Credit Cards with Annual Fees: How Much am I Paying, and How Do I Justify?

Last week, a reader asked: How many credit cards do you and your husband have with annual fees and how do you justify them?

I actually didn’t know this answer off the top of my head. Back in 2020, I wrote a post about my current cards with annual fees. Back then we owned 9 credit cards between the two of us with annual fees that weren’t waived and we paid a total of $1198 on those annual fees. I knew my number would be higher now since we both added the Capital One Venture X and a few other new cards. So, let’s take a look.

Cards with Hefty Annual Fees (over $100)

We own 3 credit cards with higher annual fees:

Chase Sapphire Reserve: $550

Ouch, this is the highest annual fee we pay on any card. But the CSR is our default credit card that we use when we’re not knocking out the minimum spending for a new credit card. How do we justify the $550 fee?

First of all, Chase Ultimate Rewards is our favorite award currency. I love how we can transfer points to Southwest, Hyatt, United and more. Also, with the CSR. we can redeem points on travel at 1.5 cents per point in the travel portal.

The card has a $300 travel credit which we have no problem using since my family travels so much. Since the pandemic, we’ve also used the heck out of DoorDash and enjoyed the free DashPass membership and the $60 annual DoorDash credit.

In the past year, we’ve earned 117,000 points on this card. What??? Do we spend $117,000 in a year? Nope. The CSR earns 3X on dining and travel. It also earns 10X on Lyft, 5X on flights booked through the travel portal and 10X on hotels and car rentals booked through the travel portal.

Capital One Venture X: $395 (X2)

My husband and I both got the Capital One Venture X after its launch with 100,000 bonus miles. The annual fee is a bit steep, but the benefits we got this year more than covered both annual fees.

For the initial year, each card came with a $300 statement credit for travel booked through the Capital One portal. In addition, each card came with a $200 credit for vacation rentals (first year only). We easily used those $500 credits on travel we were already planning on (and HOA fees), so we came out ahead.

I love that this card earns 2x miles on every purchase. So simple. This past year, we transferred a lot of Capital One miles to Air France Flying Blue program for business class seats to Europe.

In addition, we visited the new Capital One Lounge at DFW many times this year. It’s an awesome benefit for those who live near this airport. We also enjoy the Priority Pass benefits.

We will likely both renew this card since we get 10,000 miles at card anniversary. Combined with the $300 travel credit, that completely covers the annual fee.

Photo by Alexander Mils on Unsplash

Cards with Lower Annual Fees

Right now, we own quite a few cards with lower annual fees under $100. Several of these we applied for in the past year:

Bank of America Air France: $89

My husband got 50k bonus miles (current offer is 70k points). We used these miles for flights to Europe. Likely won’t renew.

Chase Aeroplan: $95

I got this card earlier this year for the bonus of 100k in flight certificates plus 10k miles. I won’t cancel the card until after I spend my 100k certificates (or I’ll lose them). The current bonus is 70k miles, which is more flexible than the certificates.

Bank of America Alaska Airlines Business Card: $75

This card gave me 70k bonus miles this year. I likely won’t renew it.

Then, we have several cards that are not new to us in the past year that we continue to renew:

Chase Sapphire Preferred: $95

I like having my own card that earns Chase Ultimate Rewards since I’m not an authorized user on my husband’s CSR.

Chase Ink Plus: $95

This card earns 5X at office supply stores, internet, cable and phone. Not giving this card up.

Chase World of Hyatt: $95 (X2)

The value of the free hotel night that comes with this card outweighs the annual fee.

Chase IHG: $99 (X2)

Again, so far the value of our free nights from the card outweighs the annual fee.

Capital One Venture Rewards: $95

I’m not sure I will keep this card on my next anniversary date now that I have the Capital One Venture X.

Barclays AAdvantage Aviator Business Mastercard: $95

I keep this card because it gives me free baggage on my AA flights. My family flies on AA a few times a year, so the cost is justified.

Chase United Explorer: $95 (X2)

My husband and I both keep this card due to the baggage benefits and the access to more award availability. We use United miles on international flights.

Cards with No Annual Fees or Waived Annual Fees

My husband and I both own a few no-fee cards as well as new cards that waived the annual fee for the first year (like the Citi/AADvantage cards). There really is no reason to cancel our no-fee cards, and we will evaluate any waived-fee cards as the anniversary hits.

Grand Total

In the past year, we’ve spent ~$2500 in credit card annual fees. Wowsa! That’s more than twice what we were paying in 2019/2020. The main difference is the ~$800 from two Capital One Venture X cards, plus three new card sign-ups this year.

Is this too much? It really depends on how much you travel and how many of each card’s benefits you can use. For folks that travel only once a year, paying $2500 for credit card fees is not worth it.

However, this is a good exercise for everyone to do every year. If the card’s benefits are not worth the annual fee based on your travel patterns, it’s time to cut it loose. When my oldest son goes away to college, I expect out travel to slow down a bit. At that time, we will likely pare down our card collection.

I didn’t include any affiliate links in this post, but you can see all of our links here.

Have you added up your credit card annual fees lately?

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