I still remember how excited I was back in December 2018 – a young college student – approved for the Chase Sapphire Reserve after building my credit history for a year. The annual fee at the time: $450 – more than one month’s rent. Sign up bonus: 50,000 UR Points – seemed a lot back then.
It was my first premium travel card. It gave my access to airport lounges, rental car status, the opportunity to book free travel and gave me travel protections incase of disruptions. It really was a cover all card when coupled with my Chase Freedom (OG) and Freedom Unlimited – the Chase Trifecta.
However 4 years later, and a $550 annual fee later, I have decided to downgrade the card for reasons which I’ll cover in this article.
The Annual Fee
Sometime in 2020, Chase increased the annual fee by $100 for new card members touting new additions to the card, various credits and access to memberships aimed at addressing changing consumer habits due to COVID-19. Thankfully my annual fee still stayed at $450 and I derived a lot of value in credits alone. However, in 2021 I had to pay the new $550 annual fee – which I reluctantly did.
Why? I had over 450K Chase points I had been accumulating from my Chase setup (I added the Chase Freedom Flex when that came out) but due to the pandemic, I wasn’t able to fully utilize them. I knew 2022 would be the year of travel once everything started opening up and only the Sapphire Preferred or Reserve were personal Chase credit cards that offered the ability to transfer to airline/hotel partners.
Due to Chase Sapphire cards 48 month bonus rule, if I downgraded/cancelled my CSR and got the CSP, I’d void any chance of getting the sign up bonus and also reset the 48 month clock. Hence, I had to pay the hefty annual fee and keep the card open. On pure credits offered alone, I did NOT come out ahead on the annual fee.
I had a few good pre-Covid redemptions – best of which was a free four night stay at the Andaz Mayakoba in Cancun which would’ve otherwise costed $5000.
I was also getting into Hyatt Hotels and building loyalty there to get status and I was able to leverage a lot of free night stays getting over $11000 in value – Hawaii being my most memorable trip.
Not to forget an amazing business class roundtrip to India which only costed me $40 out of pocket.
In total, I derived almost $18K worth of travel and $550 in my opinion was a small price to pay in the bigger picture.
Downgrading the card
As I mentioned earlier, I only had a year of credit history when I got this card. That also means, this card plays a vital part in the average age of open accounts in my credit score. Closing this card would wipe out 4 years of datapoints. Hence, the best option I had at my disposal was to either downgrade the card to either the Freedom (OG) or Freedom Unlimited as both are VISA cards (although the card type will change from VISA Infinite to VISA signature).
This meant, I’d get to keep the same card number, all the history and nothing changed – except the card variant w.r.t Chase.
Additionally, since I knew I was going to downgrade the card, I made sure to use the $300 travel credit, some doordash credit as well as instacart credit which would NOT be revoked upon downgrading the card. Thus, I was able to balance out my net loss from the previous year.
How will I transfer points now?
Since I began my credit card points and miles journey almost 5 years ago, I have always ensured I had enough options across various systems, may it be Chase, AMEX, Capital One or with airlines/hotels like Star Alliance, One World, Hyatt, etc… .
Hence, in the short term, I am not worried about transferring points anywhere.
Which Sapphire card will I open?
The Chase Sapphire Reserve ofcourse! Bet you didn’t expect that 😉
I was given an amazing offer at my local chase branch for opening a Chase Sapphire Reserve for 70K points when I spend $4K in 3 months – which is higher than the public offer at the time. I was also offered a 80K point bonus on the Sapphire Preferred with a $6K spend in 6 months (70K on $4k in 3 months + 10K on $6k in 6 months) but I have plans for domestic travel in the US in 2023 and a lot of airports only have restaurants in the Priority Pass network vs lounges and the CSR is the only card which fits into my existing system.
I have the Venture X from Capital one, the AMEX Platinum, various Hilton Honors cards that get my Priority Pass Select but none of them in 2023 will get me non-lounge access at airports.
The $550 Annual fee is well worth it as I will get another set of $300 travel credits, doordash, instacart, etc… in addition to the 70K points which I plan on using in a future trip (subscribe to know about it when I drop that article).
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