Why I Paid $2,500 in Annual Fees for 9 Credit Cards in 2017

In 2017, I added five travel credit cards with annual fees to my wallet: Chase IHG, Chase Hyatt, Amex SPG, Amex SPG Business, US Bank Altitude Reserve, and the Amex Platinum.

I realize this is a late post, but I figured now is the best time to review the credit cards I had in 2017 that had an annual fee. I might still add a card or two to my collection before 2018 ends. Click here to read 2016’s post.

A few disclaimers before we dive in:

  1. Just because I pay $2,500 in annual fees doesn’t mean that you should too. Only add cards that you’re comfortable with and ones that compliment your lifestyle.

  2. I don’t recommend adding credit cards if you can’t/don’t pay off the balance in full each month. Paying interest on cards negates the benefits.

The amount of annual fees I’m willing to pay varies based on my income level. If I were still a college student, there would be no way I would pay $2,500 in annual fees. Another way to think about it is…

Would you pay:

  • $100 to get $300 in travel?

  • $1,000 to get $3,000 in travel?

  • $10,000 to get $30,000 in travel?

Would your answer change if you made:

  • $25,000 per year?

  • $250,000 per year?

Most of the cards I apply for typically have a downgrade path to a no annual fee card to keep my credit history alive.

$2,500 in Annual Fees

Below is a chart of all the cards I had in 2017 with an annual fee.

The first column mentions if the annual fee is waived the first year or not, followed by the respective fee.

Premium travel cards like the Chase Sapphire Reserve come with an airline incidental credit or travel credit to offset the annual fee. The effective annual fee in the next column = Annual fee - Travel Credits.


Some cards have a “superpower” that are unique to the card and give out sized value. For example, the discontinued Chase Ritz-Carlton card gives you access to the Visa Infinite Travel Portal. Get $100 off 2 round trip domestic airline tickets when you book through the portal and use the Ritz card.

I used the Ritz superpower 4 times in 2017, which saved me $400 in airfare. When you factor in the saved airfare with the effective annual fee, I received $305 in positive expected value from the Chase Ritz-Carlton card.

Another example of a card with a "superpower” is the Amex SPG card. The $95 annual fee is waived the first year, and I used the welcome offer to stay 2 nights at Al Maha in Dubai. The free anniversary night didn’t exist in 2017. From the welcome offer, I received $3,000 in positive expected value in the first year.


After accounting for the perks and benefit I received from all 9 cards, my effective value came out to be $10,830.

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

Editorial Note: Opinions expressed here are the author's alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, vendors or companies, and have not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities. 

UGC disclosure: These responses are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.