In the world of miles and points, flexible points from banks trounce miles with an individual airline every time. You can book flights directly, using your points to cover airfare or hotels. Or you can get even more money out of your points by transferring them to airline partners. But that still leaves you with an important decision between two titans in the market: Amex Points vs Chase Points?
I hate to stir the pot – actually, I don't – but in my mind, Amex vs Chase isn't that close of a contest. To me, American Express Membership Rewards points are worth far more than Chase Ultimate Rewards.
And I'll show you why.
Transfer Partners: Amex vs Chase?
The ability to transfer points to hotel and airline partners is part of what makes credit card points so valuable. And in my mind, the bevy of options for American Express Membership Rewards points blows Chase out of the water.
For starters, there are more options with American Express in sheer numbers. You've got 19 airlines and three hotel chains to choose from, as compared to the 10 airlines and three hotels at your disposal with Chase.
But more importantly, I think Amex has Chase largely beat on quality. Scan through the list of transfer partners, and you'll find some of the best frequent flyer programs for booking award flights. That opens up different ways to book flights on all three global airline alliances (Oneworld, SkyTeam, and Star Alliance) as well as some powerful, free agent airline programs.
American Express Airline Transfer Partners
|Program||Transfer Ratio||Transfer Time|
|Air Canada Aeroplan||1:1||Instant|
|Cathay Pacific||1:1||1-7 days|
American Express Hotel Transfer Partners
|Program||Transfer Ratio||Transfer Time|
Chase Ultimate Rewards Airline Transfer Partners
|Program||Transfer Ratio||Transfer Time|
|Air Canada Aeroplan||1:1||Instant|
|Singapore Air||1:1||12-24 hours|
Chase Ultimate Rewards Hotel Transfer Partners
|Program||Transfer Ratio||Transfer Time|
|World of Hyatt||1:1||Instant|
|Marriott Rewards||1:1||2 days|
Let's break it down a bit. Chase and Amex share a handful of transfer partners, including Aer Lingus, Air France/KLM, British Airways, Emirates, Iberia, JetBlue, Singapore Airlines, Virgin Atlantic, and Marriott. As you dive into the differences, I think Amex consistently comes out ahead.
For SkyTeam airlines, American Express has you covered with both Delta and Air France/KLM. That allows you to cash in on one of the amazing Delta SkyMiles flash sales if you're short on SkyMiles. And as the only bank currency that can transfer points to Delta, that's a win for Amex in our books. Chase, meanwhile, only has Air France/KLM at its disposal.
If you're looking to book on a Star Alliance airline, Amex has some of the absolute best frequent flyer programs in its belt.
First, there's Air Canada's Aeroplan program. And even after a major overhaul in late 2020, there are some great sweet spots to book Star Alliance award travel with Aeroplan miles. You can even book flights on Etihad (including the Apartments) with Aeroplan miles now, too. Chase plans to add Aeroplan as a transfer partner sometime in late 2021.
Another winner is Japan's ANA, and Amex is your only real source for getting these miles. Using ANA, you can book roundtrip flights to Japan in business class for roughly the same amount of miles most airlines charge for economy. Getting to Japan and back in a lie-flat seat for 75,000 miles is a steal, and ANA makes it possible.
Finally, Avianca Lifemiles is a quirky program from the Colombian airline with some great options. You can book domestic flights on United Airlines for fewer miles than United itself – a Chase transfer partner – would charge. It's also one of the best ways to book flights in business or first class to Asia. But as a whole, LifeMiles mixes good rates on award flights with very low fees. Considering many airlines pass on hundreds of dollars in fees, that's a recipe for a great frequent flyer program.
Within the Oneworld Alliance, Amex largely pulls a draw with Chase. Both banks have British Airways and Iberia at their disposal, which I consider the strongest in the alliance – other than American, which isn't an option for either airline. Meanwhile, Amex can also transfer points to Cathay Pacific's AsiaMiles program: a great option for shorthaul travel within Asia and some other valuable (albeit niche) uses.
Using Iberia, you can book a round-trip flight to Spain in business class for just 68,000 miles – less than a typical economy award ticket. And ironically, Iberia is also one of the cheapest ways to book short domestic flights within the U.S., flying on American Airlines' planes.
And British Airways should be on your radar if you want to get to Hawaii for cheap. Using British Airways Avios, you can fly from Los Angeles (LAX) or Phoenix (PHX) to all four Hawaiian airports for 26,000 miles roundtrip. That's a win, seeing as American charges 45,000 AAdvantage miles or more for the exact same flights.
If there's one weakness in Amex's roster of transfer partners, it's hotels. Transferring to any of Amex's hotel chain partners won't be a great choice. For Chase, meanwhile, transferring Ultimate Rewards points to Hyatt is one of the best uses of Chase points, period. That alone can be reason enough for some travelers to give the Amex Points vs Chase Points battle straight to Chase.
When it comes to comparing Amex vs Chase transfer bonuses, American Express's broad array of strong transfer partners gives it a lead over Chase. Mix in the more frequent bonuses on points transfers it offers, and Amex really starts to pull away.
A few times each year, American Express will team up with a specific airline and give travelers a bonus to transfer their miles. From 10% extra to 30% or more, these bonuses are basically free airline miles. And who doesn't want those?
Virgin Atlantic has offered several 30% transfer bonuses within the last few years. The same is true for Air France/KLM. British Airways, Iberia, and Aer Lingus – all part of the same parent company – offered an outstanding 40% bonus when transferring Amex points in 2019.
More recently, Chase has started to compete. The bank offered its first-ever transfer bonus back in April 2019. After more than a year of silence on the transfer bonus front, Chase has stepped up with a few additional transfer bonuses, including a recently lapsed 30% bonus on transfers to British Airways, Iberia, and Aer Linugus.
Even so, American Express still has more reliable transfer bonuses. And these bonuses
And that's a loss for Chase, as these bonuses can add up to some huge savings. Take that previous 30% Virgin Atlantic bonus, for instance. By transferring 85,000 American Express Membership Rewards Points to your Virgin Atlantic account, you'd have more than 110,000 miles. And that's enough to book a round-trip from Los Angeles (LAX) or San Francisco (SFO) to Tokyo in ANA's superb first class.
You could also score a seat to Europe in Delta's fancy and private Delta One Suites for cheap. Like, really cheap. Delta frequently charges 200,000-plus SkyMiles for one of these business class suites. But with Virgin Atlantic, the exact same flights are often bookable for just 50,000 miles! Factor in a 30% transfer bonus, and you'd need just 39,000 Membership Rewards points to make it happen.
Thankfully, Chase has started to narrow the gap by dipping its toes into offering transfer bonuses. But until it matches the frequency and size of Amex transfer bonus, Amex continues to shine here.
When comparing Amex points vs Chase points, it's all about the redemptions. So let's put some of the absolute best redemptions head-to-head between Amex and Chase.
The Best Amex Redemptions
With more than 20 transfer partners, there are tons of options to redeem Amex points. These are just a few of our favorites.
- Fly business class to Tokyo and back in ANA business class starting at just 75,000 miles roundtrip by transferring your Membership Rewards to ANA. Read how to book ANA business class for cheap!
- Or book a trip all the way around the world in business class for just 125,000 ANA miles.
- Save some points to transfer to Delta and book a SkyMiles flash sale, like a domestic trip for 8,000 SkyMiles or flights to Mexico for 12,000 roundtrip!
- Snag flights to Europe for just 34,000 roundtrip in economy by transferring points to Iberia – or 68,000 roundtrip to do it in business class!
- Got the Business Platinum Card® from American Express? It unlocks a new option: Get 35% of your points back when you book with your chosen airline and on all business and first-class tickets up to 1,000,000 bonus points per calendar year, per each Membership Rewards account when you book on amextravel.com.
Check out our full list of the best ways to redeem Amex points!
The Best Chase Redemptions
Amex may have Chase beat on transfer partners and transfer bonuses, but there are still some stellar ways to redeem your Chase points.
- Book flights (or hotels and other travel expenses) directly through the Chase travel portal to make your Chase points go even further. It's one of the easiest ways to redeem points for travel – and the only way to travel completely free. Read up on how the Chase travel portal works.
- Transfer your points to Virgin Atlantic and book a Delta One business class flight to Europe for just 50,000 points each way – a fraction of what Delta usually charges.
- Emirates' own Skywards program has quickly become the best way to book Emirates' first and business class flights, with relatively low fees and award rates. You can book a one-way flight from the U.S. to Europe in Emirates' blinged out first class for 85,000 points – transferring your Chase points to make it happen.
- Hyatt is far and away one of the strongest Chase transfer partners. That’s largely because the hotel chains low award rates make it easy to get an outsized value on amazing hotels worldwide. Check one of our favorite ways to use Hyatt points for all-inclusive resorts!
Read our full guide to earning & burning Chase Ultimate Rewards points!
OK, so it's not strictly about points. But lounge access is a big part of the reason why travelers weigh Amex vs Chase.
And this one isn't even a contest. If getting into the best airport lounges is your priority, American Express will open more doors than Chase.
The top-tier cards at both banks – Chase Sapphire Reserve® and the Platinum Card® from American Express – are both outstanding for frequent travelers. And both cards come with a free membership in Priority Pass, the global network of more than 1,000 airport lounges. But the Amex Platinum card goes even farther.
Amex Centurion Lounges & Other Lounges
For starters, you and two guests will get into American Express Centurion Lounges. These outposts put other domestic airport lounges to shame, with great hot meals, a cocktail menu and full-service bar, cozier seating, and more. And seeing as American Express has reopened nearly all of its U.S. lounges (with more on the way) that's a big deal.
Read our guide to Amex Centurion Lounges!
But that's not all. So long as you're flying Delta that day, you can get into any Delta Sky Club for free. Unfortunately, bringing a guest will cost you $39 each.
And finally, there are smaller lounge networks like Airspace Lounges and our personal favorite, Escape Lounges. This small lounge network has some of the best options in the U.S. – including our favorite hometown lounge at Minneapolis-St. Paul (MSP). Just flash your Amex Platinum card and a boarding pass and you can walk right in.
Chase Priority Pass Membership
While a Priority Pass Lounge leaves something to be desired when compared to the American Express Centurion Lounges, Priority Pass Lounges, especially abroad, are still a great way to make time spent at the airport more enjoyable. When it comes to unrestricted Priority Pass memberships, the Chase Sapphire Reserve card is one of the best ways to obtain this lounge access.
Both Chase and Amex members have unrestricted access to a Priority Pass membership. But unlike American Express, Chase does offer restaurant credits at select airport restaurants all over the globe. However, when it comes to Amex vs Chase and airport lounge access, domestic Priority Pass lounges leave much to be desired (some of the best Priority Pass lounges are usually outside the U.S.) – the Amex Rewards Membership gives you access to both a complimentary Priority Pass and Centurion Lounge access, and is the clear winner in this battle.
Amex vs Chase Annual Fee: Are the Points Worth It?
Even a champion gets knocked down once in a while.
While Amex is favored in the Amex points vs Chase points battle, the first con for American Express is an easy one: holding its top-of-the-line card isn't cheap.
The annual fee on the American Express Platinum Card clocks in at $695 (rates & fees). That's not for everyone. Of course, neither is the Chase Sapphire Reserve Card, which also now comes in at $550 after a recent increase. But remember to do the math and add up the different benefits before you rule out expensive credit cards like these.
And while both cards offer a suite of credits that can immediately take the sting out of a big annual fee, Chase's $300 annual travel credit is far easier to use. Every year, Chase Sapphire Reserve cardholders get a $300 annual travel credit that will automatically cover almost any travel expense you can think of. Plane tickets, a hotel bill, parking ramp fee … you name it.
American Express, meanwhile, takes a bit more work. It starts with up to $200 in Uber credits, but those are doled out in $15 monthly installments – with $35 in December to round out the year. American Express also offers up to $200 in travel credits, but these are designated specifically for airline fees. Choose one U.S. airline each year, and your card will cover up to $200 in baggage, seat assignment, schedule change, and other fees. Sadly, buying airfare typically won't trigger the credit.
American Express has shut down an elegant workaround to buy gift cards on airlines like Delta and Southwest using these credits. Luckily, there are a handful of ways you can still put these airline fee credits to use. But there's no denying it's nowhere near as simple or lucrative as the travel credits from Chase.
Where Chase Shines Brighter
While we spelled it out while comparing transfer partners, it's worth repeating: Amex Membership rewards are definitely weaker when it comes to hotels. The ability to transfer Chase points to Hyatt alone is huge plus for Chase. Amex simply doesn't have a hotel transfer partner that can compete.
And there's one other small downside: When you transfer to U.S. airlines (Delta, jetBlue, or Hawaiian), you’ll get hit with a small fee of 06 cents per point. That means a transfer of 20,000 Membership Rewards points will cost you $12. These fees are capped at $99. And while American Express allows you to cover the fee with points, that’s a bad decision. On the bright side, Amex has waived those fees at least through 2020.
But the biggest weakness American Express has is one of Chase's greatest strengths. When it comes to the battle between Amex points vs Chase points, you get more from your points by booking airfare, hotels, and other travel directly through Chase.
If you've got the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, every point you've got is worth 1.25 cents when booking flights directly through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal. That means after spending $4,000 in the first three months of card membership, your 60,000-point sign-up bonus is worth $750.
It's even better with the Chase Sapphire Reserve®, as you can get 1.5 cents for every point – $1,200 in free travel with the 80,000-point welcome bonus after spending $4,000 in the first three months of card membership. This is a limited-time offer!
Read our ultimate walkthrough to using the Chase travel portal
This makes Chase one of the best ways to take a cheap flight and make it completely free. And booking flight deals with points is one of our absolute favorite ways to redeem points, as it's easy and you can still earn miles and elite status on these bookings.
Most American Express cards just don't compete on this front. The Business Platinum Card from American Express has a great perk, giving you 35% of your points back when you book with your chosen airline and on all business and first-class tickets. But you need to qualify for a small business credit card to get that.
For the rest of us, the credit card company offers what it calls “Insider Fares,” which offer some modest discounts when using points to book a fare. But in all, American Express doesn't come close to Chase on this front.
How to Earn American Express Points
Have I convinced you yet?
Now you just need some American Express points. You’re in luck. American Express has a handful of credit cards to earn Membership Rewards points. And believe it or not, now might just be the absolute best time to pick up an American Express credit card.
It starts with at least 80,000 American Express points after spending $6,000 within the first six months. But you may be able to get an even bigger 150,000-point welcome bonus via a targeted Amex Platinum CardMatch offer!
Read our full review of the Amex Platinum Card!
Click here to learn more about the American Express Platinum Card.
There’s also the American Express® Gold Card, which is currently offering 60,000 points after spending $4,000 within six months. That’s nearly double the standard 35,000-point bonus, and you’ve got twice as long to meet the minimum spending requirement. You can also see if you’re targeted for an even better 75,000-point bonus via CardMatch!
To top it off, you’ll always earn 4x points at U.S. supermarkets and restaurants all around the world. It’s one of the best credit cards for your weekly groceries or dining out. And that’s what makes it one of the best all-around credit cards for any traveler – and why it’s fairly easy to stomach the card’s $250 annual fee.
Click Here to learn more about the American Express Gold Card.
Earning Chase Points
We may think Amex points reign supreme over Chase, but that doesn't mean Ultimate Rewards points are worthless. Far from it.
And there's one place to start if you want to earn Chase points: It's the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card.
With a big bonus and an annual fee of $95 (which isn’t waived in the first year), it’s tough to beat. There are a handful of other perks, too. That includes 2x points on travel and 3x points per dollar spent on restaurant purchases and no foreign transaction fees. Read our full review of the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card.
Click Here to get more information about the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card.
Then there's the Chase Sapphire Reserve, the ultra-premium sibling of the Preferred card with tons of travel benefits. But you can’t stack welcome offers by opening both the Chase Sapphire Preferred and Chase Sapphire Reserve – Chase requires you to wait a whopping 48 months after receiving one Sapphire card bonus to be eligible for the other.
Click Here to get more information about the Chase Sapphire Reserve.
That said, there’s another card that is a perfect complement to the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card. Actually, there are two.
Enter the Chase Freedom Flex℠ and Chase Freedom Unlimited® cards. These two Chase credit cards have no annual fee and typically earn cashback. But pair one with the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, and it forms a powerful tandem that can help you earn even more Chase Ultimate Rewards points.
Read more on why you should pair a Preferred Card with a Chase Freedom Card!
There are upsides and downsides to each of the two biggest banks in the world of miles and points. But in my mind, a larger stable of stronger transfer partners, extra lounge access, and bigger – and more frequent – transfer bonuses put American Express far ahead of Chase.
Who wins for you in the points battle between Amex vs. Chase?