For some people, paying an annual fee for a credit card is an assault on their sensibilities.
For others, it’s simply pre-paying for benefits you know you want.
If you’re in the second camp, and I suspect you are since you’re reading an article comparing two of the most expensive travel credit cards designed for regular people (I’m not talking about the AMEX Black or other cards for the uber-wealthy), this post will outline the key differences between the two kings of the court.
When it comes to premium travel reward cards, there are two that have separated themselves from the rest.
Each has a large annual fee but you get a bountiful list of perks and credits that easily make up for the annual fee – if you use them.
(it’s worth noting that the Platinum Card from American Express is not a typical credit card, it allows you to carry a balance for certain charges but not all)
Table of Contents
- The Platinum Card at a Glance
- Chase Sapphire Reserve at a Glance
- Reward Structure
- Welcome Bonus – 60,000 Ultimate Rewards points vs. 80,000 Membership Rewards points
- Travel Credits
- Airport Lounge Access
- Transfer Partners
- Which Card is Better?
The Platinum Card at a Glance
The Platinum Card from American Express is a premier travel credit card that is chock full of perks many travelers would love. It includes:
- $200 airline travel credit with a single airline,
- $200 hotel credit on prepaid Fine Hotels + Resorts or The Hotel Collection bookings with American Express travel (The Hotel Collection requires a minimum two night stay.),
- Up to $240 Digital Entertainment credit – $20 per month for Hulu, Disney+, ESPN+, Peacock, Audible, SiriusXM, and the New York Times. Enrollment Required.
- $200 in Uber Cash spread throughout the year
- Up to $300 back per calendar year on Equinox+ digital fitness app or eligible Equinox club memberships when you pay with your card. Enrollment Required.
- CLEAR Plus Credit
- *Terms Apply
You earn earn 5X Membership Rewards Points for flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel (up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year). You also earn 5X Membership Rewards Points on prepaid hotels booked with American Express Travel..
You get access to The American Express Global Lounge Collection which includes 1,200 airport lounges in 130 countries. This includes The Centurion Lounges, International American Express Lounges, as well as Delta Sky Club and Priority Pass Select. The card also reimburses you a $100 statement credit for Global Entry or $85 credit for TSA PreCheck once every four years (Global Entry) or 4.5 years (TSA PreCheck) – essentially getting you Global Entry or TSA PreCheck for free.
The card also gives you Marriott Bonvoy Gold Elite Status and Hilton Honors Gold Status, enrollment required.
Finally, it offers a welcome bonus of 80,000 Membership Rewards points after you spend $8,000 in purchases within your first six months of Card Membership.
There is a $695 annual fee.
Chase Sapphire Reserve at a Glance
The Chase Sapphire Reserve offers 5x points on air travel and 10x on hotels and car rentals purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards, 3x points on other travel, 1x on everything else. It comes with a $300 travel credit that applies to all travel; you don’t have to specify an airline ahead of time.
You get complimentary Priority Pass Select membership which includes 1,000+ airport lounges. It also offers a credit on Global Entry or TSA PreCheck once every four years. Simply pay the application fee with the card and Chase will issue a statement credit for the fee.
This card also increases the value of your points in the Chase Ultimate Rewards program by 50%. This means your points go further when you book travel through the Chase portal.
It offers a bonus of 60,000 Ultimate Rewards points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first three months.
There is a $550 annual fee.
Let’s see how they compare in a variety of categories:
The reward structures on spending on each is very straightforward and similar.
The Chase Sapphire Reserve gives you 3x points on travel and dining and 1x points on everything else.
The Platinum Card from American Express gives you 5X Membership Rewards on flights booked directly with an airline or through American Express Travel. You also earn 5X on prepaid hotels booked through amextravel.com. You earn 1X on all other eligible purchase.
Winner: The Platinum Card from American Express has a slight edge in this category because you earn 5X on flights and travel booked through American Express Travel. The Chase Sapphire Reserve only gives 3X on travel, but it includes dining, which the Platinum Card only offers 1X.
Welcome Bonus – 60,000 Ultimate Rewards points vs. 80,000 Membership Rewards points
When it comes to the Welcome Bonus, The Platinum Card from American Express offers a 80,000 Membership Rewards points whereas the Chase Sapphire Reserve offers 60,000 Ultimate Rewards points.
For The Platinum Card, you can earn the Welcome Bonus after you spend after you spend $8,000 in purchases within your first six months of Card Membership.
For the Chase Sapphire Reserve, you can earn the Welcome Bonus after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first three months.
We value both at around 1¢ each. You can get more value out of Chase Ultimate Rewards points if you book travel through the travel portal (1.5¢ per point), but a penny per point is the floor for its value.
This means that the cash value of each bonus is (we see very little difference in the spending requirements):
- Platinum Card from American Express – $600
- Chase Sapphire Reserve – $500
Winner: Platinum Card from American Express has a slight edge in this category. If you intend to use the Chase Ultimate Rewards points only on travel and only through the portal, the bonus is actually worth $750 and puts Chase Sapphire Reserve ahead.
Cards with travel credits are amazing. It’s like your annual fee is just pre-paying these credits.
For example, the Chase Sapphire Reserve has a $300 annual travel credit. When you make a travel purchase, Chase will automatically apply a statement credit for the same amount until you reach $300. You can keep track of these credits on the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal. The $300 travel credit is the only credit for the Chase Sapphire Reserve card.
With the credits, the Chase Sapphire Reserve’s effective annual fee is only $150.
The Platinum Card has several “travel” credits and two “other” credits:
- $200 Airline Fee Credit – You pick an airline and you get reimbursed for all fees (such as baggage) at that airline
- $200 Hotel Credit at Fine Hotels + Resorts or The Hotel Collection
- $200 Uber Cash
- CLEAR Plus Credit
- Up to $300 Equinox Credit, enrollment required.
- $240 Digital Entertainment
If you use all the credits, it’s actually more than the annual fee of $695.
Winner: Toss-up because of how the travel credit is structured. The Platinum Card from American Express has more credit in total, but you have to specify one airline for the $200 airline fee credit and the $200 in Uber Cash is only available on Uber. The Chase Sapphire Reserve is more flexible because it’s $300 on all travel.
Airport Lounge Access
American Express runs its network of lounges, known as The Centurion Lounges, which includes eight locations in the United States and one in China (Hong Kong). They also operate other lounges, which don’t get the Centurion branding, sprinkled throughout the world. The Platinum Card gets you entry to all those lounges PLUS Delta Sky Club.
Both cards are part of the Priority Pass program, which has over 1,200 lounges worldwide.
With both Chase Ultimate Rewards and American Express Membership Rewards, you can transfer points to different airlines’ loyalty programs. You simply link your reward program to your card’s program and transfer points at the published rate.
American Express Travel Partners & Conversion Rates
These are the rates as of 5/20/2022, published here.
- Aer Lingus: 1000 MR = 1000 Avios
- AeroMexico: 1000 MR = 1600 Premier Points
- Aeroplan: 1000 MR = 1000 Aeroplan Miles
- Air France KLM: 1000 MR = 1000 Flying Blue Award Miles
- All Nippon Airways: 1000 MR = 1000 ANA Mileage Club Miles
- Asia Miles: 1000 MR = 1000 Asia Miles
- Avianca LifeMiles: 1000 MR = 1000 LifeMiles
- British Airways: 1000 MR = 1000 Avios
- Delta Air Lines: 1000 MR = 1000 Miles
- Emirates: 1000 MR = 1000 Skywards Miles
- Etihad Airways: 1000 MR = 1000 Etihad Guest Miles
- Hawaiian Airlines: 1000 MR = 1000 Hawaiian Miles
- Iberia Plus: 1000 MR = 1000 Avios
- JetBlue Airways: 250 MR = 200 TrueBlue points
- Qantas Loyalty: 500 MR = 500 Qantas Points
- Singapore Airlines: 1000 MR = 1000 KrisFlyer Miles
- Virgin Atlantic Airways: 1000 MR = 1000 Flying Club Miles
- Choice Privileges: 1000 MR = 1000 Choice Privileges
- Hilton Honors: 1000 MR = 2000 Hilton Honors Points
- Marriott Bonvoy: 1000 MR = 1000 Marriott Bonvoy Points
Chase Travel Partners & Conversion Rates
Chase Ultimate Rewards points transfer on a 1 to 1 basis with all of their partners, which include:
- Aer Lingus
- British Airways
- Air France KLM
- Iberia Plus
- Jetblue Airways
- Singapore Airlines
- Southwest Airlines
- United Airlines
- Virgin Atlantic Airways
- IHG Rewards Club
- Marriott Bonvoy
- World of Hyatt
Winner: American Express has a long list of transfer partners, but Chase has some airlines that American Express doesn’t like Southwest Airlines and United Airlines. The nod goes to American Express for the sheer number of partners, but that all depends on the airlines you tend to fly with. If you’re like me and you fly Southwest practically exclusively, Chase offers better value.
Which Card is Better?
If you tally up the categories, the Platinum Card from American Express wins out on most of them (one reason why we rate it one of the best alternatives to the Chase Sapphire Reserve card)… but is it the best? That depends on your needs.
The Platinum Card from American Express has travel credits that are slightly more restrictive since you have to specify an airline. The Uber cash are doled out monthly and only useful if you use Uber. The Chase Sapphire Reserve’s travel credit is $300 – boom – no hassles in picking an airline.
Don’t overlook the value of the Chase Ultimate Rewards points though. When used on the platform to pay for travel, you get 50% more value. If you only use it for that (and not for statement credits or gift cards), that extra 50% would tilt the scales towards Chase Sapphire Reserve for many of the above categories. (which is, in turn, one of our favorite alternatives to the Platinum Card from American Express)
- Upgraded status: You get Marriott Bonvoy Gold Elite Status and Hilton Honors Gold Status. Enrollment required.
- Bonuses at American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts
- Centurion Lounge access
This is the type of thing that you know if it matters to you. If you stay at a lot of Marriott properties, having Marriott Bonvoy Gold Elite Status means you get: 25% bonus points on stays, enhanced room upgrades, 2 PM late checkout, in-room internet, and a few other nice perks. Hilton Gold is one step from their top tier (Diamond) and offers: late checkout, bottles of water, room upgrades, free breakfast, and other nice perks.
Finally, Chase has a DoorDash perk of zero delivery fees as well as 10X total points on Lyft rides.
Both cards are great (hence their price tag); but, ultimately, the choice of which is best is up to you.