Changes are coming later this year to the wildly popular Chase Sapphire Reserve credit card, cutting the value of some of its perks.
Details started to trickle out online Friday from customers who had heard the company was planning reductions to three of the premium travel card’s benefits.
An internal document leaked over the weekend on the website Doctor of Credit detailed the looming changes:
- Elimination of price protection on purchases. Previously, customers could get a refund of up to $500 per item— up to $2,500 per year — if the price dropped in the 90 days following the purchase.
- Limiting the number of guests a cardholder can bring to a Priority Pass lounge to two. Previously, the complimentary Priority Pass membership allowed cardholders to bring an unlimited number of guests to the more than 1,200 lounges in the program. Authorized users also get two guests, but any additional guests will cost $27 each.
- Eliminating accelerated earning on travel purchases that go toward the annual $300 travel credit. All travel and dining purchases had received three times the Ultimate Rewards points. This slight tweak means that only travel purchases above and beyond the $300 annual travel credit earn the points. That’s a reduction of 900 points, which is worth $13.50 when cashed in through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal.
A Chase spokesman confirmed the authenticity of the document, which says that customers will be notified this month and that the changes will go into effect August 26.
“We are always evaluating our products to offer the right mix of rewards, benefits, and experiences that provide the most value to our customers — and those they tell us they value most,” the company said in a statement to Business Insider.
Check out the document below:
Why reduce the benefits?
The Sapphire Reserve’s popularity has soared since it launched in 2016 with a package of outlandishly generous travel rewards.
But its profitability has come into question, with some analysts estimating the card won’t be profitable for several years.
At its investor day earlier this year, JPMorgan said it lost $900 million last year from “card headwinds,” which it attributed to the Sapphire Reserve and “other notable items,” according to a company presentation.
But JPMorgan also disclosed that the card had cleared a crucial hurdle, with 90% of Sapphire Reserve cardholders renewing and ponying up for the $450 annual fee. It said it expected headwinds to reverse this year.
“These Sapphire Reserve customers … are not only profitable as a single product relationship, but they are an extremely attractive base into which we will deepen,” CFO Marianne Lake said during the presentation. “And we are seeing an impressive more than 90% renewal rate for these cards.”
Given the enthusiasm and positive messaging from Chase, why devalue the benefits?
It’s unclear what prompted the changes, or how much money Chase stands to save from them.
They’re not without industry precedent, however.
Priority Pass lounges have become saturated with visitors since cards like the Sapphire Reserve — as well as the American Express Platinum and the Citi Prestige — granted complimentary access, according to a recent report from The Wall Street Journal.
American Express and Citi do not offer unlimited Priority Pass guest access like the Sapphire Reserve, so the change is in keeping with competitors in the premium-credit-card space.
Eliminating price protection could amount to considerable savings for Chase, given that customers could receive up to $2,500 in refunds out of Chase’s pocket annually. Again, it’s unclear how many people took advantage of this perk or how much it was costing Chase, but the change comes amid the emergence of apps like Earny and Sift that automatically track purchases and file refund claims on your behalf, streamlining and simplifying the process.
Chase previously said it would eliminate price protection and return protection for its co-branded credit cards with United Airlines.
Citi reduced its price-protection policy earlier this year but didn’t eliminate it entirely.