The Jet-Setter’s Guide to Luxury Travel Rewards Cards

Travel rewards can do much more than save you a ton of money. They can also provide ludicrously luxurious benefits suites for the individual who is always on the move, jumping from country to country, visiting new cities on a regular basis. Do you fancy yourself as a bit of a jet-setter? Are you someone who regularly stays in hotels? Then a travel rewards card could most definitely be worth your consideration. In this article we look at two of the most top-tier luxury travel cards and the insane benefits (and potentially more insane annual fees) that come with them; The American Express Platinum and the Chase Sapphire Reserve.

American Express Platinum Card

With an extravagant suite of rewards and benefits (and literally being made out of metal) the Amex Platinum Charge Card is the definition of luxury. However luxury comes at a cost, that cost being specifically $550 per year. In order to offset this cost, you will need to spend roughly $8000 per year earning 5 points per dollar. However, if you utilize the full suite of benefits it will cost you less to break even and allow you to get more value than you paid for. Let’s take a look at this card in detail.

 

Rewards

 

  • 5x Membership Rewards points per dollar on flights booked directly with airlines or American Express Travel

  • 5x Membership Rewards points per dollar on eligible hotels booked through amextravel.com

  • 1x Membership Rewards point per dollar on all other purchases

  • Signup bonus: Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards points for spending $5000 on purchases in the first 3 months

 

Rewards Redemption Methods

 

  1. Normal redemption methods (flight, hotel reservations, gift cards): up to 5% cash back equivalent

  2. Statement credit: up to 3% cash back equivalent

  3. Point transfer to frequent traveler program: highly variable cash back, equal to 7%+ in some cases

 

The rewards of the Platinum card are tailored for jet-setters and intrepid travelers — those who regularly find themselves jetting off on flights and staying in hotels. If you are the jet-setting type, the rewards suite of the Platinum Card could be hugely valuable.

 

The holder of this card can get up to 5 points on the dollar on the travel expenses stated above, which can equate to up to 5% cashback through normal redemption methods. If you transfer your points to frequent traveler programs you can receive even more value, potentially being upwards of 7% cash back.

 

The Platinum Card also comes with a substantial signup bonus of 60,000 Membership Rewards points if you spend $5000 in the first 3 months. If you were to redeem your points normally, that would equate to around $600, which can cover your first year’s annual fee.

 

Amex Platinum Card Benefits Suite

 

The best value you can derive from the Platinum Card is not actually from its rewards, but rather its vast and lavish benefits suite. It is also entirely possible to negate the $550 annual fee through benefits alone. Being a luxury travel rewards cards, the Platinum Card benefits are bespoke for the intrepid traveler and can bring them massive value. The list of the Platinum Card benefits is both long and varied. This summary contains what we deem to be the most valuable benefits to the modern-day jet-setter.

  • Unrivaled airport lounge access – Platinum cardholders get access to over 1000+ airports in 120+ countries. There is also the option to bring 2 guests.

  • A personal 24/7 concierge – Platinum holders have access to their own personal concierge who can carry out a range of non-emergency tasks, including organizing show tickets and restaurant reservations.

  • $200 airline fee credit – Each year a Platinum Card holder can receive a $200 statement of credit in fees for one airline of the cardholders choosing. These fees include items such as baggage fees or on flight meals and drinks.

  • $200 in Uber credit – Card holders will receive $15 credit for Uber each month, except December in which $35 credit will be given. These Uber credits can be used for both Uber and UberEATS.

  • Fee Credit for Global Entry or TSA Precheck – Global Entry and TSA Precheck are programs that offer expedited screening at airports. A cardholder can choose one of these programs and Amex will refund the fee. The fee is $100 for Global Entry and $85 for TSA Precheck.

  • The Fine Hotels & Resorts Collection – If you book a stay of 2 nights or more through the Hotels Collection website you will get additional benefits. These benefits can include room upgrades, daily breakfasts for two, $75 credit for eligible charges upon checking out and more.

  • Membership Experiences Entertainment Access – This service provides pre-sale tickets to a variety of sports, music, cultural events and access to exclusive bespoke events.

 

The Bottom Line

 

It is clear that the Amex Platinum Card was designed for the modern day jet-setter. With jaw-dropping rewards and benefits but a lofty $550 annual fee, it is clear that this is not a card for everyone. Do your homework and figure out if you can make this card put cash back in your pocket rather than taking it away.

Chase Sapphire Reserve

Like its Amex competitor, the Chase Sapphire Reserve is top-tier metal travel rewards card, designed for the jet-setting lifestyle. It also carries significant dining rewards, so if you find yourself wining and dining on your travels this card could be a fantastic addition to your wallet. While not as high as the Amex Platinum, the Sapphire reserve still has a considerable annual fee at $450 per year. However, if you spend more than $3,300 on travel per year, this card can help you recuperate this annual fee and save money. Let’s look at a breakdown of the Sapphire Reserve.

 

Rewards

 

  • 3x Ultimate Rewards points per dollar on all travel (airfare, hotels, car rentals, taxis, etc.)

  • 3x Ultimate Rewards points per dollar on dining

  • 1x Ultimate Rewards point per dollar on all other purchases

  • Signup bonus: 50,000 points for spending $4000 in the first 3 months

  • Referral bonus: 10,000 points for each friend you refer who gets the Sapphire Reserve card (up to 5 a year)

 

Rewards Redemption Methods

 

  • Ultimate Rewards travel portal: When points are redeemed through this portal Chase gives 50% point bonus, equating to 1.5 cents a point.

  • Transfer to travel partners: Cardholders can transfer points at a rate of 1:1 to a number of travel partners.

  • Statement credit: If points are claimed as a statement credit, a cardholder will receive 1 cent per point.

  • Gift cards: Point values can differ, but it is generally 1 cent per point or less.

  • Pay with Points with Chase Pay: Points can be used at certain merchants like Amazon, but cardholders will only receive 0.8 cents per point.

 

Similar to the Amex Platinum, The Sapphire Reserve rewards are geared towards the intrepid traveler with 3 points per dollar on all travel-related purchases. However, unlike its competitor, the Sapphire Reserve also comes with a significant dining rewards rate at 3 points per dollar on eating out. Generally, the best rewards redemption method is through the Ultimate Rewards travel portal, as this will give you a 50% bonus, which equates to 1.5 cents per point. This effectively means you will be earning 4.5% cashback on the 3% categories through this method.

 

The signup bonus is also substantial. If you redeem the 50,000 bonus points through the Ultimate Rewards Portal, this will equate to $750.

 

It should be noted that while the Sapphire Reserve may not provide as high cash back rate as the Amex Platinum on travel it is far broader in what it can encompass. It offers rewards on all general travel expenses. The Amex Platinum is more limited in how you can earn points, as to earn points you need to book travel arrangements in certain ways.

Chase Sapphire Reserve Card Benefits Suite

 

As with most luxury travel cards, the star of the Sapphire Reserve show is the incredible benefits suite. The Sapphire Reserve comes with a wide array of benefits including but not limited to:

 

  • $300 Annual Travel Credit – This is an annual travel credit that can be applied to any travel related expenses.

  • Visa Infinite Concierge – This gives cardholders a personal assistant, to assist with non-emergency related requested, such as dinner reservations, event tickets and travel plans.

  • Priority Pass Select Membership – Cardholders get access to over 1000 airport lounges worldwide.

  • Luxury Hotel & Resorts Collection – If you book a stay of 2 nights or more through the Hotels Collection website you will get additional benefits. These benefits can include room upgrades, daily breakfasts for two, $75 credit for eligible charges upon checking out and more.

  • Global Entry or TSA PreCheck Application Fee Credit – Both of these services offer expedited screening at airports. Chase will refund the application fee for one of these programs.

  • Special Car Rental Privileges – This benefit offers perks at car rental companies such as rental upgrades, discounts, and frequent promotional offers

  • Chase Experiences – This provides cardholders with access to bespoke sports, entertainment and dining events, as well as travel opportunities.

 

The Bottom Line

If you fancy yourself as a jet-setter and gourmand, the Chase Sapphire Reserve is definitely worth a consideration with its substantial rewards in both dining and traveling. It is easily one of the best all-purpose travel cards on the market. As with all luxury travel rewards cards, the significant annual fee is something that has to be contemplated. However, if you utilize the benefits as much as possible, it is easy to offset the annual fee and profit from keeping this card in your wallet.

Comparing the Platinum Card and the Sapphire Reserve Card

 

Both the Platinum Card and Reserve Card are formidable opponents in the travel rewards card category. However, there are some notable differences between both that should be factored into your decision making. There is no clear winner in this bout, but there are areas where one card shines over the other

American Express Platinum Advantages

 

The Platinum Card has a number of superior benefits to the Reserve card, most notably the wider array of airport lounges, elite hotel status, and the $200 Uber credits.

 

The Amex Platinum Card is more limited in scope than the Sapphire Reserve in terms of travel rewards, but it has the potential to be more rewarding. You are able to earn the equivalent of 5% cash back on flight and hotels booked on AmexTravel.com  when regular redemption methods, or potentially 7% plus cash back through points transfers. Both these rates beat the Sapphire Reserve rates.

Chase Sapphire Reserve Advantages

 

While the Amex Platinum has a higher travel cash back rate, its rewards program is more finicky as it centered around the Amex Travel Service. It only provides its 5x rate when booking travel through the Amex Travel Service portals. On the other hand, the Sapphire Reserve travel rewards category encompasses all travel related expenses put on the card.

 

The Reserve has a lower annual fee of $450, $100 less than the Platinum’s lofty $550. The Reserve’s annual travel credit also trumps the Platinum’s, being $300 ($100 higher than the Platinum’s annual travel credits). The Reserve Card travel credits can also be used for effectively any travel expenses instead of just fees on one airline.

 

If you regularly dine out, the Reserve can provide significantly better rewards than the Platinum, as it earns 3 points per dollar on dining expenses.

 

The Reserve’s sign-up bonus also provides a better deal, offering 50,000 points when you spend $4000 in the first 3 months. This equates to $750 when points are redeemed through Chase’s travel portal compared to the Platinum’s bonus points, equating to $600.

 

With excellent credit and a large income required, it is clear that these two cards are not for everyone. They were designed with the international jet-setter in mind. With great rewards and insane benefits, either of these luxury travel cards can make a fine addition to an intrepid travelers wallet. Even if money is not your primary concern, it is worth studying the benefits of these cards and getting maximum value for the huge annual fees attached to both cards.