With so many good travel credit cards on the market, it can sometimes be difficult to decide which ones to keep in your wallet long-term. If you keep too many, you will end up paying a significant amount of money in annual fees which may end up costing you more than the value you receive from these cards. On the other hand, if you cancel a card and later decide you would like to have it again, you may be prevented from getting that card again due to Chase’s much-maligned 5/24 rule.
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Here we will analyze all three of Chase’s Ultimate Rewards-earning cards which come with an annual fee and determine if the benefits outweigh the costs depending on travel and spending habits. Chase also has several cards with no annual fees that earn Ultimate Rewards but these need little justification as long-term holds since they cost nothing.
All three cards come with the ability to transfer points to Chase’s network of transfer partners. None of these cards have foreign transaction fees.
Chase Sapphire Reserve Card (Annual Fee: $450, authorized users $75 each)
This is the latest addition to Chase’s lineup of cards and quite possibly the best. The Sapphire Reserve card earns 3 points per dollar on travel and dining and 1 point per dollar on all other spending. This card comes with an annual travel credit of $300. Chase defines the travel category very broadly including airfare, hotels, fees, taxis, ride-sharing services, Airbnb, public transportation, garages and more. In addition, this credit is applied to your account automatically and doesn’t require calling in to request it. If you have at least $300 in out of pocket travel expenses per year, this effectively reduces the annual fee to $150.
The Sapphire Reserve card also offers a credit once every four years for a Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee. This card also comes with one of the most generous airport lounge access benefits of any card; a Priority Pass select membership that includes complimentary guest privileges. Points are worth 1.5 cents each when redeemed for travel through Chase’s portal which is 0.25 cents better than either of the other two cards on this list. This card also comes with the best lineup of travel insurance and purchase protection benefits.
Chase Sapphire Preferred Card (Annual Fee: $95, authorized users free)
The annual fee for the Sapphire Preferred card is much more manageable $95. However, the list of benefits also pales in comparison to its cousin, the Sapphire Reserve card.
The Sapphire Preferred card earns 2 points per dollar on travel and dining spending and 1 point per dollar on all other spending. Points are worth 1.25 cents each when used to book travel through Chase’s portal. This card also comes with a solid lineup of travel insurance and purchase protection benefits, though they are not as generous as the Sapphire Reserve’s.
Chase Ink Plus Business Card (Annual Fee: $95, authorized users free)
The Ink Plus card is Chase’s premium business card. Unlike some card issuers that issue business cards which are essentially replicas of their personal cards with the word “business” attached, the Ink Plus actually has some material differences with the pair of Sapphire cards. The most significant difference is the category bonus earning structure. The Ink Plus earns an awesome five points per dollar at office supply stores and on cellular phone, landline, internet, and satellite/cable TV services each card member year. The 5x category can be used to quickly manufacture points by buying gift cards at office supply stores such as Staples and Office Max/Depot.
In addition, the card earns two points per dollar on purchases at gas stations and hotel accommodations booked directly with hotels. The 5x and 2x categories each have a $50K per card member year cap (equating to 250k and 100k points respectively). All other spending earns one point per dollar. The Ink Mobile app helps business owners track and manage spend. While an authorized user fee may not be a consideration for many travelers, for those running businesses with employees, being able to equip your employees with cards at no additional fee is a real benefit.
So which cards are worth keeping long-term?
Let’s tackle the Sapphire Reserve first, since it has the most complicated web of benefits. If you don’t believe you will reliably spend at least $300 per year out of pocket on travel, then this card is probably not worth a long-term hold for you. If you will, then the next considerations are the Global Entry/TSA PreCheck fee credit and the Priority Pass membership.
If you will get at least $150 in value out of these benefits, then the card is definitely worth a long-term hold. If you feel you still need additional value to justify the annual fee, then move on to the calculations below, which are also applicable to the other two cards.
How many Ultimate Rewards must one redeem per year to cover the cost of the annual fee?
The chart below displays the dollar value you would receive for redeeming a given number of Ultimate Rewards for a variety of redemptions values. The minimum value you should accept for the Sapphire Preferred and Ink Plus cards is 1.25 cents per point. The minimum value you should accept for the Sapphire Reserve card is 1.5 cents per point.
These are the values you can achieve by booking through Chase’s travel portal. In many cases, it will be possible to achieve significantly greater values by transferring points to Chase’s transfer partners and booking award tickets or award nights. At a valuation of 1.25 cents per point, the minimum number of points required to recoup a $95 annual fee is 7,600 UR. At a valuation of 1.5 cents per point, the minimum number of points required to recoup a $150 net annual fee (after the $300 travel credit on the Sapphire Reserve) is 10,000 UR. That of course assumes you assign no value to lounge access and other benefits, so the actual number of points you need to redeem to recoup the annual fee may be much less. If you would likely earn and redeem enough points to cover the annual fees on these cards in an average year, then they are worth keeping long-term, otherwise not.
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