As A Frequent Traveler These Are The Two Premium Cards I Won’t Do Without


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When it comes to the credit cards that I choose hold I like to keep things simple – I want my credit card spending to earn me as many points as possible without falling into the trap of paying excessive annual fees all while keeping a balanced portfolio of currencies to protect myself from an unexpected devaluation.

My Situation

My personal circumstances see me traveling a lot and see me spending a considerable amount of time outside of the US and both of these factors play a significant role in my decision making when it comes to choosing which credit/charge cards to hold.

I spend a disproportionate amount of my time passing though LAX

Out of all my expenses that can be charged to a credit or charge card the top four are as follows (in no particular order):

  • Airfare
  • Other travel costs (hotels, trains, car hire, etc…)
  • Groceries
  • Dining

With groceries being one of my top three costs you could be forgiven for thinking that a credit card that offers an excellent return for spending at supermarkets (e.g. the $250/year American Express Gold Card) would be one of my priorities…but it isn’t.

While groceries make up a significant percentage of my annual spending, that spending is split pretty evenly between groceries purchased in the US and groceries purchased abroad and all credit cards that offer a bonus for spending at supermarkets restrict that bonus to spending made at US establishments only – on its own my US supermarket/grocery spending isn’t high enough to justify the Amex Gold card.

However, when it comes to my other two high spending categories the story is different and the two cards I choose to hold are the Chase Sapphire Reserve Card and the Platinum Card from American Express.

The Chase Sapphire Reserve

Current Welcome Bonus:

  • 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening (more info)

Annual Fees:

  • $450 – primary card holder
  • $75 – supplementary card holders

Earnings:

  • 3 points/dollar on all travel
  • 3 points/dollar on dining worldwide
  • 1 point/dollar on all other spending

Headline Benefits:

  • $300/year annual travel credit
  • Primary rental car collision cover
  • Priority Pass membership (including Priority Pass restaurants)
  • $100 Global Entry/TSA PreCheck credit every 4 years
  • Trip cancellation/interruption insurance
  • Trip delay reimbursement
  • Lost luggage reimbursement
  • No foreign transaction fees

Link to more details on the Chase Sapphire Reserve card

The Platinum Card From American Express

Current Welcome Bonus:

  • 60,000 bonus points after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening (more info)

Annual Fees:

  • $550 – primary card holder
  • $175 – supplementary card holders

Earnings:

  • 5 points/dollar on airfare booked directly with airlines
  • 5 points/dollar on prepaid hotels booked through Amex Travel
  • 1 point/dollar on all other spending

Headline Benefits:

  • $200/year airline credit
  • $50 Saks 5th Avenue credit every 6 months
  • $15/month Uber credits ($35 in December)
  • Access to Centurion Lounges
  • Priority Pass membership (does not include Priority Pass restaurants)
  • $100/$85 Global Entry/TSA PreCheck credit every 4/4.5 years
  • Trip cancellation/interruption insurance (coming in January 2020)
  • Trip delay reimbursement (coming in January 2020)
  • Marriott Bonvoy Gold status
  • Hilton Honors Gold status
  • No foreign transaction fees

Link to more details on the Platinum Card from American Express

Why These Cards?

I can already hear some people asking one or both of the following questions:

  • Why not hold the Citi Prestige Card? It offers 5 points/ dollar on airfare (like the Platinum Card) and 5 points/dollar on dining (which neither of the cards I’m preferring offer).
  • Why not save on annual fees and get the American Express Green Card? It earns 3 points/dollar on all travel and 3 points/dollar on spending at restaurants worldwide (just like the Chase Sapphire Reserve card) but costs just $150.

The answers to those two questions are interrelated…and here’s my thought process:

I Feel I Need The Sapphire Reserve

I need the Chase Sapphire Reserve card because it offers me primary rental car collision cover and it offers me bonus points on all my travel spending (taxis, ridesharing, trains, parking and bookings made through travel sites like Expedia and Orbitz) – no other credit card fulfills these requirements for me and the $300 annual travel credit (which can be used for just about any travel I book) brings down the annual fee to a net $150.

I Need To Maximize Earnings Without Having To Swallow A Fee I Can’t Justify

I want to hold a credit card that maximizes my earnings on all the airfares I book and that narrows the field down to the Platinum Card and the Citi Prestige Card…but there are a couple of things that go against the Prestige Card:

With the Platinum Card offering 5 points/dollar on all airfare spending as well as offering all the trip insurances I need (from 1 January 2020), and with the Chase Sapphire Reserve offering me equal or better bonus points in all but one of the categories that the Prestige card offers, I would need to justify the Prestige’s annual fee using just the bonus points from dining and the other benefits the card offers – I can’t do that.

I’m prepared to earn a little less on all my dining (3 points/dollar with the Reserve Card vs 5 points/dollar on the Prestige Card) if I can’t justify the Prestige’s annual fee.

The Amex Green Card Just Doesn’t Fit My Portfolio

The refreshed American Express Green card is a very good card and at $150/year is good value for a card that offers 3 points/dollar on all travel spending and at restaurants worldwide…but it doesn’t fit my requirements.

The Green Card’s annual fee is the same as the effective net annual fee for the Chase Sapphire Reserve (after accounting for the annual travel credit) but the Sapphire Reserve is a better card overall:

  • Better rental car coverage
  • Better lounge membership option
  • Better travel insurances

Also, even if the Amex Green Card and the Chase Sapphire Reserve were more equally matched I’d still choose the Sapphire Reserve – the Green card would earn me the same currency as the Platinum Card and I prefer to hold a more diversified portfolio of currencies.

Bottom Line

As people’s circumstances differ so will the cards that work best for their needs so you may not agree with the assessments I’ve laid out above…but they work for me.

I happen to believe that the Platinum Card/Chase Sapphire Reserve pairing is a great combination to have if you travel a lot and spend a substantial amount on airfare, general travel, and dining, and while other credit card combinations work well too, none offers a return as good as the one from the Platinum/Reserve combo.

Featured Image by Webaroo.com.au

1 COMMENT

  1. Both cards also offer medical evacuation coverage (Amex unlimited and CSR up to $100,000). Could be very valuable in case of a medical emergency abroad.

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