Rumors are swirling that Chase plans to launch a new premium credit card — possibly called “Chase Sapphire Reserve” — to compete with the Amex Platinum Card and Citi Prestige Card. Such cards have annual fees of $450 or more and typically offer a host of extra benefits to make that upfront cost worthwhile. This is according to posts made by FlyerTalk member mvcore last week and yesterday.
Chase already has a very popular product with the Chase Sapphire Preferred. It offers 2X points on travel and dining, and those points are easily transferred to a variety of other programs. I think a few, like United Airlines and Hyatt Gold Passport, are more valuable than most of the options available through Membership Rewards and ThankYou Rewards. But the perks mostly stop at earning and redeeming points. The Reserve card would go further:
- $450 annual fee
- 100,000 bonus Ultimate Rewards points for initial sign-up
- 3X points for travel and dining
- $300 airline fee credit
- Priority Pass membership
- Visa Infinite
I think that Chase would be successful offering a card that earns 3X points on travel and dining. After subtracting the airline fee credit of $300, the new Chase Sapphire Reserve would essentially have a $150 annual fee. Compare that to the existing Chase Sapphire Preferred that earns 2X points on travel and dining with a $95 annual fee. I view this as the option to pay $55 more and collect 50% more points while also getting more perks like lounge access.
The sign-up bonus alone is worth $2,000 if you believe Ultimate Rewards points are worth two cents each. Most people peg them a little lower, but it’s not hard to redeem them at this level. Of course we don’t know what the minimum spend requirement will be to earn the bonus.
Still, I’m disappointed that we don’t see a “real” lounge offer here. Priority Pass isn’t very useful within the United States. I like the Alaska Airlines Board Room. The rest are third-party lounges that tend to be sub-par. American Express has its own lounge network and offers limited access to Delta Sky Clubs. Citi still offers access to American Admirals Clubs, although it’s phasing that out. I think that Chase has an opportunity here to leverage its partnership with United Airlines and offer limited access to United Clubs to passengers with a United ticket.
Have We Seen This Before?
That last point, offering Visa Infinite status, caught my attention. Most premium U.S. cards are Visa Signature branded, while Visa Infinite tends to be used in other countries (perhaps because they have more competition with other banks that use the “Signature” term — I dunno). If you visit the Visa Infinite website they don’t even list the United States in the initial menu.
There is one Visa Infinite card that I know of: the Crystal Visa Infinite card from City National Bank.
I don’t know that Visa Infinite is actually a differentiating feature you should be concerned about. There have been targeted offers for hotel elite status and the like provided to to Visa Infinite members oversees. Other than that, it seems to be more about marketing events and offers that you still have to pay for. What’s more interesting is that the perks of the Crystal Visa Infinite are almost identical to the rumored Chase Sapphire Reserve. This is a rough summary of the Crystal card benefits:
- Priority Pass membership
- No foreign transaction fees
- 3X points on gas, groceries, travel, and dining
- $250 airline fee credit
- $100 Global Entry credit
- 12 GoGo in-flight internet passes
I wonder if some benefits, like the GoGo passes, might also be included in Chase’s offer. Or, perhaps the entire rumor is just a spoof that uses the Crystal Visa Infinite as its template. We won’t really know until Chase makes an announcement.
Other Super Premium Cards
Chase already offers the JP Morgan Palladium Card, which has a $595 annual fee and benefits like a United Club membership. But the bonus categories are quite poor: 2X on travel and 1X on everything else. Most reviewers have walked away disappointed. It’s easy to find comparable perks with other cards that have lower fees.
However, part of the Palladium card’s message is exclusivity. It’s only available to Private Client members who bank $250,000 or more in assets with Chase. Similarly, the American Express Centurion Card is only available by invitation based on past spending habits. Some people care about being “special” and will pay more for a fancy card with worse benefits just so they can flash it. I don’t think they provide a good basis for comparison.
The Citi Prestige, Amex Platinum Card, and (presumably) the Chase Sapphire Reserve are more egalitarian in that they are available to anyone with a good credit score. When you’re that transparent you have to try a little harder to make the price worthwhile.