The Platinum Card® from American Express and Chase Sapphire Reserve® are two popular travel credit cards with steep $550 annual fees (see rates and fees) and loads of luxury perks. If you’re in the market to upgrade to a high-end card, you’ll want to take the time to understand the pros and cons of each so you can choose the right one for your wallet.
Both Chase and Amex continue to make changes to these two cards, offering new perks and benefits that suit different types of customers, such as an annual $100 Saks credit for Amex Platinum cardholders ($50 each half of the year) and an annual $60 DoorDash credit for the Sapphire Reserve customers (in 2020 and 2021).
Below, CNBC Select reviews both cards to help you choose the one that provides the most benefit for your spending habits.
American Express Platinum Card vs Chase Sapphire Reserve
|Amex Platinum||Chase Sapphire Reserve|
|Variable APR||See rates and fees||18.99% to 25.99%|
|Rewards||5X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel and on on prepaid hotels booked on amextravel.com, 1X Membership Rewards® points on all other purchases||Earn 3X points on travel and dining at restaurants,1X points on all other purchases|
|Welcome bonus||60,000 Membership Rewards® points after spending $5,000 within 3 months of account opening||Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening|
|Credits||$200 annual airline fee credit; $200 annual Uber credit, $100 annual Saks creidt, up to $100 application fee credit for Global Entry (every 4 years) or TSA PreCheck (every 4.5 years)||$300 annual travel credit; up to $100 application fee credit for Global Entry/TSA PreCheck every 4 years|
While the annual fees are the same, each card offers a suite of perks that help offset the annual fee. CNBC Select calculated the value of the Sapphire Reserve perks to be roughly $1,388 and the Amex Platinum card benefits to be approximately $1,029 (more on the specific perks and credits below).
If you take advantage of all the cards’ benefits, you can more than recoup the annual fee. If you don’t take advantage of all the credits, you’ll need to spend approximately $25,629 per year on the Sapphire Reserve to justify the $550 annual fee. This assumes you spend $2,154 on travel, $3,365 on dining and $20,110 on other categories and that you redeem rewards for travel with Chase Ultimate Rewards®, receiving 50% more value.
The amount you need to spend with the Amex Platinum card to offset the $550 fee is nearly double: roughly $49,558 per year. This assumes you spend $527 on airlines, $572 on hotels and $49,503 on everything else.
Note that the amount you need to spend to offset each card’s annual fee can drastically decrease if you spend more in eligible bonus categories.
Winner: If you take advantage of all the perks, it’s a tie. But if you don’t plan to use all the benefits, the Chase Sapphire Reserve is the winner, as you have to spend less to make the most of the card’s rewards program.
Credit card rewards
Both cards offer higher rewards on travel purchases, and the Sapphire Reserve offers more points on dining, too:
- Amex Platinum: Earn 5X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel and on prepaid hotels booked on amextravel.com, 1X Membership Rewards® points on all other purchases
- Sapphire Reserve: Earn 3X points on travel and dining at restaurants,1X points on all other purchases
At first glance, you may think the Amex Platinum card offers better travel rewards since the earning rate is 5X, but there are many exclusions. Travel purchases only qualify if the flights are booked directly with airlines or the prepaid hotels are booked through American Express Travel. That means travel booked through discount sites, such as Expedia or Hotels.com, only earns 1X points.
Meanwhile, the Sapphire Reserve has a broad travel category, which includes: airlines, hotels, car rental agencies, cruise lines, buses, taxis, toll bridges and highways and more. Plus if you prefer to book travel through discount sites, you can still earn 3X points on those purchases.
CNBC Select worked with the location intelligence firm Esri, who provided us with a sample annual spending budget of $21,852. We used this sample budget to break down how much money you could earn (less than annual fee) if you optimized using each card over the course of five years. Calculations also assume you full take advantage of annual statement credits.
The budget includes six main categories: groceries ($5,019), gas ($2,394), dining out ($3,365), travel ($2,154), utilities ($4,959) and general purchases ($3,961).
We found you could earn an estimated $2,679 with the Chase Sapphire Reserve® and roughly $1,262 with the Amex Platinum card.
While the five-year estimates we’ve included are derived from a budget similar to the average American’s spending, you may earn a higher or lower return depending on your consumer habits.
Winner: Chase Sapphire Reserve® — You earn $1,417 more in rewards over the course of five years.
Rewards earned on these two cards can be redeemed in similar ways, such as travel, gift cards and merchandise, though the Sapphire Reserve offers a unique bonus: If you redeem points for travel through the Chase Ultimate Rewards® portal, they’re worth 50% more.
For example, 50,000 points are typically worth $500. But if you pay for your airfare or hotel through the rewards portal, the value of your points increases 50% to $750.
The Amex Platinum card doesn’t offer a bonus redemption on points.
Both cards also allow you to transfer points to participating airline and hotel partners, such as JetBlue and Marriott.
The number of points or miles needed to redeem for rewards varies based on the redemption you choose. For example, 1 point is worth $0.015 toward Chase Ultimate Rewards® travel redemptions (such as airfare and hotels) with the Sapphire Reserve, but 1 point can be worth a penny for gift card redemptions. With the Amex Platinum, 1 point is worth a penny for flights booked through American Express Travel, but 1 point is only worth $0.006 for statement credit redemptions.
Winner: Chase Sapphire Reserve® since travel redemptions made via Chase Ultimate Rewards® receive 50% more value.
The welcome bonus
Both cards come with strong welcome bonus offers:
- Sapphire Reserve: Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening.
- Amex Platinum: 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after spending $5,000 within three months of account opening.
The Sapphire Reserve’s bonus can be worth up to $750 toward travel, while the Amex Platinum’s bonus is worth about $600 toward eligible airfare and hotel bookings.
Winner: Chase Sapphire Reserve® since the welcome bonus can be worth $150 more.
Both cards offer over a dozen premium benefits, but vary when it comes to annual statement credits. Here’s a breakdown of the perks offered by both cards:
Consumers with either card can benefit from:
- No foreign transaction fees
- Car rental insurance for eligible loss or damage
- Transfer points to frequent travel programs
- Premium customer service
- Amex and Chase Offers, which provide shopping discounts
- Up to $100 for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee (every 4 years with Sapphire Reserve and every 4 (Global Entry) to 4.5 years (TSA PreCheck) with Platinum) (Read how to apply for Global Entry.)
- Exclusive entertainment access to presales and preferred seating for concerts, sporting events, and more in select cities
Amex Platinum card holders enjoy these added perks:
- Up to $200 Uber credit: Receive Uber VIP status and a $15 credit each month for U.S. rides, plus a bonus of $20 in December.
- Up to $200 airline fee credit: Receive up to $200 in statement credits annually for incidentals, such as checked bags, in-flight refreshments and other fees after you select an eligible airline.
- Up to $100 Saks credit: Get up to $50 in statement credits from January through June and up to $50 in statement credits from July through December for purchases at Saks Fifth Avenue or Saks.com. Enrollment required.
- American Express Global Lounge Collection: Access to over 1,200 airport lounges in more than 130 countries around the world.
- Fine Hotels & Resorts: Book hotel stays with Fine Hotels & Resorts to receive complimentary benefits including: room upgrades, free breakfast for two, late check-out, early check-in and a $100 hotel credit, when available.
- Complimentary gold status in select travel programs: Cardholders can upgrade to gold status in the Marriott Bonvoy and Hilton Honors programs.
- Global dining collection: Get special access to reservations and experiences at popular restaurants, and the opportunity to meet the chefs at exclusive events.
- By Invitation Only® events: Enjoy exclusive events from sporting and fashion to fine dining, art and performances.
- Free 2-day shipping: On eligible items at over 100 online stores with ShopRunner, after a one-time enrollment.
Chase Sapphire Reserve® cardholders enjoy these added perks:
- Up to $300 annual travel credit: Receive up to $300 in statement credits annually for travel expenses, such as airfare, hotel stays and rental cars.
- Up to $120 statement credit for DoorDash: $60 in 2020 and $60 in 2021.
- Up to $200* for a free DashPass membership: Get free delivery and lower service fees at hundreds of restaurants on orders of $12 or more (*depending on when you activate).
- Priority Pass™ Select lounge access: Access to over 1,000 VIP lounges in over 500 cities worldwide.
- Complimentary year of Lyft Pink membership: Includes 15% off car rides, relaxed cancellations and priority airport pickups (worth $19.99 per month).
- Bonus rewards on Lyft: Earn 10X points through March 2022.
- The Luxury Hotel & Resort Collection: Special benefits, such as complimentary room upgrades, early check-in and late check-out.
- Travel protections: Benefit from lost luggage reimbursement, trip cancellation/interruption insurance, trip delay reimbursement, travel accident insurance, baggage delay insurance, travel and emergency assistance services and emergency evacuation and transportation.
- Roadside assistance: If you have a roadside emergency, you can call for a tow, jump start, tire change, locksmith or gas and receive coverage for up to $50 per incident, four times a year.
- Purchase protection: Covers your new purchases for 120 days against damage or theft up to $10,000 per claim and $50,000 per year.
- Extended warranty protection: Extends the time period of the U.S. manufacturer’s warranty by an additional year on eligible warranties of three years or less.
Terms apply for all benefits.
Winner: Tie. Both cards offer over a dozen perks, so the winner depends on what benefits you want.
The Platinum Card® from American Express and Chase Sapphire Reserve® are two top of the line credit cards that can provide value for frequent travelers and foodies. Since both cards have the same $550 annual fee, the card that’s best for you depends on how you spend your money and the type of perks you want (see rates and fees).
If you prefer Uber over Lyft, the Amex Platinum card is the better choice, while Lyft riders will fare better with the Sapphire Reserve. If you want to get more value for points, the Sapphire Reserve stands out with 50% more value on travel redeemed through Chase Ultimate Rewards. But if you frequently book flights directly with airlines or don’t mind booking airfare and prepaid hotels via Amex Travel, the Platinum card offers a competitive 5X points.
At the end of the day, both cards offer luxury benefits that can have you traveling with comfort and security. But if you don’t want to fork over $550 for a credit card, there are travel credit cards with no annual fee or lower annual fees, such as the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card.
5X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel and on on prepaid hotels booked on amextravel.com, 1X Membership Rewards® points on all other purchases
60,000 Membership Rewards® points after spending $5,000 within 3 months of account opening
Balance transfer fee
Foreign transaction fee
On American Express’s Secure Site
10X points on Lyft rides through March 2022, 3X points on travel worldwide (immediately after earning your $300 annual travel credit), 3X points on dining at restaurants worldwide, 1X point per $1 on all other purchases
50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening — worth up to $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
18.49% to 25.49% variable
Balance transfer fee
Foreign transaction fee
On Chase’s secure site
For rates and fees of The Platinum Card® from American Express, click here.
Editorial Note: Opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the CNBC Select editorial staff’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any third party.