Why I Paid $1,645 in Annual Fees for Four Credit Cards in 2016

In 2016, I added four premium credit cards to my wallet: the Chase Sapphire Reserve, the Chase Ritz-Carlton, the Citi Prestige, and the Amex Platinum Business card. The annual fees for the four cards came to the grand total of $1,645. 

Important: Before applying for any credit cards, there are two rules of thumb.

  1. Don't keep a balance on your credit cards. Always pay off the cards so you don't accumulate debt.
  2. Don't add more cards to your wallet if it increases your spending habits. 

I created a calculator to illustrate the benefits I received from the cards. Click here to access the spreadsheet: http://bit.ly/2y56eaO

Instructions: File -> Download As or Make a Copy to alter the numbers.

Annual Fees

annual fees

The annual fees for each card are outlined in the spreadsheet above. My annual fees for the Chase Ritz-Carlton and the Citi Prestige are different from the current annual fees. 

For the Ritz-Carlton card, I applied before the card became a Visa Infinite card, so I was grandfathered into the $395 annual fee.

With Citi, I went in-branch to apply to receive the $350 annual fee. YMMV. 

Travel Credit

travel credit

travel credit

The travel credit for each card varies. The Chase Sapphire Reserve is the easiest travel credit to use because of Uber, flights, and transportation codes as travel. The Ritz-Carlton has the hardest travel credit to redeem because it can only be used on flight incidentals. 

In 2016, it was possible to double dip for all of the cards because the travel credit was based on the calendar year. Chase changed the travel credit rules from the calendar year to membership year in 2017. 

Once you factor in the annual fee, I was effectively getting paid to have the cards because of "double dipping" the travel credits. 

Signup Bonus

signup bonus

signup bonus

I applied for the Chase Sapphire Reserve when the signup bonus was 100,000 UR points. The Ritz-Carlton card also had an increased signup bonus of 3 nights.

The value of the nights is subjective because it depends on where you spend the nights and how much you would pay otherwise if it weren't free. I redeemed my Ritz nights at properties that cost $500-$1,300/night. I personally wouldn't pay that much out of pocket, so I set a value of $300/night.

Superpowers

superpowers

superpowers

The value of the superpowers for each card is also relative to how much you use these perks. I value the Chase Sapphire Reserve's primary CDW at $0 because I don't own a car, so secondary CDW would be primary for me.

I used the Ritz-Carlton Visa Infinite portal a few times, so I got $400 in value. I didn't use any of the Citi Prestige's superpowers in 2016, so that is also valued at $0.

With the Amex Platinum, I'm a regular visitor of the Centurion Lounge, and I've also bought Hamilton tickets through the concierge. 

Conclusion

After accounting for the perks and benefit I received from all four cards, my effective value came out to be $5,780.

  • Travel credits = $2,100
  • Signup bonuses = $4,275
  • Superpowers = $1,050
  • Total benefits = $7,425
  • Net expected value = $7,425 - $1,645 = $5,780

Again, this will be different for everyone depending on if you can utilize the benefits and travel credits from each card.