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Great rewards and benefits, but at a high price: while there is no doubt that premium travel credit cards make sense for road warriors, could the very occasional traveler also come out ahead? Well… probably. Let’s have a look at the three most talked about premium cards currently available on the market: The Platinum Card by American Express, the Citi Prestige Card, and the Chase Sapphire Reserve card. All three credit cards come with a significant annual fee, but also a strong collection of travel benefits.
Option 1: The Platinum Card by American Express
The Amex Platinum is the most expensive of the three, with a significant $550 annual fee. That fee is mitigated by an annual $200 Uber credit and an annual $200 airline credit for incidentals (like checked bag and seat selection fees), both of which may not be too valuable to an infrequent traveler.
Additional benefits include hotel elite status, lounge access (max 2 guests with Priority Pass, no guests for Delta SkyClubs), swanky Centurion lounges, and Global Entry or TSA PreCheck fee credit. The American Express Platinum card offers 5 points per dollar on airfare, and 1 point per dollar on everything else: let’s be fair, this is a fantastic credit card… for frequent travelers. But it may not be your ideal companion if you don’t travel much.
Option 2: Citi Prestige Card
A $450 annual fee gets you $250 airline credit, Priority Pass lounge access (max 2 guests), Global Entry fee credit, 3 points per dollar on airfare and hotels, 2 points per dollar on entertainment, and a 4th night free on 4-night hotel bookings. While an occasional traveler can still come ahead with a single trip per year (paying for airfare greater than $250 with the card and staying 4 nights in a hotel priced at more than $200), that won’t necessarily be for everyone. Especially if one of your goals in having a premium credit card is to use the points accrued over the course of the year to pay for your vacation.
Option 3: Chase Sapphire Reserve Card
Just like the Citi Prestige Card, the Chase Sapphire Reserve card has a $450 annual fee. However, the Sapphire Reserve’s $300 travel credit card really stands out: it beats Citi Prestige’s airline credit by $50 and is much more flexible than the Amex Platinum’s airline incidental credit. Per Chase’s website: “Merchants in the travel category include airlines, hotels, motels, timeshares, campgrounds, car rental agencies, cruise lines, travel agencies, discount travel sites, and operators of passenger trains, buses, taxis, limousines, ferries, toll bridges and highways, and parking lots and garages.” In other words: you can use your Chase Sapphire Reserve annual travel credit for a lot of things. Even infrequent travelers should be able to make use of that credit over the course of a year.
If we take this credit at face value, we only need to get $150 worth of Ultimate Rewards points and benefits to make the Chase Sapphire Reserve worth it, even for the occasional traveler. Let’s look at its earning structure: 3 points per dollar on travel and dining and 1 point per dollar for other expenses. Are you a foodie? Great! You don’t have to travel much to earn a lot of points: with only $3,334 spent on dining in a year, you are coming out ahead of the rest of the annual fee, as you would earn 10,000 points worth at least $150 on travel, and potentially much more. And even with only $1,500 spent on dining, you can still come ahead by charging $5,500 in other expenses on the card over the course of a year.
That’s on top of quite a few benefits that may be useful, for example, to a family who takes one or two trips a year: a Global Entry fee credit (while it won’t cover the entire family, every little helps), Priority Pass lounge access for all (that’s right, there’s no guest limit!). You’ll also get trip delay protection (you won’t be out of pocket if a Nor’Easter makes you miss your connection and strands you in Boston for two days: that alone can be worth way more that the annual fee), primary collision coverage for car rentals (saves you a lot of money on the rental agency’s own insurance and won’t require to make a claim with your regular car insurance), and more.
In other words, not every premium travel card will be worth the annual fee if you aren’t a frequent traveler. But the unique benefits of the Chase Sapphire Reserve card, Citi Prestige, and Amex Platinum may very well be worth if for many people.
- Chase Sapphire Reserve vs Amex Platinum
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- How Hard is it to Get the Amex Platinum
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- Chase Sapphire Reserve Benefits
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