Battle of the premium travel rewards cards: Which is the best?

4d ago

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Editor’s note: This post has been updated to reflect the launch of the new United Club Infinite Card. 

Picking the best travel rewards credit cards can be challenging. Each one offers different perks and this is especially true for premium credit cards. Because issuers keep upping the ante, there’s more competition than ever. So which premium travel rewards credit card is the best? In this guide, I’ll attempt to answer that question.

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This analysis focuses on seven popular premium cards:

While these rankings have remained relatively stable over the last year, there have been a few shake-ups. Chase’s January 2020 announcement that it was raising the annual fee on the Sapphire Reserve by $100 and adding new benefits with Lyft and DoorDash has heightened the competition, as has United’s decision to launch the new United Club Infinite Card to replace the old United Club Card.  The Ritz-Carlton Rewards Card  has been removed from this analysis because it’s not open to new applicants at this time. Keep an eye on the Delta Reserve card, which received a slew of new benefits earlier this year — as well as a higher annual fee of $550 (see rates and fees).

And in a game-chasing move, American Express has announced that eligible card accounts approved between Dec. 1, 2019, and May 31, 2020, will receive a three-month extension to meet card spending requirements to help those who may be struggling to complete the spending requirement during the coronavirus crisis.

I’ll compare cards across eight categories: annual fee, current sign-up bonus/welcome offer, point earning, redemptions, travel credits, lounge access, additional travel perks and coverage. For each category, I’ll rank the cards from best to worst and award points accordingly (7 points to the best card in the category, 6 points to the second-best card in the category, etc., though I’ll award 0 points to a card that has nothing in a particular category). At the end, I’ll tally up the results and crown a champion.

As always, feel free to adjust (or even weigh) the categories based on your travel patterns. If you’re a Chicago-based traveler, you might prefer the United Club Infinite Card. If you live in New York, you might value the access you’ll get to the Centurion Lounge at LaGuardia and Delta Sky Clubs across the globe with the Amex Platinum. This analysis is based on a generic traveler trying to decide which one of these seven cards should go in his or her wallet.

The information for the Citi Prestige has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

Let’s get started.

In This Post

Annual fee

(Photo by The Points Guy)

Amex Platinum: $550 (see rates and fees); $175 for up to three additional cardholders (see rates and fees)
Chase Sapphire Reserve: $550; $75 for each additional cardholder
Citi Prestige: $495; $75 for each additional cardholder
Hilton Amex Aspire: $450 (see rates and fees); $0 for each additional cardholder (see rates and fees)
Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant: $450 (see rates and fees); $0 for each additional cardholder (see rates and fees)
Delta Reserve: $550 and $0 for each additional cardholder (see rates and fees)
United Club Infinite: $525; $0 for each additional cardholder

Analysis

On the surface, it would be easy to pick the cards with the lowest annual fees at $450, but that doesn’t tell the full story. Whether or not a card charges for additional cardholders makes a difference. The Hilton Amex Aspire, Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant Amex, Delta Reserve Card and United Club Infinite Card don’t charge a fee for additional cardholders, but the Hilton Amex Aspire allows authorized users to enjoy a $100 property credit for eligible two-night stays at Waldorf Astoria and Conrad properties — while the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant, Delta Reserve Card and United Club Infinite Card don’t offer any additional perks.

The Amex Platinum, Chase Sapphire Reserve and Citi Prestige provide additional cardholders access to Priority Pass lounges, even when not traveling with the primary cardholder. These benefits also include Centurion Lounges and Sky Clubs on the Amex Platinum. But they all also charge a fee for those additional cardholders.

The Hilton Aspire takes first place in this category my book, since authorized users get added perks for no fee, and the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant Amex comes in second. The Citi Prestige takes third place with an annual fee under $500, followed up by the new United Club Infinite card and the Delta Reserve. Last place is a tie between the Amex Platinum and Chase Sapphire Reserve, thanks to their high fees in comparison to the others, although you can add three authorized to the Amex Platinum users for a total of $175 (see rates and fees) and each authorized user gets a lot of benefits.

Ranking

Hilton Aspire (7 points)
Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant (6 points)
Citi Prestige (5 points)
United Club Infinite Card (4 points)
Delta Reserve (3 points)
Amex Platinum, Chase Sapphire Reserve (1 point)

Current welcome bonus

(Photo by Isabelle Raphael/The Points Guy)
The Amex Platinum card currently features a bonus worth $1,200, giving you plenty of points to book your next trip. (Photo by Isabelle Raphael/The Points Guy)

Amex Platinum: Due to the conornavirus outbreak, American Express is extending the welcome offer windows for eligible Card accounts approved between Dec. 31, 2019, and May 31, 2020, for an additional three months. Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards points after you use your new card to make $5,000 in purchases in the first six months (worth $1,200, based on TPG’s most recent valuations), although you should be sure to check the CardMatch Tool to see if you’re targeted for an Amex Platinum 100k-point bonus offer (subject to change at any time). Terms apply.
Chase Sapphire Reserve: 50,000 bonus Ultimate Rewards points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening (worth $1,000, based on TPG’s most recent valuations).
Citi Prestige: 50,000 bonus ThankYou Rewards points after you spend $4,000 within three months of account opening (worth $850, based on TPG’s most recent valuations).
Hilton Amex Aspire: 150,000 Hilton Honors points after you spend $4,000 in purchases on the card within your first three months of cardmembership (worth $900, based on TPG’s most recent valuations). Terms apply.
Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant: 100,000 bonus Marriott Bonvoy points after you use your new Card to make $5,000 in purchases within the first three months. Terms apply.
Delta Reserve: 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) and 40,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new card in your first three months (worth $480, based on TPG’s most recent valuations, not including the MQMs). Terms apply.
United Club Infinite Card: 100,000 bonus miles after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening (worth $1,300, based on TPG’s most recent valuations)

Analysis

The top spot in this category goes to the brand new United Club Infinite Card, which leapfrogged to the top of the pack with a limited-time, 100,000-point sign-up bonus available through May 18, 2020. In second place is the Amex Platinum, which edges out the Sapphire Reserve by $200, although it carries the potential of an even bigger payday through the CardMatch Tool and the extension of the time needed to earn the welcome offer bonus points. It’s important, however, to compare the Chase and Amex transfer partners to see which ones better suit your travel needs. The Hilton Aspire comes in fourth, the Citi Prestige in fifth and the Bonvoy Brilliant in sixth. The last spot goes to the Delta Reserve Card, although you might bump this up a spot or two if you could really use the 10,000 MQMs.

Ranking

United Club Infinite Card (7 points)
Amex Platinum (6 points)
Chase Sapphire Reserve (5 points)
Hilton Aspire (4 points)
Citi Prestige (3 points)
Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant (2 points)
Delta Reserve (1 point)

Point earning

(Photo by Eric Helgas/The Points Guy)
The Citi Prestige’s 5x earning at restaurants and on airfare is hard to pass up. (Photo by Eric Helgas/The Points Guy)

Amex Platinum: 5 Membership Rewards points per dollar spent on airfare purchases booked through the airline or through Amex Travel and on prepaid hotels booked directly through Amex; 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases. Terms apply.
Chase Sapphire Reserve: 3 Ultimate Rewards points per dollar spent on travel and dining purchases; 10 points per dollar spent on Lyft rides, 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
Citi Prestige: 5 ThankYou Rewards points per dollar spent on air travel and restaurants; 3 points per dollar spent at hotels and cruise lines; 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
Hilton Amex Aspire: 14 Hilton Honors points per dollar spent at Hilton portfolio properties worldwide; 7 points per dollar spent on flights booked directly with the airline or at amextravel.com, car rentals booked directly from select companies and at U.S. restaurants; 3 points per dollar spent on all other purchases. Terms apply.
Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant: 6 Marriott points per dollar spent at participating Marriott properties; 3 points per dollar spent at U.S. restaurants and airfare purchased directly with the airline; 2 points per dollar spent on all other purchases. Terms apply.
Delta Reserve: 3 miles per dollar spent on eligible Delta purchases; 1 mile per dollar spent on all other purchases. Terms apply.
United Club Infinite: 4 miles per dollar spent on United purchases; 2 miles per dollar spent on all other travel and dining purchases; 1 mile per dollar everywhere else.

Analysis

Despite some devaluations to the card’s benefits, the Citi Prestige still claims first place in the earnings category for its 5x points on dining and air travel. Having any type of 5x points category is nice, but when it applies to airfare and dining, that’s a powerful combination. You’ll be getting an 8.5% return on these purchases.

The Chase Sapphire Reserve comes in second, with 3x earning on all travel and dining purchases and the recent addition of a 10x bonus category for Lyft rides. The Sapphire Reserve has a broad definition of what constitutes travel, including many of your everyday expenses such as public transit and taxis. These broadly defined bonus categories help make up for the slightly lower bonus multiplier. It also doesn’t hurt that you’re earning valuable Ultimate Rewards points on all purchases, meaning you’ll get a 6% return on all travel and dining expenses. While the Lyft category is huge for anyone living in a big city who frequently uses the ride-hailing service, because of the limited scope of the bonus category it’s not enough to bump the Sapphire Reserve up a spot.

The Hilton Amex Aspire takes the third spot thanks to an incredible 14 points per dollar spent at Hilton properties and 7 points per dollar spent on airfare, car rentals and U.S. restaurants. These bonuses represent a return of 8.4% and 4.2% (respectively), based on TPG’s most recent valuations.

The Amex Platinum card comes in fourth with its 5x earnings on airfare and hotels, which is less appealing because of stringent booking requirements. The Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant and United Club Infinite card are tied for fifth, thanks to the additional bonus categories aside from Marriott or United purchases.. The Delta Reserve finishes last for its lackluster earning, even on Delta purchases. Even with its earning on Delta purchases now bumped up to 3 miles per dollar, the card still lacks other bonus categories and can’t compete with the likes of the Prestige, Sapphire and Platinum for air travel.

Ranking

Citi Prestige (7 points)
Chase Sapphire Reserve (6 points)
Hilton Amex Aspire (5 points)
Amex Platinum (4 points)
Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant (3 points)
United Club Infinite (3 points)
Delta Reserve (1 points)

Redemptions

(Photo by The Points Guy)
(Photo by The Points Guy)

Amex Platinum: Numerous direct redemptions such as gift cards, Uber rides and travel; transfer points to 19 airline partners (including Etihad and Singapore) or three hotel partners (Choice, Hilton and Marriott).
Chase Sapphire Reserve: Redeem points directly for travel at a rate of 1.5 cents per point; transfer points to one of 10 airline partners (such as British Airways and Southwest) or three hotel partners (such as Hyatt).
Citi Prestige: Transfer points to one of 15 airline partners (such as Avianca LifeMiles and Virgin Atlantic).
Hilton Amex Aspire: Redeem points for stays at hotels in the Hilton Honors portfolio of brands.
Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant: Redeem points for stays at hotels in the Marriott Bonvoy program, along with lucrative airline transfers.
Delta Reserve: Redeem miles for flights on Delta and its various partners (such as Virgin Atlantic).
United Club Infinite: Redeem miles for flights on United and its various partners (such as Lufthansa).

Analysis

This category has some close calls, as each card has its own appealing redemptions. However, I’d group the top three cards together thanks to the flexibility of transferable points that won’t lock you into a specific set of airlines. Of those three, I give the top nod to the Sapphire Reserve. Even though the Reserve only has 10 airline and three hotel transfer partners, it also has the ability to redeem points for travel at a rate of 1.5 cents apiece, which guarantees that you can get some great value out of the program.

A close second is the Amex Platinum because of its 22 transfer partners and varied redemption options. Third place goes to the Citi Prestige and fourth goes to the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant Amex. It’s important to remember that in addition to redeeming for free hotel nights, you can transfer your Marriott points to more than 40 different airlines, including some niche but valuable options.

For the latter part of the list, I’ll place the United Club Infinite card in fifth, as United miles can get you some pretty terrific flight redemptions — though keep in mind the carrier eliminated its award charts and introduced dynamic pricing for United-operated flights in November 2019.

Finally, I’ll award sixth place to both the Hilton Amex Aspire and the Delta Reserve, as both programs tend to require a lot of points or miles for redemptions and no longer formally publish award charts. Feel free to bump one of these up if you have a definite loyalty to one of the brands and are well-versed in maximizing either program.

Ranking

Chase Sapphire Reserve (7 points)
Amex Platinum (6 points)
Citi Prestige (5 points)
Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant (4 points)
United Club (3 points)
Hilton Amex Aspire and Delta Reserve (2 points)

Travel credits

Delta Sky Club Seattle
Some travel credits are restricted to incidental fees, like day passes or guest access to Delta Sky Clubs, such as the Delta Sky Club Seattle. (Photo by Peter Rothbart/The Points Guy)

Amex Platinum: Up to $200 airline fee credit toward incidentals like baggage fees and lounge passes each calendar year; up to $200 in annual Uber credits. Terms apply.
Chase Sapphire Reserve: $300 travel credit each account anniversary
Citi Prestige: $250 travel credit each calendar year
Hilton Amex Aspire: Up to $250 airline fee credit each calendar year; $250 Hilton resort credit each year of cardmembership; $100 on-property credit for two-night Waldorf-Astoria or Conrad stays. Terms apply.
Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant: Up $300 credit for eligible purchases at Marriott properties each year of card membership. Terms apply.
Delta Reserve: None
United Club Infinite: None

Analysis

As with some of the earlier categories, the Sapphire Reserve is head and shoulders above the rest of the cards. For starters, the $300 credit is a higher dollar amount and also applies to any travel purchase (as opposed to just fees or airfare like some of its competition). In addition, the credits post instantly; others require you to wait an entire statement period or even force you to call and have customer service manually issue you a credit. This is why readers voted it the Best Credit Card Perk for the second year in a row in the 2019 TPG Awards.

I’ll award second place to the Hilton Aspire because of the potential to get $500+ in travel credits each year. Although the Aspire’s airline-fee credit requires you to designate a single airline and technically only applies to fees, the $250 resort credit is easy to use if you visit an eligible resort and the $100 property credit will come in handy if you visit any Waldorf-Astoria or Conrad properties.

Third place goes to the Amex Platinum. Like the Aspire, the up to $200 airline fee credit requires you to designate a single carrier and technically only applies to airline fees. It used to be possible to get reimbursed for select airline gift cards, but Amex closed that loophole, making it even harder to use this credit. If you travel frequently within the U.S., you should be able to put the monthly Uber credits to full use.

Fourth place goes to the Citi Prestige’s $250 travel credit, which posts automatically. However, if you prefer simplicity or will struggle to use the Aspire or Platinum Card airline fee credit, you may rank the Prestige higher. Fifth place goes to the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant, since its $300 credit will apply automatically when you stay at any Marriott property. Because neither of the airline cards offer a comparable perk, I’ll award both of them zero points in this category. It is disappointing that both the Delta Reserve and United Club Infinite card were relaunched in recent months with higher annual fees, but no new statement credits to help make up for the higher sticker price.

Ranking

Chase Sapphire Reserve (7 points)
Hilton Amex Aspire (6 points)
Amex Platinum (5 points)
Citi Prestige (4 points)
Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant (3 points)
Delta Reserve and United Club Infinite (0 points)

Lounge access

Alaska Airlines Lounge, JFK. (Photo Brendan Dorsey)
You could enjoy the Alaska Airlines Lounge at New York-JFK with a Priority Pass membership. (Photo by Brendan Dorsey/The Points Guy)

Amex Platinum: Priority Pass Select (two free guests) not including restaurants; Delta Sky Clubs when flying Delta (guests are $29 each); Airspace lounges (two free guests or immediate family); Escape lounges (two free guests or immediate family) and Centurion Lounges (two free guests)
Chase Sapphire Reserve: Priority Pass Select (two guests)
Citi Prestige: Priority Pass Select (immediate family or up to two free guests)
Hilton Amex Aspire: Priority Pass Select (two free guests)
Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant: Priority Pass Select (two free guests)
Delta Reserve: Sky Club access when traveling on a Delta-coded or Delta-operated flight (guests are $39 each); access to Amex Centurion lounges when flying Delta and two one-time SkyClub passes each year.
United Club Infinite: Full United Club membership (two free guests or immediate family)

Analysis

This category is much tougher to rank, given that the true value of lounge access is based on so many factors — your typical departure airport(s), your preferred airline(s) and how frequently you travel with guests, to name a few. The Amex Platinum gives you great flexibility, and being able to bring two guests for free to most lounges is a huge perk. The Sapphire Reserve used to stand ahead of the others with unlimited guests for Priority Pass lounges, but that was dropped to two guests in August 2018.

For those reasons, I’ll slot the Amex Platinum in first, thanks to the fantastic Centurion Lounges. Amex cut restaurant access from its Priority Pass benefit, but with its other lounge access options, it still comes out on top. The Citi Prestige takes second because it allows families to bring their children to Priority Pass lounges. I’ll then place the remaining Priority Pass-eligible cards in a tie for third, followed by the United Club Infinite card and the Delta Reserve in a tie for last. While the Delta Reserve now offers access to Amex Centurion lounges when flying Delta, it has very restrictive access policies for cardholders.

Ranking

Amex Platinum (7 points)
Citi Prestige (6 points)
Chase Sapphire Reserve, Hilton Amex Aspire and Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant (5 points)
United Club and Delta Reserve (2 points)

Additional perks

(Photo by Katie Genter/The Points Guy)
The Amex Fine Hotels and Resorts group — a benefit of The Platinum Card — provides elite-like perks like breakfast for two and guaranteed 4 p.m. late checkout at luxury hotels like the Park Hyatt Beijing. (Photo by Katie Genter/The Points Guy)

Although travel credits and lounge access deserve their own categories, these premium cards also provide a host of other travel and entertainment-related benefits that are probably best expressed in a table. Here’s a snapshot — note that I focused on perks that I considered most likely to be used by a broad audience:

Benefit Amex Platinum Sapphire Reserve
Citi Prestige Hilton Amex Aspire
Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant Delta Reserve United Club Infinite
Airline perks International Airline Program provides discounts on first-class, business-class and premium economy tickets None None None None Free checked bag on domestic Delta flights; priority boarding; 20% savings on inflight purchases; 15,000 MQMs after you spend $30,000 $60,000, $90,000 and $120,000 annually; annual companion certificate; access to complimentary upgrades for non-elite cardholders Two free checked bags for primary cardmember and one companion; Premier Access; waived close-in award-booking fees; Premier upgrades on award tickets for elite members
Hotel perks American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts Luxury Hotel & Resort Collection Fourth-Night-Free Benefit One weekend night per year (plus another after spending $60,000) One free-night award per year (valid for nights up to 50,000 points); premium in-room internet None Luxury Hotel & Resort Collection
Hotel elite status Marriott Bonvoy Gold status and Hilton Honors Gold status None None Hilton Honors Diamond status Marriott Bonvoy Gold status; Platinum status after you spend $75,000 in a year; 15 elite-night credits None None
Global Entry/TSA PreCheck credit (up to $100) One credit every four years One credit every four years One credit every five years None One credit every four years One credit every four years for Global Entry, every 4.5 years for TSA PreCheck One credit every 4 years
Other perks Up to $200 annual Uber credit; up to $100 annual Saks Fifth Avenue credit Lyft Pink status, one year of free DoorDash DashPass free delivery, and up to $120 in DoorDash statement credits ($60 in 2020 and $60 in 2021) None None None Complimentary access to American Express Centurion Lounges when flying Delta with a ticket purchased on the card (up to two guests may also enter for a fee of $50 each) Hertz President’s Circle status

 

Analysis

As with lounge access, it’s challenging to compare cards in this category, given the different benefits offered on each and how those benefits are valued by different travelers. However, I’d say the Amex Platinum occupies the top spot, given the hotel elite status with Hilton and Marriott, plus the Fine Hotels & Resorts program, the $100 credit at Saks Fifth Avenue every year and the International Airfare Program.

Second place is a bit tougher, but I’ll give the nod to the Hilton Amex Aspire, thanks to the automatic top-tier Diamond status, a free weekend night and ability to earn a second free weekend night, both of which are valid at virtually all properties in the Hilton Honors worldwide portfolio.

I’ll give the third spot to the Citi Prestige Card because of its fourth-night-free benefit. Depending on how you use this benefit, you may want to rank the Prestige higher or lower. Even after the benefit was restricted in September 2019, there’s still the potential to save significant money on two stays of four nights or longer. This is an especially valuable perk to have if you’re staying at boutique, non-chain hotels where you can’t use your points.

The fourth spot is a three-way tie between the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant, the Delta Reserve Card and the United Club Infinite Card. All three have their positive attributes: The Marriott card includes benefits for Marriott stays such as elite status and premium internet, while the United and Delta cards confer perks for flying each carrier. Note that the Delta Reserve is seeing a lot of changes in this category, including the introduction of a Global Entry/TSA PreCheck fee credit (every four years for Global Entry, every 4.5 years for TSA PreCheck) and access to complimentary upgrades even for non-Medallion cardholders. The “Miles Boost” feature is also being changed to eliminate redeemable miles. Now you’ll just receive 15,000 MQMs after spending $30,000, $60,000, $90,000 and $120,000 a year.

The United Club Infinite card offers some added diversity with rental car status, while the Delta card annual companion certificate can be quite valuable. As always, feel free to break this tie if you’re loyal to one of the associated programs.

I’ll place Sapphire Reserve in last place since its main perk in this section is the Global Entry/TSA PreCheck credit. While the card is adding benefits with both Lyft and DoorDash, those can be rather niche, and based on the initial response we’ve seen from Sapphire Reserve cardholders, these perks primarily benefit people who live in large cities and/or already use these services. They’re also limited to the U.S.

Ranking

Amex Platinum (7 points)
Hilton Amex Aspire (6 points)
Citi Prestige (5 points)
Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant, Delta Reserve and United Club (4 points)
Sapphire Reserve (1 point)

Coverage

Shot of young african man lying on chairs at lounge with his luggage and listening music on mobile phone, waiting for flight. (Photo by izusek/Getty Images)
Some credit cards offer trip delay protection, which means you may be covered for a hotel if your flight is significantly delayed. (Photo by izusek/Getty Images)

All of these cards also provide various coverages and protections when you’re traveling or making purchases. Again, this is probably best visualized in a table:

Benefit Amex Platinum Sapphire Reserve Citi Prestige Hilton Amex Aspire Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant Delta Reserve United Club Infinite
Car rental coverage Yes (secondary) Yes (primary) No Yes (secondary) Yes (secondary) Yes (secondary) Yes (primary)
Travel assistance Yes Yes No Yes Yes Yes Yes
Baggage loss or damage Yes (up to $2,000 for checked bags and $3,000 for carry-on bags, capped at $3,000 for all luggage) Yes (up to $3,000 per passenger) No Yes (up to $2,000 for checked bags and $3,000 for carry-on bags, capped at $3,000 for all luggage) Yes (up to $2,000 for checked bags and $3,000 for carry-on bags, capped at $3,000 for all luggage) Yes (up to $500 for checked bags and $1,250 for carry-on bags, capped at $1,250 for all luggage) Yes (up to $3,000 per passenger)
Baggage delay No Yes ($100 per day for up to five days if bags are more than six hours late) No No No No Yes (up to $100 per day for three days if bags are more than six hours late)
Trip delay Yes (up to $500 per ticket for delays of more than six hours) Yes (up to $500 per ticket for delays of more than six hours) No No No No Yes (up to $500 per ticket for delays of more than 12 hours or overnight)
Trip cancellation/interruption Yes (up to $10,000 per trip and $20,000 every 12 months) Yes (up to $10,000 per person and $20,000 per trip) No No No No Yes (up to $10,000 per trip)
Travel accident insurance No Yes No No No No No
Emergency evacuation and transportation Yes (up to $100,000 per trip) Yes (up to $100,000) No No No No No
Purchase protection Yes (within 120 days, up to $10,000 per occurrence and $50,000 per year) Yes (within 120 days, up to $10,000 per claim and $50,000 per year) Yes (within 90 days, up to $10,000 per incident and $50,000 per year) Yes (within 120 days, up to $10,000 per occurrence and $50,000 per year) Yes (within 120 days, up to $10,000 per occurrence and $50,000 per year) Yes (within 120 days, up to $10,000 per claim and $50,000 per year) Yes (within 120 days, up to $10,000 per claim and $50,000 per year)
Extended warranty Yes (up to an additional year on warranties of five years or less) Yes (additional year on warranties of three years or less) Yes (additional two years, capped at seven years total) Yes (up to an additional year on warranties of five years or less) Yes (up to an additional year on warranties of five years or less) Yes (up to an additional year on warranties of five years or less) Yes (additional year on warranties of three years or less)
Return protection Yes (90 days, up to $300 per item and $1,000 per year) Yes (90 days, up to $500 per item and $1,000 per year) No Yes (90 days, up to $300 per item and $1,000 per year) Yes (90 days, up to $300 per item and $1,000 per year) Yes (90 days, up to $300 per item and $1,000 per year) Yes (90 days, up to $500 per item and $1,000 year)
Price protection No No No No No No Yes (90 days, up to $500 per item and $2,500 per year)

 

Analysis

Although the Citi Prestige used to claim the top spot here, it’s fallen all the way to the bottom of the list since Citi removed nearly all of the card’s purchase and travel protections in September 2019. This puts the Sapphire Reserve in first place, with primary car rental insurance and a high limit for trip cancellation and interruption coverage — but no price protection and weaker delayed baggage coverage, extended warranty coverage and roadside assistance.

Second place goes to the Amex Platinum, which recently plugged a huge hole in its benefits by adding significant travel insurance coverage. The United Club Infinite Card finished third with its surprisingly comprehensive policies and the remaining Amex cards finish in the next three spots. The Delta Reserve ends up second-to-last with its strangely minimal baggage insurance benefit.

Ranking

Sapphire Reserve (7 points)
Amex Platinum (6 points)
United Club Infinite (5 points)
Hilton Amex Aspire and Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant (4 points)
Delta Reserve (2 points)
Citi Prestige (1 point)

Final analysis

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

So how do the numbers shake out? Following the formula I mentioned above and the individual rankings I’ve awarded, here are the final tallies:

1. The Platinum Card from American Express:  42 points
2. Chase Sapphire Reserve: 39 points
3. Hilton Honors Aspire Card from American Express: 39 points
4. Citi Prestige: 36 points
5. Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant American Express Card: 31 points
6. United Club Infinite Card: 27 points
7. Delta SkyMiles Reserve American Express Card: 15 points

As you can see, the recent changes to the Chase Sapphire Reserve bumped it down into a tie for second place, with the Amex Platinum now sitting solidly at the top. The September 2019 changes to the Citi Prestige were severe enough that the Hilton Amex Aspire was able to leapfrog over it into a tie for second. Fifth place is claimed by the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant card, while the United Club Infinite card comes in sixth with a much stronger showing and the Delta Reserve takes last place (by a wide margin).

All it would take to change this order for you is a shift of one or two category rankings based on your personal preference, so be sure to consider your own situation before applying for a new card, especially one with a high annual fee.

Bottom line

You may think that it’s crazy to pay $450 (or more) for a credit card, but as you can see, all of these premium travel rewards cards carry a host of benefits that can easily cover that fee (and then some). As always, you should definitely adjust the rankings based on what’s most important to you, but hopefully this post has given you a framework to use as you try to decide which of these top credit cards should earn a spot in your wallet.

This is The Points Guy’s permanent page on premium travel rewards credit cards. Keep in mind you may see some reader comments referring to old cards or bonuses that are no longer available.

For rates and fees of the Amex Platinum Card, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Delta Reserve Card, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Hilton Aspire Card, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant Amex please click here.

The Platinum Card® from American Express

WELCOME OFFER: 60,000 Points Terms Apply.

TPG'S BONUS VALUATION*: $1,200

CARD HIGHLIGHTS: Delta Sky Club and Centurion lounge access, $200 annual airline fee credit and up to $200 in Uber credits annually

*Bonus value is an estimated value calculated by TPG and not the card issuer. View our latest valuations here.

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More Things to Know
  • Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you use your new Card to make $5,000 in purchases in your first 3 months.
  • Enjoy Uber VIP status and free rides in the U.S. up to $15 each month, plus a bonus $20 in December. That can be up to $200 in annual Uber savings.
  • 5X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel.
  • 5X Membership Rewards points on prepaid hotels booked on amextravel.com.
  • Enjoy access to the Global Lounge Collection, the only credit card airport lounge access program that includes proprietary lounge locations around the world.
  • Receive complimentary benefits with an average total value of $550 with Fine Hotels & Resorts. Learn More.
  • $200 Airline Fee Credit, up to $200 per calendar year in baggage fees and more at one qualifying airline.
  • Get up to $100 in statement credits annually for purchases at Saks Fifth Avenue on your Platinum Card®. Enrollment required.
  • $550 annual fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
Intro APR on Purchases
N/A
Regular APR
N/A
Annual Fee
$550
Balance Transfer Fee
See Terms
Recommended Credit
Excellent/Good
Terms and restrictions apply. See rates & fees.

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.