Editor’s note: This post has been updated with new information.
In addition to the bonus points on travel and dining charges, a marquee benefit of the Chase Sapphire Reserve since its debut in 2016 has been its $300 travel credit each year. And unlike similar perks on competing cards, this credit is incredibly easy to use.
The Chase Sapphire Reserve comes with a $550 annual fee, but if you spend at least $300 per year on travel, the effective annual fee is much less painful.
This annual credit is in addition to other Sapphire Reserve perks, such as Priority Pass membership, the application fee credit toward Global Entry/PreCheck every four years, bonus points on Lyft rides and up to $5 in monthly DoorDash credits — plus a DashPass membership through December 31, 2024 — which together make it an easier call to continue holding the card.
For a limited time, the Sapphire Reserve is offering a sign-up bonus of 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening, which makes now a great time to apply.
How do you use the Sapphire Reserve’s travel credit if you recently added the card to your wallet? Thankfully, it’s really, really easy.
The (sorta) bad news? It’s so simple and automatic that you may use the credit before you even realize it.
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THE POINTS GUY
When do you earn the $300 Chase Sapphire Reserve travel credit?
The Chase Sapphire Reserve annual $300 travel credit is awarded each year that you have the card and is ready to use as soon as you open your new account.
In most cases, when this credit resets, it is tied to a cardmember year, not a calendar year. That means when you first opened the card will usually determine the date you get a fresh $300 travel credit each year.
The exception is those who opened a Sapphire Reserve before May 21, 2017, who are awarded the annual travel credit based on a calendar year. In that case, the credit is awarded after the last statement closure date in December, regardless of when during the year the account was opened.
This stands in contrast to American Express’ airline fee credits on cards such as the The Platinum Card® from American Express, as those are always awarded on a calendar-year basis (enrollment is required).
What counts toward the travel credit?
A great element of the Sapphire Reserve’s travel credit is that it is quite broad in what types of charges it covers.
Essentially, you can typically use the annual travel credit on anything that codes as travel on your Sapphire Reserve. Remember, you’ll earn 3 points per dollar on travel charges by swiping the card, so the charges that award bonus points will be the same charges you can use toward the travel credit. (Just know you don’t earn points on the travel charges offset by the $300 travel credit.)
Some examples of types of purchases that count for the Sapphire Reserve’s travel credit include:
Car rental agencies.
Travel agency services.
Taxis and car services.
Toll bridges and highways.
Parking lots and garages.
Because airline charges generally code as travel, you can use the credit on purchases such as your airline tickets, taxes on award tickets, upgrades, seat assignment fees, checked bag fees, onboard snacks, change fees, lap infant fees, etc.
Your cruise deposits and payments should also count, as do hotel bookings and deposits. If you have to pay for parking, taxis or road tolls in your normal life, you can even use the travel credit toward those everyday charges.
ZACH GRIFF/THE POINTS GUY
What does not count toward the Sapphire Reserve travel credit?
Of course, not all purchases in the travel space code as travel charges. If a purchase doesn’t code as a travel charge, you won’t be able to use the $300 travel credit from the Sapphire Reserve.
Items that code as travel vary and can also change at any time. Some things that may not code as travel include theme park tickets brought directly from theme parks, ski lift tickets, points.com purchases, some airline or travel gift card purchases, inflight purchases that are processed by a third party and some meals eaten at a hotel but not charged to a room.
SUMMER HULL/THE POINTS GUY
How do you use the Sapphire Reserve travel credit?
Using your Sapphire Reserve travel credit is very simple — just use the card to pay for eligible travel purchases. That’s it.
There is nothing to activate, no codes to use or special sites to book through. The offsetting statement credits will usually appear on your account within a couple of days, and this will continue until you’ve used the year’s travel credit in full.
The credit is so easy to use that several travelers in the TPG Facebook Lounge report using their credits each year on everyday travel charges such as tolls, parking, cabs or subway fares before they could purposefully apply it to something bigger.
Related: Best travel credit cards
How to see if you’ve used your travel credit
If you’ve lost track of whether you’ve used up your Sapphire Reserve annual travel credit, you can easily figure it out by logging into the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal and looking at the rewards activity for your Reserve card.
This will also tell you when next year’s credit becomes available so you know to use up this year’s credit before then.
It’s great when credit cards give you annual travel credits that are easy to use, and the $300 travel credit on the Chase Sapphire Reserve is about as simple as it comes. Every year, you’ll automatically get $300 in statement credits whenever your card is used on a travel purchase — effectively lowering the fee on the card to $250 per year.
Of course, if you simply can’t make the most of the Sapphire Reserve benefits, you could also talk to Chase about potentially downgrading to the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card or even the no-annual-fee Chase Freedom Unlimited.
However, with the increased sign-up bonus of 80,000 points on the Sapphire Reserve, now could be a great time to pick up this card and save on your next trip.
Additional reporting by Ryan Wilcox.