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There You Are! What’s In My Wallet: Chase Sapphire Reserve

Time to put the personal in personal finance.  

I’m jazzed for today’s post: the first in a series of what credit cards I use, why I use them, and an examination of whether or not they’re actually worth the fees.

And I’m starting with one of my favorite cards, a real heavy lifter, the Chase Sapphire Reserve.

I opened this card about two years ago, enticed by the absolutely amazing point benefits it offers.  This card also carries a hefty annual fee (currently $550/year!).  There are some serious pros and cons at play here.  I was actually inspired to start with this particular card because it’s a really cool example of what it means to pay for the ability to use a credit card- and I wanted to challenge myself to dive deep and make sure the upside and potential benefits actually outweigh the cost.

Let’s chat, and you be the judge for me.

Gonna Build A Wall(et)

Let’s start with the basics.  If you’ve come to today’s post and feel like you need a little more clarity on what a credit card is, and how it functions.  I got you.

“A Credit Card allows you to borrow money to buy things.”

Simply put, that’s it.

But borrowing money is never so simple.

“In return for the money you borrow, you may be required to pay interest back to the lender.”

Nearly all credit cards carry an APR or Annual Percentage Rate.  This is rate at which you will be charged interest if you neglect to pay your credit card balance in full at the end of a billing cycle (typically one month).  These rates can hover anywhere between 11-24% (annually).

Some cards may also carry an Annual Fee– a fee charged by the lender just to be able to use the card.  These fees typically start around $95 and can run as high as $600, depending on the card.

In exchange for paying an annual fee, you can often expect to get benefits on the amount of money you borrow and pay back, or Credit Card Points.  And some cards like our handy dandy Sapphire offer specialty benefits above and beyond points- like designated credit for Travel, DoorDash, and Lyft!

My Sapphire Reserve credit card is issued to me by Chase Bank.

(OK, I guess we didn’t fully break up, I do still see Chase for my cards, but that’s IT.  It’s an arrangement that works for us.)

Chase offers this Sapphire Card in two versions, the Preferred and Reserved.  We’re going to talk about the Reserved today because that’s what I use, but we can circle back to the Preferred at the end.

On The Other Hand…Fees and Benefits

Let’s get all the costs and cons out of the way first.

This card carries a fairly high annual fee as far as credit cards go.  Currently opening a new Sapphire Reserve card will run you $550 annually.

When I opened my card, the annual fee sat lower at $450, so that is the rate I’m currently grandfathered into.

Edit: someone actually wrote in privately and didn’t believe I was grandfathered into that rate- the proof is in the pudding! (or just above this, it’s right up there).

My card carries an APR of 15.99%, but that rate is going to vary for everyone.  At the end of the day I’m not so concerned as to what this APR is ultimately, as I continue to plan on paying down the card to $0 each and every month (learn to despise credit card interest, and you’ll be happier and richer for it).

That’s really it.  So, let’s look hard at that annual fee and see if the benefits make it work my paying half a thousand dollars to Chase every year.  

1) Travel!  Take Me Different Places, Show Me Different Faces…

The biggest and most obvious perk to factor in with the Reserve card is that they offer me a $300 travel credit every single year.

Say what?

That’s right.  Chase deducts $300 in travel expenses right off my statement at the beginning of the year.  Uber, NY Metro, Delta Flight.  Travel Expenses.

It’s often hard to predict exactly where your money will go each year, but I can all but guarantee you I know I’m going to spend at least $300 on *some kind of* travel along the way.

Right away this effectively lowers my annual fee to $150/year (or $250 if you opened a card now and had the $550 annual fee).

2) I Can Show You The World…On A Global Entry Ride…

Every four years, Chase will also cover the cost of applying for TSA Precheck or Global Entry.  If you travel a decent amount, especially internationally, this is a huge perk. (When I say a bunch, even if you go somewhere international once per year, I really think this is worth having!)

This is $100 applied directly towards one of those programs.  It comes right off your statement.  I last renewed my Global Entry in 2017, so I’ll be due again next year.  Let’s amortize that benefit over four years, so valued at $25/year – my annual fee is now $125/year.

3) Feed Me DoorDash, Feed Me All Night Long…

Via the Sapphire card, I receive a $60/year credit to DoorDash.  I found this out like, five days ago!  

I have some friends who have become regular readers of this blog that also have used this card in the past- and they taught me about a benefit I didn’t even know I had!

I can order through DoorDash and Chase will reimburse up to $60 each calendar year.  That’s a direct redemption I can credit against my annual fee, bringing me to $65/year.  Not to mention Chase currently offers a free “DashPass” membership for 24 months, valued at about $240.

Those are pretty much the direct cash credit benefits associated with this card.  But let’s quickly run through some of the other generous benefits I get from my Sapphire Reserve.  There are even more than what is listed below, but I find these to be the most practical and of potentially regular/occasional use rather than the rarer needed benefits:

  1. 3:1 Points on Travel and Dining Purchase – I receive 3 Chase Ultimate Rewards points for every $1 I spend on Travel or Dining Purchases. (Yes, dining includes Chipotle).
  2. 50% More Value on Points For Travel – Typically these points are worth about 1 cent apiece, but I actually get 1.5% the value if I used them to book Travel expenses directly through the Chase portal.  And I have, and it’s awesome!
  3. 10:1 Points on Lyft Rides – Same concept as #1, but I actually get 10 points for every $1 spent with Lyft, which happens to be my carshare company of choice! (I double stack here and get those sweet Delta miles for every Lyft ride I take as well).
  4. No Foreign Transaction Fees – Traveling out of the country?  Absolutely no foreign fees while using your Sapphire card abroad.
  5. Rental Car Coverage – When you have a Sapphire card, you’re covered up to $75,000 against collision or theft with a rental car.  You need not take and pay for the coverage offered by the rental agency (another $ win).
  6. Lost Luggage Reimbursement – You’re covered up to $3,000 for damaged or lost carry on or checked luggage on a trip.  Seriously?!
  7. Medical Emergencies During Travel – If you or an immediate family member gets sick or injured while traveling and need emergency evacuation, you can be covered up to $100,000 for medical services and transportation.  Ok this is getting ridiculous- let’s stop here!

At this point I’m paying $65/year for all those additional benefits.  Just a reminder.  $65.  Ok let’s keep going.  

If You Knew My Story…Ok, I’ll Tell Ya.

Even without the added bonus of all those benefits- it’s all only worth as much as you can use it.

In my personal evaluation of whether or not this is the right card for me, I wanted to look back at some of the ways I’ve redeemed my own Chase points to make sure I’m truly, without question getting the most I can out of this card.  Let’s look at the last year!

1) August 2019

Last August I took an amazing trip to Amsterdam with some friends.  My creative designer for Creative Finance is actually based there (another shout-out for Mimi van Amerongen!  And a sht’it for Ruvi in the booth also).

Towards the end of my trip I had a night for myself, and decided to take a train to Belgium for a solo night in a random city.  I landed on Antwerp, and jumped on my Chase Rewards portal to see what I could land hotel wise.  I found a cute and suitable room at the Leopold Hotel Antwerp, valued at about $94/night.  I used 4,000 points to supplement my booking, and paid $30 in cash.

2) September 2019

2019 was an international year for sure as I also had plans to visit my dad’s family in England in September with my entire immediate family. This is the story of a Sapphire benefit I WISH I had known about at the time:  

I haven’t had terrible luck in the past with flights being delayed- but this was a horror story for the ages.  I was booked on an 11pm flight from JFK to LHR- and about 90 minutes before my flight was set to take off (I was well settled at the airport at this time, many miles from my Washington Heights apartment), they announced a delay until 12am.  OK- one hour isn’t so bad, I would still land in London the next morning to meet my family for our first of two days in the city before heading out to the countryside together. (To see my Granny in the woods).

Then the announcement came- our flight was delayed to 3am.  WHAT.  I had already been to the Delta lounge earlier that night (other card perks for another post!), so I decided to head back and camp out there until the wee hours of the evening.  Luckily around 12am they decided to call it for the night and said we would be leaving in the morning at 10am instead.  They sent everyone home in paid cars, we all received Delta credit, and breakfast credit, etc.  All things considered, customer service actually handled things very well.  I trekked back to Washington Heights, only to return to JFK a few short hours later.

Had I known at the time: Chase Sapphire Reserve also offers a Trip Delay Reimbursement.  If your airline, train, bus, or any ticketed travel arrangement is delayed more than 6 hours or requires an overnight stay – Chase will reimburse you up to $500 worth of expenses per ticket.  I could have stayed at the TWA hotel right there at the airport and ordered a late-night filet mignon to my room (I don’t actually know if they have filet mignon, but you get the idea), and Chase would have paid for ALL of it (well up to $500).

Kicking myself I didn’t take advantage of this at the time, but you can bet your bottom dollar I won’t ever forget about this perk again!

3) February 2020

Ok, I might have a travel bug/addiction/obsession- but when you’re flying around on points it’s just so easy!

In February I jetted back to Amsterdam to join an epic vacation with a friend’s family I was invited along on- skiing the Swiss Alps of Verbier and 4 Valles over the course of a week.  By this point you’re thinking, “C’mon Broadway Joe, how are you going tell me to budget and then go on all these crazy trips?”

First off- timing is everything.  If you’re interested in going to Europe, or somewhere international, I often find that February is an amazing time of year to snag a deal.  I flew roundtrip from JFK to Amsterdam at a ticket value of $433. (I have paid more for a one-way flight to Florida over the holidays).  I did in fact use even more Chase Rewards points here (28,892 points), to pay $0 in cash for my ticket.  I even got upgraded to Comfort+ (Thanks Delta!).  Not too shabby at all.

Broadway Joe on the slopes!

4) Summer 2020

Summer 2020- but that’s…now!  How did I use Chase Points in the middle of a global pandemic?

At the end of May I had the fun chance to drive from NYC to Florida with my parents- a really nice tour through the southern states over the course of two nights.  We kept it simple, responsible, and enjoyed the conversation and views more than anything else (That’s all we had after all!).

Not knowing where we might stop each night based on driving, we just booked our rooms as we went.  Around 3pm every day, when we had an idea of what major city we were aiming for, I hopped on the Chase Rewards portal and checked out availability in the area.

May 31st, we stayed in Lexington, VA.  I was able to book a standard room that afternoon, valued at $99 for 6,600 points.

June 1st, we stayed just outside of Savannah, GA.  I was able to book a standard room that afternoon, valued at $92 for 6,150 points.

An overall savings of nearly $200, just based on points I had accrued through regular spending over the course of the year.

Be The Hero Of Your (Credit) Story

This feels like I good moment to make something very clear.

I’m not saying you should go and open one of these cards.  It’s personal finance, and this might not be the best fit for your particular situation.

You can still rock an amazing credit card with no fee, that is totally perfect for you.

But I think it’s important to understand the stigma around credit card fees and interest rates.

Yes, a credit card can be a dangerous thing without discipline.  You’re borrowing money from a bank.  And at the end of the day, they want their money back eventually.  Beyond just wanting their money back, they actually want even more of your money in interest along with it.  You have to be really, really careful.  And exercise multitudes of self-control.  Like, MUCH more self-control than Elle Woods in a department store.

But after going through the deep dive of what makes this card great, I’m personally very glad it’s  in my wallet.

There’s a younger sibling version of the Reserve card which is the Chase Sapphire Preferred card.  It carries a lower annual fee of $95, but the benefits are also generously reduced.  But maybe that’s the better choice for you!  I encourage you to do your own research and hopefully I’ve given you some tools here to help inform that decision.

I’ll continue to pop back into this space throughout the year and take a look at some of the other cards in my wallet.  

I do think you should only be carrying a card with an annual fee (especially a high one) if you are reaping the benefits that come along with it.  So there you are!

Did you enjoy today’s post on the Chase Sapphire Reserve?  Comment below and tell me about your favorite card!  Have questions about the right card for you?  Shoot me a message and let’s chat!

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