Give a little, get a lot: Best credit cards for the annual fee
April 14, 2013
By: Curtis Arnold
With competition heating up in the no-annual-fee credit card market, it's easy to overlook some strong deals among credit cards that charge for membership. Our editorial team found five cards that pay members back with significant discounts, rewards and perks throughout the year.
$: Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
If you consistently spend more than $300 a month on your credit card, you can cover the cost of this card's annual fee with Capital One's "Purchase Eraser." The clever online tool identifies all of your eligible travel purchases over the past 90 days, then lets you convert your reward balance into a statement credit that pays off the item you choose. Because you're earning a predictable 2 miles per dollar on every purchases, it's easy to grow your rewards balance.
In addition, the Venture Card gives you access to Visa Signature's concierge team, standing by to help you track down hot restaurant reservations and event tickets when you're on the road. With roadside assistance and extended warranty program, you can save money on unexpected expenses, even when you're not racking up rewards miles.
Annual fee: $0 Intro fee for the first year, $59 thereafter.
$$: Citi ThankYou Premier Card
Citi ThankYou Premier cardholders can redeem rewards points for merchandise, gift cards, or discounted travel. Despite an annual fee that matches the ticket price for an A-List rock star, signup bonuses and an anniversary bonus points program can give you a great head start on savings. When you register a big ticket purchase with Citi's Price Rewind program, their systems will automatically credit your account if that item's lowest price drops by more than $25 over 30 days.
If you travel to Europe more than once a year, you'll also love Citi's support for chip-and-signature, that destination's preferred smart card technology. That feature can save you the time and cost of setting up a prepaid debit card with EMV support, while offering you extra protection from fraud or theft. Personal concierge services, purchase protection and lost luggage coverage round out the features that can more than make up for this card's annual fee.
Annual fee: $125.00. However, this fee is waived for the first 12 months.
$$$: Ritz-Carlton Rewards Card
If you already love to stay at the Ritz-Carlton, this card can save you a significant amount of cash, compared to typical travel rewards cards. Cardholders enjoy a bonus $100 in hotel credit for every qualifying stay of two nights or longer. If available, you can score three room upgrades per year, along with bonus upgrades from your complimentary year of Gold Elite status.
Away from the hotel, you'll gain free access to a network of participating airport lounges, plus up to $200 in statement credits to cover airline bag check fees. That way, even if you're not staying in a participating hotel as much as you'd like, your card can still help pay for itself during routine travel.
Annual fee: $395
$$$$: The Platinum Card from American Express
This charge card offers a premium lineup of rebates, rewards and services that far outweigh its significant annual fee. Through a partnership with Priority Pass, the The Platinum Card from American Express can get you into more than 600 airport lounges worldwide. Cardmembers also receive reimbursements of up to $200 annually in a statement credit with the airline of your choice to use towards airline baggage fees and other in-flight incidentals.
AmEx's concierges can help you make travel arrangements with preferred airlines, car services, and hotels, ensuring you're not stuck or stranded during important business trips. You can even pay for all or part of your trip with your Membership Rewards balance. Best of all, you can bring family, friends, or clients to exclusive, invitation-only experiences at concerts, film festivals, fashion shows, and sporting events.
Annual fee: $450
$$$$$!: American Express Centurion Card
Most of the millionaires we've known didn't earn their hordes of cash by wasting money. Although you could pay for a decent car with the amount of fees you'll spend on the infamous "black card" over five years, the Centurion's perks and privileges can actually save money for executives and entrepreneurs.
Centurion's elite team of personal assistants can help you build itineraries with complimentary flight, hotel, and rental car upgrades. Personal shoppers will arrange private retail therapy sessions at luxury stores, along with last minute delivery of gifts, clothing, or electronics. Cardholders say it's like expanding your staff for a fraction of the cost of hiring a personal assistant (or, another personal assistant, to be realistic).
Annual fee: $5,000 initiation fee plus $2,500 in annual dues.
BONUS: Savings across the board and across the border
All of the cards on this list share one major, money-saving feature. They all waive foreign transaction fees. Most credit cards charge between 3 and 5 percent of every purchase you make outside the United States. Even if you only travel overseas occasionally, this privilege alone could cover the cost of your annual fee.