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The two biggest players in the points and miles game are Chase and American Express. So naturally, travelers often struggle with deciding between Chase vs Amex points. This question often comes up during my credit card consultations. A lot of people want to know whether I think Chase is better than American Express, and whether they should wait until they are under 5/24 to pursue more Chase cards or build out their American Express cards.
In this post and video, I’m going to share my personal opinion on both programs. Obviously, it’s just my opinion, so you might feel differently about it. For those of you who are new to the points and miles hobby, I’m hoping the analysis is helpful. And if you’re an experienced points and miles nerd, I’d love to hear your thoughts on which program you prefer and why.
I’ll be comparing both programs in a couple of different categories:
For both Chase and American Express, there are multiple personal and business credit cards that earn in different rewards categories. Chase lacks a card that offers a bonus category in groceries, which is often a major spending category for people. Chase does have the Freedom card which usually has at least one quarter where you can earn five points per dollar on grocery spending. However, I do wish that Chase would add a grocery category to one of their cards, as it’s an area where American Express has the upper hand.
On the flip side, I dislike how American Express has more restrictive bonus categories. For example, while the American Express Gold earns four points per dollar on dining out and groceries, it’s only valid for US merchants. The Chase Sapphire Preferred and Sapphire Reserve both earn bonus points on dining out even when outside the US. Also, since travel is a bonus category for the Chase Sapphire cards, you don’t have to think twice about earning a bonus at a hotel restaurant (since the charge might code as a hotel instead of a restaurant).
Point earnings summary
Both programs have fairly equal earning potentials, especially if you get multiple cards that offer different bonus categories. Chase is lacking when it comes to grocery purchases. And while I like American Express bonus categories, I do find them to be a bit more restrictive. For this category, it’s a tie for both programs.
Chase’s strength is flexibility
I personally find Chase Ultimate Rewards points to be a lot easier to redeem. Chase might not have as many airline travel partners as American Express, but they seem to have the ones that I use the most, like Southwest and United. Also, we often use our points toward Hyatt and have been able to get some amazing redemptions, even at Hyatt’s budget hotels.
I also appreciate having the option to use the Chase Travel Portal to redeem points. It might not be the highest redemption value, but getting 1.25 or 1.5 cents per point isn’t terrible. The portal also provides an opportunity to redeem for boutique hotels and tours, which is handy.
Amex is best for high-end travel
I do have friends that absolutely love and prefer American Express points. A friend of mine loves to fly ANA to Japan and finds the point transfers to be lucrative, especially for business class travel. It’s possible to get high value from American Express points, but you’re limited to air travel redemptions. I’d even argue that the best value redemptions are for business and first-class air travel.
While I love the idea of luxury aspirational travel, I’d rather travel further and more often with my points. This means that I’m more inclined to fly on budget airlines and economy class. Your desire for high-end travel depends on your travel style, destinations, and personal spending.
American Express does offer bonuses throughout the year on their points transfer. This is something I wish Chase would offer. While I love this aspect of Membership Reward points, I dislike that they charge a fee to transfer points to domestic travel partners. Also, redeeming points on the American Express Travel Portal yields you a much lower redemption rate (i.e., under 1 cent per point). I don’t recommend it unless you’re determined to use your points at any value.
Cash back options were not considered
For the sake of simplicity, I’m not going to cover American Express versus Chase cash back redemptions. There are American Express cards that can help you get to get a higher cash back redemption rate, but that’s a whole another topic!
Point redemptions summary
Chase has more flexible redemption types and options with hotel and travel portal bookings. Though they lack additional bonuses and have less airline travel partners. American Express, on the other hand, has more airline travel partners and offers bonuses throughout the year on transfers, but also charges a fee to transfer points to domestic carriers. I personally prefer Chase points, so I’m going to give this category to them. But again, your travel preferences and style will dictate which program is a better fit for you.
Amex has more credits, but are harder to redeem
I think you’ll find that American Express does offer credits on more of their cards, though the catch is that they tend to be more restrictive. For example, the Gold and Platinum card both have an airline incidental fee credit, but you can’t use it toward paying for flights. You can buy gift cards for certain airlines but it’s not officially supported by American Express.
Also, American Express often requires you to redeem credits over the span of a calendar year. For example, the dining credit on the Gold card is $120, but you can only redeem $10 per month at select restaurants and ordering services.
Chase has less credits, but are easier to redeem
You won’t find as many credits on Chase’s cards. Though if we look at the Chase Sapphire Reserve, it has a $300 annual travel credit. This credit can be redeemed all at once. Since Chase is fairly liberal with what they qualify as travel, it’s very easy to redeem the credit. Though the Chase Sapphire Reserve’s annual fee is $450, it’s really more like $150 since it’s so effortless to get the travel credit. I’ll often see daily expenses get credited on my account (like parking) before I even use it for a trip!
Travel benefits are mixed
If we compare lounge access, American Express wins since their Platinum card offers access to Centurion lounges. Both Chase and American Express have concierge services, though I’ve never used the feature. When looking at things like primary car rental insurance and trip delays, the Chase Sapphire cards offer more protection as part of their membership.
Purchase protection is more convenient on American Express cards since you file a claim directly with American Express. Chase requires that you file through a third party. In my experience, it’s more seamless when the claim is processed by the same company as the card issuer.
American Express card members also get a free membership to ShopRunner. This service is like Amazon Prime for other retailers. Also, I like the way that American Express does their Amex offers. All you have to do is activate the offer rather than going through a shopping portal. This means that you can potentially double up on rewards by using a cash back portal or a discount coupon with your purchase. Chase recently started to do offers as well, but American Express is way ahead in this regard.
American Express offers credits on more cards, though they are more restrictive to redeem. American Express tends to have better lounge access, concierge service, and purchase protection. They also have an incredible offers program as part of their membership. On the other hand, Chase has credits that are easier to redeem and better car rental and trip delay coverages.
Both offer significant value, though in different ways. If you’re some who can maximize the benefits of your credit cards, there are probably more credits to take advantage of with American Express. Even with higher annual fees on their cards, there are a lot of benefits included. As a result, I’m giving this category to American Express.
This is one is simple. You’re going to have more acceptance with a Visa or Mastercard over American Express. It’s not much of an issue here in the US, but when traveling abroad, it can be difficult to find places that accept American Express cards. Therefore, Chase easily takes this category.
In terms of customer service, I’ve had great experiences with both Chase and American Express. Though I would give the edge to American Express, mostly because of the fantastic chat functionality on their website. I’ve asked the reps to downgrade cards over chat, and they’ve been able to do it without any problems.
American Express, on the other hand, is more complicated. If you have an American Express Platinum or Gold card and you want to downgrade, your only option is the Green card. However, the Green card still has an annual fee. You can’t downgrade to an Everyday card, even though it also earns Membership Rewards points. This is because the Everyday card is a credit card and the Platinum, Gold, and Green card are charge cards. This presents an issue for those of you that don’t want to cancel cards since it can temporarily hurt your credit score.
Chase definitely has the advantage when it comes to downgrade options. While American Express does have a lot of cards, including a mix of charge and credit cards, it isn’t easy to downgrade their charge cards since there isn’t a no-annual-fee charge card in their lineup.
Approval and welcome offer rules
Chase’s 5/24 and 2/30 rule
Chase is notorious for their strict approval rules like 5/24 and 2/30. These rules usually result in people wanting to build their Chase portfolio before American Express. I concur with this strategy since you can unintentionally disqualify yourself from getting Chase cards if you get too many cards within a 24 month period.
Also, a lot of people will pursue small business credit cards in order to minimize their 5/24 impact. You need to be below 5/24 to get a business credit card, but once you get one, it doesn’t count against your 5/24 total. If you qualify for a business card, it’s a great way to go. Business cards provide some of the best welcome offers and bonus categories.
Amex’s “once in a lifetime” welcome offer rule
American Express has fewer restrictions when it comes to getting approvals. However, they do have a “once in a lifetime” rule for their welcome offers. For example, if you had the American Express Platinum card in the past and received the welcome offer, but then canceled or downgraded the card, you won’t get the welcome offer if you re-apply for the same card.
Approval and welcome offer rules summary
When it comes to approval and welcome offer rules, I have to give the upper hand to American Express. Though if you do have any interest in building a Chase card portfolio, then you should start with them since their cards are more difficult to get due to their strict approval rules.
When we tally up the points, you can see that it’s tied, which was expected. Both programs offer a lot of value, especially if you’re able to take advantage of the benefits. Though if I could only earn one flexible points program, I would pick Chase Ultimate Rewards. I find the program better suited for my travel needs.
I don’t think I’m the only one that feels this way either. When I asked the question on our YouTube Community tab a few months ago, I noticed that about 60% felt the same way.
That being said, I still think it’s a good idea to diversify and build multiple points programs. Things change all the time in this hobby, and I wouldn’t be surprised if I’m focused on another program within the next three years.
Which flexible points currency do you prefer? Do you earn multiple currencies, or do you focus on just one?
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