Amex Platinum vs. Chase Sapphire Reserve: Which card is right for you?

Jan 10, 2020

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Editor’s note: This post has been updated with changes to the Chase Sapphire Reserve card. It was originally published on Nov. 20, 2019.

It seems like every airline, hotel chain and credit card issuer is issuing its own premium credit card, enticing customers with luxury travel perks paired with hefty annual fees. Many of these cards offer solid value, especially if you’re loyal to the underlying brand, but there are two undeniable titans of the premium credit card market.

I’m talking, of course, about The Platinum Card® from American Express and the Chase Sapphire Reserve®. The former built the market for premium rewards cards years ago; the latter is responsible for growing their mass appeal.

Ever since the Sapphire Reserve launched in August 2016, competition between these two cards has been fierce. But with Chase having just announced a major overhaul to the Sapphire Reserve — including a higher $550 annual fee (effective Jan. 12, 2020) and new benefits with both Lyft and DoorDash — the competition is closer now than it’s ever been. Today we’re going to take a look at how these two cards stack up against each other and whether you should consider adding one — or both — to your wallet.

Related reading: Significant changes confirmed for Chase’s Sapphire Reserve card

In This Post

Welcome bonus and eligibility

(Photo by Isabelle Raphael / The Points Guy)
(Photo by Isabelle Raphael/The Points Guy.)

When considering a new credit card, especially one with a $550 annual fee (see rates and fees), the first thing most people look at is the welcome offer to see how much of that annual fee they can start recouping immediately. The Amex Platinum is currently offering new applicants 60,000 Membership Rewards points after they spend $5,000 in purchases in the first three months, although some people have been targeted for a 100,000-point bonus after the same $5,000 in spending when checking through the CardMatch tool (offer subject to change at anytime).

TPG values Membership Rewards points at 2 cents each, making the public bonus worth $1,200 and the targeted offer worth a whopping $2,000. Since Amex only allows you to earn the bonus on each of its credit cards once per lifetime, you might want to hold off on applying for the Platinum until you get targeted for the 100,000-point bonus. If you apply now with the 60,000-point offer, you’ll never be able to get the 100,000-point bonus in the future. One possible workaround would be to apply for a different version of the Amex Platinum, such as The Business Platinum® Card from American Express, so you can access all the Platinum perks now while waiting for a higher welcome offer.

Related reading: The different flavors of American Express Platinum — which one is right for you?

The Chase Sapphire Reserve is a much simpler story. It launched with a 100,000-point sign-up bonus, but that deal only lasted a few months amid stronger-than-expected demand for the card. Since then, the Reserve has offered a consistent welcome bonus of 50,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points after cardmembers spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months. TPG also values Ultimate Rewards points at 2 cents each, making this bonus worth $1,000. That’s a bit lower than the Amex Platinum, although the spending requirement to earn the bonus is also a bit lower.

Winner: The Amex Platinum takes leads on this first category, but not by a whole lot.

APPLY HERE: The Platinum Card® from American Express

Earning rates

Long after your welcome bonus has been earned and spent, you want a card that will help you rack up valuable transferable points at a rapid clip. Both of these cards get that done, but in very different ways. One factor that might influence this decision is what other Chase or Amex cards you currently have in your wallet, and how the bonus categories on those other cards overlap with the Sapphire Reserve and Platinum. Here are the bonus categories for these two cards (terms apply):

Bonus multiplier

The Platinum Card® from American Express

Chase Sapphire Reserve®

10x N/A Lyft rides
5x Airfare purchased directly with the airlines and airfare and prepaid hotels booked through Amex Travel N/A
3x N/A Travel and dining
1x All other purchases All other purchases

The Amex Platinum used to take the lead with its 5x bonus miles on select airfare and hotel purchases (though admittedly that category is fairly restrictive), but Chase has leapfrogged to the top of the charts with a new 10x bonus category for all Lyft rides in the US — a 20% return in that category, based on TPG’s valuations.

The Amex Platinum continues to win on most airfare purchases, but the Sapphire pulls ahead for dozens of other travel expenses, including most hotels, ride sharing, parking fees, tolls, tours and more. It also has an equally broad 3x dining bonus category that the Platinum can’t match.

Winner: Chase Sapphire Reserve, thanks to an unparalleled 10x bonus category for Lyft rides and higher points per dollar spent in a broader range of travel, plus dining.

APPLY HERE: Chase Sapphire Reserve®

Redemption options

With Chase Ultimate Rewards and Amex Membership Rewards tied at 2 cents apiece in TPG’s monthly valuations, it’s up to you to look at the different transfer partners and decide which ones suit your needs best.

Let’s start with the Chase Sapphire Reserve. In addition to 10 airline and three hotel transfer partners, Sapphire Reserve customers get a 50% bonus when redeeming points for travel directly through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal. This gives you an absolute minimum redemption value of 1.5 cents per point and means you can book a seat on any flight that’s for sale even if there isn’t award space available. Better yet, these bookings are treated like cash tickets, meaning you’ll earn redeemable and elite miles on them, further increasing your value.

Related reading: How to get more than 1.5 cents in value from Ultimate Rewards points

That said, you’ll often get a better value by transferring your points to the loyalty programs of airlines and hotels instead. All partner transfers occur at a 1:1 ratio and most of them are nearly instant. Ultimate Rewards has a real edge for hotel bookings because of its partnership with Hyatt, where free nights start as low as 5,000 points per night. On the airline side of things, popular redemption options include United Airlines, Southwest Airlines, British Airways, Virgin Atlantic and Air France-KLM, although the last three also partner with Amex Membership Rewards.

For more information on redeeming Chase Ultimate Rewards, check out the following guides:

Amex Membership Rewards has a whopping 22 transfer partners, but not all of them are worth your attention. Some of them have transfer ratios below 1:1, longer transfer times (which means you risk watching your award space disappear) and some simply don’t have reasonably priced redemption options.

Some of the best are ANA Mileage Club, Aeroplan (Air Canada) and Avianca LifeMiles, each of which offers attractively priced options for booking Star Alliance award tickets. Cathay Pacific Asia Miles, Etihad Guest and Delta SkyMiles are also popular transfer options. Also, don’t forget about the partners that are shared between Amex and Chase, including Singapore, British Airways, Virgin Atlantic and Air France-KLM.

The personal version of the Amex Platinum doesn’t offer any sort of bonus or rebate for using your points to pay for flights through the Amex Travel portal, but The Business Platinum® Card from American Express and the American Express® Business Gold Card offer 35% and 25% rebates, respectively.

Related reading: The Ultimate Guide to Amex Pay With Points

In determining which card is right for you, an important difference to note is that the Amex Platinum earns Amex Membership Rewards points, which can be transferred to 22 transfer partners, while the Chase Sapphire Reserve earns Chase Ultimate Rewards points which can be transferred to 13 transfer partners. However, the number of partners themselves should not be the only factor at play here.

For more information on redeeming Amex Membership Rewards, check out the following guides:

Winner: Chase Sapphire Reserve with its 50% bonus for travel booked in Ultimate Rewards and a 1:1 transfer ratio for all 13 of its airline and hotel partners.

Perks and benefits

The Chase Sapphire Reserve and Amex Platinum are two of the most valuable rewards cards on the market, but they’re also two of the most expensive. Now with identical annual fees of $550 a year (see rates and fees), these two cards take the cake as the most expensive publicly-available personal credit cards (ignoring invite-only options such as the Amex Centurion card).

So what do you get in exchange for that upfront cost? Let’s take a look, though this is by no means an exhaustive list of each card’s benefits. The table below lists the most popular and most valuable benefits (terms apply):

 

Benefit

The Platinum Card® from American Express

Chase Sapphire Reserve®

Annual statement credits and partner benefits

Up to $200 airline incidental fee credit

Up to $200 Uber credit ($15 each month, with a $20 bonus in December)

Up to $100 Saks Fifth Avenue statement credit ($50 every six months)

$300 travel credit

$60 in DoorDash statement credits each for 2020 and 2021

One year of free DoorDash delivery with a DashPass membership

Lyft Pink status, which includes a 15% discount on all rides, free bike and scooter rentals each month (including Citi Bike in New York), priority airport pickups, more flexibility when it comes to ride cancellations and more (a $19.99 per month value).

Lounge access Access to the American Express Global Lounge Collection, which includes Centurion Lounges, Priority Pass (excluding restaurants), Airspace and Escapes lounges, along with Delta Sky Clubs when flying Delta Priority Pass select membership (including restaurants)
Travel insurance

Secondary car rental insurance

Trip delay insurance

Trip cancellation/interruption insurance

Primary car rental insurance

Baggage delay insurance

Trip delay insurance

Trip cancellation/interruption insurance

Emergency medical and dental benefit

Hotel elite status Gold status with Marriott Bonvoy and Hilton Honors N/A
Hotel perks American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts Luxury Hotel & Resort Collection
Global Entry/TSA PreCheck credit One credit every four years One credit every four years

 

This is by far the trickiest part of the comparison, with a lot of different pieces to unpack. It’s also the one where your own personal preferences might sway you the most to one card or another. With matching $550 annual fees (see rates and fees), the math gets a bit easier, though the ways in which you recoup that value still differ heavily between the two cards.

Let’s start with the Sapphire Reserve. It still has an edge over Amex when it comes to the $300 annual travel credit. Not only is it a higher amount than the up to $200 airline fee credit that comes with the Platinum, but it’s much less restricted, meaning it will automatically apply to a broad range of travel purchases. You can’t use the $200 Amex airline credit for airfare — only for select fees such as seat assignment or checked bags. It used to be possible to buy airline gift cards and get reimbursed with this credit, but Amex has closed that and several other loopholes in recent years, making this credit much harder to use.

When it comes to ride-sharing, some people would prefer the cash value of the up to $200 annual Uber credit (broken into $15 a month with a $20 bonus in December) that comes with the Platinum card. However, not everyone uses a ride-sharing service once a month, which means the 10x bonus points on Lyft rides might be a more valuable option. Additionally, frequent travelers are sure to love the priority airport pickups that come with Lyft Pink status. I can’t tell you how many frigid nights I spent at Chicago O’Hare (ORD) waiting 10+ minutes for an Uber pickup, wishing I had a benefit like this available to me.

While Chase appears to be matching the Amex Platinum tit for tat in many ways (annual fee, ride-share benefits, etc.), the DoorDash perk is an interesting deviation. Sapphire Reserve cardholders will get at least one year of unlimited free delivery through DoorDash DashPass, as well as up to $60 in DoorDash statement credits each year for 2020 and 2021. The Amex Platinum doesn’t offer any similar food delivery benefits, but the mid-range American Express® Gold Card offers a $10 monthly dining credit that includes Grubhub and Seamless and other participating restaurants (up to $120 credit).

Chase doesn’t currently offer any mid-range card to directly compete with the Amex Gold, so it’s possible this change is trying to create a one-stop shop to woo over Amex customers who might have previously held both the Gold and Platinum (and paid $800 a year in total annual fess to do so). On the flip side, if you live in a smaller city or never order in food, you might find this credit to be entirely useless. The same can be said of the up to $100 Amex Platinum Saks Fifth Avenue credit. If you already shopped at Saks — great; otherwise you might not see this as a real value-add relative to the annual fee.

The Amex Platinum is widely considered to be the most comprehensive card when it comes to airport lounge access for good reason. Although the Priority Pass select membership that comes with this card no longer allows you to access participating restaurants (you can with a Chase-issued Priority Pass membership), the access to Amex’s growing collection of Centurion Lounges and Delta SkyClubs when flying Delta should be enough to make up for that. Another area where Amex excels is by offering Gold elite status with both Marriott and Hilton to Platinum cardholders. Chase offers no equivalent benefit.

Chase has historically been the leader when it comes to travel insurance, with a multitude of different policies and generous terms. Amex has partially closed the gap, adding a new suite of travel insurance benefits to the Platinum card for eligible purchases made on or after Jan. 1, 2020.

Winner: Amex Platinum, with its airline and Uber credits, expanded airport lounge access and elite status with Marriott and Hilton, along with new travel protections.

Bottom line

The Chase Sapphire Reserve and Amex Platinum are two of the most popular premium rewards cards on the market, but they offer slightly different value propositions. Between hotel elite status and Centurion Lounge access, the Amex Platinum is better suited to those looking to enjoy a more luxurious travel lifestyle. Especially if you frequently purchase airfare that would qualify for the 5x bonus points, this card deserves a spot in your wallet.

The Chase Sapphire Reserve, by comparison, is a premium card that’s simple enough for beginners and pros alike. The $300 annual travel credit will be automatically applied to a wide range of purchases and your 3x travel (excluding $300 travel credit) and dining bonus categories are wide enough that you won’t be scratching your head trying to decide if you’re swiping the right card. The new Lyft and DoorDash benefits will help put even more points and cash back in your wallet each year, though they may be of limited value if you don’t regularly use these services already. Many people will find that there’s room for both cards in their wallet. If you’re able to take advantage of all the annual statement credits and luxury perks, these cards actually complement each other well.

Read our review of the Amex Platinum here.

Read our review of the Chase Sapphire Reserve here.

For rates and fees of the Amex Platinum, click here.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.