Living with credit, Rewards, Travel

Millennials say they’re keeping Sapphire Reserve 1 year later

Jeff Herman

The Sapphire Reserve, introduced nearly a year ago with that splashy 100,000-point sign-up bonus, was a runaway hit, especially with millennials, but now that $450 annual fee is due to be paid. Will Sapphire Reserve cardholders keep the card or cancel it?

The Sapphire Reserve is aimed squarely at travelers, with a $300 annual travel credit, credits for TSA Precheck or Global Entry and free Priority Pass airport lounge access.  But if you have a family with kids, you’re likely not jetting off for a trip to New York City to see a Broadway show or to the Caribbean to soak up the sun on a beach.

As that $450 annual fee comes due, Sapphire Reserve cardholders have a decision to make.

As our “Cashing In” columnist Tony Mecia spells out, if you travel a lot, the Reserve could still be a bargain. And if you do decide it’s not for you, he outlines how to close the card without losing your points by switching to a different card in the Chase family.

Is it worth keeping the Chase Sapphire Reserve for a second year?

I contacted millennials I spoke with last year who were early to the Reserve’s sign-up bonus party, asking them how they planned to spend their 100,000 points, and a Reserve cardholder who was part of the last-minute rush to get that whale of a sign-up bonus earlier this year.

Are they keeping the Sapphire Reserve or canceling before paying that annual fee again? Here are their stories …

“It makes sense for me”

DannyBoedekerDanny Boedeker, a musician who lives in Windermere, Florida, says the Sapphire Reserve is a keeper, at least for now.

“I’ll ask Chase for a retention offer, but those are very uncommon from Chase, so I’ll pay the annual fee regardless,” he says. “I get enough value from the card that it makes sense for me.”

A year ago, Boedeker said he planned to use his 100,000-point sign-up bonus to pay for a trip to China. Now that dream is coming true.

“Next week, I’m doing my first big point redemption,” Boedeker said. “My wife and I are flying to China for free. Between points and some of the $300 travel credit, we’re getting about $2,500 in flights for free.”

In the year since Reserve’s launch, the new card on the block has faced competition in the elite cards race, including updates to the Platinum card from American Express, a Citi Prestige with a slew of new benefits and a $7,500 minimum spend, and the high-flying U.S. Bank Altitude Reserve.

“It’s the best card I have”

Sean OgleSean Ogle, of Portland, Oregon, is staying loyal to the Reserve. “I definitely plan on keeping the Reserve. It’s the best card I have.”

Ogle, who owns the work-from-anywhere website, says there have been “a lot of memorable experiences” with the card. Most memorable? “I get ridiculous rates on rental cars. A Mercedes for a week was about $220 in Scotland – these rates have been an unexpected bonus.”

The Ultimate Rewards points are a big plus, too, he says. “My wife and I are taking a two-month, around-the-world trip in business class using our Ultimate Rewards points.”

“Two round-trip tickets to Europe … were essentially free!”

Heath SilvermanHeath Silverman, CEO and co-founder of in San Francisco, was among those racing to get to a Chase branch in March to get the Reserve in March before the final curtain fell on the 100,000-point sign-up bonus. (New Reserve cardholders get 50,000 points now if they spend $4,000 in the first three months.)

Silverman, who notes that he’s not a millennial, also has no plans on trading his Reserve for another elite card, even though the $450 annual fee won’t kick in for him until early 2018. “The Reserve has met all my expectations,” he says. “I’m not concerned about the fee, as a number of people in the blogosphere seem to be suggesting.

“As far as I know, there is no other card out there that offers comparable benefits, especially around travel. I actually have two round-trip tickets to Europe that I acquired via points on the card. They were essentially free!”

“I still have … good feelings toward that silly, blue metal card”

Warren CohnWarren Cohn, founder and CEO of Herald Strategies public relations and digital marketing agency in New York City, says of the Reserve’s $450 annual fee: “I still believe that the $300 travel purchase credit brings the fee down to $150.”

He also likes the card’s insurance and purchase protections, and he notes he has used the concierge a few times.

The concierge helped bring about Cohn’s most memorable experience in his first year with the card.

“My wife and I had a date night planned, but I didn’t really plan anything,” Cohn says. “So I called the concierge at 5:30 or 5:45 p.m., and they found me great Broadway show seats for an 8 p.m. show, which made my wife, Daniella, very happy. So they really helped me out in a bind.”

The Reserve also disappointed Cohn, though. While traveling in Chile, in the Atacama desert, they rented a car. He declined insurance, as the Reserve’s card agreement states, but at the airport they were given a pickup truck instead of a car.

The truck was broken into and their Canon T6i containing a bunch of the trip photos was stolen. When he called Chase, he was told that pickups weren’t covered by the card’s insurance. A supervisor at the Chase hotline assured him they were covered. He hasn’t been reimbursed the $600 to pay for the broken window and car exchange fees.

“Normally, I would have gotten rid of the card then and there,” Cohn says, “but for some reason, I still have this affinity and good feelings toward that silly, blue metal card.”

A year later, Cohn and his wife now have a new baby daughter, so they’ve got additional expenses, but the Reserve is still worth it.

“I don’t know if I will keep the card forever, but I certainly like it better than the American Express Platinum Card, which I had for a long time,” Cohn says. “I also keep the Citi Prestige in my pocket, so I guess I have become OK with paying higher fees, as have many other millennials.”

I’m not a millennial, and I missed the Sapphire Reserve boat…
Since I don’t travel a lot and can’t imagine paying a $450 annual fee every year, the Sapphire Reserve wasn’t my cup of tea. I’m more of a cash back guy, but I’ve got my own card decision looming.

A year after I signed up for the Amazon Rewards Visa, I’m canceling it as soon as it’s no longer needed for a project we’re working on here at work. What card am I switching to? I’m trading the Amazon Rewards Visa card for the AARP credit card from Chase. The AARP card has doubled the sign-up bonus to $200 with a $500 minimum spend, and that’s more my speed.

See related: You splurged for the Chase Sapphire Reserve card. Now what? Maximizing card rewards after you’ve earned the sign-up bonus, Are airline cards worth the annual fee?

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