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Chase is rolling out its newest premium travel rewards card, the Chase Sapphire Reserve, and the card is generating more buzz than perhaps any card that has debuted this year. Chase typically earns rave reviews for both customer service and its Ultimate Reward program, with other credit card products such as the Chase Sapphire Preferred and the Ink Business Card. But the financial media is giving this particular card extra attention because of two compelling story lines. On the one hand, the card charges an extraordinarily high annual fee of $450, which is definitely an attention-grabber. On the other hand, the Chase Sapphire Reserve also boasts a rather unprecedented sign-up bonus and other valuable perks. These are sure to attract many people who travel frequently for business or pleasure, and those features set this card apart from the competition in ways that definitely deserve a serious look.
Huge Sign-Up Incentive
The sign-up bonus of 100,000 points is one of the best any card has ever offered, plus cardholders earn a whopping three points per dollar spent on purchases in the travel and dining categories, plus one point per dollar spent on everything else. The bonus points alone are worth approximately $1,000 in travel rewards at the standard redemption rate of one cent per point. For those who book their reservations through the Ultimate Rewards program portal, points are worth 1.5 cents each – for a total bonus that is equal to approximately $1,500 in travel. That makes it very easy to justify the $450 annual fee for anyone who has travel plans and expects to spend at least $450 dollars.
There is no cap on how many awards you can earn, and you can apply accumulated rewards toward future travel on airlines, cruises, and more. While some major credit card companies restrict their rewards point redemptions to only one specific type of travel – such as airfares – this card expands the definition. You can use your rewards for a variety of expenses that are travel-related, such as hotels, train travel, and even taxi fares!
Please be advised that in order to qualify for the generous sign-up bonus of 100,000 points, you must spend a minimum of $4,000 on eligible purchases within the first three months of credit card ownership. If you wish to add other authorized users to the credit card’s account, those will carry an additional annual fee of $75 each.
Annual Loyalty Perks
There is also an annual travel credit of $300, which can be applied to any travel-related purchases made with the card (with the exception of ticket purchases). Those types of expenses include such things as airport lounge fees, baggage fees, seat upgrades, rental of headsets for in-flight entertainment, and so forth. Card members also receive an additional credit of up to $100 to use for TSA Global Entry or Pre-Check application fees. Add up that TSA application reimbursement or credit and the $300 annual credit for travel and those benefits alone almost cover the annual fee.
Other Key Benefits
The Chase Sapphire Reserve is also your passport to complimentary access to more than 900 airport lounges in at least 400 cities around the world, via the Priority Pass Select program. Typically you’ll pay an entrance fee of around $30 each time you use one of these VIP lounges – or you can pay for an annual pass for a cost of $99 or more per year. That makes this perk a money-saving convenience for Chase Sapphire Reserve members. There are no foreign transaction fees, which can be a plus for overseas travelers. Many other credit cards, by contrast, stick cardholders with a surcharge of 3% or more for every foreign transaction.
Card members may move their accumulated rewards into the rewards programs of companies that work with Chase Sapphire Reserve. Those include, for instance, British Airways, Singapore Airlines, Southwest Airlines, Virgin Atlantic and United Airlines, as well as the rewards programs of hotels such as Hyatt, Marriott, and Ritz Carlton. The list, which currently includes about a dozen travel partners, will likely continue to grow over the coming months and years.
When using rewards points, the time it takes for you to transfer your credits to the airline or other company you are buying your travel from can be crucial. If the transfer takes too long, for example, you could lose your reservation. For that reason it is always best to use a rewards program that facilitates instantaneous transfer of rewards – and the Chase Sapphire Reserve card currently offers this service for the purchase of tickets on several major airlines. For those who rent automobiles, Chase Sapphire Reserve card membership also includes primary coverage for most rentals paid for with the card, if you simply decline the rental car company’s Collision Damage Waiver.
The Bottom Line
For those who travel often and spend a lot of money on travel and restaurants, the new Chase Sapphire Reserve card may be the ultimate rewards card solution. The sign-up bonus is fantastic – as long as you meet the spending requirement within the first 3 months – and the cardholder perks are luxurious. Meanwhile the chance to earn 3X points per dollar on travel and restaurants – while receiving so many value-adding perks and bonuses – makes this card a great bargain, despite the high annual fee.