Amex Green card vs. Chase Sapphire Preferred: Which card is right for you?
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American Express has long been a dominant player when it comes to premium credits cards, like The Platinum Card® from American Express, but it’s never had a great “middle market” option, or a card that offers solid travel benefits and good bonus categories with an annual fee of $200 or less. This space has historically been dominated by the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, one of the most popular all-around reward cards.
Just a few days ago, Amex announced a major overhaul to the American Express® Green Card, including new perks and bonus categories. Does Amex finally have a competitor for the Chase Sapphire Preferred, and which card should you add to your wallet? Read on to find out.
The most important and immediate part of any new credit card application is the welcome bonus. The Chase Sapphire Preferred offers a stellar bonus of 60,000 Ultimate Rewards points after you spend $4,000 in the first three months. This will net you a minimum of $750 worth of free flights, but if you leverage Chase’s network of hotel and airline transfer partners it shouldn’t be hard to get $1,200 or more from this bonus. Like most Chase cards, the Sapphire Preferred is restricted by the 5/24 rule, meaning you’ll automatically be rejected if you’ve opened five or more cards across all issuers in the last 24 months.
The Amex Green is currently offering new applicants a bonus of 30,000 Membership Rewards points after you spend $2,000 on purchases in the first three months. Plus up to a $100 statement credit for eligible purchases made with Away luggage in the first three months (offer ends 1/15/2020). TPG values Chase Ultimate Rewards and Amex Membership Rewards points equally at 2 cents apiece, so while the Amex Green card has a lower spending requirement, the points bonus is also worth 50% less than the Sapphire Preferred. The $100 credit at Away might be nice if you’re in the market for new luggage, but with most of Away’s pieces starting at $200+, it might not be enough to sway you into a new purchase otherwise.
Remember that Amex only allows you to earn the welcome bonus on each of its cards once per lifetime. In fact, you won’t be eligible for this offer if you “have or have had this Card or previous versions of the American Express® Green Card.” Even though this isn’t the largest bonus on the market, it might be a good option for customers who’ve already earned bonuses on most of Amex’s other cards and are looking for a way to keep earning Membership Rewards points.
One of the reasons the Chase Sapphire Preferred has been so popular is the simple and generous bonus categories it offers. Cardholders earn 2x Ultimate Rewards points per dollar spent on travel and dining, with no annual caps. Those categories are defined very broadly to include things like public transit, parking garages, food trucks and other places that you might not expect to trigger the bonus points. Based on TPG’s valuations, that works out to a 4% return. You’ll earn 1x on all your non-bonus spending.
As part of its refresh, the Amex Green card now earns 3x points worldwide on travel, restaurants and transit — including flights, hotels, campsites, tours, car rentals, ride shares, buses, subways, third-party travel websites and The Platinum Card® from American Express and The Business Platinum® Card from American Express are very restrictive with their 5x bonus categories). Amex has had some issues in the past with bonus points not coding correctly, especially for transactions processed by third-party payment processors such as Square and Stripe, but on paper, at least, the Amex Green card offers a much better earning rate for cardholders.. This works out to a 6% return based on TPG’s valuations, and it’s worth noting that the Amex Green card is one of the only Amex cards to offer a broad travel bonus category (both
Chase Ultimate Rewards offers 13 hotel and airline transfer partners while Amex Membership Rewards has a whopping 22, yet TPG values the two currencies the same. How is that possible? For starters, many of Amex’s additional partners don’t add that much value to the average user, like El Al Matmid or Alitalia MilleMiglia. Ultimately it’s up to you to decide which set of transfer partners is better suited to your travel needs, but there are pros and cons to both programs.
Chase has a clear edge when it comes to hotel redemptions, thanks to its partnership with World of Hyatt. Transfers to all of Chase’s partners and most of Amex’s occur at a 1:1 ratio, so the best value loyalty programs will be the ones with the cheapest award rates. Free nights at Hyatt hotels start at just 5,000 points a night and cap out at 30,000 points for top-tier properties like the Park Hyatt New York. By comparison, free nights at top-tier Marriott properties (which is a transfer partner of both Chase and Amex) go all the way up to 100,000 points.
When it comes to free flights, both programs offer transfer access to popular frequent flier programs such as Singapore KrisFlyer, British Airways Executive Club, Virgin Atlantic Flying Club, Air France-KLM Flying Blue and more. Chase’s biggest unique advantages come in the form of Southwest and United. While Southwest uses a revenue-based award pricing scheme, Companion Pass holders can get a great value transferring their Chase points to Southwest. United’s switch to dynamic award pricing for flights on its own metal has taken a ton of value out of the MileagePlus program, but there are still good values to be had on many Star Alliance partner awards (especially if you can leverage the Excursionist Perk).
In addition to transfer partners, the Chase Sapphire Preferred offers a 25% bonus when redeeming your points directly through the Chase portal. This gives you a minimum redemption value of 1.25 cents per point, and is why we say the bonus on this card is worth “at least” $750. You won’t be able to book an aspirational first-class suite this way, but if you need to be on a specific flight that doesn’t have any award availability, this extra flexibility can be invaluable.
For more information on redeeming Chase Ultimate Rewards, check out the following guides:
- How to maximize your Chase Ultimate Rewards points
- Best ways to redeem Chase points on Star Alliance airlines
- Best ways to redeem Chase points on SkyTeam airlines
- Best ways to redeem Chase points on Oneworld airlines
Meanwhile, Amex has a few unique partners that can prove quite valuable. I find myself transferring to Avianca LifeMiles or Aeroplan for nearly half the awards I book, as both offer great rates on long-haul premium cabin Star Alliance awards. ANA also offers great rates on Star Alliance awards (though you have to book round-trip tickets) and it’s one of the only airlines to offer a decent round-the-world award program these days. You can transfer Membership Rewards points to Delta SkyMiles to take advantage of one of the carrier’s flash award sales, and I also love utilizing Etihad Guest to book American Airlines awards at lower rates.
For more information on redeeming Amex Membership Rewards, check out the following guides:
- Redeeming American Express Membership Rewards for maximum value
- Best Ways to Redeem Amex Points on Star Alliance Airlines
- Best Ways to Redeem Amex Points on SkyTeam Airlines
- Best Ways to Redeem Amex Points on Oneworld Airlines
Both of these cards come with modest annual fees — $95 on the Chase Sapphire Preferred and $150 on the Amex Green Card (see rates and fees) — so you shouldn’t expect the same lengthy list of perks you’d find on the Amex Platinum. Neither of these cards charges foreign transaction fees (see rates and fees), and neither waives the annual fee for the first year (though some previous versions of the Sapphire welcome offer have).
The best perks of the Sapphire Preferred are Chase’s incredible package of travel and baggage insurance policies. These are benefits you hope to never have to use, but if you do, they can save you hundreds of dollars and bring some peace of mind when things start to get stressful. When you pay for any part of your eligible trip (including taxes on award tickets) with your Sapphire Preferred, you’ll receive the following coverage:
- Trip delay coverage: Up to $500 in reimbursements for expenses when your trip is delayed by 12 hours or more
- Trip cancellation/interruption coverage: If your trip is cancelled or cut short for a covered reason, you can receive up to $10,000 in reimbursement per person ($20,000 per trip) for prepaid non-refundable expenses
- Baggage delay insurance: If your bags are delayed more than six hours you can receive up to $100 in reimbursement a day for up to five days for necessary purchases
- Lost luggage reimbursement: Up to $3,000 per eligible passenger per covered trip
Another great perk that Chase offers is primary car rental insurance, meaning on eligible rentals this coverage kicks in before your own personal policy.
The Amex Green card offers much more focused benefits, but if you max them out each year you’ll more than recoup the card’s annual fee and even come out ahead. Cardmembers now receive up to a $100 annual credit when using their Amex Green Card to purchase a CLEAR membership and another up to $100 annual credit for LoungeBuddy access. The CLEAR credit drops your out-of-pocket cost to $79 for a standard membership, and can be a great tool for breezing through airport security as TSA PreCheck lines get longer around the country. Meanwhile the LoungeBuddy credit should be good for about two passes a year, making this a great option for infrequent travelers who don’t already have a Priority Pass membership from another card.
While Amex finally has a true mid-market travel rewards card, the Sapphire Preferred and Amex Green are still very different. Notwithstanding the eligibility restrictions that might preclude you from getting one or the other, the Sapphire offers a much more valuable welcome bonus up front, while the Amex Green offers better earning rates long-term. The Chase Sapphire Preferred offers great travel protections and benefits, but no credits or hard perks to offset your annual fee. Meanwhile the Amex Green comes with up to $200 in annual statement credits, $50 more than it charges for the annual fee.
For rates and fees of the Amex Green Card, please click here.