Comparing Chase Sapphire Reserve vs. The Platinum Card from American Express

By Kevin / January 19, 2017
Comparing Chase Sapphire Reserve vs. The Platinum Card from American Express

Today we are going to make a side-by-side comparison of the new Chase Sapphire Reserve℠ versus the grandaddy of all elite rewards cards, The Platinum Card® from American Express.

Consider this a battle of elite travel rewards cards. And while there may be no clear winner between the two, you win just by having choices to make.

Who Will Want These Cards?

The Sapphire Reserve Card was released by Chase in a direct attempt to gain more access to those consumers who normally chose an Amex Platinum Card by default.

These consumers are willing to pay an annual fee ($450 in the case of both cards) in return for perks that appeal to frequent travelers. These consumers also tend to spend a lot of money, earning the card issuers lots of transaction fee revenue along the way.​

To lure in these picky consumers, though, you need more than great perks. You also need generous welcome offers and rewards programs.

Since many consumers will be choosing between the Platinum Card and the Sapphire Reserve Card, let's take a look at how they stack up when compared side-by-side.

Comparing Signup Bonuses

The Platinum Card from American Express

Earn 40,000 Membership Rewards® points after you use your new Card to make $3,000 in purchases in your first 3 months.

Chase Sapphire Reserve

Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.

As you can see, both cards offer generous sign-up bonus reward opportunities.

And though you need to spend more with Chase ($4,000 vs. $3,000 with Amex) to get the reward, the 50,000 bonus points can be worth $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards. Or more if you transfer all those points to a partner airline like United and redeem for an international business class ticket.

While this round goes to Chase, you will be using your card for much longer than 3 months. So let's continue our inspection of the two programs.​

The Regular Rewards Programs

The Platinum Card from American Express

  • 5X points for flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel
  • 2X points on all other dollars made through the American Express Travel website
  • 1X point for all other spending

Chase Sapphire Reserve

  • 3X points on travel and dining
  • 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases
  • Get 50% bonus when you redeem your points for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards

I will leave each reader to the own judgment in deciding whether they will earn more points with American Express or with Chase on this one. You will also need to keep on going to see which card has travel partners that better meet your needs.

Just remember, Chase will give you a 50% bonus when you redeem your points for travel through their Ultimate Rewards portal.​

Additional Travel Perks and Rewards

The Platinum Card from American Express

  • $200 Airline Fee Credit, up to $200 a year for baggage fees and more at one airline. 
  • Enroll to enjoy the benefits of complimentary Hilton HHonors™ Gold Status with your Platinum Card.®
  • Get a $75 hotel credit on qualifying charges, plus get 2X Membership Rewards® points per eligible dollar spent when you book The Hotel Collection. 
  • Book through Fine Hotels and Resorts (the American Express hotel booking platform) and get daily breakfast for two, room upgrades when available, complimentary wi-fi and a $100 amenity credit.
  • Companion international airline ticket after purchasing a qualifying Business or First Class ticket with a participating airline
  • Starwood Preferred Guest Gold status
  • 20% discount on Delta flights
  • Up to $100 application fee credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre√®
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs (a fee of 0.0006 per point will be charged; maximum fee is $99).
  • Complimentary access to unlimited wi-fi at more than a million hotspots worldwide
  • Complimentary Priority Pass Select membership, which gives travelers access to more than 900 airport lounges around the world

Chase Sapphire Reserve

  • $300 Annual Travel Credit as reimbursement for travel purchases such as airfare and hotels charged to your card
  • Up to $100 application fee credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre√®
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Complimentary Priority Pass Select membership, which gives travelers access to more than 900 airport lounges around the world

I'm going to say that you really need to look at the fine print of some of these perks, because some terms and conditions do apply.

The $300 annual travel credit with Chase is very flexible. But it looks like ​The Platinum Card® from American Express is the clear winner here.

Travel Partners​ Compared

For a lot of people, the difference between the two cards may come down to the different travel partners available when redeeming rewards or transferring rewards points to partner loyalty programs.

Below are the travel partners available that will allow you to directly transfer your Amex Membership Rewards or Chase Ultimate Rewards points directly to their ​loyalty programs.

American Express Membership Rewards Partners

Hotel Partners:

  • Starwood
  • Hilton
  • Choice

Airline Partners:

  • ​Delta
  • Birtish Airways
  • Air France & KLM
  • AeroMexico
  • Alitalia
  • Asia Miles
  • Hawaiian Airlines
  • Etihad Airways
  • El Al
  • Iberia Plus
  • JetBlue
  • Air Canada
  • Nippon Airways
  • Emirates
  • Singapore Airlines
  • Virgin America
  • Virgin Atlantic

Chase Ultimate Rewards Partners

Hotel Partners:

  • Hyatt
  • IHG
  • Marriott
  • Ritz Carlton

Airline Partners:

  • United
  • British Airways
  • Air France & KLM
  • Southwest
  • Singapore Airlines
  • Korean Air
  • Virgin Atlantic​

You will see that the Amex Platinum comes with a long list of airline travel partners. The Sapphire Reserve's list is shorter, but does include overlap among key partners like Birtish Airways and Air France / KLM.

Another item to note is that Marriott acquired Starwood. Sometime in 2018, many people expect the Starwood loaylty program to come to an end.​ And with it, probably Starwood's relationship with American Express.

Comparing Fees

There are a lot of similarities between the two cards when it comes to fees. 

Both cards charge a $450 annual fee in return for all the perks they offer. Neither card charges foreign transaction fees. Which is expected from a travel card.

One difference though is in interest. The American Express Platinum Card charges no interest because it is a charge card. You much pay your balance in full every month.

The Chase Sapphire Reserve Card, however, is a credit card. The interest rate for this card is 16.24%-23.24% Variable APR. There is no introductory APR or balance transfer offer.

Final Verdict

Even when comparing and contrasting the Amex Platinum card and the Sapphire Reserve card side-by-side, the two cards come out pretty evenly matched.

We love the extensive perks available from the Platinum Card. And the long list of airline travel partners. But we are concerned that Amex will offer only limited hotel partners starting in 2018.

Of course, we find the 50,000 point welcome offer from the Sapphire Reserve card to be rather tempting. And the greater flexibility of the annual $300 travel credit (versus just a $200 airfare credit from Amex) are very nice.

But the idea of earning 5x points for each airline dollar, companion tickets, and 20% discounts on Delta also is tempting.

And the Platinum card's bonus offer does require less upfront spending.

If forced to choose, we probably would go for the Platinum Card from American Express because we would get more long term value. The perks it offers every year really justify the fee.

However, we see no reason not to also get the Sapphire Reserve card for a year to collect on its gargantuan signup bonus offer.

​Because why should we have to choose in the end? After all, we can get the best of both worlds.

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