The Chase Sapphire Reserve® (review) card is one of the most popular premium credit cards. Since the card was introduced over five years ago, this has been a no-brainer for many. However, a lot has changed, both in absolute and relative terms – annual card fees have increased, the pandemic has changed consumer behavior a lot, and in 2021 there have been significant changes to both Sapphire cards. .
With that in mind, I wanted to address the question of whether the Chase Sapphire Reserve is still worth it, both in absolute terms and relative to other cards, including the Chase Sapphire Preferred.
Benefits of Chase Sapphire Reserve
The Chase Sapphire Reserve has an annual fee of $550 and offers the following key long-term benefits:
Over the past two years, we’ve also seen several changes to the Chase Sapphire Reserve, both for better and for worse. Some of them were permanent changes, while others were temporary. These include in particular the following:
How much does the Saphir Reserve “cost” me?
At the most basic level, the Chase Sapphire Reserve has an annual fee of $550, and I receive a $300 “cash” travel credit each year from the cardholder. For mental accounting purposes, I would consider this card to really “cost” me $250 per year, since I spend $300 on travel each year anyway.
In terms of other values I can “cash out,” the card offers $5 monthly DoorDash credit until December 31, 2024. You can “bank” credits and use up to three for an order. I order from DoorDash at least once a quarter, so for me that’s worth about $60 a year.
That brings the actual annual cost of the card down to $190, at least in my situation. Below I’ll do the math on what I get for it.
Why I don’t spend much on the sapphire reserve
When the Chase Sapphire Reserve was first introduced, I loved the ability to earn 3x points on dining and travel, and used it for virtually every purchase in those categories. However, this is no longer the competitive advantage it once was:
In other words, I no longer use the Sapphire reserve for my meal and plane ticket purchases. At this point, the only “bonus” spending on my card is travel purchases other than airline tickets. For hotel spend, it’s also break-even, since I earn 3x points on sapphire reserve and Citi prestige.
In all honesty, this is still an important category, because it means I put things like carpooling, rental cars, trains, hotels, etc. on the map. 10x points on Lyft is a big category for me, and that’s valid through March 2025.
Is the Saphir Reserve still right for me?
All of this makes me wonder if the Chase Sapphire Reserve is still right for me, or if I should downgrade it to the Chase Sapphire Preferred® (Revision) card or maybe just keep the Ink Business Preferred® (Revision) credit card.
When reviewing these cards, let me share the benefits of the sapphire pool that I do and don’t like at this point:
- For 3x points on dining and travel, at this point I only rate 3x points on non-airfare travel purchases as I prefer to put other purchases on the Amex Platinum and Citi Prestige
- I value the $300 annual travel credit more or less at face value
- I enjoy temporary DoorDash credits up to $60 per year more or less at face value
- I appreciate travel and rental car protection as it is really useful for my travels
- The Sapphire Reserve allows you to redeem points for 1.5 cents each for travel purchases (instead of 1.25 cents), although that’s not something I personally enjoy as I prefer to transfer points Ultimate Rewards points to airline and hotel partners (and the transfer rate is 1:1 for the three Ultimate Rewards “hub” cards)
- A Priority Pass subscription is valuable, but I also get it through several other cards, so gradually, I don’t think it’s worth much
Where does that leave me? Should I keep the Sapphire Reserve, should I switch to Sapphire Preferred, or should I just keep the Ink Preferred?
I want to keep an Ultimate Rewards premium card
At the most basic level, the reason I want to keep any of these three cards is that they allow me to unlock the full value of the Ultimate Rewards program.
If I have one of these three cards, I can transfer the points earned to the Chase Freedom Flex at no annual feeSM (exam), Chase Freedom Unlimited® (exam), Ink Business Unlimited® Credit Card (exam), and Ink Business Cash® Credit Card (exam), to Ultimate Rewards Partners.
For me, the value of the overall Ultimate Rewards ecosystem remains unchanged thanks to Chase’s excellent no-annual-fee cards.
If I were to consider not keeping the sapphire reserve, I would have two options.
Option #1: Downgrade to Sapphire Preferred
One option is to downgrade the sapphire reserve to a preferred sapphire. With the map changes coming in 2021, this is a really compelling option:
- The Sapphire Preferred now offers 3x points on meals, so it’s on par with the Sapphire Reserve
- The Sapphire Preferred now offers 10% birthday bonus points, so it’s actually more appealing for dining and day-to-day spending than the Sapphire Reserve
- The Sapphire Preferred now offers a $50 annual resort credit, which many could take advantage of
- The Sapphire Preferred also offers excellent travel protection
- I would basically give up an additional Priority Pass membership (no big deal), the ability to redeem points for 1.5 cents each for travel (which I don’t really appreciate) and 3x points on my non-flight travel purchases (which is the only real loss here)
For me, the question comes down to whether it’s worth paying the higher annual fee (minus the annual travel credit), in order to earn bonus points on travel purchases. I am seriously considering this card downgrade option when my next annual membership fee is due.
Option #2: Cancel my sapphire stash and stick with my favorite ink
The Ink Business Preferred is a $95 annual fee business card that offers 3x points on the first $150,000 in combined purchases per cardholder year on travel, shipping, internet, cable, telephone services and advertising purchases made with social media sites and search engines.
It’s a phenomenal card considering it offers the same 3x travel points as the Sapphire Reserve (although it’s capped).
If I canceled my Sapphire reserve, I would save quite a bit on annual fees, still be able to transfer points to partners, and still earn 3x points on travel. In the long term, the loss would be quite limited.
At the end of the line
The Chase Sapphire Reserve is an incredibly comprehensive travel rewards card that has held its value well. Not only that, but having a card that earns Ultimate Rewards points is always worth it. This is especially true given that it unlocks value with four fantastic cards with no annual fee – Chase Freedom Flex, Chase Freedom Unlimited, Ink Business Unlimited and Ink Business Cash.
However, over time I have shifted my dining spend to the Citi Prestige and my airfare spend to the Amex Platinum, the sapphire reserve isn’t quite the slam dunk it used to be anymore . Now add in the major upgrades we made to the Chase Sapphire Preferred, and there’s not a whole lot of extra value for some of us to have the Reserve over the Preferred.
My annual dues are due in a few months, and at that time I’m going to have some serious thinking to do…
What do you think of the value proposition of the sapphire reserve today?