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

May 20, 2021

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In recent years, it seems like almost 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 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 its mass appeal.

Ever since the Sapphire Reserve launched in August 2016, competition between these two cards has been fierce. Today we’re going to take a look at how they stack up against each other and whether you should consider adding one — or both — to your wallet.

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In This Post

Welcome offer/sign-up bonus

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

When considering a new card, especially one with a $500-plus annual fee, the first thing most people look at is the welcome offer or sign-up bonus to see how much of that annual fee they can start recouping immediately.

The Amex Platinum, with its $550 annual fee (see rates and fees), is currently offering new applicants 75,000 Membership Rewards points after they spend $5,000 on purchases in the first six months of account opening, although it’s worth checking to see if you’re targeted for a higher offer through the CardMatch tool (offer subject to change at any time).

You also earn a whopping 10 points per dollar spent on combined eligible purchases at U.S. supermarkets and U.S. gas stations, on up to $15,000 in the first six months of account opening. Assuming you could spend $15,000 in those two categories within the first six months of account opening, you would amass 150,000 Membership Rewards points in addition to the welcome offer. Per TPG’s valuation, that’s a $4,500 welcome offer in your first six months as a cardholder.

Related: How to earn up to 225,000 points with the latest Amex Platinum welcome offer

TPG values Membership Rewards points at 2 cents each, making the public welcome offer of 75,000 points worth $1,500 alone. Since Amex only allows you to earn a welcome offer on each of its cards once per lifetime, it can be tempting to hold off on applying for the Amex Platinum in hopes that you may be targeted through CardMatch for a higher bonus at some point in the future (offer subject to change at any time). After all, if you apply now with the 75,000-point offer, you’ll never be able to get a higher targeted 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, with its $595 annual fee (see rates and fees), so you can access many of the perks now while hoping for a higher targeted offer.

Related: Card showdown: Amex Platinum vs. Amex Business Platinum

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. Currently, the Reserve is offering an elevated sign-up bonus of 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 in the first three months from account opening.

TPG values Ultimate Rewards points at 2 cents each, making this bonus worth $1,200. That’s a bit lower than the Amex Platinum offer, although the spending requirement to earn the bonus is also lower.

Winner: The Amex Platinum takes the lead in this first category, especially if you are targeted for an elevated offer through CardMatch.

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

Earning

Get 5x back on Lyft through March 2022 with the Chase Sapphire Reserve. (Photo courtesy of Lyft)

Long after your bonus has been earned and spent, you want a card that will help you rack up valuable transferable points quickly.

Both of these cards get that done, but in very different ways. Your best option depends on which other Chase or Amex cards you currently have in your wallet, and how the bonus categories on those other cards overlap with the Chase Sapphire Reserve and Amex Platinum. Here are the bonus categories for these two cards:

Bonus multiplier

Amex Platinum

Chase Sapphire Reserve

10x Eligible purchases at U.S. gas stations and U.S. supermarkets, on up to $15,000 in combined purchases, during the first six months of account opening Lyft rides (through March 2022)
5x Airfare booked directly with airlines and airfare booked with American Express Travel, on up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year

Prepaid hotels booked with American Express 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 points on flights when booked directly with the airline or through American Express Travel (though admittedly that category is fairly restrictive), but Chase now offers a solid 10x bonus category for all Lyft rides in the U.S. — a 20% return in that category, based on TPG’s valuations — that helps make up some of the difference.

Plus, the Chase Sapphire Reserve, while technically earning less in terms of bonus multipliers, does earn on a much wider range of purchases. Dining and travel are both defined broadly by Chase, which means you’re more likely to have a purchase to fall within its bonus categories than with Amex.

Right now, new Amex Platinum cardholders can earn 10x on U.S. gas stations and U.S. supermarkets (on up to $15,000 in combined spending) in the first six months.

Related: The latest credit card benefit changes you need to know about

The Amex Platinum continues to win on most airfare purchases — especially now that the card offers trip delay protection and trip cancellation/interruption insurance — but the Chase Sapphire Reserve 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. However, when you take into consideration the amazing value of the 10x bonus categories in the first six months, the Amex Platinum does pull ahead in the short term.

Winner: Amex Platinum, with the added 10x bonus categories that can help outsize your earning potential — but only in the first six months.

Redemption options

(Photo by Wyatt Smith/The Points Guy)
(Photo by Wyatt Smith/The Points Guy)

With Chase Ultimate Rewards and Amex Membership Rewards tied at 2 cents apiece in TPG’s 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. You can also currently redeem points at a 50% bonus on eligible purchases through the card’s Pay Yourself Back feature, which was recently extended by Chase. Plus the $300 annual travel credit on the Sapphire Reserve can be redeemed at gas stations and grocery stores through the end of 2021.

That said, you’ll often get a better value by transferring your points to the loyalty programs of airlines and hotels instead. Both 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.

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, Air Canada Aeroplan 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% (up to 500,000 points per calendar year) and 25% (up to 250,000 points per calendar year) rebates, respectively.

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 partners, while the Chase Sapphire Reserve earns Chase Ultimate Rewards points, which can be transferred to 13 partners. However, the number of partners should not be the only factor at play here.

Winner: Chase Sapphire Reserve, since it offers more flexibility with its 50% bonus for travel booked in Ultimate Rewards, the Pay Yourself Back feature and a 1:1 transfer ratio for all of its airline and hotel partners.

Related: Amex Membership Rewards vs. Chase Ultimate Rewards: Which is the best?

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 the Amex Platinum rates and fees), these two cards take the cake as the most expensive publicly available personal cards (ignoring invite-only options such as the Amex Centurion card).

So what do you get in exchange for that upfront cost? For starters, both cards feature additional travel and food delivery credits, as well as airport lounge access, to name a few benefits. Though this is by no means an exhaustive list of each card’s benefits, so let’s take a look below at the most popular and valuable ones:

Benefit

Amex Platinum*

Chase Sapphire Reserve

Annual statement credits and partner benefits

Up-to-$200 airline incidental fee credit

Up-to-$200 annual Uber credit for eligible U.S. purchases ($15 each month, with a $20 bonus in December)

12 months of complimentary access to U.S. Uber Eats Pass, valued at up to $10 per month, if you enrolled by Dec. 31

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

Enrollment required for select benefits.

$300 travel credit

Up to $60 in DoorDash statement credits in 2021

One year of complimentary 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), Delta Sky Clubs on same-day Delta flights, Airspace and Escape lounges

Enrollment required for select benefits.

 

Priority Pass Select membership (including restaurants)
Travel insurance

Secondary car rental insurance

Trip delay insurance

Trip cancellation/interruption insurance

Enrollment required for select benefits.

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

Enrollment required for select benefits.

 

None
Hotel perks American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts

Enrollment required for select benefits.

Luxury Hotel & Resort Collection
Global Entry/TSA PreCheck credit One credit every 4 years for Global Entry or every 4 1/2 years for TSA PreCheck One credit every 4 years

Related: When to book through Amex Fine Hotels & Resorts vs. Chase Luxury Hotel & Resort Collection

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 the Amex Platinum 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 Chase 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 Amex Platinum, but it’s also 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 — and only on one carrier.

Related: Guide to the Amex Platinum $200 airline fee credit

When it comes to ride-sharing, some people see the up-to-$200 annual (U.S.) Uber Cash (broken into $15 a month with a $20 bonus in December) that comes with the Amex Platinum card as a cash-like credit. 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-plus 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 was an interesting deviation. Chase Sapphire Reserve cardholders will get at least one year of unlimited complimentary delivery through DoorDash DashPass, as well as up to $60 in DoorDash statement credits for 2021.

But now, the Amex Platinum offers 12 months of complimentary access to Uber Eats Pass*, valued at $10 per month if you enroll by Dec. 31. Uber Eats Pass will automatically bill starting 12 months from initial enrollment in this offer, at the then-currently monthly rate.

Plus the midrange American Express® Gold Card offers an up-to-$10 monthly dining statement credits that includes Grubhub, Seamless and participating restaurants (up to $120 credit per calendar year). Enrollment required for select benefits.

Doordash Inc. signage is displayed on an Apple Inc. iPhone in an arranged photograph taken in the Brooklyn borough of New York, U.S., on Friday, Jan. 10, 2020. Wall Street is weighing reports that Grubhub Inc. is exploring strategic options in the midst of intense competition and steep discounts, giving fresh impetus to the idea that food-delivery companies have no choice but to merge or acquire. Photographer: Gabby Jones/Bloomberg via Getty Images
If you use DoorDash, the Sapphire Reserve might get a slight leg up. (Photo by Gabby Jones/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Chase doesn’t currently offer any midrange card to directly compete with the Amex Gold, so it’s possible this change is trying to create a one-stop shop to woo Amex customers who might have previously held both the Gold and Platinum.

On the flip side, if you live in a smaller city or never order 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, even when using the credit at Saks.com.

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 Sky Clubs on same-day Delta flights 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. Enrollment required for select benefits.

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 Amex 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.

Related: Is the Amex Platinum once again the king of travel rewards cards?

Bottom line

(Photo by Josh Gribben for The Points Guy)
(Photo by Josh Gribben/The Points Guy)

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 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. Some people may even find that there’s enough 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.

Here are the official application links: Chase Sapphire Reserve and Amex Platinum

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

*Click here for Uber Eats terms and conditions.

Additional reporting by Juan Ruiz and Chris Dong. 

Featured photo by Josh Gribben/The Points Guy.

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.