Comparison of Premium Travel Rewards Credit Cards Comparison of Premium Travel Rewards Credit Cards

Comparison of Premium Travel Rewards Credit Cards

Bonus Points

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$200 hotel credit offered with The Platinum Card® from American Express applies to prepaid Fine Hotels + Resorts® or The Hotel Collection bookings made via Amex Travel. The Hotel Collection requires a minimum two-night stay.

At first glance, credit card fees north of $400 don’t make sense to a lot of points and miles fans. Why would you pay $400+ per year for a card that's likely to earn fewer points per dollar than low or no annual fee cards from the same rewards family? It’s not until you look past the simple points per dollar equation that the value of a premium travel rewards card comes into focus.

Premium travel cards offer a host of benefits beyond category bonuses and the number of points earned. Perks such as lounge access, elite status, best in class travel insurance, travel and airline credits, free nights or companion passes, and other travel perks and services that not only help offset the cost of holding the card but can enhance the way you travel, providing added luxury and security.

Centurion Lounge
Premium rewards credit cards like [CC_AW_PrettyLink_FullName slug=PlatinumCard] offer complimentary lounge access.

What Makes a Travel Focused Rewards Card ‘Premium’?

No precise recipe makes a travel rewards card a ‘premium’ product, with the term often hijacked by new cards that don’t fall into the premium category. To make the cut as a premium travel rewards card, the card needs to provide a combination of lounge access, noteworthy travel and auto-rental insurance, some form of elite status with a hotel rewards, car rental, or frequent flyer program, Global Entry/TSA credit, a concierge service, sport a high annual fee, and feature some form of standout, high-ticket perk like the 4th Night Free on the Citi Prestige® Card.

In this post, we’ve focused on the following cards we think fit the premium description, splitting them into three tables. One table covers cards earning flexible or transferable points, and one each covering premium co-brand airline and hotel credit cards that earn miles in a single program.

  • The Platinum Card® from American Express – Earn 80,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $6,000 on purchases on your new Card in your first 6 months of Card Membership.
  • Chase 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®
  • Citi Prestige® Card – Earn 50,000 Bonus Points after spending $4,000 within 3 months of account opening.
  • Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard® – Earn 80,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles after spending $5,500 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
  • United Club℠ Infinite Card – Earn 100,000 bonus miles after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.
  • Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card – Earn 50,000 bonus miles and 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $5,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 6 months.
  • The Ritz-Carlton™ Credit Card – No longer accepting applications
  • Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card – Earn 150,000 Bonus Points after you use your new Card to make $4,000 in eligible purchases within the first 3 months of Card Membership. Plus, enjoy a free Weekend Night Reward within your first year and every year after renewal.

Premium Rewards Credit Cards Earning Flexible Points

The most popular premium cards on the market, these three travel cards earn transferable points not tied to a particular hotel or airline program. They all offer lounge access in some form, a range of travel insurance and purchase protection options, travel credits, and Global Entry/TSA PreCheck credit.

BenefitsThe Platinum Card® from American ExpressChase Sapphire Reserve®Citi Prestige® Card
Annual Fee$695 - Rates & Fees$550$495
Authorized User Fee$175 (for up to 3 AU's) - Rates & Fees$75$50
Weclome Offer80,000 Membership Rewards® PointsEarn 60,000 bonus points50,000 ThankYou Points
Travel Credit$200 Airline credit (incidentals only)
$200 hotel credit
$300 Travel credit$250 Airline credit (includes airfare)
Category Bonus5X points on flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel (on up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year), and 5X points on prepaid hotels booked on amextravel.comEarn 5x total points on flights and 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards® immediately after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually. Earn 3x points on other travel and dining & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases5X points on air travel and at restaurants
3X points at hotels and on cruise line purchases
1 point per dollar on all other purchases
Priority Pass2 guests2 guests or immediate family2 guests or immediate family
Other LoungesCenturion Lounges
Delta SkyClub
Lufthansa Lounges (Munich)
Airspace & Escape Lounges
Plaza Premium Lounges
(Guest policy varies)
Elite StatusHilton Honors & Marriott Gold
Avis Preferred®
Hertz Gold Plus Rewards®
National Emerald Club Executive
National Emerald Club ExecutiveNational Emerald Club Executive, Sixt Platinum
Global Entry/TSA PreCheck CreditEvery 4 yearsEvery 4 yearsEvery 5 years
Trip Delay6 hours
6 hours
As of 09/22/19 Citi no longer offers this benefit
Baggage DelayN/A6 hours
As of 09/22/19 Citi no longer offers this benefit
Auto Rental CDWSecondary up to $75KPrimary up to $75KAs of 09/22/19 Citi no longer offers this benefit
Additional Perks & BenefitsUp to $200 annual Uber credit1.5¢ per point redemption through Chase Travel PortalFree night on hotel bookings of 4 nights booked through - up to twice per year.

Enrollment is required for select Amex benefits.

Premium Rewards Credit Cards Earning Miles

Unfortunately, many of our favorite frequent flyer programs don’t offer a top-tier rewards card. Alaska Mileage Plan would have an instant fan club were they to launch a premium card but, at this stage, it’s just the legacy carriers putting up the big annual fee co-brand cards.

BenefitsCiti® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard®United Club℠ Infinite CardDelta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card
Annual Fee$450$525$550 - Rates & Fees
Authorized User Fee$0$0$175 - Rates & Fees
Welcome OfferEarn 80,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus milesEarn 100,000 bonus milesEarn 50,000 bonus miles and 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs)
Bonus Earnings Toward Elite Status10,000 Loyalty Points after spending $40,000 per qualification yearEarn 500 PQP for every $12,000 spent (up to 4,000 PQP / $96,000 spent in a calendar year)15,000 MQMs for every $30,000 you spend in a calendar year, up to $120,000.
Category Bonus• Limited-time offer: Earn 4x miles for every $1 spent on eligible American Airlines purchases through December 31, 2022.
• 2x on American flights
• 1x on all other purchases
• 4x miles on United purchases
• 2x miles on dining
• 2x miles on all other travel
• 1x on all other purchase
• 3x on Delta purchases
• 1x on everything else
Lounge Access• Admirals Club (+ 2 guests or immediate family) (AU cardholders also get free access via their own membership)• United Club (+ 2 guests or 1 adult and dependent children under 21 years of age)
• Star Alliance Lounges when traveling same-day on Star Alliance ticket
• Delta Sky Club® & international partner lounges when traveling on a same-day Delta-marketed/operated flight
• 2X one-time guest passes for complimentary access to the Delta Sky Club
• The Centurion Lounge - When flying a same-day Delta-marketed/operated flight paid for with a U.S.-issued American Express rewards Card
Elite StatusN/A• Avis President’s Club membership
• IHG Rewards Platinum Elite status
Free Checked Bags• Free first checked bag for cardholder and up to 8 companions
• Adding your AAdvantage number to the reservation triggers the benefit
• 2 each for you and a companion on the same ticket
• Ticket must be purchased using this card to qualify for the benefit
• 1 each for you and up to 8 companions on the same ticket
• Adding your SkyMiles number to the reservation triggers the benefit
Companion Flight TicketN/AN/A• Domestic First Class, Delta Comfort+® or Main Cabin round-trip companion certificate each year upon renewal of your Card
• Valid within the Continental U.S.
• Pay just taxes and fees
In-Flight Benefits• 25% off in-flight purchases on AA domestic flights, which comes as a statement credit
• Applies to food and beverage purchases only, not WiFi
• 25% back (as a statement credit) on food, beverage and Wi-Fi purchases on board United- and United Express-operated flights• 20% discount on pre-purchased meals and in-flight purchases of food, alcoholic beverages and audio headsets
• Comes as a statement credit
• Does not apply to WiFi purchases
Global Entry/TSA PreCheck CreditEvery 5 yearsEvery 4 yearsEvery 4 years
Trip DelayAs of 09/22/19 Citi no longer offers this benefit• 12 hours
• $500
• 6 hours
• $500
Baggage DelayAs of 09/22/19 Citi no longer offers this benefit• 6 hours
• $100 day up to 3 days
Auto Rental CDWAs of 09/22/19 Citi no longer offers this benefitPrimary coverage up to retail value of vehicleSecondary up to $75K
Additional Perks & Benefits• Access to Reduced Mileage Awards
• Priority check-in, airport screening, and early boarding
• 10% fewer miles required for economy saver award bookings on United / United Express flights within the Continental U.S. and Canada
• Close-in award fees waived
• Complimentary Premier Upgrades on award tickets
• $70 discount on CLEAR membership
• 2022 only: up to $75 in statement credits on spending at IHG hotels
• Priority boarding

NOTE: A significant and important differentiator to know about with the Delta Reserve is that it only provides access to a Delta Sky Club when traveling on Delta. 

The primary difference between the airline cards and those listed in the flexible points table is that you should only get a premium co-brand airline card if you regularly fly that airline. Paying a yearly annual fee of $550 (Rates & Fees) for the Delta Reserve with all its Delta perks makes no sense if your primary carrier is American or United.

Premium Rewards Credit Cards Earning Hotel Points

There are currently just two co-brand hotel cards we would consider premium rewards cards. The Hilton Aspire and the Ritz-Carlton Card. Believe it or not, the Ritz-Carlton Card can get you better airline elite status than the co-brand airline cards above, potentially providing United Premier Silver Status through RewardsPlus, a reciprocal agreement between Marriott and United when you spend $75k in a calendar year. The Hilton Aspire is the latest premium rewards card to enter the market and sports a unique combination of top-tier elite status and airline and hotel credits, supported by complimentary Weekend Night Rewards and lounge access.

BenefitsThe Ritz-Carlton™ Credit CardHilton Honors American Express Aspire Card
Annual Fee$450$450
Authorized User Fee$0$0
Welcome OfferNo longer open to applications.Earn 150,000 Bonus Points after you use your new Card to make $4,000 in eligible purchases within the first 3 months of Card Membership. Plus, enjoy a free Weekend Night Reward within your first year and every year after renewal.
Category Bonus5x at Ritz-Carlton, Marriott, and SPG
2x on dining and travel
14x on Hilton purchases
7x on flights booked direct with airlines or, car rentals booked direct with select rental agencies, and U.S. restaurants
3x on all other purchases
Lounge AccessPriority Pass Select (+ 2x guests + AU cardholders also get free access)Priority Pass Select (+ 2x guests)
Elite StatusComplimentary Gold Elite for first year and spend $10K per calendar year to retain. Spend $75K for Platinum Elite and United Premier Silver statusHilton Honors Diamond Elite
Travel Credits$300 airline incidental credit (based on a calendar year)
$100 credit on roundtrip U.S. domestic coach airline tickets for 2–5 people
$100 hotel credit on paid Ritz-Carlton stays
$250 Airline incidental fee statement credit
$250 Hilton resort statement credit
$100 Waldorf Astoria and Conrad credit when booking Aspire Card package
Global Entry/TSA PreCheck CreditEvery 5 yearsN/A
Trip Delay6 hours
6 hours
$500 per covered trip
2 claims per Eligible Card per 12 consecutive month period
Additional Perks & Benefits10% annual bonus on points earned with the card
3 Club Level upgrades each year on paid stays of up to seven nights
Visa Infinite benefits
Annual Weekend Night Reward on your account anniversary
Second Weekend Night Reward after $60K spend per calendar year
24/7 access to Amex Concierge

The Ritz-Carlton Card charges a $450 annual fee; however, you aren't charged for authorized users. Those authorized users still qualify for lounge access making the Ritz-Carlton Cardthe least expensive option for authorized user Priority Pass lounge access.

Final Thoughts

What’s the best premium travel rewards card? That depends on a number of factors. Before pulling the trigger on a premium rewards card, think about where you live and how you travel. If you’re considering the Amex Platinum, is there a Centurion Lounge at your local airport? Will you max out the Uber credits? Do you want Trip and Baggage Delay coverage?

Each card offers some unique value points while typically falling short in another area. First, determine how you would use the card, and whether it will provide enough value to warrant paying the higher annual fee. If the numbers stack up, you may be onto a winner.

If you have any questions about the cards or benefits listed, please get in touch in the comments below, and we’ll do our best to answer.

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

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