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

Oct 9, 2019

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Picking the best travel rewards credit cards to use on a regular basis can be challenging. Each one offers different perks, and this is especially true for premium credit cards. Thanks to issuers upping the ante, there’s more competition than ever in this segment. But which premium travel rewards credit cards is the best? In this guide, I’ll attempt to answer that question.

For starters, this analysis focuses on seven popular premium cards:

(Note that the Ritz-Carlton Card has been removed from this analysis, because it’s not open to new applicants at this time.)

I’ll compare each of these cards across eight categories: annual fee, current introductory bonus, 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 weight) the categories as needed based on your travel patterns. If you’re a Chicago-based traveler, you might prefer the United Club Card. Others living in New York 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/her wallet.

The information for the Citi Prestige, United Club 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.

Annual fee

(Photo by Isabelle Raphael/The Points Guy)
The Sapphire Reserve is tied for the lowest annual fee among the premium travel cards at $450. (Photo by Isabelle Raphael/The Points Guy.)

Amex Platinum: $550 (see rates & fees); $175 for up to three additional cardholders (see rates & fees)
Chase Sapphire Reserve: $450; $75 for each additional cardholder
Citi Prestige: $495; $75 for each additional cardholder
Hilton Amex Aspire: $450 (see rates & fees); $0 for each additional cardholder (see rates & fees)
Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant: $450 (see rates & fees); $0 for each additional cardholder (see rates & fees)
Delta Reserve: $450; $550 if application is received on or after Jan. 30, 2020, (see rates & fees) and $0 for each additional cardholder (see rates & fees)
United Club: $450; $0 for each additional cardholder

Analysis

On the surface, many of these cards seem tied since all but two of the seven cards have a $450 annual fee. However, the zero cost for additional cardholders provides some separation. Although the Hilton Amex Aspire, Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant Amex, Delta Reserve Card and United Club Card don’t charge a fee for additional cardholders, 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 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. Because the fee is lower on the Sapphire Reserve, I’ll rank that in first place.

The Hilton Aspire takes second place in my book, since authorized users get added perks for no fee, and the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant Amex, Delta Reserve and United Club Card are tied at third. Sixth place goes to the Citi Prestige with the second-highest annual fee. Last place goes to the Amex Platinum thanks to its high fee in comparison to the others, although you can add three authorized users for a total of $175 and each authorized user gets a lot of benefits.

Ranking

Chase Sapphire Reserve (7 points)
Hilton Aspire (6 points)
Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant, Delta Reserve and United Club (5 points)
Citi Prestige (2 points)
Amex Platinum (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: 60,000 Membership Rewards points after you use your new card to make $5,000 in purchases in the first three months (worth $1,200 based on TPG’s most recent valuations), although be sure to check the CardMatch Tool to see if you’re targeted for an Amex Patinum 100k-points bonus offer.
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)
Citi Prestige: 50,000 bonus ThankYou Rewards points after you spend $4,000 within three months of account opening (worth $850)
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)
Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant: 75,000-point welcome bonus after you use your new Card to make $3,000 in purchases within the first 3 months. (worth $600).
Delta Reserve: 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) and 75,000 bonus miles after you spend $5,000 in purchases on your new card in your first three months (worth $900, not including the MQMs). Offer ends Oct. 30, 2019.
United Club: 50,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening (worth $650)

Analysis

The top spot in this category goes to 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). However, it’s important to compare the Chase and Amex transfer partners to see which ones better suit your travel needs. The Hilton Aspire comes in third, the Citi Prestige in fourth and the Bonvoy Brilliant in fifth. The sixth spot goes to the Delta Reserve Card, though you might bump this up a spot or two if you could really use the 10,000 MQMs, while the United Club Card takes the last spot.

Ranking

Amex Platinum (7 points)
Chase Sapphire Reserve (6 points)
Hilton Aspire (5 points)
Citi Prestige (4 points)
Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant (3 points)
Delta Reserve (2 points)
United Club (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
Chase Sapphire Reserve: 3 Ultimate Rewards points per dollar spent on travel and dining purchases; 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
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
Delta Reserve: 2 miles per dollar spent on Delta purchases; 1 mile per dollar spent on all other purchases
United Club: 2 miles per dollar spent on United ticket purchases; 1.5 miles per dollar spent on all other purchases

Analysis

Despite some recent devaluations to the card’s benefits, the Citi Prestige 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 by itself, but when it applies to airfare and dining purchases, that’s a powerful combination, since you’ll be getting a 8.5% return on these purchases.

The Chase Sapphire Reserve comes in second, with 3x earning on all travel and dining purchases. 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.

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. I’ll then slot the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant into fifth, thanks to the additional bonus category aside from its own program’s hotels and the United Card in sixth thanks to the 1.5 miles per dollar on everyday purchases. The Delta Reserve finishes last for its lackluster earning even on Delta purchases.

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 (2 points)
Delta Reserve (1 points)

Redemptions

(Photo by Isabelle Raphael/The Points Guy)
The Chase Sapphire Reserve earns valuable Chase Ultimate Rewards points that you can use to take your dream trip. (Photo by Isabelle Raphael/The Points Guy.)

Amex Platinum: Numerous direct redemptions like gift cards, Uber rides and travel; transfer points to airline partners (like Etihad and Singapore) or three hotel partners
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 (like British Airways and Southwest) or three hotel partners (like Hyatt)
Citi Prestige: Transfer points to one of 15 airline partners (like 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: Redeem miles for flights on United and its various partners (such as Lufthansa)

Analysis

This category is a bit closer, as each card has its own appealing redemptions. However, I’d group the top four cards together thanks to the flexibility of transferable points that won’t lock you into a specific set of airlines. Of those four, I’d give the top nod to the Sapphire Reserve. Even though the Reserve only has 12 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 21 transfer partners and varied redemption options. Third place goes to the Citi Prestige and fourth goes to the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant Amex.

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

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. However, feel free to bump one of these up if you have a definite loyalty 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
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
Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant: Up $300 credit for eligible purchases at Marriott properties each year of cardmembership
Delta Reserve: None
United Club: 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 in the inaugural 2018 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 useful if you visit any Waldorf-Astoria or Conrad properties.

Third place goes to the Amex Platinum. Like the Aspire, the $200 airline fee credit requires you to designate a single airline and technically only applies to fees. It used to be possible to get reimbursed for select airline gift cards, but Amex recently closed that loophole making it even harder to use this credit. And, 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.

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 (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 $29 each)
United Club: 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 announced that it’s cutting 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 card in sixth and the Delta Reserve Card bringing up the rear thanks to its 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 (2 points)
Delta Reserve (1 point)

Additional perks

(Photo by Katie Genter/The Points Guy)
Amex Fine Hotels and Resorts — 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 the previous two benefits deserved their own category, these cards also provide a host of other travel and entertainment-related benefits that are probably best expressed in a table format. Here’s a snapshot, though 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
Airline perks International Airline Program provides discounts on first, business 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 and 15,000 bonus miles after spending $30,000; another 15,000 MQMs and 15,000 bonus miles after spending $60,000; annual companion certificate 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 spending $75,000 in a year; 15 elite-night credits None None
Global Entry/TSA PreCheck credit One credit every four years One credit every four years One credit every five years None One credit every four years None None
Other perks $200 annual Uber credit; $100 annual Saks Fifth Avenue credit None None Complimentary Boingo Wi-Fi access None None Hertz President’s Circle status

Analysis

This category also makes it a bit challenging to compare cards 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 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 status, 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 due to 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, 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 bit of a toss-up, so I’ll call it a three-way tie between the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant, the Delta Reserve Card and the United Club Card. All three have their positive attributes; the Marriott card includes benefits for Marriott stays like elite status and premium internet, while the United and Delta cards confer perks for flying each carrier.

The United Club 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.

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, and again this is probably best visualized using a table:

Benefit Amex Platinum Sapphire Reserve Citi Prestige Hilton Amex Aspire Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant Delta Reserve United Club
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, limited 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, limited at $3,000 for all luggage) Yes (up to $2,000 for checked bags and $3,000 for carry-on bags, limited at $3,000 for all luggage) Yes (up to $500 for checked bags and $1,250 for carry-on bags, limited 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 Yes Yes Yes No
Emergency evacuation and transportation Yes (up to $100,000 per trip) Yes (up to $100,000) No No No No No
Roadside assistance Yes (up to four times per calendar year) Yes (up to $50 per incident, four times per year) No Yes (up to four times per year at no cost) Yes (up to four times per year at no cost) Yes (up to four times per year at no cost) 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 two additional years on warranties of five years or less) Yes (up to two additional years on warranties of five years or less) Yes (up to two additional years 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)
Missed event ticket protection No No No No No No No

** American Express is adding travel benefits to select cards for purchases made on or after January 1, 2020.

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.

This leaves the Sapphire Reserve to take 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 United Club Card, since it offers coverage in many areas that aren’t covered by Amex cards. The Amex Platinum finished third because of its emergency evacuation protection that’s provided simply by being a cardmember. The remaining Amex cards finish in the next three spots, with the Delta Reserve finishing second to last with its strangely minimal baggage insurance benefit.

Ranking

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

Final analysis

(Photo by Eric Helgas for The Points Guy)
The Chase Sapphire Reserve came out on top because of its combination of earnings, benefits and redemption value. (Photo by Eric Helgas/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. Chase Sapphire Reserve: 47 points
2. The Platinum Card from American Express: 42 points
3. Hilton Honors Aspire Card from American Express: 39 points
4. Citi Prestige: 34 points
5. Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant American Express Card: 31 points
6. United Club Card: 24 points
7. Delta Reserve Credit Card from American Express: 17 points

As you can see, the clear winner is the Chase Sapphire Reserve, with the Amex Platinum in a solid second place. The recent changes to the Citi Prestige were severe enough that the Hilton Amex Aspire was able to leap frog over it into third place. Fifth place is claimed by the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant card, while the United Club card comes in sixth and the Delta Reserve takes last place (by a wide margin).

That being said, all it would take to change this order is a shift of one or two rankings above based on your personal preference, so be sure to consider your own situation before applying for a new card, especially one with such 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 I use above 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.

Additional reporting by Ethan Steinberg

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.

2018 TPG Award Winner: Premium Card of the Year
Chase Sapphire Reserve®

SIGN-UP BONUS: 50,000 Points

TPG'S BONUS VALUATION*: $1,000

CARD HIGHLIGHTS: 3X points on all travel and dining, $300 annual travel credit, points transferrable to over a dozen travel partners

*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 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Named "Best Premium Travel Credit Card" for 2018 by MONEY® Magazine
  • $300 Annual Travel Credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year
  • 3X points on travel immediately after earning your $300 travel credit. 3X points on dining at restaurants & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases. $0 foreign transaction fees.
  • Get 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 50,000 points are worth $750 toward travel
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Access to 1,000+ airport lounges worldwide after an easy, one-time enrollment in Priority Pass™ Select
  • Up to $100 application fee credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®
Intro APR on Purchases
N/A
Regular APR
18.99% - 25.99% Variable
Annual Fee
$450
Balance Transfer Fee
Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each balance transfer, whichever is greater
Recommended Credit
Excellent Credit

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.