6 Credit Cards That Are Worth It For The Perks Alone

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Credit cards are one of the best ways to rack up miles & points, and can be incredibly rewarding even without putting much spend on them.

In general there are three things I’ll consider when applying for a new credit card:

  • The sign-up bonus
  • The return on everyday spend
  • The perks you get with the card

I talk quite a bit about the best credit card sign-up bonuses, and have also talked about the best way to use category bonuses to maximize your return on everyday spend. Which card is best for someone really varies based on their specific spending goals.

That being said, there are some cards which offer annual, recurring perks which more than justify the annual fee on the card, regardless of how much you spend.

With that in mind, here are some of the best card perks, which I think almost everyone will get value out of, regardless of how much you spend on a card.

Should be worth it to (almost) everyone:

IHG® Rewards Club Select Credit Card

Annual fee: $49 (waived the first year)

Just for holding onto this card you get an anniversary free night certificate every year. This can be redeemed at virtually any IHG property across the world.

This includes properties like the InterContinental London Park Lane, which often retail for $500+ per night. And you get that all for a card with an annual fee of less than $50 per year.

IHG-Anniversary-Night-3

On top of that you get IHG Rewards Club Platinum status as well as a 10% refund on all points you redeem, up to 100,000 points per year. That’s the icing on the cake.

Marriott Rewards® Premier Credit Card

Annual fee: $85

Marriott also offers an annual free night certificate upon your account anniversary each year. In their case it’s valid at Category 1-5 properties, which also includes a majority of their hotels around the world. Marriott has a huge global footprint, so I can’t imagine most people would have any issue getting at least $85 of value out of that.

Marriott

Furthermore, if you’re someone who cares about status, Marriott offers those with their credit card 15 night credits towards status annually upon account anniversary, and an additional one night credit towards status for every $3,000 spent.

The Hyatt Credit Card

Annual fee: $75 (waived the first year)

The Hyatt Credit Card offers an annual free night certificate upon your account anniversary each year, valid at Category 1-4 properties.

That doesn’t cover all Hyatt properties in the world, though does cover a majority of Hyatts. I think virtually anyone would get at least $75 per night out of such a certificate, given that there are lots of ~$300 per night hotels within that category.

Hyatt-Santiago

Beyond that, for being a card member you receive Platinum status with Hyatt Gold Passport. Admittedly it’s not the most valuable status, but it’s better than nothing.

Perhaps the more valuable perk is that Hyatt sometimes offers promotions for those with their co-branded credit card. For example, through July Hyatt offered up to 20% off redemptions for those with their co-branded card, which was a hugely valuable promo.

Hyatt-Promo

Should be worth it to most:

Citi Prestige® Card

Annual fee: $450

A card with a $450 annual fee which is worth having for the perks alone? I’d argue yes! In my opinion this is the hottest all around credit card at the moment, given the suite of benefits it comes with.

Not only does it offer a sign-up bonus of 40,000 ThankYou Rewards points after spending $4,000 on the card within the first three months (those points can be transferred to one of their airline transfer partners, or be redeemed for revenue flights on any airline, but it also offers the following long term perks:

If you account for the $250 airline credit against the annual fee, to me that’s sort of like actually being out of pocket $200. And that’s a heck of a deal for an even semi-frequent traveler, given the lounge access and fourth night free hotel perk, which really is every bit as good as it sounds.

Citi® Hilton HHonors Reserve Card

Annual fee: $95

Unlike some other hotel cards, this one doesn’t offer an annual free night certificate just for having the card. That being said, it does offer Hilton HHonors Gold status for as long as you have the card, which I consider to be one of the most valuable hotel elite statuses out there. It comes with free breakfast and/or executive lounge access.

Given Hilton’s global footprint, you’ll likely come out ahead just by having the card after just a few nights.

Furthermore, if you’re inclined to spend money on the card, you can pick up two other awesome benefits upon completing certain spend amounts:

  • A complimentary weekend night certificate for any cardmember year (different than calendar year) in which you spend $10,000 on the card
  • Hilton HHonors Diamond status for any year in which you spend $40,000 on the card

If you have a good use for the free weekend night, I’d say it’s absolutely worth putting $10,000 of spend on the card. Furthermore, $40,000 isn’t a lot to spend to get top tier hotel status.

Club Carlson Premier Rewards Visa Signature® Card

Annual fee: $75

While Club Carlson points aren’t nearly as useful as they used to be due to Club Carlson recently devaluing their award chart and also eliminating the second free night benefit on the credit card, there’s still value to be had from the card.

Just for having the credit card you get 40,000 points upon your account anniversary every year. Even with a conservative valuation of 0.4 cents per point, that’s $160 worth of points.

Furthermore, you get Club Carlson Gold status for as long as you have the card, which gets you some great perks when staying at Club Carlson properties, like bonus points, room upgrades, welcome amenities, etc.

Bottom line

Even without spending a lot on credit cards, there’s huge value to holding onto many credit cards long term, even if they have annual fees. That’s why I have so many credit cards open at any given point. They all give me benefits which more than justify the annual fees.

So hopefully that explains a bit why I have so many cards. There are lots of great perks to be had, even when paying annual fees!

Which credit cards do you consider to be worth holding onto long term just for the perks they offer?

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Comments

  1. I would add to the benefits of Club Carlson Gold is the EMEA 2 for 1 and 4 for 2 weekends. While capacity controlled, this can be of great value if you travel outside of the Americas.

  2. I’m cancelling Marriott, finally, this year. Finding that the Cat 1-5 just isn’t good enough anymore at any of the domestic cities I travel to. Not all of us can go to Asia randomly for the weekend …

  3. @ Ben — The IHG, Hyatt, and Prestige cards are definiyely woth their annual fees. The Marriott annual night is probably not worth $85. Club Carlson might as well not exist as far as I’m concerned….

  4. Here’s my 2 cents worth of opinion. This is only me and I recognize the fact that no person is created equal. What is good for me might not be necessarily good for you!

    IHG – Definitely!
    Hyatt – Definitely!
    Club Carlson – so-so. I can’t always be out of the USA on a vacation. Poor US presence. I might cancel my CC next year.
    Marriott – No thanks. Free room good for only six months?!?!?!!
    Hilton Reserve – No thanks. I pay $95.00 and still requires a spending threshold…nope. Free night on weekends only…again NO thanks.
    Citi Prestige – Hell yes! This is the reason why I switched from AMEX Platinum.

  5. Unfortunately, the Marriott free night certificates have gotten VERY hard to use domestically. Over the past few years, we’ve seen suburban and airport properties that used to be category 4 go up to category 6 or even higher.

  6. I agree with what others are saying.
    While your statement is probably true (“In their case it’s valid at Category 1-5 properties, which also includes a majority of their hotels around the world”), these likely won’t be properties you want to actually stay at, especially if you’re in the United States.
    Of course in Asia and the Middle East, you could stay at stunning properties with this certificate.

  7. Odd… I just tried applying for Citi Prestige but was denied immediately. I have had a Citi-based card for 22 years and an 855 credit score. Well over 150K in other credit lines… maybe that is the problem?? Chase usually approves my applications right away with 10K’s of credit… anyone else have trouble getting approved?

  8. The biggest issue with the first 3 cards is that they are Chase cards. Chase has too many good cards and they don’t allow one to have too many (more than 4 in most cases) of their cards.

  9. Club Carlson Premier Rewards Visa has proven useful for me, although I’m not sure I’ll keep it when the points balance get lower. I signed up for 85K bonus for $2.5K in 90 days and got a further 13K for the minimum spending which I went slightly over on (5 points per dollar). I then got a further 30K bonus for staying at a property (which was itself 15K award redemption) – so total of 130K for $75.

    So far I have stayed at three 10-15K hotels. I use it when I’m staying in middle of no where or close to an airport, vs wasting more affluent points. So potentially it’s good for at least 8 stays @ 15K with 130K, or 6 without that nice little 30K bonus.

  10. Lucky – For the Citi Prestige card, I read in a previous blog that Citi Bank offered a reduced fee of $350 for Gold members. Do you know if this is still available, and if so, how can I access it? I do not see any reference to it in your link or on Citi’s website.

  11. Brad: There’s nothing to “access”: if you have (or open) a Citi Gold account and then link the card to the account, the fee should come through at $350 automatically. If it doesn’t, you could always call for a manual override but, again, it should come through automatically.

    Only $100, net, for Admirals Club access is pretty good, but the real synergy with the Gold account is two-fold. First, you get an annual 15% Thank You Points bonus for all your points; and second, you get to buy AA/US tickets at 1.6 cents per point with any of your points, even those earned on the banking side. (And with monthly “auto-save,” bill pay and electronic deposits, that’s 975 points/month.)

    It sounds as though you already know the Gold requires $50K in checking/savings deposits (or a $15K business account; I think brokerage deposits might help as well).

  12. @dmodemd. Similar situation. Credit score 825. Applied for Prestige card two weeks ago and was denied. Called for a review and still said no. The card arrived yesterday. Strange. So it might just be some internal error.

  13. When did the Marriott card start looking like something to recommend to your readers? Do you have debt from a gambling addiction you need to pay off?

  14. I really don’t find the hotel cards worth holding onto since that means you can’t churn them. And when you compare the cue you get to airbnb then it’s likely a wash.

    I do agree with prestige though and it’s really the only card that should be on the list, but then it wouldn’t be all that exciting of a list. You forgot the six free (3 per Cal year) rounds of golf too, which can be booked in ur name and or given away, etc. I’m gonna be playing a $180/round course so not a bad deal for me.

  15. I am currently interning for an event planning company and we always tell our to-be-wed couples that they should get a credit card with a points system they like and put everything they purchase for their wedding on there. They usually go for the airline miles points to help with their honeymoon plans. I wasn’t aware that some credit cards also give these perks for couples’ anniversaries. I will definitely be mentioning this from now on.

  16. What about the Citi Premier card for big fuel spenders? This covers more travel rewards than the Prestige (I have both) and I am enjoying the biggest spend bonus EVER!

  17. I guess I’m surprised (and not surprised at the same time) that the AMEX Platinum has fallen off this list. I guess the Prestige replaces this card for most people although others will find the Platinum still provides value.

    Are others keeping both the Prestige and the Platinum? Lucky- maybe a value comparison would be a good post?

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