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The recent launch of the new Chase Sapphire Reserve card has created a buzz among travelers across the U.S. with its offering of a signup bonus of 50,000 Ultimate Rewards points after you qualify for the card and spend $4,000 within the first 3 months of account opening.
While the card has a stack of great benefits for travelers, the $450 annual fee has some Cards for Travel readers asking, “How do I decide which high-end credit card is right for me—especially if I don’t want to carry multiple cards with annual fees of $400 or more?”
It’s true. There are an increasing number of high-end cards out there with great travel benefits like the Platinum Card from our partner American Express and the Business Platinum® Card from American Express , the Citi Prestige Card, the Citi AAdvantage Executive World Elite MasterCard, and the United Mileage Plus Club Card.
So how do you decide which of these cards is right for you? The best credit cards for travel will always be the ones that are going to help you achieve your travel goal.
Here are three questions you should ask yourself when trying to decide which high-end card works for you:
1. Will you make enough use of the travel benefits to outweigh the annual fees that you’ll pay?
Look at the list of benefits that each card provides. While all of the benefits sound great, make a tally of which benefits you’ll actually be able to use. Here’s some things to consider: How will you use the airline travel credit? Do you already have Global Entry, or will you be able to make use of the $100 application credit? Do you often rent cars to take advantage of the insurance coverage and car rental discounts provided by the Chase Sapphire Reserve? Or is a 4th night hotel stay credit offered by the Citi Prestige a more valuable benefit to you? If the value of the benefits you’ll actually be able to use outweighs the annual fee, then the card pays for itself.
2. What types of lounges do you frequent?
Both the Citi AAdvantage Executive card and the Chase United Mileage Plus Club card grant cardholders memberships in the club lounges of their respective airlines. If you’re an avid flyer on one of these two carriers (especially domestic), this might be a very important benefit for you.
The Sapphire Reserve, Citi Prestige, and Amex Platinum cards all offer access to Priority Pass lounges around the world. This is a handy perk for international flyers frequenting different airports on a number of carriers.
The Citi Prestige also currently offers access to American’s Admirals Club lounges (but this benefit is going away in 2017), and the American Express Platinum card gets you and a guest into Centurion Club lounges (which are some of the nicest lounges in the U.S. in our opinion).
With airline club memberships costing several hundreds of dollars annually, and a single lounge visit running $50 at most airports, if you pick a card that gives you lounge benefits you’ll make use of, the card will quickly pay for itself.
3. Are flexible points more important to you than points in a specific airline program?
Consider what points and miles are most important to your travel plans. Do you want to earn points in a specific airline program, or do you want to earn points in a flexible program that allows you to purchase any ticket or transfer points to a travel partner for redemptions?
If you’re trying to decide between flexible reward cards, spend some time looking at the partners and the rate at which the points transfer (you’re looking for a 1:1 transfer whenever possible).
Now, put it all together!
Once you’re able to answer all of these questions, you should get an idea of which cards come out on top for you! You may even be surprised to find out that you’re willing to pay the annual fee on more than one high-end card, as the signup bonuses, airline credits, lounge memberships and other travel benefits often pay for themselves!
Of course, if you’re aren’t ready for the investment of a high end card like the Chase Sapphire Reserve or the American Express Platinum, check out a card like the Chase Sapphire Preferred that offers solid travel benefits at the expense of a much lower annual fee.