Hi! We are Alex, Pam, & Jess. A trio of moms who love to travel! We have spent the last few years mastering how to travel for nearly free using credit card points. Now we want to share what we’ve learned so you can be off on your own adventures.
Many of the best reward credit cards come with an annual fee. Luckily, some of these are waived the first year allowing you to earn the points and test out the card for a year while you decide if the card is worth it long-term. Most annual fees are around $95. Then you have high annual fee credit cards. These cards are more like $250-695 a year! Are these cards ever worth signing up for?! I give an emphatic YES, especially that first year when you can take advantage of the signup bonus and the benefits that come with the card. While they aren’t for everyone if you are able to utilize the benefits they can be well worth the cost. Let’s talk about them and why I keep some as a permanent fixture in my wallet.
The Best High Annual Fee Credit Cards
American Express Platinum Card
One of my favorite cards is my American Express Platinum Card. With an Annual Fee of $695.00, you may think I’m crazy but I will always keep it in my wallet, and here are seven reasons why I will keep it.
$200 airline credit on one airline you choose. This used to work on gift cards for the airline you pick. Not anymore. But you can use it for airlines you have to pay a baggage fee for, in-flight purchases, change fees, airport lounge day passes, seat assignment fees, and several other items. You pick one airline and have to stick with them for a year. You can change your airline every January. It might be a good idea to pick an airline like Frontier or Spirit that charges you for every extra item to really take advantage of this deal. Just make sure you add these on after you purchase your ticket. If you use this every year, then your annual fee is now $350.00.
You get a $50 Saks 5thAvenue credit every 6 months. I set a reminder in my calendar to go online twice a year (right after the new year and once in June) to use this credit. I buy my expensive face creams or a nice necklace on my Platinum Card and they credit me $50.00 each time. Now the cost of the card is $250.00 for me.
Uber credit of $15.00 a month and $35.00 in December which equals $230.00. You do have to link your Platinum Card to your Uber account and then select the Amex Benefit selection for payment. If you can take advantage of this then the cost of the card is now $120.00.
5x award points on airfare purchases booked directly with the airline or through Amex Travel. This lets me get more points faster when I travel. I like to put my airline ticket purchases on this card.
Elite Status at Marriott and Hilton hotels. This benefit has provided upgrades to nicer rooms and free breakfasts for me and who doesn’t like that?
Global Entry or TSA Precheck credit – If you choose to get Global Entry you will automatically also get TSA Precheck. Having both of these makes my travel so much faster. I travel internationally a lot and Global Entry makes it so much easier. These cost $100 and $85 respectively so my card is now free after all these benefits.
$200 statement credit for Fine Hotels and Resorts
$240 credit for Peacock, Audible, SiriusXM, and the New York Times – $20/month
$179 Clear Credit – gets you through the airport quicker!
$800 Cell Phone Protection – you can be reimbursed for your costs to repair or replace your damaged or stolen cell phone up to $800.
Priority Pass access and even better, Centurion Lounge access. If you are traveling on a Delta flight, you can even access the Delta Sky Club if you have an American Express Platinum Card.
Once you use the airport lounges this card allows you to enter, it’s hard to go back to sitting in the crowded airport. I love to check out airport lounges and save a lot of money on meals and drinks in them. I have even showered after a long flight before my next departure and this makes travel so much nicer! This is actually my favorite benefit and definitely makes the high annual fee on this credit card worth it!
I really value the benefits I get from my American Express Platinum Credit Card. Yes, the annual fee is high, but I manage to get enough value out of the benefits that I will continue to keep it in my wallet. My husband and I both had it at one time but I canceled his after a couple of years. It really just works for one of us to have it.
$100 airline credit on any airline you choose. This is used just like I use my Platinum Card – If you use this feature, the annual fee is now $150.00.
$120 per year statement credit ($10/mo) at participating restaurants, which include GrubHub, Seamless, The Cheesecake Factory, Ruth’s Chris Steak House, and participating Shake Shack locations. This also works at boxed.com which is a site like Costco or Sam’s Club and they send your items to you. I love the ease of this site so I use it every month and it saves me $120 per year. My annual fee now is $30.00 to me.
$120/year credit for Uber – I use mine for $10/month with Uber Eats.
4x points at U.S. restaurants and supermarkets – this is a great way to keep getting Membership Reward Points, especially if you have a big family and are at the grocery store all the time. I spend about $600/mo. on groceries so that gives me almost 30,000 Membership Rewards a year just on groceries. I can get a round-trip domestic ticket through an airline partner, like Delta with this. That in and of itself makes this card worth keeping!
$300 in statement credits for spending at Marriott hotels. This can be spent on rooms, food, or anything spent at their hotels. It doesn’t even have to be spent on just one stay. I always use this benefit so my annual fee is $150.
Annual free night certificate -I always use this to stay at a hotel $200+ so this pays for my card. It is actually worth a hotel that goes for 50K award points. I used this recently to stay at a Ritz-Carlton in Maui that costs $1,000/night. Definitely worth having this card for that! Unfortunately, Marriott has made some category changes with a lot of their hotels and using your anniversary free night won’t work at the Ritz-Carlton in Maui anymore, but there is still great value in this free night.
Gold Elite Status at Marriott Hotels – This gets me late checkouts and a room upgrade. I love hotel status!
Priority Pass airport lounge membership – love my airport lounges!
TSA Precheck or Global Entry once every four years – worth $85-$100.
As you can see, this card is worth much more than the $450 I spend on it. I have no intention of discarding it. Right now you can get 75,000 Bonvoy Rewards when you sign up here and spend $3,000 in three months. I would recommend waiting around for a limited-time offer where the bonus is usually closer to 100,000 points.
Chase Sapphire Reserve
The Chase Sapphire Reserve has a signup bonus of 50,000 points after spending $4,000 in 3 months. It has a hefty annual fee but here are some great perks that come with this card.
$300 Annual Travel Credit- get reimbursed for up to $300 worth of travel expenses. This drops your annual fee down to $250.
Earn 3x the points on all travel and dining purchases after your $300 travel credit.
Points in the Chase Travel Portal are worth 1.5 cents vs 1.25 cents with the Sapphire Preferred and Ink Business Preferred cards.
Includes Priority Pass Lounge membership. You know how we love our airport lounges!
Free subscription to DashPass from DoorDash. This gives you free delivery. Also, get $60 in statement credits for DoorDash in 2020 and another $60 in 2021.
Complimentary Lyft Membership (discounts, priority pickup and more).
This card also comes with great travel insurance coverage, even if you book with points and just pay taxes on this card you will be covered. One of these benefits is lost/delayed/damaged luggage. This actually happened to me a couple of years ago. The airline lost my baggage for four days on a trip to Greece and had to buy new clothes and beauty products to get me through. I was reimbursed $500! Gotta tell ya, it was a pain to not have my clothes for a bit but getting some new, free items was pretty nice in the end.
Hilton Honors Aspire
The Hilton Honors Aspire card comes with a high annual fee of $450. If you regularly stay at Hilton properties this card is well worth adding to your wallet despite the high annual fee. Right now you can signup and earn 150,000 points after you spend $4,000 in 3 months. Here is what we love about this card:
$250 Hilton Resort Credit- Get $250 in statement credits when you make purchases at Hilton properties
$250 Airline Fee Credit- This works just like the airline credit with the Amex Platinum card. Choose one airline and get reimbursed for things like baggage fees, onboard snacks, flight change fees, etc.
Priority Pass- airport lounge membership
Complimentary diamond status with Hilton- think free breakfasts for 2, room upgrades, and more!
Get a free weekend night certificate each year on your account anniversary. You can get a ton of value out of this free night! Unlike Marriott’s free night there are no caps with this. You use it to visit the Maldives, Grand Wailea in Maui, Bora Bora, and much more.
At first glance, it would seem that the credit cards that come with annual fees aren’t worth it. Certainly, they are worth it the first year when you add in the bonus points and the perks. However, I have found that high annual fee credit cards are worth it for the long haul. When it is time to pay that high annual fee the second year you just need to evaluate whether it makes sense to keep that card again for you. It is totally dependent on whether you are able to utilize the benefits or not. If you can’t utilize the benefits you can always cancel, or downgrade your card that second year.
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