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Choosing the right credit card to add to your wallet largely depends on your budget and lifestyle — and that’s especially true when it comes to stepping up your rewards with a high annual fee card.
If you’re looking for premium rewards, two of our most recommended cards in the category are the American Express® Gold Card and the Chase Sapphire Reserve® — both travel rewards credit cards with annual fees of $250 and $550, respectively. You’ll get the opportunity to rack up bonus points, enjoy ongoing perks like travel and dining credits, and more. But before you commit, it’s important to understand which one might be better suited for your wallet and offer enough value on your spending to offset the annual fee.
Here’s a closer look at how the Amex Gold card and Chase Sapphire Reserve stack up against each other.
Depending on your travel and spending habits, it’s possible to get a ton of value out of one or even both of these cards. In fact, the Chase Sapphire Reserve (and its sister card, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card) recently got an upgrade. Now, cardholders can earn even more bonus points on many travel purchases.
Here’s how the Chase Sapphire Reserve and Amex Gold cards compare in terms of key details like annual fee, welcome offer, bonus points, and more.
|Chase Sapphire Reserve||American Express Gold Card|
|Annual Fee||$550||$250 (See Rates & Fees)|
|Welcome Offer||60,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points after you spend $4,000 in the first 3 months||60,000 Membership Rewards points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases in the first 6 months|
|Rewards||• 10x points on hotels and car rentals booked Chase Ultimate Rewards|
• 10x points on Chase Dining purchases
• 10x points on Peloton purchases (over $1,400, through March 2022)
• 5x points on flights booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards
• 3x points on other dining and travel
• 1x points on other purchases
|• 4x points on dining|
• 4x points at U.S. supermarkets (up to $25,000 per calendar year, then 1x)
• 3x points on flights booked directly from airlines or via Amex Travel
• 1x points on other purchases
|Added Benefits||• $300 travel credit (can also be used for gas and groceries through Dec. 31, 2021) |
• Up to $100 credit toward TSA PreCheck/Global Entry
• 10x points on Lyft rides and Lyft Pink membership (through March 2022)
• Up to $60 in DoorDash credits (through Dec. 2021)
• Up to $120 in Peloton membership credits (through Dec. 2021)
• Complimentary Priority Pass select lounge membership
|• Up to $120 in Uber Cash annually (for U.S. Eats orders and rides; Gold Card must be added to the Uber app to receive the benefit)|
• Up to $120 in dining statement credits annually ($10 per month)
• Up to $100 credit toward qualifying activities (like dining or spas) when you book the American Express Hotel Collection
While both cards are offering the same 60,000-point bonus, you’ll get more flexibility to meet the minimum spending requirement with the Amex Gold card. However, these two 60,000-point bonuses are not necessarily created equal — the Sapphire Reserve’s boosted redemptions means your 60,000 points can stretch further when you redeem for travel.
The Amex Gold card is currently offering 60,000 Membership Rewards points after you spend $4,000 in your first six months of membership. According to Amex, those points are worth up to $600 when you redeem them for travel.
The Chase Sapphire Reserve card is also offering 60,000 Ultimate Rewards points after you spend $4,000, but only allows three months to qualify. Those points are worth up to $900 towards travel, according to Chase.
You’ll have six months, as compared to three months, to spend $4,000 and earn a 60,000-point bonus with the Amex Gold, but the value of Chase’s bonus is potentially a lot higher, depending on how you redeem your rewards.
Just remember, you shouldn’t spend more than you can afford to hit a minimum spending threshold on a welcome bonus, no matter which card you end up applying for. Accruing high interest on a lingering card balance can easily cancel out your bonus.
The Sapphire Reserve and Amex Gold card both earn bonus points on dining and airfare, but there are a few key differences to note.
The Sapphire Reserve earns:
- 10 Ultimate Rewards points per dollar on hotels and car rentals booked through the Chase Travel portal
- 10 points per dollar on dining when booked through Chase Dining
- 10 points per dollar on Peloton purchases (over $1,400, through March 2022)
- 10 points per dollar on Lyft rides (through March 2022)
- 5 points per dollar on airfare when booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards
- 3 points per dollar on other travel and dining (hotels and airfare booked directly with airlines, dining purchases made directly at restaurants, etc.)
- 1 point per dollar on all other purchases.
Many of these are new upgrades that went into effect in August. Previously, the Sapphire Reserve card earned a flat rate of 3 points per dollar on all dining and travel (including hotels, airfare, rideshares and more), and 1 point per dollar on everything else.
The Amex Gold earns:
- 4 Membership Rewards points per dollar at restaurants
- 4 points per dollar at U.S. supermarkets (up to $25,000 per calendar year, then 1x)
- 3 points per dollar on flights booked directly from airlines or via Amex Travel
- 1 point per dollar on other purchases
The Chase Sapphire Reserve has a higher earning rate on dining purchases than the Amex Gold card, but only when booked through Chase Dining — the issuer’s dining portal where you can book reservations and unique dining experiences through the Tock reservation platform network. Otherwise, you’ll earn 3 points per dollar on dining. For these purchases — which can include everything from your morning coffee to takeout orders — the Amex Gold beats out the Sapphire Reserve with 4 points per dollar on dining.
Another key category is airfare. The Sapphire Reserve earns 5 points per dollar on airfare booked through the Chase Travel portal and 3 points per dollar when booked directly with airlines. The Amex Gold earns 3 points per dollar both when booked through the Amex Travel portal or directly with airlines.
If you’re willing to book flights through the card issuer travel portal rather than directly with the airline, you’ll come out on top with the Chase Sapphire Reserve here. Because its other highest-earning rewards category is also travel booked through Chase — hotels and car rentals — you’ll get the most value for travel overall with the Reserve. For a straightforward premium travel card, these rewards rates are tough to beat.
However, if you’re looking for a card better suited for everyday spending rewards, which you can later redeem for travel, the additional 4x points rewards at U.S. supermarkets could make the Amex Gold a better choice for you. Between that category and dining, this card works well for both everyday and travel rewards.
You can redeem the Chase Ultimate Rewards points that you’ll earn with the Sapphire Reserve card for a fixed rate of 1.5 cents each through the Chase Travel portal, or transfer 1:1 to travel partners such as JetBlue, Southwest Airlines, and Hyatt. Transferring to partners will often get a better value for your points, but travel prices can fluctuate greatly, so it’s worth comparing your options before you book.
For example, on a flight from Newark, New Jersey, to Los Angeles the weekend of Oct. 16, United Airlines is charging only 9,700 miles (plus $5.60 in taxes).
If you were to redeem your Chase Ultimate Rewards points through the portal for the same flight, you’d have to pay 13,120 instead.
On the other hand, a quick search of the Hyatt Centric near Bryant Park in New York City shows rates starting at 21,540 points per night when redeeming through the portal for the weekend of Sept. 18.
But if you transfer points directly to Hyatt and redeem through the hotel, rates start at 25,000 points during the same timeframe. This shows why it’s always a good idea to check both rates before you book.
Likewise, you can redeem your Membership Rewards points that you’ll earn with the Amex Gold card through the Amex Travel portal or by transferring 1:1 to partners such as Delta Air Lines, Air Canada Aeroplan, and Marriott Hotels. Amex Membership Rewards points you redeem through the portal don’t have a fixed rate, but like with Chase, you’ll often get more value transferring your points to partners. Still, it’s worth comparing both options before you book.
Consider these fares on a Delta flight between New York’s LaGuardia Airport and New Orleans during a weekend in late September. Currently, you can transfer Amex points to Delta, and pay 19,500 SkyMiles.
If you purchased the same flight on the same dates through the Amex portal, you’d pay 24,680 points — almost 5,000 points more.
Both cards can provide you a lot of value in terms of redeeming points and saving money on travel. If you prefer booking through the issuer portal, you’ll get a boosted 1.5x rewards value with the Sapphire Reserve, which may offer more long-term value than the Amex Gold. But if you’re inclined to transfer them to partners, it could be worth familiarizing yourself with both Chase and Amex’s transfer partners to determine which ones you prefer.
Many travel rewards credit cards have high interest rates, Sapphire Reserve and Amex Gold included. Before you open any new credit card — especially a premium travel card with high annual fee — make sure you can pay your bills on time and in full every month to avoid paying these high interest charges.
That said, the Chase Sapphire Reserve card has a variable APR of 16.99% to 23.99% and the Amex Gold has a variable APR between 15.99% and 22.99% for purchases eligible for Pay Over Time. According to the Federal Reserve, the average APR across all credit card accounts was 14.61% in the second quarter of 2021.
The Chase Sapphire Reserve has a significantly higher annual fee at $550. The Amex Gold card has an annual fee of $250. Both are costly, but the high-value benefits they offer can go a long way in making the cost worth it — as long as you match the rewards with purchases you would have made anyway.
If you use the $300 annual travel credit, up to $100 fee credit towards TSA PreCheck/Global Entry applications, up to $120 in Peloton credits and up to $60 in DoorDash credits, you can make up for the $550 Sapphire Reserve annual fee with added benefits alone — before accounting for rewards value and other perks like Priority Pass membership and travel protections.
Through Dec. 31, 2021, the $300 travel credit on the Sapphire Reserve card can also be used for grocery store and gas station purchases.
If you take advantage of the up to $120 dining credit, up to $120 Uber credits and Uber Eats Pass membership valued at $9.99 per month, you’ll get value (and then some) out of your $250 Amex Gold — again before the added value of any rewards or other travel protections.
As both cards are meant for travelers, neither one charges foreign transaction fees for purchases made abroad. Both are therefore good choices for any upcoming international trips if you feel comfortable traveling. The Chase Sapphire Reserve charges up to a $39 late payment fee. The Amex Gold charges up to a $38 late payment fee.
Deciding Between the Chase Sapphire Reserve and Amex Gold Cards
Both the Chase Sapphire Reserve and Amex Gold card are popular premium travel rewards credit cards geared toward frequent travelers who also dine out frequently.
I personally have both cards and use them regularly, especially before the pandemic, as I was traveling much more often.
I enjoy the perks that the Sapphire Reserve offers, such as the $100 credit toward TSA PreCheck/Global Entry every four years, as well as the $300 travel credit. I was getting solid use out of the one-year complimentary Lyft Pink membership, which includes 15% off rides and a Seamless+ membership, though it recently expired after the one-year mark. These are all perks that helped offset the $550 annual fee for me.
The Chase Sapphire Reserve card also comes with Priority Pass Select lounge membership with access to over 1,000 airport lounges around the world, a valuable perk if you travel often and already prefer having access to airport lounges before a flight.
I’ll use my Amex Gold, on the other hand, when dining out or buying groceries, since it earns 4 points per dollar on both of those purchases. This card is a better fit for everyday spending with benefits that you can take advantage of when traveling. For the $250 annual fee, you’ll earn 4 points per dollar on dining and groceries — plus earn $10 monthly credits to both Seamless/GrubHub (and other dining options) and Uber/Uber Eats, as well as a complimentary Uber Eats Pass (through Dec. 2021, $9.99 per month otherwise).
Those are all great benefits for everyday spending, but you’ll also get points on airfare and up to a $100 property credit when booking hotels through The Hotel Collection. With The Hotel Collection, you’re eligible for a room upgrade (depending on availability) when you stay two or more nights, as well. There are over 300 hotels in this program around the world. The Amex Gold card can really pay for itself with these valuable perks if they align with your spending.
The cards’ bonus points earning rates are nearly equal to each other, with some minor differences by a point or two in dining and airfare categories. The biggest difference, though, is that the Amex Gold card does not come with the $300 annual travel credit, TSA PreCheck/Global Entry credit, or lounge access.
The Reserve may be a better fit if you enjoy these more premium perks and travel experiences, while the Amex Gold can be a more lucrative way to build up points everyday you can redeem for travel later. Ultimately, if you’re a frequent traveler who likes to dine out — and you can afford the steep annual fees — you’ll find a ton of value in either of these cards.
Chase Sapphire Reserve®
- Intro bonus:60,000 points
- Annual fee:$550
- Regular APR:16.99%-23.99% Variable
- Recommended credit:740-850 (Excellent)
- Learn more at our partner’s secure site.
American Express® Gold Card
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
- Intro bonus:100,000 points
- Annual fee:$95
- Regular APR:15.99% – 22.99% Variable
- Recommended credit:670-850 (Good to Excellent)
- Learn more at our partner’s secure site.
There’s no question, though, that both cards can be pricey and out of budget for many people. If you’re looking for a more well-rounded and budget-friendly travel card, we’d recommend the Chase Sapphire Preferred. It has a $95 annual fee, and — with a whopping 100,000-point bonus after you spend $4,000 in the first three months — is our top pick for the best travel rewards card with an annual fee under $100.
Other great low-cost or no annual fee travel cards we like include the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card ($95 annual fee) and Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card (no annual fee). These cards won’t offer the same premium benefits and perks as the Sapphire Reserve or Amex Gold, but offer great savings if you don’t travel as often or those added benefits don’t fit with your spending.
For rates and fees of the American Express Gold Card, click here.
Terms apply to American Express benefits and offers. Enrollment may be required for some American Express benefits and offers. Visit americanexpress.com to learn more.