- Chase Ultimate Rewards and American Express Membership Rewards are two of the most popular rewards currencies available today, and it’s easy to see why. Both let you redeem rewards for cash back, gift cards, and the most valuable option: travel.
- Amex Membership Rewards has more travel partners, but Chase Ultimate Rewards’ selection of partners is better for many US travelers.
- You’ll need to pay an annual fee to get a Chase card like the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card that earns transferable travel points, whereas Amex offers no-annual-fee options like the Blue Business® Plus Credit Card from American Express.
- Another consideration: Chase lets you pool points with family members who live with you, and Amex does not.
- See Business Insider’s list of the best rewards credit cards »
If you’re looking for a credit card that earns you rewards on all your purchases, you have no shortage of options. You can choose a luxury travel credit card like the Platinum Card® from American Express, offers perks like airport lounge access, elite hotel status, and annual travel credits. You can also choose a card with a much lower annual fee and more basic benefits like the popular Chase Sapphire Preferred Card.
The Amex Platinum and Chase Sapphire Preferred earn points in two different programs — American Express Membership Rewards and Chase Ultimate Rewards, respectively. Ultimate Rewards and Membership Rewards are easily the two most popular flexible programs available today, but there are differences in the cards that accrue these points and how the programs themselves work for consumers.
So how do you decide which program makes the most sense for you? If you’re in the market for a new travel credit card but can’t decide between Chase points vs. Amex points, this guide should make the decision much easier.
Keep in mind that we’re focusing on the rewards and perks that make these credit cards great options, not things like interest rates and late fees, which will far outweigh the value of any points or miles. It’s important to practice financial discipline when using credit cards by paying your balances in full each month, making payments on time, and only spending what you can afford to pay back.
An overview of Chase Ultimate Rewards points
Chase Ultimate Rewards points are flexible rewards you can earn with top Chase credit cards, including:
- Chase Sapphire Preferred ($95 annual fee)
- Chase Sapphire Reserve ($550 annual fee)
- Ink Business Preferred Credit Card (small-business credit card with a $95 annual fee)
When you start earning Chase Ultimate Rewards points, you’ll notice right away that there are so many ways you can redeem them. You can cash in points for gift cards and merchandise, and you can even use them to stop on Amazon.com or the Apple Store. You can also redeem rewards for experiences and travel through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal.
With premier travel cards like the Chase Sapphire Reserve, Chase Sapphire Preferred, and Ink Business Preferred card, you can also transfer points 1:1 to popular airline and hotel partners. This means you’ll get 1,000 airline or hotel points for every 1,000 points you transfer to Chase partners.
Current Chase Ultimate Rewards transfer partners include:
Flying Blue / Air France
Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer
World of Hyatt
Chase Ultimate Rewards points can be especially valuable when you transfer points to airline and hotel partners. For example, you could transfer points to the World of Hyatt program and stay in a luxury hotel that might cost $1,000 or more per night.
You could also transfer points to an airline partner to redeem for a business or first-class flight. In the example below, you could transfer just 58,000 Chase points to Air France/Flying Blue then book a business-class flight from New York City to Paris on a Boeing 777-300 ER for just $210.77 in airline taxes and fees.
The same flight could cost as much as $8,200 or more if you booked it as a one-way, although one-way flights with this airline are typically pricey compared to round-trip flights with this airline.
Either way, one of the main benefits of Chase Ultimate Rewards points is the fact that, if you have one of the premier travel credit cards like the Sapphire Preferred, you have the option to explore all the rewards opportunities with Chase hotel and airline transfer partners. However, you don’t have to redeem these rewards for travel. You can also cash in points for statement credits or gift cards at a rate of 1 cent per point, or even for merchandise through the Chase portal.
Pros of Chase Ultimate Rewards points
- You can get more value for your points when you redeem them for travel through the Chase portal. With the Chase Sapphire Reserve, for example, you’ll get 50% more travel when you use points in the portal. With the Chase Sapphire Preferred and Ink Business Preferred, on the other hand, you get 25% more travel.
- Chase Ultimate Rewards cards offer significant sign-up bonuses that let you rack up points quickly. Chase cards come with generous welcome bonuses. This includes the Chase Ink Business Preferred, which gives you 80,000 points (worth $1,000 in travel when you book through Chase Ultimate Rewards) after you spend $5,000 within three months of account opening.
- Chase lets you pool points with a partner or spouse that lives at your same address. This is a huge benefit for families who want to pool all their points together to maximize redemptions.
- Chase lets you pool all your points in a premier travel credit card account before you redeem. For example, you can pool points earned with the Chase Freedom or Chase Freedom Unlimited into your Chase Sapphire Preferred or Chase Sapphire Reserve account to get 1:1 transfers to airlines and hotels.
Cons of Chase Ultimate Rewards points
- Premier Chase travel credit cards all charge an annual fee. The only real “downside” of Chase Ultimate Rewards points is the fact that all the top cards in this program charge an annual fee.
An overview of American Express Membership Rewards
This brings us to the American Express Membership Rewards program, which is similar to the Chase Ultimate Rewards with a few key differences.
One thing you’ll notice right away with this program is the fact that there are so many Amex cards you can use to earn rewards. You can opt for a premium travel card like the Platinum Card from American Express if you’re willing to pay the hefty $550 annual fee, but you can also earn Membership Rewards points with a card like the Amex EveryDay® Credit Card from American Express, which doesn’t charge an annual fee.
Once again, there are plenty of ways to redeem rewards in this program. With American Express Membership Rewards, you can pay with points at checkout with merchants like Amazon.com, Boxed.com, and Dell.com.
You can also redeem rewards for gift cards or shop for merchandise through the Amex website. Finally, you have the option to book travel directly through AmexTravel.com, including hotels, airfare, cruises, and travel packages.
Plus, American Express lets you transfer points to the following transfer partners:
Aer Lingus: 1,000 points = 1,000 miles
Aeromexico: 1,000 points = 1,600 miles
Air Canada: 1,000 points = 1,000 miles
Alitalia: 1,000 points = 1,000 miles
ANA Mileage Club: 1,000 points = 1,000 miles
Asia Miles: 1,000 points = 1,000 miles
Avianca: 1,000 points = 1,000 miles
British Airways: 1,000 points = 1,000 miles
Delta SkyMiles: 1,000 points = 1,000 miles
El Al Israel: 1,000 points = 20 miles
Emirates: 1,000 points = 1,000 miles
Etihad Airways: 1,000 points = 1,000 miles
Hawaiian Airlines: 1,000 points = 1,000 miles
Iberia: 1,000 points = 1,000 miles
JetBlue: 250 points = 200 miles
Qantas: 500 points = 500 miles
Singapore Airlines: 1,000 points = 1,000 miles
Virgin Atlantic: 1,000 points = 1,000 miles
Choice Privileges: 1,000 points = 1,000 hotel points
Hilton Honors: 1,000 points = 2,000 hotel points
Marriott Bonvoy: 1,000 points = 1,000 hotel points
Like the Chase Ultimate Rewards program, American Express Membership Rewards offers the most bang for your buck when you transfer points to airline and hotel partners. However, you don’t have to use these rewards for travel at all, since there are so many other ways to cash in points for gift cards or merchandise.
Pros of American Express Membership Rewards points
- Redeem your rewards for superior travel redemptions, including transfers to airlines and hotels. One of the biggest advantages of the Amex Membership Rewards program is the fact there are so many ways to cash in your points. However, you’ll get the most bang for your buck with transfers to airlines for redemptions in premium cabins.
- You can earn American Express Membership Rewards without paying an annual fee. Several cards let you earn Membership Rewards without an annual fee, including the Amex EveryDay® Credit Card from American Express and the Blue Business Plus Credit Card from American Express.
- Some cards offer bonus points back when you redeem points for airfare. The Business Platinum® Card from American Express gives you 35% in bonus points when you redeem points for airfare on AmexTravel.com (up to 500,000 points back each calendar year), while the American Express® Business Gold Card gives you 25% of your points back (up to 250,000 points back each calendar year).
- You can use points to bid for flight upgrades. American Express recently added the option for using points to bid for upgrades on flights you’ve already booked.
Cons of American Express Membership Rewards points
- Redemption values aren’t that great for merchandise, shopping, and gift cards. Unlike Chase Ultimate Rewards, which typically lets you get 1 cent per point in value for gift cards or statement credits, Amex redemptions aren’t that generous. You’ll normally get 0.5 cents per point to 1 cent per point for gift cards and cash, and up to 0.7 cents per point for merchandise from select retailers. Other redemption values can vary.
- You can’t pool points with a spouse or partner. This program doesn’t let you pool points in a single account with a partner or spouse, although all the points you earn across multiple cards will collect in a single Membership Rewards account.
How to decide between Chase points and Amex points
If you can’t decide between Chase Ultimate Rewards and American Express Membership Rewards, there are some serious questions you should be asking yourself. For example:
- Which program has transfer partners I’ll actually use?
- Which credit card in each program has additional benefits I’ll take advantage of?
- Am I willing to pay an annual fee on a credit card?
- Do I want to pool points with a partner or spouse, then redeem them together?
Most of the time, the best rewards program for you is the one that has the transfer partners you’ll actually use. In that sense, Chase Ultimate Rewards tends to come out ahead, since it has popular transfer partners most Americans are familiar with, including Southwest Rapid Rewards, World of Hyatt, and United MileagePlus, to name a few.
On the other hand, American Express Membership Rewards has more transfer partners in total, including ones that can be hard to transfer points to otherwise. If you’re a huge Delta Air Lines flyer, for example, you may want to stick with Membership Rewards and also pick up a co-branded Delta credit card to get benefits like a free checked bag and priority boarding.
If you really just want to redeem rewards for cash back or gift cards, Chase Ultimate Rewards is a better deal. That’s because you’ll typically get 1 cent per point in value for these redemptions, whereas American Express Membership Rewards redemptions for cash, merchandise, and gift cards are typically worth less than that.
Still can’t decide? Your best bet is comparing all the benefits each rewards program offers, seeing how the cards in each program align with your personal rewards goals and spending, and going with your gut.
Earn Chase points: Click here to learn more about the Chase Sapphire Preferred »
Earn Amex points: Click here to learn more about the Amex Platinum »
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