Points and Miles

Chase Sapphire Reserve Review: The Must-Know Perks of This Popular Travel Credit Card

The numerous benefits, like lounge access and actually helpful travel protections, justify the hefty $550 annual fee.
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The Chase Sapphire Reserve card is so valuable for frequent travelers and wanderlusters alike for its points-earning potential plus a jam-packed arsenal of travel benefits and perks. The flexibility of earning and burning Chase Ultimate Rewards points (compared to individual airline frequent flier miles or hotel points) makes this card the first one I pull out of my wallet regularly, both at home and on the road.

If you travel enough, the Chase Sapphire Reserve card will deliver substantial benefits that offset the hefty $550 annual fee. I use this card for lounge access, travel protection benefits in the event of delays or lost baggage, its monetary annual travel credit, and its points-earning program that plumps up my balance quickly so that I can redeem them for free travel often.

Instead of endlessly searching to find a seat where I could use a reasonable number of miles for a business-class trip to Hawaii, the Maldives, or even short hops within Europe, I can redeem Chase points like cash. Or I can transfer them to several different airline or hotel loyalty programs to get even greater value. For example, I have moved points from Chase to United often to redeem for Lufthansa first-class flights (United’s Star Alliance partner). Complete with Mercedes rides to the plane, caviar in the sky, and showers in a private airport terminal, it reminds me why a bit of extra planning on my part can yield outsized value.

Read on for a full Chase Sapphire Reserve review, including why I think it's one of the best credit cards on the market and how else I use its perks.

Why it’s worth it 

This card is really a no-brainer for frequent travelers or those who dine out often. If you don’t fit into either category, there may be other cards that better suit you. But, road warriors, revenge travelers, and ready-to-vacation retirees have a lot to enjoy when it comes to the Chase Sapphire Reserve's perks.

One of the easiest benefits to take advantage of is the $300 annual travel credit, which kicks in any time you make travel-related purchases with the card. This includes airline tickets, car rentals, and hotels, among other things. If you spend more than $300 per year on travel, you’ve already covered more than half of the card fee. This year alone, I used the credit by the second week of January to pay for a quick weekend getaway to New York; it’s basically a free refund on much of the annual fee.

Next up is lounge access via the Priority Pass program, which counts more than 1,300 global airport lounges and restaurants in its portfolio. You can bring two guests each time you visit, which means three people can enjoy pre-flight amenities like fast Wi-Fi, free drinks and snacks, and a more comfortable place to relax all thanks to the card. The equivalent annual membership to Priority Pass costs more than $400, which means that these first two benefits alone more than cover the annual fee.

I am a lounge regular and love visiting as many as possible, especially in airports that give access to a restaurant in the terminal where you receive a monetary credit to spend when swiping this card. Just remember that you need to have the Priority Pass app or Priority Pass card on hand to access any lounge.

Card benefits and perks

While the aforementioned perks are my favorite (and many would argue the most valuable), there’s more. The card comes with a credit for TSA PreCheck or Global Entry; apply for those services using the card and receive a $100 rebate later. There are also a host of travel protections offered like delayed trip coverage that will pay for hotels or incidentals if your flight is significantly delayed. Plus, the baggage protection coverage will reimburse you for significantly delayed or lost checked bags. A recent flight cancellation in Munich had me stranded for the night, and I was able to pay for an airport hotel and meals using the card. I submitted a claim when I returned home and had the money I spent refunded.

There are also extra perks, like room credits and upgrades, free breakfast, and food and beverage credits when you book at specific properties, including participating SBE hotels (including Mondrian and Delano properties), The Luxury Hotel & Resort Collection, and Relais & Chateaux properties.

This is one of my go-to cards when traveling overseas since it does not incur any foreign transaction fees. It also is my favorite for ride-share services since it offers 10x points per dollar spent with Lyft.

Current welcome offer 

As of publication, new cardholders can earn 60,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 in the first three months from account opening, which is worth $900 toward travel when redeemed through Chase Ultimate Rewards.

How to earn points

This card puts your points earning potential in the fast lane with 3x Chase Ultimate Rewards points per dollar spent on travel purchases, including hotels, airfare, ground transportation like ride-share services, cruises, and even Airbnb properties. Even if you don’t travel often, you’ve got to eat, right? The card comes with three points per dollar spent on dining and delivery services.

I make a concerted effort to always use this card when spending on travel or dining, and I even wrote “3x” on the back of the card as a reminder that it offers bonus points on those categories. On everything else, you’ll earn one point per dollar spent.

When you book flights through Chase’s travel portal, the earnings catapult to five points per dollar spent. The earnings accelerate from there with 10 points per dollar spent on hotels, car rentals, and Chase Dining when booked directly through Chase’s website. Be aware though that if you have elite status with certain hotel programs, you won’t be eligible for those perks if you book through Chase as it is considered a travel agency.

You can also earn points through the Chase Ultimate Rewards shopping portal, which partners with a bevy of online retailers. You’ll earn bonus points by clicking through the link on the Chase website rather than going to those websites directly. I shop at stores like Banana Republic and Kiehl’s to earn bonus points. I also buy a lot of household supplies like paper towels, toiletries, and shelf-stable products online from stores like The Home Depot to earn extra points. They arrive on my doorstep, eliminating the need to lug them home from the store, and I get closer to my travel goals through extra points. I call that a win-win.

How to spend/redeem points

Chase Ultimate Rewards points are far more flexible than traditional frequent flier miles and hotel points. Rather than worrying about finding award space on particular dates of travel or fluctuating (or even disappearing) award redemption charts, you can redeem them like cash.

Even better, the Chase Sapphire Reserve gives a value of 1.5 cents to each point you have when used to book travel via Chase’s travel portal. You can book airfare, hotels, and even cruises using points without having to worry about searching for award space. That means you can redeem just over 53,000 Chase points for an $800 ticket via the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal.

Sometimes you can get better value by transferring points directly to airline or hotel programs to see if you can score a better deal by paying with their own loyalty currencies. I learned this lesson the hard way—once I redeemed just over 40,000 Chase points when paying $600 for a flight only to later realize that I could have purchased the same ticket by redeeming 18,000 United miles for it directly through MileagePlus. I could have saved a ton by transferring 18,000 Chase points to United instead of redeeming points directly from the Chase portal. It always pays to do a little homework when redeeming your hard-earned points and miles.

Beyond United MileagePlus, Chase points transfer to numerous other programs like Air France-KLM Flying Blue, Marriott Bonvoy, and World of Hyatt, among many others.

What I wish I knew before signing up

Chase has been beefing up the perks for the Chase Sapphire Preferred card, which has a lower annual fee ($95), and for some people that card might make more sense. Perks include five points per dollar spent on dining, groceries, select streaming services, and travel booked directly with Chase. You’ll also earn a 10 percent bonus on all the points you earn annually, which can be worth a hefty amount if you spend a lot.

Still, Chase Sapphire Preferred points are only worth 1.25 cents per point, making them slightly less valuable when redeeming via the Chase Portal. For those who don’t travel as often though, and have less use for lounge access or the $300 travel credit, this card might make more sense.

No matter which card you choose, both pack in the perks, but regular travelers can squeeze a whole lot of value out of the Chase Sapphire Reserve. I know that I have, and I won’t go anywhere without it.

Condé Nast Traveler has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Condé Nast Traveler and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers.