Are $800+ in annual card fees worth the price? Should you “HOLD” cards?

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Best Credit Cards

Most of us are always on the lookout for a better deal. Not just a new point deal, and we will always try to find those when they come along, but then what cards to just hang on to and then why to do so.

Right now, I pay over $800 in annual fees each year. To me, what I get from this batch, is worth the fees and I use the cards. Other cards I dump or move to a no fee flavor of card. So what do I get for my $800?

  1. AMEX Reserve business card. I have a huge line on this card to run my computer shop. I have had this card for a very long time and it is a HOLD. Clearly the 30,000 Delta MQM’s I can get, plus a better shot at an upgrade, are the top two reasons I, with pleasure, pay the $450 fee each year. If Delta/Amex were to drop these two features, I would not keep the card. I also, for now, have a personal one. We will see if I keep that one too for another year. Maybe. Thinking.
  2. AMEX SPG card. 2 night stay credit and chance to earn SPG points. Cheapest “mattress run” I can do for the fee. Will be happy to HOLD and use this card for a very long time as long as these perks stay part of the card.
  3. Chase INK Plus business card. With all the perks this card gives me, it is a long term HOLD also and for just $95 a year it works. To have my cell, cable and phone all just auto-bill to this card to get 5x points is almost way too easy points (really just great value). I also like no foreign transaction fees and do use this abroad.
  4. Chase 80k IHG card (not my link and at the bottom of the list of cards). PC Platinum, 10% points rebate and the 1 night free each year I have the card. For $49 a year, I will pay this till I am 100 years old. As long as Chase does not mess this one up I will “RUN” to pay it each year.
  5. Chase Sapphire Preferred® card. This is one I am just not 100% sure on if it is a long term HOLD. The 7% annual point bonus is nice and when I don’t have restaurant gift cards in my wallet I will pull this one out. For $95 a year this one is 50-50. I wish it would come down to $49/year then it would be a simple long term HOLD.
  6. Chase Freedom®. This has no fee and by getting max value each 3 months at 5x this one is always a good deal. If Chase changes this one to an annual fee, I would have to think about this one too.
  7. US Bank FlexPerks. I tend to book two trips a year on this card on points to fly Delta. They give me $25/trip for incidentals (now Delta e-Gift cards). So, for $49 a year I get that fee back. Net push and I like the card so a HOLD.

So there you are. There are many other cards I have and may pay a fee here and there, but are not long term HOLD cards like Hawaiian or Alaska. Others, like some Citi cards (my HHonors Reserve card that gives me GOLD status), I like and may or may not keep or pay the fee as I have other hotel & airline goals and these, while giving value, do not fit my personal needs (for now since I am focused on SPG this year).

Is it crazy to pay almost $1000 per year in card fees? Not to me when you look at the overall travel value. Plus, I do always call for retention points each year as if a card wants me to long term HOLD them, they need to show me the value of staying in my wallet day after day! – René

Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card
RESERVE/PLATINUM/GOLD
from American Express®
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21 comments

  1. Thank you for an interesting post. I have two questions:

    1) Can you offer more advice on how to make a persuasive retention call?

    2) I’m curious as to the “absence” of the Amex Plat from your list of cards, which seems to run counter to the advice from many of your “points” colleagues. So, what was your reasoning for not getting that card?

  2. Yes, it’s worth the fees! I am with you on 1-5. I do not carry 6 or 7 but they too make sense. I am at about $1K in fees on my various cards per year but as you mention that blow can be softened a bit by retention points or statement credit for some or all of the AF amount.

  3. wait,
    you can get a delta e-gift card as a trip incidental on US Bank FlexPerks card?
    more info please? How do you do that?

  4. Good post Rene. Could you not downgrade your CSP to no-fee Sapphire and still accumulate points(to a lower threshhold)?
    You would still keep your UR transfer to partner options by paying the annual fee on your Chase Ink Plus.

  5. I would actually downgrade the CSP if you are holding the Chase Ink Bold. The 7% dividend really isn’t much after the sign up bonus. For example, if you spend 10K on the CSP, you only get 700 points. CSP rarely gives a retention bonus.

  6. How much of these fees do you write off as a business expense on your taxes? Just the one card or a few.

  7. I love credit card retention calls. They are really quite easy. Just call the number on the back of the card, tell them you are thinking of cancelling the card because the annual fee does not justify the benefits. Tell the CSR that if they would waive the annual fee, you would gladly keep the credit card. The CSR will remind you of all the perks, the face value of the perks, and then happily announce a retention bonus of either points or a statement credit to offset the annual fee.

    I have received 10,000 United miles and 2 extra lounge passes by calling the Chase United card retention department at months 10 and 11. Also received $47.50 statement credit on the Chase Ink Bold or 5,000 UR Points. I haven’t had the pleasure to call about other cards yet, but I assume I could get similar benefits on other cards. If you call and the rep says there is no retention bonus for you, hang up and call back until you get an offer you like.

  8. Freedom will never get an AF, so keep it forever. My current lineup of AF cards:

    1) Amex Platinum – probably will cancel so I can try and get one every other year with a signup bonus. Arguably worth it for benefits though if you travel enough to use lounges as the fee becomes $250 with $200 paid for travel.

    2) Amex Business Gold – will cancel after first year (fee waived), similar strategy as above planned.

    3) Citi AA Platinum – unsure since there’s no real retention bonus, I’ll probably cancel.

    4) Citi AA Gold – may or may not cancel after first year since fee is lower might hold to accrue AA miles but I’ll see where program heads with merger.

    5) USBank Club Carlson – plan to keep as the annual bonus points plus free night on stays of 2+ nights is easily worth the $75 fee.

    6) Chase United Explorer – plan to keep as of now as I can probably hit 25K each year thus getting an extra 10K miles making the card worth 1.4 UA miles per $. I’ll try and get a retention bonus most years with this one.

    7) Chase Priority Club – no brainer keep as you described

    8) Chase Ink Plus – I plan on canceling it and adding the Bold to get a free year as a replacement, I’ll eventually settle on one Ink card as a keeper

    9) Chase SW card – probably cancel as the annual free points offsets the fee but its still a cash outlay and I’d like to be able to get CP next year again.

    10) Chase Sapphire Preferred – downgrade to regular card and then get the MC version of CSP.

    I think most hotel cards with a fee are worth keeping with the exception of the Marriott card and the Amex Hilton fee card.

  9. The Marriott card that gives a free cat 1-5 night per year is definitely work the annual fee, thus worth keeping

  10. I do not get why you like the PC card. I signed up and the points are barely worth 2-3 nights at 80k for an 80k spend on my Capital One card I can get $800 worth of travel credit, which I can use for 4-5 nights somewhere else.

    Why would I go PC? I have it, thanks to you, but I’m thinking of dropping it.

  11. Rene:
    Not sure what you mean re: Amex SPG. You indicated that you like the 2 night stay credit and chance to earn SPG points and that these perks stay part of the card. The points I understand, but are you getting a 2 night stay every year you renew the card and pay the annual fee?

  12. Rene:

    I must be missing something! I never gotten anything on my anniversary, nor do I see it listed as a perk on the landing page. How do you receive your two nights? Is it in the form of a certificate?

  13. Hi Rene, I am just so excited. I took your advice and called the Skymiles Amex retention department. Just by asking nicely I got 7500 miles for keeping the card. I have only had this card for less than a year and I don’t even use it that much So Woot, Woot. Then I called U S Bank Flex perks and was given 15,000 miles just by asking. This card I have had for a long time and now feel a little foolish that I had never asked for anything before.
    Thank Rene. I never knew!!!!!
    Carolyn

  14. @Caroyln – txs for reading and supporting the blog! 🙂 Happy to help. PS another tip. When you activate a new card, put a reminder in your phone 11 months from that date to call! – rene

  15. Has AMEX ever given anything on retention for the reserve cards to you? I thought AMEX was pretty tight on that stuff?

    I am paying for 3 reserve cards right now so I am not sure how many I will dump.

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