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The Chase Sapphire Reserve has been the king of the Chase rewards travel cards. But has it lost its crown since its introduction in 2016? Is the CSR still the card that stole the spotlight and cost Chase between 200 and 300 million dollars in initial signup bonuses? The short answer is: no. Other banks and cards have caught up to the CSR over the last 5 years. But the CSR has not lost any value or benefits. It is still a great card for award travelers and it maintains a cult following. This review explains why.
The Chase Sapphire Reserve currently offers 50,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards (URs) after spending $4,000 in the first 3 months. We value this signup bonus at $750 in the Chase travel portal or $1,000+ by transferring to Chase's airline and hotel partners. One of Chase's most lucrative transfer partners is Hyatt and this signup bonus is enough for up to 10 free hotel nights.
The CSR's annual fee is $550. Like other Chase cards, you will not qualify for this card if you have opened more than 5 credit cards with any bank in the last 24 months.
The Chase Sapphire Reserve earns URs, which is a transferrable currency and usually more valuable than hotel or airlines points and miles. You can earn 3x URs on travel and dining, including takeout and delivery. Additionally, you can earn 5x on flights and 10x on rental cars, hotels and dining experiences booked through the Chase travel portal. The CSR earns 1x on all other purchases.
For starters, the Chase Sapphire Reserve offers an annual $300 travel credit. This credit is extremely easy to use, as any “travel” charge triggers the credit. Charges that typically qualify include rental cars, hotels, airlines, Airbnb stays, and tours and tour companies. You will not earn any URs for purchases that trigger the credit.
The CSR comes with the best travel insurance offered by a credit card. This benefit includes primary collision damage waiver (CDW) coverage when renting cars and flight delay credits. You can be reimbursed for up to $500 in expenses when travel on a common carrier is delayed by 6 hours or more. Reimbursable expenses include meals, lodging, toiletries and medication.
The Chase Sapphire Reserve offers the primary cardholder access to Priority Pass Select, which includes access to restaurants that partner with Priority Pass. The only other card that offers this level of Priority Pass membership is the Capital One Venture X (review). CSR authorized users can gain access to Priority Pass Select benefits of their own. But Chase charges $75 per authorized user per year. An authorized user fee can easily pay for itself if you frequent Priority Pass restaurants, since membership covers $28-30 per person, per visit.
As with many other cards, the CSR offers a $100 credit every 4 years for Global Entry or TSA Precheck.
Lastly, CSR holders receive special perks with The Luxury Hotel Collection. Perks include free breakfast for two and a $100 credit that varies by property.
There's lots to like and dislike about the CSR. In ToP's opinion, the CSR has the best travel insurance among credit cards. Trip insurance activates by paying only the taxes on a one-way (or roundtrip) flight and kicks in at only 6 hours of delay. The card's CDW insurance is primary insurance and is second-to-none. If you have a Chase Sapphire Reserve or a Chase Sapphire Preferred, we always recommend using these cards for your travel insurance needs.
Priority Pass restaurants are arguably the best perk of the Priority Pass system. Lounges sometimes can be closed, full, or not offer food or alcoholic beverages. You can usually avoid these issues by visiting a Priority Pass restaurant and ordering what you want. If you're traveling in two-player mode and you both have a Priority Pass Select membership, you can usually double-dip the benefits. This means you can each use your membership to receive $56-60 per person.
The CSR's $550 annual fee is high, even for a premium card. But the annual travel credit is one of the easiest credit card perks to use. If a charge codes as travel for Chase, you'll be reimbursed. No tips, tricks or gimmicks required (we're looking at you Amex).
But it is not all good, that's for sure. Earning 5x on flights and 10x on hotels, rental cars and dining experiences booked through the Chase travel portal sounds great. But remember: travel portals have been nothing but trouble since before COVID-19 was a word in our vocabulary. As we cautioned in our review of the Capital One VentureX, we do not recommend booking through travel portals when paying cash, even with these elevated earnings. When something goes wrong, it's much easier to deal directly with the airline or hotel itself, rather than an online travel agency.
The 3x UR earning on travel and dining was top-of-the-class when the CSR launched in 2016. Since then, many other cards introduced better or comparable earning rates. The Amex Platinum has introduced 5x on flights directly with the airline ($650 annual fee). The Amex Gold earns 4x on dining and 3x on flights ($250 annual fee), while the Amex Green earns 3x on dining and travel ($150 annual fee). The Citi Premier offers 3x on dining, hotels, flights, gas stations and grocery stores ($95 annual fee). Even Chase has added 3x dining on the Chase Sapphire Preferred, Chase Freedom Flex, and Chase Freedom Unlimited. Simply put, the Chase Sapphire Reserve is long overdue for additional (or increased) bonus categories to offset the high annual fee. Perhaps 4x dining and 4x travel, or 4x dining and 3x groceries.
Overall, unless you are desperate for Priority Pass Select membership or you are eligible for annual fee waivers due to employment or military service, we think a 60,000-UR sign-up bonus for the Chase Sapphire Preferred ($95 annual fee) makes more sense for most folks. However, in year 2, there is serious value in the CSR. 3x earnings on dining and travel is no longer industry-leading. But the CSR is still very good for a card with a net annual fee of $250. Throw in the best credit card insurance and you still have a top-tier rewards card that doesn't require tricks or gimmicks to use the credits and benefits.
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