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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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Should be worth it to most:
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:
- A $250 annual airline credit (with your first year’s annual fee you actually get two of those — that’s $500 of airline credits with your first year’s $450 annual fee)
- A fourth night free hotel benefit
- The most comprehensive Priority Pass membership offered by any card
- A $100 Global Entry fee credit
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.
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.
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.
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?