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A premium credit card can make travel easier as airport lounge access, travel statement credits, and elite loyalty status are common benefits. However, deciding which credit card perks are worth a high annual fee can be challenging. Here are several things to help you decide once and for all, “is a premium credit card worth it?”

premium credit card worth it
American Airlines Admirals Club at Toronto YYZ Airport. July 25, 2017. Credit: Johnny Jet

What Is a Premium Credit Card?

A premium credit card typically has an annual fee of $395 or higher. Some consider products with cards in this fee range to be ‘ultra-premium credit cards’ and premium cards to have annual fees above $100.

The lines tend to blur at times as several “semi-premium” cards with annual fees between $125 and $300 have launched recently. It wasn’t too long ago that the American Express® Gold Card was one of the only contenders in this space that offered several perks. However, it didn’t come with nearly as many perks as a traditional premium card like The Platinum Card® from American Express.

For our purposes, we’re focusing on cards with a fee of $395 or higher.

Related: The Best Premium Credit Cards to Use for Rewards

Are They Worth It?

Some of the most popular premium travel credit cards include:

These premier cards have a pricey annual fee but offer many travel benefits. Most of the perks are for air travel, which is easier to maximize due to higher ticket costs. But there are hotel and lifestyle rewards available too.

Related: Are Credit Cards Worth Their Annual Fees? Things To Consider

Note that the invite-only Centurion Card from American Express is one of the most luxurious rewards credit cards. Details are scant as there isn’t a public card benefits page, but some of the reported benefits include airport lounge access, a 50% award flight redemption bonus, and elite travel status.

Related: Most Exclusive Credit Cards for Your Wallet

What Benefits Do Premium Credit Cards Offer?

The precise benefits package differs by card, but you can usually expect a combination of the following:

  • Airport lounge access: Unlimited airport lounge visits for the cardholder and up to two additional guests.
  • Annual travel credits: Eligible travel purchases are reimbursed up to a specific dollar amount each year, such as the first $300 in travel purchases.
  • Dining credits: Statement credits on eligible restaurants, takeout, and food delivery orders.
  • Experiences: Cardholders can be invited to exclusive experiences and partner offers.
  • On-site hotel amenities: Experience credits and complimentary on-site benefits at participating luxury hotels and resorts.
  • Point transfers: These cards are more likely to offer 1:1 point transfers to airlines and hotels. A travel redemption bonus may also be available when booking award trips through the credit card travel portal.
  • Travel insurance: Complimentary travel coverage such as trip cancellation & interruption and primary rental car coverage.

You may also decide if you want to earn a particular credit card point currency, such as American Express Membership Rewards®, Capital One Miles, or Chase Ultimate Rewards® points.

Why Do People Get These Cards?

Is a premium credit card worth it? People apply for premium cards as they offer many travel and lifestyle benefits that are not offered with many of the best travel credit cards that have annual fees of $100 or less. These cards are worth it if you can use the benefits to save more than you currently spend or want luxury travel benefits.

For example, the premium card’s annual fee can be cheaper than paying out of pocket for airport lounge access. Additionally, some networks like The Centurion Lounge are only available to cardholders.

It’s also common for people to apply for premium cards as a status symbol as these cards can require excellent credit and a relatively high household income to afford the monthly payment and annual fee. Many premium products are also metal credit cards, which can make for an excellent conversation starter as well.

Can You Have More Than One Premium Credit Card at a Time?

Yes, you can have multiple premium credit cards simultaneously, which makes it easier to maximize your benefits. For example, you might have the American Express Platinum and Chase Sapphire Reserve at the same time. Both cards are excellent for flying and have different travel partners. You may decide to use the card that offers the best benefits for your purchases.

If you desire to have two cards at once, make sure the benefits don’t overlap too much, or it can be challenging to justify the annual fee for the card used less frequently.

Two common benefits that most premium cards offer are Priority Pass Select lounge access and free Global Entry or TSA Precheck. Each perk is valuable by itself, but the benefits might go untouched.

Which Premium Credit Card is Best?

The best premium credit card generally depends on your spending habits and preferred point redemption options.

For example, an independent card like the Chase Sapphire Reserve or Capital One Venture X Rewards is better if you’re not loyal to a particular airline or hotel. However, a co-brand card is ideal if you want program-specific perks such as free checked bags or hotel elite status.

Here are some of the cards to consider first for certain travel habits:

Consider starting with one card, earning the welcome/signup bonus, and determining which benefits you use the most. Next, compare the other options for a secondary card that offers perks your existing card lacks.

Premium travel credit cards come with a lot of benefits — if you travel a lot. For a frequent traveler, either business or leisure, you can more than make up that annual fee for some of the most well-known luxury travel cards from Chase and American Express by taking advantage of free checked bags, travel insurance, travel credits, lounge passes and more.

Having A Premium Travel Credit Card Worth It Now?

It doesn’t take a genius to recognize that these premium travel credit cards would be a little ridiculous for someone who travels maybe once per year. You just wouldn’t get the value.

It’s all going to come down to a case-by-case (or rather, card-by-card) basis.

Considerations Before Canceling Your Card

Of course, if you look at the benefits your premium travel credit card is offering and don’t feel like you’re getting the annual fees worth from it, there are a few other factors that may play into your decision to cancel or keep your premium travel credit card.

For example, if it’s really important to you that your credit score remains unaffected (here are some of the best places to get a free credit score check), you might not want to close out your card just yet. What you can do instead is a downgrade to a credit card from the same issuer. This allows you to keep your account number and keeps your credit score intact. At the same time, it allows you to dodge the annual fee that you feel isn’t quite worth it.

Related Article: Best No Annual Fee Travel Credit Cards

Should I Sign Up for a Premium Travel Credit Card Right Now?

What if you’re not considering whether you should keep a current premium travel credit card, but instead you’re wondering if you should maybe sign up for a new one?

In that instance, you’re again going to want to look at what the card is currently offering, particularly when it comes to a sign-up bonus.

Additionally, you’ll want to be sure you’ll be able to meet the minimum spend for the bonus. The card should also earn points or miles for the purchases you spend more on (like dining).

You’ll additionally want to consider your future travel plans. If you’re not traveling currently, but you plan to as soon as possible, then you could very well benefit from one of these premium travel credit cards.

The Bottom Line — Is Having A Premium Travel Credit Card Worth It?

For the right person, a premium travel credit card is still very worth the cost of a high annual fee. It all depends on your spending habits and which card you’re considering keeping or signing up for. If you travel often or are able to responsibly take advantage of the bonuses offered by card issuers, then a premium travel credit card is worth it. 

A premium credit card with flexible point redemptions, easy-to-redeem travel features, and several high-paying bonus categories tends to be the best option. Co-branded options can also be worth it if you’re loyal to a particular airline or hotel. When several of the best rewards credit cards have similar benefits, compare the annual fee and point/mile redemption options to choose the winner.

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