We are very budget-minded when traveling.
In fact, that’s kind of the point of our website. We try to make travel accessible by pointing out the cost-effective ways you can explore new destinations. We scour the internet for the best airfare and hotel deals and share our experiences here. A cheap trip is one that more people are likely to consider.
This mentality made us skeptical about signing up with any of the thousands of travel rewards programs with annual fees. Travel is expensive enough as it is. Why commit to making annual payments on a rewards program that only offers limited returns?
At some point I stumbled upon a post on Reddit promoting the Chase Sapphire Reserve credit card. There was a lot of excitement coming from the /r/churning subreddit which is dedicated to taking advantage of rewards offered by credit card points programs. The Chase Sapphire Reserve card was offering some unbelievable benefits for travelers:
- a sign-up credit of 50,000 travel points (worth $750)
- an annual credit of $300 (in reimbursed travel expenses)
- 3x points on travel and dining
- free membership in Priority Pass Select and TSA Precheck
The credits alone are the equivalent of receiving $1,050 just for signing up. Not 1,050 points. $1,050.00 real American dollars. In addition to a laundry list of other benefits.
Of course there is a catch. Companies don’t just hand out money for free. Chases offers this credit card for the considerable annual fee of $450. This is a large sum of money to invest in a credit card. However it is markedly less than the $1,050 in sign up bonuses that you receive early on.
Because of the huge sign up bonus we took the bait and signed up to finance an upcoming trip to Florida.
The math quickly fell in our favor.
On day one I used our Chase Sapphire Reserve card to purchase three tickets to Orlando for a family trip. Almost immediately Chase posted a $300 credit to my account for the yearly travel credit reimbursement.
Given the fact that we were planning to travel to Florida anyway, this was effectively a free $300 that I received. At this point I was only $150 in the red considering the initial $450 fee.
Now the 50,000 points credit. A critical requirement with the Chase Sapphire Reserve card is that you have to charge $4,000 in the first 90 days in order to receive the credit. For us this was not a problem – we used our credit card for every single purchase that we made over the next month. Bundling our usual expenses with some one-time landscaping services that we required, we easily reached our $4000 limit.
By the time our first statement rolled around we received the 50,000 travel points. Those points represented a real $750.00 to us considering the fact that we are planning a trip for the Summer anyway. We used those $750 in the Chase Rewards Points portal to book our airfare.
So now we had profited ($300 + $750 – $450) = $600. By simply signing up for the card we literally saved $600 in money that we would have spent anyway. Notwithstanding the other benefits, we had already received a huge payoff by signing up for the card.
The Chase Rewards points really pay off.
Points conversion was a big concern of mine. What good are points if the program inflates airfare and hotel costs? You could offer me one million points but it would be worthless if you charged 10 million points per flight.
Luckily, the Chase rewards program prices airfare, hotel, and car rentals at the same value that you find in other search engines. So if you find a flight at $200 in Google Flights, you will likely find that same flight at the same price in the Chase rewards portal.
Note: Chase does not partner with every airline and hotel chain. But there are enough partners, both large and small, that we rarely find cheaper or better alternatives outside the Chase rewards portal.
A little math never hurts.
At its core, a single Chase Sapphire Reserve point corresponds to a penny. You earn 3 points (3 cents) for every dollar that you spend on travel or dining, plus one point (1 cent) for everything else. Additionally your points are worth 50% more when you redeem them via the Chase rewards redemption portal.
What does this mean? It means that if you use the Chase Sapphire Reserve for all of your travel expenses and booking, you effectively receive a 4.5% discount on everything that you book.
For example: Let’s say you spend $3,300 on a trip and are awarded 10,000 rewards points. If you redeem these points in the Chase rewards portal (say to book a trip), you can receive the equivalent of $150 off your purchase.
The card comes with a lot of other perks.
As budget-minded as we are we would never buy many of the services that Chase includes with the Sapphire Reserve. But since they are included with our Chase Sapphire Reserve membership, we take advantage of them. Here are a couple of the standouts:
Priority Pass Select Lounge Access
Chase Sapphire Reserve offers you free entry into Priority Pass Select – a program that offers access to lounges in hundreds of airports worldwide. The lounge life is pretty sweet: free open bar, free finger food, free showers, comfortable chairs, and free WiFi. I definitely recommend taking advantage of it.
Free TSA Precheck Enrollment
My wife and I are early birds by nature: we usually arrive at the airport well ahead of departure time. That being said, TSA precheck is still a great benefit for us. No taking off your shoes. No hour-long waits in security. Less time staring at a line of people in front of you while you could be doing something else. Really it is a far more comfortable airport experience with TSA precheck than without.
While TSA precheck does not guarantee a quick security screening, it often does expedite the process considerably.
The Chase Sapphire Reserve card saves you hundreds of dollars.
In conclusion we’re very happy with the Chase Sapphire Reserve program. If you have travel expenses this year that will cost more than $1000, then you will save money by signing up for Chase Sapphire Reserve.