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I Paid $3,820 in Credit Card Annual Fees in 2020 – Was it Worth it?

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Good morning everyone, happy Friday!  After I published How Much Did I Pay in Credit Card Annual Fees in 2020?, several readers asked if I could share how much value I received from each credit card in 2020.  Today’s post is also a sequel to my 2019 post (I Paid $4,588 in Credit Card Annual Fees in 2019 – Was it Worth it?).  All 24 of these credit cards were opened before January 1, 2020, and no sign up bonus is included.  For simplicity, I did not include the value of miles or points earned from credit card spend, since that is somewhat subjective (and most of the miles and points were not spent in 2020).  I counted all credits, reimbursements, retention offers, and referral bonuses at dollar face value.  For hotel free night certificates, I have several from 2020 that expire in 2021 and 2022, so I am using a standard value of $100 for each hotel free night certificate.

I went through all of my credit card statements and online accounts to see which Credit Card Benefits I used in 2020 and those values are summed up in the CCB $ column.  If I received a retention offer, that is listed in the RO $ column.  I listed the credit card annual fee in the AF $ column.  Lastly, I used this formula to calculate the Profit or Loss (P / L column) for each credit card: CCB $ + RO $ – AF $ = P / L

I sorted the credit cards alphabetically and split them up into 3 smaller groups.  Here are some thoughts from the first group:

  • The first 3 AMEX cards were big money makers due to the standard card benefit credits and the temporary pandemic benefits.  It will be hard to beat these numbers in 2021.
  • I never planned on keeping the American Express Platinum Delta SkyMiles Credit Card long term and only signed up for the 70,000 Delta SkyMiles sign up bonus in 2019.
  • In most years, we are easily able to use the $99 Alaska Airlines Companion Fare, but due to the pandemic and very cheap Alaska Airlines flight, we did not use the Companion Fare in 2020.  I am hoping to use the Companion Fare this year.
  • I’m glad Laura (LT) was able to get a $59 retention offer on her Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card and a $100 referral bonus.
Credit Card Name Credit Card Benefits CCB $ RO $ AF $ P / L
AMEX Business Platinum $400 Dell credit; $198 airline reimbursement; $160 wireless phone credit; $158 shipping credit; $96 AMEX Offers for Dell & AT&T $1,012 $200 $595 $617
AMEX Gold $120 dining credit; $100 airline reimbursement; $60 AMEX Offer for Shop Small $280 $0 $250 $30
AMEX Hilton Honors Aspire $250 airline reimbursement; $250 resort credit (used at restaurants); 1 Free Night Certificate (expires 7/2/22) (worth $100) $600 $0 $450 $150
AMEX Platinum Delta SkyMiles Downgraded to no annual fee American Express Blue Delta SkyMiles Credit Card to avoid paying annual fee $0 $0 $250 $0
Bank of America Alaska Airlines (LT) Alaska Airlines $99 Companion Fare expired in 2020 $0 $0 $75 -$75
Capital One Venture Rewards (LT) $100 referral bonus $100 $59 $59 $100

Here are some thoughts from the second group:

  • All 5 of the hotel credit cards are money makers, solely due to the free night certificates.  In most years, I can usually get $150-$200 per night in value for each free night certificate.
  • I’m glad I still have the Chase IHG Rewards Select Credit Card (no longer available) since it is such a good deal with the free night certificate and 10% rebate on IHG redemptions.
  • Even though the Chase Ink Plus looks like a loser, I will never get rid of this credit card (no longer available).  I love the 5x categories too much.
  • The Chase Sapphire Reserve Credit Card is a winner for me, even without including the awesome Pay Yourself Back feature.  I look forward to the evolution of this feature in 2021.
  • Even though we only flew Southwest Airlines once last February, the Chase Southwest Airlines Priority Credit Card offers a lot of value with the yearly $75 travel credit and 7,500 SWA points.
Credit Card Name Credit Card Benefits CCB $ RO $ AF P / L
Chase Hyatt Hotels 1 Free Night Certificate (expires 12/31/21) (worth $100); $50 referral bonus; closed credit card to avoid paying annual fee; will apply for the new Chase World of Hyatt Credit Card in 2021 $150 $0 $75 $150
Chase IHG Rewards Premier 1 Free Night Certificate (expires 2/12/22) (worth $100); $19 Chase Offer for Lowe’s $119 $0 $89 $30
Chase IHG Rewards Select 1 Free Night Certificate (expires 5/29/22) (worth $100); $22 Chase Offers for Starbucks & Lowe’s; 10% rebate on points (2,000 points = $10) $110 $25 $49 $86
Chase Ink Plus $20 Chase Offer for Staples $20 $0 $95 -$75
Chase Marriott Bonvoy Premier Plus Business 1 35K Free Night Certificate (expires 8/1/21) (worth $100) $100 $100 $99 $101
Chase Ritz Carlton $300 travel credit (used at restaurants and grocery stores); used 1 50K Free Night Certificate at 50K hotel ($150) $450 $100 $450 $100
Chase Sapphire Reserve $300 travel credit (used gas stations and grocery stores); $60 DoorDash credit; $5 Chase Offer for TurboTax $365 $150 $450 $65
Chase Southwest Airlines Priority (LT) 10,000 SWA points referral bonus (worth $100); 7,500 SWA points anniversary bonus (worth $75); $75 SWA travel credit $250 $0 $149 $101
Chase World of Hyatt (LT) Used 1 Free Night Certificate at 15K hotel ($150); 4,500 additional rebated Hyatt points as CC holder (worth $45); $12 Chase Offer for Lowe’s $207 $0 $95 $112

Last but not least, here are some thoughts from the third group:

  • I love my 3 Citi AT&T Access More Credit Cards (no longer available) for the 3x online purchases and the 10,000 anniversary points I earn when I spend $10,000 on each card.
  • I wish I had a use for my Citi Premier Credit Card, but I just keep it around in order to use the Citi ThankYou Points transfer partners.  I’m planning on keeping this card around for 2 years and then I will apply for another Citi Premier to get another sign up bonus, then I will product change the older card to a no annual fee card (maybe the Citi Dividend).
  • Even though the US Bank Altitude Reserve Credit Card looks like a breakeven card, I get a ton of value out of the 3x ApplePay purchases, especially at Costco.
  • I keep my US Bank Radisson Rewards credit cards around solely for the 40,000 anniversary points every year I pay the annual fee.  I closed my second personal card because the US Bank and Radisson Rewards had a major issue transferring points (US Bank would send the points over, but Radisson Rewards would never receive them).
  • The Wells Fargo Propel World Credit Card is not worth the $175 annual fee, but I am glad I was able to get $160 in value from this card.
Credit Card Name Credit Card Benefits CCB $ RO $ AF P / L
Citi AT&T Access More 1 10,000 Citi ThankYou Points anniversary bonus after spending $10K (worth $100); $25 online purchase bonus $125 $0 $95 $30
Citi AT&T Access More 2 10,000 Citi ThankYou Points anniversary bonus after spending $10K (worth $100); $25 online purchase bonus $125 $0 $95 $30
Citi AT&T Access More 3 10,000 Citi ThankYou Points anniversary bonus after spending $10K (worth $100) $100 $0 $95 $5
Citi Premier Keep Premium Citi ThankYou Point credit card for transfer partners $0 $0 $95 -$95
US Bank Altitude Reserve $325 travel credit (used at restaurants) $325 $75 $400 $0
US Bank Radisson Rewards Business 40,000 Radisson Rewards Points anniversary bonus (worth $100) $100 $0 $60 $40
US Bank Radisson Rewards Premier Visa Sig 1 40,000 Radisson Rewards Points anniversary bonus (worth $100) $100 $0 $75 $25
US Bank Radisson Rewards Premier Visa Sig 2 40,000 Radisson Rewards Points anniversary bonus (worth $100); 7,500 customer service points (worth $19); closed credit card to avoid paying annual fee $119 $0 $75 $119
Wells Fargo Propel World $100 airline credit; $60 AMEX Offer for Shop Small; closed credit card to avoid paying annual fee $160 $0 $175 $160

After crunching the numbers, I paid a total of $3,895 in annual fees in 2020, I received $4,917 in credit card benefits and $709 in retention offers for a grand total profit of $1,731 ($4,917 + $709 – $3,895 = $1,731).  I know a profit of $1,731 is not the same as having an extra $1,731 in my bank account, but I should be able to use my airline miles, airline travel credit, hotel points, free night certificates, and credit card rewards to get some good travel in 2021.  If you have any questions about any of the credit cards listed above, please leave a comment below.  Have a great weekend everyone!

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10 thoughts on “I Paid $3,820 in Credit Card Annual Fees in 2020 – Was it Worth it?

  1. Darin

    I hold only one AT&T card and am finding it hard to justify keeping it this year. I’m curious why you value it so much (especially enough to get value out of all three). The 3x category is so unreliable now, I pretty much only use it for Amazon or big box online purchases. In the past year, there have been so many great category bonuses with other cards that even with the 10k bonus it hasn’t been worth it to even spend there most of the time (admittedly, I’ve also been focused on new card bonuses as well). Outside of 3x categories, the 10k bonus only adds up to 2x on everyday purchases, which you can get on so many other (fee-free) cards. Are you getting $30k worth of 3x spending to make all of those worthwhile, or is there something else I’m missing?

    1. Grant Post author

      Hi Darin, ya the AT&T AM CC 3x online category is a bit tricky, but I always earn 3x on my $10k spend, so getting 40k TYPs after spending $10k online makes each CC worth the $95 AF to me.

      1. Darin

        Yeah, agree that if you can max out 3x of $10k it’s definitely worth it. In previous years I’ve had no problem with that, so I think this is just an exceptional year with so many great sign-up offers and category bonuses competing with spending for this card. I’ll probably keep it open given it should hold value in the future and you can’t get it again, but I’ll probably end up net negative this year.

        1. Grant Post author

          I totally agree, 2020 had a ton of great sign up bonuses and bonus categories, where 3x online didn’t stand out as much as previous years. As I wrote about 2 weeks ago (https://travelwithgrant.boardingarea.com/2020/12/29/how-many-transferrable-points-did-i-earn-spend-with-amex-chase-and-citi-in-2020/), here are my Citi TYP stats for 2020:

          * Starting Balance on Jan 1: 172K
          * Points Earned in 2020: 119K
          * Points Returned in 2020: 46K (flights booked with TYPs in 2019, cancelled in 2020)
          * Points Redeemed in 2020: 20K
          * Ending Balance on Dec 31: 317K

          I earned way more TYPs in 2020 than I spent, but maybe that will flip in 2021.

  2. Ghosrider5408

    As a retiring “road warrior” who has amassed lifetime top tier status with the “majors” hotels and airlines I for one am glad to be off that merry go round. Going forward in travel I frankly do not see business travel to regain the volume it once had, I say this from talking to a number of fellow CEO’s around the country in various industries. They are focusing more on electronic / home office operations. As I approached the end of last year I like many reviewed their credit cards determining what to keep and what to kill doing an assessment like you so throughly outlined. for me I killed 75% of my cc’s adding 2. The incredible fees that some of the cards are carrying are just not worth it, that is a personal opinion.
    Frankly and I have said this for a very long time drop all the airline/hotel rewards pass that cost savings directly down to reducing travel cost and you know what it would be cheaper. When I first started business travel I was lucky to have a company that flew me First we never thought about the cost.

    1. Grant Post author

      Hi Ghostrider, thank you for sharing your thoughts. I don’t travel for business but I still get good value out of my collection of reward CCs. I’m glad you were able to simplify your CC portfolio and keep just the best cards for you.

      Do you see any CCs in my post that you think I should get rid of?

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