I have written extensively about the Chase Sapphire Reserve on this site mostly due to the fact that it really is my favorite card in my wallet today. Sadly one of the most appealing aspects of the card, the lucrative 100,000 Ultimate Reward point signup bonus is coming to an end. For many who exceeded Chase’s dreaded 5/24 rule this is extremely disappointing, but the card still comes with some incredible benefits. Does it still make sense to apply for the card with just a 50,000 Ultimate Reward point signup bonus? Let’s take a look.
Chase Sapphire Reserve vs. Other Premium Cards
Annual Fee: The two most direct competitors of the Sapphire Reserve are the American Express Platinum Card and the Citi Prestige Card. All three cards come with an annual fee of $450 and offer annual travel credits. The Amex Platinum card offers a $200 credit (with restrictions) which drops the effective annual fee to $250/year. Citi Prestige offers a $250 automatic travel credit which drops the effective annual fee to $200 year. With the Sapphire Reserve’s $300 automatic travel credit the Sapphire Reserve has the lowest effective annual fee at just $150. Winner: Chase Sapphire Reserve
Earning Points: The Amex Platinum card earns 1x point on all purchases, but earn 5x points on airfare. The Citi Prestige earns 3x points on travel (excluding gas), 2x points on dining and entertainment, and 1x point on everything else. Chase Sapphire Reserve earns 3x points on travel and dining, but just one point on everything else. If majority of your annual spending is on airfare, the Amex Platinum card is definitely the winner in this category, but otherwise the Chase Sapphire Reserve is a little more valuable than the Citi Prestige due to the 3x points on dining. Winner: Depends on Annual Spend
Using Points For Travel: All three cards offer the ability to transfer points directly to airline loyalty programs. Which card is most valuable when transferring points directly to an airline or hotel loyalty program will depend on the individual, but great transfer opportunities can be found with American Express Membership Rewards, Citi ThankYou , or Chase Ultimate Rewards. The real value of the Sapphire Reserve comes from using points to pay directly for travel booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards. Points used to pay for travel directly can be redeemed at a rate of $.015/point. Both ThankYou points and Membership Rewards points are only worth $.01/point when booking directly from the respective bank’s travel portal. Winner: Chase Sapphire Reserve
Current Signup Bonus: American Express is currently offering 40,000 Membership Rewards points after spending $3,000 in the first 90 days for the Platinum card, Citi is offering 50,000 ThankYou points after spending $5,000 in the first 90 days, and Chase is offering 50,000 (100,000 in branch until March 12, 2017) Ultimate Rewards points after spending $4,000 in the first 90 days. Unless you plan on spending the full $3,000 on airfare, the best signup bonus is still the Chase Sapphire Reserve. Not to mention the points are worth more (see above). Winner: Chase Sapphire Reserve
When comparing the Sapphire Reserve card with its direct competitors the Chase Sapphire Reserve comes out on top. All three cards come with Priority Pass Memberships (Amex’s does not allow guests), but the Citi Prestige and American Express Platinum Cards offer lounge access with American Airlines and Delta Airlines respectively when traveling with the airline. If you are a Delta frequent flyer the Platinum card may prove more valuable in the long run depending on how much you value lounge access. Since Citi is dropping Admirals Club access in July 2017 I am not considering this benefit in my analysis.
Existing Chase Sapphire Preferred Cardholder? You May Benefit The Most!
Pooling Points: If you signed up for the Sapphire Preferred and earned the 50,000 point signup bonus you may have found yourself ineligible for the Sapphire Reserve due to the 5/24 rule. You may think it is not worth opening the Sapphire Reserve for a lowly 50,000 signup bonus, but it absolutely is. One of the best aspects of Chase Ultimate Rewards is the ability to pool points from other cards. Cashback earned from the Chase Freedom cards can be converted to Ultimate Rewards points in either your Sapphire Reserve or Sapphire Preferred accounts. Likewise, the 50,000 points earned from the Sapphire Preferred card can be pooled into your new Sapphire Reserve Ultimate Rewards account. Even better, Sapphire Preferred points which are worth just $.01 when paying directly for travel end up being worth $.015 when transferred.
Downgrading or Converting: Another reason why I love the Sapphire Reserve is because of the issuer. Chase offers a ton of credit cards between the Ink, Freedom, and Sapphire series of credit cards. Some cards come with annual fees and others do not. If after holding the card for over a year you decide that it is no longer a good fit, you can always downgrade the card to a Chase Freedom or Chase Freedom Unlimited card with no annual fee. Similarly, if you find there is too much redundancy between the Sapphire Preferred and Sapphire Reserve, you can convert one into a product without an annual fee.
The Card Pays For Itself!
At 50,000 you are getting a minimum of $750 back in the signup bonus alone (50,000 * $.015). Since the effective annual fee is just $150/year, you essentially cover the cost of the annual fee for five years once when you earn the signup bonus.
It is incredibly disappointing to see the 100,000 signup bonus offer coming to an end, especially if you were unable to signup for the bonus due to Chase’s 5/24 rule. Even with the 50,000 signup bonus the Chase Sapphire Reserve offers incredible value and essentially pays for itself for the first five years of card membership. Also, because Chase has so many other cards to choose from you can always change to another Chase card if you decide the card is not a good fit a few years from now. If you still have a chance to apply for the 100,000 signup point offer I recommend doing it, but if the 50,000 point offer is the only one remaining it is still a great offer for a great card.