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Chase Sapphire Reserve increases annual fee to $550—is the card still worth the cost?

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The Chase Sapphire Reserve® has a cult-like following ever since it launched in 2016 to an overabundance of applicants — so many that Chase ran out of the metal to make the card. But the card is getting some major updates this year that have cardholders second-guessing whether it's truly the best luxury travel credit card.

New applicants will now pay a $550 annual fee starting January 12, 2020, and the price is going up for existing cardholders on April 1, 2020. That's a $100 increase from the current $450 fee.

I lucked out when I applied and got approved for the Chase Sapphire Reserve® earlier this week, locking in the $450 annual fee for a year — and you can too if you apply by January 11, 2020. However, I wasn't expecting the annual fee to increase right away. Now that I'll be charged $550 next year, I'm questioning the value of the card.

And so are existing cardholders. There has been a lot of chatter on forums, such as Reddit, with existing cardholders complaining about the fee and considering cancelling the card.

Below, CNBC Select breaks down the value of the card so you can decide if the $550 annual fee is worthwhile.

Chase Sapphire Reserve®

  • Rewards

    10X points on Lyft rides through March 2022, 3X points on travel worldwide (immediately after earning your $300 annual travel credit), 3X points on dining at restaurants worldwide, 1X point per $1 on all other purchases

  • Welcome bonus

    50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening — worth up to $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®

  • Annual fee

    $550

  • Intro APR

    None

  • Regular APR

    18.49% to 25.49% variable

  • Balance transfer fee

    5%, minimum $5

  • Foreign transaction fee

    None

  • Credit needed

    Excellent

  • Terms apply.

On Chase's secure site

Value of Chase Sapphire Reserve benefits

Chase confirmed that all existing card benefits are remaining, and a few new perks are being added to help compensate for the increased fee. Here's an analysis of how much each perk is estimated to be worth.

  • Annual travel credit: $300
  • Priority Pass Select membership: $429
  • Global Entry or TSA PreCheck credit: up to $100
  • Lyft Pink membership: $239
  • DoorDash credits: $120 statement credit ($60 in 2020 and $60 in 2021), plus a DashPass membership worth up to $200, depending on when you activate

If you take advantage of all these benefits, the total estimated value of the perks is approximately $1,388. That more than offsets the $550 annual fee. And that's not including the other benefits that are harder to estimate value, such as daily breakfast for two and room upgrades at The Luxury Hotel & Resort Collection.

Alternatives to the Chase Sapphire Reserve card

Not everyone is an extreme optimizer, and it might be hard for some people to use all the perks offered by the Sapphire Reserve card. If you don't want to pay an annual fee, there are travel credit cards with no annual fee, such as the Wells Fargo Propel American Express® card, which also offers 3X points on travel purchases.

Wells Fargo Propel American Express® Card

  • Rewards

    3X points on dining out and ordering in; gas, rideshares and transit; flights, hotels, homestays and car rentals; and popular streaming services. 1X points on all other purchases

  • Welcome bonus

    20,000 bonus points when you spend $1,000 in purchases in the first 3 months

  • Annual fee

    $0

  • Intro APR

    0% APR for 12 months on purchases and balance transfers

  • Regular APR

    15.49% to 27.49% variable

  • Balance transfer fee

    Introductory fee of either $5 or 3% of the amount of each balance transfer, whichever is greater, for 120 days from account opening. After that, up to 5% for each balance transfer, with a minimum of $5

  • Foreign transaction fee

    None

  • Credit needed

    Excellent/Good

  • Terms apply.

Information about the Wells Fargo Propel American Express® Card has been collected independently by CNBC and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of the card prior to publication.

Or you can consider downgrading to the similar Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, which has a lower $95 annual fee. (Compare the Chase Sapphire Reserve® card and the Chase Sapphire Preferred® card.)

Chase Sapphire Preferred®

  • Rewards

    5X points on Lyft rides through March 2022, 2X points on travel and dining worldwide, 1X points on all other purchases

  • Welcome bonus

    60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening — worth up to $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®

  • Annual fee

    $95

  • Intro APR

    None

  • Regular APR

    17.49% to 24.49% variable on purchases and balance transfers

  • Balance transfer fee

    Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater

  • Foreign transaction fee

    None

  • Credit needed

    Excellent/Good

  • Terms apply.

On Chase's secure site

And if paying $550 isn't an issue, you might want to consider another luxury travel credit card. The Platinum Card® from American Express also costs $550 a year and offers premium travel perks, such as lounge access, Uber credits, Global Entry/TSA PreCheck credits and airline fee credits (see rates and fees).

The Platinum Card® from American Express

  • Rewards

    5X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel and on on prepaid hotels booked on amextravel.com, 1X Membership Rewards® points on all other purchases

  • Welcome bonus

    60,000 Membership Rewards® points after spending $5,000 within 3 months of account opening

  • Annual fee

    $550

  • Intro APR

    None

  • Regular APR

    See rates and fees

  • Balance transfer fee

    Not applicable

  • Foreign transaction fee

    None

  • Credit Needed

    Excellent/Good

  • See rates and fees, terms apply.

On American Express's Secure Site

Learn more: When is it worthwhile to pay an annual fee for a credit card?

For rates and fees of The Platinum Card® from American Express, click here.

Editorial Note: Opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the CNBC Select editorial staff’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any third party.

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