This past week, I spent a bit of time going through my credit cards and taking a pulse on my upcoming annual fees. To my surprise, I pay more than $3,000 in annual fees per year at face value, without accounting for airline credits or other ancillary benefits. At the onset of 2019, I set out to curb the amount of annual fees I pay, and so far I have not done a good job.
In particular, I carry a lot of hotel cards with annual fees and annual “free” night benefits. Of my 16 active cards, 7 of them are for hotels! And I am paying a fee on all of them.
To summarize, here is what’s in my wallet:
- Chase Hyatt Card
- $75 fee
- Annual free night for category 1-4
- Chase IHG Card
- $49 fee
- Annual free night up to 40,000 points
- Chase Marriott Bonvoy Premier Plus Business Card
- $99 fee
- Annual free night up to 35,000 points
- American Express Bonvoy Brilliant Card (I hold two of these)
- $450 fee
- Annual free night up to 50,000 points
- American Express Hilton Honors Aspire Card
- $450 fee
- Annual free weekend night at any hotel
- American Express Hilton Honor Surpass Card
- $95 fee
Looking at this list, my annual fees look outrageous. That’s $1,668 on hotel credit card annual fees. Sure, that $1,688 gets me 6 nights in hotels, but it feels high considering the amount of difficulty it takes to squeeze value out of these cards. In particular, the Chase IHG and Hyatt cards no longer provide much value considering the devaluation of hotel categories and card benefits. I will likely cancel both at renewal.
As for the Marriott cards, I do see myself holding onto at least one of the Amex Bonvoy Brilliant cards since I generally stay at Marriott hotels for work travel. But I am seeing less value in the Chase business card simply because the peak vs off-peak pricing will kick in and largely crush the value of a 35,000 night point stay.
As for the Hilton cards, I will cancel both of these at renewal. I never get excited for a stay in a Hilton, even if it’s a high-end hotel. They just don’t have the same level of service as Marriott. Additionally, the airline credits on the Aspire card are getting harder and harder to use due to Amex shutting down the gift card route. I don’t vacation at Hilton resort properties either, so I feel I am paying too much at $450 just for an annual free weekend night.
In short, Marriott is the only chain I frequent with any sort of regularity. The Bonvoy program is not great and leaves much to be desired, but Marriott properties still excite me, quite unlike the Hilton portfolio. Based on my calculations, it will be an easy $1,200+ back in my wallet for not much net loss in status and benefits. In fact, it’s probably a net gain for me since I can deploy $1,200 on any hotel I choose, without the stress of finding award availability for my travel dates.