Annual fees aren’t always worth it, but with these 6 cards the benefits are worth more than what you’ll pay each year

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Graphic of the Amex Platinum card on a blue patterned background.
If you’re a frequent traveler, the Amex Platinum’s benefits could be worth the high fee.

With so many rewards credit cards on the market — especially premium travel credit cards with annual fees of $500 or more — it’s easier than you think to end up with thousands of dollars in annual fees every year.

In some cases, it can be worth paying a high annual fee for a rewards card. For example, if you travel a lot, premium credit card perks like airport lounge access, annual free reward nights, and trip delay insurance are all benefits you can put to use. 

But not every credit card annual fee is easy to justify — especially if you can’t use all the benefits. There are plenty of cards with perks worth significantly more than the annual fee, but the key is to take a hard look at the benefits and evaluate how many of them you’ll actually use. If you’re not sure an annual fee is worth it, you do have several great rewards credit card options with no annual fees.

If you’re considering adding a new credit card to your wallet to earn a new cardholder bonus and enjoy ongoing perks, these options can offer a great return on your investment:

We’re focused here on the rewards and perks that come with each card. These cards won’t be worth it if you’re paying interest or late fees. When using a credit card, it’s important to pay your balance in full each month, make payments on time, and only spend what you can afford to pay.

Compare the best credit cards that offset annual fees

Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card

Annual fee: Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card

Potential value: More than $1,800 in value during your first year 

The Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card currently offers Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card. According to Insider’s valuation of Capital One miles, that’s worth Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card in travel, on average.

The Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card‘s Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card annual fee is one of the easiest fees to justify thanks to its annual benefits:

As you can see, the yearly $300 credit and 10,000-mile anniversary bonus are worth an estimated $470 per year. Add to that the Priority Pass Select airport lounge access (worth more than $400 per year) and the fact that this card has some of the best travel insurance of any credit card, and it’s an easy choice.

You can read our Capital One Venture X card review to see why it’s one of our favorite premium credit cards.

Platinum Card® from American Express

Annual fee: $550

Potential value: More than $2,000 during your first year

The Platinum Card is loaded with features that are worth more than the $550 annual fee if you take advantage of them.

It offers the following statement credits each year (among other more niche credits):

These benefits alone add up to more than $1,200 in value if you use them to their full extent.

That’s not even counting the welcome bonus offer of 60,000 points after your spend at least $5,000 in your first 3 months of account opening. Based on Insider’s valuation of Amex points, that bonus is potentially worth The Platinum Card® from American Express toward travel booked with partners like ANA, British Airways, and Singapore Airlines.

Additionally, The Platinum Card® from American Express earns:

  • 5 points per dollar spent on flights booked directly with airlines or American Express Travel on up to $500,000 per calendar year
  • 5 points per dollar on prepaid hotels booked on Amex Travel (where you can use Amex Fine Hotels & Resorts to get benefits such as property credits, free nights, free breakfast, room upgrades, and more) 
  • 1 point per dollar for all other eligible purchases

Add in lots of options for airport lounge access — from the luxurious Amex Centurion Lounges to Delta Sky Clubs when you’re flying Delta to Priority Pass lounges** — and you’re getting even more bang for your buck when you travel. You can read our Amex Platinum card review for more details.

The Business Platinum® Card from American Express

Annual fee: The Business Platinum Card® from American Express

Potential value: More than $3,600 during your first year

The Amex Business Platinum Card comes with a welcome bonus of The Business Platinum Card® from American Express. That’s worth around The Business Platinum Card® from American Express in travel, per Insider’s points valuations.

This card has similar statement credits, and also some that are hyper-focused on specific business purchases. Fair enough, as it’s a small business card, after all. Here’s what you’ll get:

  • Up to $200 in annual airline fee credits for checked baggage fees, lounge day passes, and more at one selected airline
  • Up to $400 in U.S. Dell credits each calendar year**
  • Up to $100 to cover the Global Entry/TSA PreCheck application every four years
  • Up to $120 in credits for U.S. wireless providers each calendar year
  • Up to $360 in Indeed credits each calendar year**
  • Up to $150 in Adobe credits each calendar year**
  • Up to $189 back per year in credits for CLEAR® membership**

That’s about $1,500 in statement credits per year. Even if your small business doesn’t take advantage of Adobe and Indeed credits, you should still be able to get more than $800 in value each year by using the more mainstream credits.

When you factor in all the card’s other benefits — from airport lounge access to free elite status with Hilton and Marriott** to the valuable Amex points you earn — you could get several thousand dollars in value from the Business Platinum card. The card even comes with a 35% points rebate when redeeming points for first or business-class tickets, or for any fare with your selected airline, through Amex Travel — up to 500,000 points back per calendar year.

Read our Amex Business Platinum card review for more information.

Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card

Annual fee: Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card

Potential value: More than $1,200 during your first year 

The Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card currently offers Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card. That’s worth Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card, per Insider’s valuations.

This card has several great features that make it worth the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card annual fee. It stands out among other hotel credit cards for offering great value.

For starters, cardholders receive an annual free night award that can be redeemed at nearly any Hilton property worldwide — even the ones that cost up to 150,000 points per night. That means you can potentially get a value of $750 from this certificate, per Insider’s valuations.

If you’re strategic, you can squeeze much more from it, as well. I used mine at the Waldorf Astoria Maldives, where the standard room rate is well over $2,000 per night.

It also offers the following annual statement credits:

The Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card also gets you top-tier Diamond status with Hilton, which gets you bonus points, complimentary suite upgrades (when available), and a welcome gift. You’ll also get Priority Pass Select airport lounge membership, worth over $400 per year.

Even if you don’t put the aforementioned benefits to use, the Hilton Aspire’s annual $250 Hilton resort credit and $250 airline fee credit can more than offset the annual fee.

Read our Amex Hilton Aspire card review to see how powerful this card is.

Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card

Annual fee: Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card

Potential value: Up to $1,500 in value during your first year

The Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant Card comes with Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card, worth Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card, per Insider’s valuation of Marriott points

This card’s Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card annual fee is extremely high for a hotel credit card (or any credit card, for that matter). But it becomes much more palatable when you take a look at its many benefits:

  • Up to $25 in statement credits per month for eligible purchases at restaurants worldwide ($300 total per year)
  • Automatic Marriott Bonvoy Platinum elite status
  • Annual free night award worth up to 85,000 points (worth up to $595, per Insider’s valuations)
  • 25 elite night credits each calendar year
  • Priority Pass Select airport lounge membership** (worth more than $400 per year)
  • Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee credit (up to $100 in value every four years)

You can get a significant value from automatic Platinum status as well if you stay at fancy Marriott hotels even a few times each year. My Platinum status saved me over $1,000 during my stay at the St. Regis Maldives a couple of years ago.

Read our Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant Amex card review to see why this card can easily be worth its annual fee.

IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card

Annual fee: $89, waived the first year

Potential value: More than $1,400 during your first year

The IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card offers IHG® Rewards Premier Credit Card. That’s worth IHG® Rewards Premier Credit Card, according to Insider’s valuations.

The card may not offer top-tier status or big hotel statement credits, but the card’s benefits are pretty generous consider its annual fee of $89, waived the first year. Take a look:

  • Automatic IHG Platinum Elite status
  • Diamond elite status after spending $40,000 on purchases and making one additional purchase each calendar year with the card
  • Annual free night award worth up to 40,000 points (worth up to $280, per Insider’s valuations)
  • 10,000 bonus points and a $100 statement credit after spending $20,000 on purchases and making one additional purchase each calendar year
  • Up to $50 in United TravelBank Cash each calendar year
  • Fourth reward night free when you redeem points for a stay of three or more nights
  • Global Entry, TSA PreCheck, or NEXUS application fee credit
  • 20% discount when you purchase points with your card

If you stay at IHG hotels with regularity, this card is a no-brainer. Read our IHG Rewards Premier Credit Card review to learn more.

Credit cards with annual fees frequently asked questions (FAQ)

What is a credit card annual fee?

Think of your credit card as a membership within an exclusive club. You’ve got to pay each year to renew that membership and reap the privileges that come with it.

Credit card annual fees are effectively a paywall you have to breach if you want to enjoy enhanced (and sometimes super exclusive) benefits you won’t find on a no-annual-fee credit card.

Are credit cards with annual fees worth it?

You might think that paying money each year just for the privilege of holding a certain credit card is ludicrous. But credit cards that charge annual fees almost always come with ongoing benefits that you can maximize to offset the annual fee many times over.

It’s a simple math problem: Will you organically use enough of your card’s statement credits, insurance, annual travel benefits, etc. to more than negate the annual fee? If so, don’t think of the fee as money you’re losing, but rather a necessary investment to save even more.

Are credit cards with no annual fee better?

If you won’t use the benefits and perks of an annual fee-incurring credit card, no annual fee credit cards are the way to go. Even if you don’t “maximize” all the benefits the card has to offer, you won’t lose any value each year.

It’s worth noting that there are some fantastic no-annual-fee credit cards that you should open even if you’re interested in annual-fee credit cards. No annual fee cards play a very important role in everyone’s wallet. Check out our guide to the best no-annual-fee credit cards for more info.

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