The Platinum Card® from American Express and Chase Sapphire Reserve® are two popular travel credit cards with steep $550 annual fees (see rates and fees) and loads of luxury perks. If you're in the market to upgrade to a high-end card, you'll want to take the time to understand the pros and cons of each so you can choose the right one for your wallet.
Both Chase and Amex continue to make changes to these two cards, offering new perks and benefits that suit different types of customers, such as an annual maximum $100 Saks credit for Amex Platinum cardholders ($50 each half of the year) and an annual $60 DoorDash credit for the Sapphire Reserve customers (in 2020 and 2021).
Below, CNBC Select reviews both cards to help you choose the one that provides the most benefit for your spending habits.
While the annual fees are the same, each card offers a suite of perks that help offset the annual fee. CNBC Select calculated the value of the Sapphire Reserve perks to be roughly $1,388 and the Amex Platinum card benefits to be approximately $1,029 (more on the specific perks and credits below).
If you take advantage of all the cards' benefits, you can more than recoup the annual fee. If you don't take advantage of all the credits, you'll need to spend approximately $24,829 per year on the Sapphire Reserve to justify the $550 annual fee. This assumes you spend $2,244 on travel, $3,375 on dining and $18,910 on other categories and that you redeem rewards for travel with Chase Ultimate Rewards®, receiving 50% more value.
The amount you need to spend with the Amex Platinum card to offset the $550 fee is nearly double: roughly $49,225 per year. This assumes you spend $546 on airlines, $621 on hotels and $49,167 on everything else.
Note that the amount you need to spend to offset each card's annual fee can drastically decrease if you spend more in eligible bonus categories.
Winner: If you take advantage of all the perks, it's a tie. But if you don't plan to use all the benefits, the Chase Sapphire Reserve is the winner, as you have to spend less to make the most of the card's rewards program.
Both cards offer higher rewards on travel purchases, and the Sapphire Reserve offers more points on dining, too:
At first glance, you may think the Amex Platinum card offers better travel rewards since the earning rate is 5X, but there are many exclusions. Travel purchases only qualify if the flights are booked directly with airlines or the prepaid hotels are booked through American Express Travel. That means travel booked through discount sites, such as Expedia or Hotels.com, only earns 1X points.
Meanwhile, the Sapphire Reserve has a broad travel category, which includes: airlines, hotels, car rental agencies, cruise lines, buses, taxis, toll bridges and highways and more. Plus if you prefer to book travel through discount sites, you can still earn 3X points on those purchases.
CNBC Select worked with the location intelligence firm Esri, who provided us with a sample annual spending budget of $22,126. We used this sample budget to break down how much money you could earn (less than annual fee) if you optimized using each card over the course of five years. Calculations also assume you full take advantage of annual statement credits.
The budget includes six main categories: groceries ($5,174), gas ($2,218), dining out ($3,675), travel ($2,244), utilities ($4,862) and general purchases ($3,953).
We found you could earn an estimated $2,755 with the Chase Sapphire Reserve® and roughly $1,290 with the Amex Platinum card.
While the five-year estimates we've included are derived from a budget similar to the average American's spending, you may earn a higher or lower return depending on your consumer habits.
Winner: Chase Sapphire Reserve® — You earn $1,485 more in rewards over the course of five years.
Rewards earned on these two cards can be redeemed in similar ways, such as travel, gift cards and merchandise, though the Sapphire Reserve offers a unique bonus: If you redeem points for travel through the Chase Ultimate Rewards® portal, they're worth 50% more.
For example, 50,000 points are typically worth $500. But if you pay for your airfare or hotel through the rewards portal, the value of your points increases 50% to $750.
The Amex Platinum card doesn't offer a bonus redemption on points.
Both cards also allow you to transfer points to participating airline and hotel partners, such as JetBlue and Marriott.
The number of points or miles needed to redeem for rewards varies based on the redemption you choose. For example, 1 point is worth $0.015 toward Chase Ultimate Rewards® travel redemptions (such as airfare and hotels) with the Sapphire Reserve, but 1 point can be worth a penny for gift card redemptions. With the Amex Platinum, 1 point is worth a penny for flights booked through American Express Travel, but 1 point is only worth $0.006 for statement credit redemptions.
Winner: Chase Sapphire Reserve® since travel redemptions made via Chase Ultimate Rewards® receive 50% more value.
Both cards come with strong welcome bonus offers:
The Sapphire Reserve's bonus can be worth up to $750 toward travel, while the Amex Platinum's bonus is worth about $600 toward eligible airfare and hotel bookings.
Winner: Chase Sapphire Reserve® since the welcome bonus can be worth $150 more.
Both cards offer over a dozen premium benefits, but vary when it comes to annual statement credits. Here's a breakdown of the perks offered by both cards:
Consumers with either card can benefit from:
Amex Platinum card holders enjoy these added perks:
Chase Sapphire Reserve® cardholders enjoy these added perks:
Terms apply for all benefits.
Winner: Tie. Both cards offer over a dozen perks, so the winner depends on what benefits you want.
The Platinum Card® from American Express and Chase Sapphire Reserve® are two top of the line credit cards that can provide value for frequent travelers and foodies. Since both cards have the same $550 annual fee, the card that's best for you depends on how you spend your money and the type of perks you want (see rates and fees).
If you prefer Uber over Lyft, the Amex Platinum card is the better choice, while Lyft riders will fare better with the Sapphire Reserve. If you want to get more value for points, the Sapphire Reserve stands out with 50% more value on travel redeemed through Chase Ultimate Rewards. But if you frequently book flights directly with airlines or don't mind booking airfare and prepaid hotels via Amex Travel, the Platinum card offers a competitive 5X points.
At the end of the day, both cards offer luxury benefits that can have you traveling with comfort and security. But if you don't want to fork over $550 for a credit card, there are travel credit cards with no annual fee or lower annual fees, such as the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card.
Check out the best luxury and premium credit cards.
5X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel and on on prepaid hotels booked on amextravel.com, 1X Membership Rewards® points on all other purchases
60,000 Membership Rewards® points after spending $5,000 within 3 months of account opening
See Pay Over Time APR
See rates and fees, terms apply.
10X points on Lyft rides through March 2022, 3X points on travel worldwide (immediately after earning your $300 annual travel credit), 3X points on dining at restaurants worldwide, 1X point per $1 on all other purchases
50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening — worth up to $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
16.99% to 23.99% variable
5%, minimum $5
To determine which credit cards offer the best value, CNBC Select analyzed popular credit cards available in the U.S. We compared each card on a range of features, including rewards, welcome bonus, introductory and standard APR, balance transfer fee and foreign transaction fees, as well as factors such as required credit and customer reviews when available. We also considered additional perks, the application process and how easy it is for the consumer to redeem points.
CNBC Select teamed up with location intelligence firm Esri. The company's data development team provided the most up-to-date and comprehensive consumer spending data based on the 2019 Consumer Expenditure Surveys from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. You can read more about their methodology here.
Esri's data team created a sample annual budget of approximately $22,126 in retail spending. The budget includes six main categories: groceries ($5,174), gas ($2,218), dining out ($3,675), travel ($2,244), utilities ($4,862) and general purchases ($3,953). General purchases include items such as housekeeping supplies, clothing, personal care products, prescription drugs and vitamins, and other vehicle expenses.
CNBC Select used this budget to estimate how much the average consumer would save over the course of a year, two years and five years, assuming they would attempt to maximize their rewards potential by earning all welcome bonuses offered and using the card for all applicable purchases. All rewards total estimations are net the annual fee.
While the five-year estimates we've included are derived from a budget similar to the average American's spending, you may earn a higher or lower return depending on your shopping habits.
For rates and fees of The Platinum Card® from American Express, click here.