Amex Platinum & Chase Sapphire Reserve — Complements Or Substitutes?

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One question I get all the time from readers is whether I recommend The Platinum Card® from American Express or the Chase Sapphire Reserve® Card. It’s a logical enough question, given that American Express and Chase are among the two biggest card issuers, and these are their two most popular premium cards.

Even though the cards have similarities, to me they serve very different purposes, and I wouldn’t even consider them substitutes for one another, but rather complements.

I get many people might not want to spend money on the annual fees of both cards, so let me break down why these cards serve such different purposes, and which makes the most sense for you.

Amex Platinum Card basics

The Amex Platinum has a $550 annual fee and offers:

  • A welcome bonus of 60,000 Membership Rewards points after spending $5,000 within three months
  • A $200 annual airline fee credit
  • A $200 annual Uber credit
  • A $100 annual Saks credit
  • Access to Amex Centurion Lounges
  • Access to Delta SkyClubs when flying Delta same day
  • 5x points on airfare purchased directly from airlines
  • Access to the Amex International Airline Program, which can save you hundreds of dollars on international premium cabin airfare
  • Hilton Honors Gold status
  • A Priority Pass membership
  • A Global Entry fee credit every four years
  • Access to Amex Offers

Centurion Lounge Hong Kong 34
The Amex Platinum Card comes with access to Amex Centurion Lounges

In order to simplify the math as much as possible, you’re paying $550 per year, but you get a $200 annual airline fee credit, $200 annual Uber credit, and $100 annual Saks credit. Now, there are terms associated with each of these, including what the credits can be spent on, over what time period they can be redeemed, etc. I’d say to me those three credits are worth about $400 combined, though “your mileage may vary.”

To me that makes the real “out of pocket” on this card $150 per year, and for that I receive the most comprehensive airport lounge access benefit offered by any credit card (access to Amex Centurion Lounges, access to Delta SkyClubs, a Priority Pass membership, and more), 5x points on airfare, and much more.

Amex Offers alone saves me more than $150 per year on this card.

Do note that it doesn’t always make sense to put airfare purchases on this card, given that it doesn’t offer great travel protection. Here’s a post about how I decide which card to put my airfare purchases on.

Chase Sapphire Reserve Card basics

The Chase Sapphire Reserve has a $450 annual fee and offers:

  • A welcome bonus of 50,000 Ultimate Rewards points after spending $4,000 within three months
  • A $300 annual travel credit
  • 3x points on dining and travel
  • Fantastic car rental coverage, as well as travel and baggage protection
  • A Priority Pass membership
  • A $100 Global Entry fee credit every four years
  • Greater global acceptance (by virtue of being a Visa rather than an Amex)


You can apply your travel credit towards the cost of virtually any flight

In order to simplify the math as much as possible, you’re paying $450 per year, but you get a $300 annual travel credit, which I value pretty close to face value. That’s because the credit can be redeemed towards any purchase that’s coded as travel.

So to me that makes the real “out of pocket” on this card $150 per year, and for that I receive 3x points on dining and travel, excellent travel protection, and much more.

Why the cards are complements and not substitutes

To me, the only thing these cards have in common is that they both offer a Priority Pass membership and both offer a Global Entry fee credit. Neither of those are unique benefits for most premium cards. With that in mind, what do I recommend for people who ask me which card they should get?

  • Do you want an incredibly well rounded card that offers an excellent return on spend, big welcome bonus, useful perks, and great travel protection, all while unlocking the value of the points you may earn on other Chase cards? Get the Chase Sapphire Reserve.
  • Do you want the best credit card for airport lounge access, useful mid-tier hotel status with two programs, 5x points on airfare, a large welcome bonus, and more? Get the Amex Platinum.

Is it crazy to spend $1,000 per year in annual fees?

Personally I think it could make sense to get both the Amex Platinum and the Chase Sapphire Reserve. I have them both, and the math checks out, as far as I’m concerned.

I know some will say “it’s ridiculous for you to spend $1,000 in annual fees on two cards.” While I agree that’s a lot to pay upfront, I truly believe the real out of pocket for many will be closer to $150 per card after you factor in the $300 travel credit, $200 airline fee credit, $200 Uber credit, and $100 Saks credit (each of which is an annual benefit).

That’s $800 in credits, which I value at pretty close to face value. For that I’m getting 5x points on airfare, 3x points on dining and travel, great travel protection, a Priority Pass membership, access to Amex Centurion Lounges, access to Delta SkyClubs, etc.

Does anyone else have both the Amex Platinum and Chase Sapphire Reserve, and find them both to be worthwhile?

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Comments

  1. I am blocked from the Sapphire at 18/24, but I have the Amex Biz Platinum. I have been very disappointed with the lounges, the last one only had about six different food choices in total for their food. Only one meat option and the rest mostly salad items. I also find the seats unnecessarily modern and uncomfortable. I do like some of the Amex offers and the 5x on airfare though.

  2. This is minor, but when you write “I know some will say “it’s ridiculous for you to spend $1,000 in annual fees on two cards.” While I agree that’s a lot to pay upfront, I truly believe the real out of pocket for many will be closer to $150 per card after you factor in the $300 travel credit, $200 airline fee credit, $200 Uber credit, and $100 Saks credit (each of which is an annual benefit).”

    $1000 – $800 = $200.

    Why say close to $150 instead of $200…am I missing anything? If anything the lack of points earned on spend would DECREASE the value (slightly) of the $800 benefit instead of increasing it.

  3. @ Evan — That’s because in the case of the Amex Plat, I don’t value the credits quite at face value, so I think the “out of pocket” is still slightly higher than the annual fees minus the amount of the credits.

  4. @chung the fee credit is different than a straight travel credit but the workaround is to buy gift cards for your airline of choice. Sure its only for airfare and not any travel but realistically if you’re not spending way more than $200 a year on an airline you probably don’t need the card.

  5. I agree… the AMEX Platinum and the CSR complement each other and the math works… What about adding in the new AMEX Gold? Keeping all three?

  6. Lately, I’ve been purchasing airfare with my Chase Reserve, because I think the insurance benefits are better than the Platinum. Yes, I do realize I’m losing 2 pts per $ spent, but the addition of Trip Delay/Interruption and Baggage Delay insurance makes the cost difference worth it IMO. Because of this, I will probably be cancelling my Platinum before the next AF.

    My (personal) line up going into 2019:
    – Amex Gold (US Restaurants and Grocery Stores) 4x
    – Chase Reserve (Travel and Foreign/Resort Restaurants) 3x
    – Amex Blue Biz+ (All other spend) 2x

  7. I think I’m with David.

    Not sure I see the value with Platinum anymore. Especially since I live in Charlotte so a lot of my airfare goes through AAdvantage Aviator Silver.

  8. I have both cards along with the Amex Gold and the annual fees are a non-issue for me.

    Effective net fee for each card for me:

    Platinum: $550 – 200 airline credit – 200 Uber credit – 100 Saks credit = $50
    Gold: $250 – 100 airline credit – 120 dining credit = $30
    CSR: $450 – 300 travel credit = $150

    That doesn’t even include all the bonus points from the multipliers and the benefits for each card.

  9. @Maria- That’s a good combo, but for me Chase Reserve’s $300 travel credit is better than Amex Platinum’s $200 airline credit. I have the business version of Platinum, which doesn’t have the Uber or Saks credits. I also find the 1.5 cents per point on Chase Reserve much for flexible than Platinum’s 35% back (which is locked to 1 airline.) Biggest advantage to Citi TYP is their 3x on gas, but I get 2x via Amex BBP and I don’t spend enough on gas to justify that extra point.

  10. definitely ymmv. I think another factor to consider is the transfer partners. They’re not all created equal.

    Personally I don’t use Uber. So that’s worthless to me. And I don’t usually end up paying any airline fees so that perk isn’t especially valuable to me. But the CSR $300 travel reimbursement is easy to get back even if you only travel a little bit.

    At the moment I am putting a lot of my spend on the Citi TY Premier and the Amex Gold and only using the CSR for certain specific things like car rentals for the primary insurance since I value their points a bit less now that KE is gone from the partner list.

  11. I have both as well. The superior delay and baggage protections with CSR have me selective on which flights I buy with Amex. Amex for 5x on flights to see family so not time critical and won’t get stuck with a hotel bill for IRROPS. Long distance connections or award travel all go on CSR. I like the Centurion Lounges and the Delta SkyClub benefits with Amex though it is getting to be a close call on the value at $550. I’m not an Uber user every month so that isn’t good and Amex denied my first Saks $50 even though I had my time stamped enrollment email and my time stamped order. The order didn’t actually ship for another week but twice they’ve denied the credit so that’s a problem. I do my non bonus spend on Amex just so I can feed out to different transfer partners. Reevalute the Amex next year at fee time as things keep changing.

  12. Aren’t the Uber and saks credits doled out monthly rather than annually? That way I see it less as a credit and more as a 10 or 15 dollar coupon for something that you may not have spent money on anyway. Living in NY most Uber’s will be minimum of 20-30 and what are you getting at saks for that amount? Just curious since I’ve considered this and decided with combo of CSR and new Amex gold

  13. @raksiam buy gift cards in $50 increments using your selected airline to use the Amex credit. I have AA selected and have never had a problem getting them reimbursed.

  14. It’s all relative what you spend on annual fees to what benefits you receive from each card. I literally spend THOUSANDS of dollars in credit card annual fees each year but I get THOUSANDS of dollars in benefits from those same cards. I have so many hotel credit cards that I pay a fee on but I get free nights that more than make up for it (SPG, Marriott, IHG, etc).

  15. @Earl Lee Precisely. I just spent a weekend in Paris. My wife and I each have Amex Aspire cards. We easily got back our annual fee in one weekend through the free night and Diamond benefits. All of the other benefits from the card are just icing on the cake. I still have the Citi Prestige, which is only $150 after the airline credit, plus I can combine it with the Platinum for the extra insurance on an airline ticket, although I do not always bother since I usually fly business and the airline usually takes care of me if something goes wrong.

  16. I have both just renewed global for the family. My home airport has a lounge only accessible with plat. So for two entries at 90. An I fly 20 times a year it’s a no brained to keep plat. CSR with all the other uses pays for itself. That’s my everyday card right now

  17. AMEX is really stepping up the game and getting smarter now. They are getting other merchants to provide more and more benefits/cash in exchange for free marketing to them. We’ve seen it with Sak’s and I hear from my executive friends at AMEX that more are coming. This is really smart on AMEX’s part because it costs them nothing yet their members can benefit tremendously.

    That’s why you’re seeing more AMEX Offers. Before when it came out you didn’t see too many good ones worth seeing but now on a monthly basis I’m getting tons of points or cash back from AMEX Offers and again more are coming.

    I have the AMEX Platinum, AMEX Platinum Business, AMEX Gold (just got it) and all of them I’m getting more benefits vs. annual fee charged. I have the Chase Sapphire Reserve as well and it’s a great card.

    For anyone that travels and spends money traveling and going out to eat a lot, buying airline tickets, groceries, etc. you can easily get back these annual fees.

  18. I respect the opinion of those who use Uber but frankly for me (and for all who do not use Uber) the Uber credit is worthless junk; AND it can’t even be used in one month – should I happen to be in a city and (want to) use it all in one week. The “annual’ Uber credit is good marketing, perhaps, to those who live in a city and use Uber to cross a street month-in and month-out, BUT is totally useless to those of us who use taxi or limo services. If this credit applied to all car and limo services equally, then I’d be impressed! I’m otherwise tired of hearing this Uber credit so HIGHLY praised all the time; its helping to kill the livelihoods and lives of taxi drivers.

    I am also tired of hearing the airline (add on) “”fee”” so highly praised; its useless for those who travel in business or first; we have no luggage fees! It’s otherwise a useless worthless credit good only for marketing; if you have gotten to use fully, annually, in a legal manner – good for you! Otherwise its just marketing junk. (Of course I’m forgetting about JetBlue and a host of low cost carriers when I make this comment.)

    Neither the Uber “annual” credit nor the annual airline (add on) fee credit should EVER be used at full face value to value their respective credit cards.

    I’d discount both these valuation credits at -90% to -80% less value; this would be a more honest and realistic valuation credit for the TOTAL population of credit card users of these cards: business and first travelers, non-city taxi and limo users, subway and bus riders, suburban taxi and limo users, Amish horse n buggy users, etc.

    Please stop valuing these two credits at 100% value in your proforma analysis; I feel its wrong and misleading to do so.

  19. I have both. I don’t find the Amex Platinum to be worth $550, except for the fact that its Global Assist Program covers medical evacuation and flights home all over the world. I felt reassured forgoing purchasing evacuation coverage for trips to Antarctica and safaris in Africa. If not for that coverage, I would drop it.

  20. For anyone who does significant flying internationally, the costs associated with the high-end cards is a relative drop in the bucket. We take at least two overseas trips per year in biz class, and wouldn’t do if paying cash (hello coach). That’s at least $20K/ur return on a few hundred o-o-p. And if you’re only making a few domestic trips annually, you still come out ahead if properly planned. No brained to me.

  21. NJMike,

    But don’t you have UberEats in your town? You can easily just use UberEats to use the credits each month on food. I do that as I typically use UberEats anyway. I use Ubereats more than I use Uber.

  22. Amex credits/ benefits are much easier to use when you live in big cities like nyc, SF Bay Area, Chicago, and la. I think for someone who lives in states like Montana, Utah, or Mississippi, getting plat Amex is probably not worthwhile due to lack of centurion lounge etc. Of course Amex is going to concentrate their marketing effort on large and wealthy population centers; it’s a no brainer for efficiency point of view.

    If your household make few hundred thousands a year, you live in big city, and you travel a lot for business and/ or pleasure. Getting both cards is a no brainer. Those two along with Citi Prestige and Chase Ink plus business card makes great collection of cards to have for all kinds of spends. Sadly prestige and ink plus is no longer available for newbies. Fourth night free have saved me thousands every year and my grocery bills have typically land me 5x Miles using gift cards from OfficeMax. Together with 3x restaurant on chase sapphire, makes me hold out from getting Amex gold…. although now with KE gone from Chase profolio, maybe it’s time to get more Amex miles….

  23. @Paul, as I understand it, the Global Assist Program will provide evacuation, but you still have to pay for it. The CSR includes an amount they will pay for evacuation, as would Travel Insurance. Is this not correct? Sometimes I skip getting the 5x points on the Platinum because of this.

  24. @Lucky — You state Amex Platinum offers “useful mid-tier hotel status with two programs”. Hilton Gold status is one, what is the other/second hotel program? It used to be SPG Gold status, but I assume that went away with the Marriott/Starwood merger?

  25. I have both cards and find them both useful. Also being active duty military at the moment and getting the annual fees credited is hard to beat!

  26. I have the JP Morgan Reserve, which is exactly like the Sapphire Reserve but with a United Club membership. Since the $300 credit is like cash to me, the $150/year fee is a no brainer, even though I’m not staying in a while lot of United lounges. I also picked up the Platinum Card this summer because I got a targeted 60K offer. I had to wait for the targeted offer because I think I’ve had every Amex signup bonus at least once 🙂 I’ll probably cancel that after a year as I’m not flying a whole lot anymore, or using Uber a lot.

    I do, however, travel within driving distance of my home for work quite a bit, so the Reserve card more than pays for itself with hotel stays and some meals. The Gold Card is my go to meal card now; I also picked that up this summer via a targeted 50K offer. The three cards that stay in my wallet are the: Chase Reserve, Amex Gold, and Amex Blue Business Plus.

  27. I have both cards but been using Sapphire exclusively for Airline ticket purchase (over $140,000 spent last year, will approach or exceed that this year). Totally missed out on 5x points. I guess it’s because Amex points can’t be transferred to United MileagePlus, and conversely Sapphire can’t be transferred to ANA . But with all the RDM miles earned from 11x PDQ, I’m thinking of switching to Amex points for transferring to ANA/BA (currently @ 40% bonus – discovered thanks to this website 🙂

    So my question is:

    1. Do I get 5x points if I buy tickets directly on United.com (016 tickets)?
    2. Is it a good idea to transfer Amex Points to ANA? Redeeming flights on ANA requires significantly less points for the same flights than using United miles, especially for First Class cabins. I don’t have any status on ANA (or BA for that matter), but I’m GS on United.

  28. 3. How does the travel insurance (a perk from charging the air fare to the card) compare between the two?

    Sorry, this question came up after I submitted the first two. There’s no button to edit my first post.

  29. “For that I’m getting 5x points on airfare, 3x points on dining and travel, great travel protection, a Priority Pass membership, access to Amex Centurion Lounges, access to Delta SkyClubs, etc.” – I don’t understand this, you are definitely not getting “great travel protection” from Amex – I have had many American trips delayed this year overnight at DFW and my Chase Sapphire Reserve trip insurance gets me $500 to spend on a night at the Grand Hyatt in Terminal D. On my Amex, it would have got me nothing… so you have to choose, 5x points on Amex and little insurance, or 3x on Chase and you at least are covered for delays.

  30. For long-term I would think amex gold and CSR is a great combo for couples who travel internationally alot. Amex platinum seems like a rip-off to me. Uber and Saks credit I value at near $0 so out of pocket cost is close to $400 for me. No thanks.

  31. I hate the ber credit being per month. I don’t live anywhere with uber. When I travel to a city with uber, I spend a LOT, but that is only once or twice a year. Given the fee is only compelling if you use uber, I’d guess most cardholders use the full yearly amount. So it wouldn’t hurt them to make it a yearly credit and they’d get more customers.

  32. I have asked before, but a comparison of travel insurance benefits of each card including repatriation, medical costs etc would be a great article – my experience with Platinum is any time an issue has arisen it is not covered. CSR trip interruption etc better. However as a physician who used to repatriate patients worldwide often in the $250k+, coverage was only comprehensive with 3rd party travel insurance and a review of these would be invaluable as most pax can absorb a hotel night for flight interruptions, $250k, not so much.

  33. @Jon – Take a look at medjetassist.com They get you home from anywhere in the world including the US if you’re away from home. Most others only get you to the nearest “suitable” hospital. If I have to be medevaced from Africa I want to get home, not someplace in Europe for example.

  34. @lucky
    How long do you need to wait if you already had the CSR to re-apply if you had it before an cancelled?

  35. I have both CSR and Amex Business Platinum; I got the 100k sign-up bonus with CSR and will be getting the 100k AmEx points when I meet the $25k spend at the end of this month. I doubt I will keep the platinum after this first year, though, as the $550 fee doesn’t add much for me ( have duplicate global entry /TSA coverage etc.)–may just downgrade.

  36. It depends how you use them and where you want the points. The Amex platinum fee basically pays for itself because of the travel credit and lounge access you can get. With this said, I tend to only use it for direct airline purchases because of the 5x per dollar given and then transfer these points to Marriott as that is one of the providers that I am often redeeming at. Many airlines I don’t find useful due to their unreasonably high required number of points to redeem for flights these days. If you book to redeem with Amex, their rates are higher than the Reserve card plus they charge a customer service fee, which I think is unreasonable to use their service. The reserve card’s annual fee also pays for itself with the lounge access, as well as the travel credits, and the 50% bonus you get when redeeming with Chase travel. This complements well with other Chase cards you may have because the higher rules do apply. For small amounts, I will transfer these points at a 1:1 ratio if I am short a handful of points for a redemption but the flexibility is in keeping it in the credit card points because you cannot turn them back after transferring to an airline or hotel.

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