Which Premium Cards are Keepers?

137

Credit card annual fees keep going up.  The Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant card’s fee just increased from $450 to $650.  And, in recent years, Amex increased their Platinum card annual fees twice.  First from $450 to $550, and more recently to $695.  Other notable increases include Chase’s Sapphire Reserve (from $450 to $550) and Amex’s Delta Reserve (also from $450 to $550).  All of these cards are worth getting for their initial welcome bonuses, but they can be very expensive to keep… especially if you have more than one.  How can you decide which are worth keeping?

This post and the associated spreadsheet has been updated with changes to the Ritz and Bonvoy Brilliant cards, with the addition of the Bonvoy Bevy and Bonvoy Bountiful cards, and with the change to Hilton free nights now being usable any day of the week.  I’ve also updated my own valuations to show an example of how the spreadsheet can be used to make decisions about which cards to keep or cancel.

The premium card worksheet

In order to help identify which cards to keep or cancel, I created a Google Doc spreadsheet with tabs for each of the most popular ultra-premium rewards cards (and a handful of popular premium cards).  On each tab you can enter your estimated value for each perk and then return to the summary tab to see which cards are keepers.

–> Click here to open the spreadsheet
After you open the spreadsheet, make a copy of it so that you can edit cells

The rest of this post goes into detail about how I recommend using this worksheet, but here are some quick tips for those who don’t plan to read the rest (I get it: even though there’s some really good stuff below, you’ve got other things to do):

  1. Make a copy of the spreadsheet.  You cannot edit cells on the main spreadsheet.  You must make your own copy in order to use it!
  2. Don’t double-count overlapping perks! For example, assign value to Priority Pass only to the card that you’re most likely to keep.
  3. Value perks based on how much you’d be willing to pre-pay if it was available as a subscription.  Don’t estimate based on how much you’re likely to save.
  4. If your total value of perks equals or exceeds a card’s annual fee, then its a keeper.

Background

To make up for big fees, issuers (especially Amex) have been adding “sponsored perks” where you can get rebates from spend with specific vendors (Equinox, Peloton, New York Times, DoorDash, Dell, Saks Fifth Avenue, etc.).  On paper, it looks like you can get back more money than the annual fee for these cards.  And you can, if you would actually pay for these products and services anyway.  The reality, though, is different.  Take the Business Platinum Dell credits, for example.  Each year, January through end of June and again July through end of December, you can get $200 back from Dell purchases, for a total of $400 back.  If you regularly buy $200 or more from Dell, both early in the year and late in the year, then the rebate really can be thought of as being worth nearly its face value.  But, if you find yourself scrambling twice per year to figure out what to buy, the rebate should be worth considerably less to you.  In my case, since Dell keeps rejecting my attempted purchases of XBox gift cards (which can be used for anything in the Microsoft Store), I value these Dell rebates at only half of face value.  It’s nice to get free software, microphones, earbuds, and other gadgets twice per year, but not face-value nice.

When it comes time to pay the annual renewal fee on each of your premium cards, it makes sense to evaluate whether or not the card’s perks and rebates are at least as valuable as the card’s annual fee.  If the answer is “no”, then I recommend calling to cancel the card.  If the card issuer offers a great retention bonus, great — keep the card for another year.  If not, go ahead and cancel or product change to a fee-free card if possible (note that Amex Platinum cards do not have a product change path to a free card).  Before cancelling, though, please take a look at our checklist for cancelling credit cards to avoid losing points and other rewards.

How to estimate value

When you pay a credit card’s annual fee, you are essentially pre-paying for a year of perks that this card offers.  The best way to determine what these perks are worth to you is to decide for each one, how much you’d be willing to pay if it was available independently as an annual subscription.  Consider the Amex Business Platinum card’s wireless cell phone credits, for example.  The Business Platinum card offers up to $10 back per month when you use your card to pay your cell phone bill.  On the surface, that sounds like an easy $120 back per year for most of us.  But you shouldn’t value it at the full $120.  Imagine if your phone company sold a benefit like this separately: What would you pay annually to AT&T (for example) to save $10 per month off your bill?  You wouldn’t pay $120, would you?  It wouldn’t make any sense to pay $120 up front for a total of $120 in savings spread out through the year.  Instead, you might pay $100 (for example) for a $120 in savings.

Other examples:

  • Chase Sapphire Reserve $300 Travel Credits: This is a really easy credit to earn since all travel purchases count.  But how much would you pay in advance to get $300 back?  Keep in mind, too, that the Sapphire Reserve doesn’t give you points for that $300 in spend.  That’s almost $15 in rewards lost to that spend.  I’d argue that you shouldn’t value this perk at more than $285 and it would be reasonable to value it less.
  • Amex Platinum $200 Prepaid Hotel Credit: Consumer Platinum cards offer $200 back per calendar year towards prepaid Fine Hotels & Resorts or The Hotel Collection bookings.  That’s great, but how much would you pre-pay for this rebate?  Keep in mind that unless you habitually book through Fine Hotels & Resorts or The Hotel Collection, you might end up not using this perk at all.  Personally, I wouldn’t value this at more than $100 per year.
  • Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant 85K free night certificate: You might save $500, $700, $900 or more off a hotel night when you use this certificate, but there’s no way you should pay that much in advance.  The only reason to pay in advance for a free night certificate (especially one that expires after a year) is if you expect to get way more value than you put it.  So, for example, you might be willing to pre-pay $300 or $400 for the chance of saving $500 or more.

Overlapping perks

One and done perks

There are lots of valuable perks that have no incremental value if you have the same perk from multiple cards.  For example, getting Hilton Gold status from one credit card is great, but getting it from a second card has no incremental value.  Here are some more examples where you might value a perk from one card, but having on multiple cards doesn’t make it any more valuable:

  • Free checked bags
  • Elite status with a specific hotel, airline, or car rental service
  • Lounge access to a specific type of lounge

Diminishing return perks

Some perks have diminishing value with each extra card that offers the perk.  For example, each of the Amex Platinum consumer cards (the regular consumer Platinum card, and the one’s from Schwab and Morgan Stanley) offer $240 per year in Digital Entertainment Credits: Up to $20 per month in credits for subscriptions to NY Times, ESPN+, Disney+, Hulu, Peacock, Sirius XM, and Audible.  In my case, I subscribed to the New York Times e-edition anyway, and so value this perk on my generic Platinum card pretty highly.  I pay about $17 per month, or $204 per year and so I value these savings at about $180 (i.e. I would be willing to prepay $180 for those savings).  But I also have the Schwab Platinum card which I have used to subscribe to Audible for $14.95 per month.  I wouldn’t pay that much for Audible without those savings, though, so here I value the perk at about $100.  My wife has a Platinum card too, so with her card we subscribed to the Disney+ Bundle (Disney+, Hulu No Ads, and ESPN+) for $20 per month.  If we didn’t have the Platinum card we would only subscribe to Hulu No Ads and Disney+.  That combo alone would cost $15.98 per month.  So I shouldn’t value this perk for this card at more than 15.98 x 12 = $191.76.  Let’s round it down to $175 since I could otherwise pay with discount gift cards.

How to value overlapping perks

The trick to doing this right is to first figure out which of your cards are the most likely “keepers” and assign perk values to those cards first.  Then go to your next most likely to keep cards, and only assign incremental value (if any) to perks that overlap with your keeper cards.  And repeat with the next most likely to keep cards, and so on.

If you have a bunch of premium cards, this is not easy!  For example, many premium cards offer Priority Pass memberships.  If you have more than one, then it’s a good idea to figure out which card is the most likely “keeper”, but keep in mind that the value of Priority Pass varies by card.  Priority Pass from Amex doesn’t include free meals at Priority Pass restaurants.  And, with other cards, details vary about how many guests you can bring in and what it would cost (if anything) to add authorized users with their own Priority Pass membership.  One of the best options overall is with the Chase Ritz card which offers Priority Pass with unlimited guests, and free authorized users, each of which can get their own Priority Pass with unlimited guests.  But the Ritz card isn’t easy to get (you have to start with a Chase Marriott consumer card and upgrade) and its perks aren’t ideal for everyone.  Still, if you have the card and value its benefits (as I do), it makes sense for this to be your first-in-line keeper card.  Estimate the value of Priority Pass on that card, but not on any others.  If the Ritz card isn’t for you, a fantastic alternative is Capital One’s Venture X card which also offers Priority Pass to your free authorized users.  Having a single “keeper” card with Priority Pass solves another problem: you’ll never have to wonder which of your many Priority Pass cards is the right one to use at any given time.  Get the one that comes with your keeper card and never request another.

Here’s another example: I have two variations of consumer Platinum cards and the Business Platinum card from American Express.  All 3 have many overlapping benefits, and picking which one is the most likely “keeper” of the three is hard.  I really like the Business Platinum card’s 35% airline bonus, but the personal cards have more useful (to me) annual rebates.  And I like that the Schwab Platinum card offers statement credits thanks to my having retirement funds with Schwab, but I hate that it doesn’t get the amazing refer-a-friend offers that are often available to other cards that earn Membership Rewards (the Schwab card gets cash back for referrals instead of earning Membership Rewards points).  Ultimately, I decided that the generic Platinum card was my most likely “keeper” of the three due to having both more useful rebates and great refer-a-friend offers (some of which were available only to this card in the past).  I put the Business Platinum second, and the Schwab Platinum third.  This ordering had a huge effect on my total estimated value of each card.  The generic Platinum came out as a definite keeper, whereas both the Schwab Platinum and the Business Platinum cards will just barely be on the chopping block. In each case, a simple retention phone call or secure message is likely to result in enough value to keep the card another year.

Shown above are my estimated values for each of my Amex Platinum card variations. Since these cards have many overlapping perks, the order in which I placed the cards before doing the estimates had a huge impact on the outcome.

A real world example

I used the latest version of this spreadsheet myself the other day to estimate values for 10 different premium cards that I have.  I found that six are keepers and 4 should be cancelled or downgraded if I don’t receive a good retention offer when the next annual fee comes due.  Here’s what I found:

Ritz: Keep

I started with my Ritz card because I consider it to be my ultimate “keeper” card.  This is the card where I assign value to Priority Pass.  For all of my other cards that offer Priority Pass, I assigned zero value to that perk.  See the section on overlapping perks, above, for a discussion about this.

Here are the perks that I valued:

  • $300 in annual airline fee reimbursements: $240
  • Annual 85K Free Night Award each year upon renewal: $300
  • Priority Pass Select for you plus unlimited free guests: $100
  • Free authorized users: $100 [allows me to gift priority pass to relatives — I don’t even have to give them the Ritz card with their name on it. I just give them the Priority Pass card]
  • 15 qualifying nights towards elite status: $50.  I have lifetime Platinum status with Marriott so I don’t value this much, but it does help me get to 50 nights for a Choice Benefit selection or towards 75 night Titanium status.
  • Best in class travel insurance: $0 [This is a very valuable benefit, but since I ended up deciding that the Sapphire Reserve (which has the same travel insurance but better travel rewards) was a keeper, I zeroed out this one and moved the estimate for this to the Sapphire Reserve].
  • Total: $790

My total estimated value for this card came to $790.  That’s well above the card’s $450 annual fee and so this confirmed what I already knew: this card is a keeper.

Bonvoy Brilliant: Drop (Maybe)

The Bonvoy Brilliant card is loaded with high end perks and my valuations (how much I’d be willing to prepay for these perks) came to $550.  That’s a lot, but it’s a bit short of the card’s new $650 annual fee (previously $450).  I have almost a full 12 months before the new annual fee kicks in and so I won’t be cancelling soon.  I’ll re-evaluate next year.  Plus, regardless of what I decide, calling or messaging to cancel the card will likely result in a very nice retention offer.

Here are the benefits I valued:

  • $25 per month dining credits: $200
  • Annual free night upon renewal (worth 85K points): $300
  • Marriott Platinum Status: $0 [I have lifetime Platinum status]
  • 25 qualifying nights towards elite status: $50 [this is the incremental benefit of 10 more nights over the Ritz card’s 15. This will help me get to 50 nights for a Choice Benefit selection or towards 75 night Titanium status.]
  • Total: $550

Amex Platinum Cards: Keep 1, Drop 2 (Maybe)

I described my Platinum card situation above in the section titled “How to value overlapping perks.”  The end result is that the generic Platinum card came out as a definite keeper, but the other two (the Platinum Card from Schwab and the Business Platinum Card) should be dropped when the next annual fees come due.  That said, in both cases I’m likely to get good retention offers for these cards and so I’ll probably keep them if that happens.

Here are the perks where I ascribed value to the regular Platinum consumer card:

  • $200 airline fee credit: $150
  • $200 Prepaid Hotel credit: $100
  • $240 Digital Entertainment Credit: $130
  • $200 in Uber credits: $100
  • $100 in Saks credits: $50
  • Free Walmart+: $25
  • International Airline Program: $25
  • Lounge access (Centurion Lounge, Airspace Lounge, Escape Lounge): $100
  • Delta Sky Club: $150
  • Hilton Gold: $50
  • National Car Executive status: $50
  • Emergency Evacuation & Transportation: $50
  • Refer-A-Friend Offers: $100 [This particular card keeps getting amazing referral offers]
  • Total: $1,080

Here are the perks I valued with the Business Platinum:

  • $200 airline fee credit: $150
  • $120 wireless credits: $100
  • $400 Dell: $200
  • 35% airline bonus: $150
  • Total: $600

And here are the perks I valued with the Schwab Platinum:

  • $200 airline fee credit: $125 [diminishing returns due to having to use up credits on the other Platinum cards]
  • $200 Prepaid Hotel credit: $100
  • $240 Digital Entertainment Credit: $120
  • $200 in Uber credits: $100
  • $100 in Saks credits: $50
  • Schwab statement credit: $100
  • Total: $595

Chase Sapphire Reserve: Keep

My initial estimated value for my $550 Sapphire Reserve card came to only $555. That’s only $5 over the annual fee, but that’s fine!  Remember that the $555 estimate is the amount I’d be willing to pay for the card’s perks so even if the annual fee was $555 I should keep it. However, after realizing the card was a keeper, I moved the value of the card’s best-in-class travel insurance from the Ritz card to the Sapphire Reserve (the card I actually use to pay for travel) and that bumped up my valuation to $655:

  • $300 annual travel credits: $270
  • Points transferable to partners: $95
  • 3X points per dollar for travel: $175
  • Best in class travel insurance: $100
  • Lyft rideshare benefits: $10
  • DoorDash food delivery benefits: $5
  • Total: $655

As I wrote in a recent post, the combination of 3x earnings on all travel spend plus best-in-class travel protections plus the annual $300 travel rebate is worth more to me than the card’s $550 annual fee and so its a keeper.

Note that I didn’t give any value to the card’s Priority Pass since the Ritz card with Priority Pass is my #1 keeper card (and so the value of that benefit goes there).

Capital One Venture X: Keep

My estimate for the Venture X came to $400.  That’s just $5 more than the card’s $395 but enough to make this one a keeper.  Here are the perks that I valued:

  • Annual $300 Credit ($300 back each year for bookings through Capital One Travel): $225
  • 10K bonus miles each anniversary: $100
  • Capital One Lounge access: $35 [I figure that it’s likely that I’ll hit up a Capital One lounge at least once per year, especially once they roll out some more of these]
  • Free authorized users: $40 [The ability to give lounge access to others is especially relevant to me since this is really my wife’s Venture X card I’m writing about]
  • Total: $400

Note that I didn’t give any value to the card’s Priority Pass since the Ritz card with Priority Pass is my #1 keeper card (and so the value of that benefit goes there), and I didn’t assign value to Plaza Premium Lounge access since I tend to have an Amex Platinum card keeper which includes Plaza Premium Lounges plus much more.

Amex Gold Card: Drop

This Gold card is mysteriously no longer eligible for refer-a-friend offers.  Those offers were the main reason I kept the card last year.  I earn better rewards for dining and grocery with Citi cards (5x dining with my Prestige card & 5x grocery with my Custom Cash cards). Now, the amount I’d be willing to pay came to only $160 which isn’t too close to the card’s $250 annual fee.

Here were my valuations:

  • $120 in Uber credits: $60
  • $120 in dining credits: $50
  • 4x points at US Supermarkets (up to $25K in purchases, then 1x): $50 [I used to value this much higher, but I’m happy getting 5x at grocery stores with my Citi Custom Cash cards]
  • Total: $160

Citi Prestige: Keep

The $495 Prestige card (no longer available to new applicants) has lost most of its prestige over the years as Citi dropped one benefit after another, including travel protections.  That said, I spend a lot on dining and so the ability to earn 5x dining uncapped is huge.  Here’s how I valued it:

  • $250 travel credit: $200
  • Ability to transfer points to airline & hotel programs: $95
  • 5X dining: $250
  • Citigold $145 rebate for Prestige cardholders: $100
  • Total: $645

Altitude Reserve: Keep

The $400 Altitude Reserve card comes with $325 in travel & dining credits which I valued at $300.  So, I only needed to justify $100 more to deem this card a keeper.  Between earning 3x for mobile wallet payments & travel, Real Time Mobile Rewards (a super cool feature!), this card is staying in my Apple Pay wallet for the long-term.

  • $325 in annual travel & dining credits: $275
  • Real Time Mobile Rewards: $50
  • 3X travel and mobile wallet payments: $100 [The ability to earn 3x for all Apple Pay spend is big]
  • Total: $425
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Chris

I’m positive that I value Chase’s monthly GoPuff credits more than others, but I’m a snacker and I place some value on my CSP from the credit. And yes, I’m aware the same credit is available on their no AF cards, but I wouldn’t open those cards just for the credit. Hence, I add some value to it for the CSP.

Kenneth
Alicia

Great resource! Thanks.

Max

Is the refer-a-friend issue still happening with the gold? I still see it just fine on my account, though I’ve already maxed out the 55k this year.

Also, for whatever reason, my Gold seems to give better referral offers than any of my other cards, so that’s the only one I’ve maxed out. (Compared to 2x biz plat, 1x plat, BBP, and Delta).

So, that’s made it an easy keep for me, and I figure I’ll likely get some retention offer every other year, so I’m definitely planning on holding onto it long-term.

Bret

Greg,

Thank you for writing this and creating the worksheet! Reviewing my setup and any cards that I can round out my setup. The expanded award space with the United card’s provide much of a benefit? When I look at the united award space it’s pretty expensive. For me United is convenient and I like my Chase setup as it’s easy to manage and justify the cost. Also I don’t have to chase the coupon’s pun intended.

Cavedweller

United card is the way to go yes Singapore flts are cheaper but I not hanging around ORD for 5 hrs to save points.i take my INK points and just transfer to United and better everything in cheap seats.ALOHA

JohnB

The extra award space is even available for the no AF United Gateway card. In a recent award search, United with its partners had space when no other program had award seats. Just because I had the United Gateway CC. Which was product change from UA Explorer CC.

slaven

even though i have 6 biz plat cards (between P1-2), I’ve been keeping all of them even without retention offers (use most offers so not total $ loss except for bookkeeping hassle) so as to not end up in pop-up jail. am i worried for naught?

satellite

Adding value to lounge access/Hilton gold on the personal Platinum but not on the business variant doesn’t seem fair. If you want to compare them, and decide which one to keep, you should add all perks to all of them. Or, don’t add the overlapping perks to any, make a decision which one is the best without them, then add the overlapping perks to the best one to decide if you want to keep it.

Also, $200 for $400 Dell credits seems low. You can buy Xbox live gift cards often with 10% off codes and 10% cashback (occasionally) and sell them for 20% off, basically at face value. It takes time to sell them, but that time doesn’t cost $200.

bill

why arrest you taking about crapital one and the problems venture x are going through .

bill

Transfers and the 300 dollar travel credit not being taken off in addition to many people having to defend fraud by proving there identity overseas with drivers license etc.

Izetta Brannon

Where do you sell your Xbox cards? I can’t find anywhere that will take them.

Satellite

I sell them at an internal mailing list at my work. It’s a big company so always someone who needs them at 20-25% off.

Mantis

None for me. Marginally profitable with lots of assumptions is not good enough. I’d rather double/trip dip benefits before closing, then go for new SUBs. Most key benefits are often duplicative, easily obtained by other cards, or completely unnecessary (like Uber/Dell credits, nobody *needs* those). For example, Centurion access is easily obtained with new NLL offers or other plat
flavors.

I could see a few premium cards as keepers in specific situations, like AA exec, MS plat (RIP?), Aspire, etc., But I think the overwhelming majority of people would be better off cancelling.

Cavedweller

I agree If u can use it for a trip like AUS then maybe keep it. I will get one for the hotel and lounge benefits then dump it.Busy dumping a few now even $95 AF isn’t worth it because I got my INK P card….

Lee

Greg, very thoughtful article. Thanks. One thing that I would throw into the mix is the opportunity to earn referral bonus points. A “different” kind of card benefit. Referring from the personal Amex Platinum Card and Amex Business Platinum Card, it is pretty easy to earn the 55k points on each card. Conservatively, that’s worth about $1000 on each card to me. Other card issuers are not as forthcoming with referral offers.

Lee

In my mind, the referral offers alone pay for the cards. All of them. Thanks again.

Harry

That’s been my take. However, now that P2 & I are closing in on being maxed out on Amex cards and a recent lowering of referral points (use to be 30K, now 25K, 20K etc.) makes me wondering on some cards.

Derek

Hi Greg. Thanks for the helpful post. I had a few questions though. Why assign $95 value to the CSR and Citi prestige for “ability to transfer to partners”, yet the Amex cards you listed and the Cap1 Venture X card do not have the same valuation even though these cards also have the ability to transfer to partners? Also, why do you only value the Citigold rebate at $100? Shouldn’t a cash rebate if $145 really be valued at the face value of $145?

Biggie F

Could be because there are no-AF Amex cards that let you hold and transfer MR points.

Mantis

It’s not llike the UR are worth 1cpp indefinitely, they’re only worth 1cpp if you cash out at that point. Instead of valuing transfer ability at $95 as a blanket justification to keep, one could consider preemptively transferring to Hyatt or other frequently used programs, and/or save the points until later going for CIP or CSP/CSR when eligible for SUB.

Having said that, I kept my CSP because one referral pays the AF, but it had nothing to do with valuing transfer ability at $95, because I don’t.

Hpack

Greg, you left out the Instacart benefits (annual membership and monthly credit) on the Sapphire Reserve Card

Nathan

I have been buying a fair amount of international travel in economy class recently and I have found that the AMEX Platinum International Airline Program has had substantially cheaper fares on good itineraries than I am able to find on Google Flights. As a result, I now value that feature at several hundred dollars, even though I don’t generally book premium cabin flights on my own dime, and I think this benefit might be applicable to a much wider swath of folks.

Paul

Nice refresh of this article, Greg. Couple things I noted:

-Priority Pass on the Ritz card gives unlimited guests into (most) lounges, but the majority of PP restaurants I’ve been to lately have only allowed traveller+1, so it might be worth clarifying that.

-I don’t think counting the best in class travel insurance on the CSR vs the Ritz makes much sense. The Ritz is already a keeper without it, but you could streamline by keeping the Ritz and getting the travel insurance there, and then cancelling or (more likely) downgrading the CSR (to a CSP).

-Since you are a subscriber to Audible, do yourself a favor and listen to Greenlights — Matthew McConaughey wrote this and also reads it, and it’s quite something to hear him narrate his own story. One of the few times when the audio book is hands down better than reading the book yourself.

Seth

Greg, assuming you have an UR-earning Ink card that’s a definite keeper, it would make the “points transferable to partners” an overlapping benefit and wipe out the $95 you attribute to the CSR. Makes keeping the CSR a much tougher call unless you adjust the “3x points per dollar for travel” value up a fair amount from the $175 you currently have it pegged at.

Mary Jane

Greg, I had assumed that Chase Sapphire Reserve points were transferable but you are saying no?

Cavedweller

Log into Chase and see if u can…

Rob

I was wondering about that. I’ve stuck with the Ink Plus all these years because I (slowly) churn the CSP and don’t want to be without airline transfers or 5x at Staples, which I fear might be taken away from Ink Cash anytime.

David

how about Hilton Aspire?

Chris

2nd that I consider vit an easy keeper

Ben

Wondering this as well. Do you not have one? Not a keeper?

David

I have it, both wife and I and it’s the only high fee card we have kept probably 3-4 years now. Just with the 250 resort credit + free night (say 300) + 250 air credit (we add to United Travel Bank), it covers the 450 annual fee.

Biggie F

Staying in a Hilton in Europe at the moment, where Diamond from Aspire really helps out (full breakfast, nice room upgrade). Irony is that the Diamond status is a hangover from an Aspire canceled during the pandemic. But — to your point — the card does have substantial +value over AF, and I am planning to upgrade end of year to hold onto Diamond status and do some double-dipping.

David

we stayed 5 days at doubletree towerbridge, London in June. Got confirmed upgrade to their best suit that was 1K+ sqft facing tower bridge with 2 bathrooms and a dining area. Free breakfast and lounge(water/drinks/snacks all day long). Well worth the redemption via points and Diamond really helped. We actually emailed 5-6 other hotels in London to see who/which would provide the best confirmed upgrades and 3 came back for free but this was probably the best bang your the pts. We are now looking to book at Hilton Tulum All Inclusive for mid Dec to use our combined 4 certs (since 2 are expiring by EOY) and I have AA voucher expiring by Feb. Not the best redemption at say 400 a night but free is free and its AI and new.

Cavedweller

Next Card Aspire for a year Thanks..

Last edited 1 month ago by Cavedweller
ChadMC

Something that is often not thought of is customer service. AmEx by far is the clear winner, at least to me. With Chase, online messaging is basically canned responses by an off-shore copy/paster and generally requires calling in for anything. Of course that is giving the entire 16 digit number, name, address, social, other questions, then receiving a text message to verify. And if transferred, it’s that all over again.

Citi generally answers with people in far away lands who do not communicate the same as US-based people in my experience. But it’s the same experience as Chase.

Now with AmEx, from their app, I hit a button to call. It dials a special number, punches in a code automatically and they answer with my name. It’s already verified in the app. What a concept! For their online messaging, hands down by a far far FAR wide margin no one else even comes close here. AmEx has REAL people chatting and short of the most extreme cases, everything can be handled over web site chat.

So, me personally I value customer service as quite high. Even though I don’t really think that AmEx points are worth as much as others, the overall experience is much better. I do get decent value from AmEx, admittedly I’d like much more, but the service makes up for the lower point value.

My two cents.

Chris

So true most others support is awful

Paul

I agree with you about Amex customer service. It’s definitely the best.

I think I value amex points as highly as any other transferrable currency. I don’t think they’re as versatile because they don’t have incredible hotel transfer value, but ANA (which other programs do not have), their extensive list of other airline transfer partners, and their frequent transfer bonuses make them very valuable to me!

T. Jones

Since you brought up Amex customer service, I’d like to add that my Amex cards also seem more secure to me. I’ve had fraudulent charges on Chase cards, US Bank, and C1 – but never on any Amex card. Coincidence? Perhaps, but I’ve generally had fewer hassles with Amex.

Last edited 1 month ago by T. Jones
ChadMC

Great point. Taking that even further – they’ll keep routine/monthly charges going to the old card number with no hassle as well. Citi/Chase won’t. I actually had my cell phone bill for years against the old number and it went through every time. AmEx even said there was no reason to change it as they’d continue to approve them. At the same time, I had my number well over 20 years before it ever got compromised. Good point you make there.

Rob

This is awesome! I was just starting to go through the exercise to figure out which to keep and this will be a tremendous help – both the xls but the ‘is it really worth that much’ thought process. With interest on savings etc. much higher today – there is a definite cost to prepaying the annual fee for dining credits etc. that come 12 months later.

Capital One Venture X you value the phone insurance but also value the $10/month credit on the business cards. If you charge $10 each month on the plat biz and rest on Cap One, will Cap one still cover you if phone breaks?

Last edited 1 month ago by Rob
Lance

Theee things about the Venture X.

1) Presidents Circle Hertz. Excellent perk that really helps with upgrades

2) priority pass – even if you have one with ritz, a second can allow you to visit two restaurants during long layovers with options. Or the same one incognito

3) cap x lounge in dfw is the best domestic lounge I know of and I expect the one in denver and dc to be equally grand. I habitually route through dfw for this lounge.

4) 2 for 1$ points are nice to such valuable transfer partners

Lance

Added a 4th 😉

Sam

I’ve been simplifying my wallet lately.

For me:

AMEX Plat Morgan Stanley (free for self and spouse) 5x flight, fine hotels benefits
AMEX Gold 4x grocery and restaurant
AMEX BBP 2x everything else
AMEX Aspire – Hilton Diamond, Free Night.

VISA – Capitol One Venture X – 10x hotel, 2x everything else (nice to have 2X everything tranferable Visa). Capitol One lounge.

MASTERCARD – BOA Business/Virgin (for Plastiq/Mortgage)

So I usually just carry two cards in my everyday wallet. The AMEX GOLD and VISA – Venture X.

Nice and simple. Spouse like it a lot more than having multiple cards.

Last edited 1 month ago by Sam
Jeremy

I find it hard to believe Greg didn’t find value in the Gold card. During the pandemic, I trimmed down my only fee cards to be the Gold card and BoA Premium Rewards (which kind of pays for itself).

I don’t have the Venture X, but want it (with 100k SUB). I think that pays for itself. I’ll probably get a MS Platinum at some point too.

Sam

Yea I agree with you. I get a lot of value from my AMEX gold. The key is P2. You want to make it as easy as possible for P2 (assuming P2 is not into this as much as P1). No more than two cards in P2 wallet.

Recommend MS Plat before they do away with their low tier investment account. It’s a hassle but once you get it set up, it’s pretty easy. I parked my emergency fund there (meant to not be touch but immediately liquid). Also nice that they have free unlimited checks (checks also look pretty premium). For me worth while vs high yield saving due to 1) $695 annual fee + $175 authorized user fee covered by MS 2) free unlimited checks 3)no foreign tx fee 4) also get a free green light debit card*

Sam

Venture X for me pays for itself. $300 credit and the 10,000 annual points. What attracts me to it is the 10x on hotel which essentially is about 10% off rack rates (or more if you transfer the points). The room rates can be a hit or miss on their travel site but I often find it competitive to other portal sites. I use it mainly for non chain hotels suites bookings where I don’t get any benefit booking with the hotel directly.

Last edited 1 month ago by Sam
Rachel

I spit my coffee laughing at Greg’s “thoughtful” face. Great post, thanks for the info and the humor.

Andrew

Still have the referral bonus on my gold for me and my wife. 10k for me and 30k for my wife.

James

Amazing piece. Thank you!!! Given how much you love the Ritz card, which Marriott card is the best choice to grab now with an upgrade to the Ritz in 12 months? Keeping in mind I have 3-4 hotel stays a year only. And usually never Ritz.
Thanks!

kih

Any reason to think that such a ban is in the works?

Yuri

Can you please update your spreadsheet with new Bonvoy Brilliant and Ritz changes?

Chris Allen

Greg, you still value the Ritz priority the same with Venture X? I have a Chase Marriott and have been considering getting rid of it would it be with upgrading to the Ritz instead ?

Yuri

United Club no longer have 1.5x on everything, it’s now 1x.

Yuri

But United Club Business does now.

Alex King

Is there something to be said for better Amex offers on a Platinum than a Gold? Or is everyone getting identical offers?

Andy

You owe me a new keyboard. My ‘0’ key broke while I was filling out the Amex Platinum tab.

Biggie F

Me too! Covered it with my Amex Business Platinum Dell credit….

robertw

Good article. Today I got into a chat with AMEX with my business partner’s Reserve card. Nothing of value was offered so we closed it. Had he brought ti to me a yr ago we could at least have gotten some bonus miles for 2021. He still has the voucher from Delta he cal use for a flight in 2022. I used to let the card fees slide, but now I am really turning the screw on them. Dumping AMEX Delta Plat in Jan usles I get a compelling offer. Its a $250 fee. When I used it to leverage Delta Diamond, that was one thing. But now with 250K in spend also needed I dont want to spend that much on those cards. Over the yrs I have not been as aggressive as I should be. Especially with the rising fees on some of the AMEX cards.

Alex

I notice that the Amegy Reserve is seldom mentioned

Winnie

I love this spreadsheet. Thank you Greg!

For me Chase Ritz, Amex Aspire, Amex Brilliant are keepers, in this order.

The most valuable Amex Platinum card for me (consume+biz) is the Amex Schwab Platinum.

Curious in SD

P2 has the CSR and we used it to book airline tickets to Costa Rica in April. If we downgrade the card to the CSP in December does anyone know if we will still get the travel protection benefits of the CSP even though we booked the tickets with the CSR? I’m wondering if I should just keep the CSR open until after our trip is over?

John Young

In version 5.0, it said that you removed your own comments. Is there an archived copy with them? Would be interested to read your detailed thought process.

Adam

Google Tip: Post the spreadsheet with /copy at the end, anyone who clicks it will automatically have their own copy created. I’m sure you’ve probably gotten tons of “request access” emails already.

https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1M5ggGg-I3bMheSNMt46NGJxhmGN5QxvyaIYPVTzjKdg/edit#gid=0
vs
https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1M5ggGg-I3bMheSNMt46NGJxhmGN5QxvyaIYPVTzjKdg/copy

Jan W

It will soon be time for me to evaluate my family’s premium cards (including two consumer Amex Plat, one Amex Schwab, and two Amex Gold). As we age and reitre, I’ve begun considering whether I should assign a dollar value to Amex’s Emergency Medical Transport and Evacuation, which also includes repartriation of remains. Once we’re both eligible for Medicare (which includes international coverage) and supplements, I’m wondering if that combo will replace needing to buy a travel insurance policy. Still thinking at this point, but that perk might be more valuable as one ages…

Biggie F

Once we’re both eligible for Medicare (which includes international coverage) and supplements, I’m wondering if that combo will replace needing to buy a travel insurance policy.

Careful!

Medicare does not include international coverage:

https://www.medicare.gov/Pubs/pdf/11037-Medicare-Coverage-Outside-United-States.pdf

“[S]upplements” (so-called Medigap policies) may, up to 60 days, with certain restrictions, e.g.,

https://www.aarp.org/health/medicare-qa-tool/does-medicare-cover-me-outside-the-us/

Jan W

Thanks for this, Biggie F. Looks like I’m a bit confused about Medicare vs MediGap. These links are good places for me to start figuring it out.

JohnB

Medigap Plan G does cover quite a few things overseas, but it is only for emergencies. It will not cover routine care, if you “snowbird” to a warm place for the winter. Also be very careful which plan you choose. Once in Medicare Advantage, you will have to go thru underwriting to change to a Medigap plan. Better to go Medigap at 65 initial enrollment because if you have diabetes, cancer, or any heart issue, underwriting will never approve you for a Medigap plan after that initial period.

Cavedweller

A long time ago but Thank You for the link.. Saved me time and I hope ur in Good health..

Jane

Great think piece. One question though.
“ so with her card we subscribed to the ad-free version of Peacock. We wouldn’t pay for that at all without this perk, so I ascribe a value here of only about $25 “.
So you wouldn’t pay at all but you value at $25? This seems to go against the theme of the article. For something I wouldn’t pay at all for I personally ascribe a value of $0.

Cubby

please stop with the photos of you guys mugging for the camera, it’s old and a big turn off

WR2

Says the guy mugging it in his profile pic

HADLEY V. BAXENDALE

The Hilton AMEX Aspire already had paid for itself with respect to the $250 airline credit (which you could turn into $$ for airfare on Southwest, JetBlue, and United) and it was also relatively easy to use the $250 resort credit, as well, therefore, giving you $500 back for an annual fee of $450.00

Note, the above does not even take into consideration the year-long Hilton Diamond status, nor the uncapped free night that has been expanded from just weekend use to any day of the week during the pandemic, and looks likely to stay any day of the week post-pandemic.

If the above were not enough, AMEX/Hilton shot another $200+ this year in the form of a $20 monthly dining credit, as well.

Even if the last offer does not survive in the new year, I hope I have demonstrated the relatively easy way of attaining real value from the Aspire Card — not to mention the AMEX offers that go along being a cardholder.

Hands down, the best premium card on the market for $$ returned to your pocket.

Oliver

I have a lot of priority passes. I have found priority passes internationally useful. However, if you are primarily using points to fly business class, you are usually better off at one of the business class lounge that your ticket gives you access to.

Mary Jane

I agree

PM1

Awesome post Greg! And the spreadsheet is very helpful.

WR2

For me, it’s none. Monthly $10-20 perks are valued at 50% face value max to me, since they are annoying to track, and force me to buy food/stuff I otherwise wouldn’t. PP is worth zero to me, bc I can always easily get a card in the rare case I needed it (intl Im flying F/J, so I rarely need PP), but I almost always have a card with it anyway. BTW, I don’t understand your Ritz logic, it should be valued at $0 across all cards, it’s the marginal value of this cards PP benefit when choosing to keep/cancel. Unless you would otherwise be left with no PP, the value is 0.

Bottom line is that even if I could theoretically get a mental gymnastics profit from a card, I still can do much better with new card SUBs, and using the benefits on the new cards.

TimM

Completely agree and will be canceling as well. I only use the platinum and gold card credits because they are there. I ordinarily wouldn’t order Uber eats and Grubhub nearly as much.

A guy named Mike

I did the math using high rated restaurants in my area and comparing UE/GH to ordering from the restaurant website. I was able to get an average of about 2/3 face if I kept the order small. The worst part about the higher prices and services fees is that they can push the credit value into negative territory if you aren’t watching. Given the inconvenience, maxing out at half of face sounds right.

A guy named Mike

I am constantly mystified why the more casual cc crowd would value the Gold credits at or near face. I have never had an issue with my cash expiring in 30 days and the hoops you have to jump through to not lose your shirt to delivery fees aren’t insurmountable, but need to be considered.

Pam

I signed up 2 yrs ago for the AMEX Green really for the SUB & $100 Away credit but found myself using the 3x travel quite a bit because of the great hotel AMEX Offers tied to it. I wouldnt have earned nearly as many MRs with other AMEX cards (I also have the CSR).

I recently upgraded to the Plat w a 100k offer but will either downgrade back to the Green in a yr or open a new acct to get it again.

I opened the Green 2 yrs ago w a 45k bonus, upgraded briefly this past July to Gold for 40k points, then upgraded in Sept to Plat for 100k! Crazy earning 185k points on the same acct in 2 yrs!

Brutus

I got a Business Gold with an 80k bonus in April and then received a 140k upgrade offer for the Business Platinum in October.

Rachel

How did you get those upgrade awards? just calling in and asking or did they target you?

Pam

Targeted – I really liked my Green card & had no reason to upgrade but couldn’t turn down all the upgrade points! I have since reapplied

JohnB

If you applied for the Green originally, you will not get another SUB for at least 7 years. That is with you not having a Green card for that 7 years.

With the upgrades, I am unsure how Amex treats those. It doesn’t hurt to try and apply and see if you get the pop-up window explaining that you won’t get a SUB. But I would try that with a card that I don’t already have, like the Gold and see what happens.

I personally think the Gold and Platinum Amex Personals are very complementary to each other.

Retired Gambler

Good evaluation and I appreciate the spreadsheet. I realize you are being conservative discounting the annual benefit of monthly credits but, for me, I value them a little higher. For example, I have Sirius/XM in 3 cars. In the past Sirius/XM discounted the price if you bought 1, 2 or 3 year subscriptions. However, I found when I renewed earlier this year on 2 cars that monthly price was the same as longer term so just signed up for monthly payments since $40 a month is not noticed but $400-$500 one time would be (at least for me). That being said I was very happy my Amex Platinum added the $20 a month credit on something I was already paying monthly so I value this at full $240 since I would pay that without any credit from Amex.

As for cards, I have the Platinium, CSR, Amex Gold, Delta Platinum Amex and Marriott Amex. Definitely keeping Amex Platinum and Gold plus Marriott Amex (I’m retired, travel a lot and lifetime Titanium so easily use the $300 credit plus 50K room certificate without even trying). Planning to downgrade the CSR to Preferred (really disappointed Chase didn’t do anything to improve CSR-and I don’t consider bonuses for using their OTA an improvement) and may downgrade Delta Platinum to Gold (lifetime elite on DL but in AA captive city so really only get companion ticket as a benefit on that card).

One question for you or anyone else – if I downgrade CSR to Preferred I know I would only be able to pay for travel at 1.25 cent/point versus 1.5 (which is something I never do since I just pay for it with cash). With respect to transferring points to airline or hotel programs is it the same transfer rate and value CSR and Preferred? I think that is the case but wanted to confirm. In that case I don’t lose anything really by downgrading – please correct me if I’m wrong.

Thanks!

robertw

Ill tell you a secret. If you call to cancel those Sirus subscriptions they will play lets make a deal and cut those fees way down. Trust me on that. They will do anything via retention. Make the call. Hang tough.

anonymous

Know any secret to getting them to stop spamming my mail box in the hope that I might, somehow, after all these years, reactivate a subscription to their annoyingly repetitive only-well-known-hits-at-poor-audio-quality-with-annoying-DJs-and-cleverly-disguised-ads service?

Might be willing to pay you for this information.

VIS

I am able to get more value just from AMEX offers than annual fee on Bonvoy Brilliant and Hilton Aspire. I think both cards are keepers.

Jags

I stuck with the Morgan Stanley Platinum over Vanilla. Free Platinum AU + engagement bonus is worth more to me than referral bonuses…there’s just a limit to how many of those a regular person can get. Additionally, for me at least, the Gold card (usually 30k/referral) got better referral offers than the Platinum cards (usually 15k/referral).

Always tough to value AMEX Platinum cards — there’s opportunities every year for Platinum specific offers that aren’t guaranteed, but seem to happen every year in some form. For example, I don’t think the $200 hotel benefit is that great, but there’s also a $150 off $800 offer FHR/HC offer that stacks. You can get a really nice hotel stay for $450 plus the FHR benefits. And of course there’s opportunities for big retention offers (60k+ offers), 20k POT offers, AMEX offer spend bonuses, etc.

Josh

People want to bash on Amex Plat for being a “coupon” card, but realistically it has saved me enough to offset the annual fee.
Plus Amex is constantly adding more benefits, while it may be useless for some but it’s certainly a lot better than nothing vs what they are doing for CSR

Jags

More value =/= a bad thing. Yes, there’s some work involved to extract value but find me any card from any issuer that offers anything remotely close to the value proposition AMEX Platinum offers.

Josh

Agreed! My friend had the Plat and cancelled it then got the CSR, now he’s starting to regret it 🙂

Jim

Great Article Greg. We needed something like this as the cards have so many overlapping benefits. Trying to justify keeping the Amex consumer platinum or the CSR and which mid level cards to keep especially the ones with No AF. This will help but I cannot seem to download it.

Kevin Gibbs

My best combination is the Amex Gold and the CSR. Between the two they cover everything I need!

EricF

I was surprised that you value the vanilla Platinum above the Schwab Platinum (with relationship statement credit) because of better refer-a-friend offers. I’ve seen equal offers on the vanilla and on various other AmEx cards, including the current +4MR from the vanilla which is also available on the personal Gold and on the BBP. Which refer-a-friend offers have you seen which are unique to the vanilla?

Aloha808

Great analysis.

Gene

@ Greg — For AMEX cards, I value freeing up the opportunity to obtain the sign up bonus for a card again in seven years, so I generally start at “drop and can be persuaded to “keep” with a sufficient retention offer. Usually this results in an AMEX card being closed two years after opening, although there are exceptions, such as preferring to keep at least one Plat and one Biz Plat open in the household, and generally keeping our Hilton Aspire and Delta Reserve cards open regardless of retention bonus.

Tyler

True, although the more quickly you close Amex cards, the more likely you are to end up in pop up jail, unable to earn other cards’ sign up bonuses, let alone the same one again.

As someone who has gone in and out of jail for P1 and P2 for a few years (and have been unable to get the consumer platinum since offers got crazy), I’m trying to pay more annual fees if it’s close to breakeven, when in general always trying to cancel to limit extra work for marginal benefit.

JohnB

I think leveraging retention offers can make up for closing a card. If you get 30-40K MR retention offer, I can usually do those in 90 day period without a problem. Amex Platinum benefits have been so easily obtained to offset the AF, I keep justifying it as a keeper. Now CSR, is overpriced with only the Priority Club benefits as a justification for keeping it. But I will close it in the very near future.

Captain Greg

Are you going to do your own evaluation of the new cap one card?

chris

I am interesting in the new X card, I love our CSR but…….with the annual fee going up so much and not other cards offering similar perks its losing its value.

Scott

Let’s everybody relax about the venture x. It hasn’t been launched yet, I haven’t seen anything officially from capitol one about it(only the blogs/advertisers), and we don’t even know the FULL benefits. People are getting so hyped for a card that likely will be decent but not revolutionary.

TimM

Thanks for the post and appreciate the insights.

I have a generic platinum, Schwab platinum, and Amex Gold card. I plan on canceling the generic platinum and Amex gold card in December. This will save me almost 1K in annual fees. I will likely cancel the Schwab card in May 2022. I’ve also received retention offers on the gold card and Schwab card in 2021.

I am switching to a cashback and hotel credit card strategy since most of my travel is family roadtrips (with 2 toddlers) within the U.S. In a few years, as my travel patterns might change I will reevaluate membership rewards to see if they fit into my travel patterns.

NK3

If you received a retention offer on the Gold in 2021, you would have agreed to keep it open for 12 more months. So closing it in December might be an issue.

TimM

I know the date the retention bonus was received and will cancel 1 day after that. I’m not particularly worried about that. Thanks though.

elk

Great post!
I’m trying to decide if to drop the CSR myself and get the X and keep the Amex Plat. I don’t get many of the Plat credits and travel has obviously still been thin.

Last edited 1 year ago by elk