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The Platinum Card® from American Express, the Chase Sapphire Reserve Card, and the Citi Prestige Card have all, at one time or another, taken a turn at being the leading light in the premium card sector but, as things stand, only the Platinum Card can really claim to be a ‘must-have’ card for most frequent travelers.
Yes, if you’re a big Hilton, Marriott, American Airlines, Delta, or United Airlines loyalist there are other premium cards out there that will almost certainly classify as ‘must-have’ cards for you, but in this post, I’m taking a look at the three premium cards that have the broadest appeal and which aren’t intrinsically linked to one particular brand – that leaves the Platinum Card from American Express as the only ‘must-have’ option.
Why The Platinum Card Rules
In recent years there have been numerous occasions when I’ve been very tempted to drop the Platinum Card from my portfolio because the annual fee (now $695 – rates & fees) has been hard to justify, and I’ve been one of the card’s harsher critics in more than a few blog posts. Not anymore.
Here are the key reasons the Amex Platinum Card is back in my good books (terms apply):
- It earns 5 points/dollar on airfare spending made directly with airlines (for me, that’s equivalent to a 7.5% rebate)
- It offers trip delay protection
- It offers trip interruption and cancellation insurance
There is no other personal card that offers that trio of benefits.
If you travel a lot, being covered for the things that can go wrong when you’re on a trip is as important as earning a lot of points, and with the Platinum Card there’s no need to choose one or the other. You get both.
And you get a lot more travel benefits too (terms apply):
- Access to Centurion Lounges + 2 guests
- Priority Pass Membership (no access to Priority Pass restaurants)
- Access to the American Express Global Lounge collection (for when Priority Pass can’t help)
- Access to the American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts program (and all the great discounts and benefits it offers)
- Access to the International Airline program (for discounts on premium cabins on select airlines – more info)
- Hilton Honors Gold status (for free breakfast and upgrades at Hilton properties worldwide)
- A credit towards the cost of Global Entry or TSA Precheck
- No foreign transaction fees
The Platinum card also offers cardholders Marriott Bonvoy Gold status but it would be more than a little deceptive to suggest that that’s worth very much!
And when it comes to the annual fee, the Platinum Card has a few benefits that may help a cardholder claw back some of that cost:
- $15/month Uber credit ($35 in December)
- $200 Airline Fee credit (to cover baggage fees, seat fees, in-flight dining & drinks, etc..)
- $100/year Saks 5th Avenue credit ($50 in the first 6 months of the year and $50 in the second).
- $200/year hotel credit (only on prepaid Fine Hotels & Resorts or Hotel Collection bookings)
- $25/month Equinox credit
- $20/month digital entertainment credit (only valid on spending with Peacock, Audible, SiriusXM, and the New York Times).
- Up to $179/year credit for CLEAR® membership
How you travel and what your outgoings look like will depend on how easily you’ll be able to use those credits to help offset the annual fee – some find it a lot easier than others.
When you combine all of those travel benefits with the great earnings on airfare and the fact that American Express Membership Rewards points transfer over to more airline and hotel loyalty programs than any other currency, it’s starts to get easier to see why the Platinum Card is so strong.
Why Aren’t The Other Two Cards “Must Have” Cards?
- Most of the benefits the other two premium credit cards offer (and that the Platinum Card doesn’t) can be enjoyed by holding one or more non-premium cards.
- There’s no non-premium card that you can hold alongside the Citi Prestige or the Chase Sapphire Reserve that will match the Platinum Card’s powerful package of airline earnings and travel protections.
The Citi Prestige Card is not a “must-have premium card for frequent travelers” because…
- It offers no travel protections whatsoever
- One of its major selling points (the 4th-night free benefit) cannot be used alongside hotel status and stays made using this benefit do not accrue hotel points or hotel elite status credits.
Frequent travelers need to know that they’re protected when they’re traveling and they almost always like to make the most of whatever hotel statuses they have to make their trips as comfortable as possible. The Citi Prestige doesn’t help with any of that.
The Chase Sapphire Reserve isn’t a “must-have premium card for frequent travelers” because:
- Its earning rate on airfare spending is lower than the earnings offered by two other premium cards
- Its earning rate on worldwide dining can be matched by the considerably cheaper Amex Green Card
- Its primary rental cover can be matched by the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card.
Yes, it’s still a very good card (I really like it and I still hold it despite its past issues) but there aren’t enough unique benefits that this card offers. A lot of what the Reserve offers (and that the Platinum Card does not) can be enjoyed by holding one or more non-premium credit cards.
All three of the big premium credit cards have their selling points and all three offer benefits that can be very useful, but only the American Express Platinum Card offers benefits that cannot be replaced by another personal card. That what makes it the only “must-have” premium card for frequent travelers.