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Travel credit card competition heats up with revamped AMEX Platinum

Last month, Chase (JPM) released the Sapphire Reserve credit card, which many touted as the best travel credit card ever created and has developed a cult following. In fact, so many people applied for it that Chase ran out of the metal used to make the sleek card, and had to send out plastic replacements to thousands of customers.

While that card received a lot of attention from the media, the American Express Platinum card (AXP) quietly rolled out some new travel features on Thursday, which definitely give the Chase Sapphire Reserve a run for its money. The battleground for credit card customer loyalty is heating up, and travelers are definitely the ones reaping the benefits.

So which card is superior? Let’s compare.

First, we’ll list the similarities. Both cards come with a steep $450 annual fee, a tough pill to swallow no matter how you look at it. Both cards also come with a $100 credit for Global Entry and TSA precheck, which is added to your card every five years on the American Express Platinum card and every four years on the Chase Sapphire Reserve card.

When it comes to airport lounges, both cards provide users with a complimentary Priority Pass Select membership, which gives travelers access to more than 900 airport lounges around the world. Purchased on its own, standard Priority Pass Select membership costs $99 a year. As for rental cars, users can enjoy special rental privileges with select carriers on both cards.

And finally, neither card imposes a foreign transaction fee, which can save you up to 3% on purchases made outside the United States.

Now to the differences, and there are quite a few.

Sign-up bonus

Amex Platinum users will earn 40,000 bonus points (worth about $400 in travel) after using their card to make $3,000 in purchases in the first three months. This falls way short of the 100,000 points awarded to Chase Sapphire Reserve card holders, who have to spend $4,000 in the first three months to get their points. Those 100,000 points equal $1,500 when you redeem the travel through Chase Ultimate rewards.

Points

Amex Platinum card holders will get five points for every $1 spent on flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel. This means it will be easier to accumulate points as long as you don’t book flights through a third party like Priceline.

In comparison, the Sapphire Reserve awards three points for every dollar spent on airfare, hotels, taxis, and trains, regardless of where you book it. Cardholders also earn three points for every dollar they spend on restaurants around the world. And if that wasn’t enough, you also get 50% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards

Airline credit

The Platinum card comes with a $450 annual fee, but one thing that eases that cost is the $200 airline fee credit. After selecting a qualifying airline, card users can get up to $200 a year in statement credits for incidental fees. Meaning, if you assign Delta as your preferred airline, you’ll get a $200 credit to cover things like baggage fees, upgrade fees and inflight meals charged to your Platinum card.

For the Chase Sapphire Reserve card, the statement credit is bigger and less restrictive. Their $300 annual travel credit is automatically added to your statement as reimbursement for any travel-related purchases charged to your card.

Airport wi-fi

While more and more airports are installing free wi-fi, finding a connection can still be hit or miss when traveling around the US. So it’s especially beneficial that American Express Platinum comes with complimentary access to unlimited wi-fi at more than a million hotspots worldwide with the Boingo American Express Preferred Plan.

The Chase Sapphire Reserve does not have an option like this. However, card users have access to more than 900 airport lounges which almost always have free wi-fi.

Hotels

There are definitely some perks to using your American Express Platinum card to book hotels. Card users can upgrade to Starwood Preferred Guest Gold Status without meeting any of the requirements. Likewise, users will automatically get Hilton Hhonors Gold Status, which will help them earn reward status faster at Hilton properties.

If travelers book their hotel stay through American Express Travel, they can receive a $75 hotel credit to be used on dining, spa and resort activities. To earn the credit, guests must stay a minimum of two consecutive nights at one of the properties in Hotel Collection. Guests will also receive a room upgrade, if available.

And finally, those card holders choosing to book through Fine Hotels and Resorts (the American Express hotel booking platform) get daily breakfast for two, room upgrades when available, complimentary wi-fi and a $100 amenity credit.

The Chase Sapphire Reserve card says that card holders will receive exclusive benefits at the Luxury Hotel & Resort Collection, but we were unable to find details on what that includes.

Transfer points

With the American Express Platinum card, consumers can transfer their points to a participating Frequent Flyer program, like Delta SkyMiles. A fee of 0.0006 per point will be charged to your credit card account. There is a maximum fee of $99, and the company may offer cardholders the option to redeem points to cover this fee.

Over at Chase, Sapphire Reserve cardholders get a 1:1 point transfer to leading airline programs, like United MileagePlus. Points can also be transferred to hotel loyalty programs like Marriott Rewards and IHG Rewards Club.

Verdict?

We can’t say which card is better or worse: both have plenty of attractive features for travelers. With the American Express Platinum card, customers have to spend less upfront to get their bonus points. And earning five points for every dollar spent is a feature unmatched by any other card. There also seems to be more perks when customers choose to book hotels through the company.

On the other hand, the 100,000 bonus points Chase Sapphire Reserve cardholders get after signing up and spending the required amount is a major selling point. Cardholders also have more freedom when it comes to how they earn points. Sure, they only get three points for every dollar spent on airfare, but they can book it wherever they want and it also applies to hotels and taxis. The $300 travel credit also comes with fewer strings than the Amex Platinum’s $200 airline fee credit.

Ultimately, consumers have to select that card that works best for them. Regardless of which you choose, it’s clear travelers have more options than ever before.

Brittany is a writer at Yahoo Finance.

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