What Qualifies As Dining & Travel On The Chase Sapphire Reserve?

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While some other premium credit cards are all about the perks, one of things that makes the  Chase Sapphire Reserve® Card so well rounded is that it’s also a fantastic card for everyday spend. Specifically, the card has two industry leading bonus categories, as it offers triple points on dining and travel.

The  Chase Sapphire Reserve® Card has a $450 annual fee, though offers a $300 annual travel credit that’s automatically applied to any travel purchases. For all practical purposes, I consider that to more or less be worth face value, meaning that the out of pocket on the card is ~$150 per year. For that you get triple points on dining and travel, a Priority Pass membership, fantastic travel and car rental coverage, no foreign transaction fees, the ability to redeem points for 1.5 cents each, a Global Entry fee credit, and more.

Even if you don’t value most of those perks, I think a lot of people would benefit from being able to earn triple points on dining and travel, especially given how broad those categories are. In this post I wanted to look at that more closely.

Is triple points on dining and travel really that generous?

The  Chase Sapphire Reserve® Card offers triple points on dining and travel without any sort of caps. Personally I value Ultimate Rewards points at 1.7 cents each, meaning to me that’s the equivalent of a return of 5.1%. That’s an incredible — largely unparalleled — return.

Many people value Ultimate Rewards points even higher than I do, though at a minimum you can redeem the points for 1.5 cents each towards a travel purchase. So at an absolute minimum you’re earning the equivalent of a 4.5% return on dining and travel. That’s an incredible return, and keep in mind there’s no skill required for those redemptions. You can book all kinds of travel experiences through the Ultimate Rewards website at that rate.

How the Chase Sapphire Reserve 3x points categories work

Before we talk about what qualifies as dining and travel on the Chase Sapphire Reserve℠ Card, let’s talk about the basics of how these bonus categories work. First of all, the triple points post to your statement at the same time the usual points do. When you look at your individual transactions on your statement, you’ll see the triple points post at the same time as the usual points.

Next, a merchant’s eligibility for triple points is all based on how they choose to categorize themselves when they set up their merchant contract. So while it’s rare, sometimes a restaurant won’t be correctly categorized, though that can work both ways, as sometimes non-traditional travel or dining retailers will be categorized as such.

Also keep in mind that with services like Square, etc., it’s more likely that businesses won’t be set up correctly. While it’s fairly rare, it all comes down to the merchant to decide how they’re going to categorize themselves.

What qualifies as travel with the Chase Sapphire Reserve?

What qualifies as travel for the purposes of the  Chase Sapphire Reserve® Card? Here’s Chase’s definition:

Merchants in the travel category include 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.

Meanwhile here’s what Chase says doesn’t qualify as travel:

Please note that some merchants that provide transportation and travel-related services are not included in this category; for example, real estate agents, educational merchants arranging travel, in-flight goods and services, on-board cruise line goods and services, sightseeing activities, excursions, tourist attractions, merchants within hotels and airports, and merchants that rent vehicles for the purpose of hauling. In addition, the purchasing of gift cards, points or miles does not qualify in this category unless the merchant has set up such purchases to be classified in the travel category.

I think most people don’t realize just how broad the travel category is. We think of travel spend as being when we actually go on a trip somewhere, but for many, a significant amount of their everyday spend is actually travel. Uber, parking, subway tickets, train tickets, etc., all qualify as travel.

Furthermore, this really is an incredible card for when you’re traveling internationally. Most people are just looking for a card with no foreign transaction fees when traveling internationally, but you also earn triple points in the dining and travel category when abroad. For many people, a vast majority of their spend when traveling abroad would be eligible for triple points.

Lastly, I’d note that the ability to earn triple points on mileage purchases is entirely dependent on how the airline or hotel chain categorizes those purchases. Some airlines sell points directly, in which case they’d qualify as travel. This includes American AAdvantage, Avianca LifeMiles, etc. Meanwhile other companies sell points through points.com, which wouldn’t qualify as travel — this includes Alaska Mileage Plan, Hilton Honors, Starwood Preferred Guest, etc.

What qualifies as dining with the Chase Sapphire Reserve?

What qualifies as restaurants for the purposes of the  Chase Sapphire Reserve® Card? Here’s Chase’s definition:

Merchants in the restaurant category are merchants whose primary business is sit-down or eat-in dining, including fast food restaurants as well as fine dining establishments.

Meanwhile here’s what Chase says doesn’t qualify as dining:

Please note that merchants that sell food and drinks located within larger merchants such as sports stadiums, hotels and casinos, theme parks, grocery and department stores will not be included in this category unless the merchant has set up such purchases to be classified in a restaurant category. In addition, gift card and delivery service merchants will not be included in this category unless the merchant has set up such purchases to be classified in the restaurant category.

In practice most coffeeshops also qualify as dining, so you can earn triple points for everything from a Michelin star restaurant to Chipotle to Starbucks. However, many food delivery services don’t qualify. For example, I love Postmates for having food delivered whenever I’m in a major US city, and unfortunately that doesn’t quality as dining due to how they’re categorized. They view themselves as a technology company rather than a dining company (which is fair enough). Grocery stores also don’t generally qualify as dining.

Bottom line

The  Chase Sapphire Reserve® Card offers a generous sign-up bonus, a great return on everyday spend, and excellent benefits. Many people don’t realize just how many things are included in the dining and travel categories, which can really help you maximize your points.

At a minimum, you’re looking at a 4.5% return on dining and travel spend, given that you can redeem the points for 1.5 cents each towards a travel purchase. In many cases it gets even better than that, if you’re like me and value Ultimate Rewards points at more, for the ability to transfer them to airline and hotel partners.

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  1. Top tip is you are travelling in Japan and have a new IPhone X. If you install the Suica App and create a suica card for iPhone you can pay for almost anything and have it code as travel. The Suica is an IC card issued by JR East railways and you can use it to pay for travel and things in shops up to almost any value.

    Topping up using my CSP using Apple Pay is paying JR east and codes as travel so almost any purchase in Japan can code as travel. I should write a bit of a tutorial and put on flyetalk.

  2. Hey Ben, so I’m not as attracted to elite status with a Hotel that much I don’t mind a cheap room, so if I use my chase sapphire reserve for hotel purchases, that counts as 3 points per dollar as well? As per the definition of what is included?

  3. Sometimes you just don’t know what qualifies as dining until you try. I was expecting that a bakery like Paul in South Beach would qualify as dining. You can actually have a meal there, in addition to dessert and a drink and it is more upscale than the fast food places. But when I got my statement I saw I was wrong.

  4. I figure that CSR is really giving you 4.5% back when you consider the 150% credit you get for booking travel through Chase. And the prices there are comparable to elsewhere.

    That’s about as good as it gets

  5. In addition to the dining you can also stack this with restaurants that also do the dining programs with various vendors. So in addition the 4.5% or 3x, etc. you can also earn several miles or points per $1 spent at those locations. It doesn’t sound like much until you host a large dinner at one of these restaurants using your CSR as well 🙂

  6. I live in Japan and an expensive dinner at a restaurant located in a shopping mall didn’t count because the charge posted under the mall’s name. On the other hand, we tried the MariKar (driving go-carts around Tokyo), and that counted as a travel purchase. You don’t know until you try! Will have to try the Suica app and use that for purchases.

  7. If you use MileagePlus X, you can get 3x on many purchases. For example, I buy Texas Roadhouse gift cards on MPX for 5miles/$, but if I used my CSR, I get 3x/$ more for the actual gift card purchase. So that’s 8 miles per dollar.

  8. Bought a gift card for my parents to a resort that they enjoy going to. I was super excited about it since the resort offered a 20% bonus when you bought a certain amount and I figured I would get 3x points for it. When I reviewed it online, it was only 1x points. I called Chase about it and the merchant identifies them self as a amusement park and that wouldn’t qualify. Oh well, it happens, but I will say that Chase’s customer service was super nice and helpful.

  9. Not all parking counts as travel…for example, most parking lots associated with schools and colleges are coded as education by VISA, so they aren’t counted as travel for the purposes of Chase rewards. Source: my own experience and confirmation from Chase CSR

  10. Some oddities I encountered:

    – Drinks onboard a Southwest flight do not count; I know in-flight goods and services are not considered travel, but I would have thought this would be considered dining (it’s not like Southwest sells anything else onboard).

    – The Cheese Board Collective pizzeria in Berkeley is not categorized as dining; I wonder if they share a merchant account with the adjacent bakery.

    – Parking at UC Berkeley is not travel, but parking at CSU Long Beach is.

    – Inside the Universal Studios Hollywood theme park, Duff’s Beer is dining but the Three Broomsticks restaurant and Gru’s Lab Cafe are not; parking at the park is travel.

  11. Ed, you really have a good point regarding the spending on the IC card but you have to be in Japan for a long while to use all that money unless you use it to pay for hotels.

  12. Super frustrating is that many bookings through VRBO do not count as travel. Many are coded as real estate blah blah blah…

    I have a lot of stays where I was expecting thousands on points and ended up with substantially less bc I only got 1x points.

    I seem to have better luck with Air BnB however.

    And thanks to @Ed for the great tip in Japan!

  13. @Daniel Chung

    I just got back and I’d already made my minimum spend so this was just bonus and with no foreign transaction fees this was the best deal in my wallet. However I used the Suica everywhere. Apple Pay acceptance is far from universal and pulling out a credit card means signing. Topping up is so fast you can normally do it before the assistant has rung up the total, so I kept a low balance and topped up as I went.

    I did pay for one hotel using suica but just to see if I could. No benefit really from using it over swiping the card in a hotel.

    As a good points and miles collector I even worked out how to sign up for JRE points which can be earned for suica purchases although I haven’t the faintest idea what they can be used for (never turn down a point).

  14. glaring omission here on travel categories …. Gas stations? How does Chase categorize? Capital One usually counts fueling costs as travel, but at least with Sapphire Preferred, Chase does not. Is that different on the reserve card?

  15. I too was surprised that VRBO rental was listed under “Tax, Legal & Financial Servcies
    .” I often rent a villa through a resort I frequent. Sometimes it’s considered travel, sometimes it’s not. Also, getting a restaurant gift card on-line may not be considered restaurant either.

  16. Very helpful, Lucky. Thank you. Have you published a list of the airlines that categorize points purchases as travel in addition to American?

  17. I don’t get credit for the cafeteria in my office building because they use a catering merchant code. You may also encounter this at places that also do catering.

  18. I was happy that advance lift tickets from Whitefish Mountain Resort coded as travel (x3). So I then purchased lessons/daycare at Whitefish Mountain for my kids on the SR, only for that to be coded as other (x1). I secure messaged Chase through their website. They said it was based on how the vendor coded themselves. Customer service, however, credited me with the otherwise extra points after I said I made the subsequent purchase based on the first one (otherwise I would have used the Freedom Unlimited (x1.5).

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