Two of the best travel rewards credit cards out available right now have to be the Chase Sapphire Preferred and the American Express Premier Rewards Gold Card. I’ve got both of them and figured I’d give my own personal take on these cards.
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The Premier Rewards Gold Card will earn you Membership Rewards that can be transferred to a variety of travel partners listed below:
These partners do not have all have the same transfer ratios as you can see below:
- Delta Skymiles
- Club Premier AeroMexico
- Aeroplan Air Canada
- Flying Blue (Air France/KLM)
- MilleMigilia Club Alitalia
- Asia Miles
- Avios British Airways (250 points = 200 Avios)
- Emirates Skyrewards
- Hawaiin Airlines
- Iberia Plus
- KrisFlyer Singapore Airlines
- Virgin America (200 points = 100 Elevate points)
- Virgin Atlantic
- Best Western Rewards
- Choice Privileges
- Hilton HHonors (1,000 points = 1,500 HHonors points)
- SPG (Starwood Preferred Guest) (1,000 points = 333 Starpoints)
There are a few things to keep in mind about Membership Rewards:
- Bonus transfers are occasionally offered allowing you to transfer your points to partners for higher ratios. Check this thread for a history of these transfer bonuses.
- Your Membership Rewards cannot be freely transferred between you and any friend or family members but you can transfer them to authorizes users’ rewards accounts.
- They don’t expire as long as you remain a cardholder
Chase Ultimate Rewards
The Sapphire Preferred earns “Ultimate Rewards” that can all be transferred at a 1:1 ratio to a variety of travel partners listed below.
- British Airways Executive Club
- Flying Blue (Air France/KLM)
- Korean Air SKYPASS
- Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer
- Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards
- United MileagePlus
- Virgin Atlantic Flying Club
- Hyatt Gold Passport
- IHG® Rewards Club
- Marriott Rewards
- The Ritz-Carlton Rewards
Which reward program is better?
Both programs have their strengths and weaknesses and lots could be written in a comparison between the two but here’s a brief look at some of the key highlights of the travel partners.
- ANA – Super cheap redemptions, such as 88,000 miles in business class to Europe and very reasonable prices to other destinations like Asia (Japan), South America, Africa, etc.
- Aeroplan – Good redemption rates to places like Europe and an easy way to avoid surcharges on Star Alliance partners, such as United Airlines.
- Delta – Amex has several Delta credit cards making it easy to top off.
- MilleMigilia Club Alitalia – Sometimes a little hassle involved with redeeming but excellent redemption rates to many places, such as South American and Africa.
Chase Ultimate Rewards
- Korean Air – Super cheap redemptions, such as at 80,000 miles in business class to Europe and some of the best prices to Hawaii, South America, and the Caribbean.
- British Airways – the 1:1 transfer ratio is superior to Membership Rewards and BA can be great for short-haul flights around the country or even getting to Europe and other places.
- Southwest – Very cheap routes available to get around the country. If you obtain the Companion Pass and you essentially double the value making them a super-economical way to get around the US and Caribbean; miles can be quickly obtained with Chase Southwest cards.
- United – Tons of flight options with huge network around the US and globe; miles can be quickly obtained with Chase United cards.
Membership Rewards and Chase Ultimate Rewards
Two partners overlap each program:
- Singapore Airlines – Also a transfer partner of Citi; Singapore Airlines has a tremendous business class and first class products and some very reasonable redemption rates.
- Flying Blue – Also a transfer partner of Citi; great way to book with SkyTeam partners to places like Europe.
A lot of people seem to favor Ultimate Rewards over Membership Rewards and value them a little higher. Aside from hotel partners, though, I’d put Membership Rewards right up there with Ultimate Rewards and argue that the winner would just depend on one’s personal circumstances.
The standard sign up bonus for the Chase Sapphire Preferred ranges from 40K to 50K, with an additional 5K for adding an authorized user. The sign-up bonus for the Premier Rewards Gold Card can range from 25K to 75K. The spend requirement for the Sapphire Preferred is typically higher at $4,000 while the Premier Rewards Gold Card’s spend requirement can fluctuate from $1,000 to $3,000.
I think I’d give the nod to the Sapphire Preferred since it seems like the standard offer is usually higher than the standard offer from the Premier Rewards Gold Card (the offers above 25K are usually targeted and the 75K offer is a highly targeted offer that is very rare).
Bonus category earning potential
Which card earns better bonus category earnings will obviously depend on your personal spending habits.
The cards earn the following rates:
Chase Sapphire Preferred
- 2X on Travel (This covers a broad range of expenses from tolls, parking, bus fairs, train tickets, and of course, air line tickets)
- 2X on Dining worldwide
Premier Rewards Gold
- 3X on Airline Tickets (4X through the Amex Portal)
- 2X on Dining (at US restaurants), Groceries, and Gas
- $100 Airline credit for incidentals
If you spend a lot on airfare, groceries, and gas, it’s possible that the Premier Rewards Gold Card will be the better earner for you. However, the travel category on the Sapphire Preferred is very broad so it all depends on how you spend most of your money.
Bonus Point Potential with Additional Chase Cards
One of the major reasons I prefer the Sapphire Preferred over the Premier Rewards Gold Card is that you can supplement your earning with great no annual fee cards.
- The Chase Freedom has no annual fee and rotating 5X bonus categories for things like gas, restaurants, Amazon, and other stores.
- The Chase Freedom Unlimited has no annual fee and it earns 1.5X on every single purchase.
- The Chase Ink+ (which can be downgraded to the Ink Cash with no annual fee) has 5X bonus categories on things like phone lines, cable, internet, and office supplies. The Ink+ also has 2X on gas and hotels.
Thus, the bonus earning potential with the combo of the Sapphire, the Freedoms, and the Ink cards are truly tremendous and if you go with the Ink Cash, it essentially transforms the Sapphire Preferred into a super card with a $95 annual fee that blows the Premier Rewards Gold Card out of the water from a bonus points standpoint.
You can combine the Premier Rewards Gold Card with the no fee Amex EveryDay and earn 2X at supermarkets up to $6K per year (in addition to a 20% monthly bonus), but you can’t put together the same type of no annual fee combination like you can with Chase cards.
No Foreign Transaction Fees
Both cards have no foreign transaction fees which is really nice if you have travel abroad a lot because those foreign transaction fees can add up pretty quickly.
The purchase protection on both are pretty similar but the Premier Rewards Gold Card definitely edges out the Sapphire Preferred with its purchase protection up to $10,000! Here’s a breakdown of some of the highlights of the purchase protection plans of the cards. (Note: the list below is not comprehensive, to read up on all of the benefits, check the links below.)
- Covers your new purchases for 120 days against damage or theft up to $500 per claim and $50,000 per account.
- Extends the time period of the U.S. manufacturer’s warranty by an additional year, on eligible warranties of three years or less.
- If a card purchase you made in the U.S. is advertised for less in print or online within 90 days, you can be reimbursed the difference up to $500 per item, $2,500 per year.
- You can be reimbursed for eligible items that the store won’t take back within 90 days of purchase, up to $500 per item, $1,000 per year.
- Covers your new purchases for 90 days against damage or theft up to $10,000 per claim and $50,000 per account.
- Extends the time period of the U.S. manufacturer’s warranty by an additional year, on eligible warranties of five years or less.
- You can be reimbursed for eligible items that the store won’t take back within 90 days of purchase, up to $300 per item, $1,000 per year.
Again, there are many similarities in the benefits for travel protection between these cards but I think I’d give the nod to Sapphire Preferred for the reason they offer primary rental car insurance and seem to offer better coverage for lost luggage and delays in travel. The below list is once again not comprehensive and only includes more info on CSP as Chase has a much more convenient way to access the terms of its protections.
- Car rental coverage is primary and provides reimbursement up to the actual cash value of the vehicle for theft and collision damage for most rental cars in the U.S. and abroad.
- When you pay for your air, bus, train or cruise transportation with your card, you are eligible to receive accidental death or dismemberment coverage of up to $500,000.
- If you or your immediate family members’ checked or carry-on bags are damaged or lost by the carrier, you’re covered up to $3,000 per passenger.
- If your trip is canceled or cut short by sickness, severe weather and other covered situations, you can be reimbursed up to $10,000 per trip for your pre-paid, non-refundable travel expenses, including passenger fares, tours, and hotels.
- If your common carrier travel is delayed more than 12 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.
- Car rental coverage is excess
- Travel accident insurance of no more than $250,000 (death, dismemberment, etc.)
- Will pay a benefit for the Replacement Cost, up to $500, for each Covered Person on a Covered Trip for Loss of checked Baggage.
The annual fee for the Sapphire Preferred is $95 while the annual fee for the Premier Rewards Gold Card is $195, both are waived for the first year.
Obviously paying an extra $95 sounds like less of a bargain but remember that the Premier Rewards Gold Card has the annual $100 airline statement credit, which essentially reduces the fee to $95. And actually, the statement resets after the beginning of the year so if you time it right, you can actually get $200 in airline credit before your annual fee hits.
Amex has great customer service but the customer service for the Chase Sapphire Preferred is pretty outstanding as well. For example, when you call in for the Premier Rewards Gold Card you have enter in your credit card info and go through the motions to speak with someone but for the Chase Sapphire Preferred, a live representative picks up the phone almost always immediately when you call. As for receiving your card or a replacement, both providers will overnight your cards so that’s always nice. I’m not sure one beats out the other for customer service, but I do really like both in this regard.
It’s a little silly to value a credit card based on how it looks but I don’t think there’s anything wrong in taking a little pride in how your cards look. The Premier Rewards Gold Card is a sparkly gold card with the signature American Express signage. It look prestigious and it’s one of my favorite to pull out of my wallet. However, the Chase Sapphire Preferred is on another level in my opinion. The card is made of metal and has a heavy feel to it that other instantly recognize and often comment on. The card even reads on the back, “Contains Metal DO NOT SHRED.”
It has a pretty dark blue design with embossed numbers on the back. There’s also no indication of Visa on the front of the card, which sometimes results in a couple of seconds of confusion/intrigue for cashiers when you hand them your card. So while the PRG is nice and sparkly, the Sapphire wins out on prestige appearance due to its metal composition and sleek design.
I think that for me the better card is the Chase Sapphire Preferred. However, if I didn’t have the Ink and the Freedom cards, then it wouldn’t be so clear. Still, I value Membership Rewards a lot so I think there’s plenty of value in the Premier Rewards Gold Card and that’s why I hold both of these cards.
Daniel Gillaspia is the Founder of UponArriving.com and creator of the credit card app, WalletFlo. He is a former attorney turned full-time credit card rewards/travel expert and has earned and redeemed millions of miles to travel the globe. Since 2014, his content has been featured in major publications such as National Geographic, Smithsonian Magazine, Forbes, CNBC, US News, and Business Insider. Find his full bio here.