Yesterday, August 21, was long reported to be the official launch day for the Chase Sapphire Reserve, a new premium card with a high annual fee but potentially lucrative rewards and a 100,000-point sign up bonus.
A few people were able to apply early via a leaked application, and some people went to their local Chase branch on Sunday to apply in person through more formal channels. But today we finally have a publicly available online application …even if it’s still not advertised on the Chase homepage.
I’ve written before about the benefits of the card. I know that some people are most attracted to the sign up bonus, which is 100,000 Ultimate Rewards points after spending $4,000 in the first three months. Those points could easily be worth $1,500-2,000 when redeemed for travel rewards. Various transfer partners may be worth up to 2 cents per mile, or you can redeem them directly through Ultimate Rewards at a 1.5 cents per mile. Personally, I look past the promotional bonus and am interested in getting 3 points per dollar on all travel and dining purchases.
But it gets better. The $450 annual fee is quickly offset by an annual travel credit of $300, making the Chase Sapphire Reserve only marginally more expensive than more mainstream travel rewards cards. For example, the Chase Sapphire Preferred has an annual fee of $95. No, the Reserve’s annual fee is not waived the first year, but you can probably get two travel credits in the first 12 months since they’re based on a calendar schedule. (A more detailed benefits guide is available online.)
The biggest downside is that, while a Visa Infinite card, the Chase Sapphire Reserve doesn’t come with the usual $100 discount on companion airfare. You can still get this by applying for the Crystal Visa Infinite card from City National Bank or the updated Ritz-Carlton Visa Infinite card from Chase. I think the Sapphire Reserve offers more value long-term than the Ritz-Carlton card because you’ll get more points and they’re more valuable, but some people will prefer the companion airfare discount.
Reports are decidedly mixed about whether Chase’s infamous “5/24” rule will apply to applications for the new Sapphire Reserve card. This rule says that five previous applications — for any card at any bank — in the past 24 months will automatically bar you from getting a new card with Chase. Some people have been successful and others not. The number of unsuccessful applications suggests you should be cautious. Applying today, on a weekday during business hours, will make it easier to contact Chase for reconsideration if your application is not immediately approved.
Finally, a few people have asked me if I think the 100,000 Ultimate Rewards points are merely a starting point and the bonus will go higher, or if it’s possible to upgrade an existing Ultimate Rewards card and get the bonus without making a new application.
I think a higher bonus is extremely unlikely. Most cards that have offers that high tend to go lower over time. There’s also no indication that the current offer is weak and needs to be improved. As far as upgrading a card, I’ve been told by a reliable source that upgrades will not qualify — you need to make a new application to get the bonus. Obviously if you have a knowledgeable Chase banker at your disposal then he or she can provide more authoritative advice.
Right now I am not too worried about rushing out to get the new Chase Sapphire Reserve. My wife will probably apply next month after we return from vacation as she is well under 5/24. She may even wait until late October. I suspect the 100,000 Ultimate Rewards points will remain on the table until then so there is no reason for anyone to hurry. Still, it’s a good card and one that we will probably use to replace the Chase Sapphire Preferred.