Can a $450 credit card annual fee actually be worth paying? Sure, if you use the card's benefits enough to offset the cost, any annual fee can be a bargain in disguise. With that in mind, here are five credit cards that could be well worth the price of membership.
1. American Express Platinum Delta SkyMiles (annual fee $195)
The American Express Delta co-branded cards come in three levels (gold, platinum, and reserve), but the platinum card is perhaps the best value. Even though its annual fee is twice that of the gold card, the increased benefits make up for the difference many times over.
With the card, you'll get free checked bags for you and everyone else on your reservation -- for a family of four, this is worth $200 for a round-trip flight. And the card gives you the opportunity to earn Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs), the ones that help you attain elite status.
By far, the most valuable benefit is the annual companion certificate. This is essentially a buy-one-get-one-free round-trip domestic coach flight. The value of this depends on where you go, but this benefit can easily be worth several times what the card costs.
Finally, the Platinum Delta SkyMiles card usually has a pretty generous introductory bonus. Currently, the offer is 35,000 miles and 5,000 MQMs after just $1,000 in purchases, although I've seen bonus offers of up to 60,000 and 10,000 in the past.
2. Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve (annual fee $95)
The first of two hotel-branded cards on this list, the Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve is my favorite of the two for people who plan on spending a relatively high amount on the card. Not only is the fee nearly twice as high, but the thresholds to get the best benefits are pretty high.
All cardholders get gold status with Hilton, free internet access, late-checkout privileges, and 10 HHonors points per dollar spent. However, to unlock a free weekend night each year, you'll need to spend $10,000 on the card. To get HHonors diamond status, you need to spend $40,000. Even to qualify for the introductory bonus of two free weekend nights, you'll need to spend $2,500 within four months -- more than the requirements of most other offers on this list.
Now, there is definitely value here if you use the card a lot. The introductory bonus alone can be worth around $1,000 -- some Hilton properties are pricey. And diamond status is extremely nice to have, especially if you travel frequently. However, if you're a low spender, this card is probably not the best choice.
3. IHG Rewards Club Select (annual fee $49 -- waived for first year)
Unlike the Citi HHonors card I just discussed, the IHG Rewards Club Select card, issued by Chase, is my hotel card of choice for people who don't plan to spend a ton of money on it. Not only is it fee-free for the first year, but the card offers a 60,000-point bonus for spending $1,000 within three months.
Cardholders earn five points per dollar at IHG hotels and get automatic platinum elite status with the company. And the card comes with a free hotel night each year. This benefit alone is easily worth the $49 annual fee, and can be worth many times more than that if you use it at one of the company's higher-end hotels.
4. American Express Platinum Card (annual fee $450)
I know, I know. That's a big annual fee. How can it possibly be justified? The short answer is that it's justified for frequent travelers and those who want most of the benefits of the coveted Centurion (black) card without the insanely high price of admission.
For starters, you get a $200 airline fee credit each year, which you can use for anything from baggage fees to in-flight beverages. And you get a $100 Global Entry or $85 TSA Pre-Check credit every five years. You'll also get gold status at both Starwood and Hilton hotels.
Additionally, and this is the big one for frequent travelers, the Platinum card gives you access to more than 900 airport lounges, including the Delta Sky Clubs and even the ultra-nice Centurion lounges. This benefit is worth around $50 every time you use it. Finally, you'll get amenities such as AmEx's platinum concierge service, preferred seating at concerts and other events, and no foreign transaction fees.
To sum it up, the AmEx Platinum is pricey, but can be well worth it for frequent travelers who value lounge access and the card's other high-end benefits. As of this writing, new cardholders can get a bonus of 40,000 reward points after spending $3,000 within three months.
5. Capital One Venture Rewards Card (annual fee $59 -- waived for first year)
In full disclosure, the Venture Rewards Card is my go-to credit card -- the one I use for most purchases. The reward rate of two miles per dollar is one of the best in the business, and the Capital One travel redemption process is as easy as can be.
This works out to a 2% reward rate, so you'll need to use the card for at least $2,950 in purchases per year to justify the annual fee with rewards. As of this writing, Capital One is offering an introductory bonus of 40,000 miles ($400 in travel) after $3,000 in purchases in three months, plus the annual fee is waived for the first year.
Is it worth it? That depends on you
All of these cards, and any others for that matter, are only worth the annual fee if you use the card and its benefits enough to make it worthwhile. For example, if you only fly once a year, the AmEx Delta Platinum might not be the best bet. When evaluating rewards cards, consider how much you'll use the perks -- apply to the cards that are worth it to you.
Matthew Frankel owns shares and The Motley Fool recommends American Express. Neither Matthew Frankel nor The Motley Fool is receiving compensation from any credit card issuer for this article or the links contained within.
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