In the remainder of this article, I’ll walk you through the benefits of each card and where one outshines the other. I’ll talk about Virtual Annual Fees, and why viewing a card only for its annual fee is like judging a book by its cover; and finally, declare a winner in this Showdown.
At face value, the basics of these two cards are quite similar - they are natural competitors after all. While the two share the same Annual Fee, the American Express has a higher cost per authorized user, although you can add a stripped down AMEX Gold Card for other users free of charge - while this benefit is nice, the added $75 on the Chase Sapphire Reserve for an Authorized user to have full benefits is a clear victory.
Meanwhile, the American Express Platinum has a more enticing sign up bonus (valued at $1,000 versus Chase’s $800). Both present a great value for beginning to earn points, but do consider the minimum spending amounts to make sure they are tangible for you. The Platinum Card also earns at a better ratio, but in a more restrictive category of just airfare booked directly with the airline or through American Express Travel. Conversely, the Sapphire Reserve earns at a slightly smaller ratio, but on all travel (which I’ve found to even include transit, ride share and parking) as well as all dining purchases
When it comes down to spending those points, American Express has a larger slate of Airlines and Hotels that you can transfer your points to. However, it’s important to dig in and look at these partners, as I find that Chase’s smaller grouping actually applies more closely to the companies that I prefer to travel with (Southwest and Hyatt Hotels for instance). For more experienced users, also not which partners offer most value for redemptions: American Express has Avianca Life Miles which is one of the most lucrative. Both airlines also allow you to redeem through their in house online travel agencies.
This is probably the section that many are the most interested in, and it’s certainly the most fun! I’ll start with what’s equivalent on both cards: both offer a TSA PreCheck/Global Entry Credit, both have networks of Hotel Affiliates for additional perks, and both offer benefits and status with a slate of rental car companies.
The main difference between these two cards for me is how each issuer goes about handling it’s travel credits. With the Chase Sapphire Reserve, is an annual $300 credit that is valid for all travel (and the definition of travel is very large) whereas American Express issues an annual $200 Airline Fee Credit, which reimburses incidental fees for you selected airline (think checked bags, seat assignments, etc, but not upgrades). For me, it’s hands down a win for the Sapphire Reserve here.-
Airport lounge access is another point of difference between the two cards. With the Platinum Card, you gain access to American Express’ Global Lounge Collection which includes their own Centurion Lounges and a Priority Pass Membership as well as access to Delta Sky Clubs when flying Delta. An important point to note is that this Priority Pass membership includes two guests, but does not include Priority Pass Dining benefits. Over with the Sapphire Reserve, card members receive a Priority Pass membership that includes up to six guests as well as Priority Pass Dining, which typically includes a $28 per person credit at select restaurants. This comparison is a bit of a tossup. On paper, the American Express Platinum wins hands down, but in practice, I’ve found that my Chase Sapphire Reserve Priority Pass offers me the most value. But, again, it’s personal, if you fly Delta often or your home airport has a Centurion Lounge, then the AMEX is your card.
In addition to the affiliate hotel networks that I previously mentioned, American Express also offers great value by including Hilton Gold and Marriott Gold status to its Platinum Card Members. This offers a jump start on status for those who travel often, or just extra benefits for those who don’t have loyalty to one brand.
When it comes to ride sharing, both cards have you covered. American Express offers Uber VIP status as well as a $200 Credit (which is divided monthly) and Chase offers Lyft Pink Status and, temporarily, an elevated 10 points per dollar in earning on Lyft rides.
Winner: American Express Platinum, but with many restrictions
While insurance is far from the most glamorous topic of discussion, this is the category that sets the Chase Sapphire Reserve flexes its muscles - it’s really not even close, it blows the American Express Platinum out of the water in all but one category.
To go back a few steps and provide some background, even most starter credit cards on the market have built in insurance benefits, purchase protections and support - many of us simply don’t know because we haven't reviewed the benefits guide.
The American Express Platinum is certainly well above the basics, but as you can see, the Sapphire Reserve raises the bar with: Trip Delay Insurance, Baggage Delay Insurance, Cancellation/Interruption Protection, Roadside Assistance, Auto Rental Insurance, Emergency Medical & Dental and Travel Accident Life Insurance. American Express leads the way with a slightly more generous Lost Baggage Policy.
This is surly only an abbreviated guide to insurance policies, but by booking with your Sapphire Reserve card, you’re ensuring that you’re well taken care of. In fact, on most trips that aren’t particularly risky or far flung, you may consider not even purchasing an outside policy.
Winner: Chase Sapphire Reserve
In addition to everything described above, the cards offer a myriad of additional benefits. Over at American Express, one that stands out is an annual $100 Saks 5th Avenue Credit - a bit of a gimmick in my opinion since it is $50 every 6 months, and at Saks that doesn’t take you very far. With Chase, card members get a complimentary Dash Pass Membership (waived delivery fees) as well as a $60 annual credit - this is an addition that I love and saves me a ton of money.
Virtual Annual Fee
When we talk about virtual annual fee, what we’re looking at is the Annual Fee of card, minus the value of the benefits it provides. Thus, this is the out of pocket amount that you pay, but don’t get a tangible benefit from.
American Express Platinum: $550 (Annual Fee) - $525 (Value of Benefits)* = $25
Chase Sapphire Reserve: $550 (Annual Fee) - $385 (Value of Benefits)* = $165
*For the Value of TSA PreCheck/Global Entry, we calculate it at $25/year since it is valid every four years.
While in appearance, the American Express Platinum is the clear victor here, I do feel it is worth noting the difficulty of getting these benefits. For example, of my $200 Airline Fee Credit, I’ve only used about $40 because I do not incur incidentals often and one month I didn’t use Uber at all and forfeited $15 of eye benefits (they expire monthly). Looking at it this way, my Virtual Annual Fee was really $200.
Both cards are truly top tier, and offer fabulous benefits and value (some of which I've shown earlier in this post: Luxury Hotels, Airport Lounges and Upgrades; oh my!). On paper, this really is a draw, and while it’s ultimately a personal decision as to which falls most in line with your needs, the Chase Sapphire Reserve is the clear winner for me. Having had both in my wallet, it’s easier to use travel benefits, unbeatable insurance, and has better - for me - transfer partners. American Express has truly fabulous service and a great slate of partners, but most of it’s credits are just too restrictive, or have too much red tape, but the Chase Sapphire Reserve offers excellent value and uncompromising convenience. Its the one I’d add to your wallet.
This then begs the question: is it worth it to have both? My answer is that I’m not sold on that strategy. I got my American Express Platinum because of a targeted offer for 100,000 Points, as opposed to the 50,000 currently on offer, and decided that it was worth the $550 given the points alone were worth $1,100. For some people, both may make sense, but for me I think I’ll leave the Platinum behind in the future and stick to my Chase Sapphire Reserve.