If you’re unfamiliar with the world of credit card points, they may seem unbelievably complicated. But to those in the know, cheap flights, extravagant hotel stays, gift cards, and more are easily accessible and well worth the effort.
Two of the largest players on the credit card rewards stage are American Express and Chase. Both issuers offer rewards points that you can redeem for a variety of things, although there are key differences between the programs. Let’s take a look at American Express Membership Rewards vs. Chase Ultimate Rewards.
What’s the Difference Between Amex Membership Rewards and Chase’s Ultimate Rewards?
Although both programs will give you rewards points for spending money with their credit cards, these programs have some key differences:
|Value per point||1.11 cents||1.44 cents (Chase Sapphire Reserve) / 1.40 cents (Chase Sapphire Preferred Card)|
|Domestic airline transfer partners||3||3|
|International airline transfer partners||15||7|
|Hotel transfer partners||3||3|
|Redemption value via travel portal||0.7 to 1.0 cent||1.0 to 1.5 cents|
Value Per Point
We value Chase Ultimate Rewards points at a higher rate than Amex Membership Rewards points. Whether you’re redeeming points for airlines, hotels, statement credits, or travel via the card issuer’s portal, Chase consistently offers a higher value, on average, for your points.
Note, however, that when maximizing your points, transfers to certain airline partners can reach values of up to 2.04 cents each for both Amex and Chase, according to our calculations of the value of rewards points.
Airline Transfer Partners
Travel partners may be an important factor in deciding which program is right for you because transferring points can often give you the best value for your points. Think about which airlines or hotel chains are a better fit for the way you often travel.
Both Membership Rewards and Ultimate Rewards feature three domestic airlines to which you can transfer points. This can help you save money if you’re a frequent domestic traveler. Amex has Delta, Hawaiian, and JetBlue; Chase has United, Southwest, and JetBlue.
American Express, meanwhile, has partnered with 15 international airlines while Chase boasts just seven. While this may seem like a weakness at first glance, many of these airlines are members of an alliance. The three major airline alliances (Star Alliance, SkyTeam, and oneworld) allow airlines to share flights. So although you may transfer your Chase points to British Airways, you can use them to book domestic flights on American Airlines since both are members of oneworld Alliance.
|American Express Airline Partners||Chase Airline Partners|
|Aer Lingus AerClub||Aer Lingus AerClub|
|Aeromexico Club Premier||British Airways Executive Club|
|Air Canada Aeroplan||Emirates Skywards|
|Flying Blue (Air France and KLM)||Flying Blue (Air France and KLM)|
|Alitalia MilleMiglia||Iberia Plus|
|ANA Mileage Club||JetBlue TrueBlue|
|Asia Miles||Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer|
|Avianca LifeMiles||Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards|
|British Airways Executive Club||United Airlines MileagePlus|
|Delta SkyMiles||Virgin Atlantic Flying Club|
|Hawaiian Airlines HawaiianMiles|
|Qantas Frequent Flyer|
|Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer|
|Virgin Atlantic Flying Club|
Many international airlines feature generous award charts that allow you to redeem fewer points for flights than their domestic counterparts—especially when flying overseas. Take, for example, ANA, a Japanese airline and a transfer partner of Amex. Because it’s a Star Alliance member, you can use ANA points to fly United. It’ll cost you 88,000 miles for a roundtrip flight in business class. Those same flights, when booked directly with United, will cost you 122,600 miles.
Hotel Transfer Partners
Both Amex and Chase have three hotel transfer partners. Chase’s partnership with Hyatt is a valuable one. You can redeem your Chase points at an average value of 1.88 cents each when transferring to Hyatt’s program, according to our calculations.
Amex and Chase both have partnerships with Marriott Bonvoy, a unique beast in the reward travel world. Marriott itself has partnered with over 40 airlines that accept Marriott points in exchange for airline miles. These transfers can all be done at a 3:1 ratio, meaning three Marriott points become one airline mile. However, Marriott will also give you a 5,000-mile bonus when transferring 60,000 Marriott points to any airline partner.
This unlocks the opportunity for you to transfer Amex or Chase points to Marriott Bonvoy and then exchange these for miles with any of Marriott’s airline partners. Before you get carried away with the possibilities, however, verify that any proposed transfer is a good use of your points.
A 3:1 ratio to transfer Marriott points to an airline partner might not sound great at first. Keep in mind, however, that many hotel programs, including Marriott Bonvoy, let you earn a lot more points per dollar spent than most airline programs do.
|American Express Hotel Partners||Chase Hotel Partners|
|Choice Hotels Privileges||Hyatt World of Hyatt|
|Hilton Honors||IHG Rewards Club|
|Marriott Bonvoy||Marriott Bonvoy|
Both Chase and American Express offer multiple credit cards that allow you to earn points, although how many points you earn will depend on the card and your spending habits.
The Platinum Card from American Express, Amex’s most expensive card (annual fee: $695), caters to the frequent traveler and offers lots of perks and benefits. With it, you’ll earn:
- 5 points per dollar spent on flights booked directly with the airline or via Amex Travel
- 5 points per dollar on prepaid hotels booked via Amex Travel
- 1 point per dollar on everything else
The American Express Green Card (annual fee: $150) offers scaled-back benefits for a lower annual fee, with earnings of:
- 3 points per dollar spent on eligible travel
- 3 points per dollar on dining
- 1 point per dollar on everything else
For no annual fee, you can get the Amex EveryDay Card. It earns:
- 2 points per dollar spent at U.S. supermarkets
- 1 point per dollar spent on everything else
Amex offers several other credit cards that earn Membership Rewards points, including consumer cards like the EveryDay Preferred Card and the Gold Card as well as business cards like the Business Green Rewards Card. Depending on your needs, you may find a Membership Rewards card that suits you.
Chase has focused its Ultimate-Rewards-earning cards on two product lines: Sapphire and Freedom cards.
The Chase Sapphire Reserve is Chase’s premium credit card (annual fee: $550). It offers:
- 10 points per dollar spent on Chase Dining purchases with Ultimate Rewards as well as hotels and car rentals purchased through Chase
- 5 points per dollar spent on flights bought through Chase
- 3 points per dollar spent on other travel and dining
- 1 point per dollar on everything else
The Chase Sapphire Preferred Card (annual fee: $95), meanwhile, offers:
- 5 points per dollar spent on travel purchased through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal
- 3 points per dollar on dining, online grocery purchases, and select streaming services
- 2 points per dollar on other travel
- 1 point per dollar on everything else
Both of these cards get a redemption boost when you use your points to pay for travel booked via Chase’s portal (more on that below).
Chase’s Freedom cards let you earn Ultimate Rewards points without paying an annual fee for the cards. The no-annual-fee Chase Freedom Flex credit card offers:
- A rotating 5% return on bonus categories
- 5% back on travel booked via Chase’s portal
- 3% back at restaurants and drugstores
- 1% back on everything else
You can choose to either take your rewards as cash back or as Chase Ultimate Rewards points.
Chase also offers several small-business credit cards that earn Ultimate Rewards, which you can pool with your consumer card points: Ink Business Cash, Ink Business Unlimited, and Ink Business Preferred.
Redeeming points with both American Express and Chase is easy, and the experience is pretty similar. You can redeem them for a variety of things, including:
- Flights, hotels, cruises, and activities via each issuer’s travel portal
- Flights and hotels via transfer partners
- Statement credits
- Gift cards
- Shopping, including Amazon, PayPal, Best Buy, and GrubHub
- Donations to charity
Generally speaking, you’ll find more value from your points when transferring them to hotel and airline partners. Be aware that not every redemption is a great value and redemption values can vary according to which card you have.
The Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, for example, allows you to redeem your points at a rate of 1.25 cents each when booking via its travel portal. If you have the Chase Sapphire Reserve, however, those points are worth 1.5 cents each when redeemed for travel via the portal.
If you pair a Chase Freedom card with a Chase Sapphire card, you can transfer your Freedom earnings to the Sapphire account to get more value when redeeming—up to 1.5 cents each when booking via Chase travel. By comparison, your value would be just 1 cent per point if you only have a Freedom card but not a Sapphire.
The Sapphire options are more generous than Amex, which offers just 1 cent of value when redeeming points for flights via its portal, and 0.7 cents of value on any other bookings, such as hotels, cruises, or activities.
Through its Pay Yourself Back program, Chase also allows you to redeem points for statement credits against certain purchases at a rate of either 1.50 or 1.25 cents each depending on which card you hold. However, this offer may change.
American Express also allows you to use your points for statement credits, although it will only give you a rate of 0.6 cents per point when redeemed this way.
Other Key Features
While Chase may have the edge over Amex when it comes to earning points and redemption options, things get a little murkier when you start to look at the other features its credit cards offer. These include extras such as statement credits for travel and other expenses as well as airport lounge access, although perks vary depending on which credit card you hold.
The mid-tier Amex Green and Sapphire Preferred cards both have solid travel perks. The Preferred offers primary rental car collision insurance and various other types of travel insurance. The Green Card, on the other hand, offers reimbursement for CLEAR Plus membership to get you through airport security lines faster and limited reimbursement for airport lounge day passes, secondary rental car insurance, and some travel insurance.
But Amex takes the lead when we look at the benefits offered by the Amex Platinum Card and the Chase Sapphire Reserve, the two top-tier cards each issuer offers. Amex’s more generous credits easily make up for its higher fee, and it has more lounge options, including the well-regarded Centurion lounges. The Platinum Card gets you elite status in several hotel and rental-car programs while the Sapphire Reserve offers no such benefits.
|American Express Platinum||Chase Sapphire Reserve|
|Annual statement credits||$200 airline fee credit
$200 hotel credit
$240 streaming credit
$200 Uber credit
$300 Equinox credit
$179 CLEAR credit
$100 Saks credit
|$300 travel credit
$60 DoorDash credit (through Dec. 31, 2021)
$120 Peloton credit (through Dec. 31. 2021)
|Airport lounge access||Global Lounge Collection, including the Amex Centurion Lounge Collection, Delta Skyclub access (when flying Delta), and Priority Pass||Priority Pass|
|Hotel elite status||Marriott and Hilton Gold status||None|
|Rental car elite status||Avis Preferred, Hertz Gold Plus Rewards, and National Car Rental Emerald Club Executive||None|
|Trip insurance||Trip delay and trip cancellation insurance||Trip delay, trip cancellation, and lost luggage insurance|
|Rental car insurance||Secondary coverage||Primary coverage|
Which Rewards Program Is Right for You?
To decide which program is right for you, think about which one’s cards earn rewards that best fit your lifestyle, taking into account each card’s annual fees. Also, consider which transfer partners are your favorite. Beyond that, if you’re looking for an easy way to redeem your points for good value, Chase Ultimate Rewards is probably the better option for you. If Amex cards make more sense for your spending patterns or have more appealing perks—and you don’t mind digging deep into award travel options to figure out how to max out your points—Amex Membership Rewards may suit you better.
You may even decide to invest in both programs and receive the best of both worlds. Whichever you choose, both American Express and Chase offer compelling programs for credit card rewards points.