I absolutely hate annual fees, and it takes a lot to convince me to hang on to premium card past the sign-up bonus. That said, I pay quite a bit of $ each year to renew certain products, and regularly re-evaluate whether the benefits are still worth our hard-earned money. They better be.
But before I get to name my “keepers,” behold the most overrated (for normal people) card:
Amex Platinum ($550 fee)
First, can we just stop for a minute to reflect on the irony of paying $550 annual fee in a hobby that promises free travel? Don’t get me wrong, if you pull up a 100k sign-up offer with $3k minimum spending requirements via CardMatch tool or incognito mode, you should totally jump on it.
I’ve seen some bloggers cite the non-waived huge fee on this card (and it is huge) as a deal breaker. Hmm, at the very least, you can redeem 100k points on a $1,000 Home Depot gift card. It’s fine to question bonus value, but let’s not be ridiculous.
But what about renewing the card? If you are a middle-class person with a spouse and two kids, don’t reside in a metropolis, don’t fly somewhere every month, well… If you just paid $550 to renew Amex Platinum, may I interest you in a bridge? 🙂
Let me address three so-called selling points of the card:
1) The $200 credit on airline incidentals which works on gift cards (for now)
Update: this workaround no longer works as of July 2019.
If you’ve maxed out this credit for 2018 and have to pay the renewal fee now, what makes you so certain that the loophole will still be alive in 2019? Besides, even if it is, you are still stuck with airline gift cards which may not be easy to resell. What about using them for yourself? Wait, I’m confused, aren’t we in this hobby for free travel?
2) Unlimited Centurion lounge access, aka “Heaven on earth”
Here is the thing. Centurion lounges are nice, and I even had the privilege of visiting one during my brief ownership of Amex Platinum. It’s a pleasant refuge inside an airport, and my father-in-law was absolutely delighted by the complimentary clam chowder. He is the type of guy who still buys ramen noodles because he is cheap, so yeah, it was fun to see the grin on his face.
That said, many Centurion lounges have become victims of their own success. They are super crowded, and restrictions are being put in place to deal with zoo-like atmosphere. In addition, you can only bring two guests with you. What happens to the second kid or wife? Do you rotate Centurion lounge privileges?
One time we were connecting in Dallas and my children were running around in the free play area inside the terminal. I was planning to take a shuttle to the Centurion lounge (both me and my husband had Amex Platinum at the time), but they seemed to be having so much fun with other “commoner” kids.
My husband and I looked at each other and decided Nope. We weren’t that hungry and free massages didn’t seem all that appealing at the time. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Besides, when you enter a lounge (any lounge) with little kids, other travelers look at you as if you are Satan. Doesn’t bother me, but my husband seems to care for some reason.
3) Uber credit
You get $15 free Uber credit per month, and $30 in December. I admit, it is a tangible benefit if you would pay cash anyway, and frequently visit the area where Uber operates. Needless to say, my county ain’t one of them:
Too many cows on the road may cause surge pricing
Also, while unlikely, what if Uber company folds next month? It could happen. Are you 100% sure that Amex will replace this benefit with something that is useful for your specific situation?
To be clear, I’m not saying that Amex Platinum isn’t a good fit for some people. It most certainly is! For high-wage frequent travelers who can easily maximize lounge access and all the other perks, it definitely makes sense to consider pre-paying $550. For families like mine, not so much. You can view all the benefits of Amex Platinum via this link
Got an extra $450 lying around? Look into Amex Hilton Aspire. Now that’s a premium card that is packed with value as long as you are anal-retentive. And let’s face it, who in our hobby isn’t? If you are a family of five, like to stay in Hilton resorts even once a year, and only need lounge access a few times, look into Amex Hilton Ascend.
Cards I currently renew
1) Chase IHG card X 2 (the old version with $49)
Why: free certificate upon renewal. My next cert will be valid at any IHG property, but will be capped at 40,000 points in the following years.
2) The Chase Hyatt card X 2 ($75 fee)
Why: free certificate upon renewal, valid at Category 1-4.
3) Wyndham Visa Signature card x 2 (discontinued version with $69 fee)
Why: my card gives 15,000 bonus points upon renewal. That amount will cover one night at any Wyndham property, including vacation resorts.
4) Chase Southwest Premier ($99 fee)
Why: it gives 6,000 points upon renewal, but the main reason is the ability to redeem points at 1 cent apiece towards gift cards. I will probably cancel the card next year, though. I think.
I did redeem some of my points on gift cards, but it’s painful for me. If Southwest ends up having decent prices to Hawaii, I’m hanging on to the rest of my stash. I want to take kids to Kauai and Big Island in the next few years.
Grand total: $485
In exchange, I get four nights’ worth of certificates that don’t expire for 12 months, enough points for two nights at a Wyndham resort, and 6,000 Rapid Rewards points good towards $85 in airfare or $60 Walmart gift card. I feel like I get very good value out of my hotel cards, mostly due to our central Florida location.
I have many nice nearby options for a weekend getaway, and the price per night can’t be beat. Occasionally, I even get to burn certificates on fancy hotels in expensive cities like San Francisco.
I should add that I’ve also renewed my Amex Hilton Ascend card in order to get free weekend cert, but don’t plan to hang on to it after this year. Just a reminder: the current increased offer will expire June 27th.
How hard is it to cancel cards?
This is something that makes some people really nervous. The thought of having to call to “break up” with a credit card company isn’t a pleasant one. Well, the good news is, most of the time you won’t have to. Here is a simple guide on canceling Chase, Citi, Amex and Barclays credit cards online. I was also able to cancel Wells Fargo and US Bank credit cards via message in my online profile with no issues.
You will have to call Bank of America, but it shouldn’t take more than 20 minutes, max. My sister-in-law is currently having the worst time reaching Banco Popular in order to cancel her Avianca Lifemiles credit card. That type of thing is an exception though, and I had no problem canceling my Lifemiles card via a quick phone call a few months ago.
If potential (reasonable) value of the card isn’t worth more than the annual fee, it’s time to let it go. It can be tempting to follow the crowd and drop $550 on Amex Platinum with a package of benefits that you would never buy a la carte. So be picky with your hard-earned money.
Leana is the founder of Miles For Family. She enjoys beach vacations and visiting her family in Europe. Originally from Belarus, Leana resides in central Florida with her husband and two children.