If you know me, you know I appreciate The Art And Science Of Rewards Credit Card Churning and the value it produces when done well. But having been asked a few times recently, I wanted to take a brief moment to advocate for the cards I have kept (or plan to keep) despite their annual fees; one of the biggest scare-factors of credit cards for novice users. Today, I’ll tell you about three of the credit cards I keep, how I justify the fees each year, and why you should consider one or more of them.

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Card The American Express Platinum Card
Annual Fee $550
Welcome Offer 60,000 points worth $1,200 in travel
Perks 10% back on travel*, $200 airline credit, $200 Uber credit, fee credit for Global Entry or TSA PRE✓, Boingo Internet Preferred Plan, airport lounge access including Centurion, Priority Pass & Delta SkyClubs, Gold Status with Hilton, SPG (Sheraton, Westin, etc.) and Marriott, and status with Avis, Hertz and National.

*Awarded as 5x points (valued at 2 cents each) for every dollar spent directly with an airline, or on hotels via amextravel.com

Why Keep It? Assuming you spend $200 with airlines (gift cards included) and Uber (or UberEATS) already, the card really only costs you $150/year. If you travel several times a year or more, this is a no-brainer. The 10% back on travel (advertised as 5x back) may even allow you to more than cover the remaining cost of your annual fee if you spend over $1,500 traveling (this includes reimbursable work travel). And once you’re in travel mode, you’ll enjoy access to over 1,000 airport lounges and status with several hotels and rental car companies. The lounges provide a quiet, clean area to enjoy a complimentary cocktail and snack before your flight, and the status you carry with the card will increase your chances of receiving complimentary upgraded vehicles, hotel rooms and even executive hotel lounge access.

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Card The Hyatt Credit Card
Annual Fee $75
Welcome Offer 2 free nights at any Hyatt hotel or resort worldwide
Perks 3.6% back at restaurants*, 1 free night every year after your cardmember anniversary at any Category 1-4 hotel or resort, Discoverist status.

*Awarded as 2x points (valued at 1.8 cents each) for every dollar spent at restaurants.

Why Keep It? The best time to apply for this card is when you’re planning a vacation near a luxury Hyatt property since your sign up bonus of two free nights is good at any property! After the first year, the card essentially provides you with an annual hotel night for only $75 at properties that would easily cost you 5X that amount. The card also gives you Discoverist status (2nd of a 4-level membership) which will comp premium internet, a bottle of water, resort fees on free night awards and may even get you upgraded to a preferred room if there’s availability.

Card IHG Rewards Club Select Credit Card
Annual Fee $49 (waived for the first year)
Welcome Offer 60,000 points worth $420 in travel
Perks 1 free night at any property every year after your cardmember anniversary, Platinum Elite status.

Why Keep It? This card is a diamond in the rough when it comes to hotel cards. Not only is the annual fee reasonable, it rewards you with a free stay each year. The Platinum Elite status that it carries guarantees you room availability and an upgrade upon arrival. My favorite brands within IHG are Holiday Inn Express, Crowne Plaza and Staybridge. Each offers competitive room rates, and amenities ranging from complimentary hot breakfasts to full apartments.

Why Keep Them?

My wife and I each have the Hyatt and IHG cards and have historically used the free nights for a weekend getaway on her birthday, or to offset the cost of a lengthier vacation. As any good financial stewards would, we budget for annual travel costs; and paying $248 ($75 + $75 +$49 +$49) is well worth the four hotel nights we receive that can be used anywhere in the world. Though we’ve had these two cards for nearly four years, we’ve only recently added the Platinum card to our wallet after AMEX Announced Major Changes to it last March. In my opinion, the AMEX Platinum card is now the best luxury travel card out there, and with our typical spend nearly offsetting the annual fee, I don’t see it leaving our wallet anytime soon with all of the perks it offers.

Shameless Referral Plug. If I’ve convinced you to do so, apply for the Platinum card with this link and we can both get rewarded if you’re approved!