Credit Card Annual Fees
When some hear “credit card annual fees,” they run the other way. I know friends and family that refuse to hold a credit card which charges an annual fee, on principle. Often, I find myself unsarcastically agreeing that their Discover card is an excellent choice. What I find more concerning are points and travel hobbyists who take credit card annual fee analysis to the extreme. To be clear, I make an effort to maximize my return, in terms of rewards and benefits, which justify payment of the annual fee. But at a certain point, my time is more valuable elsewhere. Other individuals go to levels beyond. Just a friendly reminder – sometimes, you get what you pay for. Indeed, I don’t hesitate to pay annual fees on certain credit cards, year after year. Here’s what I keep paying and why.
Barclays AAdvantage Aviator Blue Mastercard
I’ve paid this card’s $49 annual fee since downgrading from the Aviator Red several years ago. I hold this card for one simple reason – I like holding a non-Citi card which earns 1x AA mile everywhere. This decision proved significant last year – spend on my Aviator Blue enabled me to reach Executive Platinum status. I don’t have plans to requalify for status this year, but I may attempt to climb the mountain again in 2024. And without a permanent, prominent transfer partner like Chase, Amex, or Citi, I hold AA mile earning via credit card spend at a slight premium over other airline miles.
I held Chase’s legacy $49 annual fee Select card for years, hardly ever spending on the card. The annual free night cert which came with that card was enough for me. Earlier in 2022, my wife and I each decided to upgrade to the $99 annual fee IHG Premier Mastercard for a few reasons. First, we liked the more flexible version of the Premier’s free night cert. While it’s still redeemable up to the 40k point free night level, the Premier allows us to top off with an unlimited amount of points. This opens up IHG hotels previously unavailable for free night cert use. Second, my wife and I each like the Premier’s fourth night free option, effectively increasing the value of our IHG points. We’ll occasionally use the biannual $25 United Travel Bank funds, but we don’t lose sleep if we miss out here or there. Regardless, paying a $50 higher annual fee is easily outweighed by our return.
Barclays Wyndham Rewards Visa
My wife and I each still hold our legacy $69 annual fee Wyndham Rewards Visa cards for two reasons – one big, the other small. The primary reason is the 15k Wyndham point anniversary bonus we receive. Getting huge value out of Wyndham points can be increasingly challenging, especially since we’re not Vacasa fans. Obtaining one cent per point value is doable, though, and picking that up via Caesars Rewards is just one accessible option. Paying $69 for $150 in value keeps us sticking around.
The second reason is very minor but still in play. Our card version still earns 2x everywhere. Have I taken advantage of that in recent years? No, but I like knowing it’s still there if or when I need it.
Amex Schwab Platinum
I’ve blathered on plenty about how the consumer version of the Amex Platinum more than outweighs the $695 annual fee. But one other benefit alone is worth my wife and I paying that. Three words: Invest With Rewards. This feature enables Membership Rewards cashout to our Schwab accounst at a 1.1 cents per point rate. At the level we (and many others) earn Amex’s bank point currency, paying this annual fee for such a redemption is a no-brainer. The year-over-year consistency of earning Amex points at scale has been remarkable, and I don’t see it changing. The same goes for my wife and I each holding and paying for a Schwab Platinum.
Of course, I simultaneously pursue active hobbyist strategies like card retention offers, high card turnover, and welcome offers with varying language. But I realize paying annual fees, some indefinitely, is just part of the deal in aggressively playing the points and travel game. If anything, I wish there were more cards offering attractive enough benefits to justify paying more annual fees. I look forward to seeing what’s next!
What card annual fees do you have no problem paying?
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