Points of View: Which card should I use for flights in case things go wrong?
With all of the problems surrounding flights in 2022 (such as cancellations, lost luggage, delayed lugagge and flight delays), you have an important choice to make when booking your next ticket. Will you use the credit card that earns the most points on flight bookings or use the credit card that provides the best protections in case things go wrong?
Depending on which cards you have in your wallet, the amount of points you forfeit by choosing the "stronger protections" option against the "earn the most points" option might be significant. However, if things go sideways, you might be happy to have extra insurance and benefits on your side.
Let's look at your options for credit cards you can use to pay for your next flight and why you might choose one over the other.
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Which cards offer bonus points on airfare purchases?
Whether you're paying for the whole ticket or just paying the taxes and fees on an award ticket, you could choose pay with these cards that offer bonus points for airfare purchases:
- The Platinum Card® from American Express: 5 Membership Rewards points per dollar for flights booked directly with an airline or through Amex Travel (on up to $500,000 per year).
- The Business Platinum Card® from American Express: 5 points per dollar for flights booked with Amex Travel.
- Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card: 5 Capital One miles per dollar on flights booked with Capital One Travel and 2 miles per dollar when booking elsewhere.
- Chase Sapphire Reserve: 5 Ultimate Rewards points per dollar when booking with Chase travel or 3 points per dollar when booking elsewhere (excluding bookings covered by your $300 travel credit).
Further down on the earning rates, you could use these cards:
- Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card: 3 Ultimate Rewards points per dollar on the first $150,000 spent each year in the card's bonus categories, including flights.
- Citi Premier® Card (see rates and fees): 3 ThankYou Points per dollar.
- American Express® Green Card: 3 Membership Rewards points per dollar.
Related: Maximize your airfare: The best credit cards for booking flights
How you book can determine how many points you will earn. And remember that there are some important things to consider before booking through a portal.
Let's look at an example of booking directly with the airline using two popular premium cards: the Amex Platinum and the Chase Sapphire Reserve. Based on TPG's points valuations, a $500 plane ticket bought with the Platinum Card will earn you $50 worth of points, whereas the Sapphire Reserve will earn only $30 worth of points.
Chase Sapphire Reserve vs. Amex Platinum: Comparing travel protections
"How many points will I earn?" is not the only thing to consider, however. What if you experience lost luggage or a delay that forces you to buy meals at the airport or spend a night in a nearby hotel?
Related: Amex Platinum vs. Chase Sapphire Reserve: Which card is right for you?
The Sapphire Reserve offers up to $10,000 per covered person in trip cancellation and trip interruption insurance. The card also offers $100 per day (up to five days) for baggage delay insurance and up to $3,000 in coverage for lost luggage. In terms of trip delay reimbursement, you'll get up to $500 per ticket after a delay of six hours or more.
The Platinum card offers trip delay reimbursement of up to $500 (if delayed by six hours or more) and trip cancellation/interruption insurance of up to $10,000 per covered trip.* You can also enjoy baggage insurance coverage of up to $2,000 per checked bag and up to a combined maximum of $3,000 for checked and carry-on bags. These protections are in excess of coverage provided by your flight carrier.**
Related: Your complete guide to travel protections on American Express cards
*Eligibility and benefit level varies by card. Terms, conditions and limitations apply. Visit americanexpress.com/benefitsguide for details. Policies are underwritten by New Hampshire Insurance Company, an AIG Company.
**Eligibility and benefit level varies by card. Terms, conditions and limitations apply. Visit americanexpress.com/benefitsguide for details. Policies are underwritten by AMEX Assurance Company.
Chase Sapphire Reserve vs. Amex Platinum: Making a decision
The Sapphire Reserve and Platinum Card offer similar values for trip cancellation and trip interruption insurance and have the same coverage values that kick in at the same time for trip delay reimbursement. Both cards also offer similar values for lost luggage.
The key differentiator is if your luggage is delayed. Sapphire Reserve cardholders can claim $100 per day (up to five days), while Platinum Cardholders can't claim anything. Note, however, that in both situations, you'll still have rights with the airline.
When you book your next flight, you should consider not just how many points you'll earn but also what protections are offered by the card you pay with. What if something goes wrong on your trip? Will that card provide the protections you need? If your luggage is lost or your flight is delayed, these two popular cards offer similar protections. If your baggage is simply delayed, however, the coverage couldn't be more different.
The choice comes down to a choice of whether you'd have that plus 3 points per dollar or earn 5 points per dollar — but have no delayed baggage coverage.
For a more in-depth look at the differences between these two cards, check out our comparison guide to built-in travel insurance with the Chase Sapphire Reserve and Amex Platinum.
Points of View is a new series evaluating decisions on which credit card to use. If you're facing a dilemma about which card is best for an upcoming payment, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Also in this series:
- Points of View: Does paying the taxes and fees on award flights trigger trip protections?
- Points of View: Should my partner get their own card or be added as an authorized user?
For Capital One products listed on this page, some of the above benefits are provided by Visa® or Mastercard® and may vary by product. See the respective Guide to Benefits for details, as terms and exclusions apply