(Let me preface this by saying you should not get a credit card if you are irresponsible in your spending habits. Credit cards should be used like cash, and if you don’t have the cash in your checking account to cover for a purchase, don’t buy the goods. Don’t end up like one of those millions of Americans deep in credit card debit and have to call that toll free number on the telly to refinance their debt )
Oh good, you’re back. Let’s get you started on some next level credit cards with annual fees. These are the big boys when it comes to how much reward you can squeeze out of them, and all of them have 0% foreign transaction fees, so feel free to use these abroad.
The “Everyone and their mom has this card” card
- Chase Sapphire Preferred: Chase Sapphire Preferred, or CSP for short, is one of the most popular credit cards with annual fees. The reason for its popularity is due to the flexibility of their points. You could transfer the points to United, Southwest, Hyatt, Amtrak, etc. The current sign up bonus for the card is 50k points if you spend $4000 on the card in the first three months, slightly harder to do compared to the typical $3000 spend requirement. $95 annual fee, waived the first year. Now you are probably wondering what 50k points can get you. On United, 50k miles is enough for a round trip to Hawaii, Mexico, Central America, the Carribeans, and Northern South America during off peak seasons. If you transfer the points to Hyatt, 30k points can get you a night at Park Hyatt New York ($879 per night), Park Hyatt Paris ($710 per night), etc. I don’t have this card myself because I have a few annual fee cards already, but if you want to sign up for one you should use my friend’s referral link here.
The Airline Cards
The cards in this section offer you miles with a specific airline as the sign up bonus. Typically you should get these cards if you a) Want the miles or b) Prefers one airline over another. If I didn’t list it, it’s probably not worth getting/too niche.
- Citi American Airlines Card: The best signup bonus right now is 50k miles with $3000 spend in the first 3 months. $95 annual fee, waived the first year. To see what 50k miles on AA can get you, check the rewards chart here. The main difference between this and United is that you can actually do round trip to Europe with just 45k AA miles, vs on United where you have to spend 60k. The other benefits of this card include 1 free checked luggage for Domestic flights for you and up to 4 companions. You also get to board before the plebs, even if your AA ticket wasn’t bought with your AA credit card. The applications you see online for this card only offers 30k, in order to get the 50k signup bonus you would have to check this thread.
- Chase United Card: Basically the same as the AA card, but with United. Same annual fee, same 50k bonus on signup with $3000 spend in 3 months, though you do get an extra 5k of miles if you add an authorized user. Same board before plebs privilege. Slightly inferior checked luggage policy (only free checked bag for you and one additional companion). But you do get 2 United Club passes annually, vs nada from AA. Each of those passes grans you access to a United Airport lounge, and even though entrance fees are $50 per person, the passes can be bought for $16 on ebay. To sign up, use this link. Not posting referral here since the signup bonus for you guys is only 30k on that.
- Chase Southwest Premier: Southwest’s miles work slightly differently from the above two. As opposed to using an award chart, Southwest is basically saying “You can use your miles as money, on any ticket you want” and each mile is worth from 1.1 cent to 1.7 cent depends on what you want to redeem for. For example, a round trip ticket from New York to LA in May costs around $250. If I choose to use miles for that, it would cost 15,652 miles. So each mile is worth around 1.6 cent and 50k miles in that case is worth around $800. Unfortunately Southwest doesn’t fly internationally so I cancelled it after the first year. One thing to note is that while Southwest does give you 6000 free miles a year, the annual fee of $99 is not waived the first year. There are some tricks with the Southwest card I’ll mention in a later post that greatly benefits people who travel in pairs. Apply here.
The Hotel Cards
I really only started getting hotel cards within the last year or so. I consider airline cards to be the foundation of a good bargain hunta portfolio, and hotel cards are the cherry on top, so to speak. The following two hotel cards each gives you one free night of stay, which is worth more than the annual fees they charge.
- Chase Hyatt: Signup bonus is 2 free nights at ANY Hyatt Hotel if you spend $1000 in the first three months. Annual fee is $75, waived the first year. Then every year you get a free night at a Category 4 or below hotel. So the juciest part of this deal is obviously the signup bonus, and I redeemed it for 2 nights at Grand Hyatt Hong Kong which was around $900 total if I paid for it with cash. If you go for one of the fancier Hyatt properties, such as Park Hyatt New York, you could be redeeming for $1600 equivalent of hotel stay. Apply here. (The annual free hotel is obviously not as nice as the Category 7 properties, but still pretty dope. For example, Category 4 Hyatt Regency Boston is $500 a night and Grand Hyatt Taipei is $288 a night.). Also you get automatically upgraded to Platinum Status which means free wifi and late checkout basically.
- Chase IHG: Signup bonus is 80k points if you spend $1000 in the first three months. Annual fee is $49, waived the first year. each point is worth around half a cent so you are looking at $400 worth of hotels for that signup bonus. The card also gets you Platinum Elite status, and the best thing to come out of that is room upgrades. Most of the hotels cost around $200 a night, so it’s hard to get a ton of value out of the annual free night. But hey, annual fee is $49 so you still come out ahead. Application links here.
The Honorable Mention
- The Amex Starwood Preferred Guest: Also known as SPG, this hotel card does not give you annual free nights, and Amex is not accepted in a lot of places. However, it more than makes up for it with points that are worth close to 3 cents a piece. So with the current sign up offer of 25k points with $3000 of spend in the first 3 months, you are looking at around $750 of value. For example, The Westin Georgetown in DC costs $400 a night but only 12k points. (For more points in other hotels, check here.) You can also transfer the points to airlines, and for every 20k points you transfer you get a 5k bonus. The reason this card is down here instead of up there with the other guys is that Mariott just bought the Starwoods group, so the future of the rewards program is uncertain, and I don’t like uncertainty. If you want to apply, check out my referral link here.
In my future posts I will talk about some hacky shit that you can do with these credit cards.
(Disclaimer: Only two of the above links are referral links, I’ve denoted which one’s which in the post.)