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There are many reasons to consider applying for a credit card. When I tell non-miles and points people about how many credit cards I have, some are surprised to learn that there are a bunch of credit cards on which I pay the annual fee without actually spending much money on the card.
In this post I figured I’d look at seven of the credit cards that I pay the annual fee on, but don’t actually put much spend on. In no particular order:
Annual fee: $75
The card offers a $121 annual companion certificate (the cost to use it is $99, plus taxes and fees starting at $22), which I value quite a bit. As long as you fly Alaska at least once a year with a companion on a fare that would be at least ~$175, you’ll come out ahead on this. I’ve gotten great value using the certificate for flights to Mexico, Seattle, etc.
Tickets booked with the certificate are eligible for mileage accrual and first class upgrades
Annual fee: $99, waived the first year
The card offers a 10% refund on redeemed miles, up to 10,000 miles per year. Since I redeem at least 100,000 American miles per year, this card gets me a refund of 10,000 miles per year. I value that at more than the $99 annual fee, which makes the card a keeper for me.
I got a 10% refund when I redeemed miles for Etihad’s A380 Apartment
Annual fee: $99
In addition to the card’s great sign-up bonus, there are two perks that make this card a keeper. It offers a bonus of 5,000 points on your account anniversary each year, and also offers a 10% refund on redeemed points.
So when you factor in the refund, you’re basically getting 5,500 points per year, which I value at ~$80. Then if you redeem even a moderate number of points you’re likely to come out ahead on the card. On top of that, the card offers a first checked bag free, which comes in handy when my parents travel with me on JetBlue.
Annual fee: $75
The primary reason I hold onto this card is because of the annual free night certificate that it offers, which is valid at any Category 1-4 Hyatt property. I get outsized value with this benefit, and typically redeem it at hotels that would cost $200+ per night. Furthermore, as a Globalist member I get elite benefits on these stays, including room upgrades, free breakfast or lounge access, etc.
You can use your annual free night certificate at the Hyatt Regency Hong Kong
Annual fee: $49
This card has what I consider to be the single most valuable annual free night certificate offered by any card. The card has just a $49 annual fee, and offers an annual free night valid at any IHG property in the world. This can easily be redeemed for a stay at a hotel that would retail for over $400 per night, and should be a no brainer for a vast majority of people.
I‘ve used my annual free night certificate at the InterContinental Hong Kong
Annual fee: $95, waived the first year
This card actually offers a compelling return on everyday, non-bonused spend. That’s because the card offers one Starpoint per dollar, which I value at ~2.2 cents each. However, nowadays I put a lot of my everyday, non-bonused spend on the Chase Freedom Unlimited®, which offers 1.5 Ultimate Rewards points per dollar spent, in conjunction with a card like the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card.
So at the moment it’s not a card I spend much on, but I still find it worth holding onto. Why? Because it offers two elite qualifying stays and five elite qualifying nights towards status annually. The Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express offers the same perk, for a total of four elite qualifying stays and 10 elite qualifying nights towards status annually.
Annual fee: $450
First of all, the card offers a $250 annual airline credit, which can be applied towards any purchase made directly with an airline. The way I view it, the real out of pocket on this card is ~$200 per year. The huge benefit offered by this card is the fourth night free perk, which I use all the time. This saves me thousands of dollars per year, and for me is the most valuable benefit offered by any card.
Nowadays most of the spend I put on this card is limited to paying for my fourth night free hotel stay.
I‘ve used the fourth night free benefit at the W Punta de Mita
Which credit cards do you pay the annual fee on, without putting much spend on the card itself?