Which is Better: Chase Sapphire Reserve or The Platinum Card from American Express?

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The Platinum Card® from American Express and the Chase Sapphire Reserve® are two of the most sought-after premium travel rewards cards, both offering a full suite of travel perks and benefits, and commanding high annual fees – $550 for the Chase Sapphire Reserve® and $550 for the Amex Platinum (Rates & Fees). While both cards offer top-tier perks and benefits, some fundamental differences set them apart that could play a significant role in helping you decide which card is best for you.

The Amex Platinum offers top-tier lounge benefits, including access to the Centurion Lounge network -  Centurion Studio SeaTac photo courtesy of American Express
The Amex Platinum offers top-tier lounge benefits, including access to the Centurion Lounge network –  Centurion Studio SeaTac photo courtesy of American Express

New Cardmember Welcome Bonus

  • Sapphire Reserve – Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $900 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
  • Amex Platinum – Earn 75,000 Membership Rewards® Points after you spend $5,000 on purchases on your new Card in your first 6 months of Card Membership.

While neither card is offering an all-time high bonus, the current welcome offers on both cards easily cover the cost of the annual fee for the first year. That gives you a solid opportunity to test out the cards and decide if they provide enough value to warrant holding for the long term.

The current offer for the Amex Platinum is a clear winner in a head-to-head comparison. With the Amex Platinum, you can earn 75,000 bonus points, and you also get twice as much time to meet the spending requirement.

In addition, new Amex Platinum cardmembers can earn 10X points on eligible purchases at U.S. gas stations and U.S. supermarkets, on up to $15,000 in combined purchases, during your first 6 months of Card Membership

Amex Membership Rewards hold roughly the same value as Chase Ultimate Rewards. Both types of points can be transferred to more than a dozen airline and hotel partners, opening up diverse options to redeem for high value.

Application Rules to Know Before You Apply

Unfortunately, both cards are subject to strict approval guidelines.

Like all Amex cards, the Amex Platinum is subject to a once-per-lifetime welcome bonus policy, so if you’ve had the card in the past, you will not be eligible to receive the bonus a second time around.

Welcome offer not available to applicants who have or have had this Card. We may also consider the number of American Express Cards you have opened and closed as well as other factors in making a decision on your welcome offer eligibility.”

The Sapphire Reserve, on the other hand, allows you to receive the bonus more than once subject to the following conditions:

The product is not available to either (i) current cardmembers of any Sapphire credit card, or (ii) previous cardmembers of any Sapphire credit card who received a new cardmember bonus within the last 48 months. If you are an existing Sapphire customer and would like this product, please call the number on the back of your card to see if you are eligible for a product change. You will not receive the new cardmember bonus if you change products.

The Sapphire Reserve also falls under Chase’s 5/24 guidelines. If you’ve opened five or more personal (and some business) cards in the previous 24 months, you will not be approved for the Sapphire Reserve.

Each card holds its own in the welcome bonus category, with little difference in the value of the welcome bonuses, and both cards subject to a strict approvals process.

Earning Potential & Bonus Categories

  • Sapphire Reserve – 3X points on travel and dining
  • Amex Platinum – Earn 10x points on eligible purchases on your new Card at U.S. Gas Stations and U.S. Supermarkets, on up to $15,000 in combined purchases, during your first 6 months of Card Membership. That's an additional 9 points on top of the 1 point you earn for these purchases. Earn 5X Membership Rewards® Points for flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel. Starting January 1, 2021, earn 5X points on up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year. 5X Membership Rewards® Points on prepaid hotels booked with American Express Travel.

Looking in from outside the award travel universe, you’d expect rewards cards carrying the highest annual fees to earn the most points on everyday spend, but that's just not the case. Both cards earn just one point per dollar on non-bonus spending. Bonus categories are restricted to travel and dining on the Sapphire Reserve, and select airline and hotel expenses on the Amex Platinum.

Note: As mentioned above, the Amex Platinum does have a dramatically improved 10X earning rate on U.S. gas stations and U.S. supermarkets (on up to $15,000 in purchases). However, this applies only to new cardmembers during the first six months after opening their account.

Long term, there is a much higher earning potential when these cards are paired with no or low annual fee cards from the same rewards family. These cards typically earn a higher number of points per dollar spent on everyday purchases than their premium counterparts. High earning card combinations for each rewards program include:

Due to Chase’s broad definitions in the travel and dining categories, most cardholders will find it easier to leverage the Sapphire Reserve bonus categories than those attached to the Amex Platinum, unless you spend an awful lot on flights and hotels. We also give the Sapphire Reserve a slight edge in this category because it offers a higher base redemption value of 1.5¢ per point through the Chase Travel Portal.

Lounge Access

  • Sapphire Reserve – Priority Pass™ Select Membership
  • Amex Platinum – The Centurion® Lounge network, Delta Sky Club®, Priority Pass™ Select Membership, Airspace Lounges, and Lufthansa Business and Senator Lounges in Terminal 2 of Munich Airport

One of the primary motivations in applying for the Amex Platinum is the lounge access perks. Cardholders gain access to Centurion lounges located at 8 of the major domestic hubs (with more on the way), Delta SkyClub (when flying Delta), Airspace lounges at JFK, Cleveland, and San Diego, receive a Priority Pass™ Select Membership allowing you and up to 2 guests lounge access, and can now access Lufthansa Business and Senator Lounges in Terminal 2 of Munich Airport when flying Lufthansa, Swiss, or Austrian.

Airport Lounge

The Sapphire Reserve only provides Priority Pass lounge access.

The Amex Platinum walks away with the top spot in the lounge access category. Centurion lounges are typically a cut above those in the Priority Pass network, and combined with the Airspace lounges and Delta SkyClub; you get much better coverage with Amex Platinum lounge perks. If you primarily fly domestic, it’s unlikely you’ll get a whole lot of value from the Priority Pass membership on either card as the network doesn’t have a significant footprint here in the US. The exception being new Priority Pass locations that include restaurants!

Airline/Travel Credit

The Sapphire Reserve offers the best travel credit of any rewards card we’ve reviewed. The definitions of what is accepted as travel purchases include everything from airline tickets to road tolls and parking fees; the credit is applied automatically when Chase detects a purchase coding as travel from the merchant. Due to the flexible nature of the travel credit, provided you spend at least $300 per year on travel expenses the out of pocket expense for holding the Sapphire Reserve drops to $150 per year.

The Amex Platinum provides a $200 airline incidentals credit and a $200 annual Uber credit. The Amex airline credit is much more restrictive than the travel credit on the Sapphire Reserve, and can only be applied to items such as baggage or change fees, and cardmembers can only claim items charged to one pre-selected airline. The Uber credit is even more cumbersome, being dished out in monthly $15 credits that don't roll over if unused, with a $35 credit applied each December. The Uber credits aren’t valid for use outside the US, but they can be applied to Uber Eats orders. For cardholders that don’t use Uber on a regular basis, this benefit holds limited value.

The Sapphire Reserve is a clear winner in the airline/travel credit category. Chase provides an industry-leading travel credit that is as flexible as it is generous, and any traveler in the award travel scene will maximize this credit year after year, without the need for any fancy strategies or purchases. As both cards provide a Global Entry/TSA Pre✓® credit every 4 years, we don’t factor it into the ‘which is best’ equation.

Rewards Program Redemption Value

This category comes down to your location, the airlines and alliances you fly, and your preferred hotel brand. If you live in a United hub and primarily stay at Hyatt properties, Ultimate Rewards makes much more sense as both programs are 1:1 transfer partners. If your goal is to leverage the fabulous stopover and open-jaw policies of Asia Miles for multi-city awards up the pointy end of the plane, collecting Membership Rewards is a much better option.

Membership Rewards may feature more transfer partners, but on the whole, we find the Ultimate Rewards travel partners hold more value. In this case, your travel goals dictate the value of transfer partners, and which program will best suit your needs.

The other thing to factor in here is the redemption value of points through the respective travel portals. If you hold the Sapphire Reserve, you can redeem Ultimate Rewards points for 1.5¢ per point through the Chase Travel Portal, which can provide top-tier value when booking cheap economy or mistake fares, non-chain hotels, or even car rentals. Membership Rewards don’t offer near the same value for Amex Platinum cardholders when redeeming for fixed-value. You’ll only receive 1¢ per point when redeeming flights through AmericanExpressTravel.com, and even less when redeeming for hotels, rental cars, or excursions.

For the redemption value of rewards, redeeming Ultimate Rewards as a Sapphire Reserve cardholder provides a consistently higher value, particularly for those without the experience or specialized knowledge required to maximize transfer partners.

Elite Status

And as a bonus, you’ll receive elite status perks at a wide range of hotels not affiliated with the above programs via American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts. While only valid for paid stays, the list includes some of the worlds top luxury brands.

The Sapphire Reserve is an also-ran in the elite status race, with the only elite status benefits coming courtesy of the card’s Visa Infinite branding (such as Visa Infinite Luxury Hotel Collection).

Getting treated to a touch of luxury is where the differences between the two cards become more pronounced. Much like the lounge access touched on above, the Amex Platinum offers some fantastic elite status benefits, providing tangible value for cardmembers that don’t already carry elite status courtesy of organic stays.

Ancillary Benefits

Travel and purchase protection's are the unsung heroes of the credit card world. Hidden gems such as trip and baggage delay coverage, primary auto rental CDW/LDW, and price/purchase protection can often net cardholder’s greater monetary returns than the rewards earned over a cards lifetime. Both cards provide a full-suite of secondary perks too long to list here in full, but highlights include:

Sapphire Reserve

Amex Platinum

  • Purchase Protection
  • Return Protection
  • Extended Warranty
  • Trip Delay
  • Trip Cancellation/Interruption
  • Cruise privileges
  • Staples Center LA Centurion Suite
  • Brooklyn Center NY Centurion Suite
  • Baggage insurance
  • Complimentary medical evacuation assistance
  • Lost passport assistance

We'd highly recommend studying these benefits in detail. You may not think much of them at first, but there is significant potential value if you ever need to use them.

Final Thoughts

Trying to decide which card is best for you boils down to a few simple questions. What do you value more? Travel rewards, high redemption value, and excellent travel protection perks? Or luxury benefits and elite status?

As an Amex Platinum cardholder, you’re essentially buying a suite of elite status perks and fantastic lounge access, with a host of other benefits and credits thrown in to sweeten the deal. If you swing toward the Sapphire Reserve, you more than likely value the ability to earn plenty of rewards and a high redemption value, and some of the more luxury perks are less of a concern. It’s not a question of which card is better; it’s a question of what perks and benefits you’re willing to pay for, and which card is going to provide them.

For rates and fees of the cards mentioned in this post, please visit the following links: The Platinum Card® from American Express (Rates & Fees)

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  • Avatar

    Thanks for the comparison. I have the Sapphire Preferred and am building the Chase Quartet, and had heard good things about the Amex Platinum, However, if one is already invested in Chase (especially beginners threading 5/24), and prioritize travel ROI/flexibility over luxury, then sticking to the Sapphires is the best choice.

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    I have both the Amex Platinum and CSR since they both waive the annual fees for active duty military so that’s $1000 in annual fees I get to save on. I get the best of both worlds and use the Amex for booking direct flights but anything else “travel” related I usually use my CSR. The article forgot to put the status you get with Silvercar with CSR but otherwise this article is really thorough.

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      Eh, Silvercar! While the status is nice, their service area is limited at best and while they do have nice cars and nice perks, they’re far from the least expensive option out there — at least in my experience.

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    This is the most articulate & balanced review of both cards I have ever read; both accumulation & redemption features are well presented,

    AMEX works best for flight rewards/purchases – Chase for hotel stays. Many cardholders get the AMEX fee waived (since it’s been around so long), so credits aren’t as critical as they might be for Chase which isn’t fee-waiving the relatively-new CSR any time soon.

    To further put its program in the lead, the Chase Freedom Unltd now earns 3x on ALL spend for a year (to then transfer to the CSR travel portal). AMEX is now behind Chase on “satellite card” typical non-bonus spend categories for faster point accummulation.

    Again – nice write-up, thx.

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    If you factor in the annual credits for travel fees (all 3 have large travel credits) and Uber as well as the savings (if you travel a lot) with Citi Prestige 4th night free, all of these cards really only cost $150.00 or less. Last year we traveled a lot and saved a little over $10,000.00 with Prestige on 4th night free. (Unusual but just stating an interesting fact). Thus you have to look at your use of these cards. In our case Citi Prestige was “most valuable”. Nonetheless, based in Dallas, we love the premium drinks and free meals by Dean Fearing in the Centurion Lounge with every trip (no matter which airline) so much that we often go early and eat drink and relax before our flights. If you travel much that is a very high value card perk. Fine Resorts and Hotels also offers 3rd night free at many amazing places, something not mentioned here but very high value. We stayed at the Four Seasons in Prague in a 900 ft2 2 story suite with 3rd night free on AE Platinum and 4th night free on Sapphire Reserve. How can you even look twice at the annual fee if you really use these benefits? The person who travels a great deal can hold all 3 for almost nothing and get a fortune in free stays, incredible upgrades (room upgrades, free breakfast and 100.00/day credit for food, drinks or spa with Fine Resorts and Hotels in great places like Four Seasons), and truly valuable air and hotel for the points with all of them. With all that said, If I could only pick one and I didn’t travel a great deal it would be the CSR for the 1.5 value per point and the easy to use $300.00 travel credit.

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    One of the biggest ancillary benefits of AMEX Plat is Concierge, with which I would pair AMEX presales. AMEX has more presales with better buying options than either Chase or Citi, and the Sapphire Reserve does not add any benefit over other Chase cards for their presales, whereas AMEX Plat often has blocks of tickets reserved, as well as tables reserved at restaurants in major cities.

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      This is simply not true. The CSR has VISA Infinite Concierge which acts as the same thing as AMEX Plat Concierge. They help you both with tickets and etc…

      Again – not true for the blocks of tickets reserved. The CSR has reserve tickets for special events, like the AMEX Plat. The only difference is that selection varies. IE: Currently, the CSR, has special tickets going on for the opener warriors game. You can get court seats and meet/greet with Curry. Not sure if AMEX has that going on right now.
      Secondly – you are mistaken. There is no “special reserved” seats at a restaurant in major cities just for restaurants for regular dining. These reserved and blocked seats are for specific events that are happening at the restaurant if there is one.

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    CSR is the way to go. Very easy to use and great perks.

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    One other Amex Platinum perk worth mentioning, their international airline program for discounted business/first air tickets. It doesn’t always workout, but we managed to save about $700 on a couple of business class tickets to Japan last year.

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    Dave Huthwaite says:

    Unless I missed it, you left out one really important feature on the AX platinum.
    You select ANY airline to be your special airline.
    Whenever you use miles on a ticket, you get
    30% of the miles back after flying. I chose United
    since that are not a partner with AX. I got credits
    back in 30 days to cover the annual member

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    This is an excellent, objective article, Jess! I got both when they had 100K bonuses, and have kept both for different reasons. I put half of my extended family on the AMEX and several on the Sapphire. When it came time to renew, Sapphire wouldn’t budge on the fee but AMEX did. In my opinion, both are worth the annual fee. I do travel a ton and use many of the benefits. The AMEX FHR is a very nice and unique offering.

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      How do you manage this part? What do you call and tell them to waive the annual fee? Also, are you able to do this in multiple years during renewal or just the first renewal?

      “When it came time to renew, Sapphire wouldn’t budge on the fee but AMEX did”

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    I like the Citi Prestige better, because of the unique 4th night free value proposition.

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    looks like some luxury travel perks!!

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    I think the Amex card is overall a more well rounded card with all of the benefits you are entitled to. If its just on a points earning basis then CSR will win, but if you diversify properly then AMEX plat is a very powerful card.

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    Reading these comments makes me certain Chase is the way to go.

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    Good comparison, there benefits to holding both at the same time as well.

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    CSR seems to win peoples hearts more than AP

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    Thank you for that excellent breakdown. Definitely helps me decide which card to chose for certain purchases.

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    I have both and this comparison is super helpful, thanks!

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    Both of the cards look very good to me.

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    I have both. The CSR primary rental coverage really pushes me to use it for travel more often.

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    Great info! I would get the Platinum only if I have a trip in mind to plan for.

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    I currently have both but I am dropping the platinum. A few reasons:

    1) The yearly fee is no longer pro-ratable which I find annoying.
    2) Lounge access has been too restricted too many times for their rules (no companion) and often no partnered lounges in terminal.
    3) They have become much more difficult to deal with in general.

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    While I don’t have either many of my friends have the Reserve card which they highly recommend.

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    I have the CSR and the Business Platinum from Amex. Due to the way I travel, I get enormous value from both cards. It helps that the Bus Platinum has benefits that allow me to redeem for more value than the personal platinum. But the key in the article was to pair them with their less “prestigious” no annual fee cards for the best earnings so I also have the Freedom and Blue for Business!

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    Thanks for the info on Uber eats. My Uber credits have mostly been expiring as I don’t need them that often. Now I will make sure I order something every month before they expire.

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    The AmEx Platinum is obviously a killer when it comes to granting elite status, but since I already hold status in all the programs I care about, for me, the 3x earning on travel & dining, and easy-to-use annual travel credit with the CSR are what place it in my wallet over the Platinum.

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    Oh wow. Some of those I can see are very popular with Amex. However, I am always reading that more people so prefer Chase.
    It’s good to have the run down of all the benefits so you can make a good decision. What do you recommend in the case that someone doesn’t like the partners for Amex but like Amexs lounge access, etc? I guess someone could still redeem via their portal, if they don’t want to transfer to their partners.

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    The reserve is awesome card. Chase has the best system for moving points into partners.

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    Thanks for the clear comparison of both cards.

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    Great explanation to digest and analyze based on my use.

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    Is the Amex Travel website good? Looks like the value of the Amex is dependent on that.

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    Glad to see the Chase Reserve competing with the AMEX Platinum. Raises the bar.

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    Although there’s clearly some overlap in benefits, the two cards have different strengths; definitely worth considering both if one can maximize the benefits.

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    Thanks for the comparison!

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    Lee Ann Bixler says:

    The Reserve Card is the best for travel expenses.

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    I have both and both offered 100,000 point bonuses for signup! I think they both compliment each other very well. The $200 UBER credit works for me and the much better lounge access with the Platinum is a huge plus. CSR is my go to for accumulating points though since they are more valuable than MR points.

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    The CSR does it for me.

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    I’m satisfied with my CSR, and continue to find more value from it each day.

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    I think if you travel a lot – both of these together are really worth it. Maybe sometimes switching between the different AMEX Plats to get the sign up bonus

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    I was finally considering taking the leap to the Plat when they raised the fee last year, and that pushes me back to hesitation. The CSR has spoiled me with ease of using the travel credit, so the Plat requires so much hoop jumping in comparison. And the Hilton & SPG status doesn’t mean much to me, since I prefer independent hotels.

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    I guess the best thing to do is wait until I’m retired next year, so I can take advantage of the benefits more, then wait for enhanced, limited time or targeted sign up bonus, then try them both and decide.

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    Thx for a very clear analysis. Even with your insights of both products I’m afraid I’ve entered into that group of people whose CSR card will only leave my possession when its pried from my dead cold bony fingers! 🙂

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    CSR through and through for me!

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    Great breakdown….Thanks

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    Great review! Makes me think about adding the AMEX to my wallet for sure just for the elite status benefits!

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    it almost sounds like I should have both. 🙂

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    I have the CSR and I am very happy with my decision.