AmEx Platinum vs. Chase Sapphire Reserve—What's the Better Travel Card?

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The Platinum Card from American Express has long been one of the most popular travel rewards cards thanks to the sheer number of perks it includes, such as statement credits for airline fees, access to airport lounges, and Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee credits (enrollment required, terms apply). Recently, AmEx added a few more benefits to that roster, but also raised the card’s annual fee from $550 per year to $695 (see AmEx rates and fees). Here’s a look at what’s new with the AmEx Platinum Card, and a fresh look at how it compares one of its main competitors, the Chase Sapphire Reserve rewards card.

This article has been updated with new information since its original publish date.

What’s new with the AmEx Platinum Card

First, a rundown of what’s changed with the AmEx Platinum Card in addition to that annual fee hike. 

Hotel credits: The card now offers up to $200 in statement credits each year toward prepaid bookings made through AmEx Fine Hotels & Resorts and The Hotel Collection from AmEx Travel.(Enrollment required, terms apply.)

CLEAR credit: Cardmembers can now receive up to $179 per year for CLEAR, which will cover the cost of annual membership. CLEAR kiosks at airports use biometric information to identify members so they can bypass the TSA identification checkpoint and head straight to security screening. (Enrollment required, terms apply.)

Premium private jet access: AmEx has teamed up with Wheels Up to offer Platinum cardholders up to 40 percent off a membership for the Premium Private Jet Program, plus up to $2,000 in initial year flight credits to book private charter flights. The perk knocks Connect membership, best for occasional flyers, down to $2,396 for the first year (usually $2,995) and drops the initial Core membership fee—which usually costs $17,500 the first year, and $8,500 in subsequent years—down to $10,500. (Enrollment required, terms apply.) 

Digital entertainment credits: Get up to $20 per month ($240 per year) in statement credits toward purchases or subscriptions with Audible, The New York Times, SiriusXM, and Peacock. (Enrollment required, terms apply.)

Equinox credits: Receive up to $25 per month ($300 per year) in statement credits on select Equinox memberships or a digital subscription to the Equinox+ on-demand fitness app. (Enrollment required, terms apply.)

More lounges to visit: AmEx will be converting 14 Escape Lounges into Centurion “Studios,” smaller versions of its popular Centurion Lounges, which cardmembers will be able to access in addition to their current lounge privileges—more on that below.

Global dining access through Resy: Access to reservations at some of the world’s hardest-to-book restaurants and invitations to special events.

As you can see, there’s potentially a ton of value to be gleaned from all these new benefits, if you actually use them. The Chase Sapphire Reserve is still a strong contender, though. Here’s a detailed look at how the AmEx Platinum Card and the Chase Sapphire Reserve now stack up.

Welcome offers

The Chase Sapphire Reserve currently offers 60,000 Ultimate Rewards points when you make $4,000 in purchases within the first three months of account opening.

The Platinum Card from American Express is currently offering 100,000 Membership Rewards points when you spend $6,000 on purchases in the first six months. Cardmembers can also earn 10 points per dollar on up to $15,000 in combined spending at U.S. supermarkets and U.S. gas stations in the first six months. 

Winner: The Platinum Card from American Express. Assuming you spend even just a few thousand dollars on gas and dining in the first six months, you can accrue many, many more bonus points within the first year than with the Chase Sapphire Reserve. And more points means more trip possibilities.

Earning rates

The Chase Sapphire Reserve earns three points per dollar on travel and dining, including takeout and delivery, and one point per dollar on everything else. Now through March 2022, it also earns 10 points per dollar on Lyft rides.

The AmEx Platinum earns five points per dollar on prepaid hotel bookings made through AmEx Travel, and on up to $500,000 per calendar year on flights booked directly with airlines or through AmEx Travel. The card earns one point per dollar on everything else.

Winner: Chase Sapphire Reserve. If you book flights and hotels through AmEx Travel, it’s true that the AmEx Platinum Card might be a better earner. But given the broad range of travel and dining purchases that count as bonus categories with the Chase Sapphire Reserve, it’s probably a better card for most folks.

Statement credits

The Chase Sapphire Reserve refunds cardholders $300 each year for a broad range of travel purchases including airfare and hotels, train tickets, taxis, ride-shares, and even road tolls and parking fees. The amount resets after your account anniversary and credits are applied automatically to your statement, making it easy to take advantage of.

Chase Sapphire Reserve cardholders are also now eligible for up to $60 in DoorDash credits in 2021. No activation is required to take advantage of this offer, but you must use your card to pay. They can also register for up to $120 back in statement credits toward digital and all-access Peloton memberships between now and the end of 2021.

The Platinum Card from American Express, on the other hand, is brimming with potential statement credits. Cardmembers are eligible for up to $200 back on airline fees like checked-bag charges or lounge passes on a carrier that they designate (enrollment required, terms apply), and up to another $200 per year toward prepaid Fine Hotels & Resorts and The Hotel Collection bookings (enrollment required, terms apply). There’s also up to $200 in Uber credits toward U.S. Uber rides and Uber Eats orders, parceled out into $15 per month, except December, when it is $35 (enrollment required, terms apply).

Cardmembers receive up to $100 in statement credits annually for Saks Fifth Avenue purchases—$50 to use from January through June, and another $50 for July through December  (enrollment required, terms apply). They are also now eligible for those digital entertainment and Equinox statement credits, which are worth up to another $540 in value each year  (enrollment required, terms apply).

Winner: AmEx Platinum. The Chase Sapphire Reserve’s statement credits are easier to take advantage of. However, if you use even just a few of the AmEx Platinum’s ongoing and new statement credits, you can potentially save a lot more money with them. That said, the digital entertainment, Equinox, and Saks credits are somewhat limited—for instance, if you don’t usually shop at Saks, subscribe to any of the four entertainment services eligible for credits, or hit the gym with Equinox—so you might not be able to maximize them very easily.

Transfer partners

The Platinum Card from American Express earns Membership Rewards points, which currently transfer to 19 airlines and three hotel partners including Air Canada Aeroplan, British Airways Executive Club, Delta SkyMiles, JetBlue TrueBlue, Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer, Hilton Honors, and Marriott Bonvoy.

The Chase Sapphire Reserve, on the other hand, earns Ultimate Rewards points, which transfer to 10 airlines and three hotel programs including Air France/KLM Flying Blue, Southwest Rapid Rewards, United MileagePlus, World of Hyatt, IHG Rewards, and Marriott Bonvoy.

Winner: Chase Sapphire Reserve. Although American Express has more transfer partners, Ultimate Rewards is linked to more useful programs for U.S. travelers, in particular.

Direct redemptions

In addition to transferring points to airline and hotel partners, cardholders can also redeem their points for travel at fixed rates through AmEx Travel or Chase’s travel portal.

AmEx Platinum cardholders get a value of one cent per point redeemed for flights, and slightly less than that for hotel bookings. Chase Sapphire Reserve cardholders get 1.5 cents per point in value for their travel bookings, including flights, hotels, cruises, vacation rentals, and more.

Winner: Chase Sapphire Reserve, hands down.

Airport lounge access

Chase Sapphire Reserve cardholders can register for Priority Pass Select, which gets the cardholder plus two free guests into over 1,200 airport lounges worldwide.

Along with Priority Pass Select membership (enrollment required, terms apply), the Platinum Card will also get you into AmEx’s own swanky Centurion Lounges. There are over a dozen locations, including one with a speakeasy bar at New York JFK, and a Dallas-Fort Worth location that has an Exhale Spa. Platinum Cardholders can also enter Delta’s Sky Clubs when flying Delta, and a handful of small Airspace and Escape Lounges (enrollment required, terms apply).

Winner: The Platinum Card from American Express gets you into a lot more locations.

Global Entry, TSA PreCheck, and CLEAR benefits

Both will reimburse cardholders for either the $85 application fee for TSA PreCheck or $100 for Global Entry. The Chase Sapphire Reserve’s benefit applies once every four years, while the Platinum Card’s kicks in once every four years for Global Entry, and 4.5 for TSA PreCheck.

However, the AmEx Platinum has now added that $179 annual CLEAR credit, which can get you through security at nearly 40 airports even faster. When you become a CLEAR member and register your biometric information, you simply head to one of the service’s kiosks near security checkpoints to check in, and then can bypass TSA agents checking identification documents and go straight to the front of the security screening line. Depending on how busy the airports you pass through normally are, this can be a real time saver.

Winner: AmEx Platinum thanks to that extra CLEAR perk, which the Chase Sapphire Reserve does not offer.

Elite status

If you have the Platinum Card, you can enroll for automatic Hilton Honors Gold and Marriott Bonvoy Gold elite status (enrollment required, terms apply). Both programs confer benefits like room upgrades, late check-out, and points bonuses on stays. You can also register for Hertz Gold Plus Rewards and National Emerald Club Executive Elite status on car rental perks such as category upgrades and quicker customer service (enrollment required, terms apply)

Chase Sapphire Reserve cardholders don’t get hotel elite status, but do get status with National and Avis, and can score benefits and discounts on Silvercar by Audi rentals. Thanks to recent card changes, Sapphire Reserve members are also eligible for a year of complimentary Lyft Pink membership valued at $19.99 per month. The benefits include a 15 percent discount on all car rides, priority airport pickups, up to three no-fee cancellations per month, waived lost and found fees, three free 30-minute bike or scooter rides per month, and seasonal discounts and offers.

Winner: The Platinum Card from American Express, since its hotel benefits will be more useful and more valuable to frequent travelers.

Luxury air and hotel bookings

Both cards have access to specialized online booking sites for luxury hotels.

The American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts program partners with over 1,000 properties worldwide, such as the Conrad Maldives and Claridge’s in London. Platinum Card members who book through this portal can count on benefits such as room upgrades, late check-out, complimentary daily breakfast for two, $100 on-property credits for things like dining or spa treatments, and occasional third- or fourth-night-free bookings.

Chase Sapphire Reserve cardholders can book through either the Chase Luxury Hotels & Resorts Collection or Visa Infinite Hotels to score similar benefits.

Carrying the Platinum Card also enables members to make flight reservations through AmEx’s International Airlines Program with discounts of hundreds or even thousands of dollars on premium-economy, business- or first-class tickets with partner airlines like Air France and Cathay Pacific. Not only that, but if you book charter flights even just a few times a year and are fine with giving Wheels Up your business, you can expect savings of thousands of dollars per year on membership with the private jet service, and up to $2,000 more in flight credits your first year.

Winner: The Platinum Card from American Express, since it offers both hotel and flight benefits.

Travel protections

The Chase Sapphire Reserve offers some of the most comprehensive travel protections of any rewards credit card, including $100,000 for emergency medical and evacuation, and up to $1 million in travel accident insurance. Trip-delay coverage if your flight is late or you miss a connection, for example, kicks in after just six hours and will reimburse you up to $500 per ticket for expenses like hotel rooms and meals. Lost luggage coverage maxes out at $3,000 per person. The card also includes primary rental car insurance, so you don’t have to go through your personal insurer or the rental agency’s if you run into bumps on the road.

The Platinum Card from American Express recently enhanced its travel protections to include trip interruption and cancellation coverage of up to $10,000 per trip or $20,000 per account each year and trip delay insurance that covers up to $500 per trip.

Winner: Chase Sapphire Reserve—the protections are just much more comprehensive.

Choosing the right card

The Chase Sapphire Reserve and the Platinum Card from American Express are two of the best premium travel credit cards available.

Thanks to its lower price point, and how easy it is to take advantage of its various statement credits and perks, the Chase Sapphire Reserve is probably the better choice for folks who just want a solid travel rewards card without having to put in too much effort.

However, you can potentially get a lot more value out from the AmEx Platinum Card and its new perks, despite that higher annual fee. If you actually belong to Equinox, book flights and hotels through AmEx Travel (and particularly Fine Hotels & Resorts properties), and either charter flights, or purchase business- and first-class seats on commercial flights through the issuer’s International Airline Program, you can reap thousands of dollars in value from carrying the AmEx Platinum Card each year. Throw in more extensive lounge access, and statement credits not just for Global Entry but also CLEAR, and the Platinum Card from American Express could make your airport experience that much more pleasant.

No matter which card you settle on, both offer an array of benefits that can help you make the most of your travel experiences. Picking the one that’s right for you will just come down to which card you can maximize by taking advantage of its perks, and which one fits your specific travel goals and spending habits best.

Learn more about applying for the Chase Sapphire Reserve Card here.

Learn more about applying for The Platinum Card from American Express here.

See rates and fees for The Platinum Card from American Express.

Condé Nast Traveler has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Condé Nast Traveler and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. This story has been updated with new information since its original publish date.

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