Separately 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 not to keep your card, I recommend downgrading to a no fee card rather than cancelling (see the previously mentioned post for details). I also recommend making sure to get $300 in travel credits a second time. Details for doing so follow.
The Chase Sapphire Reserve card offers annual travel reimbursements up to $300. The great thing about this is that the credits are automatic. Simply charge any travel expenses to the card and Chase will automatically apply statement credits until you’ve earned $300.
Chase’s definition of “annual”, though, has changed since the card’s introduction. When the Sapphire Reserve card first hit the market, “annual” was defined as all statements that closed within a calendar year. For example, even though your January statement would include charges from late December, those charges counted towards the new calendar year. Here’s how Chase describes the rule:
Annual means the year beginning with your account open date through the first December statement date of that same year, and the 12 billing cycles starting after your December statement date through the following December statement date each year.
For many, this rule made it very easy to get two $300 travel credits in the first 12 months of card membership: one in the first calendar year of membership (up to your December statement date), and the second in the next calendar year.
For those who signed up for the card on or after May 21 2017, Chase has a new definition of “annual”. The travel credits are now tied to your membership year rather than the calendar year:
Annual means the year beginning with your account open date through the first statement date after your account open date anniversary, and the 12 monthly billing cycles after that each year.
For those who signed up under these new rules, it might still be possible to get the travel credit twice with just one annual fee. You could first get the $300 travel credit during the first 12 months. Then, in month #13, you could immediately use your next $300 travel credit and then cancel or product change your card. If you cancel or product change within 30 days of being charged the annual fee, you should be able to get that fee waived.
Who should do what?
As I wrote yesterday, I’m going to keep my card so this discussion isn’t relevant to my account. For my wife, though, we do want to downgrade her to a no-fee card. If you’re in that boat, the best play depends upon when you signed up for the card initially…
If you signed up before mid November 2016:
Hopefully you’ve already received your 2016 and 2017 travel credits. If you haven’t received your 2017 travel credits yet, make sure to do so before you cancel or downgrade.
Also consider going for a 3rd travel credit: It may be possible to pay the second annual fee when it comes due in 2017, obtain the 2018 $300 travel credits very early in 2018, and get reimbursed a prorated amount of the annual fee if you then downgrade to a no-fee card (this won’t work if cancelling the card). I can’t find hard data proving that you will get a prorated refund, but at least one reader has reported that Chase gave him a prorated refund when he switched to the no-fee Freedom card. So, let’s say you pay the
$450 (increased to $550 as of January 2020) annual fee, get the 2018 $300 in travel credits and then also get a 2/3rd prorated refund of the annual fee ($300). That will give you $600 in value for $550, not to mention the card’s standard benefits. I’m pretty sure that this is what we’ll do with my wife’s account unless we learn that the prorated refunds are limited to residents of Massachusetts (see this comment for an explanation).
If you signed up between mid November and late December 2016:
In this case, you probably didn’t get a 2016 travel credit, but hopefully you have received your 2017 travel credit by now. The key is to make sure to spend $300 in travel immediately after your December statement closes. This way you’ll get your 2018 travel credit in time to cancel or downgrade your card to avoid the next annual fee. Once Chase posts your annual fee, you have 30 days to cancel or product change for a full refund.
If you signed up between January 2017 and May 20th 2017:
For this group, obtaining the second $300 travel credit should be easy. Make sure to spend at least $300 on travel this year, before the December statement closes, in order to get the 2017 travel credit. Then spend $300 on travel after your December statement closes in order to get your 2018 travel credit. You can wait until you receive the 2018 annual fee to product change or cancel (you have 30 days from that date to do so).
If you signed up May 21 2017 or later (new rules):
It should be possible to get the travel credit twice with just one annual fee. Make sure to get the $300 travel credit during your first 12 months of card membership. Then, in month #13, immediately use your next $300 travel credit and then cancel or product change your card. If you cancel or product change within 30 days of being charged the annual fee, you should be able to get the entire fee waived (or returned, if you already paid it).