Continuing on from the cash back credit cards that I have, here’s a post about the two generic points earning cards that I have: American Express Platinum and Chase Sapphire Preferred. Each card accumulates points into its own program (namely Membership Rewards and Ultimate Rewards), and these points can be used for things like statement credits, experiences, or my favorite use–transfers to airline or hotel programs.
American Express Platinum
This card is fancy. It comes with a $450 annual fee, which seems outrageous, but really isn’t that bad when you consider all of the benefits. Most people generally use this card for the benefits, of which there are many. You earn 1 Membership Reward point per dollar, which can be redeemed for travel at 1 cent per point or can be transferred into programs like British Airways Avios, Delta Skymiles, and Singapore KrisFlyer.
Things I like:
- $200 annual airline reimbursement. You choose the airline; Amex reimburses up to $200 of incidentals charged to that airline. While they say that it should be used for things like baggage fees and in-flight purchases, in reality many people have had success getting reimbursement for the purchase of airline gift cards. This is also a calendar year reimbursement, so you can get this reimbursement twice for the price of one annual fee.
- $100 Global Entry application reimbursement. I love Global Entry, so I would have paid for this anyway.
- Airline lounge access. You get American and Delta lounge access when traveling on those airlines, and you get US Airways lounge access regardless of the carrier you’re traveling. You also get a Priority Pass membership, which gives access to lounges like Alaska Board Rooms and random international lounges. On my recent trip to Europe, this card got me access to the Alaska Airlines Board Room at SFO, the former US Airways Envoy Lounge at PHL (with free access for up to 2 guests), and access to the Icare Lounge at CDG.
- Membership Rewards points can be transferred to anyone (or rather, to any person’s account for partner programs).
- Membership Rewards runs relatively frequent transfer bonuses to some partners.
- You can get free Starwood Gold status and status with certain car rental programs.
- No foreign transaction fees. Although I have a sneaking suspicion that their foreign exchange rates aren’t quite as good as other cards.
- You can get a card that comes with a chip, which means that you can use the card in some places that don’t accept swiped cards anymore (although it’s a chip and signature card, not a chip and pin card).
- Concierge service. Apparently, they’re supposed to be better than others. I haven’t tested this thoroughly.
- Any sort of purchase protection you can think of. Amex is well known for their customer-centric policies, which means you can dispute whatever you want whenever you want (well, within 2 years), and you’ll probably get your money back.
- Many, many more benefits. The above benefits are the ones that I’ve used the most.
Things I dislike:
- The annual fee is steep. But given just the $200 airline credit that you can get twice in your first year and the Global Entry reimbursement, you’ve already paid for the annual fee for the first year. Whether or not you keep it after that is up to how much you value the other benefits.
- There aren’t any bonuses for spending (except 1 bonus point for booking travel through their portal), so you’re just earning 1 Membership Reward point per dollar spent.
- Membership Rewards points don’t transfer into my preferred frequent flyer programs, which are United, US Airways, and American, and they don’t transfer into Hyatt, my preferred hotel program.
This card definitely earns a place in my wallet when I’m traveling because of the lounge access and no foreign transaction fee. Otherwise, I only break this card out when I’m making a large purchase or otherwise want enhanced protections. This card usually doesn’t offer a great sign up bonus, but there are very rarely much higher sign up bonuses. I was able to get in on a 100k point sign up bonus.
This was the first credit card that got me into the points and miles game, and it’s a good one. It’s a $95 annual fee card (waived for the first year) that accumulates points into Ultimate Rewards, which can be redeemed at 1.25 cents per point for travel booked through Ultimate Rewards, or they can be transferred to various airline or hotel programs where they can be worth much more than that.
Things I like:
- Double points on all travel and restaurant spend. Travel spend includes things like trains, airlines, hotels, and taxis.
- 7% annual points dividend, so your base earning rate is 1.07 points per dollar instead of just 1 point per dollar.
- Three points per dollar for travel booked through their portal, although this is somewhat moot by the fact that you can get nearly 4 points per dollar for travel booked through Travelocity by using the Ultimate Rewards mall (2 points for travel + 2 points for the mall bonus)
- Access to the Ultimate Rewards mall, which can give you bonuses like the aforementioned additional 2 points back at Travelocity (although I’ve had some trouble getting credit for purchases through this portal).
- Ultimate Rewards points can be transferred to United and Hyatt, two of my favorite programs.
- All the expected good credit card benefits like travel delay insurance (although this isn’t as good as Discover’s since it requires a 12 hour delay instead of 6), return protection, extended warranty, etc.
- No foreign transaction fee.
- THEY PICK UP THE PHONE WHEN YOU CALL. No phone trees, no waiting. Honestly, I think this is the one thing about this card that I really love.
- Check out the full list of advertised benefits here.
Things I dislike:
- $95 annual fee. As much as I use this card, I think it’s somewhat harder to justify whether or not I’m getting an incremental $95 value from this card after the first year.
- You can’t transfer Ultimate Rewards points to anyone except for a spouse or domestic partner.
Overall, I think it’s a great card if you don’t want to think about it too much as it has solid bonus categories, is widely accepted as a Visa card, has no foreign transaction fees, and the transfer partners can’t be beat. But honestly, even though I’ll keep the card around for probably another year, I’m not sure it’s the most rational financial decision for me to pay the annual fee since I don’t actually have that much reason to put incremental spend on this card.