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I’ve done my comparison on the Platinum vs Reserve and Prestige vs Reserve before, but those articles focused more on choosing a card to sign-up for. I think that all three cards offer compelling reasons to sign up for but the question of keeping all three cards is an altogether different question. So here are a list of factors to consider when trying to determine if it would make sense to keep all three cards. This isn’t meant to be an exhaustive list but these factors should help guide your decision.
Since this is about keeping cards, the sign-up bonus is not going to factor in. This is all about what’s best in the long-run.
- Chase Sapphire Reserve: $450
- Platinum Card: $450
- Citi Prestige: $450 (Citigold can get down to $350)
So those are the actual annual fees but let’s see what those annual fees look like with the travel credits factored in… in other words, let’s find the “effective” annual fee.
Chase Sapphire Reserve
- $300 travel credit that covers anything falling in the travel category
- $150 effective annual fee
- $200 travel credit that covers airline incidentals but not airfare
- $250 effective annual fee
- $250 credit that covers most airline related expenses (baggage fees, lounge access, etc.) including airfare.
- $200 effective annual fee
So that’s a total of $750 in travel credits that you’ll be able to take advantage of. If you can utilize the MPX app for the Platinum’s $200, it shouldn’t be that difficult to utilize these credits to be honest. Remember, the credit for the reserve covers all things that code as travel, so it’s a lot easier than you might think to reach. For the sake of this article, I’m going to assume that you’re able to utilize all three credits so that we’ll be focusing on the effective annual fees of the cards.
The need to transfer points to the respective reward programs is never really a good reason to hold on to any of these cards because for each program there is a cheaper option for transferring points. Therefore, I won’t factor this into the equation.
Bonus earning potential
Chase Sapphire Reserve
- 3X on dining
- 3X on travel
- 3X on hotels and airfare
- 2X on dining and entertainment
- 5X on airfare
- 1.5X on purchases of $5,000 or more
The Sapphire Reserve is probably going to net most people the most value since it offers better rates and categories than the Prestige and Platinum. According to my article, you’ll need to spend about $8,500 on airfare on the Platinum Card for it to make it worth using on airfare when you already have the Reserve and not many people in this “hobby” spend that much on airfare in a year. Thus, purely based on spending for most people, the Reserve would be the best option.
If you’re curious how much you’d need to spend in the bonus categories on each card to earn enough reward currency to offset the annual fee, see the figures below:
Chase Sapphire Reserve
- $2,500 on dining and travel (2,500 X 3 = $7,500 = $150 @ 2 cents per point)
- $3,922 on airfare and hotel ($3,922 X 3 = 11,764 = $200 @ 1.7 cents per point)
- $2,777 on airfare ($2,777 X 5 = 13,888 = $250 @ 1.8 cents per point)
Note: this breakdown just shows you much you the minimum of how much you’d need to spend on each card’s bonus categories in order to offset their respective annual fee. Since each card offers an array of benefits, you’d need to factor in all of those as well to make an informed comparison.
Without getting into a detailed breakdown of comparing opportunity costs, I think the take-a-way here would be that if you spend at least $2,500 a year on dining and travel (plus $300 more on travel) the Reserve will pay for itself and would be worth holding on to. And if you spent about $8,500 on airfare then the Platinum Card would be worth keeping along with the Reserve.
Priority Pass lounge access
The Reserve offers the most generous Priority Pass lounge access compared to the other cards. The access policies for all the cards are as follows:
- Platinum – no guests
- Prestige – two guests
- Sapphire Reserve – unlimited guests subject to discretion of lounge
Therefore, if you’re primarily concerned with keeping the benefit of lounge access with Priority Pass lounges and actually plan on making a few visits to them, you would look to keep the Sapphire Reserve and potentially drop the other two cards if they didn’t offer you additional benefits you can use.
Centurion lounge access and Delta SkyClub Access
With the Prestige dropping Admirals Club access, it really allowed the Platinum Card to take the #1 spot for best lounge access for a lot of people. It’s true the Platinum doesn’t allow any guests with its Priority Pass access but it does allow 2 guests and immediate family members access to Centurion lounges and you can get into the Delta SkyClubs when you fly Delta.
Thus, if you were planning on making multiple visits to Centurion lounges and Delta SkyClubs, the Platinum would potentially be worth holding on to.
The Platinum Card from American Express has a leg up on the Sapphire Reserve and Prestige when it comes to hotel benefits. That’s because it offers
- Gold status with Hilton HHonors
- Gold status with SPG (and therefore gold with Marriott and Ritz-Carlton).
I’ve received several upgrades due to gold status with these hotels as a result of the Platinum and it’s been nice. However, I’m not sure I would ever justify keeping the Platinum purely based on hotel perks.
Thus, while hotel perks should definitely be a factor on whether or not you should keep the Platinum, I don’t think it should be a deciding factor by itself.
4th Night Free
The Prestige gets outdone in most aspects by the Platinum and the Sapphire Reserve but it does outshine with one potentially super-valuable perk: the 4th night free. (To me, this benefit is really the only reason why I would hold on to the Prestige if I had one or both of the the other two cards.)
A lot of hotel programs offers the 5th night free when you book consecutive award nights but this feature offers an easier obtainable and more practical 4th night free benefit. What is more, this benefit can be used as many times as you like. This means that this benefit has the potential to be one of the most valuable perks offered by any card.
If you could put this benefit to use a couple of times a year at a decent hotel or even one night a year at a nice hotel, you could easily recover your effective annual fee of $200 and come out on top.
So when to keep all 3?
The decision on which cards to keep invariably involves a degree os subjectivity, since things like hotel benefits must be measured and people also have their own preferences for lounges and airlines and hotels they prefer to transfer points to. However, I think it would make sense to keep all three cards if the following are generally true for you:
- You will use all three travel/airline credits
- You spend at least $2,500 a year on dining and travel
- You will use Priority Pass at least a couple of times a year (perhaps with guests)
- You will frequent Centurion Lounges/fly Delta a few times a year (in addition to Priority Pass lounge visits)
- You stay at Hilton, SPG, and/or Marriott properties (though not a deal breaker)
- You will take advantage of the 4th night free benefit at least one or two times a year
If all of these things are generally true, then chances are that you’ll get enough value from all three cards combined to make it worth keeping all of them.
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.
The Prestige earns 3x points on Air Travel and Hotels, not 2x. Changes the math a little, but your overall conclusions are still valid.
Whoops, nice catch!
Can you please elaborate why you would need to spend $8,500 on air travel on the amex in order to justify having both the CSR and the Amex? By my math, if you factor in the $200 uber credit and $200 airline fee credit, the fee comes out to $150 (assuming you use those credits). After that it would only take you around $1675 on air travel on amex in order to get $150 in benefits (based on the 5 points per dollar and 1.8 cents value per point). Where did I go wrong?
This article was published before the $200 Uber credit was introduced so that’s why the math is off now. I’ll try to update it — thanks for bringing it to my attention!