A Great All-around Travel Card: Chase Sapphire Reserve Review

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This isn’t exactly a common opinion: I consider the Chase Sapphire Reserve® to be one of the absolute best travel credit cards for anyone just beginning their journey into leveraging credit cards for upgraded travel.

But with a $550 annual fee, not many beginners are likely to give it a whirl.

That’s not to say the Chase Sapphire Reserve® is a beginner card. It’s not – in fact, most points and miles veterans I know use the card religiously. But there are a few things about the card that make it super beginner-friendly:

  • The points are extremely easy to use. At the very worst, you can cash them out at a rate of 1 cent each, which is a higher rate than almost all other rewards-points currencies. On the opposite end, you can get 10+ cents per point in value when redeemed for luxury travel experiences.
  • You’ll get top-tier travel insurance that kicks in automatically when you use the card to pay for your travel.
  • The annual fee can be easily offset with even one  trip a year (hard to believe, I know) and the annual $300 travel credit

That last bullet is important. Annual fees can be annoying, or even scary, but if you have  a calculator with you while you examine the card’s benefits, you can quickly determine whether it will actually save you money in the long run. If you’re willing to prepay the $550 fee, it’s not very hard to  get $1,000+ in value each year.

Let’s take a look at just how many benefits are stuffed into the Chase Sapphire Reserve® and why this could be a great addition to your wallet.

Chase Sapphire Reserve®

75,000 Bonus Points

after you spend $4,000 on purchases in 3 months of account opening

Annual Fee: $550  |  Terms Apply  |  Rates & Fees

Welcome bonus

Chase Sapphire Reserve® comes with a lucrative intro offer: you’ll earn a bonus of 60,000 Chase points after spending $4,000 on purchases within the first three months of account opening.

At a minimum, those points are worth $600 in cold, hard cash. But if you’re a regular Smart Points reader, you know that you can potentially squeeze this offer for thousands of dollars in travel with a bit of strategy. Think of things like:

  • 3 nights at a five-star hotel like the Andaz Costa Rica Resort at Peninsula Papagayo, which can cost over $1,000 per night
  • 2 round-trip coach tickets from the U.S. to Ireland on Aer Lingus – potentially $1,200+ in savings
  • A one-way flight to Paris in a lie-flat business class seat on United Airlines, which otherwise costs over $5,000
  • 12 nights at a three-star hotel along the interstate (great for road-trippers)
  • $900 toward a cruise when you book through the Chase Travel℠ portal

At the moment, this bonus is one of the best on the market.

You can book three nights at the Andaz Papagayo with the welcome bonus from the Chase Sapphire Reserve. Image courtesy of Hyatt.

Earning rewards

If you book travel with regularity, the Chase Sapphire Reserves high-octane earning rate is pretty much unrivaled. There’s a catch, though – to get the best return, you’ll have to book through the Chase Travel Portal. You’ll earn:

  • 10X points per dollar on hotel stays
  • 10X points per dollar on rental cars
  • 10X points per dollar on Chase Dining purchases
  • 5X points per dollar on air travel

Here’s what you’ll get for purchases made outside of the Chase Travel Portal:

  • 10X points per dollar on Lyft rides (through March 2025)
  • 3X points per dollar on travel purchases
  • 3X points per dollar on dining, including takeout and delivery
  • 1X point per dollar on all other purchases

For anyone who dines out and travels semi-regularly, this card can easily earn you tens of thousands of bonus points per year.

Redeeming points

A feature that makes Chase Ultimate Rewards points exceptionally valuable is their flexibility. You can convert them into hotel points, airline miles, travel, cash back, gift cards, and more. Let’s take a look at the most popular ways to use them.

Transferring to partners

The hands-down best way to use your points is by transferring them to airline and hotel loyalty programs.

This is what makes Chase Ultimate Rewards so magical. It unlocks many of those aspirational items we mentioned above.

Chase currently partners with the following travel programs, all offering a 1:1 transfer ratio:

Aer Lingus


Air Canada Aeroplan

Marriott Bonvoy

British Airways

Singapore Airlines




United Airlines

Flying Blue (Air France and KLM)

Virgin Atlantic

IHG One Rewards

World of Hyatt

Some of these names may not even be familiar to you and carriers like Iberia and Flying Blue might not sound very useful. But they are – even if you never actually fly with them — since they can be leveraged to fly around the U.S.

For example, you can:

  • Transfer 39,000 points to Singapore Airlines to book a round-trip economy seat from anywhere in the U.S. to Hawaii on United Airlines ($700+ in value)
  • Transfer 52,000 points to British Airways to book two round-trip economy seats from the West Coast to Hawaii
  • Transfer 90,000 points to Virgin Atlantic for a round-trip business class flight from the West Coast to Japan on ANA ($11,000+ in value)
  • Transfer 30,000 points to Flying Blue for a round-trip economy flight from Dallas-Fort Worth to Tel Aviv on Air France ($1,000+ in value)
  • Transfer 85,000 points to British Airways – and then transfer those points to partner Qatar Airways – for a one-way business class flight in a Qatar Airways Qsuite (super fancy business class) to the Maldives ($6,000+ in value)

Honestly, the possibilities are nearly endless.

first class seat on plane
You can transfer your Chase points to Virgin Atlantic and book a round trip flight from US to Japan in economy on ANA. Image courtesy of ANA.

Booking through the Chase Travel Portal

The Chase Travel Portal is an online travel agency similar to Orbitz or Expedia. You can book flights, hotels, rental cars, cruises, etc. with Chase points at a flat rate. You can also use a mix of both cash and points as your payment method.

There are two reasons the Chase Travel Portal is so popular:

  1. It’s easy. You don’t have to know any award travel tricks – there’s no research or transfers necessary.
  2. You don’t have to worry about blackout dates or award availability. You can book (nearly) any flight, hotel, or rental car available for purchase.

The Chase Sapphire Reserve® has a special power that no other Chase credit card offers: It gives you a value of 1.5 cents per point when booking travel through the Chase Travel Portal. It’s a 50% boost compared to other Chase cards, which offer a rate of 1 to 1.25 cents per point. This means your 60,000-point bonus will be worth a minimum of $900 in travel.

Cash-back and gift cards

The worst use for your points is still a digestible one.

You can redeem your points for cash or gift cards at a rate of 1 cent each. Occasionally, you may get slightly more for gift cards, as they are sometimes discounted.

Two points here:

  • Cash is better than gift cards. If you want to buy a gift card, simply purchase it with your Chase Sapphire Reserve® and then offset the purchase with a cash-back redemption. At least this way you’ll earn points for your gift card purchase.
  • If you’re planning to use your points for cash and gift cards regularly, you might be better off opening an actual cash-back credit card. Chase points best serve those who desire to travel for cheap.

Benefits and perks

Here’s where the real value of this card lives. Keep the card’s $550 annual fee in mind when you’re examining the following benefits.

Up to $300 in travel credits

If you spend at least $300 on travel each year, consider this an automatic $300 reduction of the card’s annual fee.

Every cardmember year, you’ll get the first $300 in travel purchases you make with the Chase Sapphire Reserve reimbursed automatically. This includes things like:

  • Airfare
  • Campgrounds
  • Cruises
  • Ferries
  • Ground transportation (buses, taxis, Uber, limos, etc.)
  • Hotels/timeshares
  • Parking lots/garages
  • Rental cars
  • Toll bridges

You don’t even have to activate this benefit. The card will recognize your travel purchase and promptly credit your account.

Airport lounge access

Gaining access to airport lounges is one of the most game-changing travel moves you can make. Many lounges come with free food and alcohol, reliable high-speed Wi-Fi, and conference rooms. Some even offer amenities like showers, private suites, and an enclosed children’s play area.

The Chase Sapphire Reserve® comes with access to two airport lounge networks.

The first is Priority Pass Select airport lounge access, which allows you to enter more than 1,300 lounges worldwide for free. You and two guests can visit as many times as you want without paying a shiny red cent. Additionally, you can use your Priority Pass membership to get free food at participating airport restaurants – usually $28 per person for you and a guest. There are currently around 70 eligible restaurants worldwide (though about half are in the U.S.).

To buy a similar Priority Pass lounge membership would cost $429 per year.

The second lounge network you can access is Chase Sapphire Lounges, which are (as the name intimates) a collection of proprietary lounges from Chase. These lounges are few and far between compared to the ubiquity of Priority Pass. There’s currently just one open Chase Sapphire Lounge, located in Hong Kong. But Chase plans to open eight others in 2023 in the following cities:

  • Boston (BOS)
  • Las Vegas (LAS)
  • New York (LGA)
  • Philadelphia (PHL)
  • Phoenix (PHX)
  • San Diego (SAN)
  • Washington, D.C. (IAD)

These lounges are expected to be of significantly higher quality than the average airport lounge – more on par with American Express Centurion Lounges, which are the gold standard among domestic airport lounges.

You'll have access to the over 1,300+ airport lounges with Priority Pass, like the No1 Lounge at London-Gatwick. (Image courtesy of No 1 Lounges.)

Sprint through airport security

As long as you hold the Chase Sapphire Reserve®, you’ll get a statement credit to cover the cost of  membership to one of the following trusted traveler programs:

  • TSA PreCheck – This allows you to traverse (most) domestic airport security checkpoints while keeping your shoes and belt on. You can also keep your laptop and carry-on approved toiletries inside your bag. Plus, you’ll even get a dedicated security lane, which is often significantly shorter than the regular TSA lane.
  • Global Entry – In many international U.S. airports, you can skip the soul-crushing immigration line altogether. Find a Global Entry kiosk, provide biometric data (usually fingerprints), and spend about 20 seconds entering some info on the touch screen. You’ll then receive a slip of paper to hand to an officer on your way out the door. A single use of this can potentially help you reclaim hours of your life. Important to note, It also comes with TSA PreCheck privileges.
  • NEXUS – By far the hardest to acquire, this is the most useful membership of the three. You’ll get all the benefits of both TSA PreCheck and Global Entry, plus you’ll receive expedited entry into Canada.

Membership with these programs is valid for five years. The Chase Sapphire Reserve® will offset the application fee for whichever membership you choose every four years – ensuring that you’ll never need to pay.

Lyft Pink membership

The Chase Sapphire Reserve® confers two years of free Lyft Pink All Access membership – and a 50% discount on year three. You’ll have to activate this benefit by December 31, 2024, to qualify.

Lyft Pink is noteworthy because of benefits such as:

  • Free Priority Pickup upgrades
  • Up to 15% off Lyft rides
  • Free cancellation forgiveness, up to three times each month
  • Free 45-minute classic bike rides

Lyft Pink All Access otherwise costs $199 per year. That means you could be getting nearly $500 in value from this perk alone – if you’ll use it. This could be enough to poach your business from another app like Uber.

Excellent travel insurance

The Chase Sapphire Reserve® is one of the single greatest credit cards for travel insurance. Its coverages kick in faster than most, and its payout is abnormally high, too. Here are the highlights you’ll get automatically when you reserve your travel with this card:

  • Primary rental car insurance – Up to $75,000 in coverage (more than most other cards)
  • Trip delay insurance – Up to $500 per ticket for reasonable expenses like dinner, lodging, an Uber to a hotel, etc. Your flight must be delayed at least six hours or require an overnight stay.
  • Baggage delay insurance – Up to $100 per day for up to five days for reasonable expenses like clothing, toiletries, a phone charger, etc. Your bags must be delayed by at least six hours.
  • Trip cancellation/interruption insurance – Up to $10,000 per person ($20,000 max per trip) if illness, inclement weather at your destination, or other catastrophes cause you to forfeit nonrefundable prepaid travel.
  • Travel accident insurance – Up to $1,000,000 in the event of accidental death and dismemberment due to an incident with an airline, cruise, or another eligible form of transportation.
  • Emergency evacuation and transportation – Up to $100,000 to reimburse you for transportation in the event of a serious illness. The compensation can also go toward a coach ticket to fly a friend or family member to you if you’re hospitalized for over eight days.

If you pay for travel regularly, the Chase Sapphire Reserve® could be worth its annual fee for the travel insurance alone. Credit card insurance has saved me several thousand dollars in the past eight years.

Various other statement credits

The Chase Sapphire Reserve comes with a handful of other temporary statement credits that can really add up if you’re able to use them:

  • DoorDash
      • Free DashPass membership, worth $9.99 per month (through December 31, 2024)
      • $5 monthly in-app credit (through December 31, 2024)
  • Instacart
    • Free year of Instacart+ membership, worth $99 per year (you must enroll by July 31, 2024)
    • Up to $15 in monthly Instacart credits (through July 2024)
  • GoPuff
    • $10 monthly Gopuff credit (through December 31, 2023)

If you’re able to maximize all the above credits, you’d receive several hundred dollars in value.

Is the Chase Sapphire Reserve right for you?

If you travel even a few times per year, the Chase Sapphire Reserve® could be well worth the initial $550 investment. Many cardholders can easily justify that dollar amount for benefits such as:

  • An annual $300 travel credit
  • Airport lounge membership worth over $400
  • Arguably the best travel insurance offered by any credit card
  • Free membership with trusted traveler programs that expedite your airport security experience

While the card is well-tailored for frequent flyers, it’s even better for road warriors and road-trippers. Primary rental car insurance alongside a 10x earning rate on rental cars and hotel stays booked through the Chase Travel Portal is a power combo.

If the annual fee is too much to swallow, check out the Capital One Venture X instead. It’s got similar perks for just a $395 annual fee. This card also earns rewards that you transfer to travel partners. Here are some highlights:

  • Up to $300 in annual statement credits when booking travel through the Capital One Travel portal
  • 10,000 bonus miles after each account anniversary
  • Priority Pass Select airport lounge membership, Plaza Premium lounge access, and Capital One Lounge access
  • Travel insurance nearly identical to the Chase Sapphire Reserve
  • Reimbursement for the Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee

This card also offers a powerful combination of primary rental car insurance and 10x miles on rental cars and hotels booked through Capital One Travel – and through May 16, 2023, you’ll also get 10x miles on Turo bookings (the peer-to-peer car rental app).

Capital One miles aren’t quite as versatile as Chase Ultimate Rewards points (for example, you’ll only get 0.5 cents per mile when redeeming them for cash), but they can get you just as much free travel when converted into airline miles and hotel points.

Final points

The Chase Sapphire Reserve® is in the conversation for the best travel rewards credit card on the market. With even two or three trips each year, you can extract considerably more value than the card’s $550 annual fee will extract from your wallet.

Chase Sapphire Reserve®

75,000 Bonus Points

after you spend $4,000 on purchases in 3 months of account opening

Annual Fee: $550  |  Terms Apply  |  Rates & Fees

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone. This post contains references to products from one or more of our partners and we may receive compensation when you click on links to those products.

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