When it comes to travel credit cards, you’ll be hard pushed to find many that offer the same level of benefits as either the Chase Sapphire Reserve or the Amex Platinum. Whether it’s hotel upgrades, access to VIP airport lounges, or points toward your next flight, both cards have it covered. That said, the cards aren’t interchangeable: depending on your purchasing habits and your personal preferences, you may find you prefer the Amex over the Chase, or vice-versa. If you’re struggling to decide which of the two to plump for, a deep dive into their respective strengths and weaknesses may help.
- American Express Platinum: $550
- Chase Sapphire Reserve: $450
When it come to the annual cost of upkeep, the Chase Sapphire Reserve comes out on top. Neither provider will waive the fee for the first year (as you’ll sometimes find with other cards), but in terms of overall spend, the Chase Sapphire Reserve will be easier on your wallet, coming in at exactly $100 less than the $550 Amex Platinum. If both seem too steep for your budget, there’re obviously a lot of cards out there that charge considerably less (the Sapphire Preferred Credit Card at just $100 as a case in point). Unfortunately, they don’t come with anywhere near the same level of rewards as the Platinum or Reserve; if you’re happy enough to pay a fee in return for more extensive benefits, you’ll need to figure out which of the two providers offer the best (and most relevant) rewards for you, before deciding just how much you’re willing to pay for them. Whether the Amex is worth the extra $100 will depend on just how much extra benefit you’ll get from its package of rewards and benefits.
Sign Up Bonus
- American Express Platinum: 70,000 points after spending $5,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening
- Chase Sapphire Reserve: 50,000 points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening
Who doesn’t love an incentive? Sign up to either card and you’ll get a nice little bonus for your troubles. Expect to earn 50,000 reward points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening with Chase (equating to $750 that can be redeemed through Chase Ultimate Rewards on airfares, hotels, car rentals and cruises), and 70,000 Membership Rewards points after spending $5,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening with Amex. Points with Chase equate to $0.01 for travel rewards and $.015 for non-travel rewards, while points with Amex redeem to the same value as Chase for plane tickets and gift cards but come in lower for other travel expenses.
While Amex’s offer may seem the more attractive of the two, bear in mind the sign-up process for Amex is slightly tougher than for Chase. The Amex deal is strictly once in a lifetime – if you’ve had a card at any point in the past (no matter how long ago), don’t expect a second sign- up bonus. In comparison, Chase loves a repeat customer– even if you’ve had a card in the past, you can still claim the bonus if you’ve not used the old card in at least 2 years. That said, if you’ve already applied for 5 other credit cards in the last 2 years (whether successfully or not), don’t both applying for another with Chase – its 5/24 Rule will more than likely get you declined. Equally, don’t count on a “yes” from either Chase or Amex if your credit rating’s worse than Greece’s- you’ll need to prove a history of healthy borrowing for either provider to accept your application.
- American Express Platinum: 5 x points on flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel. 5 x points on prepaid hotels booked on amextravel.com. 1 x point for every dollar spent on eligible purchases
- Chase Sapphire Reserve: 3 x points on Travel Worldwide. 3 x points on Dining at Restaurants Worldwide. 1 x point for every dollar spent on eligible purchases
This one is a no brainer. If you’re planning on using your card for travel, Amex offers the best bang for your buck with 2 more points per dollar purchase than Chase. If you’re not planning on taking too many trips, you’re probably better off with Chase (bearing in mind the higher redemption value Chase offers for non-travel purchases).
Annual Travel Benefits
- American Express Platinum: $200 Airline Fee Credit & $15 in Uber Cash for U.S. rides each month plus a bonus $20 in December ($200 in total)
- Chase Sapphire Reserve: $300 Annual Travel Credit
When it comes to annual travel benefits, there’s only a hair’s breadth between Amex and Chase. On the face of it, the Amex Platinum will give you extra: add the Uber benefits to the Airline Fee Credit and you’re looking at a full $100 more in benefits with Amex than you are with Chase. On the other hand, the Chase Sapphire Reserve has a wider scope to its travel benefits: with Amex, the Airline Fee Credit is restricted to incidental travel expenses like excess baggage and en route meals only. The Uber is also pretty specific: it may add up to a very nice $200 dollars of free rides, but if you don’t do taxis, it’s going to be near enough worthless. Chase’s Annual Travel Credit, on the other hand, might be a smaller amount overall, but it has far fewer restrictions about what you can and can’t use it on (basically, if the expense qualifies for the 3 x membership points for travel purchases, it’ll qualify for the Travel Credit).
Airport Lounge Access
- American Express Platinum: Free access to more than 1,200 airport lounges across 130 countries, including The Centurion Lounge, International American Express, Delta SkyClub, and Priority Pass lounge networks
- Chase Sapphire Reserve: Free access to any of the 1,000 VIP lounges in over 500 cities worldwide after enrollment in Priority Pass
On this one, the Amex comes out on top. If roughing it with the plebs in carrier class doesn’t appeal, you’ll have access to a greater number of VIP lounges to kick back in and chill with the Amex than you will with the Chase. That said, don’t let this be the decider (unless you really put the “frequent” into “frequent flyer”). Chase still offer’s a hefty 1000 lounges to pick from – if its other benefits are more in line with what you’re looking for, a difference of 200 lounges is probably not worth overthinking.
If the match is still too close to call, the package of additional benefits offered by each provider might just swing it.
American Express Platinum:
- Global Entry ($100) or TSA Precheck ($85) Application Fee Reimbursement
- The Hotel Collection - 100 hotel credits, to spend on qualifying dining, spa, and resort activities. Room upgrade upon arrival, depending on availability
- Fine Hotels & Resorts - complimentary benefits with an average total value of $550
- Marriott Bonvoy Gold Elite Status
- Hilton Honors Gold Status
- No foreign transaction fees
- Membership in premium car rental programs with complimentary discounts and upgrades
- Car Rental Loss and Damage Insurance
Chase Sapphire Reserve:
- 24/7 roadside assistance for rental or personal vehicles
- $75,000 in collision or theft expenses on rental cars
- Complimentary upgrades at the Avis, National, and Silvercar rental car agencies
- Complimentary room upgrades with Luxury Hotel & Resort Collection
- No foreign transaction fees
- Global Entry ($100) or TSA Precheck ($85) Application Fee Reimbursement
- Trip Cancellation/Trip Interruption Insurance (for claims up to $10,000 per ticket for non-refundable travel canceled for weather or unavoidable personal circumstances)
- Trip Delay Insurance (for claims up to $500 per ticket for per diems & lodging when travel is delayed 6+ hours)
If you’re still undecided about which card is superior, considering the pros versus cons of each may help.
The Cons: American Express Platinum
- Restrictive policy: If you don’t do Uber, don’t check in baggage and bring your own sandwiches to eat on the plane, the annual travel benefits are going to be of limited value.
- Higher annual fee: Sign up to the Amex Platinum and you’ll be committing yourself to a $550 fee every year for the life of the card. Sure, you’ll get some great benefits for the privilege, but whether those benefits are enough to justify the extra $100 USD you’ll need to stump up by choosing Amex over Chase is something you’ll need to work out for yourself.
- Lower redemption value on non-travel purchases: If you’re a frequent flyer, Amex is pretty unbeatable. If you tend to spend more on everyday incidentals than you do on travel, you may find its benefit package less attractive than the Chase equivalent.
- Stricter application process: You’ll need a flawless credit rating to get accepted by Amex… and remember, if you’ve applied once already, forget about applying again if you want a sign-up bonus.
The Pros: American Express Platinum
- Better sign up incentive: Amex will happily give you 70,000 reward points at sign up; Chase offers a much stingier 50,000.
- More points on travel: While both cards offer 1 point per non-travel purchase, Amex offers more points than Chase for travel purchases.
- Superior airport lounge access: A Chase Sapphire Reserve may get you into 1000 VIP lounges, but an Amex Platinum will get you into 1200.
- Higher value annual travel benefits: Chase may be prepared to offer you a $300 annual travel credit, but Amex up their offer by $100 to take you to $400.
- A wider selection of additional benefits: If you’re all about the benefits, you’ll find a wider range on offer with the Amex card, including automatic mid-tier hotel loyalty status and complimentary Boingo wi-fi hotspot access.
The Cons: Chase Sapphire Reserve
- Fewer additional benefits: Most of the additional benefits offered by Chase relate to trip protection. If you’re happy enough to take out your own travel insurance, you’ll find limited benefit here.
- Less rewards at sign up: Compared to the 70,000 sign up points you’ll get with the Amex Platinum, you’ll get much fewer with the Chase Sapphire Reserve – 2000 fewer, to be exact (although bear in mind the difference in respective redemption values: you may get more points with Amex, but how this translates to dollars will depend on what you purchase).
- Lower value travel benefits: If you Uber it daily, regularly check in baggage and like to get your fill of grub on the plane, you’ll get $100 more towards your expenses with Amex than you will with Chase.
The Pros: Chase Sapphire Reserve
- Generous application process: You’ll still qualify for the sign-up bonus even if you’ve had a card in the past (with the caveat that you haven’t used it for the past two years).
- Lower annual fee: If running costs are a consideration, it’s worth remembering you’ll spend $100 less per year with Chase than you will with Amex.
- Less restrictive travel benefits: Unlike Amex’s very defined (and relatively restrictive) travel benefits, Chase offers a flexible program that allows you greater freedom to redeem your travel credits on a wider selection of purchases.
- Higher redemption value on non-travel purchases (+ hotel stays + car rental): If you’re intending to use your card to cover day-to-day incidentals, you’ll find Chase the better of the two providers. While you may get more points with Amex, the higher redemptive value of points for non-travel purchases with Chase ($0.15 compared to $0.01) beats it hand down.
Chase Sapphire Reserve vs American Express Platinum
What’s clear is that both the Amex Platinum and the Chase Sapphire Reserve are both excellent cards. Whichever you choose, you’re likely to be pretty happy with your decision (as long as you don’t mind stumping up for that costly annual fee, of course). When it comes down to the nitty-gritty of choosing between them, you’ll need to consider the type of purchases you make and which (if any) additional benefits are going to make the biggest difference to you. if you’re a frequent traveler and are happy enough to spend your rewards on travel purchases, Amex may be the superior choice. If you’re looking for a card with more flexibility and greater rewards on non-travel purchases, you may find Chase the better option.
Written by Garrett Parker
Read more posts by Garrett Parker