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American Express has long dominated the upper end of the credit card marketplace, with cards like The Platinum Card® from American Express offering a slew of perks and rewards geared toward more affluent consumers who have lots of disposable income (with a hefty $550 annual fee underscoring the premium nature of the card). But what about middle-market borrowers? Those who don’t need or want the same degree of premium benefits, and an annual fee of no more than $200?
For them, a card like the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card has always been the go-to and one of the more popular all-around rewards cards. Amex, meanwhile, apparently is keen to stop ceding this ground anymore, thanks to its overhaul of the American Express® Green Card which now offers new perks and bonus categories. Has Amex changed the game for good, and found a way to re-assert itself in the middle of the credit card market? In a face-off between the new Amex Green Card and the Chase Sapphire Preferred, which card would come out on top and inspire a typical customer to add it to their wallet?
Let’s stack both cards against each other and see if the answer doesn’t reveal itself. We’ll take a look at how both cards measure up against each other in three categories that will interest most average consumers: The welcome bonus each card offers, the earnings potential that racks up points for you depending on what you’re buying, and overall perks.
The welcome bonus
The welcome bonus is the credit card incentive that tends to grab most peoples’ attention immediately, and for good reason. The offers of points or miles here can stretch into the five- and six-figures, which represents an immediate, tangible benefit that you can extract from the card. In the case of the Chase Sapphire Preferred, the welcome bonus there is a stellar offer of 60,000 Ultimate Rewards points (once you spend $4,000 within the first three months of owning the card). That amount of points will net you at least $750 to spend on flights – but what’s even better is you can leverage Chase’s network of hotel and airline transfer partners to get as much as $1,200 (or more) out of that bonus.
Now, let’s turn to the Amex Green Card, which is offering a bonus to new applicants of 30,000 Membership Rewards points once you’ve spent $2,000 on the card within the first three months. In addition to that, for a limited time you can score a $100 statement credit for making eligible purchases with Away luggage also within the first three months (until January 15, 2020). Winner of this round: The Chase Sapphire Preferred has the more lucrative welcome bonus. (Also, keep this in mind if you do want to snag this Amex offer: Amex will only let you earn the welcome bonus on each of its cards once per lifetime. So if you’ve had the Amex Green Card or previous versions of it before, you’re out of luck when it comes to the welcome bonus.)
Both the Sapphire Preferred and Amex Green Card have strong points to offer when it comes to bonus categories. Let’s deal with Chase’s first. Sapphire Preferred cardholders can earn 2x Ultimate Rewards points for every dollar spent on travel and dining, and you also don’t have a cap to worry about during the course of a year. Even better, the bonus categories are broadly defined and include everything from public transit and parking garages to food trucks and other unlikely purchase categories. On all non-bonus spending, you’ll earn 1x on those purchases.
The Amex Green Card now earns 3x points worldwide on travel, restaurants and transit include flights, hotels and similar purchases. It’s also worth pointing out that this Amex card is one of the issuer’s only cards to offer a broadly defined travel bonus category, whereas others like The Platinum Card® from American Express are a bit stingy when it comes to which purchases can fall into the 5x bonus category.
If you’ve ever traveled abroad and had to deal with the horror of seeing a long list of foreign transaction fees showing up on your next credit card statement, you’ll be pleased to know that neither of these cards charges foreign transaction fees. Neither of these cards waves the annual fee during year one of card ownership either, but at least the fees aren’t that bad — $95 for the Sapphire Preferred and $150 for the Amex Green Card.
I’m going to admit from the outset that as a frequent traveler I’m leaning toward making the Sapphire Preferred the next credit card I obtain, and here’s why. The benefits include:
- Up to $500 in reimbursements for expenses when your trip is delayed by 12 hours or more
- If your trip is canceled or cut short for an eligible reason, you can receive up to $10,000 in reimbursement per person (or a total of $20,000 per trip) for prepaid non-refundable expenses
- If your bags are delayed more than six hours you can receive up to $100 in reimbursement a day for up to five days, and if your luggage is lost altogether you can get up to $3,000 per person.
- Chase also offers primary car rental insurance, which means that on eligible rentals this coverage kicks in even before your personal car insurance policy.
Benefits like those should bring some solid peace of mind. As far as the Amex Green Card, meanwhile, its perks include a $100 annual credit when using the card to buy a CLEAR membership and another up to $100 annual credit for LoungeBuddy access. The LoungeBuddy credit should be good for about two passes a year, making this a great option for infrequent travelers who don’t already have a Priority Pass membership from another card. With the CLEAR credit, that could be useful for getting through airport security faster as TSA PreCheck lines get longer around the US.
The final word
The winner of this match-up will really be determined by what you’re looking for in a card, but that shouldn’t come as a surprise. I really like the Sapphire Preferred’s more valuable welcome bonus, as well as its specific mix of travel-related benefits. However, the Amex Green Card does offer better earnings rates over the long term. Also, the Sapphire Preferred doesn’t offer credits or perks to offset the annual fee, while the Amex Green Card comes with up to $200 in annual statement credits to offset the $150 annual fee. Still, I’m naming the Sapphire Preferred the winner of this face-off.