The Sapphire Reserve Couple Conundrum


Don’t tell my wife, but I’m kinda in love with the Chase Sapphire Reserve.  Yes it comes with a hefty $550 annual fee, but for anyone who spends a decent amount of money each year on travel, the card’s annual $300 travel credit effectively brings the annual fee down to $250.  That’s tolerable considering that the card offers 3X points for travel & dining, 1.5 cents per point travel value, Priority Pass Select lounge membership (with unlimited guests), Global Entry fee reimbursement, etc.

Sapphire Reserve Couple

The Sapphire Reserve card earns Ultimate Rewards points.  Ultimate Rewards has long been my favorite transferable points currency.  Compared to its rivals, in my opinion, Ultimate Rewards has the best options for point transfers, purchasing travel with points, and cashing in points for those who prefer money over travel.

Ultimate Rewards also has the best options for point earnings, such as:

  • Sapphire Reserve: 3 points per dollar for travel and dining.
  • Ink Plus or Ink Cash: 5 points per dollar for cell phone service, cable TV, internet, and office supply purchases.
  • Freedom: 5 points per dollar in rotating categories each quarter.  5X earnings are limited to $1500 spend per quarter, so it is often advantageous to get more than 1 Freedom card.  This is usually accomplished by downgrading a Sapphire Preferred card to the Freedom card.
  • Freedom Unlimited: Earn 1.5 points per dollar for all spend.

Until the Sapphire Reserve card came along, Ultimate Rewards was not the best program for earning points for travel (that honor went to the Citi Premier card which offers 3X for travel and gas purchases).  And, it was not the best program for redeeming points for travel.  Yes, both the Sapphire Preferred and Ink Plus cards offered 1.25 cents per point value for travel, but the Citi Prestige card offered 1.6 cents per point value when redeeming Thank You points for American Airlines flights, and 1.33 cents per point value for all other flights.

Now, the Citi Prestige card will soon lose its enhanced redemption value (details here).  And, so, with the introduction of the Sapphire Reserve card, Chase now has the best all around combination thanks to the Reserve card’s 3X travel and dining bonuses and 1.5 cents per point value for travel.

Well worth the price for 1 frequent traveler

Given that the Sapphire Reserve card is well worth getting for its signup bonus, is it also worth keeping past the first year?  The $550 annual fee is daunting, but for those who travel frequently, the card’s automatic $300 per year travel credits bring the card’s effective annual fee down to just $250.  But, $250 isn’t cheap either.  Is it worth it?

Depending upon where you live and where you regularly travel, you may find the airport lounge benefit valuable or you may find it useless.  So, for now, let’s ignore that one.  Instead, let’s concentrate on just two benefits: 3X points for travel & dining, and 1.5 cents per point travel value.

3X points for travel & dining

If we compare the Reserve card to the $95 Sapphire Preferred card which earns 2X for travel & dining, then we can see that this card earns 1X extra for all of these purchases.  If we assume an average of $500 per month spent on travel & dining, the Sapphire Reserve card would result in an extra 6000 points earned per year compared to the same spend on the Sapphire Preferred.  Since those 6,000 points are worth $60 in cash or $90 in travel, the $55 per year difference in annual fees between the two cards is more than justified.

1.5 cents per point travel value

The Chase Sapphire Reserve and the Chase Sapphire Preferred get the same value for points when points are transferred 1 to 1 to airline or hotel programs.  The difference is when points are used to pay for travel through the Ultimate Rewards travel portal.  In that case, the Sapphire Reserve gets an extra .25 cents per point value.  If you redeem points for $600 in travel, the Sapphire Reserve would charge 40,000 points whereas the Sapphire Preferred would charge 48,000 points.  The 8,000 point difference between the two cards is worth $80 in cash or $120 in travel.  Again, the extra $55 annual fee for the Reserve card over the Sapphire Preferred is easily justified.

Points from other Ultimate Rewards cards become more valuable

Since Chase allows individuals to move points from one of their Chase Ultimate Rewards cards to another, simply having this card makes your existing points more valuable when used to pay for travel.

The couple conundrum

Now that you’ve convinced yourself that the Reserve card is a keeper, for you, what about your spouse?  Should you pay $75 per year to add your spouse as an authorized user?  Remember that the $95 Sapphire Preferred card allows free authorized users.  For an individual frequent traveler, the difference in effective annual fees between the Reserve and Preferred cards is only $55 ($150 vs. $95).  But the difference in effective annual fees for a couple is $55 + $75 = $130.  Is it worth it?

In the single person analysis above, I justified the value in the card both via its enhanced point earning power and its enhanced per-point value.  With a spouse, though, you can get the enhanced per-point value without adding them as an authorized user. This is because they can earn Ultimate Rewards points with other cards (including cards with no annual fees) and can then transfer those points to your Sapphire Reserve account.  For details about moving points from one account to another, please see: Chase point transfer rules made simple [Infographic].

So, the question of whether it is worth adding a spouse, depends only upon the value of the card’s ongoing benefits for your spouse (e.g. lounge access), and the card’s enhanced point earning power…

Does your spouse travel without you?

If your spouse regularly travels without you, then the authorized user card is probably worth paying for. This will give your spouse their own Priority Pass Select airport lounge membership and will let them earn 3X on travel and dining.  The Priority Pass membership alone can be easily worth the extra $75 per year if your spouse takes advantage of airport lounges a few times each year.  Keep in mind, though, that many airports do not have lounges that accept Priority Pass.  And, those that do are sometimes limited to specific terminals that you might not have easy access to.  For example, you may find a Priority Pass lounge exists in an international terminal which might be out of the way or inaccessible when flying domestic.  You can find eligible lounges here:

Even if your spouse doesn’t value the lounge benefit, the ability to earn 3X for travel and dining may be worth paying for. Compared to earning 2X, if your spouse spends at least $5,000 per year (about $420 per month) on travel and dining, then the extra rewards earned with the Sapphire Reserve are worth the $75 authorized user fee.

Does your spouse dine without you?

Even if your spouse rarely travels without you, the authorized user card might be worth getting if your spouse eats out a lot.  You can justify the extra $75 annual fee vs. a card that earns 2X for dining if your spouse spends at least $5,000 per year (about $420 per month) at restaurants, fast food, coffee shops, etc.

Ultimate Rewards no-fee category bonus options

If you can’t justify paying the authorized user fee for your spouse, they can still do well with these no-fee options:

  • Freedom: 5 points per dollar in rotating categories each quarter. Common 5X categories such as gas, dining, grocery stores, and wholesale club stores make this a great option.
  • Freedom Unlimited: 1.5 points per dollar for all spend. You can’t get easier than that.
  • Sapphire: 2 points per dollar for dining. This card is no longer available for new signups but you should be able to product change from the Sapphire Preferred, Sapphire Reserve, Freedom, or Freedom Unlimited.
  • Ink Cash: 5 points per dollar for cell phone service, cable TV, internet, and office supply purchases.  Also earn 2 points per dollar for gas and dining.

Regardless of whether your spouse earns points in their own account or as an authorized user in one of your accounts, points can be moved from the no fee card account to your Sapphire Reserve account in order to make them more valuable.  For full details please see: Chase point transfer rules made simple [Infographic].

The punt-now strategy (AKA wait a year, and then figure it out)

I’m still not sure exactly what I’ll do.  My wife does travel a lot without me, but rarely needs access to Priority Pass lounges when she does.  And, she already has Priority Pass Select membership from our Crystal Visa Infinite account where she has a no-fee authorized user card.

She probably does pay for enough travel and dining to justify the Reserve authorized user fee, but again we have other cards that have nearly as good dining and travel earnings, including that Crystal Visa Infinite card which is worth keeping for its airline fee credits alone.

So, it probably doesn’t make sense for my wife to get an Authorized User Reserve card, unless we consider the value of simplicity: by concentrating most spend related point earnings on Chase Ultimate Rewards, it keeps our rewards-life a bit simpler.

My solution is to punt.  We’ll wait a year and then decide.

Both of us signed up for the Sapphire Reserve in order to get in on the 100,000 point signup bonus.  The card has been so popular that it seems unlikely that Chase will keep the 100K bonus indefinitely.  I decided that both of us should hop on it while it was available.  So, for one year, we’ll each use our own Sapphire Reserve cards in order to get the 100,000 point bonus and to earn 3X travel and dining.

When the annual fees comes due in a year, we’ll downgrade one of our cards to a Freedom card to expand our ability to earn 5X in rotating categories.  And then we’ll decide whether or not paying the Authorized User fee is worthwhile.

Have you decided what to do?

If you’re in a similar situation, have you decided whether or not to add an authorized user card?  I’m interested in your thoughts about it.  What are you going to do?

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We have a Chase Sapphire card and recently booked a tour through AAA Travel (Carolinas) but the points showed up on our monthly bill as only 1-point per dollar. Chase claims that the tour booking does not qualify for the double points for “all travel charges to the card”. When I contacted them they agreed that it was definitely “Travel” and after a 10-day wait, they awarded us with some added points-BUT NOT THE DOUBLE POINTS! Their message with the award made it sound like they were doing us a great favor. How do I get the double points?


Thank you for the thoughtful article on this. However, i am not following your math/logic on the spouse needing to spend at least $5,000 on restaurants/travel for it to make sense to be an AU on a CSR card.

At $75 to add the AU to the CSR, he/she needs to spend $2,500 to cover the fee.

At $95 to have a separate CSP and 2 points/$ spent, he/she needs to spend $4,750 JUST to cover the fee…making it so you will never catch up to the CSR + AU.

Finally, if they could find a card that has a $0 fee and 2 points/$ spent, it wouldn’t be till $7,500 spent that the CSR+AU makes sense.

Help me understand your math/logic for the $5,000 threshold as my wife and I are discussing our options right now.



My husband added me as an authorized user to his CSR, but I want to drop it and apply for the AMEX platinum. Can we get a refund of the $75 fee if it has been less than a month since he opened the card?


I’m actually going back to AMEX. For couples, Chase does not allow you to be able to split up who paid for what. My fiance and I are racking our brains each month and finally got fed up with it. I don;t know why they don;t allow this, but AMEX does and thats why we are going back.


I had the CSP card and then downgraded to the Freedom Unlimited. If I got the CSP over 2 years ago. Can I apply for the CSP now with the 60k bonus + 5k for AU and start the game again? She has the CSR which is why I think I should go this route. Thoughts?

Nick Reyes

The date that matters is when you got the signup bonus. You are eligible if you have not received a signup bonus on a Sapphire card in the past 24 months. You get the signup bonus when your statement cuts after meeting the minimum spend — so go back to your statements and see the date on the statement when you were awarded the signup bonus. If it’s been more than 24 months since then, and you don’t currently have an open Sapphire card, you’re good to go.


Great, thanks for the insight!


Hi – my husband and I are thinking about opening a new card (or cards) to get rewards, but don’t have a ton of experience doing this so I’d love your advice! The CSR seems like a good option for us as we spend a good amount on travel and dining (me more so for work and I can use a personal card to book all of it), and I think we’d spend enough each month to make it worth it. However, my main concern is that if we each open the card for the sign-up bonuses (plus others like global entry paid for, etc.), I’m not sure we’d each be able to spend enough to make this work. Even if we could pool points, we’d have to individually spend the minimums to get the rewards right? If we went the route of having one person open the CSR and one open the CSP, would you recommend doing that at the same time or stagger it? Since it’s $75/year to add an AU on the CSR I’m just not sure how to make it work to pool our spending to make it all worth it. Any advice would be appreciated!


DH’s CSR was closed in Oct ’17. I added him as AU on my CSR for two main reasons: Priority Pass, and transferability of points to his airline/hotel loyalty programs. I haven’t been charged $75 yet – that is supposed to post with my anniversary renewal fee in Feb. He no longer has a Chase card that can transfer to his loyalty programs (his CSP got downgraded to an Unlimited).

I also have a CSP with DD as the AU. I went to transfer UR points into her SW RR account this week, but
my CSP UR account didn’t allow me to transfer to her, she simply didn’t show up on the “Select Recipient” drop down menu online for transferring points. I wondered if it was because she is my companion on my SW CP (turns out this has nothing to do with it). I have spent hours (mostly on hold) talking with both Southwest and Chase, and finally spoke with a Chase Account Supervisor who explained to me that my UR points are considered one “pool” and that I could only have ONE AU assigned to the pool. That said, she saw that I have credit cards with different AUs on each account, and she is escalating it to the Marketing Dept to enable me to transfer points to DD. (Even though DD is my CP designee, she might travel without me to summer camp and I only need 6KUR to top off her account for a flight vs 20KRR paid out of my SW RR.)

I’m trying to decide if I should remove DH as AU on my CSR before the fee hits. I already have a physical Priority Pass card for him, and a physical CSR card with his name on it that he can continue to use (I’ve experimented with my [removed as AU] AU Marriott card, and know this works). Do you know if you can add an AU back onto a card if you’ve removed them as AU in the past?

What did you end up doing with your Couple Conundrum?


I’m brand new to all of this. Just so I’m clear, if my husband and I each apply and get our own CSR, we can pool our points together for one big trip? Thanks.

Greg Dias

Hello Greg,
Thank you very nuch for this information.
I can see having the Reserve is worth it, the extra $75 for my wife is not a problem.
I do have a special sort of situation here, any opiniions valued…

We spend a lot of time out of the country in our vacation home.
We are both over 65 and in good health. We do not have other heatlh insurance besides Medicare and it is only valid in the States.
The cost to have health insurance at our age in the vacation country is about $200 per month each.
We have always said if we’re sick get to the airport and skip any doctors / hospitals here,
even though we have some good ones here.

So… “I am thinking” that while I am out of the country I am traveling right?

The Reserve card travel coverage seems like a close back up plan.
Also just one month of say World Nomad etc travel coverage is about $150 per person.

Final note / question: Our next trip, from the vacation central home, is to India, I already paid for the tickets with the Preferred Card. I talked to Chase and it seems that once I have the Reserve card activated and in hand that the travel coverage would kick in….

Thank You…. Greg D


Good idea, thx – I didn’t even know about the 5% stuff. Soon I will have hit for the circuit with Chase cards!


My wife has a CSR and I am an AU. I didn’t qualify when we got it due to 5/24. But I think I would qualify now, and her fee is coming up. Should I try to get a card in my name and cancel hers to get 50,000 points? We also have a jointly-owned (due to being grandfathered in) Freedom Unlimited and use that to move points around. Thanks!


i want to apply for a global pass under my husbands CSR how much dors it cost and how can i go about it.

John Taylor

I signed myself up for the CSR when the 100k signup bonus was available and made my wife an AU. This was before i truly understood how you could combine UR points between spouses. I am trying to see if I could sign her up for the CSR or CSP to get another sign up bonus and then in a year downgrade her to the Freedom unlimited. Is this possible with her already being a AU on my CSR?


Should not be a problem. I am AU on my husband’s ink card and also have my own.


This is great information – I wish I had read it a few months ago! I’m new to point cards, but have recently caught the bug! I signed up and got the 100k bonus for the CSR, but added my wife as an AU at the time. Now, wish I had signed her up separately while 100k bonus was available. And I recently also signed up for the Freedom card, with her as AU there as well. Didn’t realize you can downgrade after signing up for other cards with high bonuses. Wondering what should be my next move. Ultimately, I think having CSR to get the 1.5 for URs is beneficial and the Freedom and Unlimited also seem like terrific complements. Does it make sense to sign up for the business preferred Ink to get the 80k bonus, and then downgrade to the Unlimited when renewal comes around? Can that downgrade be done (business to personal)? Or maybe sign up for preferred (both of us separately?), get the 50k bonus and then downgrade to Unlimited? Or some other combination?

Nick Reyes

1) Yes, it absolutely makes sense to sign up for the Ink Business Preferred for 80K. (Note that there is also a 100K offer on this card for those who have a connection with a Business Relationship Manager at a branch. That probably requires an existing relationship and a fair amount of business banking with Chase already. If you don’t qualify for that, 80K is still a very good offer).

2) No, you can’t product change from a business card to a personal card (or vice versa). However, I believe you can downgrade from the Ink Business Preferred to the Ink Cash (which is a better card IMO, with no annual fee and 5X on up to $25,000 a year at office supply, telecom, and Internet services).

3) Careful with your timing. First, I assume you’re familiar with 5/24 — if you have opened 5 or more new accounts in the past 24 months (including those where you are an authorized user), Chase will likely deny your application for any card that earns Ultimate Rewards. Second, I’ve read a number of reports recently about Chase denying anyone who has applied for more than 1 Chase card in the past 30 days.

Another thing to consider: Chase allows points transfers between spouses — your wife can also open a card in her name and combine her points with yours.


Nick – thanks for the advice above! I was able to get the Ink Business Preferred with 100k. So now, wanted to see what you thought next move should be. I have the following: CRS (wife is authorized), Freedom (wife is authorized) and IBP (wife is not authorized). Is it worth dropping my wife as authorized on one of these and having her get a card separately? Do I next go for the Freedom Unlimited for everyday spend – not bonus eligible (under Freedom, etc.)? Also, it does seem that the Ink Cash is better than the Ink Business Preferred (5x vs. 3x). If I were to downgrade, should I do so now or wait just before next annual fee charge (assuming next May)?