There are plenty of perfectly good credit cards on the market that charge no annual fees. And the average card's annual fee was a mere $15.75 at the end of last year, according to WalletHub.
So at first blush, the notion of doling out $450 every year just for the right to carry a piece of plastic in your wallet may seem ridiculous.
Yet when the Chase Sapphire Reserve card made its debut in 2016, it quickly got a reputation as one of the best credit cards for rewards.
It was so popular, in fact, that Chase literally ran out of cards. And demand was so high that last year, CEO Jamie Dimon said the card’s initial eye-popping signup bonus — which back then was worth $1,000, or $1,500 if the points bucket was cashed in via Chase’s travel portal — cost the bank $200 million.
Chase has since has scaled back the value of that bonus points bucket to a still-generous $750, but there are other compelling reasons why the Chase Sapphire Reserve is Money’s best rewards credit card this year.
The Case for Chase Sapphire Reserve
The rich signup bonus — a bucket of 50,000 points worth $500 straight-up or $750 if cashed in toward travel via Chase’s Ultimate Rewards portal — makes Chase Sapphire Reserve worth considering even with that dizzying $450 annual fee.
But to be eligible for those points, you have to spend $4,000 in the first three months after signing up for the card. So maybe consider this card if you’re planning ahead for a big-ticket purchase.
As always, you need to do the math to make sure your spending habits align with the card’s offerings. Otherwise, the rewards — no matter how enticing — won't be worthwhile to you.
If you’re more of a homebody, for instance, you might be better off with a straight cashback rewards card. (For cash back cards, Money likes Citi Double Cash, which gives you 1 point per dollar on purchases, then a second point when you pay off your bill. There are no category restrictions or caps on the amount of rewards you can earn, and Citi Double Cash charges no annual fees.)
If you’re a world traveler, though, the credit card rewards offered by Chase Sapphire Reserve could well be worth the big bucks. Not only do cardholders get 3 points per dollar spent on travel and dining (versus 1 point on other purchases), but the card offers a $300 annual credit for travel charged to the card.
You also get complimentary membership in the Priority Pass network which gives you access to more than 1,000 airport lounges worldwide (normally $99 a year) and a credit of up to $100 if you apply for either Global Entry or TSA Precheck. Plus you won't be charged foreign transaction fees when using the card abroad.
If you decide this card is worth the steep annual fee, a word of advice: Make sure you conduct an annual “check up” where you tally up the value of the rewards you’ve used and make sure the card is still earning its keep.
According to one recent survey, almost a third of cardholders never redeem their rewards.
The Key Stats:
Annual Fee: $450
APR: 17.74%-24.74% variable
* 50,000-point sign-up bonus if you spend $4,000 in the first three months. That's worth $500 in cash or $750 if used via the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal.
* Up to $300 Annual Travel Credit reimbursed on your card anniversary
* Up to $100 credit towards either TSA Precheck or Global Entry
* Access to 1,000-plus airport lounges worldwide
* 3 points for every $1 spent on travel and dining out
* 1 point for every $1 spent on everything else
Opinions expressed here are the author's alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.