Should you keep that credit card or not?

As many of you who read this blog know my wife and I have over 25 credit cards to our names. In some, she is the primary user and in some I am. We have accumulated all these cards because of their sign-up bonuses and various benefits like free checked baggage, access to lounges, elite status, etc. But, every little while it is a good idea to think about if you should keep a card in your wallet (or folio, in our case) or cut it free. In fact, The Points Guy has great posts on checking your credit card inventory once in a while.

The biggest question for me in keeping or cancelling a care is if I am getting a benefit that outweighs the annual fee every year. The easiest examples of “keepers” to me are cards for airlines I or my wife use frequently. For example, we have a United Mileage Plus Explorer card and an AAdvantage Aviator Red Card, each with a $95 annual fee, but we keep them year after year because we get benefits of free checked bags (a $25 benefit each flight per bag) and boarding status (we get to come on the plane earlier and make sure our carry-ons fit in the overhead compartment). As long as we have at least four bag-checks on each airline, it is worth it to keep those cards.

Other cards come with anniversary bonuses. The Amtrak Guest Rewards World card provides an annual Companion pass that, if used correctly, can offset its $79 annual fee. My wife and I travel to Providence, RI frequently enough that a round-trip train ticket + companion makes that doable. The JetBlue Plus Card has a fee of $99 but gives free checked bags and 5,000 points after every account anniversary.

Some cards come with status and not necessarily other benefits you might use. The AMEX Hilton HHonors Surpass card has a $75 annual fee but comes with Gold status at all Hilton-connected hotels. That has given me free room upgrades and free breakfast in at least three situations, totally that much money or more. Additionally, I have earned more points than usual, making it more possible to have a free night sooner. Basically, it does end up paying for itself.

It’s really the big, expensive cards that make me seriously think whether or not it’s worth it to keep them. I currently have a Citi Prestige card, which I got in December 2015 when the sign-up bonus was 50,000 ThankYou points. I applied because I knew that while it has a $450 annual fee, each calendar year it comes with a $250 airline credit. So by using it in 2015 to buy a flight and 2016 to buy a flight, I received $500 in credits to offset the fee the first year. Additionally, it also comes with a host of other benefits including access to the Priority Pass network of lounges across the globe, which my wife and I used extensively during our honeymoon. The fee just came up again and I am debating whether or not to keep the card. It is essentially a $200 annual fee card (with the offset airline credit) in order to access a whole host of lounges and potentially free hotel nights as well. I’m not sure what to do with it but I have some time to decide.

So there you have it – my basic analysis of the different types of benefits you can earn. It really is an individual decision whether or not to keep these cards and, as the Points Guy said at a recent workshop I attended, “do the math.”

Getting into the miles and points game

Over the past few months I have begun my journey into the world of frequent flyer miles, travel blogs, points-gathering, and annoying my fiancée in earnest. I have signed up for a few credit cards, referred a few people to them, and am eagerly waiting the time when I can use these points/miles for their intended purpose: near-free travel.

I suppose I really entered this game in January 2014 when I left a conference and was convinced to sign up for the United MileagePlus Club Card by a friend. The card itself was a big bonus over most others in that every purchase provided 1.5 miles per $1 spent. As my friend said, “it adds up faster than you think.” While the $395 annual fee was daunting, there was a one-year fee waiver that I accepted because I signed up at a Chase bank branch near my house.

Since then I’ve accumulated about 110,000 miles with purchases made through the card or through rental agreements, dining out bonuses, and more. I used the card to get one free plane ticket to Toronto with Air Canada but have yet to use its benefit of free first and second luggage check. We currently pay our rent with the card, a service that nets us over 3,000 miles per month due to the large multiplier on standard purchases.

In full disclosure, however, I will be ridding myself of the card in December as the annual fee is not worth it for us now that I have a better understanding of other credit cards I can use.

Since then I have also applied for and received the Chase Sapphire Preferred card, the United MileagePlus Explorer card, the Chase Ink Plus card, and retained my old US Airways Premier World Mastercard. I’ve started learning about credit scores and their tracking through CreditKarma.com and make my Internet purchases through the Chase Ultimate Rewards shopping portal.

I’m so excited to start this blog and share with you stories of travel, transit, and miles/points accumulation from my view. We’ll see what turns up around the corner!