When it comes to earning free travel, both Chase credit cards and American Express credit cards are leaders of the pack. But if you're just using one card each from either of these credit card issuers, you could be missing out on major credit card rewards.
Because individual cards offer different benefits and perks, you can actually turbocharge the rewards you receive by combining several credit cards from each issuer. These popular three-card combinations — called the Chase trifecta or Amex trifecta, respectively — allow you to both earn the most points and get the most value from your redemptions.
But one of these winning combos may be better for you than the other. If you need to choose between the Amex trifecta vs. Chase trifecta, this guide can help.
Amex trifecta vs. Chase trifecta
Both the Amex and Chase trifecta work in similar ways: You apply for three different cards from the same card issuer. You then use these cards to take advantage of special earnings bonuses or more generous reward redemption offers. With Chase, you earn Chase Ultimate Rewards points, and with American Express, you earn Amex Membership Rewards points.
Expert card users committed to racking up rewards as quickly as possible have identified the best rewards credit cards from each issuer that combine to provide the best value. So you'd apply for three specific cards and then strategically use each card for different purchases to reap as many bonus points as possible. When you’re ready to cash in your points, you’d transfer your rewards to the most beneficial card and redeem them for the maximum value.
When figuring out how to choose between the Chase vs. Amex trifecta, you need to understand which cards are commonly part of each; what the total costs are of each trifecta; and what benefits each provides.
The table below provides a quick glimpse into what each trifecta offers, but we'll go into more detail below.
|Amex trifecta||Chase trifecta|
|Most common cards|
|Total annual fees||$945
|Total annual credits||
|Transfer partners||Aer Lingus
Air France / KLM
All Nippon Airways (ANA)
Cathay Pacific Asia Miles
Air France / KLM
World of Hyatt
Overview: Amex trifecta
Though the exact cards used can vary, the Amex trifecta commonly consists of:
- The Platinum Card® from American Express, which charges a $695 annual fee
- The American Express® Gold Card, which charges a $250 annual fee
- The Blue Business® Plus Credit Card from American Express, which has a $0 annual fee
Your combined annual fee for the cards is $945, but both of the cards with annual fees provide generous statement credits for various dining and travel purchases that almost make up for the fees you'll pay. The statement credits include:
Up to a $120 annual dining credit from the Gold card
Up to a $120 annual Uber credit from the Gold card
- Up to a $200 annual Uber credit from the Amex Platinum
- Up to a $240 annual digital entertainment credit from the Amex Platinum
- Up to $300 annual statement credit for an Equinox digital or club membership
- Up to a $200 annual hotel credit from the Amex Platinum
- Up to a $200 annual airline fee credit from the Amex Platinum
- A $100 annual credit at Saks Fifth Avenue from the Amex Platinum
- Up to $100 every 4 years for Global Entry or up to $85 every 4.5 years for TSA PreCheck from the Amex Platinum
- Up to a $189 annual CLEAR® Plus credit from the Amex Platinum
The value of the annual credits is over $1,600, which completely offsets the total fees (and some) for both cards if you can max out your credits each year. If you also figure the Global Entry credit is worth $25 per year (since you get that $100 credit once every four years), your fee comes down even further. (Enrollment is required for select benefits.)
For this cost, you get cards that provide you with the opportunity to earn ample rewards including:
- 5X points per dollar spent on eligible airfare (on up to $500,000 per calendar year, after that 1X) and eligible hotel purchases, and 1X points per dollar on all other eligible purchases with the Amex Platinum
- 4X Membership Rewards points at U.S. supermarkets (up to $25,000 per year, after that 1X) and at restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S., 3X on flights booked directly with airlines or on Amextravel.com, and 1X on all other eligible purchases with the Gold card
- 2X Membership Rewards points on everyday eligible business purchases up to $50,000 each year, and 1X points on eligible purchases after that on the Business Plus card
You also get access to Centurion and Priority Pass airport lounges, Hilton Honors Gold Status, Marriott Bonvoy Gold Elite Status, a group membership to The Travel Collection, and baggage insurance. Note that a new Centurion Lounge access policy will go into effect on Feb. 1, 2023. This new policy allows the cardholder to enter Centurion Lounges for free, but guests have a $50 fee. If the cardmember spends at least $75,000 per year on their card, they will continue to receive complimentary lounge access for two guests. (Enrollment is required for select benefits.)
And you can combine your points across the three cards and transfer them to 17 different American Express airline partners, as well as to hotel rewards programs, including the Hilton Honors program, the Marriott Bonvoy Program, and Choice Privileges.
Overview: The Chase trifecta
The Chase trifecta, on the other hand, commonly consists of:
- The Chase Sapphire Reserve®, which has a $550 annual fee
- The Chase Freedom Flex℠, which has a $0 annual fee
- The Chase Freedom Unlimited®, which has a $0 annual fee
The combined annual fee on the cards is $550, which is well below the combined Amex fee. But, you get just two annual statement credits — a $300 annual travel credit and $60 annual DoorDash credit, both from the Sapphire Reserve. So after subtracting for annual credits, the effective fee of $190 is higher for cardholders with the Chase trifecta.
And, because both the Amex and the Chase trifectas offer the Global Entry or TSA credit (up to $100), the credit doesn't offset the fact that Chase's trifecta is more expensive than the Amex, after accounting for credits.
For the fees you pay Chase, you get cards that provide you with the opportunity to earn:
- 5X points on flights and 10X points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards® immediately after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually; 3X points on other travel and dining & 1X points per dollar on all other purchases with the Sapphire Reserve
- 5% cash back on rotating quarterly categories you activate (on up to $1,500 spent) and travel purchased through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal; 3% cash back on drugstore purchases and dining at restaurants (including takeout and eligible delivery service); and 1% cash back on all other purchases with the Chase Freedom Flex card
- 5% cash back on Chase travel purchased through Ultimate Rewards®, 3% cash back on drugstore purchases and dining at restaurants, including takeout and eligible delivery service and unlimited 1.5% cash back on all other purchases on the Chase Freedom Unlimited
You also get complimentary access to more than 1,200 airport lounges and restaurants with Priority Pass Select; DoorDash DashPass for at least one year, a two-year Lyft Pink All Access membership (activate by Dec. 31, 2024) which includes 10% off Lux rides; travel cancellation insurance; lost luggage reimbursement; purchase protection; extended warranty protection; primary rental car damage collision insurance; Reserved by Sapphire benefits coming soon; and a 0% intro APR for 15 months (then 20.49%-29.24% Variable) on purchases with the Chase Freedom Flex.
When you opt for the Chase trifecta, you can also transfer the points from all three cards to the Chase Sapphire Reserve so they can be redeemed through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal. When you book through the portal using this card, points are worth 50% more.
Which trifecta should you get?
Picking between the Amex trifecta vs. Chase trifecta isn't easy, because both provide the chance to earn generous points that can be redeemed for travel. But there are important differences between the two trifectas that can help inform your choice.
Annual credits and other perks
First and foremost, if you aren't likely to max out most of the available Amex credits, the Amex trifecta is more expensive than the Chase trifecta. Some of these credits, such as the $120 annual dining credit, are easy to use up. But if you never take Uber, don't shop at Saks, and find the other credits hard to use, you're probably better off with Chase. On the other hand, if you do use all the credits available, the Amex is the cheaper offering and your best choice — although it appears to cost more at first glance.
Both the Chase and Amex cards offer airline lounge access through Priority Pass — but the Amex cards also offer Centurion lounge access. If you frequently travel in airports with Centurion Lounges, access to these luxury locales may convince you the Amex trifecta is the better deal. On the other hand, Chase cards also give you access to PriorityPass airport restaurant benefits while Amex does not, making the Chase perk more valuable for some. Select benefits require enrollment.
Chase does offer more perks outside of just travel-related benefits, though. Two of the Chase cards come with an introductory APR offer on purchases, unlike the Amex cards. And Chase provides extended warranty protection and purchase protection, which can be nice features if you are a frequent shopper. So if you're looking for an introductory APR, or added protection for things you buy, opting for Chase could be the right choice.
Earning and redeeming points
When it comes to points, both cards provide the chance to earn generous rewards on travel and restaurants. While the Amex Platinum offers 5X points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com (on up to $500,000 per calendar year, after that 1x) and prepaid hotels booked on amextravel.com compared with the Sapphire Reserve’s 3X points on other travel and dining, Chase does provide a 50% bonus on points redeemed for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards.
That means points actually could go further if you're OK with booking your trips through Chase's portal. Amex does allow for redemption with more airline travel partners, though, so if you want maximum flexibility you may prefer the Amex trifecta.
The Chase Freedom Flex's 5% cash back on rotating quarterly categories you activate (on up to $1,500 spent) and travel purchased through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal means that Chase offers better rewards than Amex on some select purchases. But the $1,500 quarterly spending limit is low, so the amount of additional points you can earn likely won’t make much of a difference, and this probably isn’t enough to tip you to Chase.
However, if you do lots of spending outside of travel, restaurants, and other bonus categories, you'll likely do better with the Amex option, since the Blue Business Plus Card provides up to 2X on everyday eligible business purchases up to $50,000 each year (1X points after that). This is more generous than the 1.5% cash back you can earn on general spending with the Chase Freedom Unlimited.
How to create your own rewards credit card trifecta
Just because these two sets of cards are the most popular or frequently recommended, doesn't mean they're your only option. For example, you can incorporate business credit cards into the Chase mix and come up with your own rewards earning trifecta. Business cards can be especially powerful depending on your spending habits since they will provide bonus points for business expenses.
For this reason, a card like the Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card is a great addition to your wallet. Make sure you do a thorough comparison of the Chase Ink business cards before you decide which small business card you want to apply for.
Is the Chase trifecta worth it?
Using the Chase trifecta strategy makes a lot of sense if you want to turn everyday expenses, including groceries or dining purchases, into valuable travel rewards. This can help you offset typical travel costs, like paying for flights or hotel stays.
However, it’s likely not worth it if you don’t want to earn Ultimate Rewards points. In addition, the Chase Sapphire Reserve® typically requires an excellent credit score to qualify. But you could do a modified version of the Chase trifecta by using the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card or Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card instead of the Sapphire Reserve.
What is the most prestigious Chase credit card?
The Chase Sapphire Reserve® is typically known as the most prestigious Chase credit card because of its premium perks and benefits. This includes $300 of annual travel credit, application fee reimbursement of up to $100 every 4 years for Global Entry or up to $85 every 4.5 years for TSA PreCheck, and complimentary Priority Pass airport lounge access. You also get 50% more value from travel redemptions in the Chase travel portal and can transfer your Ultimate Rewards points to over a dozen Chase transfer partners.
Is the Amex trifecta worth it?
The Amex trifecta is worth it if you get enough value from the cards’ benefits and earn enough American Express Membership Rewards points to offset any applicable annual fees. You can accomplish this by strategically using each card for purchases where it earns the most bonus points.
The Platinum Card® from American Express would be best for flights and hotel stays, the American Express® Gold Card for dining and groceries, and The Blue Business® Plus Credit Card from American Express or another card with a flat rewards rate for everything else.
Is Chase Sapphire Reserve® better than The Platinum Card® from American Express?
The better card between the Chase Sapphire Reserve® and The Platinum Card® from American Express depends on what you’re looking for. Both cards offer premium travel benefits and valuable rewards. The Chase Sapphire Reserve offers $300 in annual travel credits and primary car rental coverage.
However, the Amex Platinum competes with increased airport lounge benefits with both Priority Pass and Amex Centurion Lounge access and complimentary Gold Elite status for Marriott Bonvoy and Gold status for Hilton Honors.
As you can see, both the Amex and Chase credit card offers make for great choices. But before you make a final decision on which set of cards are the best credit cards for you, you'll need to consider your spending habits in regards to travel and dining, which airline lounges you'll use, whether you want other non-travel related perks, and how much you spend when deciding between the two cards.
Hopefully, you now have a much better idea of how to choose between the Chase vs. Amex trifectas, and you can make the decision that gets you the maximum possible rewards.
Unlimited Cash Back
Earn an additional 1.5% cash back on everything you buy (on up to $20,000 spent in the first year) - worth up to $300 cash back
5% cash back on Chase travel purchased through Ultimate Rewards®, 3% cash back on drugstore purchases and dining at restaurants, including takeout and eligible delivery service and unlimited 1.5% cash back on all other purchases