Chase Sapphire Reserve vs. American Express Platinum: Battle of the Premium Credit Cards

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Chase Sapphire Reserve vs. American Express Platinum: Battle of the Premium Credit Cards

Named the Best Travel Credit Card in 2017 by Money Magazine, the Chase Sapphire Reserve card is possibly the most popular premium credit card available to date. With a huge signup bonus, excellent rewards program, and fabulous perks, it’s easy to understand why. The American Express Platinum card is a close competitor, though. You get an even bigger signup bonus, some really ritzy benefits, and additional perks that’ll make any traveler salivate. So, which of these two giants earns the premium credit card crown?

Chase Sapphire Reserve cardAmerican Express Platinum card
Signup Bonus50,000 points after spending $4,00060,000 points after spending $5,000
Rewards Program3x points on travel and dining 1x points on all other purchases5x points on airfare and hotel reservations 1x points on everything else
Statement Credit$300 across multiple categories$200 for select airline expenses
Annual Fee$450$550

Signup Bonus

The Chase Sapphire Reserve card gives you 50,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first three months. That’s $750 when redeemed through the Chase Ultimate Rewards program. The American Express Platinum card offers 60,000 points when you spend $5,000 in the same time. So, you’re getting more, but you also have to spend more. How good this deal is depends on how much you spend on travel at the end of the day. To give you an example of how lucrative this offer is, let me show you how you can spend those points quickly. For 60,000 miles you can get:

  • An economy trip to Europe, South America, or Australia (with Aeroplan transfer miles)
  • A business class trip to Canada or anywhere in the US (with Aeroplan transfer miles)
  • One or multiple nights free at a Hilton-branded hotel

That’s a lot of fun you can have for free! The Platinum card has a higher points valuation, so you are getting more bang for your buck with this card. On the other hand, you are earning points in fewer categories, namely airfare. For this category though, more points means more benefit, so Platinum wins.

Winner: American Express Platinum

Rewards Points Program

The Chase Sapphire Reserve card has an excellent rewards program. You'll earn 3x points on all dining and travel expenses worldwide, and 1x point for every other purchase. The American Express Platinum card gives you 5x rewards for specified travel expenses and 1x point for everything else. This means the American Express Platinum card is great for flights booked directly with an airline or American Express travel and hotel bookings on Amextravel.com. The downside to the Platinum program is that it is highly limited. I mean, what if you want to book your tickets with a travel agent or through a deals site? That’s no good. Also, a big downside to the American Express Platinum card rewards program is that it doesn’t let you earn big points for a major category that the Chase Sapphire Reserve card does: dining out. This is a huge category that most travelers rack up mucho points in, so excluding it from your rewards program is a major loss.

Winner: Chase Sapphire Reserve

Redemption Policy

The Chase Sapphire Reserve card has a super flexible redemption policy, as well. Not only can you use it for cash, gift cards, travel, products, and services, but you’ll earn a whopping 50% more when you redeem through travel redemption. Here’s what I mean:
  • Each point is worth $.01 or 100 points to the dollar.
  • When redeemed through the Chase Ultimate Rewards program, each point is worth $.015.
  • So, your same 100 points are worth $1.50.

Just remember that the purchases that qualify for the $300 worth of annual statement credit don’t earn you any rewards points. Points accumulation starts after that sum. And when you redeem through partners like British Airways Executive Club, United Mileage Plus, Marriott Rewards, and the World of Hyatt, you can transfer the points 1:1. The American Express Platinum card has a similar redemption policy, but it doesn’t offer the Chase Ultimate Rewards end of the deal. Plus, you won’t be able to exchange them with as many partners as you can with the Sapphire Reserve.

Winner: Chase Sapphire Reserve

Travel Statement Credit

The travel statement credit you earn is a big deal for these types of cards because the credit can quickly alleviate the hefty annual fee most premium cards charge. For example, the Chase Sapphire Reserve card charges $450 per year, but it gives you a $300 statement credit too. So, that annual fee really drops to $150, a lot more reasonable and manageable. Another awesome thing about Chase is how broad it is in terms of what is counted as a travel expense the credit can be applied towards. For example, you can charge your Airbnb stay, campgrounds rental, or even your local Uber as a travel expense and get reimbursed! The full list of acceptable travel expenses includes things like hotels, airlines, motels, timeshares, travel agencies, car rentals, passenger trains, discount travel sites, campgrounds, buses and taxis, limousines, tolls, highways, ferries, parking lots, and long-term garages. Contrast that with the lower, $200 airline fee credit that you get from the American Express Platinum card, and it doesn’t quite compare. Especially since the latter is not as flexible as the Chase Sapphire Reserve. For example, it only works with one airline of your choice from participating airlines (including Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Delta Airlines, Frontier Airlines, Hawaiian Airlines, JetBlue Airways, Spirit Airlines, Southwest Airlines, and United Airlines.) And it doesn’t cover airfare, just additional expenses like in-flight purchases and baggage check fees.

Winner: Chase Sapphire Reserve

Additional Benefits

This section was hard to pick a winner for because both cards have some amazing perks. For example, the American Express Platinum card rules when it comes to airport lounge access, providing you with VIP entry to more than 1,000 lounges, including its own lounges, Delta Sky Clubs, Airspace lounges, and Centurion lounges around the world. The Platinum also takes the cake in the hotels department, hooking you up with lavish upgrades like Hilton Honors Gold and SPG Gold statuses. These upgrades give you perks like daily breakfast, room upgrades, late checkout, early check-in, and more. Some other cool benefits of the American Express Platinum card include a $75 hotel credit that you can use within the hotel for expenses like the spa, dining room, and activities, million+ Boingo hotspots globally, and VIP entrance to exclusive entertainment venues, sporting events, and restaurants. Plus, the Platinum offers Uber VIP status and free rides within the US up to $15/month and a $20 bonus each year. That actually adds up quite a bit (to around $200 per year), and if you travel with Uber a lot, it's a great way to save. On the other hand, the Chase Sapphire Reserve card offers:

  • Travel benefits like trip cancellation/interruption insurance, auto rental collision damage waiver, lost luggage reimbursement, trip delay reimbursement, emergency evacuation, and transportation that includes medical services and transportation)
  • Shopping benefits like new purchase coverage for theft and damages, returns protection, and extended warranty
  • Rental car discounts at Silvercar, National, and Avis rental car

Also, the Sapphire Reserve cards are super cool! They’re made of a plastic-metal hybrid with chip technology embedded in the front, so the Chase Sapphire Reserve card earns chic points as well as being safer and more secure.

Winner: American Express Platinum

Conclusion

Bottom line, these are two massive premium credit cards that you can get loads of benefits from regardless of which one you opt for. The American Express Platinum card is great if you have a specific airline or hotel that you enjoy frequenting (and is included in the list of participating partners). For example, if you love Starwood or Hilton, you can really maximize your benefits by choosing the American Express Platinum card. It also heaps on the benefits including VIP status, upgraded points earning, and global lounge access. On the other hand, if you want more flexibility and an easier earn rate, then select the Chase Sapphire Reserve card instead. It offers a whole lot more flexibility in terms of redemption policies, participating partners, and earn rates. You earn a lower earn rate (3x vs. 5x) on airfare, but you earn a higher rate (3x vs. 1x) on dining out. Weigh your expenses carefully before you ultimately decide, but as I said, these are two top quality credit cards, and if you travel even periodically, you'll gain a bunch from having either one in your wallet.

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