit card for beginners.

It’s also important to keep in mind the $75 annual fee for adding an authorized user to the account. With many other popular travel credit cards, there’s no additional fee to get an extra card on your account. Though in this case, Sapphire Reserve authorized users also get a Priority Pass Select membership, so this could actually be a good deal, as $75 for the year is less expensive than purchasing a membership.

While you’ll earn 3x bonus points on your travel and dining purchases and 10 points per dollar on eligible Lyft and Peloton purchases, you’ll only earn 1 point per dollar on everything else. That means you’re best off pairing the Sapphire Reserve with a no-annual-fee card like the Chase Freedom Unlimited, which has a trio of bonus categories and also earns 1.5% cash back on all other purchases.

Since the cash back from the Chase Freedom Unlimited can be converted to Chase Ultimate Rewards points and combined with the points you earn on the Sapphire Reserve, this two-card combo might be all you need to earn as many rewards as possible on everything you buy each day.

Related: Spend $500 and earn $200 with the Chase Freedom Flex credit card.

One other downside of the Sapphire Reserve pertains to the application process, and it applies to all Chase credit cards. Chase has an unpublished restriction colloquially known as the “5/24” rule, which means if you’ve gotten five or more credit cards across all banks in the previous 24 months, your application for a new card from Chase will be automatically denied.

In addition, if you’ve received a sign-up bonus on either the Chase Sapphire Reserve or Chase Sapphire Preferred in the past 48 months, you can’t get another Sapphire card bonus. Given these restrictions, it’s important to apply for the Sapphire Reserve or Sapphire Preferred early on.

Stacking up the Chase Sapphire Reserve to our benchmark card

CNN Underscored has chosen the Citi® Double Cash Card as our current “benchmark” credit card. That doesn’t mean it’s the best credit card on the market — rather, we use it as a basic standard to compare other credit cards and see where they score better, and where they’re worse.

Here’s how the Chase Sapphire Reserve scores against our benchmark. The features of each card in the below chart are colored in green, red or white. Green indicates a card feature that is better than our benchmark. Red indicates the feature is worse than our benchmark, and white indicates the feature is either equivalent or cannot be directly compared to our benchmark.

When reviewing other credit cards, we use this format and these criteria to compare them with our benchmark. You can read our credit card methodology for more details on what we take into account when it comes to perks, protections and redemption value.

Other credit cards similar to the Chase Sapphire Reserve

The Chase Sapphire Reserve falls into the high-end luxury credit card segment of the market, and one of the most well-known cards in that segment is The Platinum Card® from American Express.

You’ll pay the identical $550 annual fee for the Amex Platinum card (see rates and fees) and you’ll even recognize similar benefits. The Amex Platinum also gives you access to many airport lounges around the world and offers statement credits that can help offset the card’s cost. The Amex Platinum also offers similar — although not identical — purchase and travel protection benefits.

Related: Travel with luxury perks using the American Express Platinum card.

The two cards are also similar in that both allow you to transfer your points to airline and hotel partner programs. But the list of partners between the two cards is different, and while some partners overlap, you might ultimately decide which points you prefer to earn based on which partners you’re more likely to use.

The Amex Platinum also offers cell phone protection and elite status at select hotels and car rental loyalty programs — two benefits that you don’t see with the Sapphire Reserve. And the card is also currently offering a limited-time welcome bonus: 75,000 bonus points after you spend $5,000 within the first six months after opening the account, plus 10 points per dollar at US gas stations and US supermarkets (up to $15,000 in combined purchases within the first six months of card membership).

Related: These credit cards are currently offering 100,000 bonus points or more.

That’s a better sign-up offer than the Chase Sapphire Reserve, but at the end of the day, both cards provide great rewards programs and high-end benefits. It ultimately comes down to your preferred transfer partners and the slight differences in perks.

Should you get the Chase Sapphire Reserve?

Perhaps the real question is “should you get either the Chase Sapphire Preferred or the Chase Sapphire Reserve?” The Chase Ultimate Rewards points earned with either card are extremely valuable, and the points from either sign-up bonus alone will help offset a nice portion of your next vacation, especially as travel starts coming back.

The main reason right now to dive into the Chase Sapphire Preferred over the Sapphire Reserve is the extra 20,000 bonus points on the Sapphire Preferred. That’s a significant amount and could be the deciding factor between the two cards.

Related: A record-high sign-up bonus is just one reason to get the Chase Sapphire Preferred.

However, if your travel and dining expenses are high, and earning an extra point per dollar can make up for that initial bonus, you may want to consider the Sapphire Reserve instead. And while the Sapphire Reserve also comes with a higher annual fee, you’re getting a ton of benefits that can make the cost worth it, but only if you’ll use those perks on a regular basis.

If you’re well versed in loyalty points and miles and see yourself traveling regularly in the second half of 2021 and into 2022, then the Chase Sapphire Reserve is a card to consider. With its current sign-up bonus of 60,000 points, its many luxury travel perks and enough statement credits to offset most of the annual fee, this card can get a lot of use in your wallet.

Learn more about the Chase Sapphire Reserve.

Find out which cards CNN Underscored chose as our best credit cards of 2021.

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