Chase Sapphire: What’s Next? (On My Mind)


Sapphire Reserve vs Preferred

A week ago, Chase knocked my socks off with the news that they were revamping their Freedom cards.  The Freedom Visa card (with its 5% rotating categories) will be replaced with the new Freedom Flex Mastercard.  And, both the new Freedom Flex and the existing Freedom Unlimited cards will gain the ability to earn 3X points for dining and drugstore purchases, and 5X points for travel booked through Chase.

Both Freedom cards are fee-free.  And, in both cases, even though Chase advertises them as cash back cards, they really earn Ultimate Rewards points.  As such, it’s possible to move those points to a premium Ultimate Rewards card such as the Sapphire Preferred, Sapphire Reserve, or Ink Business Preferred in order to get more value from those points.  For example, you can now earn 3X to 5X points per dollar with either Freedom card for drugstores, dining, and travel booked through Chase and then move those points to another card in order to transfer points to airline or hotel programs or to pay for travel with points at a rate of either 1.25 cents per point with the Sapphire Preferred or Ink Preferred or 1.5 cents per point with the Sapphire Reserve.  You can alternatively then use Chase’s Pay Yourself Back feature to get up to 1.5 cents per point value when erasing statement charges.  The latter means that the Freedom cards’ 3X and 5X categories are worth up to 4.5% and 7.5% back.  That’s huge.

Sad little Sapphire Preferred

Chase Sapphire Preferred

Those of us in the know realize that the changes to the Freedom cards make the premium Ultimate Rewards cards more valuable because you need one in your household in order to get more value from the points earned on your Freedom card.  But keep in mind what I said before: Chase advertises the Freedom cards as cash back cards.  As a result, most consumers don’t know that the Sapphire cards can unlock more value from the Freedom cards’ rewards.  Most consumers, I think, will see the Freedom cards as much better options than the Sapphire Preferred…

The Sapphire Preferred card, which costs $95 per year, earns 2X for travel and dining (and 5X for Lyft).  When the card was introduced approximately 10 years ago, that was awesome.  Today, it looks pathetic, especially in light of the Freedom card revamp.  Instead of the Sapphire Preferred card’s 2X travel and dining, you can now get a fee-free Freedom card that earns 5X travel (booked through Chase) and 3X dining.  The addition of 3X drugstore; and 5X rotating categories (Freedom Flex) or 1.5X everywhere (Freedom Unlimited) is gravy.  Even if you consider that the Sapphire Preferred’s points are worth 25% more towards travel, that brings the Preferred card’s earning rate to only 2.5% from travel and dining.

The Sapphire Preferred card has real value above the superficial comparison in earning rates detailed above.  For example, not only are points worth more (and are transferable to airline and hotels, unlike with Freedom cards), but the Sapphire Preferred has no foreign transaction fees and much better travel protections that the Freedom cards (including primary car rental insurance, for example).  These are not headline grabbing benefits though.  I expect that most consumers will look at the annual fee and the earning rate and will give the card a hard pass.

Chase isn’t stupid.  I have no doubt that their Sapphire team is fully aware of the Sapphire Preferred card’s weakened marketing position.  They have to do something.  What should they do?

Greg’s Sapphire Preferred Recommendation

I’d like the Sapphire Preferred to move to 3X dining, 3X grocery, 3X gas, and 3X travel (5X for travel booked through Chase).  3X dining is a necessary minimum to make the card competitive with Chase’s own Freedom product.  Same with 5X travel booked through Chase.  The 3X grocery, gas, and travel categories are recommended to make Chase competitive with the $95 Citi Premier card which earns 3X for grocery, gas, dining, and select travel (flights, hotels, travel agencies).

Not long ago, recommending 3X earnings for dining, grocery, gas, and travel would have been unthinkable for a $95 per year card.  Citi, though, showed that it could be done.  And Chase itself made it necessary by overshadowing the Preferred card with their own Freedom cards.

Sapphire Reserve Looking Tired

Chase’s Sapphire Reserve card debuted only 4 years ago and it then made a huge splash with 3X travel and dining, and 1.5 cent per point value.  Since then, US Bank matched Chase with 3X earnings and 1.5 cent per point redemptions on their Altitude Reserve card.  And Amex fought back with their Gold Card which earns 4X dining (worldwide), 4X grocery (US-only on up to $25K in purchases per year, then 1x), and 3X for flights booked directly with airlines or through Amex Travel.

While the Sapphire Reserve card’s point redemption value is still competitive and the card’s travel protections are still best-in-class (see this post for details), the earning rate is no longer good enough.  Cards that cost far less now offer much better transferable point earnings.

Of course, if the Sapphire Preferred card’s earning rates are increased (as I believe they must be to remain competitive), the Sapphire Reserve will have to outdo the Sapphire Preferred to continue to command such a huge premium (the Sapphire Reserve currently costs $550 per year with $360 per year in rebates).

Greg’s Sapphire Reserve Recommendation

Since the Sapphire Reserve card was introduced, I’ve liked the fact that it was better than the Sapphire Preferred in every way (except the annual fee).  It makes sense to consumers: you can pick the $95 travel card with 2X travel and dining and 1.25 cents per point rewards or the much more expensive travel card with 3x travel and dining and 1.5 cents per point rewards (along with some other perks like Priority Pass).  I’d like to see the Sapphire Reserve continue that tradition.  The Sapphire Reserve should continue to best the Sapphire Preferred in every way.

Given that I recommended that the Sapphire Preferred move to 3X earnings on a number of categories, the obvious direction for the Sapphire Reserve is to move to 4X earnings on those same categories.  I’d like the Sapphire Reserve to move to 4X dining, 4X grocery, 4X gas, and 4X travel (5X for travel booked through Chase).  4X dining and grocery simply matches the less expensive Amex Gold card while 4X gas and 4X travel becomes industry leading.  I think they could get away with 3X gas and 3X travel (as long as they keep the 5X travel booked through Chase idea), but that would be a minimum requirement to stay competitive.


Chase’s Sapphire lineup is no longer competitive.  First, the pressure came from others (especially Amex and Citi), but now it also comes from within thanks to adding 3X categories to their Freedom cards.  In response, I recommend that Chase make the following changes:

  • Sapphire Preferred:
    • Current: 2X dining and travel
    • New: 3X dining, 3X grocery, 3X gas, and 3X travel (5X for travel booked through Chase)
  • Sapphire Reserve:
    • Current: 3X dining and travel
    • New: 4X dining, 4X grocery, 4X gas, and 4X travel (5X for travel booked through Chase)

A few years ago, I would have felt silly making the above recommendations.  It would have seemed far too generous.  Now, though, these recommendations strike me as just enough to make the two cards competitive and once again newsworthy.

What do you think?  If Chase made these recommended changes would you be excited about their Sapphire lineup?  Are there other changes Chase ought to make?

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[…] than taking my advice to add 3X categories to make the Sapphire Preferred attractive again, they decided to apply some lipstick.  Don’t […]


I believe Chase is trying to attract a larger customer segment base with the revamping of the Freedom Flex. Honestly, I don’t think Chase can add any more value to the Sapp Preferred and Sapp Reserve lineups, it’s going to increase costs for Chase, and I don’t think they want to do that, nor do I think they can afford it, especially during this time.

[…] Chase Sapphire: What’s Next? (On My Mind) […]


This is a pipe dream, to be honest.

AMEX has very few options to cash out points for hard cash. The only optionS are the Schwab Platinum, and that is a niche card at best, or the Business Gold/Platinum with their 25%/33% rebates. For everyone else, flights booked through AMEX travel only get you $0.01/pt and a $25 booking fee. You can’t even book a hotel with MR for $0.01/pt. We have no idea how much AMEX pays its partners for their points, but I would guess the overall average cost per point to AMEX is less than $0.01/pt.

Chase on the other hand has a $0.01/pt floor and if you have a CSP or CSR it goes up to $0.0125/$0.015. I would bet anything that the average cost per point at Chase is higher than the average cost of a point at AMEX.

Assuming that’s the case, Chase can’t match AMEX point for point since their incremental cost is already higher. We already know the CSR is a loser for Chase, how can you expect them to make it even better?


You mention about the benefits of the Preferred card that are not highlighted as much but there are benefits of the reserve card that could equal the difference between the rebates and the cost of the card. Also, for most members the fee is not $550 but rather still at the old rate of $450. Another useful point is the lower chase cards do not charge for adding people but the Reserve card does.


if that happens i most likely would give up my american express gold card for my dining and groceries.

Joseph N.

If CSR goes to 4x on travel, then I have no reason to keep carrying the World of Hyatt Visa.


I would assume that

CSP: 3X Travel/Dining/Grocery, matching Citi Premier but no Gas, maybe selective 2X categories.

CSR: 5X Travel/Dining/Food Delivery, 3X Grocery/Streaming/Gym.

Last edited 2 years ago by Creditian

I’m surprised no bloggers have considered my fear which is Chase ends the ability to move points from the Freedom Cards to a Sapphire Card. This would make the Freedom Cards true cash back cards as most people outside the hobby already consider them to be. I lose most people when I start explaining how to pair Freedom Cards with a Sapphire card to redeem for travel at a higher rate or transfer to a travel partner. This change would make the Freedom Cards a little less rewarding for those of us enthusiasts but likely wouldn’t impact a majority of their cardholders who don’t understand the benefit of pairing Freedom Cards with a Sapphire Card.


As you pointed out, most Freedom cardholders consider it a cashback card. I imagine the percentage of Freedom holders moving points to CSP/CSP/CIP is not the high. Plus, it provides some extra incentive to keep cards that have AF. Other programs (TY/MR) let you bundle the points from no-AF cards with premium cards, don’t think Chase will want to complicate things by trying to remove the ability to transfer earnings from Freedom cards to premium cards.

Steven Tsao

Does anyone know if the statement credit from redeeming points against dining on CSR is considered taxable by Chase? (i.e., will they send 1099 if I go over $600?)


I’m personally would like to see 1.5x everywhere and 2x travel like the BOA travel reward instead of adding grocery to CSP… I don’t mind the low multiplier though because CSP already have a tons of protection. I just hope Chase add more transfer partner to its list. It’s getting pretty boring with just Hyatt and United in the mix. May be bring back Korean, or add Japan Airlines, or at least Aeroplan…


I could see them making minor changes to the CSR and maybe turning the CSP into their version of the Amex Gold card.

Rich T

Any thoughts on CSP sign up bonus? Anticipate any Chase changes here as well? I’m past 48 months and wondering if I should grab current bonus or wait.


Between this announcement and now that I’m finally under 5/24, I did a product change from my CSP to Freedom in order to apply for the first time for a CSR and get a sign up bonus. Does anyone know how quickly you can apply for a Sapphire after product changing out of one to get flagged for instant rejection?


I’m slow so please forgive me.

The new Freedom cards are AF-free and outperform my CSR with their new categories. If Chase fails to improve the CSR’s perks, why should I keep it and not transfer down to the CSP?

The AmexPlat has hotel status and other perks for the same AF. Shouldn’t Chase have some improvements planned soon despite low travel?


I agree with you about what Chase needs to do to be competitive, and your recommended CSP seems like it could make sense for them, especially if they nudged the annual fee to $125 or $150. But I think they’ve put themselves in a real pickle with CSR. It’s no longer competitive, but it’s expensive to offer, and the things that make it expensive — flexible travel credit and 1.5 cent/point redemption — are central to the value proposition. I hope they’ll do what you suggest, but I wonder if they can support the costs, even at a $550 AF. Maybe we’ll see a new “Sapphire Ultimate” with stronger bonus categories but fewer easy paybacks and more cheap, breakable, partner-supported benefits.


I agree that at a bare minimum Chase should do as you say. I think however they need to do more. I think they will follow Amex and offer more benefits and credits with high breakage. Their doordash credit might be redesigned to be a $10 monthly credit, giving the appearance of more value ($120 a year vs $60), but in reality harder to maximize value from. They’ll need to throw something else in as well. PP/GE credits simply don’t add value now, and more and more people have these benefits already anyway. Prepaying for a $300 travel credit isn’t exactly an attractive value proposition. It’s amazing that this card went from a no brainer at $450 AF, to the point they could raise the AF to $550 and most still saw value, to suddenly now at $550 it makes no sense.


I think the CSR is competitive without an earning boost. As other readers have pointed out, Amex Plat and other ultra premium cards are viable in the market without added earning. Things like PP, insurance still costs money even if another card also have it. I don’t think Chase wants to make CSR an everyone card but rather target a specific customer base on the market that values and can use the added perks and don’t mind paying for them.

The issue comes with the CSP. I think that that card is intended to appeal to everyone. I don’t think it’s happenstance that all reviews call it the best starter points CC without some encouragement from Chase. CSP earning rates aren’t competitive but boosting existing earning rates would run it into the CSR. I think the CSP could get new categories like 3x grocery and 3x gas and stay at 2x travel to round out its earnings to steer clear of the CSR. Although that would mean allowing people to hold both cards at once.

For the CSR, Chase might feel like they can get by with adding some status like United Silver and Hyatt Discoverist or Marriott Gold and maybe some other perks and credits. I think companies in this environment are more than willing to give up cheap status to appeal to the CSR customer base.


One more thing to note is how generous the Amex Plat as been in giving out temporary credits to get people to keep the card. Even with breakage, those credits are easy to redeem. That either suggests that the card has plenty of margin to pay for those credit or the customer base is profitable enough that it’s worth doing so. If the CSR has some room to give and still stay profitable, then maybe we can expect more generous changes.

The Masked (and gloved) Poster

Hey Greg, good batch of info on the Sapphire cards, but I think it might be useful to add something on the fee-free Sapphire. I’m not seeing many reasons to continue paying Chase for my CSP, and am thinking of downgrading to the fee-free version. What do you think?


Would downgrade to Freedom. No advantage of Sapphire at this point. You could get a SUB on the Freedom Flex or convert to it, your choice.

Ed k

One of the most important things now, despite economy or changes in travel spending, and something the middle and upper class pay attention to every month is drugstore spending and what most think, “what card will give me the most versatile redemption value for this out of pocket cost I have to endure?” By not including that category on any new card ideas they might have would mean we stick with other cards in our wallets/purses. 5% is king even if there’s a spending cap. Unless they are only focusing their new card target on the young who don’t have as much money considering their other spending habits. Banks know. Many young can’t even handle budgeting a credit card until they get older, but there are exceptions. And many more of the young are using other methods when they spend such as using crypto or debit from their online only type accounts. Include drugstore and you’ll have a winner with a better investor target to get them associated with Chase.


Drugstore spending?!?! What are you buying so much of at drugstores? Do you think most “middle and upper class” people do the same?


A lot of older people have high medication costs. Some spend hundreds or thousands a month. FYI this doesn’t have to be older people, but the majority spending this much are.

ed k

Jeremy, you’re right. One of the best hospitals in the world told me they are seeing younger and younger getting things that people used to only get in their later years. Look how many of us have to take care of our loved ones. Cancer is just one thing in which out-of-pocket costs for the newest medicine on the market sometimes isn’t covered by insurance so some people are going with the better science while the insurance companies try to force patients and doctors to get an older medicine because it’s cheaper. Those who have the funds are going with what the doctor recommends and that means taking on the full burden cost. But, it’s a person’s life and studies have shown improvement. Studies have shown they believe its because of things in the water that didn’t used to be there many decades ago. For someone else, I had to pay out thousands for a more advanced med and that was only for about 5 weeks worth. Without better health, travel, dining and so forth takes a back seat in what goes on a card and its rewards.

Ron R.

It’s not only prescriptions. I live down the street from both a Walgreens and a CVS. I’m in there constantly, buying milk, eggs, cereal, snacks, etc. They also sell beer, wine and liquor. Not to mention batteries, toothpaste, grooming products, toilet paper, all sorts of things. I see this as a win. I’ve always used my AMEX Blue for Business, but now it’s 3x on the Freedom Unlimited. Other than chasing a minimum spend on a new card, nothing I buy is plain old 1x anymore.


I know these are recommendations and not predictions. And I think they make sense. With CSP, it basically matches the similar AF Premier card, except that the travel category is better (all travel, not limited to flights, hotels, travel agencies). However, CSP would have travel protection and the ability to cash out points at 1.25 cents. It would definitely have a competitive edge over the Premier.

I do not think these earning enhancements will come without some sort of negative consequence. Either the annual fee will go up (like Amex Green/Gold refreshes), or they will take away the ability to cash out at 1.25 (like Citi Premier), or travel protections will go away (like on all Citi cards). Personally I think the AF increase is most likely.

IMO, for the average consumer (ie not someone reading and commenting on points/miles blogs on a holiday), even without these enhancements I think Chase still has a competitive advantage. For my friends who are lightly into points/miles, they don’t want to deal with multiple transferable currencies with different partners. Chase has transfer partners the average consumer already knows. The average consumer does not want to deal with Turkish to get a great deal to Hawaii. Most of my coworkers with a Premium card have the CSR, and they either use their points for 1.5 cents on the travel portal (most common) or they transfer to a US program to top off balances they already have (Southwest, United, Hyatt, etc). I do not think these changes to the Chase cards will really affect their credit card decisions.


GREG….Question. If you have the new Chase Freedom Flex card, can you transfer the points to the wife’s CSR card to get the 1.5 on travel or Pay Yourself back? The sign on bonus currently is 20,000 points. Can I transfer it to her CSR card and does it magically turn into 30,000 in travel value or Pay Yourself back credits? Am I looking at this correctly?


The CSP doesn’t have to match Citi Premier’s multipliers across the board. The average profitable customer isn’t going to be making that category-by-category comparison before signing up.

And CSR 4x on all those categories would be giving too much away. The banks’ strategies with these cards is to have a loss leader category and to hope customers use the cards for non-bonus categories as well. Chase should introduce a permanent grocery-category card (like AmEx BCE/BCP/ED/EDP/Gold), not add groceries to the CSP/CSR.


The Chase Sapphire Reserve has been a money loser since day 1. Maybe Chase wants it to be less competitive? I think they will enhance the card, but not in the way you think – I am guessing the Pay Yourself Back feature becomes permanent, plus the addition of some other spend bonus categories, but not at 4x or 5x as that makes these cards unprofitable.


The annual fee just hit for my CSP so if they don’t make any improvements before the end of this month I’m cancelling.


apparently the only way to PC to the Flex is from another Freedom card. Aren’t most people PC CSR to Freedom now so they can PC to Flex in two weeks?
if Chase doesn’t give up information soon on CSR then we all kind of have to get out now.

Last edited 2 years ago by Johnny

Makes sense regarding the timing of any announcement. Also, makes more sense to downgrade. Probably to Chase Freedom then.


Thanks for the article. I find it interesting that you’re so optimistic about the multipliers being improved. Citi and Amex offer high category multipliers but do not guarantee redemption values > 1cpp, except in a few cases (schwab, biz plats). On the other hand, Chase has really emphasized the 1.25/1.5cpp travel portal/PYB redemptions while offering lower category multipliers. This approach seems to really work for them, but as long as these redemption options exist, I don’t see them increasing the sapphire cards’ multipliers much. Understandably the choice is clearly one or the other between high multipliers and higher fixed redemption values.

As such, I don’t foresee any changes to the CSR’s multipliers, maybe just new partner sponsored benefits or things with good breakage potential. I could see the CSP being bumped to 3x dining since the only marginal cost to Chase would be for those people with CSPs but no freedoms.


Chase seems to have an aversion to the grocery category. Even after all these years, and with Citi and Amex both having strong grocery cards, Chase is still timid with grocery. They offered a measly $3000 5x cap for a 3 month window, which is better than nothing I suppose, but still pretty laughable. And with the Freedom updates, they still went with bonusing drugstores over grocery. Anyway, while grocery would be a welcome and long overdue addition to Chase’s lineup, based on history, I just don’t see it happening. 


Yeah, a premium travel card isn’t going to focus on grocery. Grocery is for the regular folks and the abusers. Chase is smart to leave that out of Sapphire.


I am losing enthusiasm for my Chase Sapphire Reserve card. That $550 charge is large even with the $300 in travel benefits, making the card for me cost $250. The 1.5 on using your points on travel is OK, but it is not what it was. This year, I have used all my points on the pay yourself back program and I am down to zero.

As I am down to zero points, the card now really has little value for me. It may be best to close it and later apply for the new Freedom Flex card. Chase needs to do something to improve my Sapphire Reserve card before my anniversary date this coming January. Why pay $550 when the Freedom Flex card is free and at some point they will offer me points to sign up?


my scenario exactly, I’m probably dropping my CSR to a Freedom this week and apply for it again for the SUB in a few years when all of these restrictions pass.
wife will still have CSR in case Chase extends the pay yourself back or throws in a nice deal/ multiplier.


They’ll give you 10x on the Chase portal and more “lifestyle”/breakage benefits. Ultra premium cards are all pretty meh under COVID besides limited time offers/goodwill to renew. Keep making predictions Greg. Gotta break the 2019 curse in time for 2020 😉


The travel benefits i.e. PP visits as well as trip/baggage delay , car rental insurance (less so) are likely costing Chase very little ATM.

Centurion lounge’s likely just space rent and minimal in all other overhead.

5X Travel thru Chase OTA – is it worth two extra points to lose flexibility to deal directly with airlines for changes/issues esp with COVID?


Chase isn’t stupid but I’m sure they realize that a lot of those reserve customers signed up for the card 4 years ago and are able to get a new card bonus. They reportedly lost a lot of money on that business. So they’re in a predicament. Any refresh will not come with a big signup bonus. I predict more benefits with specific partners that can help subsidize the benefit like the amex platinum.

And I find it interesting that you cannot product change to the freedom flex. If the same rule had applied to the freedom unlimited, I would have thought it specifically targeted to the reserve sign ups from 4 years ago. Perhaps it still is, since the cohort who would sign up for a new bonus on the reserve is also more likely the ones to benefit from an extra 5x in rotating categories.


Is that really your minimum? Would you cancel if it was lower?

Suppose the CSP went to where the CSR is at the moment:
3X travel (maybe with 5X via Chase)
3X dining
And a 5X rotating category (like CSR has)
Would it be worthwhile?

Suppose the CSR stays as is but slides up to 4X:
4X travel (maybe with 5X via Chase)
4X dining
And a 5X rotating category (so far groceries then gas)
Would it be worthwhile?


I get that. I just don’t think the 75% of people whp choose the Freedom line for CB would consider a $550 AF card (or even a $95 version) regardless of the benefits.

Chase made this move to compete directly for consumers who are not “savvy.”

I hope you’re right on the need for revamps but I’m not going to hold my breath!


Greg: Good article. Glad you are moving away from your previous position that the CSR remains the best anchor card for a Chase wallet (even though you did not exactly say that). Chase MUST update both CSP and CSR to remain competitive with AMEX and Citi. Your predictions, as you state, would be “just enough” to achieve this purpose. Secondary issue: will Chase feel any need to also update bonus categories for the Ink Preferred? At this point (i.e., before any such Chase Sapphire changes you predict) I’m with Nick that an Ink Preferred is overall a better anchor card than the CSR (especially given the COVID-19 era and that I’m reluctant to burn Chase points on anything but premium travel). Also factored in to this is that I have a Ritz card, taking PP out of the equation. An update on the CSR as you suggest changes that anchor card choice back to CSR. Your thoughts on any Ink Preferred updates?


CSR’s best approach would be to add 3X on everyday categories groceries/Gas/drugstore with a 25K annual spend limit. It seems like 5x on chase travel Booking is given.
Btw Amex Gold doesn’t have 4X has a category.

Last edited 2 years ago by Lax

Need a 3X entertainment for CSP.


I somehow doubt that chase is going to be that generous. They might just look at platinum which is also a premium card with a similar annual fee and has virtually no 2x category even except for flights. And it’s airline credit is much harder to use compared to CSP’s generous 300 dollar credit which virtually everyone can maximize. The only thing Platinum has going for it are the centurion lounges, and the intangible *prestige.* Even Citi Prestige has been gutted for all practical purposes. Or if Chase moves towards 3x/4x earnings, no way it will be able to sustain the travel benefits which I imagine cost real money.

I think what may happen is that Chase introduces another card specifically targeted towards groceries to compete with Gold and premier.


I have to think Greg is right to expect Chase to improve the Sapphire cards in some way, even if it’s to maintain some “intangible prestige” of their own. The type of people who look down their nose at a plastic vs. metal card won’t be thrilled that their fancy travel card isn’t as special anymore.

To your point, I could see them putting spending caps on new/improved categories. They’ve been doing it already for the bonus categories this year.


I agree with the suppositions re earning, but the other thing that would help boost Sapphire cards would be an upgrade in airline transfer partners. In my mind that is the biggest selling point for Amex over Chase.

T. Jones

And just to help stay competitive with Amex Platinum, Chase could throw in a couple mid-level hotel statuses too.