How I’ll use the new Chase Sapphire Perks [On my mind]

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As of August 16th 2021, Chase added perks to their Sapphire Preferred and Sapphire Reserve cards.  I signed up for the Sapphire Reserve when it debuted in 2016 and I’ve kept it since.  Initially, I absolutely loved the card for its 3x travel & dining and 1.5 cents per point redemption value, but I’ve become less enamored since Chase increased the annual fee to $550, and since other cards have added even more compelling category bonuses.  At this point, I don’t know if I’ll keep the card past the next annual fee.  Meanwhile, my wife recently signed up for the $95 Sapphire Preferred card (thanks to the 100K welcome bonus!) and so we currently have both cards in our household.   In this post, I’ll take a detailed look at each card’s new benefits to see which ones are meaningful to me.

Summary of enhancements

Sapphire Preferred

The Sapphire Preferred retains its 2x earnings for all travel purchases, but moves to 5x for travel booked through Chase; 3x for dining (previously 2x); 3x for streaming services and online grocery (excluding Target, Walmart, and Wholesale Clubs); a 10% anniversary point bonus; and a $50 anniversary hotel credit for stays booked through Chase.  Those who had opened the card before August 15, 2021, will have to wait until their next account anniversary to begin earning the $50 hotel credit.

As before, points are worth 1.25 cents each towards travel booked through Chase and through Pay Yourself Back.  The card also retains its 5x earnings for Lyft and for Peloton equipment through 3/31/2022; and $60 credit towards Peloton through 12/31/21.

Sapphire Reserve

The Sapphire Reserve retains its 3x earnings for all travel & dining purchases, but adds 10x for Chase Dining (take-out dining and prepaid dining experiences); 10x for hotels and car rentals booked through Chase; and 5x airfare booked through Chase.

As before, points are worth 1.5 cents each towards travel booked through Chase and through Pay Yourself Back.  The card also retains its $300 travel credit; best in-class travel protections (details here); $60 DoorDash credit through 2021; 10x earnings for Lyft and for Peloton equipment through 3/31/2022; and $120 credit towards Peloton through 12/31/21.

How I’ll use the new Sapphire Preferred benefits

3x dining: The ability to earn 3x for dining brings the Sapphire Preferred on par with the Sapphire Reserve and the fee-free Freedom Unlimited (which I also have) and Freedom Flex cards for dining spend in the U.S.  Where the Sapphire Preferred outshines the fee-free cards is with no foreign transaction fees.  For dining outside of the U.S., the ability to earn 3x without foreign transaction fees is significant.  That said, I currently have other cards that offer even better rewards for dining spend and with no foreign transaction fees.  These include the Citi Prestige card (5x dining) and the Amex Gold card (4x dining). That said, I’m likely to downgrade the Prestige card when the next annual fee comes due; and many places internationally don’t accept American Express.  So, this new Sapphire Preferred feature (3x dining) is good for me only because it makes the idea of dropping the Sapphire Reserve in favor of the Preferred a little bit more palatable if I ever decide to go that route.

5x for travel booked through Chase: This feature matches the same benefit already found on the fee-free Freedom Unlimited (which I have) and Freedom Flex cards.  This doesn’t do anything for me.

3x for streaming services and online grocery: These category bonuses are unique to the Chase Ultimate Rewards card collection but not particularly interesting to me.  I simply don’t spend enough for streaming services to even bother to switch over how I pay for them.  And for grocery purchases (online or not), I’ll do better with the Amex Gold card which earns 4x for U.S. grocery purchases.

10% anniversary point bonus: The anniversary point bonus sounds interesting, but it’s important to remember that the bonus is based on the amount spent, not the amount of points earned.  For example, if you spend $10,000 on dining, you’ll earn 3x = 30,000 points but the annual bonus will be 10% of 10,000 rather than 10% of 30,000.  Another way to look at it is that this feature moves the 3x category bonus up to 3.1x.  I can’t imagine spending enough on the Sapphire Preferred card to care about earning an extra 0.1x on my spend.

$50 anniversary hotel credit for stays booked through Chase: This is the only new Sapphire Perk that I’d be likely to use if it was available to me.  If my wife had waited until August 15 or later to sign up, this perk would have been enabled right away.  And, if so, the next time we had to book a hotel night (ideally at an independent hotel where we wouldn’t lose out on elite benefits or point earnings), I would have considered booking the hotel through Chase in order to save $50.  Unfortunately, this feature won’t kick in for my wife until after she renews next year.  I think she’ll be more likely to downgrade to a fee free card next year, so even this feature is likely to go unused in our household.

How I’ll use the new Sapphire Reserve benefits

10x Chase Dining: Chase has partnered with Tock for booking dinner reservations at select (mostly high end) restaurants, purchasing take-out from some of these restaurants, and for dining events.  It is only the latter two (where you pay in advance) where you’ll earn 10x with the Sapphire Reserve card.  In my area, only 2 restaurants show up for take-out and none offer prepaid events that I’ve seen.  My guess is that I’ll rarely, if ever, use this benefit.

10x for hotels booked through Chase: When booking hotels through the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal, you don’t get hotel points or elite benefits on your stay.  But, the ability to earn 10x instead of the usual 3x for this type of travel is significant.  If you consider that points can be used each for 1.5 cents value, then the extra 7 points per dollar is like an extra 10.5% rebate on your hotel spend.  I will look to use this benefit when booking independent hotels where I wouldn’t get hotel points or elite benefits anyway.  But I won’t use this benefit if booking direct or through other channels gives me a significant discount over Chase’s pricing.  So… the question is whether I’ll use this benefit often?  My guess is that it will happen often enough for this benefit to be worth at least 10K extra points per year (about $150 in extra value).  It will be interesting to look back next year to see.

10x for car rentals booked through Chase: Due to my car rental habits, I’m very unlikely to use this benefit.  I usually book car rentals through National Car Rental (because I like the ability to choose any car from the Executive Aisle — you can unlock this capability by using the Sapphire Reserve’s car rental benefit to sign up for National Executive status for free).  I then use AutoSlash to see if they can find a better deal.

5x for airfare booked through Chase: I won’t use this benefit.  I don’t like booking airfare through Chase or any other online travel agency.  When things go wrong or when I need to make travel changes, it’s much easier to do so if the airfare had been purchased directly from the airline.  Plus, Amex Platinum consumer cards offer 5x for airfare purchased directly from airlines.  So, I’m content either paying with my Platinum card to earn 5x, or paying with my Sapphire Reserve to earn 3x plus best in class travel protections.

Bottom Line

The new Sapphire Preferred and Reserve benefits aren’t exciting to me at all.   The Sapphire Preferred enhancements are significant when looked at on their own, but I have other cards that give me equal or better benefits.  Only the $50 hotel benefit is interesting to me and I won’t even have access to it unless my wife renews her card next year.  Meanwhile, I find the Sapphire Reserve enhancements to be underwhelming.  The only one that is possibly meaningful to me is the ability to earn 10x for hotels booked through Chase.  And its unclear to me how often I’ll use that feature.  Yes, it might be worth a lot if I use it often, but it won’t surprise me if I end up not using it at all.  How often will I book independent hotels?  And when I do, how often will Chase’s price be competitive with the best price I can find elsewhere or by booking direct?  Only time will tell.

How about you?  Are you excited by any of the Sapphire enhancements?

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