Updated: Nov 10
For years I have seen and heard people talk about travel credit cards - flying business class, staying at luxurious hotels for practically free, complimentary access to airport lounges (sounds amazing), 5x points on this…3x points on that…transferring points to travel partners….(sounds confusing).
Today, I finally bit the bullet and applied for the Chase Sapphire Reserve credit card. I’ve done my fair share of research over the past few years - each time getting too overwhelmed by the options and giving up, but the Chase Sapphire Reserve is consistently rated as one of the top travel credit cards and they are currently offering 80,000 bonus points if you spend $4,000 in the first 3 months (thats $1,200 if redeemed through Chase’s Travel Portal). That is the best deal they’ve had in 5 years and as an avid traveler I thought “let’s just do it”. I was approved in seconds and am officially the world’s newest Chase Sapphire Reserve credit card holder.
By avid traveler, let me give you some insight into what a year of travel might look like for me. I live on the west coast (LA), and have all of my family and close friends back on the east coast (Virginia, Pennsylvania and New Jersey). At a minimum, I fly to the east coast twice a year, but probably more. This year will be three trips back. My boyfriend’s family is in Australia so traveling to Australia once a year is also likely. And in-between traveling to see family, my boyfriend and I are always looking for our next adventure. I’d say we do one long-weekend getaway once a month to a new place. We both have the flexibility to “work from anywhere”, which makes doing long weekend getaways much easier. And 2023 plan is two weeks through Europe.
As a travel credit card newbie, I’m going to try to break down everything I’ve learned in simple terms. First, let’s talk about the blatant perks of having the Sapphire Reserve:
$300 annual travel credit
Complimentary airport lounge access (valued at $429)
$100 credit every 4 years for TSA or Global Entry
Free DashPass (DoorDash membership)
Free Instacart membership
Travel insurance (baggage delay, trip cancellation/interruption)
Rental car insurance
Free car rental memberships (Avis & National)
$0 international transaction fees when used outside the US
These are things you get JUST for owning the card. And there are even more benefits I didn’t mention. The annual fee is steep at $550 BUT the $300 travel credit and complimentary memberships pay that off or at least make the $550 more bearable.
What Are Points? And How Do I Use Them?
Now let’s talk about points. In order to get that “free hotel stay” or upgrade to business class, you use points. Points are accumulated through the Chase Ultimate Rewards Portal, earning 1 point per dollar spent, or more points per dollar on certain categories. Let’s break it down:
5x points on flights when booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards
10x points on hotels and car rentals when booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards
3x points on all travel (after the first $300 is spent on travel annually)
10x points on Chase Dining purchases with Ultimate Rewards
3x points on all other dining such as restaurants, qualifying delivery services and takeout
1x points on everything else
Ok great, you’ve got all these points from spending and are ready to get that free hotel stay or upgrade to business class.
These points can be used for:
Book through Chase Ultimate Rewards portal: 1.5 cents per point. Here, your points are worth 50% more than if you transfer them out. For example, if you have 80,000 points, the total value in the Ultimate Rewards portal would be $1,200. Most people recommend still checking the airline’s website to see what it would cost there. If it is about the same price, it is usually better to book through the portal in order to get the points. I’ve also heard booking through the portal can cause some issues if there is a delay/change in your flight due to the portal being operated by Expedia (a 3rd party). Proceed at your own risk.
Transferring points to a partner airline or hotel program: This is apparently where you can really maximize your points value if you’re strategic. They are transferred at a 1:1 ratio in 1,000 point increments. Chase has 14 transfer partners and you’ll need an airline or hotel loyalty account of the place you’re looking to transfer the points to be able to do so (but don’t worry, those are free and easy to sign up for). This is a great article that lists all of the partners and how to use them strategically.
Other ways to use points:
Cash back: 1 cent per point
Gift cards: most are 1 cent per point
Amazon purchases: 0.8 cents per point
Apple purchases: 1 cent per point
As I start to rack up points and use them, I will report back on my overall thoughts of the card, ease of use, etc, but for me, from the benefits I got on day 1 listed above, I can confidently say it is already worth it for me.
Link here to apply for the Chase Sapphire Reserve Credit Card!
Thanks for reading, Julia
*This information has been individually collected and is not affiliated with Chase or any banking entity*