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Reader steven k recently made the following request on the “Ask Lucky” page of the blog:
This is not a question but rather a request. When you get a chance, can you write a post about credit cards with best (most lucrative) anniversary bonus?
I do keep 20+ credit cards open at a given time, and it’s not because I enjoy paying annual fees. 😉
There are two reasons I keep credit cards open long term:
- They offer me a great return on everyday spend, typically in terms of the category bonuses they offer; in these cases, the marginal bonus points I earn have to outweigh the annual fee
- They offer me lucrative anniversary bonuses just for holding onto the cards; in many cases I don’t spend a cent on these cards, but I gladly pay the annual fee for the benefits the card offers
With that in mind, which credit cards have the most lucrative anniversary bonuses?
Absolute no brainers for (just about) everyone
In general, hotel credit cards offer the most lucrative “no strings attached” annual category bonuses. Specifically:
IHG® Rewards Club Select Credit Card ($49 annual fee)
This is possibly the single best credit card in terms of the annual bonus. On your account anniversary each year you receive a free night certificate valid at any IHG property worldwide. That’s right, there are no “caps” on the category you can redeem at.
Add in the fact that this is the lowest annual fee hotel card that I list and that it offers IHG Platinum status for as long as you have the card, and it’s a no brainer.
Redeem your annual free night certificate at the Crowne Plaza Doha
Club Carlson Premier Rewards Visa Signature Card ($75 annual fee)
This card offers 40,000 points upon your account anniversary every year. 40,000 points will cover a free night at a vast majority of Club Carlson properties. I value Club Carlson points at ~0.4 cents each, so that’s like a return of ~$160 on your $75 annual fee.
Until June 1, 2015, the second night of every award redemption is free as well, though unfortunately that benefit will finally be going away.
Marriott Rewards® Premier Credit Card ($85 annual fee)
This card offers an anniversary free night, valid at Category 1-5 properties. While this doesn’t cover Marriott’s highest end properties, given their global footprint this is something that should be worthwhile to just about anyone.
Wish I had a free night certificate when I stayed at the Marriott Sao Paulo Airport
Chase Hyatt Visa Card ($75 annual fee)
This card offers an anniversary free night, valid at Category 1-4 properties. While this doesn’t cover Hyatt’s highest end properties, it does cover a lot of them, and just about anyone with plans to stay at a Hyatt property would get at least $75 value out of it.
Redeem your annual free night certificate at the Hyatt Olive 8 Seattle
Absolute no brainers for many
While I think the above cards are a no brainer for virtually everyone, there are a few other cards which can offer incredibly lucrative anniversary bonuses if the situation is right. These include:
Alaska Airlines Visa Signature Card ($75 annual fee)
This card offers a $122 economy companion certificate (~$99 plus taxes) valid for anywhere that Alaska flies. Both tickets are eligible for mileage accrual and upgrades, so it’s a no brainer as long as you travel on Alaska with a companion at least once a year.
Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard® ($95 annual fee)
This card offers a 10% refund of miles when you redeem your American AAdvantage miles, for up to 100,000 redeemed miles per year. That means if you redeem at least 100,000 miles per year you’d get 10,000 miles back just for having this card. I value American miles at well over a penny each.
Citi® Hilton HHonors Reserve Card ($95 annual fee)
This card offers Hilton HHonors Gold status for as long as you have the card, which is among the most valuable mid-tier hotel status levels out there, given that it offers complimentary breakfast and/or club lounge access, and free wifi.
Beyond that, the card offers:
- A free weekend anniversary night if you spend $10,000 on the card in a year
- Hilton HHonors Diamond status if you spend $40,000 on the card in a year
At a minimum it’s worth holding onto for the HHonors Gold status, in my opinion.
Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express ($95 annual fee)
If you’re chasing SPG Platinum status (which is among my favorite hotel status levels) then this card can help with that. You get two elite stay credits and five elite night credits each year just for having the card.
If you also have the Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express you can earn an extra two elite stay credits and five elite night credits each year towards status, for a total of four elite stay credits and 10 elite night credits towards status annually.
As I’ve explained many times before, there are a lot of misconceptions about how credit scores work. Not only can holding onto cards long term be incredibly rewarding thanks to the recurring benefits they offer, but it can also help your credit score.
At a minimum, I think the above hotel cards should be a no brainer for just about everyone. Beyond that, depending on your travel patterns, a lot of the other above cards can also make sense.
Which credit card anniversary bonuses do you value most?