Chase Sapphire Preferred vs. Amex Green

February 22, 2013

Does it make good sense to have a credit card with a high annual fee? For many people, it can. If the card offers rewards and benefits that far outweigh its annual fee, than it is a good strategy to hold such a card. Both Chase and American Express offer cards aimed at travelers with a $95 annual fee. Chase’s Sapphire Preferred and the American Express Green Card each offer a robust reward programs that appeal to frequent travelers. But in addition, these premium cards are chock full of additional features and benefits. Let’s put these two products head to head and see which one comes out on top.

American Express Green Card

amexgreencardFirst, let’s get one thing straight; the Green Card is not a credit card, it is a charge card. That means that all cardholders are required to pay their entire balance in full and on time. This is the best way to manage your credit regardless of which type of card you use, but it is the only way you should manage a rewards card. Think of credit card rewards and the free loan you receive between your purchase and your payment as a gift you earned for handling your finances so well.

That said, the American Express iconic Green Card still offers plenty of value. First, it offers one point in its Membership Rewards program for each dollar spent along with double points when you book travel trough an American Express travel agent. Once earned, these points can be redeemed directly for merchandise or travel rewards, or transferred to frequent flier miles with any of 16 different airlines.

Beyond rewards for spending, this card features a compliment of other benefits. For example, it comes with a roadside assistance program that will pay up to $50 in towing expenses up to four times a year. Its baggage insurance program covers you for loss, theft, or damages for up to $1,250 for a carry on bag and up to $500 for checked luggage. The Green Card also comes with purchase protection, extended warranty, and return protection policies covering any items charged to this card.

The $95 annual fee is waived the first year with most offers but regrettably, American Express still insists on charging its indefensible 2.7% surcharge on all foreign transactions.

Insider tip: Membership Rewards points can be redeemed for one cent each towards airfare, rental cars, hotels, or cruises. But reward travel enthusiasts have learned that the airline mileage transfer option returns the most value. For example, points can be transferred to the British Airways program for use on it partner American Airlines. This option allows you to make round trip flights of under 650 miles for a mere 9,000 points. Other options include redeeming 100,000 points on various carriers for a business class ticket to Europe, worth 4-8 cents per point used.

Chase Sapphire Preferred

chasesapphirepreferredA few years ago, Chase seemed to have decided that it wanted to compete with American Express in the high end reward card market. It even seems clear that Chase created its Ultimate Rewards program as a way to one-up American Express’s Membership Rewards program. Like Membership Rewards, Ultimate Rewards points can be redeemed for one cent each toward a variety of gift card, merchandise, or cash back rewards. But when use points to book travel directly though Chase’s travel agency, Sapphire Preferred cardholders realize 1.25 cents in value per point.

Holders of this card can also transfer points to airline miles or hotel programs. Although Ultimate Rewards only features four different airlines, their options are almost as good as what American Express offers. The program features Southwest as well as United, British, and Korean Airlines. The key factor is that each of these last three airlines is partners with US Airways, American Airlines, and Delta respectively. So cardholders can find a way to use their points for free flights on all major domestic carriers.

Earning points with Sapphire Preferred is also a bit easier. One point is earned per dollar spent on most purchases, with double points for dining and travel expenses. Three points per dollar are earned when you use your card to book travel through Chase’s travel agency. And finally, Chase offers an additional 7% points bonus each year.

Instead of offering travel insurance and purchase protection policies, this card boasts direct access to service advisers. Cardholders have a dedicated line that they can use to immediately reach a human. And while the Green Card looks like something your father (or grandfather) carried in his wallet when you were growing up, the Sapphire Preferred is made of some kind of plastic and metal sandwich that looks and feels futuristic.

Like the Green Card, there is a $95 annual fee for this card that is waived the first year. This is a traditional credit card and its interest rates are reasonable, but not great for those who choose to carry a balance. Finally, kudos to Chase for not having any foreign transaction fees.

Insider tip: Like many credit card issuers, Chase has an online shopping mall where you can earn extra points for purchases from selected merchants. In fact, their Ultimate Rewards mall features some great deals. I have earned hundreds of points by purchasing software that is free after rebates, and I earned a total of six points per dollar recently when I booked a room though Hotels.com; two points per dollar for all travel purchases and an additional 4 points per dollar by going to Hotels.com through the Ultimate Rewards portal.

The Verdict

The Green Card is an excellent product that has been around for a long time. Its Membership Rewards program features more airline point transfer options than newer Chase’s Ultimate Rewards, and it offers more travel insurance and purchase protection policies than the Sapphire Preferred. But I find the opportunities to earn bonus points with the Sapphire Preferred to be much more valuable. In addition, I don’t like cards marketed to frequent travelers that charge foreign transaction fees. The bottom line is that I earn more points, which are more valuable with the Sapphire Preferred card than I would with the Green Card. And value is always the number one consideration when choosing a premium rewards card.

Which card to you like? Leave a comment!

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Jason

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Jason
Jason Steele has been dissecting credit card bonuses and loyalty travel programs for years. Digging into the details of credit card offers has enabled his family to vacation in cool places around the world. Pay attention to the details he digs up about which card is best for you.

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One Response to Chase Sapphire Preferred vs. Amex Green

  • Kevin Watts

    Good breakdown of these two products. I too also find the 2.7% surcharge for foreign transactions abhorrent for AMEX users. Since I plan on traveling overseas quite a bit I don’t plan using the AMEX card for that simple reason.

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