Amex Platinum Or Chase Sapphire Reserve For Flights?


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Earlier in the week I called the Chase Sapphire Reserve credit card my favorite credit card and that led to a reader question which I thought was worth sharing.

Max emailed me to ask the following:

“You said that the Chase Sapphire Reserve is your favorite credit card but you have said in the past that you use your Platinum card to book your flights. If you’re putting all your flights on the Platinum card how come the Reserve card is so good for you?”

 There are two main points to address here:

  1. Which cards do I use when booking flights?
  2. What else is the Chase Sapphire Reserve credit card useful for?

Which Card(s) Do I Use When Booking Flights

It’s true to say that I use my Platinum Card from American Express to book a lot of my airfares because I like the 5 Membership Rewards Points/dollar I earn when I do so….but I definitely don’t use my Platinum card for all my flights.

You should always make sure you understand all the benefits and restrictions of a credit card before you use it and the Amex Platinum card has two restrictions which sometimes kick in.

Restriction 1 – You have to book direct with airlines or through Amex Travel

In order to earn 5 Membership Rewards Points/dollar on airfares through the Amex Platinum card you have to book the airfare direct with the airlines or through Amex Travel and sometimes that’s not practical.

Sometimes the good airfares I find aren’t offered on the airlines’ own websites (for a variety of reasons) and often they’re only offered on a limited number of online travel sites (a Virgin Atlantic fare between LA and Helsinki that I wrote about recently is a good example of this).

The Amex Platinum card isn’t much use to me if I want to book one of these fares (I would only earn 1 point/dollar) but, because the Chase Sapphire Preferred card offers 3 points/dollar on all travel, it’s a very good alternative.

Restriction 2 – No trip delay protection

American Express cards can offer some very good benefits but trip delay protection isn’t one of them. I don’t know a single Amex card that offers this coverage but the Chase Sapphire Reserve does.

Here’s the specific paragraph from the Reserve card’s list of benefits:

If your common carrier travel is delayed more than 6 hours or requires an overnight stay, you and your family are covered for unreimbursed expenses, such as meals and lodging, up to $500 per ticket.

Review: Los Angeles Airport Marriott
Marriott LAX

Most of the time this doesn’t really factor into my thinking and I go ahead and use my Platinum card to book my flights (because I like earning 5 points/dollar) but sometimes I feel like I should be a little more careful.

If I’m traveling through an area where, at the time of year I’m traveling, delays are not uncommon (the Northeast in winter for example), I’ll book my flights with a credit card that will cover me if I get stuck overnight.

I’ll also avoid using my Platinum card if I can see the potential for other issues to cause me problems.

Take these two flights that I’m taking next year as an example:

I’ve left myself with a layover of approximately 1.5 hours in Dallas and, although that should be more than enough, it wouldn’t take too much for my reasonably comfortable connection to suddenly become very tight.

Not only is this trip taking place in the winter (a time when Dallas can get hit by bad weather) but AA78 is the last American Airlines flight to London that night (there’s a BA flight at 10pm).

Should I somehow miss my connection (bad weather, mechanical issues etc..) and the BA flight is full I’d probably find myself stuck in Dallas overnight – I’d far rather get my own hotel and have it covered by my credit card than rely on American Airlines to take care of me.

What Else Is The Chase Sapphire Reserve Useful For?

The Sapphire Reserve card isn’t my favorite card because it can occasionally help me out when my Amex Platinum card is a poor option – it’s my favorite card because it earns me a currency I love (Ultimate Rewards points) on a lot of things I generally spend my money on.

It’s important to remember that the Chase Sapphire Reserve earns 3 points/dollar on all travel  so, whether I buying subway tickets in London, Star Ferry tickets in Hong Kong or using Uber in LA, I’m earning triple points every time.

The credit card also earns me 3 points/dollar when I eat out and, because most bars serve food and so code as “dining” on Visa’s systems, it also earns me 3 points/dollar every time I go out for a drink with friends.

Bottom Line

There isn’t a single credit card that I can think of that is good for all situations (which is partly why I hold so many credit cards) but the Chase Sapphire Reserve is the one card that never leaves my wallet.

It’s often not the best card to use when I’m booking flights (which is when I use my Amex Platinum card) but considering how much other travel I book, how often I eat out and how much I love Ultimate rewards points, it’s still easily my favorite card.

What card(s) do you use when booking flights?

2 COMMENTS

  1. Another factor to “factor in” to this discussion is the versatility of Chase UR points versus Amex MR points, and which each particular individual finds more valuable to his or her plans. Yes, both are transferable, but that’s only valuable is there is a favored place to transfer them to.

    As of February 2018, for example, Starpoints (SPG) were the only transfer partner of Alaska Airlines, which I now fly frequently since they took over Virgin America. But I digress…

    According to their website, Amex transfers to Air Canada, Alitalia, Cathay Pacific, British Airways, Delta and Etihad — six airlines. According to *their* website, Chase transfers to AirFrance, British Airways, KLM, Korean Air, Singapore, Southwest, United, and Virgin Atlantic — eight airlines. And while both have transfer partners in each alliance, BA is the only direct overlap. And, of course, Citi and SPG (“Marriwood” going forward) each have their own transfer partners…

    Bottom line: No one size fits all, or “There isn’t a single credit card that I can think of that is good for all situations…”

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