Here's a guide to help you get the maximum Chase Sapphire Reserve value if you're one of the many new people to get this card.
Chase Credit Cards Miles and Points

Chase Sapphire Reserve for Dummies

I came up with a brilliant idea the other day. Write about a credit card almost half a year after everyone stopped hyping it! People will love it! Joking aside, a friend of mine, who will remain unnamed to protect her innocence, apparently did not know the Chase Sapphire Reserve offered a Global Entry credit. So she stood in line for forty five minutes watching her parents breeze through TSA Precheck. A lot of people who signed up for the Chase Sapphire Reserve have dipped their toes into the miles and points game for the first time with this good card for beginners.

If you’re one of those beginners (aka one of my tens of real life Facebook friends), here’s how to get the most Chase Sapphire Reserve value. If you’re one of the many experienced hobbyists who reads this blog, feel free to tell me why my advice is terrible!

Consider this a rough guideline of benefits you should take advantage in the first year of card membership. I’ve semi-ranked these benefits in order of importance, though of course I’m subjective and you need to adjust to your own life situations. Also, I’m assuming this may be your first foray into the miles and points world. Remember, the card carries a $450 annual fee that gets charged within the first month or two of card membership, so your goal should be to make that fee “worth it”. Hope this helps you to do that!

Meet the minimum spending towards the sign up bonus

When the Chase Sapphire Reserve first hit, everyone frothed at the mouth at the huge sign up bonus. While the bonus decreased to 50,000 points after $4,000 in spending, the card still presents a lot of value for beginners. So make it a priority to focus on spending that $4,000 in three months. Hopefully someone has told you to make sure you pay your balance off in full. If you’re getting charged interest you’re basically negating all the value you would get!

I’m not going to tell you how to spend $4,000, but you probably had a plan going in. When I first started out I usually signed up for a new card when I knew I might have a big purchase coming up (insurance payment, vacation, etc.). That’s a good way to bang out a chunk of the minimum spend. Anyway, make sure you have a plan for this first that doesn’t require you buying a bunch of crap you don’t need!

Use your $300 travel credit

I’m assuming you got this card to make traveling a little cheaper. So make sure you use the card to pay for travel expenses. The first $300 will be reimbursed. Chase applies the travel category pretty liberally, meaning you can get this credit for plane tickets, trains, hotels, even taxis and subways in some cases. You don’t have to worry about the credit, it gets automatically applied, usually within a couple of days. 

To check how much of the credit you’ve used, navigate to the Ultimate Rewards page of your online account at Here you can check your balance information and how much of the travel credit you’ve received.

Here's a guide to help you get the maximum Chase Sapphire Reserve value if you're one of the many new people to get this card.
31 points only? Gotta work harder

Use the card overseas (no foreign transaction fee)

If you travel overseas, make sure you use the Reserve to pay for stuff. It doesn’t charge a foreign transaction fee which means you don’t get charged extra. Just make sure to pay in the local currency otherwise you’ll get charged a mostly hidden fee. Part of your annual fee goes into eliminating the foreign transaction fee. Take advantage of it!

Sign up for Global Entry and get TSA Precheck

Global Entry enables you to get through customs quickly, and the Chase Sapphire Reserve offers a $100 credit for the application fee. But a lot of people plan to stay domestically for the travel. They then assume that Global Entry has no use to them but don’t realize that it also qualifies you for TSA Precheck. Or some people think going into the airport for an interview presents too much of a hassle.

So let’s ask a question, an honest one. What will be more of a hassle for you in the next 5 years? (That’s how long Global Entry lasts). Going to the airport for the interview, or taking out your laptop and taking off your shoes every time you fly. Not to mention the aforementioned line! If going to the airport really hassles you more, then I guess pass on Global Entry. (Or if you live in stupid Boston which has no interview availability for the next 500 years).

If you have trouble finding an interview, you can schedule at airports other than your home airport. I wasn’t joking about Boston’s availability, but I scheduled for Newark which tends to have a lot of space. Though you have to go to Newark…

Use the Chase Sapphire Reserve for your rental car

The Chase Sapphire Reserve (man I’ve typed that so many times imagine if I sold cards!) helps rent cars in multiple ways. First, you can get Avis Preferred and National Emerald, which mostly helps you cut lines. That matters in airports like MCO. Secondly, you can use the Reserve’s discount rate to get 25-30% off your rental reservation. Finally, Chase Sapphire Reserve offers primary car rental insurance.

That means if you get into an accident, Chase Sapphire Reserve covers you first. If that’s not enough, then you go to your regular auto insurance policy. (Cards that offer secondary insurance are the opposite.) So unless you visit excluded countries (Ireland and a few others), you can happily waive the collision damage waiver companies want to charge you.

Fall back on other coverages when necessary

I’m not going to go through all the benefits, you can find them here. I will point out that the Chase Sapphire Reserve offers Trip Cancellation/Interruption insurance, Lost Baggage insurance, Baggage Delay insurance, Roadside Assistance, and various emergency insurances when traveling. If you’re new to miles and points, just put everything on this card – you might be protected and not even know it. If something goes wrong, it’s more than possible the Reserve has you covered. You can check out Free-quent Flyer’s experience with the Preferred trip deal coverage here, Reserve coverage is equal or better. (He also describes trip delay insurance here.)

Enroll in Priority Pass

Priority Pass is a decent, but not great lounge benefit. Still, you might get access to lounges in a few places (I think I’ve used it…twice?). You get two companions to go in with you so that’s nice too. You need to activate this. The easiest way? Go to this page, then click on “Learn More” under Lounge Access. Login and it’ll bring you to the page below, click activate now, profit.

Here's a guide to help you get the maximum Chase Sapphire Reserve value if you're one of the many new people to get this card.

Transfer points to partners or use to pay for travel?

To me, you can get the most value out of your points by transferring to partners like Hyatt, United, or Korean Air. For example, if you can rent a $500 room for 25,000 points transferred to Hyatt, you get a value of 2 cents per point. 

But maybe you don’t define value in fancy hotel rooms or first class flights (I don’t think everyone should). Then you can use the Chase Travel portal to book flights for a value of 1.5 cents per point. That means your 50,000 point sign up bonus is worth $750 towards travel. Families on a tight budget should definitely consider this, though you might want to avoid booking hotels through the portal

Most important rule? Use your points. You can’t take them with you and there usually isn’t a good reason to hoard them. They’re worth nothing until you redeem them, so just use them in any way that makes travel less expensive for you and your family.

Final Thoughts

Hopefully this gives a good overview of the benefits you can get with the Chase Sapphire Reserve. It’s a great card and I’m likely to keep it next year (though I’ve canceled/downgraded a bunch of cards since I realized how much I was paying in annual fees!). I’m fairly certain I can squeeze $150 of value out of it (after you subtract out the $300 airline credit). 

So, were there any great benefits I missed? Let me know!

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Here's a guide to help you get the maximum Chase Sapphire Reserve value if you're one of the many new people to get this card.



Just an average joe trying to fly his family for less

7 thoughts on “Chase Sapphire Reserve for Dummies

  1. I used my CSR on an int’l trip and found it’s not entirely transaction fee-free. VISA must have some built in fee for using it because everything came out 0.89% higher than the actual exchange rate.

  2. Hmm yeah I believe​that sometimes the exchange rates can be off. It would be equally off for all Chase cards. What country?

  3. Wow, how timely! I don’t know why I never heard of this card before, but on the other hand, we just got our regular Sapphire card about a year ago!

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