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Battle of the Premium Travel Rewards Cards: Which Is the Best?

The Points Guy logo The Points Guy 8/19/2019 The Points Guy
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Picking the best travel rewards credit cards to carry in your wallet and use on a regular basis can be quite challenging. Each one offers a different combination of perks, and this is especially applicable when it comes to premium credit cards. Thanks to issuers upping the ante, there’s more competition than ever in this segment. But, which premium travel rewards credit cards is the best? In this guide, I’ll attempt to answer that very question.

a group of people sitting at a table: Delta Sky Club Seattle © The Points Guy Delta Sky Club Seattle

For starters, this analysis focuses on seven popular premium cards:

(Note that the Ritz-Carlton Card has been removed from this analysis, since it’s not open to new applicants at this time.)

I’ll compare each of these cards across eight categories: annual fee, current intro. bonus, point earning, redemptions, travel credits, lounge access, additional travel perks and coverage. For each category, I’ll rank the cards from best to worst and award points accordingly (7 points to the best card in the category, 6 points to the second best card in the category, etc., though I’ll award 0 points to a card that has nothing in a particular category). At the end, I’ll tally up the results and crown a champion!

As always, feel free to adjust (or even weight) the categories as needed based on your own travel patterns. The United Club Card could be preferred if you’re a Chicago-based traveler, while others might live in New York and value the access you’ll get to both the Centurion Lounge at LaGuardia and Delta Sky Clubs across the globe with the Amex Platinum. This analysis is based on a generic traveler trying to decide which one of these seven cards should go in his/her wallet.

Let’s get started!

1. Annual Fee

a person in a pool of water: The Sapphire Reserve is tied for the lowest annual fee among the premium travel cards at $450. Photo by Isabelle Raphael/The Points Guy. © The Points Guy The Sapphire Reserve is tied for the lowest annual fee among the premium travel cards at $450. Photo by Isabelle Raphael/The Points Guy.

Amex Platinum: $550 (see rates & fees) plus $175 for up to three additional card holders (see rates & fees)

Chase Sapphire Reserve: $450, $75 for each additional card holder

Citi Prestige: $495, plus $75 for each additional card holder

Hilton Amex Aspire: $450 (see rates & fees), $0 for each additional card holder (see rates & fees)

Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant: $450 (see rates & fees), $0 for each additional card holder (see rates & fees)

Delta Reserve: $450 (see rates & fees), $0 for each additional card holder (see rates & fees)

United Club: $450, $0 for each additional card holder

Analysis

On the surface, many of these cards seem tied since all but two of the seven cards have a $450 annual fee. However, the cost (or lack thereof) of additional card holders provides some separation. While the Hilton Amex Aspire, Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant Amex, Delta Reserve Card and United Club Card don’t charge a fee for additional card holders, the Hilton Amex Aspire allows authorized users to enjoy a $100 property credit for eligible two-night stays at Waldorf Astoria and Conrad properties — while the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant, Delta Reserve Card and United Club Card don’t offer any additional perks.

The Amex Platinum, Chase Sapphire Reserve and Citi Prestige provide additional card holders access to Priority Pass lounges, even when not traveling with the primary card holder. These benefits also include Centurion Lounges and Sky Clubs on the Amex Platinum. Since the fee is lower on the Sapphire Reserve, I’ll rank that in first place. The Hilton Aspire takes second place in my book, since authorized users get added perks for no fee, and the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant Amex, Delta Reserve and United Club Card come in tied at third. Sixth place goes to the Citi Prestige since it has the second highest annual fee. Last place goes to the Amex Platinum thanks to its high fee in comparison to the others, though you can add three authorized users for a total of $175 and each authorized user gets a lot of benefits.

Ranking

Chase Sapphire Reserve (7 points)

Hilton Aspire (6 points)

Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant, Delta Reserve and United Club (5 points)

Citi Prestige (2 points)

Amex Platinum (1 point)

2. Current Welcome Bonus

a person using a laptop computer: The Amex Platinum card currently features a bonus worth $1,200, giving you plenty of points to book your next trip. Photo by Isabelle Raphael/The Points Guy. © The Points Guy The Amex Platinum card currently features a bonus worth $1,200, giving you plenty of points to book your next trip. Photo by Isabelle Raphael/The Points Guy.

Amex Platinum: 60,000 Membership Rewards points after you use your new card to make $5,000 in purchases in the first three months (worth $1,200 based on TPG’s most recent valuations), though be sure to check the CardMatch Tool to see if you’re targeted for a Amex Patinum 100k points bonus offer.

Chase Sapphire Reserve: 50,000 bonus Ultimate Rewards points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening (worth $1,000)

Citi Prestige: 50,000 bonus ThankYou Rewards points after you spend $4,000 within three months of account opening (worth $850)

Hilton Amex Aspire: 150,000 Hilton Honors points after you spend $4,000 in purchases on the card within your first three months of card membership (worth $900)

Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant: 75,000 point welcome bonus after you use your new Card to make $3,000 in purchases within the first 3 months. (worth $600).

Delta Reserve: 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) and 40,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new card in your first three months (worth $480, not including the MQMs).

United Club: 50,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening (worth $700)

Analysis

The top spot in this category goes to the Amex Platinum, which edges out the Sapphire Reserve by $200 (though it carries the potential of an even bigger payday through the CardMatch Tool). The Hilton Aspire comes in third, the Citi Prestige in fourth and the Bonvoy Brilliant in fifth. The sixth spot goes to the United Club Card, and last place goes to the Delta Reserve Card thanks to its comparatively small bonus, though you might bump this up a spot or two if you could really use the 10,000 MQMs.

Ranking

Amex Platinum (7 points)

Chase Sapphire Reserve (6 points)

Hilton Aspire (5 points)

Citi Prestige (4 points)

Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant (3 points)

United Club (2 points)

Delta Reserve (1 point)

3. Point Earning

a close up of a logo: The Citi Prestige’s 5x earning at restaurants and on airfare is hard to pass up. Photo by Eric Helgas/The Points Guy. © The Points Guy The Citi Prestige’s 5x earning at restaurants and on airfare is hard to pass up. Photo by Eric Helgas/The Points Guy.

Amex Platinum: 5 Membership Rewards points per dollar spent on airfare purchases booked through the airline or though Amex Travel and on prepaid hotels booked directly through Amex; 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases

Chase Sapphire Reserve: 3 Ultimate Rewards points per dollar spent on travel and dining purchases; 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases

Citi Prestige: 5 ThankYou Rewards points per dollar spent on air travel and restaurants; 3 points per dollar spent at hotels and cruise lines; 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases

Hilton Amex Aspire: 14 Hilton Honors points per dollar spent at Hilton portfolio properties worldwide; 7 points per dollar spent on flights booked directly with the airline or at amextravel.com, car rentals booked directly from select companies and at US restaurants; 3 points per dollar spent on all other purchases

Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant: 6 Marriott points per dollar spent at participating Marriott properties; 3 points per dollar spent at US restaurants and airfare purchased directly with the airline; 2 points per dollar spent on all other purchases

Delta Reserve: 2 miles per dollar spent on Delta purchases; 1 mile per dollar spent on all other purchases

United Club: 2 miles per dollar spent on United ticket purchases; 1.5 miles per dollar spent on all other purchases

Analysis

With the Citi Prestige’s recently added 5x earning on air travel and at restaurants, it claims first place in the earnings category. Having any type of 5x points category is nice by itself, but when it applies to airfare and dining purchases, that’s a powerful combination since you’ll be getting a 8.5% return on these purchases. The Chase Sapphire Reserve comes in second with 3x earning on all travel and dining purchases. The Sapphire Reserve has a very broad definition of what constitutes travel, so even many of your everyday expenses including public transit and taxis will could as travel. It also doesn’t hurt that you’re earning valuable Ultimate Rewards points on all purchases, meaning you’ll get a 6% return on all travel expenses.

The Hilton Amex Aspire takes the third spot thanks to an incredible 14 points per dollar spent at Hilton properties and 7 points per dollar spent on airfare, car rentals and US restaurants; these bonuses represent a return of 8.4% and 4.2% (respectively) based on TPG’s most recent valuations. The Amex Platinum card comes in fourth due to its 5x earnings on airfare and hotels, which is less appealing due to the booking requirements and limited travel protections. I’ll then slot the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant into fifth thanks to the additional bonus category aside from its own program’s hotels and the United Card in sixth thanks to the 1.5 miles per dollar on everyday purchases. The Delta Reserve finishes in last due to lackluster earning even on Delta purchases.

Ranking

Citi Prestige (7 points)

Chase Sapphire Reserve (6 points)

Hilton Amex Aspire (5 points)

Amex Platinum (4 points)

Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant (3 points)

United Club (2 points)

Delta Reserve (1 points)

4. Redemptions

a person in a pool of water: The Chase Sapphire Reserve earns valuable Chase Ultimate Rewards points that you can use to take your dream trip. Photo by Isabelle Raphael/The Points Guy. © The Points Guy The Chase Sapphire Reserve earns valuable Chase Ultimate Rewards points that you can use to take your dream trip. Photo by Isabelle Raphael/The Points Guy.

Amex Platinum: Numerous direct redemptions like gift cards, Uber rides and travel; transfer points to one of airline partners (like Etihad and Singapore) or three hotel partners

Chase Sapphire Reserve: Redeem points directly for travel at a rate of 1.5 cents per point; transfer points to one of nine airline partners (like British Airways and Southwest) or three hotel partners (like Hyatt)

Citi Prestige: Redeem points directly for airfare at a rate of 1.25 cents per point until Sept. 1, 2019; transfer points to one of 15 airline partners (like Avianca LifeMiles and Virgin Atlantic)

Hilton Amex Aspire: Redeem points for stays at hotels in the Hilton Honors portfolio of brands

Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant: Redeem points for stays at hotels in the new Marriott Bonvoy program along with lucrative airline transfers

Delta Reserve: Redeem miles for flights on Delta and its various partners (like Virgin Atlantic)

United Club: Redeem miles for flights on United and its various partners (like Lufthansa)

Analysis

This category is a bit closer, as each card has its own appealing redemptions. However, I’d group the top four cards together thanks to the flexibility of transferable points that won’t lock you into a specific set of airlines. Of those four, I’d give the nod to the Sapphire Reserve. Even though the Reserve only has 12 transfer partners, it also has the ability to redeem points for travel at a rate of 1.5 cents apiece which guarantees that you can get some great value out of the program. A close second is the Amex Platinum due to its 21 transfer partners and varied redemption options. Third place goes to the Citi Prestige and fourth goes to the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant Amex.

For the latter part of the list, I’ll place the United Club card in fifth, as United miles can get you some pretty terrific flight redemptions — though keep in mind the carrier recently announced the elimination of its award charts and introduced dynamic pricing for United-operated flights. Finally, I’ll award sixth place to both the Hilton Amex Aspire and the Delta Reserve, as both programs tend to require a lot of points or miles for redemptions and no longer formally publish award charts. However, feel free to bump one of these up if you have a definitive loyalty and are well-versed in maximizing either program.

Ranking

Chase Sapphire Reserve (7 points)

Amex Platinum (6 points)

Citi Prestige (5 points)

Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant (4 points)

United Club (3 points)

Hilton Amex Aspire and Delta Reserve (2 points)

5. Travel Credits

Amex Platinum: Up to $200 airline fee credit toward incidentals like baggage fees and lounge passes each calendar year; up to $200 in annual Uber credits

Chase Sapphire Reserve: $300 travel credit each account anniversary (or, if you applied for the Sapphire Reserve before May 21, 2017, your travel credit resets when your December statement closes)

Citi Prestige: $250 travel credit each calendar year

Hilton Amex Aspire: Up to $250 airline fee credit each calendar year; $250 Hilton resort credit each year of card membership; $100 on-property credit for two-night Waldorf-Astoria or Conrad stays

Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant: Up $300 credit for eligible purchases at Marriott properties each year of card membership

Delta Reserve: None

United Club: None

Analysis

As with some of the earlier categories, the Sapphire Reserve is head and shoulders above the rest of the cards. For starters, the $300 credit is a higher dollar amount and also applies to any travel purchase (as opposed to just fees or airfare like some of its competition). In addition, the credits post instantly; others require you to wait an entire statement or even force you to call and have customer service manually issue you a credit. This is why readers recently voted it the Best Credit Card Perk.

I’ll award second place to the Hilton Aspire because of the potential to get $500+ in travel credits each year. Although the Aspire’s airline fee credit requires you to designate a single airline and technically only applies to fees, the $250 resort credit is easy to use if you visit an eligible resort and the $100 property credit will come in useful if you visit any Waldorf-Astoria or Conrad properties.

Third place goes to the Amex Platinum. Like the Aspire, the $200 airline fee credit requires you to designate a single airline and technically only applies to fees. But, if you pick your airline carefully you may be able to get airline gift cards covered. And, if you travel frequently within the US you should be able to put the monthly Uber credits to full use.

Fourth place goes to the Citi Prestige’s $250 travel credit, which posts automatically. However, if you prefer simplicity or will struggle to use the Aspire or Platinum Card’s airline fee credit, you may rank the Prestige higher. Fifth place goes to the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant since its $300 credit will apply automatically when you stay at any Marriott property. Since neither of the airline cards offer a comparable perk, I’ll award both of them zero points in this category.

Ranking

Chase Sapphire Reserve (7 points)

Hilton Amex Aspire (6 points)

Amex Platinum (5 points)

Citi Prestige (4 points)

Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant (3 points)

Delta Reserve and United Club (0 points)

6. Lounge Access

Amex Platinum: Priority Pass Select (two free guests), Delta Sky Clubs when flying Delta (guests are $29 each), Airspace lounges (two free guests or immediate family) and Centurion Lounges (two free guests)

Chase Sapphire Reserve: Priority Pass Select (two guests)

Citi Prestige: Priority Pass Select (immediate family or up to two free guests)

Hilton Amex Aspire: Priority Pass Select (two free guests)

Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant: Priority Pass Select (two free guests)

Delta Reserve: Sky Club access when traveling on a Delta-coded or Delta-operated flight (guests are $29 each)

United Club: Full United Club membership (two free guests or immediate family)

Analysis

This category is much tougher to rank, given that the true value of lounge access is based on so many factors: your typical departure airport(s), your preferred airline(s) and how frequently you travel with guests, to name a few. The Amex Platinum gives you great flexibility, and being able to bring two guests for free to most lounges is a huge perk. The Sapphire Reserve used to stand ahead of the others with unlimited guests for Priority Pass lounges, but that was dropped to two guests in August 2018.

Given all of that, I’ll slot the Amex Platinum in first thanks to the fantastic Centurion Lounges. Amex did recently announce that it’s cutting restaurant access from its Priority Pass benefit, but given its other lounge access options it still comes out on top. The Citi Prestige takes second because it allows families to bring all their children to Priority Pass lounges. I’ll then place the remaining Priority Pass-eligible cards in a tie for third, followed by the United Club card in sixth and the Delta Reserve Card bringing up the rear thanks to its very restrictive access policies for cardholders.

Ranking

Amex Platinum (7 points)

Citi Prestige (6 points)

Chase Sapphire Reserve, Hilton Amex Aspire and Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant (5 points)

United Club (2 points)

Delta Reserve (1 point)

7. Additional Perks

Amex Fine Hotels and Resorts — a benefit of The Platinum Card — provides elite-like perks like breakfast for two and guaranteed 4pm late check-out at luxury hotels like the Park Hyatt Beijing . Photo by Katie Genter/The Points Guy. © The Points Guy Amex Fine Hotels and Resorts — a benefit of The Platinum Card — provides elite-like perks like breakfast for two and guaranteed 4pm late check-out at luxury hotels like the Park Hyatt Beijing . Photo by Katie Genter/The Points Guy.

While the previous two benefits deserved their own category (in my opinion), these cards also provide a host of other travel and entertainment-related benefits that are probably best expressed in a table format. Here’s a snapshot, though note that I focused on perks that I considered most likely to be used by a broad audience:

BenefitAmex Platinum

Sapphire Reserve

Citi Prestige

Hilton Amex Aspire

Marriott Bonvoy BrilliantDelta ReserveUnited Club
Airline PerksInternational Airline Program provides discounts on first, business and premium economy ticketsNoneNoneNoneNoneFree checked bag on domestic Delta flights; priority boarding; 20% savings on inflight purchases; 15,000 MQMs and 15,000 bonus miles after spending $30,000; another 15,000 MQMs and 15,000 bonus miles after spending $60,000; annual companion certificateTwo free checked bags for primary card member and one companion; Premier Access; waived close-in award-booking fees; Premier upgrades on award tickets for elite members
Hotel PerksAmerican Express Fine Hotels & ResortsLuxury Hotel & Resort Collection4th Night Free BenefitOne weekend night per year (plus another after spending $60,000)One free night award per year (valid for nights up to 50,000 points); Premium in-room internetNoneLuxury Hotel & Resort Collection
Hotel Elite StatusMarriott Rewards Gold status and Hilton Honors Gold statusNoneNoneHilton Honors Diamond statusMarriott Rewards Gold status; Platinum status after spending $75,000 in a year; 15 Elite Night creditsNoneNone
Global Entry/TSA PreCheck CreditOne credit every 4 yearsOne credit every 4 yearsOne credit every 5 yearsNoneOne credit every 4 yearsNoneNone
Other PerksComplimentary Boingo Wi-Fi access; $100 annual Saks Fifth Avenue creditNoneNoneComplimentary Boingo Wi-Fi accessNoneNoneHertz President’s Circle status

Analysis

This category also makes it a bit challenging to compare cards given the different benefits offered on each and how those benefits are valued by different travelers. However, I’d say the Amex Platinum occupies the top spot given the hotel elite status plus the Fine Hotels & Resorts program, the $100 credit at Saks Fifth Avenue every year and the International Airfare Program. Second place is a bit tougher, but I’ll give the nod to the Hilton Amex Aspire thanks to the automatic top-tier status, free weekend night and ability to earn a second free weekend night, both of which are valid at virtually all properties in the Hilton Honors worldwide portfolio.

I’ll give the third spot to the Citi Prestige Card due to its 4th Night Free benefit. Depending on how you use this benefit you may want to rank the Prestige higher or lower. But, even once the benefit is restricted this September, there’s still the potential to save significant money on two stays of four nights or longer.

The fourth spot is a bit of a toss-up, so I’ll call it a three-way tie between the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant, the Delta Reserve Card and the United Club Card. All three have their positive attributes; the Marriott card includes benefits for Marriott stays like elite status and premium internet, while the United and Delta cards confer perks for flying each carrier. The United Club card offers some added diversity with rental car status, while the Delta card’s annual companion certificate can be quite valuable. As always, feel free to break this tie if you’re loyal to one of the associated programs.

I’ll place Sapphire Reserve in last place since its main perk in this section is the Global Entry/TSA PreCheck credit.

Ranking

Amex Platinum (7 points)

Hilton Amex Aspire (6 points)

Citi Prestige (5 points)

Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant, Delta Reserve and United Club (4 points)

Sapphire Reserve (1 point)

8. Coverage

Some credit cards offer trip delay protection, which means you may be covered for a hotel if your flight is significantly delayed. Photo by izusek/Getty Images. © The Points Guy Some credit cards offer trip delay protection, which means you may be covered for a hotel if your flight is significantly delayed. Photo by izusek/Getty Images.

All of these cards also provide various coverages and protections when you’re traveling or making purchases, and again this is probably best visualized using a table:

BenefitAmex PlatinumSapphire ReserveCiti PrestigeHilton Amex AspireMarriott Bonvoy BrilliantDelta ReserveUnited Club
Car Rental CoverageYes (secondary)Yes (primary)Yes (secondary in US, primary outside the US)Yes (secondary)Yes (secondary)Yes (secondary)Yes (primary)
Travel AssistanceYesYesYesYesYesYesYes
Baggage Loss or DamageYes (up to $2,000 for checked bags and $3,000 for carry-on bags, limited at $3,000 for all luggage)Yes (up to $3,000 per passenger)Yes (up to $3,000 per covered traveler per trip, up to $10,000 for all coverage travelers)Yes (up to $2,000 for checked bags and $3,000 for carry-on bags, limited at $3,000 for all luggage)Yes (up to $2,000 for checked bags and $3,000 for carry-on bags, limited at $3,000 for all luggage)Yes (up to $500 for checked bags and $1,250 for carry-on bags, limited at $1,250 for all luggage)Yes (up to $3,000 per passenger)
Baggage DelayNoYes ($100 per day for up to five days if bags are more than six hours late)Yes (up to $500 per coverage traveler per trip if bags don’t arrive within six hours)NoNoNoYes (up to $100 per day for three days if bags are more than six hours late)
Trip DelayNoYes (up to $500 per ticket for delays of more than 6 hours)Yes (up to $500 per coverage traveler per trip if delayed by more than six hours)NoNoNoYes (up to $500 per ticket for delays of more than 12 hours or overnight)
Trip Cancellation / InterruptionNoYes (up to $10,000 per person and $20,000 per trip)Yes (up to $5,000 per trip)NoNoNoYes (up to $10,000 per trip)
Travel Accident InsuranceYesYesYesYesYesYesNo
Emergency Evacuation & TransportationYes (up to $100,000 per trip)Yes (up to $100,000)Yes (up to $100,000 per covered traveler)NoNoNoNo
Roadside AssistanceYes (up to four times per year at no cost)Yes (up to $50 per incident, four times per year)Yes (no cost)Yes (up to four times per year at no cost)Yes (up to four times per year at no cost)Yes (up to four times per year at no cost)No
Purchase ProtectionYes (within 120 days, up to $10,000 per occurrence and $50,000 per year)Yes (within 120 days, up to $10,000 per claim and $50,000 per year)Yes (within 90 days, up to $10,000 per incident and $50,000 per year)Yes (within 120 days, up to $10,000 per occurrence and $50,000 per year)Yes (within 120 days, up to $10,000 per occurrence and $50,000 per year)Yes (within 120 days, up to $10,000 per claim and $50,000 per year)Yes (within 120 days, up to $10,000 per claim and $50,000 per year)
Extended WarrantyYes (up to an additional year on warranties of 5 years or less)Yes (additional year on warranties of 3 years or less)Yes (additional 2 years, capped at 7 years total)Yes (up to 2 additional years on warranties of 5 years or less)Yes (up to 2 additional years on warranties of 5 years or less)Yes (up to 2 additional years on warranties of 5 years or less)Yes (additional year on warranties of 3 years or less)
Return ProtectionYes (90 days, up to $300 per item and $1,000 per year)Yes (90 days, up to $500 per item and $1,000 per year)Yes (90 days, up to $500 per item and $1,500 per year)Yes (90 days, up to $300 per item and $1,000 per year)Yes (90 days, up to $300 per item and $1,000 per year)Yes (90 days, up to $300 per item and $1,000 per year)Yes (90 days, up to $500 per item and $1,000 year)
Price ProtectionNoNoYes (60 days, up to $200 per item and $1,000 per year)NoNoNoYes (90 days, up to $500 per item and $2,500 per year)
Missed Event Ticket ProtectionNoNoYes (up to $500 per ticket and $5,000 per year)NoNoNoNo

Analysis

First place goes to the Citi Prestige since it offers coverage in every category. However, the Citi Prestige will rank much worse come September 22, 2019 since most of these protections are being discontinued on that date.

The Sapphire Reserve comes in a close second, with primary car rental insurance and a higher limit for trip cancellation and interruption coverage but no price protection and weaker delayed baggage coverage, extended warranty coverage and roadside assistance.

Third place goes to the United Club Card since it offers coverage in many areas that aren’t covered by Amex cards. The Amex Platinum finished fourth due to its emergency evacuation protection that’s provided simply by being a card member. The remaining Amex cards finish in the final three spots, with the Delta Reserve finishing last due to its strangely minimal baggage insurance benefit.

Ranking

Citi Prestige (7 points)

Sapphire Reserve (6 points)

United Club (5 points)

Amex Platinum (4 points)

Hilton Amex Aspire and Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant (3 points)

Delta Reserve (1 point)

Final Analysis

The Chase Sapphire Reserve came out on top due to its combination of earnings, benefits and redemption value. Photo by Eric Helgas/The Points Guy. © The Points Guy The Chase Sapphire Reserve came out on top due to its combination of earnings, benefits and redemption value. Photo by Eric Helgas/The Points Guy.

So…where do the numbers shake out? Following the formula I mention above and the individual rankings I’ve laid out, here are the final tallies:

1. Chase Sapphire Reserve: 46 points

2. The Platinum Card from American Express: 41 points

3. Citi Prestige: 40 points

4. Hilton Honors Aspire Card from American Express: 38 points

5. Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant American Express Card: 30 points

6. United Club Card: 24 points

7. Delta Reserve Credit Card from American Express: 15 points

As you can see, the clear winner is the Chase Sapphire Reserve, with the Amex Platinum in a solid second place. The Citi Prestige barely edges out the Hilton Amex Aspire for third place. Fifth place is claimed by the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant card, while the United Club card comes in sixth and the Delta Reserve takes last place (by a wide margin).

That being said, all it would take to change this order is a shift of one or two rankings above based on your personal preference, so be sure to consider your own situation before applying for a new card, especially one with such a high annual fee!

Bottom Line

You may think that it’s crazy to pay $450 (and up) for a credit card, but as you can see, all of these premium travel rewards cards carry a host of benefits that can easily cover that fee (and then some). As always, you should definitely adjust the rankings I use above based on what’s most important to you, but hopefully this post has given you a framework to use as you try to decide which of these top credit cards should earn a spot in your wallet!

This is The Points Guy’s permanent page on premium travel rewards credit cards. Keep in mind you may see some reader comments referring to old cards or bonuses that are no longer available.

For rates and fees of the Amex Platinum Card, please click here.

For rates and fees of the Delta Reserve Card, please click here.

For rates and fees of the Hilton Aspire Card, please click here.

For rates and fees of the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant Amex please click here.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.
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