Both Chase Sapphires are excellent, well-rounded credit cards. The Reserve is actually CNBC Make It's runner-up pick for the best travel card. But if you're looking for something specific, such as maximizing your cash back or traveling luxuriously, according to our analysis, there are better options out there.
If you’re looking for a travel card that will get you the most points, you should consider our No. 1 choice for travel cards, the Capital One Venture. The Venture has the best return after five years for both average and frequent travelers, beating out the Reserve and Preferred. It offers 10 miles per dollar spent on hotels if you book through Hotels.com/Venture and a high flat-rate of 2 miles per dollar on all other purchases, allowing you to rack up miles on all kinds of spending.
If luxury is your priority, the American Express Platinum may be your best choice. Like the Reserve, the Platinum gets cardholders Priority Pass Select lounge access, but also Centurion lounge access and Delta Sky Club access when flying directly with Delta. As for hotel perks, the Platinum offers free nights and other benefits with its own Fine Hotels & Resorts program, and users qualify for "Gold Elite" status with Hilton and Starwood hotels.
The Platinum requires a $550 annual fee, so it doesn’t quite get you as large a return as the Sapphire cards. But to balance out that fee, the card offers a 60,000 point sign-up bonus, hundreds of dollars in annual Uber and airline credits and a lucrative reward structure. Users get 5 points per dollar spent booking flights or hotels through American Express Travel.
Finally, if you want to maximize your cash back, the Sapphire cards aren't ideal. Using Chase points to get cash lessens points' value, since they're worth 25 percent to 50 percent more, depending on if you have the Preferred or the Reserve, respectively, when you redeem points for travel.
For cash back, we recommend the Chase Freedom, our pick for the No. 1 cash back credit card overall. It requires no annual fee and offers a $150 sign-up bonus and 5 percent cash back on up to $1,500 in purchases on categories that rotate every quarter. If you consistently hit that limit, you save $300 per year, plus what you earn from an unlimited 1 percent on all other purchases.
For more details about how we calculated the five-year returns for the Chase Sapphires, check out our complete list of the top travel cards.
We looked at the 35 most popular travel credit cards—here's our pick for No. 1
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