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Sign Me Up! Why I Keep Paying These Credit Card Annual Fees

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Credit Card Annual Fees

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.

Credit Card Annual Fees

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.

Credit Card Annual Fees

Chase IHG Premier Mastercard

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.

Credit Card Annual Fees

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.

Schwab Amex Platinum Card

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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Benjy Harmon
Benjy Harmon
Benjy focuses on the intersection of points, travel, and financial independence (FI). An experienced world traveler, husband, and father, he currently roams throughout the USA close to expense-free. Benjy enjoys helping others achieve their FI and travel goals.

Responses are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.


  1. The new Choice Privileges Select card. 30k points per year for $95 AF (waived first year). Plus pretty low deductible cell phone insurance and good bonus category earn rates. Not a sexy currency, but some good redemptions at some properties. I really value cards that give anniversary points instead of certificates.

  2. 1. Chase Sapphire Reserve, $550 – we travel extensively so its 3x travel earns me well over my $250 cost (factoring in its $300 travel credit) vs. the $95 Sapphire Preferred 2x travel. That single extra point makes my effective cost of Reserve nil vs. Preferred of $45 (factoring in its $50 hotel credit). All the rest of Reserve perks are just gravy.
    2. Barclay Wyndham Business Earner, $95 – I get 15,000 annual points, 8x on gasoline, 5x on utilities, cell phone insurance (plus 5x since it’s also a utility), and the best perk of all: match to Caesar’s Diamond status, which eliminates Las Vegas resort & parking fees, and covers $100 annual Celebration Dinner at any Caesar’s property.

  3. I’ll add the Amex Gold – $250 AF significantly offset with some (PIA to use) monthly credits. Grocery and dining multipliers are great, but I keep it around primarily for referrals. My gold always seems to be targeted for 30K referrals. I have maxed out my cap two years in a row for a haul of 155K points. It’s like a mini sign-up bonus each year!

    • Where do you find people to whom you send referrals? After referring my wife, I’m pretty much out of people interested in getting a new credit card.

  4. “I hold this card for one simple reason – I like holding a non-Citi card which earns 1x AA mile everywhere.” For years you don’t need spend for status, you might consider Bilt for AA miles – $0 AF

    • Pam,
      I can understand that perspective. Unfortunately, this no signup bonus card doesn’t have enough going on otherwise for me to pursue at this point.

  5. My favorite is the WoH (World of Hyatt) Chase Visa at under $100 AF. In January I used 4 FNA’s at a property with a daily rate of $526/night!! A Huge Win especially when adding Free Destination Fee and Free Parking (I am a Globalist) which adds almost another $100 per night. I have actually had even higher redemption before.

    The AmEx Aspire Card with $450 AF is worth it for the Free Night and its multitud of benefits. This can be used at properties with daily rates greatly exceeding $1,000!!! But this is definitely a personal preference and priority.


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