Chase Sapphire Reserve vs AMEX Platinum 2020 | Best Travel Credit Card With No Annual Fees for Military

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The Chase Sapphire Reserve travel card is fee waived for military.

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Comparing the Chase Sapphire Reserve vs the American Express Platinum is a fun exercise in comparing two of the best luxury travel credit cards available. Military servicemembers and their spouses get both of these travel cards with no annual fees!

Both cards normally carry a $550 annual fee but military pays $0. That's a $1100 per year savings if you get both or $2200 if you and your spouse get both cards.

Assuming you're married and both spouses get both cards, over 10 years you save $22,000 in annual fees and still access all of the perks of these cards.

Let's compare the AMEX Platinum vs the Chase Sapphire Reserve on several different factors:

  • Chase Ultimate Rewards vs AMEX Membership Rewards
  • Hotel and airline transfer partners
  • Spending bonus categories
  • Value of welcome bonus
  • Annual benefits like travel credits
  • Rental Car and Trip Insurance
  • Airport Lounge Access
  • Annual fees

One thing we won't have to worry about for military servicemembers is the annual fee. Both AMEX and Chase waive all personal card fees for active duty military and their spouses!

Learn more about the Chase Sapphire Reserve military annual fee waiver and the AMEX Platinum military fee waiver for both military spouses and the active duty soldier, sailor, airman, Marine, or coast guardian.

These travel credit cards offer excellent transfer partners, card membership rewards, annual recurring benefits like travel credits, lounge access, travel and rental car insurance. Let's get into it…

Which is better AMEX Platinum vs Chase Reserve?

Chase Sapphire Reserve

Chase Sapphire Reserve No Annual Fee for Military

Learn how to Apply for the Chase Sapphire Reserve

  • 50,000 Chase Ultimate Reward Points after $4000 of spend in the first 3 months
  • No foreign transaction fees

Chase Ultimate Rewards

  • 13 transfer partners
  • Cash out at 100k UR points = $1000

CSR Bonus Categories

  • 3x points on travel (hotels + airlines)*
  • 3x points on dining
  • 1x points on everything else

CSR Benefits

  • $300 travel credit
  • $60 annual Doordash Credit
  • Travel insurance
  • 1200+ Priority Pass airport lounge and restaurant access
  • Up to $100 fee credit for Global Entry (military personnel already get TSA Pre-Check with their DOD ID number)
  • Primary rental car insurance



Annual fee $550 waived for military to $0 with Chase Military Lending Act (MLA)

The Platinum Card from American Express

Military SCRA MLA AMEX Platinum

Learn how to Apply for the AMEX Platinum Card

  • 60,000 AMEX Membership Reward Points after $5000 of spend in the first 3 months
  • No foreign transaction fees

American Express Membership Rewards

  • 22 transfer partners
  • Cash out at 100k MR points = $1,250

AMEX Platinum Bonus Categories

  • 5x points on directly booked airfare
  • 5x points airlines and hotels on amextravel.com
  • 1x points on everything elese

AMEX Platinum Benefits

  • $200 airline fee credit
  • $200 annual Uber/UberEats credit
  • Travel insurance
  • 1200+ Priority Pass and AMEX Centurion airport lounge and restaurant access
  • Up to $100 fee credit for Global Entry (military personnel already get TSA Pre-Check with their DOD ID number)
  • Automatic SPG Gold Elite and Hilton HHonors Gold Status

Annual fee $550 waived for military to $0 with AMEX Platinum military SCRA

*3x points on travel starts after you earn the $300 travel credit

Chase Ultimate Rewards vs AMEX Membership Rewards

American Express Membership Rewards Portal
Chase Ultimate Rewards Portal

Ultimate Rewards and Membership Rewards points are the most valuable credit card reward points because of how flexible they are. You can use these flexible credit card points to:

  • Pay for items on Amazon with points
  • Pay for charges on the credit card account
  • Buy gift cards
  • Cash out the points and receive a check through the mail
  • Book travel with the points through the AMEX or Chase Travel Portals
  • Transfer the points to airline or hotel travel partners to maximize value

When you first get into the credit card travel hobby, it can be tempting to cash out your points for cash. While this can be a quick and easy way to earn some extra money, it does not extract the best value from your points.

The cash value of Chase points is 1 cent when cashed out in the Chase Ultimate Rewards Portal, available at UltimateRewards.com.

AMEX points are a bit harder to cash out, but you can cash them out if you have an AMEX Platinum Card for Charles Schwab. The Schwab Platinum is a separate card and product to the regular AMEX Platinum. The cash value of AMEX points is 1.25 cents when cashed out through a Schwab AMEX Platinum.

Best Use of Chase or AMEX Points

The most valuable use of credit card points is transferring the points to the AMEX or Chase transfer partners. I have received anywhere from 3-11+ cents per point, making 100,000 AMEX or Chase points worth $3000-$11,000+ of travel value!

Currently Chase has 13 Ultimate Rewards transfer partners and American Express has 22 Membership Rewards transfer partners.

Chase Ultimate Rewards Transfer Partners

  • Aer Lingus AerClub
  • Air France/KLM Flying Blue
  • British Airways Executive Club
  • Emirates Skywards
  • JetBlue TrueBlue
  • Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer
  • Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards
  • United MileagePlus
  • Virgin Atlantic Flying Club
  • Iberia Plus
  • World of Hyatt
  • IHG Rewards Club
  • Marriott Bonvoy

AMEX Membership Rewards Transfer Partners

  • Aer Lingus
  • AeroMexico
  • Air Canada
  • Alitalia
  • ANA
  • Cathay Pacific (Asia Miles)
  • Avianca
  • British Airways
  • Delta
  • El Al
  • Emirates
  • Etihad
  • Flying Blue (Air France / KLM)
  • Iberia
  • Hawaiian Airlines
  • JetBlue
  • Qantas
  • Singapore Airlines
  • Virgin Atlantic
  • Choice Hotels
  • Hilton Honors
  • Marriott Bonvoy

Since both credit card reward programs offer different transfer opportunities, it makes sense to to have both cards. Which card you should get first depends on where you are more likely to transfer points to.

For instance, many US government flights are operated by United Airlines. It might make sense to have some Chase points stocked up so you can transfer the UR points to United and upgrade your ticket.

You can combine Chase UR points between accounts in the same household, like a husband and wife. With AMEX you cannot combine MR points but you can transfer points to the same frequent flyer or hotel loyalty program account, effectively allowing you to combine points with your spouse.

CSR vs Platinum Reward Categories

Both cards earn extra reward points in different but similar categories. The main Sapphire Reserve earning category is 3x points on dining and travel. This is a great catch all bonus category.

The AMEX Platinum earns 5x points on airfare purchased directly with the airline or booked through amextravel.com.

If you value MR and UR points at about 2 cents per point, that means you can make about a 6% return on dining and travel spending and a 10% return on airline tickets.

AMEX Platinum vs Chase Sapphire Reserve Travel Credits

Chase Sapphire Reserve is the clear winner in this category. The $300 annual travel credit is extremely flexible, easy to use, and doesn't require any registration. It refreshes every year on your card membership anniversary.

Here's an example of how quickly the CSR travel credit posts and how easy it is to use:

Chase $300 Travel Credit

I pre-paid for a rental car on Priceline for $203.50 and I took an Uber and paid $30.31. My CSR travel credit reloads in December every year. The day the charges posted to my account, the $300 CSR travel credit kicked in and zeroed out those charges. Easy!

The AMEX Platinum airline incidental fee credit is more unwieldy and difficult to maximize the value from. You can only select one airline a year to use the credit on. You must sign up for the benefit and activate it on americanexpress.com before you use it.

Airline incidental fee charges that count towards the AMEX platinum credit include:

  • Airline tickets
  • Upgrades
  • Mileage points purchases
  • Mileage points transfer fees
  • Gift cards
  • Duty-free purchases
  • Award tickets

Cash Value of Platinum vs CSR Welcome Bonus

In 2020 the welcome bonuses for the AMEX Platinum and Sapphire Reserve are:

Military SCRA MLA AMEX Platinum

AMEX Platinum: 60,000 MR points after $5000 spend in 3 months

Chase Sapphire Reserve No Annual Fee for Military

Chase Sapphire Reserve: 50,000 UR points after $4000 spend in first 3 months

The cash value of Platinum and CSR 60,000 and 50,000 points are:

If you have the Schwab Platinum card, you could cash out your 60,000 MR points for $750.

50,000 UR points can be cashed out for $500 through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal

If you transfer Chase and AMEX points to a travel partner, you can get significantly more value from the points. Here are some examples:

ANA booked with AMEX points

I recently booked 2 ANA first class tickets from Honolulu to Tokyo. $27,000 tickets for 240,000 AMEX points. That's 11 cents per Membership Reward point!

Booking Park Hyatt New York City with Hyatt points

The Park Hyatt New York starts at $1200 per night. You can transfer 30,000 Chase points to your Hyatt account and book a room to earn 4 cents per Ultimate Reward point.

Chase and AMEX points are consistently valued at about the same 2 cents per point across the web. I usually use this as a benchmark when trying to make a travel redemption.

If I'm not getting 2 cents per point, I will frequently make the booking with cash and save my points for a big redemption, like ANA first class at 11 cents per point or luxury Hyatt hotels at 4+ cents per point. You can learn more about maximizing your military points in my 100% free course.

CSR and AMEX Platinum Annual Benefits

AMEX Platinum

  • $200 Uber or UberEats credit
  • $200 airline incidental fee credit

Chase Sapphire Reserve

  • $60 Doordash credit
  • $300 travel credit

The Uber credit is paid at $15 per month and $35 in December. Because my wife and I have multiple AMEX Platinum cards, we received $175 in December Uber credits last year. Hard to justify cooking when delivery is free!

Uber credits stacking up!

Other recurring benefits for both cards include airport lounge access, travel insurance, and (only for military servicemembers and spouses), a $550 waived annual fee.

CSR vs AMEX Platinum Airport Lounge Access

American Express Platinum grants you access to many airport lounges.

  • American Express Centurion Lounges
  • Delta Sky Club Lounges
  • Priority Pass Select Lounges
  • Escape Lounges
  • Airspace Lounges
  • Plaza Premium Lounges
  • International American Express Lounges
  • Lufthansa Lounges

For Lufthansa and Delta Sky Club, you need to be flying that airline to access the lounge. Otherwise, you just show your AMEX Platinum card, a government ID, and your boarding pass for that day.

The CSR gives you access to Priority Pass lounges and restaurants. When you open the Priority Pass app, you can see a list of lounges and restaurants where you can access for free, usually with up to 2 guests.

At participating Priority Pass restaurants, you usually get $28 off your bill. This is per Priority Pass holder, so if your spouse also gets a CSR, you could get $56 of free food and drink. Make sure you check the app for details on what you can and cannot order!

The AMEX Platinum cut the Priority Pass restaurant benefit in Aug 2019, meaning the Chase Sapphire Reserve is definitely the winner of which Priority Pass you should get. However, you still need the AMEX Platinum to access Centurion, Delta, and Lufthansa lounges, so make sure you apply for both cards!

Chase Reserve vs AMEX Platinum Travel Insurance

To keep it simple, use your CSR for booking rental cars and either card for booking airfare.

The Sapphire Reserve rental car insurance is primary car rental coverage, meaning it kicks in and covers your damages before your regular auto insurance, like USAA or GEICO. AMEX Platinum only offers secondary coverage, meaning it only steps in when your regular car insurance is exhausted.

AMEX Platinum Travel Insurance

  • Trip cancellation and interruption: up to $10,000 per trip
  • Trip delay: up to $500 for lodging, meals, etc if your trip is delayed by more than 6 hours
  • Lost luggage: up to $2000 per person per trip for loss of checked bag and $3000 for carry-on

CSR Travel Insurance

  • Trip cancellation and interruption: up to $10,000 per person per trip
  • Trip delay: up to $500 for lodging, meals, etc if your trip is delayed by more than 6 hours
  • Lost luggage: up to $3000 per person per trip
  • Travel accident insurance: up to $1,000,000 per person

Sapphire Reserve vs AMEX Platinum Military Annual Fee

The American Express Platinum's annual fees are $550 per year. The Chase Sapphire Reserve annual fees are also $550 per year.

Both American Express and Chase waive the $550 annual fees on these 2 cards for military servicemembers and spouses. Yes, you read that right:

Military servicemembers and spouses pay $0 annual fees on the American Express Platinum and Chase Sapphire Reserve.

The $550 annual fees are completely waived as long as you are on active duty service or orders. For more information see my detailed explanation of the Chase MLA policy and the AMEX SCRA policy.

Is It Worth Having Both the AMEX Platinum and Chase Sapphire Reserve?

Yes! Every military servicemember and their husband or wife should have their own AMEX Platinum and Chase Sapphire Reserve.

Both cards have their strengths and weaknesses. Together they have very complementary reward categories, so you can earn much more than 1 point per dollar spent on airlines, hotels, travel, and restaurants.

My wife and I both have our own AMEX Platinum and Chase Sapphire Reserve cards. We pay no annual fees on these 4 cards since I am active duty military.

Here is the best way to maximize your points earning with these cards after you receive your welcome bonus:

  • Book all airline tickets and airfare directly with the airline or through amextravel.com with your AMEX Platinum card: 5x points
  • Book your rental cars with your Sapphire Reserve to use the free rentral car insurance and earn 3x points
  • Pay for your hotels, taxis, public transit, and all other travel expenses on your CSR to earn 3x points
  • Put all of your restaurants, cafes, bar tabs, and other dining on your CSR to earn 3x points
  • Everything else put on the card (CSR or Platinum) that earns the flexible points (MR or UR) you need the most

Best Travel Credit Card for Military Servicemembers

Military servicemembers and their spouses should each get their own AMEX Platinum and Chase Sapphire Reserve. These are the 2 best travel credit cards for military families.

Don't just add your spouse as an authorized user to your card! He or she is able to get their own welcome bonus and earn their own annual perks.

What are you waiting for? Who knows how much longer these annual fees will be waived for military servicemembers? Get these cards before this amazing benefit goes away!

Learn more about applying for the Platinum Card from American Express.

Learn more about applying for the Chase Sapphire Reserve.

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