Documents reveal changes coming to your favorite rewards cards

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Forget the flat 2x or 3x dining and travel rewards that these cards have offered to-date.  New rewards are coming.  And these aren’t just rumors.  The leaked documents come directly from the card issuer itself.

Reddit poster “the_one_with_me” found that the Ultimate Rewards portal links to cardmember agreements that differ from the cards’ current rewards structure.  This suggests that these changes are in the works, but that the details were leaked early.  Here’s what’s changing (hat tip Doctor of Credit):

Sapphire Reserve vs Preferred

Chase Sapphire Preferred

Current rewards structure

  • 2x for Travel and Dining
  • 5x Lyft (through March 2022)
  • Points worth 1.25 cents each when redeemed for travel & Pay Yourself Back

New rewards structure

  • Link to Sapphire Preferred document
  • Effective date: August 15, 2021?
    Note from Greg: The document seems to indicate that both the anniversary point bonus and hotel credit begin August 15th, so my assumption is that all of these changes begin then.
  • 3x Dining, Streaming Services, and Online Grocery (excluding Target, Walmart, and Wholesale Clubs).  Note from Greg: I think that “online grocery” means grocery ordering and delivery services like Instacart and Shipt.
  • 5x Travel Booked through Chase’s Travel Portal
  • 2x all other travel
  • 1x on all other purchases
  • 10% Anniversary point bonus: Each account anniversary, “earn bonus points that equal 10% of your total spend in points” based on spend in your cardmember year.
    Note from Greg: This adds an extra 0.1x to all of your spend.  If you spend $25,000 during the year, you’ll get 25,000 x .1 = 2,500 bonus points.  You do not get extra points based on bonus categories.  e.g. dining purchases (which will now earn 3x) effectively earn 3.1x not 3.3x thanks to this bonus.
  • $50 Hotel Credit: Each cardmember year, earn $50 back on hotels booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards.  The portion of this spend that is rebated will not earn Ultimate Rewards.  Those who have the card open before August 15, 2021, will have to wait until their next account anniversary after that date to begin earning this credit.
  • Points worth 1.25 cents each when redeemed for travel.  There is no mention of “Pay Yourself Back”.

My Take

When Chase introduced 3x dining and drugstore and 5x travel through Chase for the Freedom Flex and Freedom Unlimited, I believed that they would quickly add the same for the Sapphire Preferred.  Well, it didn’t happen quickly, but it’s finally coming. We still don’t get 3x drugstore, but the other two components are coming, along with 3x streaming and online grocery.

Overall, in my opinion, assuming Chase won’t also increase the card’s annual fee, these are decent enhancements to the old Sapphire Preferred card.  3x dining does more than bring the card on par with the Freedom cards that earn the same because the Sapphire Preferred has no foreign transaction fees.  The 10% anniversary bonus sounds more exciting than it is.  Who spends enough on the Sapphire Preferred to turn this bonus into big points?  If you are spending that much, you probably should be using a card that earns better rewards to begin with.  The $50 hotel credit is a pure net win for anyone willing to book a hotel online once a year.

I don’t find any of the enhancements super exciting, but they do offer enough to make this once great card relevant again.

Chase Sapphire Reserve

Current rewards structure

  • 3x Travel and Dining
  • 10X Lyft (through March 2022)
  • 1x on all other purchases
  • $300 Annual Travel Credit
  • Points worth 1.5 cents each when redeemed for travel & Pay Yourself Back

New rewards structure

  • Link to Sapphire Reserve document
  • Effective date: August 15, 2021?
    Note from Greg: I’m just guessing that the effective date for Sapphire Reserve changes are the same as the date for Sapphire Preferred changes.  See the Sapphire Preferred section above for why I think August 15 is the likely date.
  • 10x on Chase dining
    Note from Greg: This sounds more exciting than it is because in practice, to-date, there are very few opportunities to prepay for dining through Ultimate Rewards.
  • 10x Hotel and Car Rental purchases through Chase’s Travel Portal
  • 5x Airfare Booked through Chase’s Travel Portal
  • 3x for all other Travel and Dining
  • 1x on all other purchases
  • $300 Annual Travel Credit
  • Points worth 1.5 cents each when redeemed for travel.  There is no mention of “Pay Yourself Back”.

My Take

Just because it’s not in the document, I don’t think it is likely that Pay Yourself Back is going away.  However, if it does go away, that would be a big blow to the Sapphire Reserve’s value in my opinion.

Overall, I find the additions here to be underwhelming.  The ability to earn 5x for airfare and 10x for cars and hotels through the Chase portal is a very good addition, but personally I don’t spend enough in these categories to make this a blockbuster change.  I do like the fact that you can now get these best-in-class rewards for travel when using this card which offers best-in-class travel protections (see: Ultra-Premium Credit Card Travel Insurance Benefits).  On the other hand, I don’t like booking rental cars or hotels through online travel agencies (which this is) because then you do not earn rewards (other than credit card rewards) or get elite benefits with those bookings.

Other changes?

The documents listed above are Ultimate Rewards program agreements for each card.  There could be other upcoming changes to these cards that do no effect the Ultimate Rewards program.  For example, if there are annual fee changes, I wouldn’t expect to see any mention in these documents.  For the record: I don’t expect annual fee changes.  That was just an example.

Your take?

What do you think of these changes to the Sapphire Preferred and Sapphire Reserve cards?  Please comment below.

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