With Amex increasing the annual fee on their personal Platinum card from $550 to $695, they’ve raised the stakes. It was already a bad idea to keep paying the Platinum card annual fee if you didn’t get good value from the card’s perks. Now, it’s a really bad idea.
There’s no question that the Platinum card’s incredible welcome bonus is worth pursuing (125K plus 15x rewards! Whaaaaat?!!!). The question is whether to keep the card in year 2 and beyond. The Platinum card may be uniquely expensive, but it’s not alone in fitting this pattern: Many premium cards are worth signing up for because they have great welcome bonuses. The question in each case is whether the cards are worth keeping past the first year. When the second year annual fee comes due, should you keep or cancel?
Premium and ultra-premium cards typically offer terrific benefits in exchange for high fees ($95 to $695 per year). Sometimes the value of the benefits far outweigh those fees, but not always.
Do the card’s benefits outweigh the annual fee? Everyone will have a different answer. Each person should conservatively estimate the value of each benefit to them to figure this out. I recommend trying to estimate how much you’d be willing to pay for each feature if it was available stand-alone as a subscription. For example, if a card offers free checked bags, you could save hundreds of dollars if you use that benefit often enough. But how much would you pay in advance for an annual subscription to get free checked bags? That answer should be substantially lower than the amount that you think you’ll save. Otherwise, why prepay for that benefit?
To help you come up with your own estimates, 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). Click here to open the spreadsheet.
The spreadsheet currently includes general estimates of how much each major card benefit may be worth, along with my own personal valuation to give you an idea of how I think about each.
To use the spreadsheet, create a copy of it and then overwrite the values in columns D and E on each tab with your own value estimates.
Tips for using the spreadsheet effectively
- Be conservative with your estimates. Enter values that you would pay for a subscription for that benefit rather than the amount you expect to save.
- Don’t double count perks. Once you identify cards that you know that you’ll keep year after year, make sure to consider that when evaluating overlapping benefits on other cards. For example, I know I’ll keep my Ritz card which has a fantastic version of Priority Pass, so I assigned $0 value to every other card that offers Priority Pass.
The Card Roundup
At the time of this writing, the spreadsheet includes the following cards…
|Card Name w Details & Review (no offer)|
|Card Name w Details & Review (no offer)|
|Card Name w Details & Review (no offer)|
My Personal Keepers
Here’s where I landed after analyzing each bank card (for brevity, airline and hotel cards aren’t shown):
As you can see above, I found that my Schwab Platinum card is a keeper and that the Morgan Stanley Platinum card is worth getting. The regular Platinum card and Business Platinum cards are candidates for cancellation. My Amex Gold card is still a keeper and the Business Gold card is still definitely not a keeper. For the first time that I can remember, the Sapphire Reserve card no longer appears to be a keeper for me. If they charge only $450 with the next renewal (as they’ve been doing during COVID), though, then it will be worth keeping another year. And after that, a lot can change.
To understand the above results, I recommend clicking into the spreadsheet to see the details on each tab. While reviewing the details, keep in mind the following dependencies:
- The Ritz card (not shown above) is an obvious no-brainer for me since it offers many perks that I highly value. As a result, other cards that offering duplicative benefits were not valued as highly. For example, I don’t value getting Priority Pass from any of the other cards since this one gives me Priority Pass with unlimited guests.
- I currently have multiple versions of Platinum cards: regular consumer Platinum, Schwab Platinum, and Business Platinum. After analyzing these cards, I decided that the Schwab Platinum was the most likely keeper this coming year, so I zeroed out the duplicate benefits on the other Platinum card tabs whenever there’s no value in having the benefit twice. For example, there’s no advantage to having two multiple cards that offer Emergency medical evacuation, so I only assigned value to that feature for the Schwab card. Then, even without these duplicative features, I found that the Morgan Stanley Platinum card is probably the best fit for me. So, once I get that card, I’ll redo the analyses with the Morgan Stanley card as the primary one that gets assigned the value of duplicative benefits.
Also keep in mind:
- I’ve gotten very good at getting full value from credit card travel credits, so my net cost on many of these cards is far less than it appears.
Update 7/6/21 Version 4.0: Updated consumer Platinum cards with new perks and new annual fee. Added Schwab and Morgan Stanley Platinum cards on their own tabs. Updated business Platinum card with new perks. Updated Gold card to clarify a few perks.
Updates to Versions 3.5.1 to 3.5.6: Added Citi Premier card. Added Citigold rebate for AA Exec cards. Added Uber Eats benefits to Gold, Platinum, and Green cards. Removed Roadside assistance from Hilton Aspire. Added Emergency Evacuation to Hilton Aspire, Bonvoy Brilliant, Delta Reserve, Delta Reserve Business. Removed Gogo benefit from Amex Business Platinum (benefit ended in 2020)
UPDATE 10/25/2020 Version 3.5: Added Chase’s Pay Yourself Back feature. Added Refer-A-Friend to all Amex cards. Added a placeholder for an expected new Amex Gold feature. Changed many of the recommended valuations. Changed how I value Sapphire Reserve 1.5 cents per point redemptions.
UPDATE 5/18/2020 Version 3.4: Changed name to “Premium Cards” (previously “Ultra-Premium Cards”). Updated screenshots in this post.
UPDATE 2/2020 Version 3.3: Worksheet only changes. Added Sapphire Preferred. Added row in Sapphire Reserve for valuing ability to transfer to partners.
UPDATE 1/9/2020 Version 3.2: I added recent changes to the Sapphire Reserve. The annual fee goes up to $550 and they add Lyft and DoorDash benefits.
UPDATE 11/4/2019 Version 3.1: That was fast! I last published this post 5 days ago with Version 3.0 of the spreadsheet. Since then, we learned of the CNB card’s massive devaluation (click here for details). So, I’ve updated the spreadsheet to version 3.1 with the new CNB info. Personally, this meant that the CNB card is no longer a keeper for me. As a result, my valuations of other cards increased. I’ll now be leaning on my US Bank Altitude Reserve card for free in-flight Gogo passes. And I’ll switch to my Ritz card for Priority Pass and for the Discount Air Benefit.
UPDATE 10/30/2019 Version 3.0:
I last published version 2.0 of the ultra-premium card analysis spreadsheet in February, but things have already changed enough to warrant an update. One critical change was Citi dropping their purchase and travel protections. If you thought the Citi Prestige was worth keeping before, you might want to take a second look. Personally, I’ve retreated back to my Sapphire Reserve card for most travel purchases.
Another motivation for version 3 was the announcement about huge changes coming to Delta Amex cards. The version 3 spreadsheet includes all Amex Delta features and annual fees that kick in on Jan 30 2020. The previous version only included Delta Reserve cards, but the new spreadsheet includes the Delta Platinum cards as well.
Finally, the introduction of the Amex Green card was another motivator. I decided to include the $150 Green card in the Ultra-Premium analysis since its features seem targeted directly at the Sapphire Reserve card (see my analysis of the new card here). A number of people have told me that they are considering the Green card not as a replacement to the Sapphire Reserve, but as an add-on to their card collections. That’s counter-intuitive to me. In my mind the only exciting feature of the Green card is the $100 annual CLEAR rebate. Why would you pay $150 per year for a $100 feature? By adding the Green card to the spreadsheet, it is easier to make rational decisions about whether or not the Green card is a keeper.