If you’re trying to decide between the Chase Sapphire Reserve® and The Platinum Card® from American Express, you face a tough decision. They’re both outstanding travel cards with benefits that easily outweigh their annual fees. However, the cards have some key differences that make each a better fit for certain types of cardholders over others.
In the world of premium travel credit cards, some boast rewards and perks that help them stand out from the pack. Two of the best travel credit cards around are the Chase Sapphire Reserve® and The Platinum Card® from American Express.If you’re trying to decide between these two cards, you have a tough decision to make: They’re both outstanding travel cards with benefits that easily outweigh their annual fees. However, the cards have some key differences that make each a better fit for certain types of cardholders over others. The Chase Sapphire Reserve, for instance, has more flexible benefits that are easy for most cardholders to take advantage of. The Amex Platinum card, on the other hand, is loaded with valuable credits and perks that can be difficult to use.
Considering that both cards let you book travel directly through a portal or transfer points to airline and hotel partners, either option can help you see the world at a price you can afford. To decide which of these two is right for you, you’ll need to see how their transfer partners and benefits stack up.
Chase Sapphire Reserve vs. Amex Platinum
Chase Sapphire Reserve®
The Platinum Card® from American Express
|Welcome bonus||50,000 points if you spend $4,000 in first 3 months||60,000 points if you spend $5,000 in first 3 months|
|Choose the Sapphire Reserve if you …||Choose the Amex Platinum card if you …|
Why choose the Chase Sapphire Reserve?
With the Chase Sapphire Reserve, you get a very flexible $300 annual travel credit that automatically applies to any travel purchases made with your card, including:
- Hotel stays
- Parking garages
- Toll booths
- Pedicab rides
- Taxi rides (including rideshare services)
- UberEATS purchases
- Public transportation
The Amex Platinum card, on the other hand, offers a much less flexible airline fee credit. You can only select one participating airline for this credit at the beginning of the year. Plus, the credit can only be used for “travel incidentals” such as in-flight meals, checked baggage, onboard internet access and seat selection. You cannot use the credit for airfare itself, nor can you use it for upgrades or anything American Express doesn’t deem “incidental.”
Sapphire Reserve points are also more flexible than Amex Platinum card points. While both cards offer great point transfer options, you have many other good options for redeeming points with the Sapphire Reserve card.
You can redeem Ultimate Rewards points for travel from any source at a value of 1 cent per point. If you redeem points for travel through the Ultimate Rewards portal, you get a 50 percent redemption bonus, making your points worth 1.5 cents apiece (the Platinum card’s points are only worth 1 cent apiece for this option). You can also redeem Ultimate Rewards points for cash back at a solid value of 1 cent per point.
See related: Why are Chase Ultimate Rewards points so valuable?
Better restaurant rewards
The Chase Sapphire Reserve is far and away the best option if you like to dine at restaurants when you travel or at home. The card gives you 3 points per $1 on all dining purchases. Plus, you’ll get up to $120 in DoorDash credits ($60 in 2020 and $60 in 2021) for the nights when you order in.
With the Amex Platinum card, you’ll only get 1 point per $1 on dining.
This can mean a big difference in rewards if you’re a foodie or someone who is stuck dining out because you travel for work all the time. If you spent $10,000 on dining annually (around $200 per week), you’d earn 30,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points versus just 10,000 American Express Membership Rewards points.
See related: Best credit cards for restaurants
Better point transfer options
While you’ll have to look at each card’s airline and hotel partners to decide for yourself, most experts agree that the Chase Sapphire Reserve has better transfer partners than the Amex Platinum card. The following chart outlines which transfer partners each card has and their respective transfer ratios:
Sapphire Reserve vs. Amex Platinum transfer partners
Though the Amex Platinum has more transfer partners overall, this doesn’t mean they are higher quality. In fact, many Amex partners are overseas airlines that may be difficult to access unless you have very specific travel needs.
Chase transfer partners, on the other hand, are more prominent within the U.S. market, although you can obviously use your points to fly around the globe depending on which airline partner you choose. Also note that all Chase Ultimate Rewards transfer partners come with a 1:1 ratio, which is not the case for American Express Membership Rewards.
Better for budget and casual travelers
While the Chase Sapphire Reserve does charge a $550 annual fee, this fee is mostly offset by the $300 flexible travel credit and the $60 DoorDash credit. This makes it a better option if you’re someone who prefers to keep their credit card expenses at a minimum.
Also, the Chase Sapphire Reserve offers plenty of good options for budget travelers, including the option to transfer points to Southwest Airlines. Chase’s travel portal also has a better hotel selection than the Amex travel portal (not to mention, points are worth 1.5 cents apiece when you book them for hotels through the Chase portal, versus only 0.7 cents apiece with the Amex portal). This makes the Chase Sapphire Reserve a solid choice if you like to stretch your points further by booking budget hotels and motels.
The Chase Sapphire Reserve is a Visa credit card, meaning it is one of the most widely accepted credit cards in the world. American Express is accepted more widely than ever, but there are still some limitations. The higher swipe fees American Express charges retailers make it more likely an individual restaurant or store you want to do business with won’t accept it — particularly merchants outside the U.S.
Better for United and Southwest frequent flyers
If you fly with United Airlines or Southwest Rapid Rewards all the time, you’ll definitely want to go with the Chase Sapphire Reserve, since Chase is a transfer partner with both airlines. Having the Chase Sapphire Reserve and earning 3 points per $1 spent on dining and travel is a smart way to rack up points in either program over the long haul.
Why choose the Amex Platinum card?
The best lounge access
The Amex Platinum card arguably offers the best lounge access of any credit card. Like the Sapphire Reserve, it gives you a Priority Pass Select membership that lets you visit over 1,000 airport lounges worldwide.
On top of this, American Express has their own ultra-swanky brand of lounges called Centurion Lounges. These lounges have a limited footprint with locations in Seattle, San Francisco, Las Vegas, Dallas, Houston, Philadelphia, New York and Hong Kong. Centurion Lounges tend to offer plenty of amenities and huge spreads of delicious food that can help you save money when you’re stuck dining at the airport.
Additionally, the Amex Platinum card lets you enter Delta Sky Clubs when you fly Delta Air Lines.
Bigger welcome bonus
The Amex Platinum card comes out ahead in its welcome bonus, although you’ll need to spend slightly more to earn it. The card gives you a whopping 60,000 points after you spend $5,000 on your card within three months of account opening. However, you’ll need to figure the card’s annual fee ($550) into the equation. If you cannot use all the benefits and travel credits this card offers, the bigger bonus may not be worth pursuing.
Better airfare and hotel rewards
If you spend a ton of money on airfare and hotels each year, you may be better off with the Amex Platinum card. The Platinum card gives you 5X points on airfare booked with airlines or through Amextravel.com as well as hotels booked and prepaid through Amextravel.com, whereas the Sapphire Reserve only gives you 3 points per $1 on travel purchases.
Then again, it’s important to consider how flexible these categories really are. While the Amex Platinum card gives you bonus points on qualifying airfare and hotel purchases, the bonus doesn’t cover rental cars, homestays, train tickets and other types of travel. On the other hand, the Sapphire Reserve gives you 3X points on all travel purchases.
Travel purchases that earn bonus points
|Amex Platinum||Chase Sapphire Reserve|
The best benefits
The Amex Platinum card offers probably the best perks of any travel card, far surpassing the Chase Sapphire Reserve, even if some of the benefits are difficult to maximize. Along with its lounge network and hundreds of dollar of travel credits, the card is teeming with additional perks, such as automatic elite Gold status with Hilton. It’s hard to argue against these perks if you’re someone who can easily use them all.
Better customer service
J.D. Power’s 2018 Credit Card Satisfaction Study ranked American Express second among all major credit card issuers. The bank earned 830 out of 1,000 possible points in their ranking, which is much higher than the industry average of 801. American Express is renowned for their excellent customer service online and over the phone, and many of their customers especially love their helpful online chat feature.
Chase, on the other hand, doesn’t receive the same accolades for their customer service performance. In fact, J.D. Power ranked them fourth in their most recent study, behind Discover, American Express, and Barclays.
Better for Delta Air Lines frequent flyers
If you’re Delta SkyMiles member, it may make more sense to pick up the Amex Platinum card. Amex is a special partner with Delta Air Lines. Not only can you transfer your points to the SkyMiles program at a 1:1 ratio, but you get access to Delta Sky Clubs when you fly with the airline. This makes the Amex Platinum card especially appealing to Delta flyers, since Delta lounges are cushier than the average airport lounge.
How to choose the right card for you
If you can’t decide between the Chase Sapphire Reserve and the Amex Platinum card, there are a few key questions you should consider:
- If you plan to transfer points to airlines and hotels, which card’s transfer partners suit your travel plans the best?
- Will you be able to take advantage of the Amex Platinum card’s credits (airline, Uber, hotel credit, etc.) considering their limitations?
- Based on the airports you utilize the most, which card’s lounge options suit you best? While the Platinum card has a great lounge offering, it may not be worth it if you don’t fly Delta Air Lines or visit airports where Centurion lounges are located.
Also consider your spending and how many points you’ll earn over time with each card’s respective bonus categories. The following chart shows the difference in your rewards haul based on different types of spending:
Example point earnings
|Yearly spend||Chase Sapphire Reserve||Amex Platinum|
|$15,000 on airfare||45,000 points||75,000 points|
|$10,000 on hotels||30,000 points||50,000 points|
|$10,000 on restaurants||30,000 points||10,000 points|
|$50,000 on travel ($10,000 rental cars + $20,000 airfare + $20,000 hotels)||150,000 points||210,000 points|
The bottom line
When you’re comparing two excellent travel credit cards like the Chase Sapphire Reserve and the Amex Platinum card, there’s no right answer for everyone. The ideal card for you really depends on your ideal transfer partners, where you spend the most money and your ability to take advantage of each card’s travel credits and perks.
Weigh all the benefits available to you and each card’s annual fee before you decide. Both these travel credit cards can be lucrative in their own right, but there’s a good chance one of them will help you earn more free travel and benefits year after year.