We devote thousands of hours of research to help you get Big Travel with Small Money. You support us by signing-up for credit cards through partner links which earn us a commission. Here’s our full Advertising Policy.
Update: One or more card offers in this post are no longer available. Check our Hot Deals for the latest offers.
Lots of miles & points earning credit cards come with annual fees. Some waive the fee the first year and some do not. It can be hard to decide which cards are worth paying the annual fee and which aren’t!
So I’ve compiled a list of the top 10 cards that are worth the annual fee for most folks, when you take into account the sign-up bonus and ongoing bonuses and perks.
I’ll explain why I think it’s worth paying the annual fee for cards like the Chase Sapphire Reserve, Citi Prestige Card, AMEX Business Platinum, and Chase IHG card, at least for the first year. And sometimes for the second year and beyond!
The Best Credit Card Rewards Cards That Are Worth Their Annual Fee
1. Chase Sapphire Reserve
Link: Chase Sapphire Reserve
With the Chase Sapphire Reserve card, you’ll earn 100,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months after opening your account. That’s the highest public sign-up bonus I’ve ever seen on a card that earns Chase Ultimate Rewards points!
The sign-up bonus alone is worth $1,500 in travel when you redeem through the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal. And possibly more if you transfer points to airline and hotel partners like Hyatt or Southwest.
So paying a $450 that is NOT waived the first year makes sense for most folks. Especially when you consider the card’s other perks like the $300 annual credit for travel purchases like airfare and hotels and the $100 statement credit for Global Entry.
In my full review of the card, I explain why the Sapphire Reserve is a great card for folks looking to earn Big Travel. And here’s why I think the Sapphire Reserve’s annual fee is worth it!
2. Chase Sapphire Preferred
You’ll earn 50,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months of opening your Sapphire Preferred card. That’s worth $625 in travel when you redeem through the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal.
The annual fee is $0 for the first year, then $95. This makes it easy to evaluate the card for ~10 months without a fee to see how you like it.
That said, this is 1 of the cards I keep because Chase Ultimate Rewards points are my favorite kind of points! And it’s the top card I recommend if you’re new to miles and points.
3. AMEX Business Platinum
Through January 25, 2017, the sign-up bonus on The Business Platinum® Card from American Express OPEN is up to 100,000 bonus AMEX Membership Rewards points after meeting tiered minimum spending requirements.
Plus, folks with the AMEX Business Platinum card will now effectively get 2 cents per point when using Pay With Points for ticket purchases through the AMEX travel portal. Which makes the sign-up bonus worth $2,000 in paid airfare!
So the $450 annual fee that is NOT waived the first year is definitely worthwhile. Because you can get LOTS of Big Travel with the sign-up bonus alone. Along with perks like $200 in statement credits per calendar year for airline incidentals with your selected airline and access to airport lounges.
Here’s my full review of the card. And why you might keep the AMEX Business Platinum beyond the first year.
4. Chase Ink Plus
Link: Chase Ink Plus
With the Ink Plus card, you’ll earn 60,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points after spending $5,000 on purchases within 3 months of opening your account.
The $95 annual fee is NOT waived the first year. But it’s still worth it, because 60,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points is worth at least $750 in travel when redeemed through Chase’s travel portal. Or more if you have the Chase Sapphire Reserve card!
Plus, you’ll earn 5X Chase Ultimate Rewards points in popular bonus categories like office supply stores and cell phone bills, on up to $50,000 in combined spending per cardmember year.
60,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points is enough for 2 coach round-trip award tickets to anywhere in the mainland US and Canada on United Airlines. Or 2 nights at a top-tier Hyatt, like the Park Hyatt Paris-Vendome!
5. Citi Prestige
Link: Citi Prestige
You can earn 40,000 Citi ThankYou points after spending $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening with the Citi Prestige card.
The $450 annual fee is NOT waived for the first year, but it’s worth it, because through July 23, 2017, you can use use Citi ThankYou points to purchase tickets at a rate of 1.6 cents per point on American Airlines. Which makes the sign-up bonus from the Citi Prestige worth $640 in American Airlines flights.
That’s in addition to benefits like the $250 statement credit for airline fees including airfare and baggage fees you get each calendar year, the $100 statement credit you’ll get for Global Entry application fee, and more!
You can read my full review of the card here. And my post about whether it’s worth keeping the Citi Prestige after the 1st year.
6. Chase Southwest Cards
The Southwest Premier and Southwest Plus cards currently offer 40,000 Southwest points after meeting minimum spending requirements. And with the small business version of the Southwest Premier card, you can earn 50,000 Southwest points after meeting the card’s minimum spending requirements.
None of the annual fees for these cards are waived the first year. But the sign-up bonuses from the Chase Southwest Premier (personal and small business) and Chase Southwest Plus cards count toward the total 110,000 point requirement for the Southwest Companion Pass. So it’s worth paying the annual fee!
Plus, Southwest points are worth ~1.43 cents each, making the sign-up bonuses from these cards worth ~$572 (40,000 points X 1.43 cents) or ~$715 (50,000 points X 1.43 cents) toward Southwest flights.
7. Chase IHG
The current offer for the Chase IHG card is 60,000 IHG points after spending $1,000 in the first three months.
The $49 IS waived the first year, but this card is worth keeping even after the first year because it comes with great perks. Like a free night on your card anniversary, which you can use at ANY IHG hotel in the world!
8. Chase Ritz-Carlton
Even though the $450 annual fee on the Chase Ritz-Carlton card is NOT waived the first year, this card can be worth it for most folks because you’ll earn 3 complimentary nights at any participating Tier 1-4 Ritz-Carlton hotel after meeting minimum spending requirements. Plus a $300 annual travel credit for things like seat upgrades and baggage fees that helps to offset the card’s annual fee.
You can also get $100 off certain domestic flights an unlimited number of times. The savings there can really add up!
9. Chase Hyatt
Link: Chase Hyatt
If you use these free night certificates for luxury hotels like the Park Hyatt Tokyo, it can certainly be worth paying the $75 annual fee for this card. Because, for example, I found rooms at the Park Hyatt Tokyo in April 2017, for ~$529 per night. Using your free night certificates here would save you over $1,000!
10. Citi Hilton Reserve
It’s worth paying the $95 annual fee, that’s NOT waived the first year, on this card, because you’ll earn 2 free weekend nights at (almost!) any Hilton hotel after meeting the card’s minimum spending requirements. Plus get a $100 statement credit after you spend $100+ on your first Hilton stay within 6 months of account opening.
You can get a lot of value using your free night certificate at expensive hotels like the Grand Wailea, a Waldorf Astoria Resort in Maui. Where rooms normally cost $575+ per night.
This card also comes Hilton Gold elite status, which gets you free breakfast and upgrades when they’re available. If you stay often with Hilton, that can save you a lot of money!
Here’s my review of the card.
Keep This in Mind Before You Apply!
As you can see, almost ALL of the cards on this list are Chase cards. So it’s important to remember Chase’s stricter approval rules when deciding which cards to apply for. You likely won’t be approved for a Chase card if you’ve opened 5+ cards from ANY bank in the past 24 months (except these cards).
American Express only allows folks to get the sign-up bonus ONCE per person, per lifetime on ALL their cards. But personal and small business versions of the same card are considered different card products.
And Citi has new restrictions for earning the sign-up bonus from more than one card of the same “brand” within 24 months.