Best reward credit cards for consulting – The Platinum Card® from American Express vs. Chase Sapphire Reserve®
Back in college, there was a one-word criteria that would entice us to grab a credit card with bonuses: free! Why would anyone pay hundreds of dollars a year for a credit card? Well, simply, with a certain lifestyle and the right card, you’ll easily make your money back and more, especially as a consultant putting thousands of dollars of travel spend per month on your personal card. Today, we compare two of the best credit cards for reward travel: The Platinum Card® from American Express vs. the Chase Sapphire Reserve®.
The preference between the credit card industry’s two premium options, the American Express Platinum and Sapphire Reserve, is a topic hotly debated amongst those in consulting. They both have high annual fees, sleek looks, and so many perks that it can be difficult to compare the two.
But have no fear – we did the research for you! Keep on reading to see which of these two credit card titans is best for you.
Signing up for the American Express Platinum will cost you a hefty $550 per year (plus $175 for up to 3 additional users), while the Sapphire Reserve will cost you a sizable $450 per year (plus $75 per additional user). But don’t worry, when used correctly, these annual fees will pay for themselves – as you’ll see below!
Winner: Unless you plan to have 3 additional users, the Sapphire Reserve is the winner with $100 less in annual fees.
The American Express Platinum provides $200 toward travel incidentals on one airline (baggage, in-flight meals flight meals, etc.) plus $200 in Uber credits per year (both automatically applied to statement), bringing the “real cost” of the annual fee down to $150.
On the other hand, the Sapphire Reserve allows for a little more flexibility in travel credit options with up to $300 in travel credits per year (automatically applied to your statement), bringing the “real cost” of the annual fee down to $150 as well.
Winner: We think the flexible $300 with the Sapphire Reserve is more attractive than $400 on just incidentals for 1 airline and Uber. Plus, once you have airline status, you’re not paying for bags anymore. However, depending on your situation, the American Express Platinum may make more sense for you.
Another important way to bring the “real cost” of your annual fee down is the welcome bonus.
The Chase Sapphire Reserve provides 50,000 Ultimate Rewards (UR) points after $4K spent in the first 3 months (worth $1,000 by TPG’s calculations).
Winner: This is a close one, so we’ll have to call it a tie. The Sapphire Reserve gives you $200 less in value, but for $1,000 less in required spend. For most of you, hitting the spend threshold won’t be an issue, so the American Express Platinum gives you better value ($200 in additional point value).
Here’s where things get interesting and the Sapphire Reserve differentiates itself as a much more enticing option.
The American Express Platinum offers 5X MR points per $1 on direct airfare purchases and prepaid hotel purchases made directly through Amex, and 1X MR point per $1 spent on everything else.
The Chase Sapphire Reserve offers 3X UR points for every $1 spent on travel and dining and 1 point per $1 spent on everything else.
Winner: The Sapphire Reserve by a long-shot. You will probably spend much more on dining over the course of a year than airfare, and Chase’s definition of “travel” is much more flexible (Uber, taxi, metro, etc.). In short – more opportunities to earn 3x points and business class on those long-haul flights!
Travel Benefits – Lounge Access
As consultant, airports around the world are practically your second home, so having great lounge access can drastically change your travel experience.
With the American Express Platinum, you gain membership to Priority Pass Select (2 free guests), Delta SkyClub when flying Delta (guests $29 each), Amex Centurion Lounges (2 free guests), and Airspace lounges (2 free guests).
For the Sapphire Reserve, you gain membership just to Priority Pass Select (2 free guests).
Winner: For the optionality, the American Express Platinum is the clear winner here.
Hotel Elite Status
While you may already earn hotel status from traveling constantly for your projects, this may come especially in handy for greener consultants who want instant hotel status.
This one is simple – the American Express Platinum comes with Marriott Bonvoy Gold Elite and Hilton Honors Gold status, while the Sapphire Reserve does not offer any hotel status benefits.
Winner: Clearly the American Express Platinum on this one.
Other Travel Perks
No one likes waiting in the TSA line, and with all the travel you’ll be doing – you can’t afford to not have PreCheck these days! Both credit cards offer TSA PreCheck or Global Entry credit once every 4 years, further bringing down the “real cost” of your annual fee.
In addition, the American Express Platinum provides complimentary Boingo WiFi access and $100 in Saks Fifth Ave. credit.
Winner: For the sweet additional perks, the American Express Platinum gets the nod.
With so much travel required on the job, travel insurance is an awesome perk these cards provide. Both provide a host of extras, including car rental insurance, baggage loss/damage reimbursement, and more.
However, the Sapphire Reserve provides primary rental coverage (American Express Platinum is secondary only) and baggage delay reimbursement of up to $100/day for 5 days (not offered by American Express Platinum).
Winner: For more peace of mind, go with the Chase Sapphire Reserve.
Ultimately, there is no right or wrong answer here. Both cards provide tremendous value, and the card you choose should depend on your lifestyle and amount of travel.
However, due to the flexibility of Chase Ultimate Rewards points, along with the 3X bonus on travel/dining, and the fact most consultants already have elite Marriott/Hilton status, we give the nod to the Chase Sapphire Reserve.
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