Credit cards with annual fees are worth it when they save you more than they cost you, especially if your savings exceed what the best no annual fee credit cards available to you would provide. Paying an annual fee on a credit card can unlock bigger initial rewards bonuses, higher ongoing earning rates, and a variety of additional benefits. But you need to make sure you get your money’s worth and actually use the perks you’re paying extra for. If you don't, a credit card that does not charge annual fees may offer better long-term value.
Times When a Credit Card Annual Fee Is Worth It
When you can spend enough on the card to earn rewards worth more than the annual fee
Rewards can come as cash back, points, or miles, and if you spend enough to earn lots of them, the rewards alone can pay for your annual fee. If your card gives 1.5% back on purchases and the annual fee is $95, for instance, you’ll have to spend about $6,350 annually to break even with ongoing rewards alone.
When the perks your card offers are things you’re going to buy and use anyway
Annual travel credits, airport lounge memberships, TSA Pre-Check application credits, and free hotel nights are a few high-value perks offered by some credit cards. If you were planning to spend money on these things anyway, the annual fee on a credit card might start to seem like a deal.
When it would save you more than the best card with no annual fee
If you crunch the numbers and determine that a card with an annual fee would save you the most money at the end of the day, even considering the fixed yearly cost, then go for it. Just make sure to reevaluate if your spending or payment plans change.
To figure out if a credit card’s annual fee is going to be worth paying, consider how much you spend – overall and in the card’s major rewards categories. Then calculate how much you would earn with each card’s rewards structure. And evaluate the practical value of the card’s other perks – it’s good to be realistic about how often you’ll use them. Finally, subtract the annual fee. The remainder is how much the card could save you, assuming you pay the bill in full every month and avoid finance charges.
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