Why AmEx Platinum Tops the Chase Sapphire Reserve for Travelers

While the Chase Sapphire Reserve is a better rewards card for daily use, The Platinum Card from American Express is the better option for traveling in style.

Gregory KarpJune 11, 2020
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In the rarefied air of premium credit cards, two lead the pack when it comes to offering a chance for big rewards and a ton of travel benefits — for huge price tags. They are The Platinum Card® from American Express, with an annual fee of $550, and the Chase Sapphire Reserve®, with an annual fee of $550.

These are cards for people willing to pay a lot because they expect a lot. Both cards offer generous rewards for travel, healthy welcome offers and a slew of benefits. But they also have differences, both big and small.

In a head-to-head matchup, the better card will be the one that you, personally, can extract the most value from. It’s a close call because the Chase Sapphire Reserve® might be a better rewards card for your daily life, mainly because of its higher rewards for restaurant spending. Meanwhile, the better card for traveling in style is The Platinum Card® from American Express. We view these two cards as premium travel cards. For that reason, we give a slight edge to The Platinum Card® from American Express.

How they stack up at a glance

The Platinum Card® from American Express

The Platinum Card® from American Express has been around for decades, and in the face of stiff competition, it has upped its game in recent years.

    • Welcome bonus: Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you use your new Card to make $5,000 in purchases in your first 3 months. Terms Apply.

    • Annual fee of $550.

    • A rewards rate of 5 points per $1 spent on airfare and prepaid hotels booked directly with airlines or via American Express Travel; 2 points per $1 on other qualifying travel booked through AmEx; and 1 point per dollar on everything else.

    • Membership Rewards points are worth 0.5 to 1 cent each, depending on how you redeem them.

  • Up to $200 annual credit for reimbursement of airline fees.

  • Up to $200 in Uber Cash annually.

  • No foreign transaction fees.

  • No interest. This is a charge card, meaning your balance is due in full each month.

  • Terms apply.

The Chase Sapphire Reserve®

Chase Chase Sapphire Reserve Credit Card
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The Chase Sapphire Reserve® has been a darling for delivering value since its release in 2016, and it stands toe to toe with the long-time leader in the premium-card market.

  • Sign-up bonus: Earn 50K 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® .

  • Annual fee of $550.

  • 10 points per dollar spent on Lyft through March 2022.

  • 3 points per $1 spent on travel and dining, and 1 point per dollar on all other purchases.

  • Points worth 1.5 cents each when redeemed for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.

  • Up to $300 a year in credit to reimburse you for travel expenditures.

  • No foreign transaction fees.

  • The ongoing APR is 16.99% - 23.99% Variable APR.

How to decide

Both cards offer a plethora of features and benefits. The best card for you will be the one that better matches your spending and lifestyle. But here are some major categories to consider.

Welcome bonus

Bonuses can change, so examine the current offers and the required spending. Remember that points with the Chase Sapphire Reserve® can be worth 1.5 cents each when redeemed for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. Generally, points with The Platinum Card® from American Express are worth 1 cent each. You’ll get big upfront value from both.

Airfare/hotel reward rates

This is a big deal because these are premium travel cards, so rewards for buying plane tickets and hotel nights are key. The checkmark here goes to The Platinum Card® from American Express for its 5 points per dollar spent — although the Chase Sapphire Reserve® is no slouch. If you redeem the earned points for travel through Chase, the effective earnings rate of 3 points per dollar spent is 4.5 points per dollar, nearly matching its top competitor.

Overall spending rewards

For everything but airfare and hotels, however, the Chase Sapphire Reserve® wins hands-down for rewards. What it lacks in airfare and hotel rewards rates, it makes up for with broad and highly useful categories, namely triple points on spending at restaurants and a broader range of travel. It also includes 10 points per dollar spent on Lyft ridesharing. That means this card is more rewarding for daily spending.

Travel/airline credit

This is a key benefit because when the credit is fully used each year, it effectively reduces the annual fee. The Chase Sapphire Reserve® wins easily here for having a higher and more flexible credit. The credit is $100 less and only for airline incidentals on one airline with The Platinum Card® from American Express.

Airport lounge access

The Platinum Card® from American Express gives access to American Express' own Centurion Lounges, as well as Delta Sky Clubs and Airspace Lounges. You also get complimentary membership in Priority Pass Select, which grants access to more than 1,000 airport lounges worldwide. The offering is sparse by comparison for the Chase Sapphire Reserve®. It offers only Priority Pass Select membership. The American Express card wins handily, especially for Delta Air Lines flyers, when it comes to seeking refuge from the usual stress at the airport.

Hotel status

If you’re getting a luxury card because you expect preferred treatment at hotels, The Platinum Card® from American Express is the better choice. It offers complimentary Gold elite status with two massive hotel chains, Hilton and Marriott, which gives you bonus points on each stay, plus other perks like free Wi-Fi. Chase offers no hotel elite status.

Transfer partners

Tough call here because it depends on which transfer partners you prefer, based on what airlines and hotel companies you use.

Card ecosystem

If you’re considering one of these cards, you might be willing and savvy enough to use multiple credit cards to optimize rewards within the American Express Membership Rewards program or the Chase Ultimate Rewards® program. They’re both good programs, so this might hinge on cards you already have. For example, Chase has a trifecta of cards that work well together. Meanwhile, the American Express® Gold Cardwith high rewards on restaurants worldwide and U.S. supermarkets, dovetails nicely with The Platinum Card® from American Express — although that’s a pricier combination.

Minor features to consider

Both cards offer a Global Entry or TSA Precheck application credit and a slew of protections. These include things from car rental insurance to extended warranties on items you buy with the card. Both cards offer robust protections.

If you want to go further down the tiebreaker list, here are a few more considerations:

Niche partner perks

  • The Platinum Card® from American Express: Uber VIP status and free rides in the U.S. up to $15 each month, plus a bonus $20 in December. That can be up to $200 in annual Uber savings. Plus, $100 in statement credits annually for purchases at Saks Fifth Avenue.

  • Chase Sapphire Reserve®: Free Lyft Pink membership for one year and 10 points per dollar spent on Lyft purchases through March 2022. And $60 annual credit for DoorDash in 2020 and 2021, plus free DashPass subscription for at least one year.

Credit required

Neither card is appropriate for someone with poor credit. But they differ in the credit score ranges that will be accepted.

  • Chase Sapphire Reserve®: Your credit should be firmly in the excellent range (above 720) before you apply for this card. If you've opened more than five credit cards in the past 24 months, Chase may reject your application.

  • The Platinum Card® from American Express: This card is available to a wider range of applicants. Credit needs only to be good, not excellent, to have a reasonable chance of approval.

NerdWallet offers readers a chance to get pre-qualified for certain cards, which may entitle you to a better welcome offer.

Overseas acceptance

American Express cards are widely accepted, but less so abroad. The Visa network, which the Chase Sapphire Reserve® runs on, has near-universal acceptance where you can use payment cards.

Why The Platinum Card® from American Express is better

The Chase Sapphire Reserve® can be a tremendous value and just might be the best premium credit card for a wide range of spending that includes travel.

But we suspect that cardholders ponying up these kinds of annual fees probably have other rewards credit cards in their wallets that can fill in for some of the everyday spending shortcomings of The Platinum Card® from American Express.

Viewed solely as premium travel cards, many people are likely to reap a bit more value and luxury from The Platinum Card® from American Express. For that reason, it gets the nod.

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