I used to be TOTALLY against paying yearly fees for credit cards, but that was before I actually used credit card points to my advantage. The two main types of points are the Chase Ultimate Rewards and American Express Membership Rewards systems. I use a total of three different cards that work in these ecosystems: American Express Platinum, American Express Gold, Chase Sapphire Reserve. Here’s a quick run over of why:
American Express Platinum – the heftiest of all membership fees ($550/year) BUT I find the advantages to be well worth the price. There are a ton of benefits, but these are the ones I use the most:
- I have access to all Delta Sky Clubs in airports (comes in handy when you want food and a not-terrible bathroom). The caveat is that you have to be flying Delta, but as I said earlier, this is usually one of the airlines we fly the most.
- Access to Priority Pass lounges and clubs in airports when I can’t get into Sky Club
- Access to most Centurion lounges in airports (I’ve heard there are a few that are black card only, but haven’t run across those). Mr. actually ended up using his Platinum to access the Centurion lounge at the Barclays Center!
- a $200 credit to the airline of my choice for incidentals (though, to be totally transparent, I rarely get to use this, so sometimes I just use it to buy gift cards)
- Membership into their Fine Resorts and Hotels (which now can be paid for with Membership Rewards points) which picks up a lot of slack from the previously-awesome Marriott Gold Elite status. We get breakfast daily and occasional special deals like $100 credit to the hotel (spa treatments!) and a free night
- Automatically enrolled in Marriott’s “Gold Elite” status, which gets me room upgrades and late checkout
- 5x Membership Rewards points when booking travel with my Platinum card
- $10/month credit for Uber (especially great getting to and from airports AND Uber partnered with Delta, so I get SkyMiles on each trip)
- No foreign transaction fees, so I can use this out of the country and not get hit with conversion fees
American Express Gold – This one has a $250 fee, and I was thinking of closing it for a while, but I think I’ll keep it if for only the ability to earn crazy amounts of Membership Rewards points through normal spending. These are the benefits I use, though there are way more:
- 4x points on groceries and restaurants (HUGE)
- $10/month credit to GrubHub
- $10/month credit to Cheesecake Factory
- I seem to get a rebate back on food purchases, too, though I never noticed this in my agreements. But you know, it’s nice to see that if I hit up a vending machine or Starbucks, I get some moolah back.
- Another $100 credit to an airline
- No foreign transaction fees
Chase Sapphire Reserve – this one has a $450 yearly fee but is my knight in shining armor when it comes to perks.
- $300 yearly travel credit, with very few questions asked. We have our EasyPass linked up to this card, so most of our tolls are taken care of.
- 3x points on restaurants
- Travel insurance on travel booked through them (oh, how I wish Amex did this)
- Access to Priority Pass lounges (yes, we’ve ended up with 2 memberships to this)
- Primary insurance for car rentals, so I never have to use the rental car company’s sometimes-shitty system.
- No foreign transaction fees
- They also have a bonus points system when you book travel through their portal, though I rarely do it since it’s through Expedia (and that means very rarely are points accrued).
In addition, I hold a Marriott Bonvoy Business card (was formerly the SPG business American Express). I almost dropped this card because of the status perks downgrades and the increased yearly fee ($95 > $120), but holding this card gets us 1 free night at Category 5 and below Marriott properties + 15-night credits towards Platinum status. This means we need to stay 35 nights at a Marriott to achieve Platinum, rather than 50. At first, I balked at that because who is staying at hotels a month a year? Now, it’s us…we are starting to become those people.
I also have a United Mileage Explorer card from Chase, but I think I’ll probably drop that as we just end up moving credit card points over to them.
For my business, I have a Chase Ink Preferred card which I also use to accumulate points. The perks to this card make it my primary go-to for business purchases:
- Insurance for my cell phone, as long as I pay my bill with the card
- 3x points on shipping purchases (I usually drop ~$800 a month on shipping so this comes in hands)
Cards I’ve had but gotten rid of:
Delta Platinum – I got it for the companion certificate that gets doled out once a year, but there are so many restrictions that it ended up being less of a value than anticipated. I don’t care about the checked bag waiver as I either use that
United Business card – got this for the sign-up bonus, then downgraded it. Don’t need to have all of the United cards, all the time.
This post may contain affiliate links to help keep the site running at no extra cost to you. Pow!