Chase Dives into Luxury Card Market

September 6, 2016
Chase Dives In

When you have fine tastes and an income to match, it's likely that you'll want a luxury credit card for your handcrafted Italian leather wallet. Several luxury cards exist, but Chase Card Services has just launched another card to tempt consumers who are willing to pay $450 a year for the perks it provides.

Chase's offering is the Chase Sapphire Reserve card, the high-end model in the Chase Sapphire line of credit cards. Like the original Sapphire Preferred credit card, the Sapphire Reserve card is a rewards card geared toward travelers. Cardholders get points for every dollar spent, with a bonus for spending on travel.

"Our customers love Chase Sapphire, so we’re taking it to the next level,” said Pam Codispoti, president, Chase Branded Cards, in a statement. "We’re giving our customers more rewards, benefits and the opportunity to unlock one-of-a-kind travel and dining experiences to enrich their lives."

The Sapphire Reserved card gives three points per dollar spent on travel and restaurant purchases, as opposed to two points per dollar with the standard Sapphire card. There's a one-time introductory bonus offer of 100,000 points if you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first three months of having the card, this is double the points of the basic card for the same amount of spending.

In terms of redemption, Sapphire Reserved cardholders get 50 percent more value when redeeming them for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards. It's just 25 percent more value with the lower grade card. Cardholders do have the option of redeeming points through other airline and hotel loyalty programs, but they do so at a one-to-one ratio and forfeit the bonus.

The Sapphire Reserved card also comes with Priority Pass Select membership to hundreds of airport lounges worldwide, car rental perks from National Car Rental, Avis and Silvercar and hotel benefits from Relais & Châteaux and The Luxury Hotel & Resort Collection. Cardholders also have a direct line to elite customer service specialists and better access to special events and experiences.

The Sapphire Reserved card's APR is 16.24 to 23.24 percent based on the cardholder's creditworthiness, same as the Sapphire card. Along with its $450 annual fee--compared to Sapphire Preferred's $95 annual fee--it also has a fee of $75 per year for each additional user on an account.

For those who spend the money and travel a lot, the rewards may be worth the price of the card, but how does the Chase Sapphire Reserve card compare to other luxury credit cards that also come with a $450 annual fee. Let's look at the basics of Chase's product--fee for additional users, APR and earning points--and see how they stack up to American Express' Platinum and Citi's Prestige cards. Each card does have a lot of other travel perks that may or may not be tempting depending on what you're interested in or if you use the companies with whom they've partnered.

In terms of an additional user fee, Chase lands squarely in the middle. Citi's additional user fee is $25 less, but Amex will charge a flat $175 for up to three additional users. That's pricey if you're only adding one additional user to your account, but if you add three, then it's cheaper per user.

For APR, Chase loses. Amex has no APR, although you have to pay the card balance in full every month. Citi's APR is 15.49 percent--almost a full point lower than Chase. If you're not the type to carry a balance, then this factor doesn't really matter

However, Chase has a slight edge when it comes to earning points. It's three points per dollar on travel and dining is just a little better than Citi's three points for travel and two points for dining. Amex gives just two points for travel purchases. All three cards give one point for other purchases.

Even looking at the basics, these cards are relatively similar, which means that it's important to read the finer print and looking at the other intangible benefits. If you don't frequent the hotels on the Chase program but would use Amex's complimentary Hilton Hhonors gold status, that might be the selling point. If you don't fly Delta, then getting access to its Sky Club through the Amex Platinum card might not be worth it. If neither of those options appeal, then the Citi Prestige card, with its almost generic hotel offerings, might be best for you.

Chase's new Sapphire Reserve card may be a viable option in the luxury credit card market, but its arrival has certainly made the choice of what to carry in your wallet a little more difficult.

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