Published in: Credit Cards | Feb. 19, 2019

3 Credit Cards With $450+ Annual Fees: Are They Worth It?

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If the value you get from a credit card exceeds its fee, it could be cheaper than it seems.

A neat row of hundred dollar bills.

Image source: Getty Images

Many Americans see advertisements for ultra-premium credit cards with annual fees of several hundred dollars and wonder how they can ever be worth the cost. After all, why would it ever make sense to pay $450 or more simply for the privilege of having a credit card to charge purchases to, and then to potentially pay interest on top of the lofty fee?

However, appearances can be deceiving. While high-end credit cards certainly don’t make good financial sense for many people, for others they can be well worth the cost. Here are three ultra-premium credit cards, a look at what each one offers its customers, and how each of them can be worth it to the right consumers.

How can a high annual fee ever be worth it?

Simply put, if you’re getting enough value from a credit card, any annual fee can be worth the cost. If you’re paying $1,000 annually for the privilege of carrying a certain credit card in your wallet but are getting $2,000 worth of perks from the card, it’s rather easy to justify the cost. With that in mind, here are three popular credit cards, all with annual fees of $450 or higher, and a rundown of how they could potentially be well worth the cost.

The Platinum Card® from American Express -- $550 annual fee

Our first candidate is The Platinum Card® from American Express, which comes with a lofty $550 annual fee. The Platinum Card® from American Express is a charge card, meaning it’s designed for the cardholder to pay the balance in full each month, although in recent years Amex has added a “pay over time” option to its charge card products.

The Platinum Card® from American Express has been Amex’s flagship credit card for some time, but underwent a major facelift a couple of years ago. The current version of the card has experienced tremendous success, especially with the massive millennial generation, so here’s a rundown of the most valuable perks offered by The Platinum Card® from American Express:

  • $200 in airline fee credits per year, on an airline selected by the cardholder.
  • $200 in Uber credits (structured as $15 per month for most of the year, and $35 in December).
  • $100 credit for Global Entry or $85 credit for TSA PreCheck every four years.
  • $100 Saks credit, structured as $50 statement credits in each half of the year.
  • Access to Delta Sky Clubs, Priority Pass airport lounges, and the ultra-luxurious Centurion Lounges.
  • Gold elite status at Marriott/SPG hotels.
  • Gold elite status at Hilton hotels.
  • Elite status with several major car rental companies.

Note that this is not an exhaustive list, and you can check out our full review of The Platinum Card® from American Express for the full details. These are just the perks most likely to justify paying the card’s annual fee -- and the same goes for the other two I’m about to discuss. As high-end credit cards, these have several other potentially useful benefits, like travel insurance, auto rental coverage, and more.

My personal value case for The Platinum Card® from American Express

In full disclosure, I have The Platinum Card® from American Express in my wallet right now, and it’s my go-to credit card for everyday purchases. Instead of walking you through a theoretical value case, I’ll give you my actual justification for paying the $550 fee:

  • I used the entire $200 in airline fee credits in 2018 with Delta, my preferred airline.
  • I used most of the Uber credits -- let’s call it $150. I live in a somewhat rural area, so I generally use Uber when I travel.
  • I finally got TSA PreCheck this year ($85 value). Global Entry is the more valuable option, but I never travel internationally, so for now I don’t really need it. (Note: I will never travel domestically again without PreCheck. I highly recommend it and personally value this at more than $85.)
  • I took advantage of the Delta Sky Clubs several times, as I always connect through Atlanta when I fly. And, I got to use the Centurion lounge in Las Vegas a couple of times. An individual Sky Club membership is $495 per year (and this doesn’t include the Centurion or Priority Pass lounges), so this benefit alone can almost justify the annual fee.

Between these four things, I feel like I’ve gotten my money’s worth from The Platinum Card® from American Express. And this doesn’t even take into account the American Express Membership Rewards® points I’ve earned. I probably could do even better if I took advantage of the Saks credit and maximized my Uber benefit, both of which I plan to do in 2019.

Chase Sapphire Reserve® Card -- $450 annual fee

The Chase Sapphire Reserve® card is a relatively new credit card and made an immediate impact on the ultra-premium credit card market with its valuable benefits and generous introductory bonus (initially, the card’s promotional offer was worth $1,500 in travel).

With a $450 annual fee, the Chase Sapphire Reserve® is the lowest priced among the three ultra-premium cards on this list. Here’s a rundown of the most valuable benefits you get with the card:

  • $300 annual travel credit. Note that this isn’t just an airline fee credit -- it can be used towards any travel expenses you charge to the card.
  • Airport lounge access. This isn’t quite as valuable as the Amex’s benefit, as it only includes the Priority Pass™ Select network of lounges, not the Delta Sky Clubs or the Centurion Lounges.
  • $100 credit for Global Entry or $85 credit for TSA PreCheck every four years. This has become a fairly standard benefit among high-end credit cards.
  • Triple points on all dining and travel purchases. Plus, Chase Ultimate Rewards® points are worth 50% more when redeemed for travel, so this is effectively a 4.5% rewards rate for these purchases.

In a nutshell, the annual fee charged by the Chase Sapphire Reserve® can be well worth it for certain travelers. Assuming you spend more than $300 on travel expenses per year, the annual fee is effectively just $150. Between the airport lounge access, Global Entry credit, and the fantastic rewards rate on dining and travel, it’s easy to see the value case for the Chase Sapphire Reserve® credit card.

Citi Prestige® Card -- $495 annual fee (starting in September 2019)

While the Citi Prestige® Card has been around for some time, the card is getting a major facelift for 2019. The annual fee is $495, but is $450 for existing cardholders until September 2019, but the card has some pretty valuable benefits. Unless otherwise noted, these benefits will all be available starting in January 2019 when the card will re-open to new applicants:

  • A $250 travel credit, which can be applied to any eligible travel purchases.
  • A Priority Pass™ Select airport lounge membership.
  • $100 credit for Global Entry or $85 credit for TSA PreCheck every five years.
  • 5 points per dollar spent on restaurants and air travel, an industry-leading everyday reward rate on these purchase types. It also earns 3 points per $1 on cruise lines and hotels.
  • Cell phone protection beginning in May 2019. Full details aren’t available yet, but this is likely to cover damage or theft claims to a cell phone when you pay your bill with the card.
  • A free night at any hotel when booking four consecutive nights through Citi Prestige® Concierge. Starting in September 2019, this benefit will be limited to twice per year.

It’s not difficult to see the value case here either. If you regularly stay in higher-end hotels, for example, the fourth-night-free benefit alone can potentially justify the annual fee, especially when combined with the $250 travel credit. If you utilize some of the Priority Pass™ lounges a few times a year, the benefits of this card can outweigh its cost by hundreds of dollars, not including the fantastic 5% rewards rate on restaurants and air travel charges.

The bottom line on these high-fee credit cards

The key takeaway here is that any credit card’s annual fee, whether it’s $50 or $550, is only a good value if you make sufficient use of the card’s benefits. As I mentioned, I have The Platinum Card® from American Express, because even though it’s the most expensive in this discussion, it’s the one that I get the most value from. The right card for you can be different.

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