Chase Sapphire Reserve vs. American Express Platinum: Premium Card Showdown

Chase Sapphire Reserve vs. American Express Platinum

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There are dozens of credit cards out there to accelerate your travels, but two are a cut above the rest: The Chase Sapphire Reserve and the American Express Platinum card.

These aren’t introductory cards for the Average Joe, but rather powerful weapons for the frequent traveler. Each comes with a hefty annual fee of at least $450 that may scare many people.

Which one is better? In this post, we’ll break it down.

 

Annual Fee

Let’s get the sticker shock out of the way first.  The Chase Sapphire Reserve will run you $450 a year. The American Express Platinum card is $550 a year.

The winner here should be obvious. However, if your eyes are popping at the big fees, remember to do the math before ruling out either card. As we’ll lay out below, both cards come with an unbeatable set of perks that can more than offset the fees.

Winner: Chase Sapphire Reserve. Learn more about this card and other travel rewards cards here. 

 

Welcome Bonus

There’s a clear winner on the main reason you may be considering either card: A big cache of miles. Back when Chase launched the Sapphire Reserve card, it touted a 100,000-point sign-up bonus. Those days are long gone, and it now offers a 50,000-point bonus after spending $4,000 in 3 months.

Meanwhile, the American Express Platinum is currently offering 60,000 Membership Rewards after spending $5,000 in 3 months. That’s generally in line with their standard offering, but you may be able to get much more.

We’ve written several times in the last month that you can get a 100,000-point bonus with the American Express Platinum via CardMatch. Check to see if you’re eligible.

Winner: American Express Platinum. Learn more about this card and other travel rewards cards here

 

Earning

Of course, those big mileage bonuses are alluring, but both cards offer some alluring returns on ongoing spending. The American Express Platinum card gives you an unbeatable 5x points on airfare booked directly with the airline or through its travel portal. That’s an easy way to rack up extra points if you travel frequently.

With the Chase Sapphire Reserve, you get 3x points on all travel purchases. And it goes farther: You also get 3x points at restaurants across the globe.

The fact that you can earn extra points on more purchases gives Chase’s top card the win here, but that could easily flip if you’re frequently buying flights.

Winner: Chase Sapphire Reserve, but it’s really close. Learn more about this card and other travel rewards cards here. 

 

Travel Portal Booking

Booking flight deals like those you find here at Thrifty Traveler or with your Thrifty Traveler Premium subscription is one of our favorite ways to use points. Further, one of these cards is the clear favorite.

That distinction goes to the Chase Sapphire Reserve. And it’s all because your Chase Ultimate Rewards points are worth 1.5 cents each when you hold the card.

That makes your 50,000-point welcome bonus worth $750 towards travel when booking directly through the Chase portal. The personal version of the American Express Platinum card simply can’t compete with that.

Winner: Chase Sapphire Reserve. Learn more about this card and other travel rewards cards here. 

 

Transfer Partners

Transferring points to your airline accounts can unlock some serious value, and both Chase and American Express have some great options. All told, Chase can transfer to nine airlines and four hotels brands. You can send your American Express Membership Rewards points to 16 airlines and three hotel chains. Check out our Master List of Credit Card Transfer Partners to compare the full lists.

The two credit cards share a handful of airlines as transfer partners, including Singapore Airlines, Air France/KLM and British Airways. But American Express has more options, including some alluring opportunities.
That includes ANA, which offers a way to fly in business class to Japan for roughly the same amount of miles you’d pay for economy on other airlines. Other standouts include Delta and Aeroplan.

And American Express travel partners frequently offer bonuses when you transfer points – something we don’t see often with Chase. Most recently, Air France/KLM offered a 25% bonus on American Express transfers last month.

Two quick caveats about transferring American Express points.  First, American Express charges a very small fee (.06 cents per point) on transfers to domestic airlines. So if you transfer 100,000 points to Delta or JetBlue, you’ll get charged $60. These fees are capped at $99.

And unlike Chase, there are a handful of transfer partners like JetBlue to which your points won’t transfer on a 1:1 basis. However, the extra transfer partner options and opportunity to cash in on transfer bonuses gives American Express Platinum the edge here.

Winner: American Express Platinum, but it’s close. Learn more about this card and other travel rewards cards here

 

Lounge Access

One of these cards is far and away the best credit card in the world of miles and points when it comes to scoring lounge access. The American Express Platinum card will open the door for you to hundreds of lounges at airports worldwide. You’ll get access to the nine Centurion Lounges in the US, easily some of the best domestic lounges in the country with more on the way. You’ll also get a Priority Pass membership, your key to 1,000 more lounges worldwide.

 

Chase Sapphire Reserve vs. American Express Platinum Card

American Express Centurion Lounges are among the best in the U.S. (photo courtesy of American Express)

 

With the American Express Platinum card, you can also get in Delta SkyClubs if you’re flying Delta that day. And finally, you can access Escape Lounges, which is our favorite at our Minneapolis-St. Paul (MSP) home base.

The Chase Sapphire Reserve card only comes with a Priority Pass membership.

Winner: American Express Platinum. Learn more about this card and other travel rewards cards here

 

Global Entry and TSA PreCheck

Getting through airport security and clearing immigration is a breeze with either card. Both the Chase Sapphire Reserve and American Express Platinum will cover the cost of either a TSA PreCheck or Global Entry membership. Considering Global Entry includes a PreCheck membership, that should be an easy choice.

This is becoming a common feature on many cards. And seeing as both of these top-tier cards offer an identical benefit, this one isn’t decisive.

Winner: Tie.

 

Travel Credits

Both cards offer some serious travel credits that can immediately reduce the upfront costs of big annual fees. With the Chase Sapphire Reserve, you get $300 in credits toward travel. Any purchase coded as travel – airfare, airline fees, hotels, taxis, Ubers and more – will get covered. That’s easy to take advantage of.

American Express structures its own travel credits differently, splitting $400 each year between two separate pots. Of that sum, $200 goes toward fees on a domestic airline that you designate each year. The other $200 gets split up into $15 monthly credits for Uber rides (you get $35 for December).

To us, the versatility of an all-encompassing $300 travel credit edges out the larger, $400 credit split between Uber rides and airline fees.

Winner: Chase Sapphire Reserve. Learn more about this card and other travel rewards cards here. 

 

Instant Hotel Status

Only one card will get you status with hotel chains: The American Express Platinum. You can easily enroll for Gold status with both SPG/Marriott as well as Hilton Honors. Just beware that you have to manually sign up with each hotel chain to make it happen.

 

Chase Sapphire Reserve vs. American Express Platinum

Instant Gold status with SPG, Marriott and Hilton? Yes please. (photo courtesy of Marriott)

 

And the benefits are worth it. With Hilton, you get extra points on paid stays, free breakfast and your fifth night free when booking with points. SPG and Marriott Gold status get you room upgrades when available, extra points when paying for your stay and more.

The Chase Sapphire Reserve offers no hotel status, so the winner here is obvious.

Winner: American Express Platinum. Learn more about this card and other travel rewards cards here

 

Bottom Line

By the numbers, it’s a tie: each card wins four categories. But every cardholder will weight these individual categories differently. For example, if your primary reason for opening a top-tier card is to get lounge access, the American Express Platinum card is by far the best option.

Whether they’re top-of-the-line cards or introductory offerings, every traveler should consider the ins and outs of cards before deciding which one to open.  Hopefully, this breakdown helps you decide between the Chase Sapphire Reserve and the American Express Platinum. Learn more about these cards and other travel rewards cards here

 

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Editorial Note: Any opinions, analyses, reviews, or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any card issuer.

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