Few days ago I published a post on renewing my Chase Southwest credit card. It generated a lively discussion in the comments section. One topic that kept coming up was whether it makes sense to renew Chase Sapphire Reserve (CSR) or downgrade it to Chase Sapphire Preferred (CSP).
This isn’t a “one size fits all” kind of situation, so I recommend everyone do their own math to figure out the best option for their (not someone else’s) family. In fact, I ask you to at least consider not renewing any premium Chase card, though I realize it’s a tall order given the love affair with UR currency in the miles and points community. And hey, I admit, I love transferrable UR points too. Just not enough to pay an annual fee to keep them “alive.”
So, the assumption is that you applied for Chase Sapphire Reserve within the last few months and are currently debating on what to do with it at renewal time. Let’s assume it’s the only UR card that allows you to transfer points to airline and hotel partners. And you absolutely, positively want to keep that status quo. You don’t have a business, so applying for Chase Ink Preferred isn’t an option.
If you are under 5/24 (or get pre-approval in branch), and qualify for a sign-up bonus on Chase Sapphire Preferred, I recommend you try to get it in the next few months. Then, at CSR renewal time, you can decide on which one to keep open. If you settle on CSP, then simply cancel CSR (or convert it to Chase Freedom or Freedom Unlimited, as one of the readers pointed out). If you decide that CSR is a good long-term option, cancel your existing CSR first, then upgrade your CSP to CSR. Makes sense?
This will allow you to retain transferability of UR points and to double dip on $300 calendar year travel credit. If you do decide to convert CSP to CSR, make sure to do it before last statement for 2017 generates.
That way you can take advantage of this year’s $300 credit. Actually, by this logic, it could make sense to convert CSP to CSR regardless, if the option is available. Of course, there is some risk that Chase will not allow you to get a second $300 credit for 2017. See my response to one of the commenters for further explanation.
You can read about CSP in my Hot Deals page. It does pay us commission. I don’t currently recommend CSR because the bonus is slashed in half. I’m fairly certain Chase will raise it at some point, so I think you should wait it out. No, it has nothing to do with the fact that CSR doesn’t currently pay us commission. I have been championing this card for few months after it left affiliate network when the offer was still 100K points. Alas, things have changed.
CSP and CSR are very similar. Both come with travel protection, primary car rental coverage etc (see detailed comparison here). The biggest difference, of course, is the annual fee. CSP costs $95 each year, while CSR will set you back $450. But, you can get an annual travel credit of $300 on the latter, so the real difference for many is only $55.
So, which option should you choose?
Here are a couple of things you should consider:
1) Determine if you’ll need Priority Pass lounge access. This is a very nice perk, but only if you end up utilizing it. Lounges can be hard to get to sometimes, and trekking to a different terminal just to use them isn’t very convenient and defeats the purpose of relaxing during layover.
I value one-time Priority Pass lounge access at $35 max (for my family of four), but ONLY if we are hungry and if getting to lounge isn’t a nuisance. My husband will not agree to spend 30 minutes wondering around airport just to get some snacks and a coke. Plus, remember, your layover may end up being shorter than expected due to flight delay. So, the value of this benefit is kind of iffy for most families who fly once or twice per year. But it is a nice perk to have, no question about it.
2) Determine the scale at which you can reasonably accumulate UR points each year. Keep in mind, you can get 1.25 cents on travel via CSP. If you redeem a lot of points, extra 0.25% percentage bump may be worth it. Otherwise, converting CSR to CSP might be the way to go.
3) This goes along with my previous point. Do you currently have a large stash of UR points? If so, renewing CSR may be best, especially if you expect to burn points within the next few years.
4) Can you utilize the $300 annual allowance easily? Make sure that you won’t be just spending money on travel because you have the credit at your disposal. The idea is to pay for things where you would use cash otherwise (not miles or points).
5) Do you usually transfer UR points to airline and hotel partners? How likely are you to change this pattern going forward? If you like fancy Hyatt resorts that cost a fortune during high season, then redeeming UR points at 1.5 cents apiece isn’t going to do much for your wallet. Remember, both CSP and CSR unlock transfers to partners at the exact same rate.
6) Do you spend a lot on travel and dining? Honestly, getting 3 points (via CSR) instead of 2 (via CSP) isn’t a game changer for most folks, but every little bit adds up.
Two hypothetical examples
The best way to illustrate my logic is to highlight two imaginary families. Here we go:
We have a gal named Jill. She is a single mom with two young children. The money is tight, so she only flies once per year to visit relatives. Plus, it’s hard with two kids. The airport where she usually has a layover does have a Priority Pass lounge, but she is not sure on whether she will be able to use it. Truth be told, Jill doesn’t like lounges because it’s very hard for her to control the kids on her own.
Jill will have only 15,000 UR points at her disposal at the time when CSR will come up for renewal. She really wants to keep it open because she loves Hyatt hotels. Jill only uses her UR points for redemptions on category 1 Hyatt properties, which cost 5,000 points per night. Those same hotels go for $150, so she gets 3 cents per UR point, sometimes more. For Jill no other hotel chain will ever come close to Hyatt. This is her treat for taking care of kids on her own.
When it comes to flights, Jill usually transfers UR points to Southwest. As a mom of small kids, she likes the fact that she can cancel tickets and get all of her points back. Jill usually signs up for several new credit cards per year (mostly travel rebates), so she can offset ticket taxes and other expenses.
Otherwise, she makes sure that her UR points cover everything travel related. She also doesn’t think she will accumulate more than 25,000 UR points per year, if that.
Jill should stick to Chase Sapphire Preferred. If she mostly transfers points to Southwest and Hyatt, there is no reason to have CSR. You can usually get 1.5 cents per Southwest point towards flights, so it’s a wash in this respect. She doesn’t like lounges, so this perk is worth very little to her. She can’t easily utilize $300 yearly travel credit, so she would probably have to buy airline gift cards and sell them at a loss. CSR is not a good fit for her situation.
We have a guy named Jack who has a wife and four kids. They regularly fly to visit his parents who live in a different state, and use his existing stash of Southwest points for that. The flight always involves a connection, and there happens to be a Priority Pass lounge in the same terminal. Feeding six people isn’t cheap, so complimentary access is a nice perk to have.
At the moment, Jack has 150,000 UR points with no immediate plans to use them. His family spends quite a bit each month and he makes sure to maximize 5% categories on Chase Freedom. He expects to accumulate at least 50,000 UR points in 2018. He is planning to burn his stash on a trip to Hawaii, but won’t be able to do it till the end of 2018.
Unfortunately, his family can only fly over Christmas holidays, and award availability is scarce during that time. Jack is pretty sure he will have to burn UR points on revenue flights, but of course, he may get lucky. Though getting 6 award seats on the same flight during holidays is a tall order indeed.
Jack’s family spends a lot of money on travel each year, so $300 credit is as good as cash to him.
Jack should renew his Chase Sapphire Reserve. Even if they only utilize lounge access twice each year, that’s easily $80 in food savings for a family of six. That right there makes up for $55 difference in fee between CSP and CSR.
Let’s say he ends up burning his UR points on revenue flights. His 200K points will unlock the value of $3,000 in airline tickets via CSR. If he downgrades to CSP, the value will be only $2,500. That’s $500 difference. Of course, if award tickets become available, it’s a wash, but when traveling during holidays, the odds are against you.
When it comes to annual fees, many times it’s all about estimating the odds of using this or that benefit. Nobody can predict the future, but people are creatures of habit. So, take your best guess and go from there. The winner of CSR vs. CSP battle will be different for everyone. And for many families, the answer is actually: neither one.
Reader, are you Jack or Jill?
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Leana is the founder of Miles For Family. She enjoys beach vacations and visiting her family in Europe. Originally from Belarus, Leana resides in central Florida with her husband and two children.
Lisa M. says
Great article of pros and cons. You can also get the Priority Pass with Amex Hilton Surpass along with Gold status. However, you still have to pay $27/visit. But, it’s an alternative than a $450/yr card.
@Lisa M Thank you so much! You are right, there are other ways to get lounge access if you really need it. You can even buy passes to airline lounges on Ebay. I think those go for around $15, so the market has spoken!
For most families, it’s probably not worth it. However, for long international layovers, it could make sense. My relatives were able to get full dinner and use nap rooms during a connection in Middle East, which saved them money on hotel. Of course, they got in the whole family for free courtesy of Citi Prestige.
Lisa M. says
Yes, I can see how it’s more beneficial for a family versus a single person. But like you pointed out, I’d hate to see someone hold onto it solely for maybe using the lounges on a short layover flight. That $450 fee needs to add value. But thanks again for another insightful post.
@Lisa M For sure! I really like CSR, but I will have to let it go. The value in exchange for paying the fee just isn’t there for my specific situation. But everyone is different. Thanks for your kind words.
@Leana – great write up and comparison. You answered a lot of my questions, and made the entire decision making process a whole lot easier with the Jack and Jill scenarios. Thanks again!
@Stephanie Thank you. I’m more than happy to help! Please feel free to email me if you ever have any questions.
Kudos!! We’re keeping CSR as we have lots of travel coming up in 2017 and 2018. Next month Montreal, Baltimore inner harbor in May, NYC in July, WDW in August. In 2018, we have Calgary/Banff in March and WDW and DCL in August. I’m sure I’ll add more to the list for 2018.. lol..
CSR makes sense as I can accumulate lots of points this year and in 2018 by using it as my primary card.
@Natasha You are definitely the “Jack” in my post.:) Enjoy all those Priority Pass lounges!
Can you explain this to me a little better: “If you decide that CSR is a good long-term option, cancel your existing CSR first, then upgrade your CSP to CSR. Makes sense?
This will allow you to retain transferability of UR points.”
What exactly is the benefit to this? Say I have a CSR and a CSP and I’m only going to renew one. If I chose the CSR, can I move all my points to that card and just cancel the CSP? Or do I need to do what you outlined?
@Anonymous I’m very sorry I didn’t make myself clear. The strategy actually doesn’t have anything to do with keeping points in transferable form, as you correctly pointed out. I didn’t word it the right way. I can see why this statement can seem confusing.
Here is my reasoning. As I’ve mentioned in the post, if you convert CSP to CSR, you’ll be eligible for $300 airline credit for 2017. I’m assuming that by then you would have already used up the $300 credit on existing CSR. So the idea is to double dip on the credit, legitimately, of course. Makes sense? I should update the post.
Okay, I got it. Thanks!
Robert Foster says
Wouldn’t it make more selse not to cancel any Chase card, but rather PC to a Freedom or Freedom Unlimited?
@Robert Foster It’s an option, definitely. I probably need to do a separate post on this issue at some point, lol This was a very simplistic statement because I didn’t want to potentially confuse relatively new readers.
There are a couple of issues with converting instead of canceling. One: you won’t be able to get the sign-up bonus on that offer. Of course, this only affects folks who are not under 5/24. Two: Chase will only issue so much credit based on your income. Sure, you can reduce credit limits, but that adds another layer of complexity.
Basically, I just said “cancel” to keep it simple, but I believe I need to expand on this whole thing. Thanks for stopping by!
Great post! I had decided to keep my CSR and this article helped confirm my decision. We are a little more like “Jack”. I have also found value in redeeming UR points at 1.5 cents each towards activities, which adds up to a lot of savings for my family of six. However, my husband’s CSR is going to become another Freedom, I hope!
@Andrea Glad to have helped you! CSR is great for some families, no question about it. Lounge access can pay off big time and getting 1.5 cents towards activities is a nice way to use up small quantities of UR points. Oh, and converting your husband’s card to Freedom shouldn’t be an issue.
Thank you for this post. I found your site after searching ways to save on a trip to Disneyland. I previously focused on cash back cards for the past few years. I signed up for CSR because I knew the 100K UR was too good to pass up. After meeting the spend for the bonus, I planned on signing up for a Chase Freedom to maximize the bonus categories until I read this post. After reading I realized that I was better off signing up for CSP instead to get the 50K bonus plus 5K authorized user (only 2/24 after CSR, now 3/24 with CSP). I will likely downgrade either the CSR or CSP to Freedom when next year’s annual fees are due. I travel for business so Priority Pass may be worthwhile to keep CSR. I will use the upcoming Disneyland trip to meet the minimum spend for the CSP bonus. I linked to the application through this page so hopefully you get the commission. Thanks again for the info and I look forward to future posts!
@Robert First of all, I’m so glad you found this site and consider our content beneficial. It means a lot to me! I also appreciate the fact that you used our link to apply for CSP. This is a mom-and-pop operation and we are grateful for any support readers throw our way! Our goal is to keep the content free, and affiliate marketing allows us to pay expenses and to continue writing.
I definitely think you made the right call getting CSR, then CSP. Freedom is a very good card, but you can always apply for it later on or just convert CSR or CSP. I’m of the opinion that it’s best to “collect” sign-up bonuses first, then worry about maximizing everyday spending. The current offer on CSP is very compelling.
If you do travel a good bit, Priority Pass benefit may come in handy. Overall, CSR is superior to CSP, but not for everyone.
Please, always feel free to reach out via email at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions.