Money

I got the $450 travel credit card everyone was raving about—here's how much money I've saved

The introduction of the Chase Sapphire Reserve made headlines last year with its unmatched travel rewards, including a sign-up bonus of 100,000 points and three times points on travel and dining.

It was so popular that the bank actually ran out of metal cards within days of unveiling it.

"The Points Guy," who travels the world for next to nothing, thanks to credit-card rewards and frequent-flyer miles, called it "one of the most compelling travel rewards cards in the industry."

I typically hate spending money, but I jumped on the chance to sign up for the $450-a-year credit card.

It's been nearly a year since I started swiping the Sapphire Reserve. Here's the breakdown of the rewards I've earned and money I've saved since opening the card in October 2016:

The travel credit saved me $600. The card offers a $300 annual travel credit reimbursement each calendar year, which I earned both in 2016 and 2017.

Rather than thinking about the travel credit as savings, however, I like to think about it as a perk that lowers the annual fee: The rebate essentially bumps the fee down from $450 a year to $150 a year.

The sign-up bonus earned me $1,500 worth of travel. The sign-up bonus dropped to 50,000 in January, but, at the time I signed up, Chase was offered 100,000 bonus points if you spent $4,000 in the first three months.

You get 1.5 cents per point when using them to book travel. That gives the bonus points a value of $1,500, which covers the $150 annual fee for 10 years — and that's if I never swipe the card again and therefore don't accumulate any more points.

So far, the bonus has covered a handful of trips home to Charlotte, plus flights to Jamaica, New Orleans, Cleveland, San Francisco and Chicago.

The bonus points have sponsored several trips home to Charlotte
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The bonus points have sponsored several trips home to Charlotte

I will say that $4,000 in three months is more than I would typically spend, and any financial advisor will warn against overspending just to lock in a credit card signup bonus. I worked around this by putting big group tabs on the card when my friends and I went out and asking my family to use it for bigger expenses, like flights or hotels. After I picked up the bill, friends and family paid me back via Venmo.

That way, I earned the signup bonus without altering my monthly spending.

The rewards points earned me $568 worth of travel. Besides the 100,000 bonus points, I've earned an additional 37,863 points for using my card on a regular basis. That's another $568 that I can put towards travel.

The global entry fee credit saved me $100. The card waives the $100 application fee for Global Entry or TSA Pre-check, which I signed up for immediately.

It also comes with access to airport lounges, which has saved me a few bucks here and there on airport food and drinks.

Here's a breakdown of how much I paid and profited after one year of being a cardholder:

Expenses

Card fee: $450
Total: $450

Savings

Travel credit: $300
Global entry fee credit: $100
Rewards points: 137,863, which is a value of $2,068 when redeemed for travel
Total: $2,468

Net profit: $2,018

Plus, thanks to Global Entry, I've saved hours of time waiting in airport lines, which some would argue is even more valuable than the cash savings.

This card isn't for everyone. If you don't travel a lot and aren't a big spender, you won't necessarily reap the card's benefits and offset the fee. But, for me, it's worth it.

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