One question I receive most often is "how can you afford to travel so much?" First and foremost, Eugene and I are always saving for our next trip, but I also keep my eyes and ears open for travel deals and discounts. However, one of our favorite ways to pay for travel is by using credit card points. In my opinion, the absolute best travel card on the market is the Chase Sapphire Reserve. If you travel at least twice a year, you need to get the Sapphire Reserve!
I was introduced to this card by a good friend, who had been urging us to get it for a while. I'm glad we finally listened while the point bonus at the time was 100,000 for new cardholders--which turned into $1,500 for travel.
Chase hasn't offered the 100,000 point bonus since the card initially came out, but the current enrollment bonus is 50,000 ($750) and still well worth it.
During our first full year using the Chase Sapphire Reserve--we cashed in $8,500 in travel dollars! It paid for our trip to the Ritz Carlton in Arizona (flights and hotel) and our entire week-long trip to the Grand Wailea in Maui (flights and hotel).
Here are the fantastic benefits and perks of the Chase Sapphire Reserve:
-Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 in your first three months ($750 towards travel purchases through the Chase rewards portal)
-3X Points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide
-1X Point per dollar on all other purchases
-No foreign transaction fees
-1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
-Priority Pass lounge access to over 1,000 airport lounges worldwide
-up to $100 application fee credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck
In addition to these benefits the card also comes with other basic coverage:
-Auto Rental Insurance
-Extended Warranty Program
-Lost Luggage Reimbursement
-Travel Accident Insurance
I'll break down all of the perks below, but keep in mind the card does have a $450 annual fee. Don't let this scare you off. You actually receive a $300 annual travel credit as reimbursement for travel purchases each account anniversary year, so really the annual fee comes out to $150. This pays for itself immediately--especially if you don't yet have TSA PreCheck or Global Entry.
We earn a ton of our points using the Chase Sapphire Reserve as our primary credit card. Again, you earn 3 points per dollar on travel and restaurant dining purchases, so that includes hotels, airfare, Airbnb, Uber, Lyft, etc.
Points are cashed in for 50% more if you use them to book travel. For example, if I wanted to use 50,000 points as a statement credit, I would receive $500, but if I booked travel with the same 50,000 points, I get $750. No brainer--- we only use these points for travel.
The prices in the Chase Ultimate Rewards Travel Portal (which you use to book travel) are in line with other travel sites like Orbitz, Expedia, etc. The flights are always the same prices as the airline sites; however, the hotel rates can vary. Sometimes I'm able to find better deals on hotels through the travel portal and other times they may be a few bucks more. When I booked our stay in Maui at the Grand Wailea, the Chase Ultimate Travel Portal had the best prices.
One downside to the Ultimate Rewards Travel Portal is you can't book cruises or all-inclusive packages through the site; however, we found that you can call Chase directly and most of the time they can book this for you using your rewards points. Our friend was able to book a cruise that wasn't on the site simply by calling.
Another way to cash in points besides the travel portal is transferring to loyalty programs. For example, you can take your Chase points and transfer them to Southwest.
For our flight to Denver last year, Eugene was just a few points shy of a free Southwest flight, so we transferred a couple of points from Chase to Southwest 1:1 ratio and earned his free flight.
You can transfer to the following programs:
Aer Lingus AerClub
British Airways Executive Club
Flying Blue AIR FRANCE KLM
Korean Air SKYPASS
Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer
Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards
Virgin Atlantic Flying Club
IHG Rewards Club
The Ritz-Carlton Rewards
World of Hyatt
One of my ultimate favorite perks of this card is the complimentary Priority Pass access ($500 value). If you aren't familiar with Priority Pass, they manage over 1,000 airport lounges across the world that you receive free access to. In the past, the Chase Priority Pass would give access to the primary cardholder and unlimited guests, but Chase changed that this year. You are now limited to 2 guests when visiting the lounges. This isn't a huge issue for us since I've sold a ton of my friends on this card, but it was a really nice stand out feature for the Reserve. Other travel cards that offer Priority Pass as a service were all limited to 2 guests, while the Chase stood out with the unlimited feature.
Back to the lounges...this is something I can't imagine traveling without. We've taken advantage of several lounges and have always been impressed. In addition to a place to relax from the airport hustle and bustle and get free WIFI, many of the lounges include top-shelf liquor, water bottles, coffee, and other beverages, as well as snacks and meals.
When we flew to Europe from Chicago O'Hare, we actually had access to two lounges that were right next to each other. We lounge hopped for a few hours since our flight was delayed. Our group enjoyed a ton of snacks like chips, cookies, candy bars, ice-cream, and healthy options like wraps, hummus and veggie platters, cheese, sausage, and fruit. Beverages were all included, and they even had mini wine bottles that we took on board with us.
Some airports offer both departure and arrival lounges that include showers and beds. The arrival lounge in London Heathrow included showers which we didn't take advantage of, but we did enjoy a free 3-course lunch and shots of premium vodka.
Not all airports have lounges; for example, my hometown airport does not. Some airports may not have a lounge, but Priority Pass may offer you a credit for a specific restaurant or bar in the airport. This is all information that is listed on their site for each available airport. When Eugene and I were traveling through Denver International Airport, they didn't have a lounge, but we received $28 per person to enjoy at one of the restaurants. We ordered drinks and had dinner all comped by Priority Pass. You can easily find lounges by visiting the Priority Pass site or downloading the app.
Overall, I would highly recommend this card especially if you travel at least once or twice a year. It is totally worth it! You get $750 to spend right away if you can rack up $4,000 in purchases in 3 months and then you can take advantage of all of the amazing perks the Reserve has to offer.
If you are interested in the card, you can find additional information here and sign up
Feel free to ask any questions in the comments section!