The ‘Best Travel Rewards Card’ May Not Be the Best Card for You


This month saw the launch of what many in the travel blogosphere are calling the best travel-rewards credit card ever: the Sapphire Reserve Visa card from Chase.

The card in brief:

  • Annual fee: $450
  • 100,000-point sign-up bonus, after spending $4,000 in 3 months
  • Earn 3 points per $1 spent on travel and dining, 1 point per $1 for other spend
  • Points transfer 1:1 to 11 airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Annual $300 credit toward travel spend
  • $100 fee credit toward Global Entry (which includes TSA PreCheck)
  • Priority Pass membership for access to 900 airport lounges
  • Primary rental-car insurance
  • Trip cancellation/delay coverage
  • Reimbursement for lost luggage
  • Free roadside assistance
  • No foreign transaction fees

That $450 annual fee puts the Reserve card at the upper end of pricey rewards cards, alongside the likes of the American Express Platinum card, the Citi Executive AAdvantage WorldElite MasterCard, the Delta Reserve Credit Card, and the United Mileage Plus Club Card. And like those other cards, the new Chase Reserve card makes the case that the value of the associated benefits far exceeds the high annual fee. And certainly it does, in theory.

When redeemed for flights through the Ultimate Rewards portal, the 100,000 bonus points alone are worth $1,500. Add to that the $300 travel credit, the $100 Global Entry credit, and the $399 Priority Pass membership, and the first-year value of just those benefits is well over $2,000.

The insurance adds yet more economic value to the card, and the points’ convertibility into other program currencies gives the card a measure of flexibility that’s hard to beat.

In all, the new Chase Sapphire Reserve card may indeed be the best travel-rewards card now on the market. But it may not be the best rewards card for you.

Much of the excitement generated by the card is due to the hefty sign-up bonus. It’s an attention-getter, to be sure. But it’s a one-time bonus. After that, the card’s value depends on its ongoing features to justify the $450 annual fee. And by design, those features are exclusively travel-related.

Do you travel frequently? If not, the three-points-per-$1 earning rate for travel spend is moot. As is the $300 annual travel credit. And the $100 Global Entry credit. And the $399 Priority Pass membership.

So, is the Chase Sapphire Reserve Visa the best frequent-traveler rewards card? Probably. The best travel-rewards card? Maybe, maybe not. The best rewards card. Probably not. It depends.

Reader Reality Check

Is the Reserve card the best card for you?

After 20 years working in the travel industry, and almost that long writing about it, Tim Winship knows a thing or two about travel. Follow him on Twitter @twinship.

This article first appeared on, where Tim is Editor-at-Large.


  1. tim, perspective from a somewhat frequent (leisure) traveler: the sign-up bonus is enough to warrant an application. hard to argue there. but beyond that this is a “blah” card. essentially i’m paying $55/year over the CSP and burning a hard-pull/app to get a bigger UR earn and spend rate, with nothing else of note. $55 is small enough to make it okay to keep. but i’m actually quite disappointed in this card and i imagine others will be over time. ALL the other $450/year cards give you sexier benefits. this is a nice addition to the wallet but won’t change your life one bit. it’s NOT a card to replace the Amex Plat or Ritz Card. and as someone that has both, i was hoping that the CSR would duplicate or best their benefits. it doesn’t. bummer.

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