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Credit Cards: Chase Sapphire P/R vs. American Express Platinum

A friend of mine asked me for help to evaluate whether to get the Chase Sapphire Preferred or the Reserve. I came up with this comparison of benefits with perks quantified. My conclusion was that, given the higher signup bonus for the Preferred, it makes most sense to get it, then product-change to the Reserve for longer-term benefits (i.e. higher bonuses on dining and travel, $300 annual travel credit, and Global Entry).

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I posted this on Twitter and Jack Coleman asked me to do a comparison of the Chase Sapphire Reserve vs. the American Express Platinum, so here we are past 1:30am writing about it for fun. This is a lot more nuanced since they are different banks, offer points in different systems, and the utilization of those points is very different.

Truly, the choice (and analyses) between the Chase Sapphire Reserve card and American Express Platinum card is ages old. It’s been exhaustively discussed (The Points Guy, Nerdwallet (outdated)) so I’ll try not to re-hash any details but rather go through my personal thinking. I'll start by saying I don't have the American Express Platinum but have had my Chase Sapphire Reserve since it became available (~2016).

Different perks

The AmEx gets $200 for airline incidentals (e.g. checked bags, in-air refreshments), $300/yr for Equinox, $200/yr for Uber (+1yr of UberEats Pass), and Global Entry. There are others (statement credits for Saks Fifth Ave, CLEAR, and $200 hotel credits booked through the AmEx portal) but these are the ones I think about. In comparison, the Chase Sapphire Reserve gives a blanket $300 travel credit, 1yr of DoorDash DashPass, and 15% off Lyft rides with Lyft Pink. If you can utilize all the statement credits, the cash value of the Platinum outweighs the Reserve. Personally I wouldn’t maximize the value of all the perks (e.g. if I have Global Entry, I’m not going to pay more for CLEAR; I might not pay $200 in checked bag fees since I fly a lot of Southwest, I might book Airbnbs over AmEx travel portal hotels, etc.)

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Lounges:

The Chase Sapphire Reserve allows a Priority Pass Membership, which gives complimentary access to >1,000 lounges worldwide. Personally I’ve found these more common in international airports. The Platinum gives Priority Pass but also includes AmEx Centurion lounges and Delta Sky Clubs. Naturally, the Platinum wins for lounge value.

Different Earning Potential

I almost always think of the long-term when evaluating which card(s) to get. The AmEx gets 10x points on Restaurants and “Small Businesses” in the first 6 months up to $25,000. This is meaningful in the short term if you can hit the max. Beyond the first six months, you can get 5x on flights and 5x on hotels if you book through AmEx travel. The Reserve wins for me here with 3x points on Dining and 3x on Travel with no time constraint. However if you can fully utilize the AmEx first 6 months, it's worth more.

Different Transfer Partners:

This is the most important difference. After you’ve accrued either AmEx Membership Rewards points (‘MR’) or Chase Ultimate Rewards Points (‘UR’), how will you spend it? Both cards offer a $0.01 cents per point conversion for cash back, which is the minimum value you can get for your points. To maximize your points beyond $0.01 or $0.015 (guaranteed by Chase), you’d have to transfer to partners. Generally I value points transferred at $0.02/point for economy flights and up to $0.15/point for Business/First Class flights. These are the partners that you can transfer points 1:1 with:

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AmEx transfer partners | Chase transfer partners

The reason these partners are so important depends on your travel wants. Personally, I utilize a lot of west coast flights and fly Southwest a lot. AmEx doesn’t transfer to Southwest, so it’s less useful long term. Similarly, if someone wanted to save for the Etihad Residence, it would be very difficult to do so via Chase points.

My quick summary (since it is way past my bedtime): The American Express Platinum signup bonus (100,000 Membership Rewards Points) is monetarily more valuable than the Chase Sapphire Reserve (60,000 Ultimate Rewards Points at this time). However I'd recommend getting card(s) in the ecosystem you expect to use more often (i.e. the transfer partners from each card) since the signup bonus is good for only ~1 roundtrip intl economy flight.

I'll leave you with the /r/churning recommendation flowchart (last updated 7/13/2021) as a quick guide on which cards are also worth getting (and in what order)

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