Premium credit cards usually offer elite travel perks that make just about any avid traveler drool. But those sky-high annual fees? Not so much.
For people who travel often, though, the best premium credit cards can be more than worth the $400-plus fee if you use them right. Here’s how you can decide if those premium credit card perks outweigh the costs.
How to maximize the perks of premium credit cards
Like any annual-fee credit card, premium credit cards essentially pay for themselves if you maximize their rewards and benefits. Here are three ways you can do so effectively.
1. Know all the benefits
Most credit cards advertise their best perks, but they don’t spend much time covering their valuable ancillary benefits.
For example, American Express mentions only briefly that its The Platinum Card® from American Express* gives you access to presale tickets to concerts, shows, and sporting events. Terms apply.
Last year, I took advantage of this perk to buy four tickets to Hamilton on Broadway in New York City at face value. Then, I turned around and sold them on StubHub and made a $1,000 profit.
Of course, you won’t always receive that much value from a benefit. But it does pay to know how to utilize what you have.
2. Plan your travel accordingly
Premium credit cards typically come with airport lounge access, so you’ll want to make sure you arrive at the airport early. Some lounges offer hors d’oeuvres, and others provide you with a full meal, helping you avoid paying for costly airport food.
The best premium credit cards also offer elite status or VIP amenities at certain hotel chains. So, you’ll want to make sure you book your travel in a way that maximizes these extras.
Also, some premium credit cards give you more value if you book your travel through their websites rather than with airlines, hotels, or rental car companies directly. Make sure you know which redemption option gives you the best value.
3. Do the math
As you use your premium credit card, keep track of the value you receive. It’s much easier to justify a high annual fee if you can prove the monetary value of its perks.
At the very least, make sure the rewards you’re earning outweigh the cost of the annual fee. Knowing how rewards points are counted and how much they’re worth can help you maximize their value.
3 premium credit cards available today
Not all premium credit cards are created equal. Each one has a different rewards structure and offers different perks. Review them carefully to make sure you get the most bang for your buck.
Let’s review the main perks of three popular premium credit cards and compare each card’s value to its annual fee.
1. Chase Sapphire Reserve®
The Chase Sapphire Reserve® $450 annual fee is easily covered in the first year by its sign-up bonus.
Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That’s worth $750 if you redeem the points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
Although the card’s sign-up bonus is worth more than its annual fee, you won’t receive one every year. For ongoing rewards, the card offers 3X points on travel and dining .
According to Allianz Travel Insurance, Americans spend, on average, $1,798 on a summer vacation. And the Bureau of Labor Statistics pegs the average household budget for dining out at $3,095 per year.
If we assume only one summer vacation each year, you’ll earn 14,679 points every year just from travel and dining purchases:
($1,798 + $3,095) x 3 points per dollar = 14,679 points
And if you use those points to book travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards, your points are worth 1.5 cents apiece. As a result, your points will be worth $220.19:
14,679 points x $0.015 per point = $220.19
That doesn’t include rewards you earn on non-travel and non-dining purchases. For those, you earn one point per dollar.
For example, say you spend $2,500 per month on non-travel and non-dining purchases — or $30,000 per year. You’ll earn 30,000 points on those purchases, which will be worth $450 if you use them to book travel through Chase:
30,000 points x $0.015 per point = $450
Combined, you’ll earn $670.19 worth of free travel every year. And if you spend more than that, you’ll earn even more value.
Annual travel credit
In addition to standout rewards, the Chase Sapphire Reserve® also gives you an annual travel credit. If you book travel using your card, Chase will automatically reimburse you up to $300 per year.
Between the travel credit and the bonus rewards alone, you’re receiving roughly $520 in value each year.
Global Entry or TSA PreCheck
These programs help you get through security and customs more quickly, and the Chase Sapphire Reserve® offers an application fee credit up to $100, which you can use for either one.
A Global Entry membership lasts five years, so you’re essentially earning $20 per year in value from this benefit.
To make your airport experience less hectic, the card comes with complimentary Priority Pass Select membership. The program includes more than 1,000 lounges worldwide. With unlimited free visits for you, that means you have Prestige membership (worth $399).
While some of the Chase Sapphire Reserve®’s benefits are quantifiable, others might not be so easy to value. For example, you’ll receive the following:
- Special rental car privileges, including discounts from National Car Rental, Avis, and Silvercar
- Special perks when you stay at Luxury Hotel & Resort Collection properties, including room upgrades, complimentary Wi-Fi, and more
- Transfer of points to 11 other loyalty programs, including Marriott, Hyatt, Southwest Airlines, and United Airlines
- Trip protections, including trip cancellation and interruption insurance, travel accident insurance, and lost luggage reimbursement
All things considered, you’ll receive at least the following value every year from the card:
- Bonus rewards: $220
- Annual travel credit: $300
- Global Entry: $20
- Priority Pass Select membership: $399
Combined, these perks are worth $939 every year — more than double the card’s $450 annual fee. Of course, you have to utilize the airport lounges to get value out of that membership. But even without it, you’ll receive more value than what you’re paying.
The information related to Chase Sapphire Reserve® has been collected by Student Loan Hero and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card prior to publication. Terms apply.
2. The Platinum Card® from American Express
The Platinum Card® from American Express isn’t heavy on rewards. But it stands out, even among the best premium credit cards, for its elite benefits.
The card’s $550 annual fee is high, but it’s easy to gain that value back if you travel even just a few times each year.
What’s more, the sign-up bonus is enough to cover the annual fee in the first year. You’ll earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you use your new Card to make $5,000 in purchases in your first 3 months. . Although point values vary depending on how you use them, the sign-up bonus is worth up to $600.
Airline fee credit
Every year, The Platinum Card® from American Express lets you earn up to $200 in airline incidental fee credits. You can use them for things like checked bags and in-flight meals.
However, there’s a catch: You can use the credits on only one airline, and you can choose your airline only once per year. But if you’re loyal to one airline, these credits should be easy to use up.
The Platinum Card® from American Express lets you earn 5X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel and 5X Membership Rewards points on prepaid hotels booked on amextravel.com.
For example, let’s assume the flight and hotel make up at least 50 percent of the average vacation. That’s $899 per year based on the Allianz Travel Insurance estimate. If you book through American Express Travel, you’ll earn 4,495 points on those bookings:
$899 x 5 points per dollar = 4,495 points
That’s $44.95 worth of points every year, on average, from the card’s bonus rewards alone.
Airport lounge access
Many of the best premium credit cards offer access to Priority Pass Select lounges. The Platinum Card® from American Express takes it a step further, though, offering you more options.
For starters, you’ll receive Priority Pass Select Prestige membership (worth $399). You also can bring two free guests every time you visit one of the lounges. And you’ll have access to The Centurion Lounge network and Delta Sky Club lounges if you fly Delta.
To enter a Centurion Lounge without The Platinum Card® from American Express, you’ll need another American Express credit card and will have to pay $50 per visit. A single-visit pass to a Delta Sky Club lounge is $59.
Unlike the Priority Pass Select membership, it can be hard to assess the value of access to these other lounges. But the more you travel, the more value you’ll receive.
Global Entry or TSA PreCheck
Like the Chase Sapphire Reserve®, The Platinum Card® from American Express offers a statement credit up to $100 for your Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application. Assuming you choose Global Entry to get both options, that’s worth $20 per year.
With The Platinum Card® from American Express, you’ll receive complimentary unlimited access to more than 1 million Boingo Wi-Fi hot spots worldwide.
Boingo doesn’t have a comparable membership level, but its Boingo Global membership, which gives you 2,000 minutes per month, is worth $39 per month. So this benefit is worth at least $468 per year.
You’ll also receive complimentary membership in premium car rental programs, which will give you special discounts and upgrades.
Other benefits that aren’t easily quantifiable include the following:
- Complimentary benefits when you book a stay at Fine Hotel & Resorts properties
- Upgrades and hotel credits when you stay at The Hotel Collection properties
- Custom itineraries and recommendations through the Platinum Travel service
- Presale tickets to concerts, shows, sporting events, and more
- Annual value
Although you can’t place a monetary value on all The Platinum Card® from American Express’s perks, you can do so on the following:
- Airline fee credit: $200
- Uber credit: $200
- Bonus rewards: $44.95
- Airport lounge access: $399-plus
- Global Entry: $20
- Boingo Wi-Fi: $468-plus
Combined, those benefits are worth at least $1,466.80 annually. Of course, the value you get out of those perks will depend on how often you use them.
*The information related to The Platinum Card® from American Express has been collected by Student Loan Hero and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card prior to publication. Terms apply.
3. U.S. Bank Altitude Reserve Visa Infinite Card
This card is no longer available.
Should you apply for a premium credit card?
The best premium credit cards offer perks that are worth far more than their annual fees. If you travel at least a few times each year, you’ll likely get more value out of them than what you’re paying.
In the end, though, it depends on how you value the perks. For example, if you don’t care about airport lounges and are fine hanging out near the gate, that benefit isn’t worth much to you.
As you research premium credit cards, tally up the value of the perks you might use to ensure that you get the most bang for your buck. If you apply for one, continue to track that value over the years to make sure you’re getting enough value to make the card worth it.
Interested in refinancing student loans?Here are the top 7 lenders of 2019!
|Lender||Variable APR||Eligible Degrees|
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1 Important Disclosures for Earnest.
To qualify, you must be a U.S. citizen or possess a 10-year (non-conditional) Permanent Resident Card, reside in a state Earnest lends in, and satisfy our minimum eligibility criteria. You may find more information on loan eligibility here: https://www.earnest.com/eligibility. Not all applicants will be approved for a loan, and not all applicants will qualify for the lowest rate. Approval and interest rate depend on the review of a complete application.
Earnest fixed rate loan rates range from 3.45% APR (with Auto Pay) to 7.49% APR (with Auto Pay). Variable rate loan rates range from 2.14% APR (with Auto Pay) to 6.79% APR (with Auto Pay). For variable rate loans, although the interest rate will vary after you are approved, the interest rate will never exceed 8.95% for loan terms 10 years or less. For loan terms of 10 years to 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 9.95%. For loan terms over 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 11.95% (the maximum rates for these loans). Earnest variable interest rate loans are based on a publicly available index, the one month London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR). Your rate will be calculated each month by adding a margin between 1.82% and 5.50% to the one month LIBOR. The rate will not increase more than once per month. Earnest rate ranges are current as of September 6, 2019, and are subject to change based on market conditions and borrower eligibility.
Auto Pay discount: If you make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic, monthly deduction from a savings or checking account, your rate will be reduced by one quarter of one percent (0.25%) for so long as you continue to make automatic, electronic monthly payments. This benefit is suspended during periods of deferment and forbearance.
The information provided on this page is updated as of 09/06/2019. Earnest reserves the right to change, pause, or terminate product offerings at any time without notice. Earnest loans are originated by Earnest Operations LLC. California Finance Lender License 6054788. NMLS # 1204917. Earnest Operations LLC is located at 302 2nd Street, Suite 401N, San Francisco, CA 94107. Terms and Conditions apply. Visit https://www.earnest.com/terms-of-service, email us at email@example.com, or call 888-601-2801 for more information on our student loan refinance product.
© 2018 Earnest LLC. All rights reserved. Earnest LLC and its subsidiaries, including Earnest Operations LLC, are not sponsored by or agencies of the United States of America.
2 Important Disclosures for SoFi.
3 Important Disclosures for Laurel Road.
Laurel Road Disclosures
However, if the borrower chooses to make monthly payments automatically by electronic funds transfer (EFT) from a bank account, the fixed rate will decrease by 0.25%, and will increase back up to the regular fixed interest rate described in the preceding paragraph if the borrower stops making (or we stop accepting) monthly payments automatically by EFT from the designated borrower’s bank account.
However, if the borrower chooses to make monthly payments automatically by electronic funds transfer (EFT) from a bank account, the variable rate will decrease by 0.25%, and will increase back up to the regular variable interest rate described in the preceding paragraph if the borrower stops making (or we stop accepting) monthly payments automatically by EFT from the designated borrower’s bank account.
All credit products are subject to credit approval.
Laurel Road began originating student loans in 2013 and has since helped thousands of professionals with undergraduate and postgraduate degrees consolidate and refinance more than $4 billion in federal and private school loans. Laurel Road also offers a suite of online graduate school loan products and personal loans that help simplify lending through customized technology and personalized service. In April 2019, Laurel Road was acquired by KeyBank, one of the nation’s largest bank-based financial services companies. Laurel Road is a brand of KeyBank National Association offering online lending products in all 50 U.S. states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico. All loans are provided by KeyBank National Association, a nationally chartered bank. Member FDIC. For more information, visit www.laurelroad.com.
4 Important Disclosures for Splash Financial.
Splash Financial Disclosures
Terms and Conditions apply. Splash reserves the right to modify or discontinue products and benefits at any time without notice. Rates and terms are also subject to change at any time without notice. Offers are subject to credit approval. To qualify, a borrower must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident in an eligible state and meet applicable underwriting requirements. Not all borrowers receive the lowest rate. Lowest rates are reserved for the highest qualified borrowers.
5 Important Disclosures for CommonBond.
Offered terms are subject to change. Loans are offered by CommonBond Lending, LLC (NMLS # 1175900). If you are approved for a loan, the interest rate offered will depend on your credit profile, your application, the loan term selected and will be within the ranges of rates shown. All Annual Percentage Rates (APRs) displayed assume borrowers enroll in auto pay and account for the 0.25% reduction in interest rate. All variable rates are based on a 1-month LIBOR assumption of 2.19% effective August 10, 2019.
6 Important Disclosures for LendKey.
Refinancing via LendKey.com is only available for applicants with qualified private education loans from an eligible institution. Loans that were used for exam preparation classes, including, but not limited to, loans for LSAT, MCAT, GMAT, and GRE preparation, are not eligible for refinancing with a lender via LendKey.com. If you currently have any of these exam preparation loans, you should not include them in an application to refinance your student loans on this website. Applicants must be either U.S. citizens or Permanent Residents in an eligible state to qualify for a loan. Certain membership requirements (including the opening of a share account and any applicable association fees in connection with membership) may apply in the event that an applicant wishes to accept a loan offer from a credit union lender. Lenders participating on LendKey.com reserve the right to modify or discontinue the products, terms, and benefits offered on this website at any time without notice. LendKey Technologies, Inc. is not affiliated with, nor does it endorse, any educational institution.
7 Important Disclosures for College Ave.
College Ave Disclosures
College Ave Student Loans products are made available through either Firstrust Bank, member FDIC or M.Y. Safra Bank, FSB, member FDIC. All loans are subject to individual approval and adherence to underwriting guidelines. Program restrictions, other terms, and conditions apply.
1College Ave Refi Education loans are not currently available to residents of Maine.
2All rates shown include autopay discount. The 0.25% auto-pay interest rate reduction applies as long as a valid bank account is designated for required monthly payments. Variable rates may increase after consummation.
3$5,000 is the minimum requirement to refinance. The maximum loan amount is $300,000 for those with medical, dental, pharmacy or veterinary doctorate degrees, and $150,000 for all other undergraduate or graduate degrees.
4This informational repayment example uses typical loan terms for a refi borrower with a Full Principal & Interest Repayment and a 10-year repayment term, has a $40,000 loan and a 5.5% Annual Percentage Rate (“APR”): 120 monthly payments of $434.11 while in the repayment period, for a total amount of payments of $52,092.61. Loans will never have a full principal and interest monthly payment of less than $50. Your actual rates and repayment terms may vary.
Information advertised valid as of 08/01/2019. Variable interest rates may increase after consummation.
|2.14% – 6.79%1||Undergrad & Graduate|
|2.14% – 7.84%2||Undergrad & Graduate|
|2.43% – 6.65%3||Undergrad & Graduate|
|2.43% – 7.60%4||Undergrad & Graduate|
|2.14% – 8.01%5||Undergrad & Graduate|
|2.06% – 8.93%6||Undergrad & Graduate|
|2.74% – 7.24%7||Undergrad & Graduate|