The Chase Sapphire Reserve is a well-rounded and respectable premium travel credit card. It’s been a TPG reader favorite since its launch in 2016.
But not a whole lot has changed with the card since then. The card’s fee recently increased to $550 (previously $450), with only the addition of a few niche perks to show for it (Lyft Pink membership and Peloton statement credits come to mind). Otherwise, the card has been stagnant since its inception.
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A $550 price tag is on the high end of the travel rewards card spectrum. And competitors, notably The Platinum Card® from American Express, have been busily evolving their suites of benefits.
It got us thinking, what are some things the Chase Sapphire Reserve could do to maintain relevance?
How Chase can improve the Chase Sapphire Reserve
Don’t get me wrong — the Chase Sapphire Reserve is still a winner. Here’s a list of its most notable benefits:
- 10 points per dollar on hotels and car rentals through the Chase travel portal
- 5 points per dollar on airfare through the Chase travel portal
- 3 points per dollar on other travel and dining
- 1 point per dollar on all other purchases
- $300 annual travel credit that automatically triggers to reimburse your travel expenses after each cardmember anniversary
- Priority Pass Select membership, offering access to more than 1,300 airport lounges around the world
- Application fee credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck (worth up to $100)
- Primary rental car insurance
- Trip delay insurance
Still, Chase could do a lot to take the Sapphire Reserve to the next level. Here are a few ideas:
Exclusive transfer bonuses
We’d love for Chase to improve transfer ratios to travel partners for the Chase Sapphire Reserve, but that’s not likely. A willingness Chase has exhibited in the past is to occasionally offer transfer bonuses to select airline and hotel partners like British Airways and Marriott. However, competing flexible points currencies offer transfer bonuses more regularly than Chase. American Express conducted 12 transfer bonuses at once in September!
A sizable carrot Chase could attach to the end of this $550 stick could be exclusive (and frequent) transfer bonuses to various partners such as Hyatt, Southwest, United Airlines, and Aeroplan. Partners such as these tend to provide outsized value per point.
For example, the Andaz Maui costs 30,000 Hyatt points, or $700+, per night. If Chase offered a modest 25% transfer bonus to Hyatt, you could reserve a night for just 24,000 Chase points (a value of 2.9 cents per point). This bonus would increase the value of your points by 0.58 cents. That’s significant.
Or, if Southwest received a similar 25% transfer ratio, Chase points would increase in value by 0.375 cents. Southwest points are worth 1.5 cents each, per TPG valuations.
Increase redemption value via Chase Travel Portal
One of the simplest and most popular ways to redeem Chase Ultimate Rewards points is through the Chase Travel Portal. You can redeem your points for a flat rate for things like airfare, hotels, and rental cars without having to worry about transfer partners, blackout dates, available award seats, and other concerns.
However, the value you’ll receive from your points depends on the card you hold:
- Chase Sapphire Reserve: 1.5 cents each
- Chase Sapphire Preferred Card: 1.25 cents each
- Ink Business Preferred Credit Card: 1.25 cents each
The Chase Sapphire Reserve already offers the highest value proposition when redeeming your points this way, but a 20% advantage isn’t enough to warrant a higher fee for many of us. If the Sapphire Reserve offered a value of 1.75 cents per point toward travel via the Chase Travel Portal, this benefit would garner more attention.
Improve Chase Pay Yourself Back
Perhaps the most successful credit card benefit Chase has debuted in recent memory is Chase Pay Yourself Back. This allows you to redeem your Chase points through the Ultimate Rewards portal at the same flat rate as booking travel but for more common everyday spending categories. This makes Ultimate Rewards-earning cards more valuable for those who don’t travel quite as often.
Currently, Chase Sapphire Reserve cardholders can redeem points at 1.5 cents each to offset:
- Away (through awaytravel.com)
- Dining at restaurants (including takeout and eligible delivery services)
- Select charities
Chase shuffles these categories periodically. The current categories are scheduled to disappear on March 31, 2022.
Previously, eligible Pay Yourself Back categories have included grocery stores and home improvement stores. Chase could improve the Sapphire Reserve by broadening the card’s categories – and making those categories dependably permanent. Chase could also improve the Pay Yourself Back redemption rate to 1.75 cents, similar to the above proposed increased redemption value through the Chase Travel Portal.
Expand Chase lounge access
One of the most popular benefits of The Platinum Card® from American Express is its exclusive access to Centurion Lounges. They’re high-quality airport lounges serving free hot meals and mixed drinks. Amex has steadily increased its Centurion Lounge locations, aggressively pursuing luxury travelers. And Capital One has recently announced its own collection of similar lounges.
With no desire to become obsolete, Chase intends to launch its own proprietary airport lounges within the next year or so. Access to these lounges will only be available for Chase Sapphire Reserve cardholders and those who have Priority Pass lounge access. However, Chase has only announced three locations:
- New York LaGuardia Airport (LGA) Terminal B
- Boston Logan International Airport (BOS) Terminal B to C Connector
- Hong Kong International Airport (HKG) Terminal 1
Far from ubiquitous — but if Chase manages to increase their lounge locations rapidly, this could be a needle-mover for the Chase Sapphire Reserve.
Offer complimentary Clear membership
Clear is a membership that offers you expedited security through the TSA security lines at many domestic airports. It offers an exclusive security lane that uses biometric data like fingerprint and iris scanning and gives you the ability to cut the long lines. You won’t even need to present your identification to a TSA agent.
While still rare, we’re beginning to see other travel rewards cards offer some form of a statement credit to offset Clear’s $179 annual membership:
- The Platinum Card® from American Express: Up to $179 in annual statement credits toward Clear membership
- The Business Platinum Card® from American Express: Up to $179 in annual statement credits toward Clear membership
- American Express® Green Card: $100 in annual statement credits toward Clear membership
The information for the Amex Green Card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
- Enter designated Clear lane and enter your biometric data
- A Clear agent will escort you to the front of the TSA line and send you into the TSA PreCheck area
- Set your carry-on luggage on the conveyor belt without removing your laptop or approved toiletries
- Pass through the metal detector without removing your belt, shoes or light jacket
I have both of these memberships, and I consistently save between 15 and 30 minutes each time I pass the security checkpoint.
Implementing one or two of these benefits could be a game-changer for cardholders and even prompt those content with the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card (like me) to shell out an extra $455 per year for an upgrade. Implementing transfer bonuses regularly and generously with valuable partners like Hyatt and United Airlines could give the card a considerable edge, as transferring points is the preferred redemption method for many of us.
And with the ability to effectively “cash out” my points at a favorable rate via Pay Yourself Back for purchases outside of travel, the card is a worthwhile investment even if there are no immediate travel plans in our future.
Let us know what you’d like to see from the Chase Sapphire Reserve – and if you’re being drawn to a competitor card instead.
Featured photo by John Gribben/The Points Guy.
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Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.Internet Explorer Channel Network