Chase Sapphire Reserve: Why .25 cents is worth $250 (for me)

50

Full confession, I feel terrible for applying for the Capital One Venture X.  Greg the Frequent Miler has a brutal history with Capital One (although this evidently doesn’t carry-over to Mrs. Miler).  First, they wouldn’t approve him for a card, no matter how many C1 articles he wrote. Then, after finally and ever so briefly giving him a taste of the Capital One universe, they shut him down and cashed him out at only .5 cents per point…which is like buying dollar bills for fifty cents. Needless to say, this aggression could not stand.  And so I stood..with Greg.

But then, the Capital One Venture X 100K + $200 bonus (that I’ve been eyeing from across the picket line) was slated to end on March 14th.  It looked pretty good from where I was standing and so I took the “I stand with Greg” wallpaper off of my profile photo and sheepishly applied for the card.  I got approved instantly, felt bad for Greg, and then started lustily imagining the heights that my new Venture X would take me to.

But it left me with a question…what do I do with my Sapphire Reserve?

Details of Cards Discussed

Card Details and Application Link
Chase Sapphire Reserve Card
60K Points
60K after $4K spend in 3 months
Click here to learn how to apply

$550 Annual Fee

FM Mini Review: Excellent all-around card for frequent traveler. Best when paired with no-fee Chase Freedom Flex, no-fee Freedom Unlimited & no-fee Chase Ink Cash


Card Type: Visa Infinite

Base
Travel
Dine
Other

Earning rate: 10X hotels & car rentals booked through Chase ⚬ 10X Chase Dining ⚬ 5X flights booked through Chase ⚬ 3X Travel and Dining ⚬ 10X Lyft (through March 2025)

Noteworthy perks: $300 Annual Travel Credit ⚬ Points worth 1.5 cents each towards travel or Pay Yourself Back ⚬ Transfer points to airline & hotel partners ⚬ Primary auto rental collision damage waiver ⚬ Priority Pass Select lounge access ⚬ $100 Global Entry fee credit ⚬ $5 monthly DoorDash in-app credit through December 2024 ⚬ Free DashPass through 2025 ⚬ Earn 10X on Lyft spend

See also: Chase Ultimate Rewards Complete Guide

Card Details and Application Link
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
60K points
60K after $4K spend in 3 months
Click here to learn how to apply

$95 Annual Fee

A similar offer with the first year annual fee waived may be found in-branch. YMMV.

Recent better offer: 100K after $4K in purchases in the first 3 months

FM Mini Review: Great signup bonus. Unlocks ability to transfer points to hotel & airline partners. Solid option to pair with fee-free Ultimate Rewards cards such as the Freedom cards, Ink Business Cash, and Ink Business Unlimited.


Card Type: Visa Signature

Base
Travel
Dine
Other

Earning rate: 5X Travel booked through Chase (2X all other travel) ⚬ 3X Dining ⚬ 3X Select streaming services ⚬ 3X Online grocery ⚬ 5X Lyft (through March 2025)

Noteworthy perks: Primary auto rental collision damage waiver ⚬ Free DashPass through 2025 ⚬ Transfer points to airline & hotel partners ⚬ 10% annual point bonus ⚬ $50 annual credit for hotel stays booked through Chase (Those who opened card before 8/15/21 will have to wait until next account anniversary for this perk)

See also: Sapphire Preferred 100K Q&A: Everything you need to know

Card Details and Application Link
Ink Business Cash® Credit Card
75K points
75K after $7.5K spend in 3 months
Click here to learn how to apply

No Annual Fee

See: How to sign up for Chase Ink cards

Recent better offer: None. This is the best we've seen.

FM Mini Review: This one should be in everyone's wallet. Incredible signup bonus for a no-fee card. Great card for 5X categories. Excellent companion card to Sapphire Reserve, Sapphire Preferred, or Ink Business Preferred.


Card Type: Visa Signature Business

Base
Dine
Gas
Phone
Office
Other

Earning rate: 5X office supplies ⚬ 5X cellular/landline/cable (on up to $25,000 in total purchases in 5x categories annually) ⚬ 2X on the first $25K in combined purchases at gas stations and restaurants each cardmember year ⚬ 5X Lyft through March 2025

See also: Chase Ultimate Rewards Complete Guide

Card Details and Application Link
Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card
75K Miles
Earn 75,000 bonus miles after $4K spend in 3 months
Click Here to Apply

$395 Annual Fee

Recent better offer: Expired 3/14/22: 100K after $10K spend in 6 months + $200 credit for vacation rental spend in first year

FM Mini Review: This card offers annual rebates that easily mitigate the fee for those who travel often and could be worth it for the lounge access and travel protections given the cost/benefit ratio. Authorized users are free and also get access to perks like Priority Pass, Capital One Lounges, Plaza Premium lounges, and Hertz President's Circle status. The card earns 2 "miles" per dollar on most purchases just like the Capital One Venture Rewards card, which are worth exactly 1 cent each toward travel. This makes the return on most spend similar to a 2% cash back card (though in this case you must redeem your miles to offset travel in order to get 1 cent per mile). One big advantage over cash back: Capital One allows transfering their "miles" to airline miles & hotel points.


Card Type: Visa Infinite

Base
Travel
Other

Earning rate: 10X on hotels and rental cars booked via Capital One Travel ⚬ 5x on flights booked via Capital One travel. ⚬ 2X everywhere else.

Noteworthy perks: Up to $300 in statement credits annually for bookings made through Capital One Travel ⚬ 10,000 bonus miles each year starting at first anniversary ⚬ Receive up to $100 application fee credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck® ⚬ Priority Pass Select lounge access ⚬ Plaza Premium lounge access ⚬ Cell phone insurance ⚬ Trip delay / cancellation insurance ⚬ Primary CDW coverage Redeem miles for travel at value of 1 cent per mile ⚬ Convert "miles" to airline miles & hotel points ⚬ No foreign transaction fees

Why the Reserve should be 86’d

When the Venture X appeared last year, it seemed to be taking direct aim at the Sapphire Reserve:

  • Annual Fee: Venture X $395 vs. Reserve $550
  • Annual Travel Credit: Venture X $300 (only via C1 Portal) vs. Reserve $300
  • Shared Transfer Partners: Air Canada, Air France/KLM Flying Blue, British Airways, Emirates, Singapore
  • Primary Car Rental Insurance: Both
  • 10x on hotels and cars booked through travel portal: Both
  • 5x on flights booked through travel portal: Both
  • Priority Pass Including Restaurants: Both
  • Insurance and Priority Pass Benefits for Free Authorized Users: Venture X only
  • 10,000 Point Anniversary Bonus: Venture X only

For me, the primary car insurance and Priority Pass membership of the Sapphire Reserve and the Sapphire Preferred is something that has kept me with the cards for years. I rent cars a lot and have had to make three claims through Chase already (mostly not my fault😳). Chase has paid out each one without much hassle, outside of the considerable headache of assembling the small library’s worth of documents.  Not having to worry about accidents going on my own insurance when renting is a HUGE benefit for me.  But now the Venture X has this as well.

The Priority Pass benefit is great also. I have several well-located restaurant options in my local airport and use them frequently when traveling.  The AMEX PP Memberships specifically exclude them.  But…Venture X doesn’t.

Given the Venture X’s lower annual fee, which for me is completely covered by the combination of the $300 credit and the 10,000 point anniversary bonus, it seems like the most salient features of the Reserve are redundant, especially when factoring in the overlapping bonus categories of the Reserve and the fee-free Chase Freedom Unlimited and Freedom Flex cards.

No one wants to leave the Ultimate Rewards transferable universe completely and so it’s necessary to have either the Ink Business Preferred, Sapphire Preferred or Sapphire Reserve in order to keep the path to transferring points to partners open.  The prevailing opinion is to product change the Reserve down to the Preferred for the lower annual fee ($95) and to maintain a seat at the Chase Transfer table.

But there’s only one thing that keeps me keepin’ my Reserve: .25 cents per point.

Chase’s Pay Yourself Back Option can be very valuable in the right circumstances

Why the Reserve is worth $250

Before I go through my reasoning, let me say that this is NOT FOR EVERYONE.  If your UR stream is more of a slow trickle and/or if you find yourself transferring all of your Ultimate Rewards every year to partners, downgrading is probably the right move.

But I’ve got a few factors that make me a contrarian:

  • I max out $25,000 of office spend at 5x on four Chase Ink Cash cards every year (soon to be 5), generating 500,000 Ultimate Rewards annually without considering other spending or bonuses.
  • Because of my work, I eat out a lot (or, at least, that’s the story I tell myself).
  • I sometimes stay at independent hotels
  • I like to pay the annual fee in points

Using the Chase Sapphire Reserve card’s Pay Yourself Back feature, you can redeem points for purchases on dining, charities, travel purchased through the Chase Travel Portal and your annual membership with at 1.5 cents per point.  The Preferred’s categories are slightly different as they currently don’t allow PYB for dining or the annual fee and the points are only worth 1.25 cents.  Effectively, $100 in PYB redemptions costs 8,000 points for the Preferred, but only 6,667 points for the Reserve, meaning on shared categories, points on the Reserve are worth 20% more than the Preferred.

Now, I know that I’ve instantly gone down a peg in some folk’s eyes for even thinking of redeeming Ultimate Rewards at 1.5 cents each.  But remember, I generate more points than I can transfer to partners annually…and will continue to do so every year until the Ink bonuses change.

There’s really no need for me to bank points. They won’t get any more valuable and I know I’ll be making more soon, so my goal is to maximize the short-term value as much as possible.

I consider the Reserve to have a “real” annual fee of $250.  That’s because I value the $300 travel credit at face value since it’s flexible and easily redeemed on things that I would be spending cash on already.  So taking that $300 out of the $550 annual fee leaves me with $250 out of pocket.  The Sapphire Preferred’s annual fee is $95, so the difference between the two is really $155.  Since I pay the fee in points, that works out to 10,333 points difference at 1.5 cpp ($155/.015).

  • Note that the Chase Sapphire Preferred does have an annual $50 hotel credit that must be used through the Chase Portal, negating the ability to receive loyalty benefits or credit.  Since it almost invariably requires more spend than $50 and must be used through the portal, I find the value somewhat subjective, but not face value.  If you were to value it at the full $50, it would make the annual fee difference between the Preferred and the Reserve $205 (or 13,666 points), not $155.  If you value it less than $50, it would be between those two numbers. I’ve left it out of the calculations here for simplicity’s sake.

The difference in $100 of redemption value between the Reserve’s 1.5 cpp and the Preferred’s 1.25 cpp is 1,333 points.  That means that I have to redeem $775 worth of points per year in order to break even on the annual fee.  This doesn’t count the points earned on dining, travel or other PYB redemptions, nor does it factor in that I pay the annual fee in points and can redeem them for dining if I wish.  $775/1.5 cents per points mean that the break-even PYB redemption amount is 51,666 points annually.

Between charities, hotels and dining alone, I redeem over 150,000 PYB points per year, making the Reserve a keeper for me…even though many of its best features are replicated or exceeded by the Venture X.

Final Thoughts

First off, if you don’t have the Chase Ink Cash, you should seriously think about it.  Not only does it have an amazing bonus for a no annual fee card, but the 5x categories make it a must-have in any wallet, regardless of whether or not you MS…and it doesn’t affect your 5/24 status. If you don’t think you qualify for a business card, you most likely will be surprised.

The point of all of this is not to say that everyone should keep the Venture X and the Reserve.  On the contrary, most people probably shouldn’t.  I was actiually planning on downgrading myself, but then I ran the numbers and saw that what seemed like a paltry .25 cents a points on redemptions was actually worth about $500 last year for me well exceeding the $155 difference in annual fee.

It’s a good reminder to me that in this game I should be constantly testing my assumptions. Simply because a card has a lower annual fee, a good bonus category, or is generally considered to be a humdinger does not necessarily mean that it is the best option for me. I have a lot of very specific quirks to my spending and earning patterns, but so does everyone else, regardless of whether or not we all realize it.  It’s important to regularly audit our wallets (and our sock drawers) to make sure that we’re getting the most value from our “quirks” that we can.

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Elaiine Morse

OOps. I just rembered that Qatar is from American, but while not as good of airlines as American, United has some decent business class tickets. ANA, EVA, Luftansa are all airlines that aren’t too hard to book.

Elaiine Morse

I still say that there can’t be a better use of Chase points than for two business class tickets on Qatar Airlines in their Suites to Africa which would be over $40,000 around 320 pts.

Elaiine Morse

You mentioned transfer partners for the Venture card, but it did not include United. I know includes AirCanad, but all of my Chase points go through United to get business class tickets on a number of airlines T

Krink

I keep the Chase Sapphire Reserve card because it includes trip insurance and medical evacuation insurance. My wife and I take 4 cruises and/or escorted tours/year. Big savings.

Ken

Picky detail: .25 Cents is a quarter of a cent. Just say “25 Cents” or $.25.

Alex Ashton

Exactly what I came here to say. A factor of 100X is worth pointing out.

Ryan del Mundo

Not sure how often you redeem points but you can always product change to the Reserve when you need the extra redemption oomph and then product change back! Probably not a strategy to use frequently but its one I’m keeping in my back pocket for when I need that extra .25.

Scott S

Product changing would be nice because it doesn’t use a 5/24 slot, correct? I called Chase to inquire about the possibility of product changing from the Preferred to the Reserve. The CSR told me that I would have to cancel my Preferred card and apply for the the Reserve card and wait to see if I was approved. Is that true? Or did I just have someone who gave me bad information?

D.W.

That’s wrong. HUCA for someone who knows what they’re talking about.

iamhere

It is very simple.
With that many points that you earn being able to redeem at a 50% bonus is worth a lot more than a 25% bonus as in the sapphire card.
Consider you said you accumulate at least 500k points each year. With the pay yourself back or redemption through the travel center, your points could be worth 625k or 750k. You can get more than 250 of value for the difference of 125k.
Also, it depends if you are in the Chase circle or not. The Reserve card is not goo on it’s own but combined with other cards it works well.

Randy B

The Lyft benefit is nice too, but not sure what is going to happen with the 10x after March.

Mica

Your analytical mind doth frighten me!

Pam

My URs are almost all used for expensive indie hotel bookings on the Chase portal (or Hyatt transfers) these days, now that so many Chase airline partners are duplicated with other programs.

I also haven’t read any postings yet of success/ease with C1 rental car claims. Like you, my husband & I have had a few brushes with Chase’s claim center, & they have eventually paid in full. Hesitant to change coverage over without some DPs + the rental itself is only 2x travel with C1 v 3x with the CSR (booked thru AutoSlash). .

Pam

Yes agree…I literally asked who Chase needs to comtact at the rental company & done (after forms as you mentoned are submitted by me).

Several thousand paid out over time leaves me a little more loyal to Chase than perhaps other cardholders. Rental car claims are, btw, much more fluid in processing than cell, etc. even though ironocally thru the same Chase claims center!

Tigris23

Interesting piece Tim. Just curious when you stated: “Not only does it have an amazing bonus for a no annual fee card, but the 5x categories make it a must-have in any wallet, regardless of whether or not you MS…” For someone who doesn’t MS, the 5% categories don’t really generate many points (unless you have a true small business operation). What am I missing?

Nick Reyes

Whether or not they generate many points really varies based on circumstance.

For instance, my T-Mobile bill is about $200 a month. That’s 12,000 points per year if I valued earning 5x over credit card insurance. It’s obviously not 500,000, but that’s putting one monthly bill on a card that has no annual fee.

I do spend some non-zero amount on other stuff at office supply stores (batteries, paper, other office supplies, etc), though admittedly not a significant number.

From there, it depends on how you define MS. For example, I know a lot of people regularly buy Amazon gift cards and other third party merchant gift cards (Home Depot, Lowe’s, Airbnb, etc) at office supply stores so they can earn 5x on their ordinary purchases. Others buy Visa Gift Cards when on sale and just use them for day-to-day spend to effectively earn 5x everywhere. In the past, I’ve bought Visa gift cards just to pay insurance bills and effectively earn 5x (my monthly insurance bills add up to well over a thousand bucks a month and can be paid over multiple payments online, so just buying enough Visa gift cards to pay my monthly insurance bills would easily add up to a business class round trip flight to Europe each year. I don’t really consider that MS.

But if you aren’t interested in doing that, then I could see how the 5x categories might not work for you. I generally agree with Tim though that with no annual fee, even if I only used the Ink card to buy a couple of Amazon gift cards each month to cover my ordinary purchases there, I’d consider the Ink Cash an easy keeper. I imagine that I easily spend $300 a month at Amazon, so if I only did that for Amazon and paid my T-Mobile bill with the Ink Cash (and skipped out on the Visa Gift Card payments on insurance bills), I’d be looking at 30,000 points per year with no annual fee.

ffI

150k points @1.5c value = 2250$; while @1.25c value is 1875$
Difference = 375$ less the annual fee difference of 150$ (120$ using the points redemption) = benefit of 250$ total
The real question is what is the threshold of pay yourself cash back that merits a Reserve?

ffI

Replying to myself, the breakeven point for redemptions is 55k in points
Above that the reserve is better; below that the Preferred is fine
So CSP for me

Reno Joe

If one books $2100 of hotel stays on the UR travel site and does nothing else, one hits the break even point between the CSR and CSP for pay yourself back.

Priority Pass, etc. Is all gravy.

Reno Joe

Tim, remember what Nick says: sometimes cash is king. For individuals who are not looking for transferable points but rather cash back, the CSR wins over the X. Just ask Greg. (Sorry) So, you haven’t dropped down a peg.

Greg’s statement that the X gives him free access (after statement credits) to the Capital One ecosystem is the only reason I would ever consider it. But, given my circumstances, nah.

As for the math, without considering spend categories and just considering your 150k points of redemptions, I’d put the net value of the CSR to be about $220 per year above that of the CSP.

Oliver

It would not change the conclusion but I would have included the $50 hotel credit from the Chase Preferred.

James

Good article but a few comments. You said “Using the Chase Sapphire Reserve card’s Pay Yourself Back feature, you can redeem points for purchases on dining, charities, travel purchased through the Chase Travel Portal and your annual membership with 50% more value than the Preferred ( at 1.5 cents per point).”

1. You don’t get 50 percent more value from CSR compared to CSP, you get 20 pct more (1.5/1.25)

2. Are you sure those are the right PYB categories? I only see Away luggage and Airbnb I thought.

3. How do you pay your CSR annual fee with pts at 1.5 cpp?

Thanks

Reno Joe

James, there are several categories for CSR’s Pay Yourself Back available through 3/31. I can’t imagine these categories are targeted. One of the categories is the CSR annual fee. Look around for it. I just paid mine with points.

Brian G

I actually did close my CSR and the annual fee that went with it, but then applied for the CSP when there was the 100,000 sign up bonus. Eliminating for the bonus points was my rationale.

A B

Don’t you mean to say .25 CPP? At 25 CPP you’d be CRAZY not to jump on board!

Jim F.

Great article and interesting take on the question at hand; kudos. You wrote, “I max out $25,000 of office spend at 5x on four Chase Ink Cash cards every year (soon to be 5), generating 500,000 Ultimate Rewards annually without considering other spending or bonuses.” 100K at Staples/Office Depot is a LOT of gift cards! Would you mind sharing a rough approximation of how this spend is divided for your readers?

mbh

Yeah, I’m not really expecting an answer to this, but I’m sure Jim and I aren’t the only ones whose eyes grew large at those #s. You must have some MS outlets I’ve yet to discover. : (

Kirk

Eyes practically popped out!

Akuma

Seriously, my jaw dropped for sure reading this line. I was able to max out $25k on one of our Ink Cash cards when Walmart was playing nice with money orders but that avenue has completely dried up for me (and with it my $25k office supplies spend). Getting rid of 125 $200 visa gift cards is no easy feat these days, let alone 500 of them!

Jim F.

Yeah, it’s really not kosher to drop a line about spending $100K on 4 Ink Cash on office spend without offering a hint as to how you do this (unless your role is procurement for your employer). Liquidating that many GCs would be a tall order.

Nick Reyes

I agree that it’s a lot, but there are some people who do more than that monthly and others who are happy to do a tiny fraction. It all depends on what’s available to you. If someone finds a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, they aren’t going to hand out maps to bloggers (or anyone else), so bloggers collectively know fewer “secret methods” than you expect.

Simon Malls used to allow $25K in cards to be purchased at once (now $10K). Before the pandemic, in an area that has places to buy MOs (Walmart was never the only game in town), I would make multiple stops and be done with that in an afternoon. $200 cards takes a bit longer, but it’s all the same concept – just a matter of time investment.

We have a lot of info in our Complete Guide to Manufactured spending to give the general concepts about how to do it. The thing about specific methods is that sharing them isn’t as helpful as you’d think. If you want to hunt deer and I show you where a deer is standing today, that’s not going to do you any good next week because it isn’t going to be standing in the same place. Knowing what a deer and deer tracks look like so you know what to look for in your neck of the woods makes a lot more sense. If someone found some amazing zero cost method, sharing it in a blog post wouldn’t do you any good because it would stop working next week and then you’re back at square one — it doesn’t help you in the way you think it will. More helpful in my opinion is the knowledge that people are still doing more than I am because it means that there must be more things for me to find and/or that the things I’ve been doing haven’t dried up yet. That’s not to say that I’m ever opposed to a friend passing something on to me — having other friends in this game means I often get great tips from friends. The best advice I can give you is to try to connect with other people into it (in your local area if possible). That’s far more helpful than me telling you about a regional grocery store chain in my state where I can easily get MOs that wouldn’t apply to you anyway.

Jim F.

Perhaps a link to FM’s “Manufactured Spending Complete Guide” in the post would have preempted some questions. My original inquiry was based on the specific reference to “office spend” paired with my apparently erroneous assumption (based partially on my voracious reading of BoardingArea) that gift card churning had become significantly more difficult. Your paragraph on “office spend” in the 4th paragraph of your reply to Tigris23 is extremely helpful, also. I do buy Amazon GCs (but am careful since much has been written lately about Amazon cracking down on the purchase/use of their own GCs) and we buy most everything there but our Amazon spending doesn’t come anywhere close to $100k. I’ve also followed your advice and buy GCs to pay for services (e.g., Hulu) but our total utilities/year are only a little over $5,000. Even using Visa GCs to pay for our insurance premiums would generate less than an additional $2,000. I guess we just don’t spend enough!

Reno Joe

And then there’s the repeating articles on all of the blogs about Simon VGCs. While I don’t MS, I’m concerned for newbies who are unaware. Token and brief warnings about liquidity don’t cut and the articles are irresponsible . . . unless they are forthcoming about workable liquidation methods.

Reno Joe

I’ve asked for these methods but no response.

Nick Reyes

We have an entire guide to MS that lists numerous methods: https://frequentmiler.com/manufactured-spending-complete-guide/

See my response above for the value in sharing any specific liquidation method. It would be useless because it changes. Knowing the methods means you can look for compatible options in your area and talk with others you meet who are doing the same.

Reno Joe

Thanks. I’ve reviewed it. Given evolution of things, I hoped there might be new discoveries. Thanks again.