It’s been a year since Chase unveiled their blockbuster new credit card: Chase Sapphire Reserve. Chase originally launched the card with an eye popping signup bonus: 100,000 points after $4K spend (the offer has since dropped to 50,000 points). Even though the card has a $550 annual fee, the combination of the giant signup bonus and card perks make it a no-brainer and a huge number of people signed up for the card.
Now, many early adopters will soon see their second
$450 (Update: the annual fee has increased to $550 as of January 2020) annual fee and will have to decide whether it’s worth paying.
As a reminder, here are a few key benefits of the card:
- 3X points on dining and travel.
- $300 statement credit towards purchases in the travel category each calendar year.
- Points transfer 1:1 to travel partners.
- Points are worth 1.5 cents each when booking travel through Ultimate Rewards.
- Up to $100 Global Entry/Precheck fee credit every 4 years.
- Priority Pass Select membership with free guests.
- Travel Insurance:
- Primary rental insurance
- Free Roadside Assistance
- 6 hour Trip Delay reimbursement
- Emergency Evacuation and Transportation
- Emergency Medical and Dental coverage
- Trip Cancellation and Trip Interruption insurance
- Lost Luggage, Baggage Delay reimbursement
- Travel Accident Insurance
For more information on this card and its benefits, see: Chase Sapphire Reserve Complete Guide.
The real question: Keep or product change
If you decide that the card’s annual fee isn’t worth paying, I recommend product changing to a no fee card instead of cancelling it. That way you’ll keep alive any points you’ve earned and not yet spent, you may get a valuable card worth keeping, and you may be able to product change back to the Sapphire Reserve in the future if you ever change your mind. Product changes are free and do not impact your credit.
Chase has a mysterious formula that determines which cards they allow an individual to switch to, but it is almost certainly the case that they’ll allow a product change to the no-fee Sapphire card (not to be confused with the Sapphire Preferred or Sapphire Reserve).
Once you have changed to the no-fee Sapphire card, you should then be free to change again to either of these no-fee cards which also earn Ultimate Rewards points:
- Chase Freedom: Earn 5X rewards in rotating categories (up to $1500 spend per quarter), and 1X everywhere else
- Chase Freedom Unlimited: Earn 1.5X everywhere, no limit
Both cards are useful for earning Ultimate Rewards points. On their own, the points are worth only 1 cent each, but if you or someone in your household has a premium Chase Ultimate Rewards card (Sapphire Reserve, Sapphire Preferred, Ink Business Preferred), you can freely move those points to that account and then get better value when redeeming those points.
If you already have a Freedom Unlimited card, there’s no reason to get a second. With the regular Freedom card, though, you may want a second one as a way of exceeding the $1500 per quarter 5X cap.
Is the Sapphire Reserve worth the annual fee?
The Sapphire Reserve has a number of valuable perks, but the value to you depends upon how much you use those perks and whether you can get those same perks more cheaply elsewhere.
Here is how I personally value each of the primary perks:
- $300 travel statement credit: $300.
I value this at its full face value because I routinely travel often enough to get this credit without even thinking about it. I routinely use my Sapphire Reserve card to pay for travel (thanks to its 3X rewards), so I automatically earn $300 back every year.
- 3X points on dining and travel: $190
My Rewards Dashboard shows my year-to-date point earnings for dining and travel (see above). Other cards offer 3X rewards for travel (the $95 Citi Premier, for example), so let’s say that the 3X travel benefit is worth $95. As for dining, with 8 months out of 12 accounted for this year, I earned over 24,000 points. Compared to cards that offer 2X for dining, the 3X dining benefit is worth over 8,000 points to me. Let’s conservatively call that a $95 benefit as well. So, together, the 3X travel + 3X dining benefits total to $190 in value to me.
- Points transfer 1:1 to travel partners: $0
I can get this same benefit from the $95 per year Sapphire Preferred, or a similar benefit with the $95 Citi Premier. The costs for these alternative cards were accounted for in the valuation for 3X points on dining and travel, above.
- Points worth 1.5 cents each for travel: $0
I usually transfer my points to Hyatt or to various airline programs in order to cherry pick the best value rewards. So, the ability to pay with points for travel at a value of 1.5 cents per point is nice to have, but not something I routinely use. I know that many readers use this feature regularly and so should compute their own value for this benefit. For example, suppose you use points to purchase $900 worth of travel. With the Sapphire Reserve, you would be charged 60,000 points, but with the cheaper Sapphire Preferred (where points are worth 1.25 cents each towards travel), you would be charged 72,000 points. In that example, this Sapphire Reserve benefit is worth 12,000 points in savings. You can then value those saved points either at the cash-out price of $120 or at the 1.5 cents per point value: $180.
- Up to $100 Global Entry/Precheck fee credit every 4 years: $0
I have a bunch of premium cards that offer this benefit so there is no incremental benefit here for me.
- Priority Pass Select membership with free guests: $0
I have other cards that offer this benefit so there is no incremental benefit here for me. The value you assign to it should be based on how often you expect to use the benefit and whether or not you already have a similar benefit from another card.
- Travel Insurance: $75
Yes, I can get many of the travel insurance benefits from other cards, but I prefer to get them from a card like this one that earns 3X for travel. Plus, few other cards offer emergency evacuation and transportation, emergency medical and dental reimbursement, and free roadside assistance.
Total annual value to me: $565.
Total cost: $550 (if you add an authorized user for $75, the total cost goes up to $625).
In my case, based on a conservative look at the value of the card, I gain more than I pay. So, I’ll keep my card and evaluate it again next year.
Sapphire Reserve keep or downgrade cheat sheet
I realize that most readers won’t want to do the work of assigning value feature by feature, so here’s quick cheat sheet that may help:
Keep the card if:
- You travel extensively and eat out a lot; or
- You travel enough to earn the annual $300 travel credit, and you regularly pay with points for travel
Downgrade the card if:
- You rarely travel
- You travel, but get most of the Sapphire Reserve travel perks from other cards that you plan to keep
What about your spouse?
In many cases, couples each signed up for their own Sapphire Reserve cards in order to each get their own signup bonus. That was great, but with annual fees coming due it doesn’t make sense to keep both cards.
I’m in exactly that situation. My wife and I both signed up for the Sapphire Reserve last year and will soon be forced to figure out what to do about it. I previously described the problem in the post “The Sapphire Reserve Couple Conundrum“. In that post, I said that my plan was to “punt”. I would wait until the annual fees came due to decide what to do. That time is coming soon.
There’s no doubt it my mind that one of us should downgrade their card. Since we combine our finances and manage our points together, there is literally no advantage to having two separate Sapphire Reserve accounts as far as I can tell. However, there may be an advantage for one of us to get a $75 annual fee authorized user card so that we both carry a Sapphire Reserve.
I’ll follow up soon with more about the couple conundrum and my final decision. Stay tuned.
Hi FM and Nick,
My wife has the Sapphire Preferred and I have the Reserve. The Preferred’s annual fee is coming up due. My wife doesn’t have another credit card that will earn more than 1x on dinning and travel. I am planning to have her cancel the Preferred and get her as an authorized user on my Reserve. Here are my concerns:
1) Adding her as an authorized user will add 1 more new credit card to her credit history (i.e. adding more the 5/24).
2) Does it negatively affect her if and when she wants to get the Reserve as an authorized user?
3) What would you guys do?
4) What are some good credit cards that she can get for more than 1x on dinning and travel at this time?
Thanks so much.
Adding her as an AU to your Reserve would add to her 5/24 count, but not in a way that is as bad as a new card for her. That is, if she is rejected from a Chase application for being over 5/24 due to AU cards, she can call, ask to speak to a supervisor, and make it clear to them that those cards are AU cards and she is not responsible for paying them. That usually works.
If I was in that situation, I’d add my wife as an AU. There are many other good travel & dining cards, but none (in my opinion) that are as good for those two categories as the Sapphire Reserve. The Citi Premier comes to mind as a close second since it also offers 3X for travel, but 2X for dining. It also offers 3X for gas, and 2X for entertainment.
Hi Greg. I’m still confused (sorry!) about getting the 3rd travel credit on CSR before downgrading. This is my situation:
-CSR opened mid 10/16
-received first travel credit in 11/16
-received 2nd travel credit in 2/17
-Annual fee posted 11/1/17
If I pay the annual fee now, would I be eligible to get reimbursed for a 3rd travel credit in Dec ’17 (since now they are counting by membership year instead of calendar year)?
Thanks in advance!
Yes that should work. See this post for more detail: https://frequentmiler.com/2017/08/22/sapphire-reserve-2nd-travel-credit/
Have you decided how to move forward? I will be in a similar situation soon.
Did either you or you wife cancel and pay the fee to join as a authorized user under the other person?
We decided to wait until January. We’ll earn the new travel credits and then downgrade.
I’ve been hemming and hawing over whether to keep the CSR. My annual fee hit on 10/1. Originally, I was going to keep it, but am having second thoughts now. I don’t anticipate to travel a ton in the next year, so paying $150 out of pocket doesn’t make a lot of sense. This is my first Sapphire card, and I already have a Freedom card. I’d rather not downgrade to a Sapphire Preferred, as I’d like to apply for it in the future to reap in the bonus points. If I decide I don’t want to renew for another year, should I just straight up cancel and re-apply for the CSR again in the future, when I’m ready to use it again? I’d like to take advantage of the 1.5 redemption rate, plus Priority Pass…just not now. Since I already have the Freedom, I can temporarily transfer my points there.
Is there any reason for me to downgrade to the Chase Freedom Unlimited, Chase Sapphire Preferred, or any other card now, instead of straight up cancelling? I’m also thinking about bonus points or bonus $ I might be missing out on by downgrading to these cards instead of having a fresh application.
Why not downgrade to a second Freedom card? Then you’ll have double the spending power on the quarterly bonus categories ($1500 per quarter on each Freedom card). On the other hand, a Freedom Unlimited could also be great if you do a lot of non-bonused spend (use that for 1.5x everywhere and the Freedom just for 5x categories). If you decide a year from now that you’d like to do a fresh application for a Freedom Unlimited, just product change your Freedom Unlimited to Freedom #2 at that point and you should be able to open a Freedom Unlimited (you can’t open a card that you currently have, but you can downgrade or product change to one you already have….and as long as you haven’t received a signup bonus on that product in the previous 24 months, you’d be eligible for the signup bonus still — product changing to a Sapphire Preferred or Freedom Unlimited won’t disqualify you from receiving a future signup bonus on those cards).
One thing to keep in mind — if you don’t have a Sapphire Preferred, Sapphire Reserve, Ink Business Preferred (or some of the discontinued Ink cards), you will not be able to transfer your points to partners. If you’re not anticipating travel, that might be fine for you. But if you want to be able to transfer points to Hyatt to book a Cat 1 hotel stay for 5K points, remember that you won’t be able to do that without one of the aforementioned cards. If you downgrade to a Freedom or Freedom Unlimited, you won’t be able to transfer to partners.
It sounds like the $450 annual fee doesn’t fit your needs right now, so I think you’re right to consider your options. I hope that gives you some food for thought.
Appreciate the response – I didn’t know it was an option to product change to card you already have. Though I don’t think I need either cards for the cash back benefit (I don’t spend that much), but good to know I could downgrade to a second Freedom card in order to keep my account “alive” and to avoid the credit ding.
Thanks for the reminder regarding transferring points.
On another note, I just realized if I want the CSP for the 50K sign up bonus, I won’t be eligible for another 12 months since I just got the 100K CSR bonus 12 months back (need to wait 24 months in between). This is going to conflict as I do intend to reapply for the CSR in the mid-term.
Final note — you mentioned a product change to keep your account alive “and avoid the credit ding”. I’m not sure exactly what you mean by that. You don’t get dinged for closing a card. There main effect that closing a card might have on your score is that you will have a lower amount of overall available credit, which can affect the utilization portion of your credit score. If you’re not carrying balances, that probably isn’t an issue for you. And keep in mind that Chase is usually good about letting you shift credit — that is to say that if you call or secure message Chase, they will usually let you move the credit limit from one card to another before closing.
There are a lot of complexities involved in making the decision with the CSR. I wish you luck if determining what’s right for you!
Laura — my apologies. There was a change when I was on vacation and it slipped my mind. You’re right that you wouldn’t be able to get the CSR for 24 months after opening a CSP. Here’s the post Greg wrote about it:
I edited my response here as the post above has the most accurate and current information.
So the plot thickens….though I believe a product change is still a possibility for you.
Thanks for the help Nick – yeah, this was a recent change on Chase’s part. Let me mull over my options 🙂
[…] as many people are coming up on renewal and trying to decide whether to keep it or cancel it (See: Keep or cancel Sapphire Reserve). We looked at maximizing the travel credits (See; Sapphire Reserve: How to get a 2nd $300 travel […]
Excellent diagnosis of the Reserve re-upping decision. As always, you dissected the situation on all possible fronts and did so in a very concise manner with no fluff. This constant awesome manner of your reasoning is the basis for my belief that you are the top travel blogger. I always recommend Frequent Miler to everyone that wants to learn more. You are the best!
[…] Keep or cancel Sapphire Reserve? […]
The free roadside assistance on the chase reserve is only when you rent a card right? and Is it like a roadside concierge service only, where they help to call the tow company, but you still have to pay the tow bill?
No, roadside assistance isn’t limited to when you rent a car. It is good for when driving your own car too. They coordinate the service and pay the first $50 of the charge. If the total charge is $50 or less, you don’t pay anything.
[…] my post “Keep or cancel Sapphire Reserve?” I estimated how much I value each of the card’s benefits in order to decide whether or […]
I’ve updated this post to include more info and my valuation of the card’s travel insurance benefits.
If you downgrade from CSR to Freedom, does it count towards 5/24? If so, I’m at 4/24 right now and thinking I should first signup for Freedom to get the small signup bonus, move the points over from CSR to Freedom, then just cancel the CSR
If you product change your 5/24 count won’t change. You’ll still be at 4/24.
[…] I published “Keep or cancel Sapphire Reserve?” My plan is to keep the card, but many others (including my wife) may not. If you decide […]
Has anyone gotten a CSR retention offer?
Not that I’ve heard, but it will be interesting to see now that many will presumably cancel their cards within the next few months.
They have actually temporarily suspended my account as apparently I am a credit risk. Mind you I have not been late on a credit ccard or mortgage payment in my life, and earn a fairly decent living. I have opened 2 ccs in last 3 weeks(Merril + and Alaska). I also spent 2500 on Macerich VGCs last week. Im stunned
What cc did you use to purchase those vgcs? Did you season that card prior to that large purchase? Flags were raised somehow. Did you use a billpay service to pay the cc bill? That can also raise flags. The new apps put eyes on you and then something else triggered flags. Hopefully you can talk to a branch manager that can help. I hope you never deposited MOs into Chase.
Cards ive been opening have been giving me between 20k and 35k credit line- CSR just called me due to large credit lines being opened- should I call these cards and have the credit line lowered, or is that irrelevant at this stage
The answer would depend heavily on each person’s situation. What did the Chase person say to you?
I actually think that this is pretty good analysis. And I agree with $300 valuation on the CSR credit.
Where I disagree is the $190 valuation for 3X categories. First, as somebody mentioned, there’s opportunity cost of 2-3% depending on what other cards you have. Restaurants also often on 5% rotating categories. Second, many people have other 3X travel cards. I’ve got both Altitude and Prestige so and their values are reasonably comparable to URs.
One benefit of Chase that I think is quite important though is primary car insurance. If you don’t have any other premium Chase cards, it’s worth considering. Altitude’s primary coverage is only up to 15 days. Prestige’s is only outside of the US.
Based on valuations I think CSR is worth less than $450 unless you dine a lot or overvalue URs.
I did try to account for the opportunity cost of alternatives to 3x travel or 2x dining. The tough part is that I do very highly value transferable points so I wanted to limit my comparison to cards that offer similar points
Thanks for the comment, I was under the impression that they do not. If you do get individual PP and the Global Entry credit for AU, then it would make sense to switch her to AU. My Annual Fee is due in October, which I will gladly pay as my earn YTD from just that 1 extra point per $ = 14,000 points. (42k pts from travel & dine / 3) and I haven’t even gotten into the bulk of my travel which will happen over the next 2 months as i’m traveling nearly every week. Her AF isn’t due until February so i’ll at least be waiting out hers to get the year 2 AF credit since it resets in January for her.
Any chance the 100k points offer will ever come back? churning cards and holding off on this one with the hope that eventually the offer will increase more than the current 50k.
I think that 100k is extremely unlikely, but an in-bank 70k or 80k offer seems possible if card sales slow down. I doubt we’d see that within the next 12 months though
Greg, well-written analysis on how you use your CSR. You failed to mention the travel insurance perks (cruise-airline, etc…) that come with CSR. No need to buy travel insurance from 3rd party vendors. The $300 travel rebate offsets the AF. Primary rental car insurance, travel portal, 3x dining/travel. The best bang for me is to use my CSR with Freedom, FU and Citi Premier (gas, travel, and entertainment and price rewind). As you explained perfectly, CSR may not be for everyone, but it is a fantastic card. I recently product changed my Citi Prestige and kept my CSR (better product).
You’re absolutely right. I should update the post with a section on the value of insurance perks
Maybe i’m the crazy one here but I’m keeping both my wife and my CSR active for year 2. We travel a ton for work and fun so we easily earn the travel credit leaving us a $150 AF each vs $95 on CSP which I was paying for her anyway. I’m happy to pay an extra $55 each to get 3x travel & dining and for her to retain her own priority pass. Additionally, given that there will be a lot of people cancelling this card I think it is worth the small extra price to me to keep a strong baking relationship with Chase on what is the best premium card on the market. I also keep an AmEx platinum around for the extra benefits, though I’ll be cancelling the Citi Prestige for year 2 (next month) as I see it as redundant and not as lucrative as the CSR, especially after all the downgrades to benefits. But I guess value is all relative.
Don’t AU’s get their own PP – and it would be cheaper then paying the full AF for 2 cards.
Thanks for the comment, I was under the impression that they do not. If you do get individual PP and the Global Entry credit for AU, then it would make sense to switch her to AU. My Annual Fee is due in October, which I will gladly pay as my earn YTD from just that 1 extra point per $ = 14,000 points. (42k pts from travel & dine / 3) and I haven’t even gotten into the bulk of my travel which will happen over the next 2 months as i’m traveling nearly every week. Her AF isn’t due until February so i’ll at least be waiting out hers to get the year 2 AF credit since it resets in January for her. (not sure why it posted this below, I was trying to reply)
If the other person in the household only need the CSR to pay for things you could get a replacement card from Chase and use that. Obviously, this can lead to trouble if somebody asks for an ID and likely violates Chase’s terms. But it’s not illegal… so YMMV.
Yes, that’s true. I actually have two cards since they originally sent me a plastic one, so I could give one to my wife. She travels internationally a lot, though, and I wouldn’t want her using a card without her name on it
1. You are out the $450 now but only get most of the value months (if not over a year) from now. There’s a loss there since $450 invested would typically earn around $40 in the first year and keep compounding after that
2. Keeping the card open reduces your overall credit potential with Chase, ie. reduces the opportunity of getting another card with a big signup bonus
3. I don’t think anyone can value the $300 travel credit at 100%. You are paying for it now for use later. There is inflation risk (yes very small), risk it’s not used (if you are incapacitated or worse) and the risk that they pull the benefit
1. As I explained to others, above, I travel often enough that the $300 travel credit is certain to be obtained right away. Obviously this would vary from person to person.
2. You can call and reduce your credit line if that’s a concern.
3. True, I hadn’t explicitly thought about those risks. For some they may add up to enough to be worth the effort. In my case, I truly believe that those risks are so tiny that it’s not worth the effort to account for them. I’m just trying to get a ballpark estimate of the value I get from the card and I absolutely do get $300 in travel credits, very early in the year, with no change in behavior. If that changes for me, then my valuation may change.
1. I also meant that you pay the $450 fee now but earn some of the points 12 months from now and then potentially only use them 1-2 years from now. There’s a cost to that, and significant devaluation risk
2. Yes but there are minimum credit limits for many of the cards (I believe 10k on the CSR). If you have dozens of cards, not just with Chase, you will run into issues with them extending you additional credit.
Just converted directly from the CSR to the Freedom Unlimited this morning. I will apply in the future for the CSR to earn the bonus, which I wasn’t able to get originally due to 5/24.
I find your benrfit valuations way too generous. There are opportunity costs for both the travel credit and the 3x travel/dining, the most obvious of which is that spend could be instead going toward a signup bonus. Valuing the $300 travel credit at face value is intellectually dishonest, nobody would pay $300 now for a promise to pay $300 of certain limited expenses later. At least discount it by 5% or so.
I don’t have to decide until January on mine, but keeping alive my ability to transfer 5x Freedom miles to airlines will be probably the biggest reason to keep. Sadly and a bit surprisingly it doesn’t seem like there will be any retention offers to make my decision easier.
That’s interesting. I felt like I was being overly conservative with my valuations, if anything.
With the $300 travel credit: I do not have to alter my behavior in any way in order to earn these automatically and quickly (I travel enough that I am sure to earn them as soon as the new year kicks in).
I almost always use ms techniques to meet minimum spend so that I don’t have to change the cards I carry in my wallet day to day. Sapphire Reserve is my go-to card for all dining and travel. Period.
Anyway, I think I was clear that each person should derive their own valuations.
You don’t use Amex Plat for 5x for flights?
Firstly, there is a cost to MS, both in time, fees, and risk of pissing off banks, so that is not a 1:1 tradeoff with meeting MSR organically (forgoing the 3x travel/dining on CSR).
Secondly, it’s also possible that you are indeed changing your spending behavior. As banks know, most ppl will change their behavior when they know they will get 3x. Are you sure you are not dining out more and paying cash for more travel expenses because you are getting 3x? Still, with the 3x at best you are getting 1x more than the next best no-AF alternative, and sometimes not even that (Chase Freedom).
As far as the $300 travel credit goes, I’ve commented enough about that, but anyone working in finance would say that some discount of face value would be appropriate, even if just a few percent (but this could still be enough to shift decisions).
Anyway, yes, you are right, each person should derive their own valuations, but people should also be honest with themselves about the real value a card brings. I agree with 90% of what you write, and I love your blog, but I just think these two aspects of your analysis are a little misleading. I appreciate that you respond and engage those who disagree with you though!
You value it at a full $300 even though you can buy discounted GC’s for a majority of what it covers?
Yes because I don’t buy discounted gift cards for all travel expenses (I don’t even think it is possible to do so). Even when paying with points for a hotel, I often charge meals or other things to the room. Those expenses then are paid by the Sapphire Reserve (assuming I don’t have gift cards). Many things count towards the travel credits: train tickets, Lyft, etc. I literally do not have to change my behavior in any way in order to get the $300 reimbursement.
I would have to disagree solely because it is auto applied there is a very good chance you will use it somewhere you could have gotten a 10-20% discount. I personally value things at their cash value so I would say it is worth 80% (what you could get selling airline gift cards)…but for most people they probably retain 90%. That is my thinking at least but everyone has their own way of looking at things!
Before saying the rest of this, I’ll say this: I respect your opinion, and I am certainly not vested in convincing you to keep or cancel your CSR. Different strokes for different folks and if you prefer to value one benefit greater or less than someone else, that’s certainly your prerogative. But I imagine you came here for the discussion, so I’ll disagree with your perspective for discussion’s sake.
You disagree with valuing the travel credit at $300 (full face value) because “there is a very good chance you will use it somewhere you could have gotten a 10-20% discount.”
However, I would say that if you use it somewhere you could have gotten a 10-20% discount by purchasing a gift card in advance, the only reason you are using your credit card is because you didn’t buy a gift card in advance. There are a lot of reasons why you may not have — but all of those aside for a second, I’d say this: If you didn’t buy a gift card, it doesn’t matter whether you use the CSR or a Prestige or your Walmart Mastercard, you’re not getting the discount. You’re going to spend 100% of the cost on that purchase. By using the CSR, you’re getting it rebated. Failure to plan ahead and buy a gift card doesn’t devalue the benefit, it just means you didn’t plan well.
That said, I’m in the same boat with Greg as to having a lot of reasons why I’d value the $300 credit at $300 and why the gift card argument doesn’t persuade me otherwise. A few reasons:
1) I don’t buy discounted gift cards for everything. For example, I don’t stock up on both Uber and Lyft gift cards waiting to use them because I don’t live in a city with either of those services, so I exclusively use them when I travel. While I certainly do use Uber and Lyft, I’m not going to stockpile extra credit there. I’m going to spend $10 on my ride whether via the CSR or some other card. I don’t want to be sitting with $100 in Uber credit for months that can only be used on Uber. I’d rather have it in the CSR where it can apply to a variety of expenses and just the amount I want for Uber goes to Uber. And it’s not only Uber/Lyft that I feel this way about — those are just the example. I’m staying at a Radisson Blu next month (on points). I *might* be hungry when I arrive and order room service. I’m not even sure if it’s possible to buy Club Carlson gift cards, but I’m not going to buy one under speculation that I might order room service and try to guess at the amount — would I need $20 worth? $30? $70?. I’d be much more likely to just charge it to the room and use the CSR at checkout. This same logic applies to a number of situations. Furthermore, if I were to buy the gift card in advance, it would make me *more* likely to order room service even if I’m not sure I want it. Having the gift card is more likely to change my behavior than having the CSR.
2) Sometimes, there is an airfare sale where you couldn’t have bought a discounted gift card — and I personally almost never use airline gift cards to pay for flights (Southwest is an exception for me). I’m not going to stock gift cards in every airline in case a great airfare sale comes up. And I’m not going to spend the time buying an e-Gift card and hoping that fare sticks around long enough for me to find one, purchase it, and get it delivered. Sometimes, you have to be prepared to pull the trigger. Again, I’d be using the CSR in those spots.
3) There are a TON of travel expenses for which there are no discounted gift cards to be purchased. For example, Greg goes to Europe a lot. You can’t buy train ticket gift cards as far as I know. I have an EZ-Pass for tolls. I don’t know of any EZ-Pass gift cards. I stayed at a couple of Protea Hotels in South Africa earlier this year (I wrote about a couple of them here at FM). I actually brought discounted Marriott gift cards I had bought — but despite them being Marriott-affiliated, they don’t accept Marriott gift cards. We did use some of our CSR credit on Protea hotels as that travel was in January — using up most of the credit right away in the first month of the year. If you’re tempted to say that I could have bought discounted Visa or Mastercard gift cards to cover those expenses, remember that those do not always work outside of the US (I’m fairly sure none of them do, but I haven’t tried in a few years).
4) Gift cards can’t be used to pay the taxes & fees on award tickets in my experience. The CSR is a great card to use to pay those taxes to get trip delay protection. The delay protection isn’t quite as good as the Prestige, but it’s still excellent. I definitely pay more than $300 a year in award ticket taxes/fees. I know that with AA, I was told in the past that I can’t use a gift card to pay for taxes (I had purchased a discounted one intending to use it for that purpose). I don’t know of discounted Singapore gift cards, and I used a number of their miles this year as well.
And those are just a couple of thoughts off the top of my head. The final risk of over-buying gift cards is having tiny balances to keep track of. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all about a discounted gift card — but I’m more likely to buy a $100 GC to use it towards a $125 stay than I am to buy a $200 GC and sit around with the $75 balance forever (and we all know from past experience that there is risk in that balance being hacked). I’m likely to have some charges that go on a CC — and for me (and Greg it seems), those charges add up to well over $300 a year.
It’s worth noting that I don’t charge something to the CSR just to get the travel credit — I obviously do first consider how I can get the best deal (as does Greg and I imagine most readers here). I don’t disagree with your thought that using it blindly on anything travel-related without considering a way to get a discount first would be poorly advised. But I put $300 a year on the card where that $300 would go on one of my cards. It’s getting spent one way or another…..and similar to what Greg said, it’s getting spent pretty early in the year for me.
But, again, to each his own. You can certainly value it less than $300 if you want, but I don’t use it in a way that I could have used $270 and gotten the same result. I don’t think it’s hard to use it in a way that you get the full value out of it — at least not if you travel often (or even redeem miles & pay taxes for friends and family).
Good points Nick – yup I love the conversation! Thank you for the well thought out reply.
The simple fact is that if the $300 travel credit was a standalone product, nobody in their right mind would pay $300 for it. What price would you pay me if I offered to refund you up to $300 in travel expenses starting 4 months from now? Even if I was a reliable bank, at best that would be worth 90% of face value, given the time value of money, the risk involved of not using it, etc. You may be able to get full value, but that means at best you are giving Chase a 4+month interest free loan.
Mark O didn’t suggest valuing the $300 travel credit at $200, he said a 10-20% discount, which would be $240-$270. I would say at least a 5% discount given your spending patterns would be fair, valuing it at $285. The point is that valuing it at $300 is just flat out incorrect.
WR: That’s absolutely true that no one would buy a standalone rebate at face value but I don’t think that’s a good comparison. Here’s another: Suppose you buy a new camera for $450 with a $300 automatic cash rebate. How much would you say was your final price for the camera? I’d say $150. Therefore I valued the rebate at $300. I realize that the travel credit isn’t exactly the same as an automatic cash rebate but with my spend patterns it’s virtually the same
For me it makes sense to cancel CSR as I have Ink plus for UR transfer. This also gives me a chance to apply for CSP with bonus. Anything I am missing here?
Dropping from 1.5 to 1.25 using the portal is the big loss. But if you never use the portal then no. 1.5 is very useful in some situations (cheap hotel rooms, domestic flights, inexpensive fares to europe etc.) and will cost you less points then a lot of transfers would.
Car rental! Pricing seems to be very competitive on the UR portal.
Did you actually spend $8000+ dining out or was that some sort of Restaurant-based MS I am unaware of?
Read the second post, and it all makes sense.
Yeah, looks like I did. I do eat out a lot!
Wow – something else I just noticed is that Chase retroactively applied 5% cash back to all restaurant charges from when the card was a Reserve for the 3rd quarter (since restaurants is a 5% cash back category this quarter). So for example, a $10 restaurant charge in July earned a total of 70 points – 30 from regular 3x on Reserve + 40 additional for the 5% rotating cat. Thank you Chase!
Whoa! For real?
Still unclear about the timing of travel credit for those whose AF is due soon (I know they changed it up). If we have already used calendar year travel credits for 2016 & 2017 and pay AF now, does that mean another credit is available after Jan 1, 2018? Or do we have to wait until after paying 3rd AF? Will make a big difference in decision making.
Same question here. When Chase updated their travel credit to be membership year rather than calendar year, did everyone grandfather into it or was it only the new applicants from that forward? If my AF was posted Nov 1 (card approved mid Oct), can I pay the AF, stretch it to Jan 1st, 2018, hit the travel credit, and then downgrade the card and ask for a prorated refund?
If you applied before the rules changed (May 21, 2017), you keep the calendar year cycle.
I hear now that the prorated AF refund is only for less than 30 days. In this case, I’m guessing 11/1 is too deep in 2017 to really try to hit the 2018 travel credit…
I understand that’s true with cancelling, but I’m not at all sure that’s true when you product change. If you know otherwise, please point me towards that info. It is key for that situation!
Chase let us downgrade directly to the Freedom. They also returned a prorated portion of the first year’s fee – wasn’t expecting this.
Cool. Which state do you live in? I believe that some states have specific rules that banks have to follow for reimbursing fees.
I would like to use my (second) $300 travel bonus before my (second) annual fee kicks in and then cancel… My wife and I got our cards in January 2017..
I,can do this correct ??
I believe they adjusted it to your card member year (vs calendar year) but I am not sure when that kicked in for sign ups.
Yes, since you signed up before May 21 2017, your 2017 travel credits are based on all statements that close in 2017. If you spend $300 after your December statement closes, you’ll get your 2018 credits before you have to product change