Advice · Finances

One Year with the Chase Sapphire Reserve

I recently received a charge for my Chase Sapphire Reserve’s (CSR) annual fee, which reminded me that I’ve had this credit card for one year now. All I can say is: why did I not get this card sooner?? I’m no spokesperson for Chase (I’m really not!), but this card has been a game changer for me. 

Photo Apr 29, 6 23 25 AM
The view from my balcony at the Susesi Resort in Antalya, Turkey (May 2019)

From 2014 until a year ago, I was using a different credit card that gave 1.5 points on every dollar spent. While there was no annual fee, I grew tired of it because (1) I didn’t know what signup bonuses were at 21, so I didn’t take advantage of the free money, and (2) it took way too long to earn enough points to make a significant difference in my travel budget. Once I started working full time, I began searching for different credit card options. The annual fees vary, with some over $500 per year, and while mine is on the higher end, I ultimately decided on the CSR for the reasons below:

  1. A 50,000 point signup bonus if you spend $4,000 in the first 3 months (this was worth approximately $625);
  2. Triple points on spending for travel and eating out, and the travel category is very broad and generous;
  3. Single points on all other purchases;
  4. A priority pass membership to enjoy different airport lounges;
  5. $100 every 5 years to pay for Global Entry, which I already had, but this is still a nice benefit;
  6. Rental car insurance, which was useful when I rented a car to drive to Niagara Falls during my trip to Canada; and
  7. Many more things that I’m sure I haven’t taken advantage of.

All of these perks make the $450 annual fee worthwhile mentally/spiritually/ emotionally/etc., but what about financially?

Trip What CSR Points Paid  What I Paid
NYC (Aug/Sept 2018) $0 $98
Tampa (Dec 2018) $500 $0
New Orleans (Feb 2019) $100 $87
Tampa (Mar 2019) $0 $187
Turkey (Apr 2019) $500 $380
Tampa (Jun 2019) $0 $130
Las Vegas (Aug/Sept 2019) $155 $199
Total $1255 $1081

Between the points and my own money, I spent $2,336 on travel in the past year, specifically on flights and train tickets–this doesn’t include lodging, food, or local transportation–but I only paid about 46% of my travel expenses. On one hand, it doesn’t seem like I saved a lot of money. In fact, I might’ve gone overboard with bookings to maximize my points. Or gotten a little crazy with my spending (i.e., “I have to do it for the points!”). 

Photo Apr 25, 12 18 29 AM
Enjoying free food and some peace and quiet at one of the lounges in Frankfurt

On the other hand, I have to look at what I initially paid: the $450 annual fee also includes a $300 “travel credit.” That was money I would have spent regardless of the card, so it really costs $150 per year. 

$150 = about 10,000 points

As long as I earn more than 10,000 points in the next year, the card will pay for itself. But I’ll say this: I don’t recommend credit cards, especially one with as high of an interest rate as the CSR, if you can’t fully pay off your balance each month. For everything I charge, I have the money to pay for it. (Just in case someone ends up with crazy debt and tries to blame this post—I warned you!)

What I like about the CSR: It fits well into my wanderlust lifestyle. The company replaced my first, now-lost card quickly. The online system is easy to use. I’ve saved on big transportation costs, which allows me more flexibility once I’m in my destination. I like having priority pass. In addition, the extra points helped me go home to Florida during Christmastime, when flights are ridiculously expensive. 

The negative aspects of the CSR: I had some trouble with the online reservation system. It’s operated by Expedia, so if you have an issue with your flight, you have to go through Chase’s Expedia agents and not the actual airline. You also can’t use the points for Spirit or Amtrak directly in the reservation system. (I haven’t figured out if I can transfer points or not.) Lastly, you can’t earn 3 times the points on any purchases where the $300 travel credit is applied. This was a recent, and very sad, change to the terms.

Photo Feb 17, 3 22 08 PM (1)
Shopping for antiques in New Orleans (February 2019)

Bottom Line: I’m not getting rid of this card any time soon. The fee is hefty, but I use it so much. In fact… (drumroll)… I just booked a trip to Japan for next May using my points! After the points and the annual travel credit (which, like I said before, I would have spent anyway) are applied, I only paid $83. What a deal! After my time in Thailand, I’m so excited to get back to Asia. 

That’s my short and sweet review of the CSR! And speaking of credit cards, I just applied for the Amtrak Guest Rewards Platinum Mastercard. I need those train points! I hope this isn’t a sign that I’m becoming a credit card churner…  If you’re on the fence about the CSR or are thinking about another card, or if you have an amazing rewards card success story, please let me know! 

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