Two of the top premier travel cards on the market are the Chase Sapphire Reserve and The Platinum Card® from American Express. Both offer stellar rewards, flexible redemption options and an array of luxury perks to help you upgrade your overall travel experience.
Both also come with a hefty annual fee. For many, it can be expensive (and redundant) to have one of each in your wallet — so which one should you apply for?
Here’s the breakdown
|Chase Sapphire Reserve||Amex Platinum|
|Welcome bonus||50,000 points (after spending $4,000 in the first three months)||60,000 points (after spending $5,000 in the first three months)|
|Rewards rate||3x points on dining and travel*, 1x points on all other purchases||5x points on airfare booked directly through an airline or through the Amex travel portal; 5x points on prepaid hotels booked through the Amex travel portal; 1x points on all other purchases|
|Redemption value||1.50 cents (when redeemed through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal)||1 cent (but you can often find more value when you transfer to one of their 21 travel partners)|
*Cardholders will earn 3x points on travel after earning the $300 travel credit.
Chase Sapphire Reserve: Superior travel protections
You will be hard-pressed to find a card with better travel protections than the Sapphire Reserve, which include:
- Primary car rental coverage
- Travel assistance
- Baggage loss or damage, up to $3,000 per passenger
- Baggage delay, up to $100 per day for up to five days if bags are more than six hours late
- Trip delay insurance, up to $500 per ticket for delays of more than six hours
- Trip cancellation and interruption, up to $10,000 per person and $20,000 per trip
- Travel accident insurance
- Emergency evacuation and transportation, up to $100,000
- Roadside assistance, up to $50 per incident, four times per year
- Purchase protection, within 120 days and up to $10,000 per claim and $50,000 per year
- Extended warranty for an additional year on warranties of three years or less
- Return protection, up to 90 days on $500 per item and $1,000 per year
Amex Platinum: Premium perks
The Amex Platinum reigns supreme when it comes to luxury perks. If you plan on utilizing all of the perks each year, you can easily make up the cost of the annual fee even before factoring in earned rewards.
Many top-tier cards come with Priority Pass Select access. As Priority Pass lounges become easier to get into, many luxury travelers have complained about how packed they can get. This is where Amex goes above and beyond. With your Platinum Card, you’ll also have access to Delta Sky Clubs (when you fly Delta), Airspace Lounges and the exclusive Centurion lounges.
With the Platinum Card, you’ll get gold elite status with Marriott and Hilton. That’s actually a higher automatic elite status with Marriott Bonvoy than you would get with some of Marriott’s co-branded cards.
Gold status with Marriott Bonvoy means a 25% point bonus on stays, enhanced room upgrade, 2 p.m. late checkout, enhanced in-room internet access, a dedicated elite reservation line, exclusive member rates and more.
With Hilton, it means an 80% point bonus on stays, no resort fees, digital check-in and room selection, a digital key, second guest free privileges, complimentary breakfast, late check-out, elite tier rollover nights and more.
You’ll also get access to two great hotel programs: American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts and The Hotel Collection.
The Hotel Collection comes with benefits such as a room upgrade at check-in (if available), lower rates depending on what Amex has negotiated and up to a $100 credit for eligible dining, spa and resort activities.
American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts offers these additional perks:
- Room upgrade upon arrival, whenever available
- Complimentary breakfast for you and a guest
- Guaranteed 4 p.m. late check-out
- Early 12 p.m. check-out, whenever available
- A unique amenities, such as a dining credit (for example)
Your Platinum Card will get you access to discounts on first, business and premium economy tickets via the International Airline Program. Considering you can also typically get more value from Membership Rewards points when you redeem them for first or business class tickets, you can end up saving tens of thousands of points by booking with your Amex Platinum.
If you are an over-packer like I am, you’ll also enjoy the $200 airline incidentals fee credit each year. It covers baggage fees and more. Note, however, that you have to choose which airline that fee goes towards and cannot change your selection once it’s made.
Which card is right for you?
It all comes down to which perks you will use more frequently. The Amex Platinum offers the larger list — with everything from elite status with Marriott and Hilton to access to multiple airport lounge collections. However, not every traveler finds those perks worthwhile.
For example, I stay at an Airbnb when I travel more than I ever stay at a Marriott or Hilton. Elite status with those brands doesn’t add much value for me at this point in my life. Additionally, aside from the occasional checked baggage on longer trips, the airline credit won’t be as valuable to me, either. On the other hand, I am a young woman who often travels alone, so the additional travel protections that the Chase Sapphire Reserve offers are incredibly valuable to me.
That may not be the case for everyone. If you often frequent lounges when you travel, for example, the additional lounge access with Amex alone might make that card a better fit for you.
Something else to consider is your spending habits. If you spend a lot of money on flights or prepaid hotels (and use other credit cards to maximize dining and entertainment expenses), you will most likely get a better return with the Amex Platinum. If you tend to spend more on dining or travel expenses like rideshares and homestay rentals, the Reserve will most likely be the better choice.
Alternatively, if you are worried about fully utilizing the credits and perks that come with either of these cards, a more beginner travel card might be better for you. The American Express® Gold Card is a solid compromise, with a more varied rewards program at less than half the Platinum’s annual fee. The Chase Sapphire Preferred Card offers 2x points on travel and dining, plus your points are worth 1.25 cents each when you book travel through the Chase portal.
The bottom line
These are both stellar additions to any frequent traveler’s wallet. While the Amex Platinum requires you to pay a higher annual fee, the additional perks that come with it more than make up for it — if, and here’s the caveat, you plan to take full advantage of them. If you’re more interested in top-of-the-line travel protections and maximum redemption value, the Chase Sapphire Reserve might be more your speed.