Amex Platinum Card & Chase Sapphire Reserve — Complements Or Substitutes?

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One question I get all the time from readers is whether I recommend The Platinum Card® from American Express or the  Chase Sapphire Reserve® Card. It’s a logical enough question, given that American Express and Chase are among the two biggest card issuers, and these are their two most popular premium, publicly available cards.

Even though the cards have similarities, to me they serve very different purposes, and I wouldn’t even consider them substitutes for one another, but rather complements. I get many people might not want to spend money on the annual fees of both cards, so let me break down why these cards serve such different purposes, and which makes the most sense for you.

Amex Platinum Card basics

The Amex Platinum has a $550 annual fee and offers:

  • A sign-up bonus of 60,000 Membership Rewards points after spending $5,000 within three months
  • A $200 annual airline fee credit
  • A $200 annual Uber credit
  • Access to Amex Centurion Lounges
  • Access to Delta SkyClubs when flying Delta same day
  • 5x points on airfare purchased directly from airlines
  • Hilton Honors and Starwood Gold status
  • A Priority Pass membership
  • A $100 Global Entry fee credit

The Amex Platinum Card comes with access to Amex Centurion Lounges

In order to simplify the math as much as possible, you’re paying $550 per year, but you get a $200 annual airline and Uber credit, both of which I value pretty close to face value. So to me that makes the real “out of pocket” on this card $150 per year, and for that I receive access to Amex Centurion Lounges, access to Delta SkyClubs, 5x points on airfare, and much more.

Chase Sapphire Reserve Card basics

The Chase Sapphire Reserve has a $450 annual fee and offers:

  • A sign-up bonus of 50,000 Ultimate Rewards points after spending $4,000 within three months
  • A $300 annual travel credit
  • 3x points on dining and travel
  • Fantastic car rental coverage, as well as travel and baggage protection
  • A Priority Pass membership
  • A $100 Global Entry fee credit

You can apply your travel credit towards the cost of virtually any flight

In order to simplify the math as much as possible, you’re paying $450 per year, but you get a $300 annual travel credit, which I value pretty close to face value. So to me that makes the real “out of pocket” on this card $150 per year, and for that I receive 3x points on dining and travel, excellent travel protection, and much more.

Why the cards are complements and not substitutes

To me, the only thing these cards have in common is that they both offer a Priority Pass membership and both offer a Global Entry fee credit. Neither of those are unique benefits for most premium cards. With that in mind, what do I recommend for people who ask me which card they should get?

  • Do you want an incredibly well rounded card that offers an excellent return on spend, big sign-up bonus, useful perks, and great travel protection? Get the Chase Sapphire Reserve.
  • Do you want the best credit card for airport lounge access, useful mid-tier hotel status with two programs, 5x points on airfare, a huge sign-up bonus, and more? Get the Amex Platinum.

Is it crazy to spend $1,000 per year in annual fees?

Personally I think it could make sense to get both the Amex Platinum and the Chase Sapphire Reserve. I have them both, and the math checks out, as far as I’m concerned.

I know some will say “it’s ridiculous for you to spend $1,000 in annual fees on two cards.” While I agree that’s a lot to pay upfront, I truly believe the real out of pocket for many will be closer to $150 per card after you factor in the $300 travel credit, $200 airline fee credit, and $200 Uber credit (each of which is an annual benefit).

That’s $700 in credits, which I value at pretty close to face value. For that I’m getting 5x points on airfare, 3x points on dining and travel, great travel protection, a Priority Pass membership, access to Amex Centurion Lounges, access to Delta SkyClubs, and much more.

Does anyone else have both the Amex Platinum and Chase Sapphire Reserve, and find them both to be worthwhile?

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  1. For earning points: the CSR and Amex Everyday Preferred compliment each other nicely
    For perks: the Amex Platinum is worth having

  2. Good post, Lucky- but there’s one tangible difference that people often neglect to recognize: the Chase airline credit can be used for airfare itself, but the AMEX can only be used for incidentals like baggage fee/meals, etc. So unless you check in a bag with regularity, I’d say the Chase is a big winner in this department.

    Also, while the Delta Lounge access with AMEX is nice for sure, it’s somewhat redundant given the Priority Pass access that both cards have.

    What I’d like to see is a calculation to show at what level of spending does having both cards become economical. Obviously for Lucky and other frequent travelers, having both may be beneficial but for most travelers one should suffice. What is the cut off for this distinction?

    For those of us who don’t s

  3. I have both and Citi Prestige as well. I don’t have any trouble justifying the cost. The main benefits of AmEx I can’t get elsewhere are the Centurion Lounge and FHR. Citi Prestige offers 4th Night free and slightly better travel insurance than CSR for everything but car rentals. CSR is especially valuable when combined with Chase Freedom, I could drop down to CSP but I really would only be saving $50 and would lose the 3x points on dining that I can’t get anywhere else. Another factor to consider is that each program has different transfer partners. By having all three I have the ability to transfer points in to many different programs.

  4. Great travel protection is somewhat dubious when you put 5x on airfare in the same sentence. Amex. Zero trip delay benefits which is really the most common/important protection feature.

  5. There have been many many post by all on Boarding Area regarding this issue, and I have yet to see someone make a compelling case for either one over the other. I just got my 2018 benefit notice from AMEX PLT today basically the same, as goes for CS. For everyday spend the CS is far more widely accepted for the obvious reasons. I find myself using the CS more and more as my everyday spend, my AMEX for air and hotels.

    It’s come down to preference and can you burn through the cash back on airline etc to justify fee.

    SO Lucky whats in your crystal ball?

  6. Is the current 60k signup bonus on AMEX Plat the standard or is that higher than the usual? Need some guidance on whether or not it would be worth it to try and wait for a higher signup bonus.

  7. A lot of places in Europe don’t accept Amex cards because the fees are higher. So Amex can never be my main card, and the Chase card does everything I need it for

  8. I plan on keeping the CSR and cancelling the Amex plat after a year. There aren’t enough Amex lounges to be worth it, the CSR priority pass is better, CSR has better car and travel insurance, the Amex travel credits are less flexible and useful, Amex is not accepted in as many places, Amex higher airfare and hotel earns are of limited use since I mostly use points for airfare/hotel anyway.

  9. Ben, if youre putting your airfare spend on the Plat, then you wouldn’t have access to the travel protection on the CSR, correct? So its really a moot point. I have the Plat amd am thinking of picking up the CSR soon to compliment. Thanks for the post.

  10. I def think it should be emphasized how situational the amex credits are. For YOU, they are worth face value because you would otherwise spend >$200 on domestic uber and you don’t mind going through the cheese of getting the credit applied to airline gift certs. Amex has /designed/ these benefits for maximum breakage (I’d be surprised if they actually budget a full $.50 for every $1 of uber credit).

    Really, the bottom line is that csr is for earning UR points, while the amex platinum is a status card. There is certainly value in having both (I have both), but the csr is worth it for a much broader base.

  11. @GuruJanitor: “Ben, if youre putting your airfare spend on the Plat, then you wouldn’t have access to the travel protection on the CSR, correct? So its really a moot point. ”

    that’s a good point!! thanks for bringing it in to the equation.

    Also am I correct that the $200 AMEX travel credit applies not only to incidentals only but also you have to choose just *ONE* airline. That’s pretty restrictive unless you live in a big hub city.

    Seems to me that if you’re going to just get one, and aren’t a massive spender, then the CSR gets the edge overall.

  12. Great article, Lucky! You’ve opened my eyes to the world of credit cards. Before, it was just miles to me but then the major US airlines started to have revenue based points, which makes slow accumulation, unlike with credit card bonus. (Seems to me it’s now the AAdvantage frequent credit card use program and SkyCreditCards, not SkyMiles, ha ha).

    Currently, I’m a credit card party pooper.

    Costco Anywhere Visa by Citi: annual fee zero but $60 Costco membership required. 3% travel (not as good as The Platinum Card by Amex in your article at 5x). 4% on gas.

    A 1.5% cash back card for general use (could do better with Citi Double Miles).

    Chase Freedom (not Freedom Unlimited) Visa with 5% rotating categories

    Citi Dividend Mastercard with 5% rotating categories, may be grandfathered, might be eliminated by Citi, nice to have a Mastercard instead of a Visa.

    $50 Nexus instead of Global Entry.

    Lucky’s way is a little better. Thanks, Lucky!

  13. @Adi_T: You are right about the travel credit. I live in NYC, and have it applied for Delta. I fly JetBlue most often, with most of my flying being between NYC and Boston for work, but have the JetBlue Plus mastercard, which waives my baggage fees, and gives me 50% off inflight purchases, so I would have no need to use the Plat benefit on B6.

    Last year I flew just one Delta flight where I had the opportunity to use the credit, and only used $29 of the fee credit (paying for my girlfriend’s admittance to the SkyClub at JFK), so I used the remaining credit at the end of December to buy Delta e-certs.

    Its very restrictive, yes, but I have been able to take advantage of it on Delta in the past. With more and more of my flying going to JetBlue I am seeing less incentive to use it. I still put a lot of spend on airfare though, so the 5x points and the Centurion access at LGA is worth it (although thats not even a perk anymore as JetBlue moved to terminal A). The Plat is pretty specific in who it can be beneficial to, but for me it works. Sometimes I think about ditching it for the CSR, but the airline partners of MR work for me better than UR, so its something I need to give a lot of thought to, and currently am just leaning to having them both.

  14. I’ve got both, and after almost cancelling the Amex Plat last year, I think I’ll keep both next year.

    I don’t get to use Centurion Lounges much, and as an AA frequent flyer, not a lot of value out of Skyclub access.

    Where I *do* get a lot of value out of the SPG Gold status by matching it to Marriott Gold status – I’ve consistently gotten suite upgrades at international Marriott properties, and I’ve had some exceptional free breakfasts (such as at the Amman Marriott).

    I also get some decent value out of the Amex offers on the Platinum, plus yes, the Uber and airline credits are worth pretty close to face value to me (once again got $200 in AA gift cards for 2018).

    I also keep another high annual fee card, the Citi AAdvantage Executive, open, as long as I’m flying on AA, because I get lots of value out of the Admirals Club membership – and partially because my parents get a total kick out of Admirals Club access as authorized users and that makes me happy.

  15. Ben how do you calculate if it is “worth it” to have both? I’d like to run the same analysis for myself to see if I should keep both cards.

  16. I have both, plus the Ritz card. I plan to drop the Ritz card or product change if possible. I like both, although I have the Bus. version that does not include the Uber feature, which they should since that is a normal business expense. I really wish both of these would allow on additional user for a lower cost.

    I will be picking up the Citi Prestige when my 2 years are up.

  17. I think one of the understated benefits of the Amex Plat is the Amex Offers. I use UberEats and the airline gc’s so by that math, I’m paying $150 extra. I ended up getting $240 in statement credits for 2017 so I think I came out ahead even before the Centurion Lounge visits. I think I also took advantage of some Membership Reward bonuses too. Each person’s spend is different, but I think you can probably make a case to carry multiple cards if the net costs are used.

    For the Citi Prestige, the 4th night free is great when I can use it(which is about once a year). The retention offers generally make it worth keeping for me. Just using the 4th night free once a year pretty much pays for the net annual fee.

  18. I have both but should probably drop the AMEX. The value I get out of the AMEX benefits I doubt I’d pay for; 10 gogo passes, AMEX Lounge access (even though I fly to DFW a lot), hotel status. CSR gets me National car rental status…seems like I rarely use the AMEX Biz Plat, I’ll cash in 2018’s airline credits and then cancel when the next annual fee is due, holding it just to get in the AMEX lounge doesn’t make sense, even with the $200 fees credits. Other than that it’s just hotel status.

  19. One benefit not mentioned for the Amex Plat card is all of the perks you get when you stay at one of the hotels listed in the Platinum benefits group. Even if you only use it once/year, the free breakfasts (GOOD breakfasts), upgrades, early/late checkouts & a an extra $100 perk (spa, dinner, varies) adds quite a bit of value.

  20. You forgot to mention Amex isnt widely accepted outside the US, which is a huge downside.

    CSR it is.

  21. This entire article is based on the premise that one has the ability to obtain either card. Unfortunately in my case, the stupid Chase 5/24 rule prevents me from getting the CSR or CSP cards. Good point made previously about AMEX being less widely accepted…but I still like this metal version of the Plat card…definitely impresses merchants, which is really important…

  22. I have the AMEX Biz Plat card for ‘status symbol’, otherwise I could do without it because for everything else I have the CSR (+CFU), which if you don’t got, you must get!

  23. I have both but get increasingly less benefit out of Amex since getting the CSR (hardly ever use the Centurion lounge, and now the Polaris lounge in ORD is a game changer for me as mostly flying international to and from ORD). The best remark I saw in the earlier comments is the obvious catch that you only get the travel benefits when you use the card for airfare. It also seems that UR points are worth more than Amex points and I hardly ever can use the Amex airline credit on United.
    I will most likely drop the Amex card this year.

  24. There’s also the Amex Cruise Privileges Program. If you have the Amex Platinum card you can receive up to $300 onboard credit for many cruise lines (you do need to pay for the cruise with an Amex card, not necessarily the Platinum). I usually take a couple of cruises a year so that extra $600 makes the Amex Plat worthwhile.

  25. I have them both. Some redundancy but those two cards together pretty much max you out on benefits. Only worth getting if you can stomach the FEE’s and that you Travel enough.

  26. I have both cards and I am planning to close the AMEX platinum after this year (didn’t get around to it prior to my 2018 $550 charge). Fairly redundant. Also, the hotel perks often make the room cost more and aren’t actually worth it, which was a disappointment.

  27. One thing to keep in mind is that

    1) Uber credit are per month, so it is use it or lose it vs. being able to use that total amount per year.

    2) AMEX travel credit isnt valid on actual flights

    3) YMMV w Hotel Perks dependent on the area and chain you use

    4) Warranty protection with CSR is via Visa. which from personal experience is much more of a hassle when you get to larger ticket items when compared to AMEX or even DISCOVER in my experience.

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