This is one of those “keeping it real” posts. Even though I write for this blog, I’m just a regular person working for a small business. I don’t have any special pull with credit card companies, banks, hotel or airline loyalty programs, etc. My credit score is good, and I pay off my credit cards every month. In addition, I love to use credit cards as tools to travel for free or at a reduced cost.
Just like many of you, I’d love to have the Chase Sapphire Reserve (CSR) card while the bonus is still at 100,000 points. I’ve been drooling over this card since it came out last year!
Why the CSR?
If you have no idea what I’m talking about, the CSR is a fairly new travel rewards credit card that earns Chase Ultimate Rewards points. The current offer (which expires online WEDNESDAY, January 11!) is 100k bonus points after spending $4000 in the first three months. A 100k bonus is very rare and valuable. After tomorrow, the bonus reduces to 50k points for online applications. The higher bonus is reportedly still available in branches until early March. Update: As of 1/20/17, the CSR is unavailable as a pre-qualified offer in Chase branches and is therefore unavailable to anyone who is over 5/24.
The card has a $450 annual fee that is NOT waived the first year. However, you can offset it by using a $300 yearly travel credit benefit and $100 Global Entry reimbursement. You can actually get the $300 travel credit twice in your first year with the card, which more than offsets the annual fee.
We have written about this card numerous times, including why it’s good for newbies and what you can do with 100k points. Ultimate Rewards points are very versatile and valuable. I would personally use the points to book travel at 1.5 cents per point or transfer the points to Southwest or Hyatt.
Trying to get the CSR
In case you’re wondering, the only reason I don’t have this hot card in my hands right now is because of Chase’s 5/24 rule. If you have opened five or more credit cards within the past 24 months, Chase will deny you for most (but not all) of its credit cards, including the CSR. As I mentioned in a post last month, I am currently at 7/24.
When Chase first released the card last August, I applied online. I knew I would probably not get it, but I figured I didn’t have much to lose. As expected, Chase denied my application.
Next, I went to a local Chase bank to see if I had a pre-approval offer tied to this card through a banker. Several people who were over 5/24 reported success with an in-branch pre-approval for the CSR. Unfortunately, I had no pre-approvals.
The next week, I sent my husband to a Chase branch to see if his profile showed a pre-approval offer for the card. And bingo! It worked. The banker said he was the first person he had seen in the branch to be pre-approved for this card. His card arrived a week later.
Using CSR benefits
The first thing we did upon receiving the card was use the $300 travel credit. We charged $300 toward our Disney Cruise to Alaska, and the credit showed up immediately.
Next, we applied for Global Entry for my 12-year-old son. My husband and I both have Global Entry and use it to get our entire family through TSA Pre√. When my son turns 13 later this year, he needs his own Global Entry. The $100 we spent was credited back immediately.
Then just this week, we used another $300 travel credit, since it’s based on the calendar year and not the rolling year when we got the card. Again, we charged another $300 for our Alaska cruise, and we already have the credit. So even though we had to pay the $450 card fee, we received $700 in credits to offset the fee.
Aside from the travel and Global Entry credits, we still had over 100,000 Ultimate Rewards points after meeting the minimum spending to trigger the bonus. Woohoo!
We used ~60,000 points to book airline flights through the Chase travel portal. We needed return flights from Fort Myers to Dallas at the end of Spring Break, and Southwest prices were much higher. Tickets on American Airlines cost ~12k UR points through the portal (compared to 17k on Southwest!). The points price was based on the cash cost, and we didn’t have to search for award availability. We also got to choose a more convenient schedule than what was available on Southwest.
Some of our monthly charges have been in travel and dining categories, which earn 3X points. We still have ~60k points left! We will probably use those points to get to California in July or Hawaii in early 2018.
What’s better than one CSR? Two! True, we got a lot of benefit from my husband’s card, but if I could get approved we would get all of that X2.
I won’t be under 5/24 until November, so my best shot at getting the CSR is an in-branch pre-approval. (Doctor of Credit has a great article about Chase branch pre-approvals). In an effort to increase my chances of this, last month I updated my income in my online Chase profile. I read about this strategy on Reddit and decided to give it a try.
I was going to check every few months this year in a branch (since we have one next to our neighborhood), but the recent news about the CSR bonus dropping in half prompted me to go to the bank immediately. With my fingers and toes crossed, I sat down with a banker.
The good news is that Chase pre-approved me for three new credit cards. Wohoo! The bad news is that the CSR was not one of them. I was pre-approved for the Slate, Freedom and Chase Sapphire Preferred (CSP) cards.
A bird in the hand….
While I was bummed about not getting pre-approved for the CSR, I was pleasantly surprised about getting approval for the CSP. I never had the CSP, but I was going to get it back in 2015 right at the same time the first round of 5/24 restrictions came out. I was just a week too late back then.
So my choices were: apply for the CSP in the branch, keep returning through early March to see if I will get a CSR pre-approval, or apply for nothing.
I decided to apply for the CSP. I just wrote a post about this card earlier this week. The miles and points community hasn’t given the CSP as much press as the CSR lately, but it’s still a great card for travel rewards. The best part is, the annual fee is waived the first year!
After meeting the minimum spending and adding my husband as an authorized user, I will have at least 59,000 Ultimate Rewards points. And that’s nothing to sneeze at!
The bonus for this card has been lower in the past, and I’m afraid Chase will reduce it again after the CSR bonus goes down to 50k. I would kick myself if I had the chance to get the CSP at this bonus level and I didn’t take it.
There’s still a slim chance Chase could pre-approve me for the CSR before early March. However, there’s a greater chance that won’t happen. I don’t want to walk away from both cards or get a lower bonus on the CSP, so I decided that a bird in the hand is better than two in the bush.
What should you do?
If you have been thinking about getting the CSR but haven’t done so yet, apply online by Tuesday, January 11, so that you can get the higher 100k bonus. If you can’t apply online due to 5/24, go to a Chase branch to see if you are pre-approved. (As of 1/20/17, this option is no longer available.)
Consider updating your income in your Chase online profile and waiting until the next month to increase your chances of a pre-approval. You can check back in a bank branch through early March while the higher offer is still available.(As of 1/20/17, this option is no longer available.)
If the $450 annual fee on the CSR scares you, apply for the CSP instead. Chase waives the annual fee the first year, and you would still get 59k points after the bonus and adding an authorized user.
If you are going to apply for either of these cards online, please consider applying through our affiliate link at the top of the blog (see this post for more details). This is how the blog stays running, and it’s our main source of income. We appreciate your support!
Is anyone else besides me making a last-ditch effort to get the CSR while the bonus is still 100k?
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Nancy is a contributing writer for Miles For Family. She enjoys traveling to the beach and is a big fan of Disney. Nancy lives near Dallas, Texas, with her husband and three kids.