Skip to content

Premium credit cards vs. mid-tier credit cards: Which should you get?

Oct. 21, 2022
17 min read
A hotel pool at sunset
This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available. View the current offers here.

Broadly speaking, there are three types of credit cards: entry-level (often with low or no annual fees), mid-tier credit cards (annual fees around the $100-$250 mark) and premium credit cards (annual fees of $400 or more).

A lot of focus is put on the two ends of the spectrum, focusing on the best credit cards with no annual fee or the best premium credit cards. We get regular questions about whether premium credit cards are worth the annual fee — but there's much less focus on the middle ground.

So how, exactly, are mid-tier credit cards unique? What do they offer to justify their annual fees and what do they lack when compared to their premium counterparts?

In this guide, we'll compare the most popular premium and mid-tier credit cards from American Express, Capital One and Chase. (We'll exclude Citi because while the Citi Premier® Card remains a popular mid-tier travel card, its luxury sibling Citi Prestige® Card is no longer available to new applicants.)

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.

@RAWPIXEL/UNSPLASH

American Express mid-tier vs. premium cards

In its vast cards portfolio, American Express offers The Platinum Card® from American Express and two popular mid-tier cards: the American Express® Gold Card and the American Express® Green Card. Here's how they're similar and different:

Amex Platinum CardAmex Gold CardAmex Green Card
Annual fee$695 (see rates and fees).$250 (see rates and fees).$150 (see rates and fees).
Welcome offerEarn 80,000 bonus Membership Rewards points after spending $6,000 on purchases within the first six months of card membership.Earn 60,000 bonus Membership Rewards points after spending $4,000 on purchases within the first six months of card membership.Earn 40,000 bonus Membership Rewards points after spending $2,000 on purchases within the first six months of card membership.
Value of welcome offer*$1,600.$1,200.$800.
Key benefitsAccess to lounges, including American Express Centurion lounges, Delta Sky Club lounges, Priority Pass Select lounges, Escape Lounges -- The Centurion Studio Partner, Airspace lounges, Plaza Premium lounges, Lufthansa lounges and other Global Lounge Collection partner lounges.

Over $1,500 in annual credits available, including up to $200 in airline incidental credits, up to $200 in prepaid hotel credits, up to $200 in Uber Cash (which can be used with Uber Eats), reimbursement for your Clear membership fee and reimbursement for your Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee.

Numerous travel protections and shopping protections.

Enrollment is required in advance for some benefits.

Up to $120 in annual dining credits.

Up to $120 in Uber Cash each year (which can be used with Uber Eats).

Several travel protections and shopping protections, though at lower benefit amounts than the Platinum Card.

Enrollment is required in advance for some benefits.

Up to $100 statement credit toward your annual Clear membership fee.

Up to $100 LoungeBuddy annual statement credit.

Several travel protections and shopping protections, though at lower benefit amounts than the Platinum Card.

Enrollment is required in advance for some benefits.

Earning rates5 points per dollar on flights booked directly with airlines and with Amex Travel (on up to $500,000 of these purchases each calendar year, then 1 point per dollar).

5 points per dollar on prepaid hotel bookings through Amex Travel.

1 point per dollar on other purchases.

4 points per dollar at restaurants worldwide (and on takeout and delivery in the U.S.).

4 points per dollar at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 of these purchases in a calendar year, then 1 point per dollar).

3 points per dollar on flights booked directly with airlines or AmexTravel.com.

1 point per dollar on other purchases.

3 points per dollar at restaurants worldwide (including takeout and delivery in the U.S.).

3 points per dollar on travel and transit.

1 point per dollar on other purchases.

Credit score required680 or above.^680 or above.^670 or above.^

* Based on TPG's valuations; valuations are not provided by the card issuer.
^ Based on TPG's research and not provided by the card issuer.

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

Sign up for our daily newsletter

See also: Credit card showdown: Amex Platinum vs. Amex Gold
See also: Credit card showdown: Amex Gold vs. Amex Green

An argument for the Amex Platinum Card

If you're looking for a card stacked with benefits and perks, you can stop scrolling — you've found it in the Amex Platinum Card.

Cardmembers who take advantage of all the annual perks and benefits on the Amex Platinum Card will realize that this card pays you to keep it in your wallet each year. That's thanks to over $1,500 in annual credits available on the card. However, those perks come at a cost: a hefty annual fee of $695.

WYATT SMITH/THE POINTS GUY

It's also one of the best cards for buying airfare or for paying the taxes and fees on your award flights. You'll earn 5 miles per dollar on those purchases and will also enjoy travel and purchase protections that go into effect when paying with your card.

For more details, read our full review of the Amex Platinum Card.

Official application link: The Platinum Card from American Express

An argument for the Amex Gold Card

For those looking for a card that has better earning rates on common spending categories, the Amex Gold packs a punch. It's one of the best cards to use at restaurants, for food delivery and at supermarkets.

Moreover, cardholders can get up to $240 in annual credits for select restaurants and Uber rides or Uber Eats orders. Using these $240 in credits mostly covers the card's $250 annual fee.

WYATT SMITH/THE POINTS GUY

Plus, Amex Gold cardmembers still earn a respectable 3 points per dollar on flights booked directly with airlines or through Amex Travel. Based on TPG's valuations, that's a 6% return on spending.

For more details, read our full review of the Amex Gold Card.

Official application link: American Express Gold Card

An argument for the Amex Green Card

The versatility of the Amex Green Card is what so many people like about it.

If you stack the $100 Clear credit on this card with discounts available via airline programs, your Clear membership might cost just a few dollars a year. Plus, using the up to $100 in LoungeBuddy credits will then more than cover the card's $150 annual fee.

WYATT SMITH/THE POINTS GUY

However, earning categories on the Amex Green Card also are strong. Cardmembers earn 3 Membership Rewards points per dollar on broadly-defined travel and commuting categories, plus 3 points per dollar at restaurants around the world and 3 points per dollar on takeout and delivery in the U.S.

Moreover, applicants with a slightly lower credit score tend to have better odds of approval with this card than the Platinum Card or Gold Card.

For more details, read our full review of the Amex Green Card.

Capital One mid-tier vs. premium cards

The Capital One premium credit card is the Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card; its mid-tier counterpart is the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card.

Capital One Venture X cardCapital One Venture card
Annual fee$395.$95.
Sign-up bonusEarn 75,000 bonus miles after spending $4,000 on purchases within the first three months from account opening.Earn 75,000 bonus miles after spending $4,000 on purchases within the first three months from account opening.
Value of sign-up bonus*$1,387.50.$1,387.50.
Key benefitsUp to $300 in travel credits per year for bookings made in the Capital One Travel portal.

10,000 bonus miles on your account anniversary each year.

Reimbursement for your TSA PreCheck or Global Entry application fee once every four years.

Access to Priority Pass, Capital One and Plaza Premium lounges, including guest privileges.

Hertz President's Circle elite status.

Protections include lost luggage reimbursement, trip cancellation and interruption insurance, primary rental car insurance and cellphone protection.

Reimbursement for your TSA PreCheck or Global Entry application fee once every four years.

Two complimentary passes each year to visit a Capital One or Plaza Premium lounge.

Protections include travel accident insurance, secondary rental car insurance and extended warranty protection (if approved for a Visa Signature card).

Earning ratesEarn 10 miles per dollar on Turo car rentals (through May 16, 2023) and hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel.

Earn 5 miles per dollar on flights booked through Capital One Travel.

Earn 2 miles per dollar on all other purchases.

Earn 5 miles per dollar on Turo car rentals (through May 16, 2023) and hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel.

Earn 2 miles per dollar on all other purchases.

Credit score required700.^664.#

* Based on TPG's valuations; valuations are not provided by the card issuer.
^ Based on TPG's research and not provided by the card issuer.
# Based on TPG's research and not provided by the card issuer.

See also: Credit card showdown: Capital One Venture vs. Capital One Venture X

An argument for the Venture X card

The Venture X card clearly offers more benefits than its less-expensive counterpart. If you're looking for perks like lounge access, cellphone protection and reimbursement for your Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee, here's a card that offers all of that and more. Plus, the combination of the anniversary bonus miles and annual travel credit are worth more than the cost of the annual fee, according to TPG's latest valuations.

THE POINTS GUY

Earning rates aren't bad, but you need to book your travel through a portal to maximize these rates. That being said, 5-10 miles per dollar on most travel bookings is definitely a great return on spending.

For more details, read our full review of the Venture X card.

Official application link: Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card

An argument for the Venture card

The greatest argument for the Venture card against the Venture X may be the fact that they have the same sign-up bonus right now and earn the same amount on everyday spending. Venture cardholders can still earn a valuable welcome bonus and earn 2 miles per dollar on everyday purchases.

WYATT SMITH/THE POINTS GUY

While you won't get benefits like unlimited lounge access, you will get two lounge passes to use each year, reimbursement for your Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee and save $300 on the annual fee.

For more details, read our full review of the Venture card.

Official application link: Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card

Chase mid-tier vs. premium cards

The Chase premium credit card is the Chase Sapphire Reserve and its popular sibling is the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card.

Sapphire ReserveSapphire Preferred
Annual fee$550.$95.
Sign-up bonusEarn 80,000 bonus Ultimate Rewards points after spending $4,000 on purchases within the first three months from account opening.Earn 60,000 bonus Ultimate Rewards points after spending $4,000 on purchases within the first three months from account opening.
Value of the sign-up bonus*$1,600.$1,200.
Key benefitsPriority Pass Select membership.

Up to $300 annual travel credit.

Reimbursement for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee.

$5 per month in DoorDash credits and a free DoorDash DashPass subscription through Dec. 31, 2024.

Visa infinite perks like primary rental car insurance, trip cancellation and delay coverage, lost luggage reimbursement, a concierge service and access to the Luxury Hotel & Resort Collection.

Up to $50 annual hotel credit.

10% anniversary points bonus based on your spending during the previous year.

One year of complimentary DashPass membership with DoorDash.

Many travel protections, such as primary rental car coveragetrip delay insurance, trip cancellation insurance, baggage delay insurance, lost luggage reimbursement, purchase protection and extended warranty protection.

Earning rates10 points per dollar on hotels and car rentals purchased through the Chase travel portal.

10 points per dollar on Lyft rides (through March 2025).

10 points per dollar on dining purchases through Chase Ultimate Rewards.

5 points per dollar on flights purchased through the Chase travel portal.

3 points per dollar on all other travel (excluding the $300 travel credit) and dining purchases worldwide.

1 point per dollar on everything else.

5 points per dollar on travel booked through the Chase travel portal.

5 points per dollar on Lyft rides (through March 2025).

3 points per dollar on dining, select streaming services and online grocery store purchases (excludes Target, Walmart and wholesale clubs).

2 points per dollar on all travel not booked through the Chase travel portal.

1 point per dollar on everything else.

Points redemption rates in the travel portal1.5 cents apiece.1.25 cents apiece.
Credit score required700.^646.#

* Based on TPG's valuations; valuations are not provided by the card issuer.
^ Based on TPG's research and not provided by the card issuer.
# Based on TPG's research and not provided by the card issuer.

See also: Chase Sapphire showdown: Sapphire Preferred vs. Sapphire Reserve

An argument for the Sapphire Reserve

While the $550 annual fee seems really high at first, consider that you get $300 in travel credits that apply automatically to a broadly-defined concept of what counts as travel. Moreover, perks like reimbursing your application fee for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck and free food and drinks in airport lounges can bring that annual fee down to very little — or could make it effectively $0.

WYATT SMITH/THE POINTS GUY

The Sapphire Reserve also has some of the best travel protections in the industry, making it a great card to use when paying for even a small part of your trip so these protections will go into effect.

Add to that the card's strong earning categories and an elevated redemption rate of 1.5 cents per point when redeeming points in Chase's travel portal — great for paying for flights when you find a good price or booking hotels that aren't part of a points program.

For more details, read our full review of the Sapphire Reserve.

OFFICIAL APPLICATION LINK: Chase Sapphire Reserve

An argument for the Sapphire Preferred

Sapphire Preferred cardholders still get a great number of travel protections to help when something goes wrong during a trip. On top of that, there's a $50 hotel credit to use each year and a 10% points bonus on your cardmember anniversary each year. This card's potential value here can't be understated.

And despite the fact that the Sapphire Preferred carries just a $95 annual fee, it still has strong earning categories. It earns well on dining, streaming services and online grocery orders — categories where many Americans spend regularly.

For more details, read our full review of the Sapphire Preferred.

OFFICIAL APPLICATION LINK: Chase Sapphire Preferred Card

Bottom line

In this guide, we compared the best premium credit cards and best mid-tier credit cards available from the same banks. This way, you can see how they're similar and how their different while earning the same types of points and being offered by the same issuer.

On the one hand, seeing a ton of perks and benefits listed for a credit card can be enticing. On the other hand, people see the high annual fees on premium credit cards and question whether those annual fees are worth it. After looking through these comparisons, there should be something that works for your wallet, based on your travel style, travel goals and spending habits.

If one of these cards caught your eye and you plan to apply, make sure to look at our guide to credit card application rules and restrictions to improve your chances of being approved.

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

Featured image by CHRIS DONG/THE POINTS GUY
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Top offers from our partners

How we chose these cards

Our points-obsessed staff uses a plethora of credit cards on a daily basis. If anyone on our team wouldn’t recommend it to a friend or a family member, we wouldn’t recommend it on The Points Guy either. Our opinions are our own, and have not been reviewed, approved, or endorsed by our advertising partners.
See all best card offers