Chase Sapphire Preferred vs. the Amex Gold Card: Which one is right for you?

Sep 25, 2020

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Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available. View the current offers here – Chase Sapphire Preferred Card

Editor’s note: This is a recurring post, regularly updated with new information and card details. 

For many, the $500+ annual fees that come with ultra-premium travel credit cards such as the Chase Sapphire Reserve and The Platinum Card® from American Express aren’t justifiable. Unless you’re traveling regularly and utilizing the full lineup of perks, it may not be worth it to add those cards to your wallet. However, both Chase and Amex have excellent cards that fall beneath their premium versions — the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card and the American Express® Gold Card.

While both of these cards act as the sister cards to their luxury counterparts, there are a lot of differences between the two. Today, we’re walking through a side-by-side comparison of these cards to help you figure out which is right for you (or whether both can be used in tandem in your wallet).

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In This Post

Comparison overview

Card: Chase Sapphire Preferred Card American Express® Gold Card
Welcome bonus 80,000 Ultimate Rewards points after you spend $4,000 in the first three months 60,000 Membership Rewards points after you spend $4,000 in the first six months
Annual fee $95 $250 (see rates and fees)
Earning rates

5x on Lyft through March 2022

2x on dining

2x on travel

1x on everything else

4x on dining worldwide

4x on U.S. supermarkets (up to $25,000 spent each calendar year; then 1x)

3x on flights booked directly from the airline or amextravel.com

1x on everything else

*Point valuation 2 cents 2 cents
Perks One year of complimentary DashPass membership with DoorDash Up to $120 in annual dining credits
Travel protections Trip cancellation and interruption insurance

Primary car rental insurance

Baggage insurance

Trip delay reimbursement

Travel and emergency assistance services

Baggage insurance

Secondary car rental insurance

Global Assist Hotline

 

*Point valuations calculated by TPG, not the issuer. 

Sign-up bonus/welcome offer

The Chase Sapphire Preferred continues to offer one of the most valuable sign-up bonuses on the market — earn 80,000 Ultimate Rewards points after spending $4,000 in the first three months of account opening. TPG values Ultimate Rewards points at an even 2 cents each, making this bonus worth $1,600. At the very least, you’re guaranteed to get $1,000 of free travel if you redeem directly through the Chase portal, but more on that later.

The Amex Gold Card is currently offering a welcome offer of 60,000 Membership Rewards points after you spend $4,000 in purchases in the first six months of account opening, worth $1,200, based on TPG’s valuations. The CSP comes out ahead by $400, but keep in mind that you could be targeted for a higher welcome offer on the Amex Gold through the CardMatch tool or through a referral link (offers subject to change at any time).

Winner: Even if you manage to score a 75,000-point Amex Gold offer, the Chase Sapphire Preferred still comes out ahead.

Related: Now offering an 80k sign-up bonus: Chase Sapphire Preferred credit card review

Annual fee

While both cards may fall into the “mid-tier” category, the Amex Gold does come with a significantly higher annual fee, at $250 (see rates and fees). The Chase Sapphire Preferred only charges $95 per year. Of course, the Amex Gold does come with higher earning rates and more perks to help offset the cost of the annual fee. But if you aren’t traveling enough to offset the cost of the Amex Gold, you may want to go with the Chase Sapphire Preferred.

Winner: Chase Sapphire Preferred only charges $95 per year, which is a more modest annual fee for anyone shopping for a mid-tier credit card.

Related: The perfect card for dining and groceries: American Express Gold card review

Earning

The Chase Sapphire Preferred offers simple and useful bonus categories: unlimited 2x points on all travel and dining purchases. That works out to a 4% return based on TPG’s valuations. The real highlight isn’t just the categories themselves as much as how broadly they’re defined. Travel means the standard hotels and airfare, but it also includes Uber, parking meters, limousine rentals and a whole host of other pleasant surprises you wouldn’t necessarily expect. You’ll find the same thing with dining, as everything from bars and restaurants to food trucks and meal delivery services will earn you double points. Keep in mind that Chase also comes with 5x on Lyft through March 2022.

However, the Amex Gold shines when it comes to its earning structure:

  • 4x at restaurants worldwide
  • 4x at U.S. supermarkets (up to $25,000 in spending per calendar year; then 1x)
  • 3x on flights booked directly with the airline or through Amex Travel
  • Terms apply

With Membership Rewards points worth 2 cents each based on TPG valuations, these bonus categories translate to an 8% return (4x) and a 6% return (3x), respectively. They are both more generous than the bonus categories on the CSP, and more restrictive. In addition to the $25,000 cap each calendar year on the 4x supermarket bonus, it only applies in the U.S. As someone currently living abroad, that does me absolutely no good, while the CSP’s bonus categories extend far beyond national borders.

Winner: Amex Gold. Especially in 2020, a card that earns rewards on groceries and dining is important to have in your card lineup. The fact that the Amex Gold also earns at a higher rate puts this card on top, even if the bonus category definitions are more limited than the CSP’s.

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

Related: Why the Amex Gold Is the Perfect ‘In-Between’ Credit Card

Redeeming

Both of these cards are similar in that they earn some of the most valuable transferable points currencies around. Chase Ultimate Rewards points are a fan favorite (and winner of the Best Travel Rewards credit card at the 2019 TPG Awards), thanks to 13 incredibly valuable hotel and airline transfer partners, including United, Southwest, Hyatt and British Airways.

American Express Membership Rewards has its own suite of valuable partners, including Delta, Aeroplan, Avianca LifeMiles and British Airways. TPG values both loyalty currencies at 2 cents each, but your travel habits might make one currency better than the other. For example, if you live in a Delta hub, you might get more value out of Membership Rewards points, while those who have a coveted Southwest Companion Pass can get some insane values out of Chase Ultimate Rewards. I’ve personally found Avianca LifeMiles to be one of the most rewarding programs for my long-haul travels, and so I have a slight preference for Amex points over Chase

There is one clear redemption benefit that the CSP has over the Amex Gold, which is specific to the card itself and not the points. Both Chase and Amex offer a pay with points option through their respective travel portals, with points normally being worth 1 cent each. However, CSP cardholders will get a 25% bonus when redeeming points for travel, making their points worth 1.25 cents each (which is also why the CSP bonus is worth “a minimum” of $1,000). If you’re new to the world of points, these direct redemptions can be a low-effort way to get some free travel without having to spend any time learning how to hunt for award space.

Winner: I give the Chase Sapphire Preferred a slight edge here, but it’s easy to imagine scenarios where the Amex Gold Card and Membership Rewards points would be more valuable.

Perks and travel protections

(Photo courtesy of GrubHub)
Use your Amex Gold annual dining credit at food delivery service Grubhub. (Photo courtesy of GrubHub)

In exchange for a $95 annual fee, the Chase Sapphire Preferred offers many travel perks, although they all fall into the category of things you hope you don’t have to use. They include rental car insurance, trip delay and cancellation insurance, baggage loss and delay insurance and several other lesser-known benefits. These are a great safety net while you travel, but they don’t do much to enhance your day-to-day life when everything is going according to plan. Because of a partnership with DoorDash, Chase Sapphire Preferred cardholders also currently get a complimentary year of DashPass, the food delivery service’s membership plan.

The Amex Gold Card now has a much higher annual fee of $250 (which is not waived for the first year, as it was with the Premier Rewards Gold Card (see rates and fees), but it offers up to $120 in annual statement credits to offset that higher fee. The credits break down as follows:

  • Up to $120 in annual dining credit — Cardholders will receive a $10 monthly credit that can be used at Grubhub, Seamless, The Cheesecake Factory, Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse or Shake Shack.

Cardholders will also receive baggage loss and damage insurance, as well as double points on hotels booked through the Amex Hotel Collection and an up to $100 property credit on stays of two nights or more.

Another great benefit of the Amex Gold Card is the ability to access Amex Offers, which offer valuable cash back or bonus points on purchases you already planned to make. While many Amex cards get you access to Amex Offers, some of the most rewarding offers are highly targeted, so having another card couldn’t hurt.

Winner: While the CSP is a good value for the price, the Amex Gold Card ends up costing less out of pocket if you’re able to max out the airline and dining credits.

Don’t forget: Bonus eligibility

Unfortunately, just because you want a credit card doesn’t mean you’ll be able to get it. Chase and Amex each have their own rules that will restrict a different subset of customers from applying for these cards. With Chase, there’s the infamous 5/24 rule. Generally speaking, this means that if you’ve opened five or more credit cards in the last 24 months, you’ll be automatically rejected for most credit cards, including the CSP.

Chase also has another restriction, so that current holders of either the CSP or the premium Sapphire Reserve, as well as anyone who has received a bonus for either Sapphire in the last 48 months, will be ineligible for a new CSP bonus.

With Amex, the restriction is much simpler, and it comes in the form of the “once per lifetime” bonus policy. While Amex limits the number of total credit cards you can hold with them at once, in terms of bonuses, the only question to ask is have you ever had this card before. Amex even added a tool to its website that will tell you if you’re ineligible for a welcome offer before you pull the trigger and apply for the card.

Related: Ultimate guide to application restrictions

Bottom line

Eligibility aside, there are pros and cons to each of these cards depending on your spending patterns and redemption goals.

Ultimately, it doesn’t have to be a “this or that” decision; there’s room for both of these cards in a well-developed points strategy. The Sapphire family, whether you have a Preferred or Reserve, includes some of the most valuable credit cards on the market, but the 4x bonus categories on the Amex Gold beat anything that Chase offers in terms of return on spending. These cards complement each other well, and I plan on keeping both of them in my arsenal.

For rates and fees of the Amex Gold Card, please click here.

Additional reporting by Madison Blancaflor.

Featured photo by John Gribben for 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.