2016: What I Spent (And Received) in Annual Fees


Another year has gone by and more fees have been paid. For the most part, I did just fine in maximizing the value of the annual fees but not as well as I did last year. I’m slipping on my frugality by rationalizing keeping cards open that should be closed.

For sake of nostalgia, let’s start with 2014 when the points game was a lot more appealing.

I miss US Air.

2015 was pretty expensive but very lucrative. capture-22

Not all the cards made the cut for 2016.

Here’s who made it and what I paid:

Not my best work but not the worst either.
Not my best work but not the worst either.

The Ugly

Citi Prestige (-$100, Bad Deal): I had the Citi Gold Checking account which I closed after bungling the choice of what bonus to take, AA or TY. I ended with neither. The checking account reduced the annual fee for the card from $450 to $350. I spent $250 on travel and held onto the card in the hopes of playing three free rounds of golf, a perk that is going away in 2017. In the end, I didn’t book any rounds of golf. I did visit a few AA lounges including the Admirals Club MIA and Admirals Club JFK but I do not use that in calculating whether the card is worth keeping. I am going to book some random golf rounds for next year and see if I can make back the $100 I lost by keeping this card.

The Bad

Chase Ink (-$95, No Choice): I kept my Chase Ink because Chase won’t let me downgrade and I enjoy the category spend for utilities and office spend. If I had a desire to come out of MS retirement, this card would be invaluable. With the 5/24 rule, I have been bullied into keeping this card and paying the fee.

Marriott (-$85, Decent Redemption): The Marriott comes with an $85 annual fee that is not waived the first year. I stayed at the Marriott Grand Cayman for two nights and still came out ahead despite the resort fee.

The Recons

SPG Business (-$95, Necessity): I received 3K SPG points which made keeping this card a no brainer. The card also gave me 2 nights stay to requalify for platinum.

SPG Personal (-$95, Necessity): The annual fee is due this month. I will try recon again. I will keep the card regardless of the outcome because I received 20k SPG points in referrals, though it took an eternity for them to post. Anyone looking to apply for this or the business card, do let me know!

The Business

Amex BRG ($175, Time Will Tell): I paid the annual fee on the Amex BRG in the hopes that I will make up the $175 annual fee by way of category spend. Besides blogging, I run a digital ad agency, crushinIT, where I specialize in helping start-ups, attorneys, and other professionals grow their business. The ad spend counts as 3X. (For those interested in expert services, I do not charge a monthly fee or ridiculous setup fee. It’s all on contingency.)

The Good

Hilton Reserve (-$95, Easy Does It): I’ve been terrible at redeeming these stay certificates effectively but I will certainly be able to get my money’s worth by staying somewhere decent for two weekend nights.

Club Carlsons (-$135) Along with the Office of the President certs, the annual bonus for these cards made them worth keeping. I stayed at great properties in St. Petersburg, Russia, part of my Quest Around The Globe Trip which cost far more than the annual fees.

The Best

IHG (-$49, Too Easy): In my upcoming Year of the Monkey Trip, I am visiting Hong Kong and staying one night at the InterContinental Hong Kong which goes for $350 a night. Enough said.

The Bestest

Amex MB (-$475, Worth It!): For 100k points, $200 in airline credits, Centurion Lounge access which I used in Houston, Vegas, Miami, LGA. Those along with access to Delta SkyClubs all over made the Amex MB an easy swap from the Amex Platinum which has the same benefits minus the Benz logo.


TPOL done good with the annual fees. It wasn’t as great as last year or the year before but in today’s points economy, I’ll take it.




Leave a Reply