The Best Travel Points Credit Card: American Express Platinum or Chase Sapphire Reserve?

When it comes to earning travel points, the credit card you use can make a big difference. And while there are dozens of credit cards on the market, two stand head and shoulders above the rest — the American Express Platinum Card and the Chase Sapphire Reserve card. But which is the best travel credit card for you? We break it down.

The Background

The American Express Platinum Card pioneered the concept of the premium credit card when it launched in 1984, offering members loads of perks and points. Since its inception as an invite-only card, competitors have come and gone. But one notable competitor has stuck around: Chase, which introduced the Sapphire Reserve card in 2016.

Both cards come with a $550 annual fee, which on the surface may seem like a lot of money. But if used right, the fee may represent a tremendous amount of value, thanks to a wide range of benefits and generous point earnings. Keep reading to find out why.

American Express Platinum versus Chase Sapphire Reserve. Which is the best card for you?

Signup Bonus and Point Earnings

The vast majority of credit cards today come with a signup offer of bonus points. You can typically expect a larger bonus with a high-annual-fee card than with a low- to mid-tier credit card. Here's how Chase Sapphire Reserve and the American Express Platinum card stack up:

Chase Sapphire Reserve

  • Signup bonus of 50,000: When the Chase Sapphire Reserve card launched in 2016, it came with an impressive signup bonus of 100,000 points. This has since been scaled back to a more modest signup bonus of 50,000 points when reaching the minimum spend requirement of $4,000 within the first three months of opening the account. Higher signup bonuses may be found through limited offers, so it pays to be on the lookout for a better deal before you commit.
  • General purchases same across both cards: One point per dollar.
  • Travel purchases are where you get the big value (⭐ winning perk): The card earns three points per dollar for travel and dining. The travel category includes flights, hotels, rental cars, toll roads, parking, taxis, ride-sharing, public transport, and more. The dining category includes restaurants in the US and worldwide.

American Express Platinum Card

  • A slightly higher signup bonus: The Amex Platinum Card comes with a signup bonus of 60,000 points after spending $5,000 on the card within the first three months. Even higher signup bonuses (upwards of 100,000) may be offered through referrals, so it pays to reach out to friends, family, or colleagues if you’re applying for the Amex Platinum card.
  • General purchases same across both cards: One point per dollar.
  • Travel purchases could be better: The Amex Platinum card offers five points per dollar on airfare purchased directly from the airline’s website or through American Express Travel. Additionally, you'll earn five points per dollar on prepaid hotels booked through Amex Travel or two points per dollar if you chose to pay at the hotel. All other travel-related purchases earn one point per dollar.

The Winner: Chase Sapphire Reserve

We like the potential for more signup bonus points with the Amex Platinum Card, but the Chase Sapphire Reserve has the edge here. Three points per dollar on all travel-related spending and dining definitely trumps the Amex Platinum Card’s five points per dollar on American Express Travel airfare and prepaid hotels.

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Welcome to the Centurion Lounge at Charlotte Douglas International Airport — one of the perks of having an American Express Platinum card.

Travel and Lifestyle Benefits

Now let’s look at all the benefits you get with each card, from lounge access to hotel and rental car upgrades. Depending on your area of interest, this might determine your personal winning card.

Lounge Access

Lounge access is one of the most valuable benefits of these credit cards, and for a frequent traveler it will more than justify the $550 annual fee.

Chase Sapphire Reserve

  • Unlimited Lounge Access with Priority Pass: When the Chase Sapphire Reserve card launched, it came with unlimited lounge access through Priority Pass, as it still does today.
  • The Downside: What used to be unique is that the Chase Sapphire Reserve entitled the cardholder to bring an unlimited number of guests. As you’d imagine, this led to some major overcrowding of the lounges, and the number of guests has since been reduced to two per cardholder.

American Express Platinum Card

  • Unlimited Lounge Access with Priority Pass: Like Chase, the Amex Platinum card comes with unlimited lounge access through Priority Pass, which includes a network of over 1,000 lounges worldwide. Like Chase, each Amex Platinum cardholder is entitled to two guests.
  • Usage of the Centurion Lounge (⭐ winning perk): Platinum Cardholders can make use of the Amex Centurion Lounge network, which currently consists of 11 lounges across the US and one in Hong Kong, as well as the international American Express Lounge network consisting of an additional 11 lounges throughout Mexico, India, Australia, and Argentina.
  • Partnerships with Other Airlines: American Express has partnerships with Delta Air Lines and Lufthansa. Platinum members are given access to Delta’s Sky Club lounges when traveling on a Delta Air Lines flight. On Lufthansa, access is given to the business class lounge when traveling in economy class and to the Senator Lounge when traveling in business.
  • And More: Platinum cardholders get access to other private spaces like the Escape Lounges, the Plaza Premium Lounge, and more.

The Winner: American Express Platinum Card

When it comes to lounge access, the Amex Platinum Card far outshines Chase Sapphire Reserve. The lounge benefits are by far the biggest selling argument for the Amex Platinum card, making it a better choice for the frequent traveler.

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The Chase Sapphire Reserve offers benefits with Silvercar by Audi.

Hotel and Rental Car Upgrades

Upgrades on hotels and rental cars are what most consumers expect when applying for a premium travel rewards credit card like the American Express Platinum Card or the Chase Sapphire Reserve.

American Express Platinum Card

  • Elite Status with Hilton and Marriott: The Amex Platinum card comes with gold status for Hilton Honors and Marriott Bonvoy. Gold status at Hilton includes complimentary breakfast for two, early check-in/late check-out, a welcome amenity in the room, and free room upgrades. Gold status at Marriott comes with the same benefits — minus the free breakfast, which is reserved for higher tiers.
  • American Express Fine Hotels and Resorts: The Amex Platinum card offers special benefits through American Express’s Fine Hotels and Resorts program, including room upgrades, complimentary breakfast for two, early check-in/late check-out, and a dining/spa credit that’s typically $100 and up, depending on the property.
  • Rental Benefits with National, Avis, Hertz: The Amex Platinum offers Emerald Club Executive Elite status with National Car Rental, as well as special Avis and Hertz perks.

Chase Sapphire Reserve

  • No Elite Status at Partner Hotels: The Chase Sapphire Reserve doesn’t offer elite status with any hotel programs.
  • Chase Luxury Hotel & Resort Collection: The card’s partnership with the Chase Luxury Hotel & Resort Collection largely offers the same benefits as Amex’s Fine Hotels & Resorts program.
  • Rental with Silvercar by Audi (⭐ winning perk): Chase Sapphire Reserve offers Emerald Club Executive Elite status with National Car Rental. In addition, Chase offers special benefits and discounts with Silvercar by Audi, which has consistently been ranked as one of the best car rental companies in the US.

The Winner: Chase Sapphire Reserve

While the Amex Platinum card offers more benefits at hotels — including elite status with Hilton and Marriott — the Chase Sapphire Reserve card has the edge here by offering rental car benefits and discounts on Silvercar. 

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Both the American Express Platinum and the Chase Sapphire Reserve give a statement credit for Global Entry.

Statement and Shopping Credits

Spending $550 per year on a credit card may seem like a lot of money on the surface. However, both the Chase Sapphire Reserve and the Amex Platinum cards come with statement and shopping credits that — if used correctly — will offset the entire annual fee.

American Express Platinum Card

  • $200 in Travel Credits: The Amex Platinum card comes with a $200 per year airline incidental fee credit. This includes baggage fees, change fees, seat reservations, as well as onboard services such as WiFi and meals/drinks.
  • $100 for Global Entry and TSA Pre-Check: The card also comes with a $100 reimbursement for Global Entry or TSA Pre-Check.
  • $200 with Uber: The Amex Platinum card comes with a $200 per year Uber credit, which is split up into $15 monthly increments (apart from December, which gets a $35 credit).
  • $100 from Saks Fifth Avenue: Lastly, the Amex Platinum card comes with a $100 statement credit at Saks Fifth Avenue, which is split up into two $50 increments, one for January to June and one for July to December.

Chase Sapphire Reserve

  • $300 in Travel Credits (⭐ winning perk): The Chase Sapphire Reserve doesn’t come with as many statement credits as the Amex Platinum, but in many ways, the credits with this card can be viewed as even more valuable — with the most notable one being the $300 per year travel credit. This credit can be used toward airfare, hotels, car rentals, tours booked through travel agencies, public transport, and more. Cardmembers can elect to use the entire credit at once or split it up in smaller increments.
  • $100 for Global Entry and TSA Pre-Check: Same as the Amex Platinum card – a $100 Global Entry and TSA Pre-Check benefit.
  • Ride-Sharing Benefits with Lyft: The Chase Sapphire Reserve doesn’t offer any statement credits. Instead, cardholders earn 10 points per dollar on all Lyft rides as well as a free one-year subscription to Lyft Pink, which includes a 15% discount on all rides and priority airport pickups.
  • $60 in Food Delivery Credits: What’s more, the Chase Sapphire Reserve card comes with a $60 credit with the food delivery service, DoorDash.

The Winner: It’s a Tie

In this category, both cards deliver. The Chase Sapphire Reserve offers a more useful travel credit, albeit at a smaller amount. The Amex Platinum, however, offers bigger statement credits in terms of the dollar amount, but the use of these credits is more limited.

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Both cards offer varying degrees of travel protection. (Photo by Artur Tumasjan on Unsplash)

Travel Protection

Insurance and travel protection coverage is another big benefit of these cards.

American Express Platinum Card

  • Travel Protection Could Be Better: The Amex Platinum card offers very limited protection, with secondary coverage on rental cars, no roadside assistance, no emergency medical and dental coverage, no trip interruption coverage, and no trip delay coverage.  
  • Baggage Delay Coverage: Despite the lack of baggage delay coverage, the card offers coverage for lost, stolen, or damaged baggage.
  • Emergency Transportation/Evacuation: The card offers up to $100,000 in coverage.

Chase Sapphire Reserve

  • Great Travel Protection (⭐ winning perk): The Chase Sapphire Reserve, on the other hand, offers primary rental car coverage, as well as all of the above-mentioned coverage: roadside assistance, emergency medical and dental coverage, trip interruption coverage, and trip delay coverage.
  • Across the Board Baggage Protection: Chase Sapphire Reserve comes with baggage delay coverage and coverage for lost/damaged baggage and evacuation coverage.

The Winner: Chase Sapphire Reserve

The Chase Sapphire Reserve is the clear winner when it comes to travel protection.

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So what's the winner? The best credit card depends on how often you travel. (Photo by JESHOOTS.COM on Unsplash)

Overall Winner: Amex Platinum Card

While they offer many of the same benefits, the Amex Platinum card comes out slightly ahead in terms of the following important travel benefits and is the better option for the frequent traveler.

  • The Best Lounge Benefits: For a frequent traveler, the lounge benefits add a tremendous amount of value, especially when you factor in the third-party lounges and the access to Amex’s own lounges, which are a cut above the standard US airline lounges.
  • Elite Status at Partner Hotels: This adds value, in particular, through the gold status through Hilton Honors, which comes with free breakfast.

The Chase Sapphire Reserve comes in second place with travel-related benefits, as it only offers lounge access through Priority Pass, which has an inferior selection of lounges. And there’s no elite status at any hotels. But here’s where it excels:

  • The Best Travel Protection: There’s far better travel protection than the Amex Platinum.
  • Good for Everyday Usage: As an everyday card, the Chase Sapphire Reserve has a slight edge over the Amex Platinum with its three points per dollar on all travel-related purchases and dining at US and international restaurants, as well as its more useable $300 travel credit, which can be applied toward all travel-related expenses.

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