Rookie Wednesday: When should you cancel a travel card (or not cancel a card)?

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RenesPoints Rookie

Welcome to a weekly feature on the Renés Points blog. Each week this series covers in a “rookie” way either a Delta or travel related theme and attempts to break down to a basic level each topic. You can read up on all the previous posts HERE. Now on to this week’s feature.

I hold a lot of travel cards. Some of them I pay mega fees for each and every year and, while I would rather not pay these fees, I am happy to do so because of the incredible value these cards provide me year after year. But does that mean it is worth keeping every single card you get and paying the fee on all of them? Just when should you consider canceling a travel card or when should you not? Let’s consider some examples.

  • Retention
  • Cost offset
  • Perks
  • Points (earned)
  • Points (alive)

This is my simple list but in each of these there is simply so much to consider and each one has sub categories that I will touch on but you must consider for your own circumstances.

First off, with all cards, you could consider if the card is willing to give you something, anything, back for keeping the card. It may be points or a fee credit (in part or in full) or even a spend challenge to get the preceding in some amount. I will give you just one example. I simple LOVE my Citi Bank Prestige card travel / delay protection when you pay almost any part of the ticket with the card. Once you hit 3 hours the perks start to kick in. This is hands down a reason for me to hold the card. But the card comes with a mega fee of $450. I get $200 of it back in travel credits but still that leaves me with $250 remaining. I griped and with a spend challenge got $200 more knocked off. The result is for $50 / year I have outstanding travel insurance when paying for tickets. That works for me.

Next we have cost offset (for lack of a better term). What I am talking about here is whether the benefits you get for paying the fee are enough to offset the outlay. For example, take the non-Delta AMEX Platinum business card. As long as AMEX does not mess this card up I will pay this fee year after year till I die. The international Gogo passes alone each year offset the fee. The card has a TON of other things I use that also offset the fee and make it worth holding rather than canceling.

Then we have perks. I touched on this the other day with the Delta AMEX cards talking about waived bag fees or Zone 1 boarding and on and on. The key issue here is, if you fly Delta even 1x a month, the perks you get are so valuable that they, either in real savings or other perks, make paying the card fee worth it to you. For my part I pay two Delta AMEX card fees each year – that is, my Reserve card and my Platinum card. You could lump those two in the “cost offset” part as well as the BOGO certs to me are worth the fee alone (let alone the other perks).

Next to last we have points and we are talking earning points. Some cards, like my AMEX SPG card, I value the points so much that I pay the fee just to be able to earn SPG points. Being able to, for now, send them over to Marriott at 3x each is really amazing. If things change I will reconsider a longer term hold on this card but as with all of the above I always consider if I should pay a fee or cancel a card and that is the point of today’s post after all.

Lastly we have points or keeping points alive. Some cards, like the Delta AMEX cards, once you earn the points they go to your SkyMiles account and they “never expire” according to Delta (well, until you do that is). Other programs, like AMEX Membership Rewards points, if you do not have a card in the program your points are GONE! So, if you have a huge pile of points with the latter you will want to either get the points out or keep the card until you have spent the points to zero.

So there you are. This is not an all exhaustive list of all the reasons to keep or cancel a card but it should be more than enough for you to consider just what cards that charge an annual fee are providing you – personally – enough value to pay for and what cards are simply no longer worth keeping for another year! – René


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