Trying to decide if the high fee for premium credit cards is worth it? I’ll take you through the 4 best luxury credit cards for travel points and benefits. Take a look at fees, perks, elite status, best ways to redeem, point value, what card to use for what purchases, and more!
You may be surprised to learn that a frugal penny pincher like myself spends $2,090 on premium credit cards every year. And that’s just the fees for my four mainstay luxury credit cards! That doesn’t include the other mid or low-tiered cards I hold or rotate.
While I may balk every time I look at that number, the moment I do the math, the numbers confirm I’ve come out ahead and actually made money by owning these luxury credit cards, not to mention all the perks (hello airport lounge access) that comes with them.
The whole credit card game is enough to dedicate an entire year's worth of blog posts. Today, I’m focusing on premium credit cards.
The Chase Sapphire Reserve, American Express Platinum, Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant AMEX, and the Capital One Venture X (which replaced my Citi Prestige) are the best luxury credit cards. Though the annual fees may seem steep, the benefits, statement credits, instant elite status, and perks make these cards more than worthwhile.
Today we'll take a deep dive into each card and what it can offer you. After reading this post it will be clear if you should own one or all four cards depending on how much you travel, what’s important to you, and how much you value certain perks.
Be warned, this is a long post so stick with me to the very end. Deciding which premium credit card is right for you is not a simple question that can be answered in one paragraph.
I want this post to be a complete and comprehensive guide so you leave armed with all the information. This is why we'll go through all the important details.
Trust me, it's worth it to spend some time figuring out your credit card strategy. I haven't paid for a flight in over ten years because I put time and effort into my personal credit card strategy and know you will reap the benefits too!
Why I don’t include access to hotel programs in the benefits summary
Most premium credit cards come with access to a specific hotel program. The AMEX Platinum gives access to Fine Hotels & Resorts. The Chase Sapphire reserve includes access to the Luxury Hotel & Resort Collection.
What is the benefit of booking through this collection or program? If you book through the program’s website, you’ll receive perks like a $100 spa credit, free breakfast, room upgrades, etc.
I’m not including this in the perks summary for any card listed below. Every time I look into booking a hotel with one of these programs the price is always higher than if I booked directly with the hotel or if I used a booking website like hotels.com (even with the included benefits and free items).
All four premium credit cards include these perks
Global Entry ($100)/TSA Precheck ($85) Fee Credit – Global Entry includes TSA Precheck, so you might as well just get Global Entry. Global Entry lasts 5 years. Effectively, you’ll save $20 a year by having your Global Entry fee reimbursed every 5 years.
Purchase Protection and Extended Warranty Protection – protection from damage or theft for 90 days (120 with Chase Sapphire Reserve) for new purchases and extended warranties.
No Foreign Transaction Fees
Airport Lounge Access with Priority Pass Select - don’t count on gaining admittance into the luxurious Delta Sky Club or American Express lounge collection. Priority Pass includes the lower-status clubs. The Priority Pass app will show you what clubs you can get into at each airport. I’ve found that the clubs on this list are much better abroad, like Europe, than in the US.
Priority Pass seems to come with every premium credit card now, so this isn’t a huge perk for me personally. Because so many cardholders now have access to Priority Pass, it’s very common to arrive at a club and be denied entrance because they have reached their capacity.
Chase Sapphire Reserve
Use Chase Sapphire Reserve for all purchases (travel or non-travel) not paid for with the three other premium credit cards (Capital One Venture X, AMEX Platinum, and Marriott Bonvoy). These three cards are all used for very specific purchases (see below). Not so with my Chase Sapphire Reserve. This card ends up being my backup or default premium credit card.
- Capital One Venture X: hotels, flights, and car rentals booked directly through Capital One Travel if the price is cheaper.
- AMEX Platinum: flights booked directly with the airline or on the AMEX portal if the price is cheaper.
- Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant: all Marriott purchases (hotel, dining, spa…anything purchased at a Marriott property). It makes more sense to use the Chase Sapphire Reserve (earning 3 points per dollar, points valued at 2 cents) vs using the Marriott Brilliant (earning 6 points per dollar, points valued at .8 cents).
It’s also worth noting that the Chase Sapphire Reserve has the best travel coverage and insurance, though the Capital One Venture X comes very close. Coverages include an emergency evacuation benefit and emergency medical and dental coverage while traveling.
I’ll use my Chase Sapphire Reserve over the other three premium credit cards if I’m traveling outside the US and want peace of mind knowing I have insurance and emergency services covered with this card.
The AMEX Platinum, Capital One Venture X, and Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant all have some sort of travel coverage or insurance, but it’s not nearly as extensive as the Chase Sapphire Reserve.
An example of an awesome Chase Sapphire Reserve benefit is the Trip Delay Reimbursement. You can receive up to $500 per ticket for expenses like lodging and meals if your trip is delayed over six hours.
Reward Program/Portal: Chase Ultimate Rewards
Annual Fee: $550
Effective Annual Fee: each year this card not only ends up with a net-zero cost, but I actually make money by taking advantage of all the programs. Add together the $300 travel credit, the average $100 I earn in shopping credits (see below), and the $20 Global Entry fee credit ($100 every 5 years)...my fee is already down to $130. Use the 25% savings with National Rental Car a few times and you'll find the yearly annual fee quickly dwindles to zero.
Earning Points: 3 points per dollar on restaurants and travel, 10 points on hotels and rental cars booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards, 5 points for flights booked through Ultimate Rewards, 10 points for Lyft rides, and 1 point for everything else.
Redeeming Points: 1 to 1 point transfers to 14 travel partners including Marriott, Hyatt, British Airways, and United Airlines or redeem for travel in the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal at a value of 1.5 cents per point.
The Points Guy values Ultimate Rewards points at 2 cents a point. You can read more about his valuations here. This is my go-to resource for keeping up to date on points and credit cards.
$300 in Annual Travel Credits - the travel category is broad and includes hotels, flights, Ubers, trains, Airbnb, and more. You’ll receive credits on your monthly statement until you reach $300.
Travel Coverage and Insurance - baggage delay insurance, rental car insurance, trip cancelation/interruption insurance, trip delay insurance.
Roadside Assistance – you’re covered up to $50 per service four times a year.
Lost Luggage Reimbursement – receive up to $3,000 per passenger if your luggage is lost by the carrier.
Emergency Evacuation Benefit – cardholders can be covered up to $100,000 for transportation and medical services if they or an immediate family member become sick or injured during a trip and requires emergency evacuation.
Emergency Medical and Dental Benefit – cardholders can be reimbursed up to $2,500 for medical expenses if they or an immediate family member becomes sick during a trip that’s 100 miles or more away from home.
Rental Car Privileges - instant Executive Level status with National Rental Car and special car rental privileges with Avis and SilverCar. The Executive status with National is the big perk here.
Not only do you save up to 25% on your car rentals once your Chase Sapphire Reserve card is linked with your account, but you also get to skip the line and head straight to the Executive section and pick whichever car you want.
This not only saves time, but the cars in this section are always newer and nicer than the rest.
DoorDash (meal delivery credits and status) - free DashPass membership for a minimum of one year. Enjoy waived delivery fees and reduced service fees with DashPass.
Chase Offers - a list of offers is constantly updated on the Chase website when you’re logged into your account. $10 back when you spend $50 at Cole Haan, $50 back when you spend $200 at Omni Hotels, etc.
I check these offers every month. You have to click and “add offer to your card” for Chase to register the purchase and award the resulting statement credit. On average, I earn about $100 back in statement credits each year for purchases I would have normally made.
Capital One Venture X
Use Capital One Venture X for hotel, flight, and car purchases via the Capital One travel portal (if cheaper than the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal).
Reward Program/Portal: Capital One Travel
Annual Fee: $395 (the lowest of all the premium credit cards for travel).
Effective Annual Fee: it's easy to get the Capital One Venture X fee to net zero. Combine the $300 travel credit, the 10,000 annual anniversary points bonus (worth $185 if transferred to travel partners), $20 for Global Entry ($100 every 5 years), and you're already at a positive $110.
Earning Points: 10 points on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel, 5 points for flights booked through Capital One Travel, and 2 points for everything else.
Redeeming Points: 1 to 1 point transfers to 16 travel partners including Qantas Airlines, Air France/KLM, British Airways, and Turkish Airlines, or redeem for travel in the Capital One Travel portal at a value of 1.5 cents per point. While the transfer options are good for Capital One Venture X, AMEX Platinum and Chase Sapphire Reserve are better.
I've discovered the Capital One Travel portal is better for flight prices than the AMEX portal and the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal. Chase, for example, uses Expedia when finding prices. Capital One uses the same technology that Hopper uses.
I can often find the same prices, sometimes lower, than what's listed on Google Flights. With AMEX, the prices are almost always higher. With Chase, it's usually the same or a bit higher.
The Points Guy values Ultimate Rewards points at 1.85 cents a point. You can read more about his valuations here. This is my go-to resource for keeping up to date on points and credit cards.
$300 in Annual Travel Credits - for travel booked via the Capital One Travel portal.
Travel Coverage and Insurance - rental car insurance (primary), trip cancelation/interruption insurance, trip delay insurance, and more.
Lost Luggage Reimbursement – receive up to $3,000 per trip if your luggage is lost by the carrier.
Rental Car Privileges - Hertz President's Circle status which comes with guaranteed upgrades, 50% bonus points, and more.
Cell Phone Protection - up to $800 per claim with a maximum of two claims a year.
Capital One Offers - this is where you get a percentage of your purchase back if you click on the link through the Capital One Offers and use your Venture X credit card. 10% back up to $25 at lululemon, 13% back on Viator, etc. While this is a decent perk, I don't place much value in it. Often, these offers are not much better than what I find via cashbackmonitor where I can use whatever credit card I want.
American Express Platinum
Use American Express Platinum for flights booked directly with the airline, flights booked through American Express Travel (if cheaper than on the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal), and for shopping with AMEX offers.
Reward Program/Portal: AMEX Membership Rewards
Annual Fee: $695
Effective Annual Fee: unlike the other premium credit cards, the AMEX platinum is NOT a guaranteed net-zero cost. I without a doubt use the $200 in Uber credits, which currently includes UberEats, every year. The Global Entry fee reimbursement can be assumed as well which equals $20 each year since it’s $100 every 5 years to renew. AMEX Platinum also covers the $189 Clear membership fee each year (skip the security line at airports).
That means my annual $695 fee becomes a guaranteed $286. This is when you have to ask if access to AMEX airport lounges, including the highly coveted AMEX Centurion lounge collection, is worth $286 (if you don’t take advantage of the other benefits). My personal answer is no. Especially with how crowded these lounges have become.
Let’s assume you’re on top of squeezing every last drop from this premium credit card. We add $100 for the Saks shopping credit, $200 in airline fee credits, and $240 in digital entertainment statement credits. You’re now not only down to a net zero annual fee, but you've "pocketed" $254.
Include statement credits through AMEX shopping offers and you can "earn" even more. I make sure to take advantage of all the above. This is THE ONLY REASON I keep the AMEX platinum premium credit card in my wallet.
If you don't value benefits like the $100 Saks credit, $240 digital entertainment credit, and could care less about the Clear membership, then this card doesn't really make sense. Unless you make use of the AMEX offers and earn $300+ a year, this card will just end up costing you money.
Earning Points: 5 points per dollar on flights booked directly with airlines or American Express Travel, 5 points on prepaid hotels through amextravel.com, 1 point for everything else.
Redeeming Points: Transfer points to 18 airlines and 3 hotels (best value) or redeem directly in the AMEX membership rewards portal for a value of 1 cent per point.
The Points Guy values AMEX Rewards points at 2 cents a point.
AMEX Offers – a list of offers is constantly updated on the AMEX website when you’re logged into your account. $10 back when you spend $50 at Cole Haan, $50 back when you spend $200 at Omni Hotels, etc. I check these offers every month.
You have to click and “add offer to your card” for AMEX to register the purchase and award the resulting statement credit. On average, I earn about $300 to $900 back in statement credits each year for purchases I would have normally made. In 2021 I earned $882 from AMEX offers.
*I have found AMEX offers are more substantial than Chase offers. I usually earn $100 a year with Chase offers but can earn up to $900 with AMEX offers.
International Airline Program - book discounted first-class, business, and premium economy tickets with participating airlines for international routes originating in the United States. While this sounds like a good perk, I have yet to find a good enough deal with this program to actually use it.
$100 Saks Shopping Credit - $50 statement credit two times a year for purchases with Saks.
Access to AMEX Lounges and Delta Sky Club (when flying Delta) – gain access to over 1,200 lounges worldwide. AMEX Centurion Lounges are known as the crème de la crème of airport lounges. Though the new Capital One lounges and upcoming Chase Sapphire lounges are quickly bypassing the AMEX lounges in quality and experience. The AMEX lounges have become increasingly crowded. I now opt for the Capital One lounge over the AMEX.
Overall, the space, food, cocktails, wine, and overall aesthetics are wonderful at AMEX lounges. I also expect them to be less crowded in 2023 after guests of AMEX platinum holders are no longer free. If you are a frequent traveler and visit airports that have Centurion Lounges, this is a huge perk. Some lounges even have showers and free spa treatments.
$200 in Uber Credits - $15 credit to use towards Uber each month ($20 in December) and automatic Uber VIP status.
*as of the publication date of this post, you can use your $15 credit towards UberEats
$200 Airline Fee Credit – this includes baggage fees, in-flight refreshments, and other incidental fees charged by airlines. I'm usually able to get this fee covered for taxes. Like when I book a companion pass ticket or purchase a ticket with miles on Southwest Airlines. You're usually charged $5.60 each way for taxes (more for international). I've found as long as the charges are under $50, AMEX will reimburse them.
$240 Annual Digital Entertainment Credit - get $20 back in statement credits each month for subscriptions including Audible, Peacock, Sirius XM, Disney+, Hulu, and more.
Instant Hilton Honors Gold Status and Marriott Bonvoy Gold Elite Status - Hilton Gold Status gets you free WiFi, room upgrades when available, 80% bonus points on paid stays, free continental breakfast, 5th night free when you book with points, and more. Marriott Bonvoy Gold Elite Status gets you 25% bonus points on stays, room upgrades when available, and a 2:00 pm late checkout.
Rental Car Privileges and Status - instant Executive Level status with National Rental Car, Hertz Gold Plus Rewards, and Avis Preferred. Executive status with National is the big perk here. You get to skip the line and head straight to the Executive section and pick whichever car you want. This not only saves time, but the cars in this section are always newer and nicer than the rest.
Travel Coverage and Insurance - baggage insurance, trip delay insurance, trip cancellation and interruption insurance, car rental loss and damage insurance (not as good as Chase Sapphire Reserve as car rental coverage is secondary coverage, not primary).
Cell Phone Protection - up to $800 per claim with a maximum of two claims a year.
ShopRunner – free 2-day shipping and free returns at over 140 online stores
Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant American Express
Use Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant American Express for all Marriott purchases (hotel, dining, spa…anything purchased at a Marriott property) if you don't have the chase sapphire reserve.
Reward Program/Portal: Marriott Rewards
Annual Fee: $450
Effective Annual Fee: after perks like $300 in Marriott statement credits, Global Entry fee reimbursement, and the free annual night award, this card ends up with a net positive annual fee. You’re already down to a $150 annual fee once you subtract the $300 in annual Marriott statement credits. The free night award is easily redeemed for a nightly rate of $150 or more. If you take advantage of the AMEX shopping rewards and the $100 credit at The Ritz and St. Regis, you can easily make money by owning this card.
Earning Points: 6 points per dollar at Marriott, 3 points on restaurants and flights, and 1 point for everything else. If you have the Chase Sapphire Reserve (earning 3 points per dollar, points valued at 2 cents, use that for Marriott purchases vs using the Marriott Brilliant (earning 6 points per dollar, points valued at .08 cents).
Since I have the Chase Sapphire Reserve, I actually only use this card if I'm trying to earn an AMEX shopping offer or to earn the annual $300 credit. Otherwise, this card just sits in my wallet.
The Points Guy values Marriott Rewards points at .8 cents a point.
$300 Marriott Bonvoy Statement Credit – receive $300 in statement credits each renewal year for purchases made at participating Marriott Bonvoy properties. This includes purchases at hotel spas, restaurants, and more.
Annual Free Night Award – receive a free night award for properties with a redemption value of 50,000 points or less each anniversary year.
Instant Marriott Bonvoy Gold Elite Status - earn 25% bonus points on stays, room upgrades, 2:00 pm late checkout, and more.
Travel Coverage and Insurance - baggage insurance, trip delay insurance, trip cancellation and interruption insurance, and car rental loss and damage insurance...again, not nearly as good as the Chase Sapphire Reserve or Capital One Venture X.
AMEX Offers – a list of offers is constantly updated on the AMEX website when you’re logged into your account. $10 back when you spend $50 at Cole Haan, $50 back when you spend $200 at Omni Hotels, etc. I check these offers every two weeks. You have to click and “add them to your card” for AMEX to register the purchase and award the resulting statement credit. On average, I earn about $200-$600 back in statement credits each year for purchases I would have normally made.
ShopRunner – free 2-day shipping and free returns at over 140 online stores
15 Elite Night Credits – each calendar year receive 15 Elite Night Credits to help you reach the next Marriott Bonvoy status level.
$100 Property Credit – receive up to $100 when you book a minimum of two nights using a special rate at The Ritz and St. Regis.
I hope this post helps you decide if you should upgrade to a premium credit card based on your spending habits and travel patterns. You might just find you could make good use and benefit from having all four.
I’ve had these three premium credit cards in my wallet for quite some time (Chase Sapphire Reserve, AMEX Platinum, Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant). The Venture X is a new addition as it just came out.
I have yet to experience a year where any of these luxury credit cards cost me a penny once I took advantage of all the benefits.
It’s worth some thought and a little extra effort to make sure you stay on top of the benefits and receive the maximum value from your credit card.