I Paid $3,009 in Credit Card Annual Fees in 2021 – Was it Worth it?

Updated at 1pm PT on 12/16/21: I forgot to include the value of my Hilton Free Night Certificate from my American Express Hilton Honors Aspire Credit Card.  That increased the total another $200 and the info is updated below.


Good morning everyone.  If you haven’t already, please read my post from yesterday (How Much Did I Pay in Credit Card Annual Fees in 2021?).  In today’s post, I will share how much value I received from each credit card in 2021.  Today’s post is also a sequel to my 2020 post (I Paid $3,820 in Credit Card Annual Fees in 2020 – Was it Worth it?) and my 2019 post (I Paid $4,588 in Credit Card Annual Fees in 2019 – Was it Worth it?).

These 26 credit cards were opened before January 1, 2021, with the exception of my Chase Sapphire Preferred Credit Card which I opened in July 2021.  For simplicity, I did not include the value of miles or points earned from credit card spend, since that is somewhat subjective.  I counted all credits, reimbursements, retention offers, and referral bonuses at dollar face value (with airline miles and hotel points at conservative values between 0.5 CPP and 1 CPP).  For hotel free night certificates, I used a standard value of $100, with the exception of the Marriott 50K Free Night Certificate which I valued at $200.

I went through all of my credit card statements and online accounts to see which Credit Card Benefits I used in 2021 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 fees 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 grouped the credit cards by issuer, sorted them by highest profit at the top, and then split them up into 3 smaller groups (LT = Laura’s card).  Here are my thoughts from the first group:

  • The retention offer on my American Express Business Platinum Card propelled that card to the top of the charts.  It was already a money maker, but the retention offer was the icing on the cake.
  • I was very diligent about using all Airline, CLEAR, Dell, Hilton Resort, Restaurant, Uber, and Wireless credits on all my AMEX cards this year.
  • I can easily get more than $100 value from the Alaska Airlines Companion Fares with trips to Hawaii or New York, or expensive last minute travel.
  • I’ve gotten so much value out of the Barclays Wyndham Rewards Earner Business Credit Card thanks to Vacasa vacation rentals.
  • Laura loves her Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card so much, I don’t think she could ever give it up (even though I tell her the card is not worth the $59 annual fee).
Credit Card Name Credit Card Benefits CCB $ RO $ AF $ P / L
AMEX Business Platinum $300 Dell credit, $200 Airline Fee credit, $169 CLEAR credit, $30 Wireless credit, and $25 Staples AMEX Offer $724 $595 $595 $724
AMEX Hilton Honors Aspire $250 Hilton Resort credit, $250 Airline Fee credit, $200 Restaurant credit, and $200 value from Hilton Free Night Certificate $900 $0 $450 $450
AMEX Delta Gold Business $90 Wireless credit and I closed this credit card to avoid paying the $99 annual fee $90 $0 $99 $90
AMEX Gold $100 Airline Fee credit, $100 Dining credit, $100 Uber credit, and $25 1-800-FLOWERS AMEX Offer $325 $0 $250 $75
Bank of America Alaska Airlines (LT) $100 value from the Alaska Airlines Companion Fare $100 $0 $75 $25
Bank of America Alaska Airlines Business $100 value from the Alaska Airlines Companion Fare $100 $0 $75 $25
Barclays Wyndham Rewards Earner Business 15,000 Wyndham Rewards anniversary points ($150) and 13,500 points from the 10% cardmember discount on award stays ($135) $285 $0 $95 $190
Capital One Venture Rewards (LT) None (Laura’s go to credit card for everyday spending) $0 $0 $59 -$59

Here are my thoughts from the second group:

Credit Card Name Credit Card Benefits CCB $ RO $ AF $ P / L
Chase Sapphire Preferred 100,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards Points from the sign up bonus ($1,000) $1,000 $0 $95 $905
Chase Ink Plus 40,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards Points from 2 referrals ($400) and $5 TurboTax Chase Offer $405 $0 $95 $310
Chase Southwest Airlines Priority (LT) 30,000 Southwest Airlines Points from 3 referrals ($300), 7,500 Southwest Airlines anniversary points ($75), and $75 Southwest Airline credit $450 $0 $149 $301
Chase Marriott Bonvoy Boundless (LT) 40,000 Marriott Bonvoy Points from 1 referral ($200) and $100 value from the Marriott 35K Free Night Certificate $300 $0 $95 $205
Chase IHG Rewards Premier $100 value from the IHG 40K Free Night Certificate and 16,000 IHG Points from the Fourth Night Free discount ($80) $180 $90 $89 $181
Chase Sapphire Reserve $60 DoorDash credit, $13 various Chase Offers, and I downgraded to the no annual fee Chase Freedom Flex Credit Card to avoid paying $550 annual fee $73 $0 $550 $73
Chase JPMorgan Ritz Carlton $300 Airline Travel credit, $200 value from Marriott 50K Free Night Certificate, and $10 Ritz Carlton Chase Offer $510 $0 $450 $60
Chase World of Hyatt (LT) $100 value from the Hyatt 15K Free Night Certificate and 5,000 Hyatt Points from 1 referral ($50) $150 $0 $95 $55
Chase Marriott Bonvoy Premier Plus Business $100 value from the Marriott 35K Free Night Certificate $100 $50 $99 $51
Chase IHG Rewards Select $100 value from the IHG 40K Free Night Certificate $100 $0 $49 $51
Chase IHG Rewards Premier (LT) $100 value from the IHG 40K Free Night Certificate $100 $0 $89 $11

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

  • I don’t really get much value out of having 3 Citi AT&T Access More Credit Cards.  I spent a little more than $10,000 on each credit card in order to get the 10,000 bonus Citi ThankYou Points, but I also have to pay the $95 annual fee, so I barely come out ahead.  Maybe I will try to product change one of these cards to a Citi Dividend Credit Card or a Citi Custom Cash Credit Card.
  • I hate paying the $95 annual fee on the Citi Premier Credit Card, but I feel like I am forced to pay the annual fee in order to be able to transfer points to travel partners.
  • The US Bank Altitude Reserve Credit Card is my go to credit card for ApplePay purchases and gets a lot of use when I travel.
  • The 2 Radisson Rewards credit cards are pretty boring, but I keep paying the annual fees to get the 40,000 Radisson Rewards Points every anniversary.  Every few years, I can redeem a chunk of points at a nice Radisson property.
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 $10,000 in a cardmember year ($100) $100 $0 $95 $5
Citi AT&T Access More 2 10,000 Citi ThankYou Points anniversary bonus after spending $10,000 in a cardmember year ($100) $100 $0 $95 $5
Citi AT&T Access More 3 10,000 Citi ThankYou Points anniversary bonus after spending $10,000 in a cardmember year ($100) $100 $0 $95 $5
Citi Premier Only kept for the ability to transfer Citi ThankYou Points to transfer partners ($50) $50 $0 $95 -$45
US Bank Altitude Reserve $325 Travel credit and 10 Gogo WiFi Passes ($40) $365 $75 $400 $40
US Bank Radisson Rewards Business 40,000 Radisson Rewards anniversary points ($100) $100 $0 $60 $40
US Bank Radisson Rewards Premier 40,000 Radisson Rewards anniversary points ($100) $100 $0 $75 $25

After crunching the numbers, I paid a total of $3,009 in annual fees in 2021, but I received a total of $6,807 in credit card benefits for a grand total profit of $3,798 ($6,807 – $3,009 = $3,798).  I know a profit of $3,598 is not the same as having an extra $3,598 in my bank account, but I should be able to use my airline miles, hotel points, free night certificates, and credit card rewards to get even more value when I travel in 2022.  If you have any questions about any of the credit cards listed above, please leave a comment below.  Have a great day everyone!

6 thoughts on “I Paid $3,009 in Credit Card Annual Fees in 2021 – Was it Worth it?

  1. Grogu

    Grant, I think you’re being too conservative with your numbers on Hotel Free Night Certificates. I usually look at cash rates, inc. taxes and resort fees, and plug in my savings from there. I did read your post 2 years ago, and started my own spreadsheet. Just to see which ones are keepers or not. Thank you for this. Btw, my AF total is $3354, and profit of $16,535

    Reply
    1. Grant Post author

      Hi Grogu, I agree, my estimates for free night certificates are very conservative. For IHG 40K Free Night Certificates, I used 3 this year when average nightly rates were $193. For the Hyatt 15K Free Night Certificate, the nightly rate was $239. For the Marriott 35K Free Night Certificate, the nightly rate was $265. And for the 2 Hilton Free Night Certificates, we used them at the Conrad New York Midtown hotel where nightly rates were $741 (or 95K points). It is hard for me to use the retail rate of the hotel stay since I would probably never pay the cash price, I would probably stay at a cheaper property. I also assigned the value that I would speculatively buy free night certificates directly from the hotel chain, if that were possible.

      This also reminds me that I forgot to include the value of the Hilton Free Night Certificate in the value of my AMEX Hilton Aspire CC. Let me update that now.

      Reply
  2. JBCH

    For the AMEX-GOLD how come you only show $100 for both Dining/Uber? I took advantage of both and it came out to $230 ($120 Dining/$110 Uber). I also bought a $300 AMEX E-GC for $20 back that’s like 6.67% off on future purchases and also got other Amex Offers. In total I came out with $310 and I didn’t take advantage of the $100 airline credit early this year.

    Reply
    1. Grant Post author

      Hi JBCH, I did include Dining and Uber (“$100 Dining credit, $100 Uber credit”. I believe those numbers should now be $10 higher since I just used my December credits 2 days ago that were not included in this post. You still have time to use your $100 airline credit for 2021.

      Reply
  3. Robert

    Hi Grant – great post, this and your predictions posts (I hope this will return again!) are the posts I most look forward to every year. Congratulations on another very successful year of maximizing your cards!

    Reply
    1. Grant Post author

      Hi Robert, I’m glad you liked my CC fees post. I will work on my predictions posts in the coming days. I’m curious to see how many predictions I got right and wrong for 2021 :)

      Reply

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