Nowadays premium credit cards are more popular than ever before. Two of the most popular of these cards are The Platinum Card® from American Express and Chase Sapphire Reserve® Card, and I know a lot of people struggle to decide which card is a better fit.
In this post I wanted to take a closer look at that question — what are the pros and cons of both cards, and can it make sense to have both of them? Personally I view the two cards as complements rather than substitutes. While you’ll pay over $1,200 in annual fees between the two cards, I think it absolutely could make sense to have both. Let me break down why these cards serve such different purposes.
Basics of the Amex Platinum Card
- A bunch of annual credits — a $300 annual Equinox credit (enrollment required), a $240 annual digital entertainment credit (enrollment required), a $200 annual hotel credit, a $200 annual airline fee credit (enrollment required), a $200 annual Uber credit (enrollment required), a $189 annual CLEAR credit, and a $100 annual Saks credit
- The most comprehensive airport lounge access offered by any credit card, including access to Amex Centurion Lounges, Delta SkyClubs, a Priority Pass membership (enrollment required), and more
- 5x points on airfare purchased directly from airlines (on up to $500,000 in flight purchases per calendar year, and then 1x) making this the best card for airfare purchases; other than that there are better cards for earning Amex Membership Rewards points
- Hotel status with Marriott and Hilton, and car rental status with National, Avis, and Hertz – enrollment required.
- A Global Entry or TSA PreCheck credit (This benefit applies once every 4.5 years for the application fee for TSA PreCheck® and every 4 years for Global Entry)
- Access to the Amex International Airline Program, which can save you money on premium international airfare
- Access to Amex Fine Hotels & Resorts, which can score you extra perks on luxury hotel stays
- Access to the Amex Offers program, which offers savings with a variety of retailers
To be honest, it’s hard to do a “one size fits all” number-crunching of the Amex Platinum. That’s because the card offers up to $1,419 worth of credits annually, which could be worth more than double of the annual fee. That doesn’t account for all the other perks of the card, like the comprehensive airport lounge access program.
The catch is that not everyone is going to use all of those credits. Let me share my math, based on my own situation. Personally, I get near full value out of the:
- $200 annual airline fee credit
- $200 annual hotel credit: $200 back in statement credits each year on prepaid Fine Hotels + Resorts or The Hotel Collection bookings, which requires a minimum two-night stay, through American Express Travel when you pay with your Platinum Card
- $200 annual Uber credit
- $189 annual CLEAR credit
- $100 annual Saks credit
That’s $879 worth of credits that I’m more or less maximizing, so that’s pretty awesome, if you ask me, as that more than covers the annual fee by my math. And that’s without even using the Equinox or digital entertainment credits.
Basics of the Chase Sapphire Reserve Card
The Chase Sapphire Reserve has a $550 annual fee and offers:
- 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
- An up to $100 Global Entry, NEXUS, or TSA PreCheck fee credit every four years
- The ability to redeem Ultimate Rewards points for 1.5 cents towards travel purchases through the Ultimate Rewards portal
I think the math on the Chase Sapphire Reserve is much more straightforward than the math on the Amex Platinum. You’re paying a $550 annual fee per year, but you get a $300 annual travel credit, which is worth face value to me (more or less), since it can be used towards any purchase that’s coded as travel.
To me that means the card has a real “out of pocket” of $250 annually, and for that you receive 3x points on dining and travel, the ability to maximize the value of Ultimate Rewards points with other cards, excellent travel protection, a Priority Pass membership, and more.
Why the cards are complements, not substitutes
To me, the only thing that the Amex Platinum and Chase Sapphire Reserve have in common is that they both offer a Priority Pass membership and a Global Entry fee credit. Neither of those are particularly noteworthy benefits among premium credit 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 popular spending categories, great travel and car rental protection, and the ability to unlock the full value of the Ultimate Rewards program? Get the Chase Sapphire Reserve
- Do you want the best card for airport lounge access, a huge number of credits that could way more than justify the annual fee, useful mid-tier hotel status with two programs, 5x points on airfare, and more? Get the Amex Platinum
But who wants to pay $1,245 in annual fees?
Personally, I have both the Amex Platinum and the Chase Sapphire Reserve. Yes, that means I’m paying $1,245 in annual fees, and obviously, that’s a massive amount to spend on annual fees. That being said, the math truly does check out for me on both cards.
The Amex Platinum’s annual fee is for me more than covered by the credits. So there’s nothing further I need to do to justify the card on my end, and it’s also why I judge the value of this card independently, rather than in comparison to another card.
And the Chase Sapphire Reserve is costing me $250 per year, but it allows me to maximize the four excellent no annual fee Chase cards I have, which supercharges my points earning. Furthermore, I earn lots of bonus points and get great travel protection with the card.
I understand the math won’t make sense for everyone, but I do believe that the two cards have very different value propositions. For some people both cards can make sense, for others one card can make sense, and for others neither card makes sense.
The Amex Platinum and Chase Sapphire Reserve are the two most popular premium credit cards. Both cards can potentially offer outsized value, but they’re very different from one another. To me, the Amex Platinum is all about the lounge access and credits, while the Chase Sapphire Reserve is all about the points earning potential and great purchase protection.
Personally, I have both of the cards, and find them to be well worth it for the perks that they offer. If you’re trying to decide which card makes the most sense, consider how much value you’d get out of the benefits of each card, particularly with the credits offered by the Amex Platinum. If you’re anything like me, the math may make sense on both cards…
The following links will direct you to the rates and fees for mentioned American Express Cards. These include: The Platinum Card® from American Express (Rates & Fees).