After years of faithfully using one domestic credit card—to which I charged everything, and paid it off monthly, so my entire life would be automatically itemized at tax time—I was long overdue to find, and switch to, the best international travel credit card around.
Because my old credit card paid just a little cash back, it charged foreign transaction fees (FTF), and it didn't offer much else. Ouch.
And while I know it's not glamorous to read about credit cards, it's so essential for those who want to travel wisely.
After a Year of Credit Card Research
So after a year of credit card research, it became obvious that the Chase Sapphire Reserve would be the best travel credit card for me.
However, I initially hesitated at getting it because of its annual fee. I wasn't used to paying an annual fee and I didn't want to start.
That is, until I realized that the annual fee is essentially reimbursed back to me through immediate credit on my statement, plus through services and benefits that I need and that I was already paying for elsewhere.
This means, for me, the $450 annual fee is literally a wash—it becomes a $0 fee—after Chase automatically reimburses my card $300 annually for travel expenses, provides the roadside assistance I've paid someone else nearly $100 annually for, and with multiple other travel memberships, benefits, and services that I already need and have had to pay someone else for..
Wait, What are Those Benefits and Services?
In addition to the 50,000 bonus points, 3x points on travel and dining, and no foreign transaction fees, there are many. As of right now, here are some of my favorites...
$300 Annual Travel Statement Credit
The first $300 that I spend in the travel category each year ("...airlines, hotels, motels, timeshares, car rental agencies, cruise lines, travel agencies, discount travel sites, campgrounds and operators of passenger trains, buses, taxis, limousines, ferries, toll bridges and highways, and parking lots and garages...") is quickly and automatically reimbursed back to my credit card.
I think I earned this $300 travel credit during the first 30 days that I had this card. It's a slam dunk.
Roadside Assistance (4 incidents/year, $50/incident, makes this a $200 value)
When I had an auto, I paid nearly $100 annually for a AAA membership. After I sold my auto, I still wanted to keep my AAA membership because I travel all over, at all hours, in a certain someone's auto. And you just never know. So I like a backup plan at my fingertips if something goes wrong. I can't believe this benefit is included with this credit card! If I have a roadside emergency, I can call for a tow, jumpstart, tire change, locksmith or gas. Seriously—up to 4 incidents a year.
Global Entry or TSA Pre✓ Application Fee $100 Credit
$100 of my Global Entry application fee will be reimbursed back to my credit card. Again, how could I not have this credit card?
Priority Pass™ Select Membership (a $399 annual value)
While researching credit cards, I found that many credit card companies appeared to offer "free" Priority Pass memberships, when in fact that "free" membership actually requires the card member to still "pay a fee" at each airport lounge. And most credit card offers did not clarify this fee ahead of time.
However, Chase Sapphire Reserve offers a Priority Pass Select membership that truly is free, free, free. The card member does not have to pay a fee to enter the program's lounges (I'm still not sure if the card member's guests have to pay a fee or not). But if you're traveling all over the place, how sweet to slip into one of these lounges for free food, free Wi-Fi, or a free shower during layovers.
Emergency Medical and Dental (up to $2,500)
When I'm 100 miles or more away from home on a trip and I become sick/injured, there are circumstances where I would qualify to be reimbursed up to $2,500 for emergency medical expenses. Since you never know when a medical emergency might arise while traveling, and since local health insurance and travel insurance have their own coverage limitations, I find this an exquisitely thoughtful benefit to include with this credit card.
Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance ($10,000/trip)
This is a phenomenal benefit that I truly can't believe is included. If my trip is cancelled/cut short by sickness, severe weather or other situations covered by this benefit, I can be reimbursed up to $10,000/trip for pre-paid, non-refundable travel expenses. When you travel all the time (or even just a couple times a year), and especially through Airbnb (where I prepay by the month/s), this is huge.
Lost Luggage Reimbursement (up to $3,000)
If I check/carry luggage and it becomes damaged/lost by the carrier, I can be reimbursed up to $3,000. My Lojel and I love this!
What More Could One Want in a Credit Card?*
Clearly, the Chase Sapphire Reserve is a phenomenal credit card. And not just because it's a cool metal card.
It essentially reimburses my annual fee, plus provides me with more travel support, services and benefits than I knew possible from a credit card company.
*But guess what? There's one thing the Chase Sapphire Reserve does not yet offer: a PIN. Meaning, I will encounter kiosks overseas that require me to enter a PIN (instead of writing my signature). Thus, I do need a second credit card, a PIN credit card, to use when I'm required to enter a PIN. I can handle that.