Chase Sapphire Preferred vs. AmEx Green: Sapphire by a Hair

Both are excellent midlevel travel cards with good rewards and perks, so your decision boils down to a few factors.

Gregory KarpOctober 9, 2020
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On a similar note...

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The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card has long been a favorite among travel credit cards, but American Express revamped the American Express® Green Card to make it a formidable direct competitor.

Which is better?

These are first and foremost travel credit cards. We assume people who get them will use the cards heavily for travel. If that’s the case, we think more people will find the veteran Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card edges out the remade American Express® Green Card.

But it’s close.

The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card has a huge sign-up bonus and more valuable redemptions. Those factors are enough to get the nod over the better bonus-rewards rates and generous (but somewhat nichey) statement credits that come with American Express® Green Card, especially during the first few years of card ownership.

Chase Sapphire Preferred vs. AmEx Green: Basics at a glance

Key to comparing these cards is understanding redemption values. How much are points worth?

With the American Express® Green Card, NerdWallet considers its rewards currency, called Membership Rewards points, to be worth up to 1 cent each.

With the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, its Chase Ultimate Rewards® points can also be worth 1 cent each. But when points are redeemed for travel through Chase’s travel-booking portal, they’re worth 1.25 cents each. Because this is a travel card — and we’re comparing travel cards —  it’s reasonable to assume points will be redeemed for travel. So for this comparison, we’ll assume points are worth 25% more for the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card.

And if ever you want to redeem for cash, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card redeems at 1 cent per point, while the American Express® Green Card gives just 0.6 cents per point.

Annual fee

An easy differentiator. The American Express® Green Card is more expensive, essentially making rewards worth less. It must be more valuable year in and year out with rewards and perks to just break even.

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card: $95.

American Express® Green Card: $150. Terms apply.

Nerd tip: The upmarket Chase Sapphire Reserve®, with many more perks, might also enter the conversation because it has a $300 easy-to-use travel credit that effectively cuts its $550 annual fee in half. Similarly, the American Express® Gold Card offers better ongoing rewards and has an annual fee of $250. Terms apply. Notable for those who consider annual fees in the general range of $100 to $250 to be comparable.

Bonus offer

This is a win for the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, especially because we’re going to assume the bonus points are redeemed at 1.25 cents each to pay travel. However, the required spending on the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card can be higher, depending on how offers change over time.

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card: Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,000 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.

American Express® Green Card: Earn 30,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $2,000 on purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. Terms Apply.

Nerd tip: Let’s pause here and look at just these two factors over three years and assume you earn the welcome bonuses. • The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is way ahead. Its bonus, optimally used, can be worth $750, while three years of annual fees ($285) knock down its three-year value to $465. • The American Express® Green Card has a welcome bonus worth $300 and incurs $450 worth of annual fees over three years. (Terms apply.) Its three-year value so far: –$150. For the rest of this comparison, the American Express® Green Card has to be more valuable by $615 over three years just to catch up — a tall task.

Bonus categories: 3X vs 2X?

At first blush, it seems the American Express® Green Card wins easily. It has the same bonus categories, travel and restaurants, and offers triple points instead of double points on those categories as offered by the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card.

But remember: When redeemed for travel, points are worth 1.25 cents for the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card. So double points on travel and dining essentially means each dollar spent earns 2 points that can be redeemed for 2.5 cents, which reduces the gap.

So assuming you're "burning" points on travel, the difference in the "earning" rate is 3X on travel and restaurants for the American Express® Green Card vs. 2.5X on the same categories for the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card. Terms apply.

And here’s an important but often-dismissed difference: When you’re not spending in the bonus categories of travel and restaurants, the American Express® Green Card earns 1 point per dollar spent. Terms apply. So does the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card. But again, its points can be redeemed for 1.25 cents per point.

That means if your non-bonus category spending is $15,000 per year, you’ll earn 15,000 points on each card. Those are worth $150 on the American Express® Green Card, but $187.50 on the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card. In our previously mentioned three-year comparison, that’s an extra $112.50 in value for the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card.

Overall, however, the American Express® Green Card still wins on reward bonus categories. It’s just closer than you might think.

Benefits for using branded services

These benefits are specific to certain brands, meaning they could be highly useful if you’re interested in using the service and would pay for it anyway. Otherwise, they’re worthless.

But this is where the American Express® Green Card can catch up quickly, especially if you want to use the $100 statement credits for making life at the airport more tolerable:

  • Clear. Get up to $100 per year in statement credit toward a Clear membership, which costs $179 annually for an individual, and an additional $50 for up to three adult family members. Family members under 18 are free. Terms apply. Clear uses biometric information to verify your identity and speed you through eligible prescreening lines at participating airports and venues, though you'll still have to go through the X-ray line.

  • LoungeBuddy. Get up to $100 per year in statement credit when you use your card to buy airport lounge passes via LoungeBuddy. Terms apply. Single-use lounge passes are available at hundreds of airports and start at $25.

  • ShopRunner. Free ShopRunner membership to get free two-day shipping on eligible items from more than 100 online stores. Terms apply. It normally costs $79 per year.

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card offers no statement credits but it has limited-time offers for a couple of specific branded services. Overall, its offering is less valuable for most people.

  • DoorDash. Get unlimited deliveries with a $0 delivery fee and reduced service fees on orders over $12 for a minimum of one year on qualifying food purchases with DashPass, DoorDash’s subscription service.

  • Lyft. Earn 5X points on Lyft rides through March 2022. That's 3X points in addition to the 2X points you already earn on travel.

Travel partners and perks

Both cards have midlevel travel perks, and both can transfer points to travel partners, such as airlines and hotel companies.

Airlines

  • Aer Lingus.

  • Air France/KLM.

  • British Airways.

  • Emirates.

  • Iberia.

  • JetBlue.

  • Singapore.

  • Southwest.

  • United.

  • Virgin Atlantic.

Hotels

  • Hyatt.

  • InterContinental Hotels Group.

  • Marriott.

Airlines:

  • Aer Lingus.

  • AeroMexico.

  • Air Canada.

  • Air France/ KLM.

  • Alitalia.

  • ANA.

  • Avianca.

  • British Airways.

  • Cathay Pacific.

  • Delta Air Lines.

  • El Al Israel Airlines.

  • Emirates.

  • Etihad Airways.

  • Hawaiian Airlines.

  • Iberia Plus.

  • JetBlue Airways.

  • Qantas.

  • Singapore Airlines.

  • Virgin Atlantic Airways.

Hotels:

  • Choice Hotels.

  • Hilton Hotels & Resorts.

  • Marriott Hotels & Resorts.

For transfer ratios, see AmEx's website.

Neither card is a clear winner here because it depends on which travel partners you prefer. For example, both cards transfer points to Marriott hotels. But among large domestic airlines, Delta accepts AmEx Membership Rewards points, while United Airlines and Southwest Airlines accept Chase Ultimate Rewards® points.

Both cards also have travel perks, such as trip-delay and baggage insurances. We especially like the primary rental car coverage offered by the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card. The American Express® Green Card offers secondary coverage, meaning your own car-insurance company pays first.

Acceptance

This might be only a tie-breaker. American Express has expanded the number of merchants that accept its cards worldwide, but Visa is still more widely accepted, giving the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card the edge. Neither card charges foreign transaction fees.

Nerd tip: Technically, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is a credit card, while the American Express® Green Card is a charge card that acts like a credit card because it allows you to carry a balance and pay interest with its Pay Over Time feature. As a practical matter, they’re similar. Carrying a balance with these cards is a bad idea anyway. The interest you pay wipes out the value of your rewards.

Our pick: The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

The American Express® Green Card is a nice travel credit card with competitive rewards and perks. But unless you can fully use its statement credits for Clear and LoungeBuddy over several years, you’re likely to get more value from the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card.

All information about the American Express® Green Card has been collected independently by NerdWallet. The American Express® Green Card is no longer available through NerdWallet.

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