If you ask most rewards enthusiasts which travel credit cards are most sought after today, the Chase Sapphire Reserve® and The Platinum Card® from American Express are usually the first that come to mind. Both offer stellar rewards, flexible redemption options and an array of luxury perks to help you upgrade your overall travel experience. That said, you’ll fork over a hefty annual fee for each of them—$550 per year—and this fee is not waived the first year.
With that in mind, many consumers pick just one of these cards instead of both. While Chase Sapphire Reserve and Amex Platinum can both be valuable in terms of their cardholder benefits and rewards programs, the reality is that many of their offerings overlap—including airport lounge access, credits for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck and annual travel credits.
Which card should you sign up for? Before you move forward with one of these travel credit cards, here are the main details you should consider.
|Chase Sapphire Reserve||Amex Platinum|
|Welcome bonus||Earn 60,000 points when you spend $4,000 within three months of account opening||Earn 75,000 Membership Rewards points after you spend $5,000 on purchases in your first six months of card membership: Also, earn 10x points on eligible purchases on your new card at U.S. gas stations and U.S. supermarkets (up to $15,000 in combined purchases) during your first six months of card membership|
|Rewards||Earn 3x points on travel (after earning your $300 travel credit) and dining and 1x points on other purchases; also earn 10x points on Lyft purchases (through March 2022)||Earn 5x points on airfare booked directly through an airline or through the American Express Travel portal; 5x points on prepaid hotels booked through the Amextravel.com portal; 1x points on all other purchases|
|Redemption value||1.5 cents (when redeemed through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal) or more with Chase transfer partners||1 cent (but you can often find more value with American Express transfer partners)|
Chase Sapphire Reserve vs. Amex Platinum highlights
Both of these travel credit cards come with flexible rewards programs and an array of important travel perks but they’re not exactly created equally in a traditional sense. We dove into the details of each of the card’s major benefits to see which one stands out the most in each category, and here’s what we found.
Welcome bonus winner: Chase Sapphire Reserve for value or Amex Platinum for spending requirement
The Amex Platinum offers a welcome bonus of 75,000 Membership Rewards points after you spend $5,000 on purchases on your new card in your first six months of card membership. Your points are worth 1 cent apiece when you book travel through AmexTravel.com, bringing the welcome bonus value to $750.
The Chase Sapphire Reserve, on the other hand, lets you earn 60,000 points when you spend $4,000 on your card within three months of account opening. These points are worth $900 in travel when you use them to book through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal thanks to the 50 percent bonus boost this card offers for using your points to book travel directly vs. transferring to airline and hotel partners.
If you look at it from a straight value perspective, the Chase Sapphire Reserve is the clear winner. But it’s worth noting the Amex Platinum gives you an extra three months to hit your spend requirement, and it also comes with 10X points on eligible purchases at U.S. gas stations and U.S. supermarkets (up to $15,000 in combined purchases) during your first six months of card membership.
Rewards rate winner: It depends
Keep in mind that the Chase Sapphire Reserve offers 3X points on travel (after earning your $300 travel credit) and dining and 1X points on all other purchases, whereas the Amex Platinum gives you 5X points on airfare booked directly through an airline and airfare (on up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year) and prepaid hotels booked through the American Express Travel portal, as well as 1x points on all other purchases.
The best travel credit card for ongoing rewards depends on how you spend each month and in which categories you spend the most. With that in mind, either of these cards could leave you ahead.
Which card earns the most?
The main reason to sign up for either of these cards is to earn rewards and score important travel perks. But which credit card will lead to the highest return overall? That really depends on your spending style and how much you spend over the course of any given year.
While the Chase Sapphire Reserve is a smart card to consider if you spend a lot of money on dining and random travel purchases, the Amex Platinum could be more beneficial for someone who spends a lot on airfare and hotels specifically, and particularly on airfare and hotels they can book through AmexTravel.com.
Chase Sapphire Reserve vs. Amex Platinum spending example
Imagine for a moment that you travel quite a bit and that you charge most of your travel and personal expenses on a credit card each year. Here’s an example of what your monthly spending might look like if that were the case:
- $1,000 per month on regular purchases including groceries and gas
- $1,500 per month on hotels and airfare
- $400 per month on rental cars and other travel
With the Chase Sapphire Reserve, you would earn 6,700 points per month—1,000 points on regular purchases, 4,500 points on hotels and airfare and 1,200 points on rental cars and other travel.
With the Amex Platinum you would earn 8,900 points per month—1,000 points on regular purchases, 7,500 points on airfare and hotels (provided you booked airfare directly or airfare and hotels through AmexTravel.com) and 400 points on rental cars and other travel.
With this example, it appears that the Amex Platinum leaves you ahead. It’s important to understand, however, that this card only gives you 5X points on airfare booked with airlines directly and for airfare and prepaid hotels booked through American Express Travel. This means you have a lot less flexibility and potential to get a great deal than you would with the Chase Sapphire Reserve since this card lets you earn 3X points on all travel purchases as well as dining worldwide.
Why you should get the Chase Sapphire Reserve
The Chase Sapphire Reserve is best for consumers who want to earn 3X points on all their travel purchases and not just ones that meet specific criteria. Since you get 50 percent more travel value when you use points to book through the Chase travel portal, this card is also valuable for anyone who wants some added flexibility in their travel plans. Remember that the Chase portal partners with Expedia.com, so you can use this portal to book travel with any provider that offers airfare, hotels, rental cars, experiences and more.
And because you’ll earn 10X points on Lyft purchases (through March 2022), this card is also ideal for anyone who uses this rideshare company frequently and especially for long and expensive rides.
Other Chase Sapphire Reserve benefits include a Priority Pass Select airport lounge membership, credit toward Global Entry or TSA PreCheck (up to $100) and a $300 annual travel credit good toward any travel purchase. You’ll also get a handful of important travel insurance benefits including trip cancellation/interruption insurance, primary auto rental insurance, trip delay coverage, lost luggage reimbursement, emergency evacuation coverage, travel accident insurance and more.
New cardholder benefits as of January 2020 include a one-year Lyft Pink membership that includes priority airport pickup and 15 percent off Lyft rides, as well as a DashPass membership that includes free delivery on DoorDash purchases of $12 or more and up to $60 in credits toward DoorDash (through end of 2021).
The Chase Sapphire Reserve lets you redeem points for travel through the Chase portal, and you’ll even get 50 percent more value out of your points when you do. Additional redemption options include gift cards, statement credits, merchandise from Apple.com or Amazon.com and experiences.
You can also transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards points 1:1 to the following transfer partners:
- Aer Lingus
- British Airways
- Air France / Flying Blue
- Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer
- Southwest Rapid Rewards
- United MileagePlus
- Virgin Atlantic
- IHG Rewards Club
- Marriott Bonvoy
- World of Hyatt
Recommended credit score
You need excellent credit to qualify for this credit card, which typically translates into a FICO score of 740 or higher.
Why you should get the Amex Platinum
The Amex Platinum is best for frequent travelers who are able to book airfare directly with airlines or airfare and hotels through AmexTravel.com. This card is also ideal for people who want the broadest airport lounge access available, as well as those who frequently ride with Uber.
This card comes with up to $200 in Uber credits per year but you should know these credits are doled out monthly in increments of $15 ($35 in December), and that they do not roll over from month to month. You’ll also get a $200 annual airline fee credit good for incidental airline purchases, although you’ll have to select a single airline to apply the credit to at the beginning of each year.
The same credit (up to $100) toward Global Entry or TSA PreCheck applies, although this card has a much broader airport lounge program. You’ll get the same Priority Pass Select membership you get with the Chase Sapphire Reserve but the Amex Platinum also lets you access American Express Centurion Lounges and Delta Sky Clubs when you fly with Delta.
To sweeten the pot, this card gives you automatic Gold status with the Hilton Honors program and Marriott Bonvoy. You’ll also get a baggage insurance plan and secondary auto rental insurance.
You can use American Express Membership Rewards to book travel directly through AmexTravel.com, although you’ll only get 1 cent per point in value when you do. You can also cash in your points for gift cards, statement credits and merchandise, or use points to upgrade your flights to business or first class.
This travel program also offers a range of hotel and airline transfer partners, some of which overlap with Chase Ultimate Rewards. All transfer partners let you move points over at a ratio of 1,000:1,000 unless otherwise noted:
- Aer Lingus
- AeroMexico (1,000:1,600)
- Air Canada (Aeroplan)
- Air France / Flying Blue
- Asia Miles
- British Airways
- Delta SkyMiles
- El Al Israel Airlines (1,000:20)
- Etihad Airways
- Hawaiian Airlines
- JetBlue Airways (250:200)
- Qantas (500:500)
- Singapore Airlines
- Virgin Atlantic
- Choice Privileges Rewards
- Hilton Honors (1,000:2,000)
- Marriott Bonvoy
Recommended credit score
You need good or excellent credit to qualify for this credit card, which typically translates to a FICO score of 670 or higher.
Should you double up and get both?
While each of these cards will set you back $550 per year, you can consider getting both if you travel a ton and can take advantage of all of the perks. If you ride with both Uber and Lyft several times per month, for example, you could easily get value from the Uber credits from the Amex Platinum and the Lyft Pink membership and 10x points on Lyft (through March 2022) you get with the Chase Sapphire Reserve.
Both credit cards have airport lounge access, but you could lean on the access from the Amex Platinum for Centurion Lounge entry, as well as Delta Sky Club entry when you fly with Delta.
You’ve probably noticed both cards come with a credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck as well, but they don’t specify the purchase has to be for anyone in particular. With that in mind, you could use one credit for yourself and the other for a partner or spouse.
From there, you could use each card to rack up the most points in specific categories. You would use the Chase Sapphire Reserve for all dining and miscellaneous travel purchases to earn 3X points, then switch over to the Amex Platinum to earn 5X points on airfare booked direct or airfare and prepaid hotels booked through the American Express Travel portal.
The bottom line
Which of these valuable rewards credit cards will leave you better off? That all depends on where you spend the most money each month and which selection of airline and hotel partners makes the most sense for your regular travel plans. With that in mind, you should conduct some basic research to see which of these cards might work best for your needs, and don’t forget to compare these to other top credit card offers that might work even better.