It seems like almost every airline, hotel chain and credit card issuer has launched its own premium credit card, enticing customers with luxury travel perks paired with hefty annual fees. Many of these cards offer solid value, especially if you’re loyal to the underlying brand.
The former built the market for premium rewards cards decades ago, while the latter is responsible for growing its mass appeal.
Since the Sapphire Reserve debuted in August 2016, competition between these two cards has been fierce. Today, we’re going to take a look at how they stack up against each other and whether you should consider adding one (or both) to your wallet.
Related: The best travel credit cards of 2023
When considering a new card, especially one with a $500-plus annual fee, the first thing most people look at is the welcome offer to see how much of that annual fee they can start recouping immediately.
With its $695 annual fee (see rates and fees), the Amex Platinum is currently offering new applicants 80,000 Membership Rewards points after they spend $6,000 on purchases in the first six months of cardmembership. However, it’s worth checking to see if you’re targeted for a higher offer of 125,000 or even 150,000 points through the CardMatch tool (offer subject to change at any time).
TPG values Membership Rewards points at 2 cents each, making the initial welcome offer of 80,000 points worth $1,600 alone. Since Amex only allows you to earn a welcome offer on each of its cards once per lifetime, it might be tempting to hold off on applying for the Amex Platinum in hopes that you may be targeted through CardMatch for a higher bonus at some point in the future.
Meanwhile, the Chase Sapphire Reserve offers a sign-up bonus of 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 in the first three months from account opening.
TPG also values Ultimate Rewards points at 2 cents each, making this bonus worth $1,200. That’s significantly lower than the Amex Platinum offer, though the spending requirement to earn the bonus is also lower.
Winner: The Amex Platinum takes the lead in this first category, especially if you are targeted for an elevated offer through CardMatch.
Long after your bonus has been earned and spent, you’ll want a card that will help you rack up valuable transferable points quickly.
Both of these cards get that done but in very different ways. Your best option depends on which other Chase or Amex cards you currently have in your wallet and how the bonus categories on those other cards overlap with the Chase Sapphire Reserve and Amex Platinum.
Here are the bonus categories for these two cards:
Chase Sapphire Reserve
|10 points per dollar||N/A.||Lyft rides through March 2025.
Hotels and car rentals booked through the Ultimate Rewards portal.
Chase Dining purchases made through the Ultimate Rewards portal.
|5 points per dollar||Airfare booked directly with airlines and airfare booked with American Express Travel, on up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year.
Prepaid hotels booked with Amex Travel.
|Airfare booked through the Ultimate Rewards portal.|
|3 points per dollar||N/A.||Travel and dining.|
|1 point per dollar||All other purchases.||All other purchases.|
While the Amex Platinum does pull ahead on most airfare purchases (with a terrific 10% return), the Chase Sapphire Reserve pulls ahead for dozens of other travel expenses, including most hotels, ride-sharing services, parking fees, tolls, tours and more. It also has an equally broad 3 points per dollar spent on dining that the Platinum can’t match.
Winner: Chase Sapphire Reserve is the best for earning thanks to its favorable everyday bonus categories that help you earn more points in the long term.
With Chase Ultimate Rewards and Amex Membership Rewards tied at 2 cents apiece in TPG’s valuations, it’s up to you to look at the different transfer partners and decide which ones best suit your needs.
Let’s start with the Chase Sapphire Reserve. In addition to 11 airline and three hotel transfer partners, Sapphire Reserve customers get a 50% bonus when redeeming points for travel directly through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal. This gives you an absolute minimum redemption value of 1.5 cents per point, meaning you can book a seat on any flight that’s for sale, even if there isn’t award space available.
That said, you’ll often get a better value by transferring your points to the loyalty programs of airlines and hotels instead. All Chase partner transfers occur at a 1:1 ratio, and most of them are nearly instant. Ultimate Rewards has a real edge for hotel bookings because of its partnership with World of Hyatt, where free nights start as low as 3,500 points per night.
On the airline side of things, popular redemption options include United MileagePlus, Southwest Rapid Rewards, British Airways Avios, Virgin Atlantic Flying Club and Flying Blue (Air France-KLM) — though the last three also partner with Amex Membership Rewards. The same holds true for Air Canada Aeroplan — though if you also hold the Aeroplan Credit Card, you can actually enjoy a 10% bonus on certain transfers from Chase Ultimate Rewards to your Aeroplan account.
Finally, you also have the Pay Yourself Back option with the Sapphire Reserve, allowing you to use points to cover certain purchases at higher values:
- 1.5 cents per point for select charitable donations through Dec. 31, 2023.
- 1.25 cents per point for purchases at gas stations and grocery stores.
- 1.25 cents per point to cover your annual fee.
Again, though, the best redemption option will typically come from maximizing Chase’s transfer partners.
Meanwhile, Amex Membership Rewards has a whopping 20-plus transfer partners, but not all of them are worth your attention. Some have transfer ratios below 1:1, have longer transfer times (which means you risk watching your award space disappear) or simply don’t have reasonably priced redemption options.
Some of the best are ANA Mileage Club, Air Canada Aeroplan and Avianca LifeMiles, each of which offers attractively priced options for booking Star Alliance tickets. Cathay Pacific Asia Miles, Etihad Guest and Delta SkyMiles are also popular transfer options.
However, if you opt to use your points directly through American Express Travel, you won’t get nearly the value you do through Chase. Flight bookings are a flat 1 cent per point, while hotel reservations clock in at just 0.7 cents apiece. As a result, you’re typically much better off with the transfer options.
Winner: Chase Sapphire Reserve comes out on top for redemption options since it offers a 1:1 transfer ratio for all of its airline and hotel partners, the Pay Yourself Back feature and more flexibility with its 50% bonus for travel booked in Ultimate Rewards.
Want to make sure you’re maximizing every purchase like a points expert? Download the free TPG App to start spending like a pro.
Perks and benefits
You’ll pay a $550 annual fee with the Sapphire Reserve and a $695 annual fee with the Amex Platinum.
So, what do you get in exchange for that upfront cost? For starters, both cards feature airport lounge access and additional travel and food delivery credits, among other benefits. Let’s take a look below at the most popular and valuable perks available (note that enrollment is required for select benefits):
Chase Sapphire Reserve
|Annual statement credits and partner benefits||
Up to $200 annual Uber Cash for eligible U.S. purchases ($15 each month, with a $20 bonus in December).
Up to $189 annual Clear membership statement credit.
Up to $100 Saks Fifth Avenue statement credit ($50 every six months).
Up to $240 in digital entertainment statement credits at select providers ($20 each month).
|$300 annual travel credit.
Complimentary DoorDash DashPass membership through Dec. 31, 2024, plus a $5 monthly credit.
|Lounge access||Access to the American Express Global Lounge Collection, which includes Centurion Lounges, Priority Pass (excluding restaurants), Delta Sky Clubs on same-day Delta flights, Plaza Premium, Airspace and Escape lounges.||Priority Pass Select membership (including restaurants).|
Secondary car rental coverage.* (Underwritten by AMEX Assurance Company. Car Rental Loss or Damage Coverage is offered through American Express Travel Related Services Company, Inc.)
Trip delay protection.* (Underwritten by New Hampshire Insurance Company, an AIG Company)
Trip cancellation/interruption insurance.* (Underwritten by New Hampshire Insurance Company, an AIG Company)
See here for more details.
Primary car rental insurance.
Baggage delay insurance.
Trip delay insurance.
Trip cancellation/interruption insurance.
Emergency medical and dental benefit.
|Hotel elite status||Gold status with Marriott Bonvoy and Hilton Honors.||None.|
|Hotel perks||American Express Fine Hotels + Resorts.||Luxury Hotel & Resort Collection.|
|Global Entry/TSA PreCheck credit||One credit every four years for Global Entry or every 4 1/2 years for TSA PreCheck.||One credit every four years.|
*Eligibility and benefit level varies by card. Terms, conditions and limitations apply. Please visit americanexpress.com/benefitsguide for more details.
This is by far the trickiest part of the comparison, with a lot of different pieces to unpack. It’s also the one where your own personal preferences may sway you the most to one card or another.
For starters, the Sapphire Reserve still has an edge over Amex regarding the $300 annual travel credit. Not only is it a higher amount than the up-to-$200 airline fee credit that comes with the Amex Platinum, but it’s also much less restrictive. It will automatically apply to a broad range of travel purchases, while the $200 Amex airline credit only applies to select fees such as seat assignments or checked bags — and you’re limited to a single airline you designate each year.
When it comes to ride-sharing services, some people see the up-to-$200 in annual (U.S.) Uber Cash (broken into $15 a month, with a $20 bonus in December) that comes with the Amex Platinum card as a cash-like credit. However, not everyone uses a ride-sharing service or places an Uber Eats order in the U.S. once a month, which means the 10 points per dollar spent on Lyft rides with the Sapphire Reserve might be a more valuable option.
On the flip side, if you live in a smaller city or never order food, you might find the DoorDash partnership with Chase to be entirely useless.
The same can be said of certain perks on the Amex Platinum — including statement credits with Saks Fifth Avenue, Clear and select digital entertainment providers. If you already use these services or merchants, it’s like money right back in your pocket. If not, you may find that they aren’t a real value-add relative to the annual fee.
Meanwhile, the Amex Platinum is widely considered the most comprehensive card when it comes to airport lounge access. Although the Priority Pass Select membership that comes with this card no longer allows you to access participating restaurants (you can with a Chase-issued Priority Pass membership), the access to Amex’s wide collection of Centurion Lounges and Delta Sky Clubs on same-day Delta flights should be enough to make up for that.
Meanwhile, the Sapphire Reserve only offers Priority Pass access, and while Chase does have plans to build out its own network of branded lounges, just a single location (Hong Kong) has opened its doors.
Another area where Amex excels is by offering Gold elite status with both Marriott and Hilton to Platinum cardholders. Chase offers no equivalent benefit.
Chase has historically been the leader in travel insurance, with a multitude of different policies and generous terms. Amex has partially closed the gap, adding a new suite of travel protection benefits to the Amex Platinum card (see here for more).
Winner: Amex Platinum is the clear winner when it comes to perks and benefits, which include its $1,400-plus in annual statement credits, expanded airport lounge access, travel protections, and elite status with Marriott and Hilton. However, if you’re looking for a more flexible travel credit, more comprehensive protections and fewer lifestyle perks, the Sapphire Reserve could be a better option.
Between hotel elite status and Centurion Lounge access, the Amex Platinum is better suited for those looking to enjoy a more luxurious travel lifestyle. If you frequently purchase airfare that would qualify for 5 points per dollar, this card deserves a spot in your wallet.
The Sapphire Reserve, by comparison, is a premium card that’s simple enough for beginners and pros alike. The $300 annual travel credit is automatically applied to a wide range of purchases. Plus, you earn 3 points per dollar on travel (excluding the $300 travel credit) and dining, and these categories are broad enough that you won’t be scratching your head trying to decide if you’re swiping the right card.
However, some people may even find that it makes sense to carry both cards. If you can take advantage of all the annual statement credits and luxury perks, these cards can actually complement each other well.
For rates and fees of the Amex Platinum, click here.
Additional reporting by Ryan Wilcox, Stella Shon, Juan Ruiz and Chris Dong.