Sep 15

Chase Sapphire Reserve Review (How I flew to Bali for FREE!)

2017 is a big travel year for me.  It was the inception of this travel blog.  I traveled to Michigan, Nashville, Huntsville, Indonesia, Timor Leste and will soon be traveling to Ethiopia and Djibouti this fall.  I often get asked for travel advice, including money matters, and a little over a year ago I applied for a credit card that has changed the way I travel for the better – I flew to Bali for free, I’ve enjoyed airline lounges for free for at least a dozen times, and I got the Global Entry for free!  You don’t have to travel as much as me to make this card worthwhile.  This is my Chase Sapphire Reserve Review, the credit card better known to some as the “CSR”

The Card

This is a well used card! It was beautiful when it arrived!

If you haven’t had a premium card before, you will be super impressed by the packaging and the dark blue metal CSR card.  It’s a beautiful card.  Like most new cards issues these days, the CSR has a chip for extra security protection.

The Fee

Before you read too much further, I should mention that this card comes with a $450 annual fee.  This may sound CRAZY, but read below for all the perks that more than make up for this.  In fact, in the first year it’s possible for you to earn a minimum of $1,907.50 in rewards for your single $450 fee, and I tell you how to do that below in the section entitled “Your Guaranteed Payback for Trying this Card.”

The Sign-up Bonus

Once you spend $4,000 in 3 months, you get 50,000 points.  Points are worth 1.5 cents if you use it to purchase travel (flights, hotels, and car rentals) through Chase’s travel portal.  So, spend the $4,000 and get $750 worth of free travel!

Earning Points

The card earns 3 points for every $1 spent on Travel Expenses and 1 points for every other dollar.  I make sure I charge all of my travel expenses to this card as it means I get 4.5 cents (or 4.5% back) for every $1 spent.  The “Travel Category” is pretty liberal.  Her is a list of things I’ve earned 3 points per $1:

  • Hotels
  • Airfare
  • Airbnb
  • Restaurants & Bars
  • Parking
  • Public Transportation costs
  • Greyhound/Megabus tickets
  • Amtrak ticket
  • Whale watching tour via boat

There are some items that don’t classify as the “Travel Category”, but it’ limited to certain tours and attractions.  Some examples where I didn’t get triple points:

  • Entrance to Butchart and Meyer Gardens
  • A grizzly bear watching tour
  • Snorkeling with salmon trip

$300 Credit Back on Travel Expenses, Per Year


Every calendar year you get the first $300 spent in the “Travel Category” directly credited to your account.  This is based on calendar year, not year of the card.  So, if you apply for the card ASAP, it’s possible to get the credit on $300 in travel expenses in 2017 and again starting in January 2018.

Edited:  I’ve been told this has now been changed to renewal year, meaning you only get this credit once in the first year, not up to twice.  Please check if this is a deal-breaker for you.

Free Priority Pass

Priority Pass is included with this card.  It allows me to enter any of 1,000 airport lounges around the world and enjoy amenities like free drinks and food, showers, and free wifi.   In my first year with this card, I’ve enjoyed at least a dozen stops in lounges.  With airlines not providing meals, it’s good to get something good to eat before boarding the flight.

Free Global Entry

Not only do you get to go through the express line when reentering the USA, you also get TSA precheck!  I can’t believe I waited so long to get TSA precheck.  It takes away so much of my stress in flying.  Now instead of waiting in line, I go to the free airline lounge for a glass of wine and some snacks 😊

Getting the CSR allows you to get the $100 Global Entry fee reimbursed once in every 4 calendar years (Global Entry is good for 5 years).

Other Perks

The card comes with lots of other freebies like insurance for trip cancellation and lost and delayed luggage, extended warranty insurance, and more!

Your Guaranteed Payback for Trying this Card

So, sure you will be charged $450 in the first month of holding the card, but your payback will be:

  • 50,000 points bonus ($750 value)
  • 3,900 points for spending the intital $2000 (assume $500 is travel, $1500 non-travel) and then $300 on travel again in the next calendar year ($58.50 value)
  • $300 credit towards travel  ($300 value)
  • Priority Pass ($399 value, although it may not be worth this much to you, depending on how frequently you travel)
  • Global Entry ($100)

GRAND TOTAL = $1607.50!!!! and that excludes the “Other Perks”


Who Should Get the Card

  • Those who use credit wisely (if you can pay the full balance every month that’s best. Chase makes it easy – I pay my bill automatically each month).
  • People who spend more than $300 annually on travel.

Who Shouldn’t Get the Card

  • People who spend less than $300 on travel each year
  • If you can’t spend $4,000 in the first 3 months
  • People who get several new credit cards per year. Chase has a rule that if you’ve got 5 new cards in the last 24 months, or have received a Chase credit card bonus, you may not be eligible for this card or bonus.

My Advice for your first 3 months with the Card

  • Make sure you spent at least $4,000 to get the bonus. This may seem like a lot but if you need to meet the balance, you can purchase gift cards.  You may also consider paying a large bill even if you incur a fee (for example, paying $2,000 in property tax incurring at 2.5% fee costs an additional $50 but it’s well worth it to get the $750 bonus).  There are many websites that provide on advice for minimum CC spends so I won’t write much more here.
  • If it’s the end of the calendar year, make sure you spend your $300 in “Travel Category”
  • Apply for Global Entry if you don’t already have it
  • Apply for the Priority Pass. You need to apply separately through the portal.  I comes pretty quickly
  • Read the CSR agreements and understand all of your perks so you can get the most out of your card.

I hope you enjoy my Chase Sapphire Reserve Review.  It’s been such a great tool for my traveling life and can be for you as well.

Earn 50,000 bonus points with Chase Sapphire Reserve. I can be rewarded too if you apply here and are approved for the card. Learn more.


Disclaimer:  Please check the terms and conditions of the card.  Some benefits may have changed since I signed up.  Share it on pinterest!

Chase Sapphire Reserve Review

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