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If you ask around, you’re likely to hear that two of the best travel cards on the market today are the Chase Sapphire Preferred (CSP) and the American Express Premier Rewards Gold (PRG) cards. Each has its own advantages and benefits, like nice sign-up bonuses and great transfer partners, so let’s take a closer look and you can decide if one (or both) of these cards appeal to you and meets your travel credit card needs.
Here’s my comparison of the Amex PRG & Chase Sapphire Preferred.
Chase Sapphire Preferred
The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is currently offering a great sign-on bonus of 50,000 points after you spend $4,000 within the first 3 months of having the card. This translates into at least $625 of travel dollars when you redeem using the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal. You can get more value by transferring your Ultimate Rewards points out to travel partners, but more on that later. There is an annual fee of $95, which is waived during the first year.
Per the t&c’s: You’re eligible for the offer on the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card as long as it’s been 24 months from the last time you received a bonus offer on the card. Plus, you most likely NOT to be approved if you’ve applied for 5+ credit cards in the last 24 months.
Points earning potential is solid with the Chase Sapphire Preferred. You can earn two points for every dollar spent on travel and restaurant dining, and one point for every dollar spent on all other purchases.
The Chase Sapphire Preferred offers great personal security features, with Chip technology built in to protect your personal information and decrease the potential for fraud, and so you can use it internationally. Additional benefits for the Sapphire Preferred include: no foreign transaction fees, primary CDW on car rentals, and $10,000 trip cancellation insurance. It’s also a Visa Signature card, so it includes additional benefits like free movies, hotel discounts, and wine tastings.
What You Can Do With Ultimate Rewards Points
Redemption options are flexible and can be made through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal for travel, merchandise, gift cards and cash back. But like I mentioned before, the real value is in transferring your Ultimate Rewards points out to travel partners.
The Chase Ultimate Rewards partners enable you to use your points for domestic or international flights, hotels worldwide, and more. Talk about options!
Transferring to Airlines
You can transfer your Ultimate Rewards points to Southwest, British Airways, or United for domestic flights. Southwest often has award fare sales, so it’s not hard to get a ticket around 10,000 points one-way or under. But my favorite way to fly domestically is through British Airways where Avios award flights start at 7,500 miles. You can fly American Airlines, Alaska Air, Hawaiian Air, and US Airways with Avios, too, since they are partner airlines.
There are a lot of ways to use Ultimate Rewards points for international flights. You can transfer them to United, and it’s only 60,000 miles for a round-trip economy ticket to Europe.
Ok, ok, ok, but the real value of Ultimate Rewards points is finding a way to use them for business or first class international flights. A couple of years ago, my wife and I with another couple flew in Singapore Suites Class. This was a ticket that would’ve cost $15,000, but I was able to redeem it by transferring UR points to Singapore Airlines.
Transferring to Hotels
The hotel transfer partners of Chase’s Ultimate Rewards program also rock. I’ve had some incredible Hyatt stays by transferring my UR points for award stays or cash & points stays. But the best hotel transfer value is if you can book an IHG Pointbreaks award stay, which is only 5,000 points a night.
American Express Premier Rewards Credit Card
The American Express Premier Rewards Credit card currently has a public sign-on bonus offer of 25,000 Membership Rewards points after you spend only $2,000 in the first three months that you have the card. But some people are seeing an offer for a 50,000 version after clicking the link.
It’s worth mentioning that you can only receive the sign-up bonus once in a lifetime on a personal Amex credit card.
The Amex PRG lets you earn 3X points for flights booked directly with airlines. 2X points at US restaurants, US gas stations, and at US supermarkets. 1X points on other purchases. You also receive these perks:
- No Foreign Transaction Fees.
- $100 Airline Fee Credit. Up to $100 a calendar year for baggage fees at one airline.
- Get a $75 hotel credit on qualifying charges, plus a room upgrade upon arrival, when available with The Hotel Collection
Membership Rewards points can be redeemed for travel, gift cards, merchandise and entertainment options. Like the Sapphire Preferred, the most flexible way to redeem your points is by transferring them out to travel partners (more on that later).
There is an annual fee of $195, which is waived for the first year. One thing to consider about the American Express Premier Rewards Credit Card is that it’s a charge card, so you must pay your balance in full each month. This means you will never carry a balance, and never pay any interest on your purchases. There are penalty fees of up to $38 per month when you do not pay your balance in full each month.
Having an Amex card can also open additional savings through Shop Small Saturday, Amex Offers, and Amex Twitter Offers.
What You Can Do With Amex Membership Rewards Points
Alright, so what can you do with American Express Membership Rewards points? The best value is found in transferring your MR points out to travel partners, specifically airlines (the MR hotels have a bad transfer rate). And sometimes Amex will even offer a transfer bonus. Those are glorious. The Amex Membership Rewards airline transfer partners are:
Singapore Airlines and British Airways are also a transfer partner of American Express Membership Rewards, which is sweet. I’ve used them in conjunction with my Chase Ultimate Rewards for a booking many times.
MR points can also be transferred out to Delta SkyMiles, but I’m not even going to go there unless I absolutely have to…. I do like the option to transfer MR points out to ANA and Aeroplan. You can fly any airline in the Star Alliance (like United) with ANA or Aeroplan miles, and they have some award chart gems.
For example, flying to Europe on United round-trip in business class will only cost you 85,000 ANA miles. That’s a deal. There are no one-way award flights with ANA, but you can have up to three stopovers. And fuel surcharges and taxes will vary on flights. ANA has a very useful search engine for Star Alliance flights. Lufthansa First Class anyone?
Aeroplan is also an interesting option. Watch out for fuel surcharges and taxes, but you can book one-way award flights. A one-way business class award to Europe on United is only 55,000 points. Not too shabby.
Is the Chase Sapphire Preferred or Premier Rewards Gold Right For You?
Both the Chase Sapphire Preferred and the American Express Premier Rewards Gold cards have great benefits. I prefer the Sapphire Preferred’s sign-up bonus over the public 25k Amex PRG offer, but if you’re able to get the 50k Amex PRG offer, it’s a close call.
When considering annual fees, it is first important to realize that both cards waive the annual fee for the first year. After the first year, the Chase Sapphire is much less expensive each year. Both products can be downgraded to a no annual fee card, but you will lose out on some perks and flexibility of the points.
Both cards have great rewards options. The American Express Premier Rewards Gold card offers a faster accumulation, by offering triple points on flights and double points on gas and groceries, but the CSP does get 2x on travel and dining.
The Ultimate Rewards and Membership Rewards programs are both great and offer many ways to get great value out of your points. In the end, I would prefer to earn Ultimate Rewards, since they are a little more flexible. But earning both UR and MR points is a strategy of mine, and having both of these rewards cards makes more sense to me than either/or.
I hope this helps if you’re trying to decide between the Chase Sapphire Preferred and Amex Premier Rewards Gold card.
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Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided by any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.