American Express Slams Chase as 18 Months Behind

While acknowledging that Sapphire Reserve caught them off guard and needing to respond aggressively, American Express claims to be way ahead of Chase.

JPMorgan is “staffed by a whole bunch of Amex alums who at least know our historic playbook and I always assume are 18 months behind whatever feature or functionality we introduce,” [Doug Buckminster, president of Amex’s global consumer services group] said. “They’re going to show up with a knocked-off version.”

According to American Express since revamping their Platinum card two and a half years ago they’ve “seen a 60% increase in growth” in Platinum accounts and that half of new cardmembers are under age 35.

Ultimately Chase has one huge advantage in the economics of its products that American Express has had difficulty matching. While American Express has sought to get into the ‘pay over time’ business, Chase earns far more in revolve on its products than American Express does on theirs.

In the premium rewards charge card business American Express is relying primarily on interchange (merchant swipe fees) and annual fees for revenue, while Chase adds interest to the mix (although if you’re paying card interest you shouldn’t be using a premium rewards card).

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. @Daniel: Who do you suggest? Battle lines are kinda drawn in terms of loyalty program bank tie-ups. Maybe they could add an off the radar international partner like Aegean or Asiana and make the “expert user” happy, but how much does that really move the needle with the average customer in their target market (mid to upper middle class Americans under 35-40)? Probably very little. Tie-ups with most recognizable brands like AA, United, Hyatt, IHG, etc just aren’t going to happen.

    Chase isn’t exactly adding new partners, either…

    The real place to compete is benefits (economies of scale and not everyone will maximize) of holding the card. If Amex could negotiate Silver Delta status, that would be great. As it stands I usually use my Delta Platinum annual “gift” on gifting my wife silver since we don’t always fly on the same schedule. Would be nice to get some regional upgrades instead for transcons instead.

  2. Interesting read. AMEX is a pariah to me. Early in my career, they burned the bridge when I paid an annual fee to get points on a Corporate AMEX and then when my company paid a few days their deadline, I’d get all the points clawed back (wtf!). I read stories about RATS, points clawbacks on rewards cards, overcrowded lounges, lack of compelling transfer partners. I’ve churned and burned these cards in the past, and they’re definitely not ahead of Chase. Fast forward 20 years, I’m later in my career with my own business, and over 250K+ spend/year on Chase products. MY CFO reviews our corporate card strategy every few years and AMEX doesn’t even make the list. I’m quite happy with the knockoffs Doug…lol . 😀

  3. If Chase is 18 months behind Amex, Chase is about due to make a terrible deal with their biggest airline partner that will benefit the airline immensely and cost Chase immensely.

  4. It’s pretty much a wash at this point, I prefer Chase because I don’t want to track half a dozen credits that are annoying to redeem.

  5. I have switched all my travel and restaurant spending (except Bonvoy stays) to Chase Sapphire and that is a lot business expenses. I still did about $25K with Bonvoy AmEX to get their extra 25K points but that is about it. In last few years AmEX lost Costco and devalued their SPG card. They saw a large drop in former SPG card spending and introduced a spending bonus to correct for the mistake. It looks like AmEX is barely trying to catch up with Chase..

  6. I’m trying to decide exactly why AMEX would bring this up…and the only thing I can think of is insecurity where Chase is concerned. Fact of the matter is that 60% Plat growth = overcrowding in the lounges. I have no insights into AMEX but they must really be trying hard to justify the cost of acquisition of those 60% new members. Outside of financial reporting you rarely hear Chase say anything about card products and performance relating to competitors…

  7. I agree with the above commenters that Doug Buckminster has it the wrong way round. Chase has been astute anticipating what I want. AMEX is tone deaf. The 50% member increase is a blip achieve by lowering approval scores.

    For those who pay the very high fee for the Platinum card things are bleak,

    * They have given so many away that they cannot honor the lounge pledge. Essentially, AMEX is now running a giant fraud.

    * For all of the personal services on the card (e.g. customer support, concierge) standards have fallen. Their overseas call center personnel do not even speak adequate English so cheap is AMEX with the service.

  8. We had 2 Business Plat cards (separate accounts) and when they increased the fees to astronomical heights, we cancelled one of them. Now the other is coming up for renewal at the end of the year, and I’m afraid it’s not worth $595. The airline credit has been devalued to being hardly able to use. The Dell credits are okay, if you like Dell. I bought a nice tv from them and that worked out, but I don’t see much else to buy. I use my Chase card all the time. The other plat card we cancelled I exchanged for an Amex Business Gold. So far I’m liking that more, and it’s cheaper (though at $295 it’s not THAT Cheap). I use it to get 4X points on restaurants. And one other revolving category which varies every month. I use it to buy computer equipment mostly.

    Personally, I like using the Chase card better. Their airline credit is easy to use. I fly United a lot, so I exchange miles from Chase 1:1 and since most charges I make have 3X chase points, I get pretty good deal. Or I buy airline tickets from Chase’s travel outfit for points at 1.5X. Pretty great deal if you ask me.

    I think Amex needs to revamp their plat program again. I don’t see much value in it. I got turned away from their lounges a couple of times and told to come back later. This isn’t worth it.

  9. I could use some advice.

    I have held a personal Amex Plat card for years. This May, anticipating my new card year start in June, I contacted Amex and asked that my card be downgraded to Gold. I fly less now but eat in restos a lot, so it looked a good switch. Soon as I said “downgrade” I was transferred to the retention desk. They closed the deal by suggesting a $500 statement credit which I welcomed. That was May, it is now November and I still don’t have the credit. I call once a month and am always told that there is an IT problem, it is in my “record”, I will get it as soon as the IT problems are resolved.

    In July I took out a Chase Sapphire Reserve. I now use the CSR for the bulk of my travel; just got back from a month in Scandinavia and the CSR took all but one hotel (got a super deal from Amex travel) and some airfare. The earning rate is better, the travel credit is better (earned that in the first month), and given how the phone folks at Amex have handled me, how could that get worse?

    What to do? In my opinion, Amex owes me $500. I cannot in good faith continue to put much on the card but I have about 600 K miles so cannot walk away from those. I could just wait til the spring then downgrade to a Green card to preserve the miles but I enjoy some of the bennies of the Plat card. Not worth $595 per year, but close. I want the $500. How do I get them to deliver on their promise? Any legal suggestions welcome.

  10. @Lentoasema

    Send them a letter asking for the credit you’ve been promised. Not an email, a letter; the kind that arrives in an envelope. Having that piece of paper hanging around serves as a physical reminder to the admin assistant to keep checking up on the status of your claim.

  11. Its sad that Amex feels they need to bash chase to make themselves sound good. With recent changes by amex to benefits I am actually much more likely to move away from their cards (PP memberships that are sub-par to those provided by chase, airline credits that have become more difficult to use, higher AFs, the significant reduction in the value of marriott gold, being forced to select and having to commit to a single airline for a year on the airline credit. Really all Chase needs to do is get some better transfer options and slightly bump up the earning on restaurant spend to match amex and give a bonus for grocery spend and then I’d shift all my spend to them. Makes me question what the under 35 crowd that are taking this card are thinking. Sounds like a bunch of people who don’t know any better.

  12. @renee, thanks, that is what I was thinking. A nice Fedex to the CEO. I had a similar problem with them over a decade ago and an email to the CEO worked well. I wound up in the hands of an executive assistant who fixed my issue. I tried the email route but cannot find a working email for anyone on the exec team, so a Fedex is in order. I spend about $100 K per year on the Plat card which is now redirected to the CSR. You would think they would notice a sharp drop in spend but nah. I think Amex has lost its mojo. Where is Bid Data when you need it?

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