Your turn: Which Ultra Premium Cards are Keepers?

Earlier this week, Nick pondered which ultra-premium credit card he should keep.  Ultra-premium cards typically offer terrific benefits in exchange for terrifically high fees (typically around $450 per year).  Often the value of the benefits far outweigh those fees, but not always.  Nick’s post generated a lot of discussion in which people sometimes asserted that Nick was wrong about how much he values various card benefits.  But, that was exactly the point of his post: credit card benefits offer different value to different people depending upon their travel style, which airports and airlines and hotels they frequent, and more.

Most ultra-premium cards are worth signing up for because they have good to excellent signup bonuses that are worth more than the first year’s annual fee.  That’s not the question.  The question is whether the cards are worth keeping past the first year.  When the second year annual fee comes due, do you keep or cancel?

Do the card’s benefits outweigh the annual fee?  Each person should conservatively estimate the value of each benefit to them to figure this out.  In most cases, I recommend trying to estimate how much you’d be willing to pay for this feature if it was available stand-alone as a subscription.  For example, if a card offers free checked bags, you could save hundreds of dollars if you use that benefit often enough.  But how much would you pay for an annual subscription to get free checked bags?  That answer should be substantially lower than the amount that you think you’ll save.  Otherwise, why prepay for that benefit?

To help you come up with your own estimates, I created a Google Doc spreadsheet with tabs for each of the common ultra-premium cards.  Click here to open the spreadsheet.

The spreadsheet currently includes general estimates of how much each major card benefit may be worth, along with my own personal valuation to give you an idea of how I think about each.

To use the spreadsheet, create a copy of it and then overwrite the values in columns D and E on each tab with your own value estimates.

This tab shows how I estimated the value of my CNB Crystal Visa infinite card

Tips for using the spreadsheet effectively

  • Be conservative with your estimates. Enter values that you would pay for a subscription for that benefit rather than the amount you expect to save.
  • Consider other factors not listed.  Most of the benefits of my Sapphire Reserve card are available through other cards, but I love the fact that this single card gives me best in class earnings on travel & dining, best in class travel insurance, and increases the value of my Chase points earned on other cards.  There’s something great (to me) about having a single card to turn to for all travel & dining spend.
  • Once you identify cards that you know that you’ll keep year after year (like my CNB card pictured above), make sure to consider that when evaluating overlapping benefits on other cards.  For example, I get 12 Gogo internet passes from my CNB card each year (really 48 passes since I get 12 from each CNB card), so I don’t value the same benefit on the Altitude Reserve card.
  • You’re allowed to make irrational decisions if you can afford it.  My personal valuation of the Altitude Reserve card comes out a bit higher than the card’s annual fee.  But, even if it came out lower, I would consider keeping the card simply because I like it.  I love knowing that I get good value from Apple Pay purchases.  And I love getting 1.5 cents value per point through Real Time Mobile Rewards (and no, I do not earn an affiliate commission for this card).

The Card Roundup

At the time of this writing, the spreadsheet includes the following cards…

Bank Cards

The Business Platinum® Card from American Express OPEN

FM Mini Review: This card is absolutely loaded with high end perks. Depending upon your situation, those perks may be worth the annual fee or much more.


Annual Fee: $450

Card Type: Amex Charge Card

Earning rate: 5X flights and prepaid hotels at AmexTravel.com ⚬ 1.5X points per dollar on eligible purchases of $5000 or more (up to 1 million additional Membership Rewards points per year) ⚬ 1X elsewhere

Noteworthy perks: ⚬ Up to $200 a year in statement credits for airline incidental fees ⚬ -$100 Global Entry fee reimbursement.⚬ Airport lounge benefits ⚬ Rental car elite status ⚬ SPG Gold status ⚬ Hilton Gold status ⚬ Free Boingo wifi ⚬ 10 complimentary single flight segment passes for Gogo inflight internet each calendar year. Terms Apply. See Rates & Fees

See also: Maximizing value from Amex Platinum Cards

The Platinum Card® from American Express

FM Mini Review: This card is absolutely loaded with high end perks. Depending upon your situation, those perks may be worth the annual fee or much more.


Annual Fee: $550

Card Type: Amex Charge Card

Earning rate: 5X points for flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel ⚬ 5X points for prepaid hotels booked through American Express Travel

Noteworthy perks: ⚬ $200 Airline Fee Credit. Up to $200 a year in baggage fees and more at one qualifying airline ⚬ Up to $200 for Uber rides annually. Credit and Uber VIP status for Basic Member only ⚬ Up to $100 in credits annually for purchases at Saks Fifth Avenue (up to $50 in credits semi-annually, enrollment required) ⚬ $100 Global Entry fee reimbursement ⚬ Airport lounge benefits ⚬ Rental car elite status ⚬ SPG Gold status ⚬ Hilton HHonors Gold status ⚬ Free Boingo wifi ⚬ Free Gold card AUs. Terms & Conditions Apply. See Rates & Fees

See also: Maximizing value from Amex Platinum Cards

Chase Sapphire Reserve Card

FM Mini Review: Excellent all-around card for frequent traveler. Best when paired with no-fee Chase Freedom, no-fee Freedom Unlimited & no-fee Chase Ink Cash


Annual Fee: $450

Card Type: Visa Infinite

Earning rate: 3X Travel and Dining

Noteworthy perks: ⚬ $300 Annual Travel Credit ⚬ Points worth 1.5 cents each towards travel ⚬ Primary auto rental collision damage waiver ⚬ Priority Pass Select lounge access ⚬ $100 Global Entry fee credit

Note: This card is known to be subject to Chase's 5/24 rule.

See also: Sapphire Reserve Complete Guide

Citi ThankYou Prestige Card

FM Mini Review: This card is best for those who can take advantage of the 4th Night Free benefit


Annual Fee: $450

Card Type: Mastercard World Elite

Earning rate: ⚬ 3X airfare, hotels, and travel agencies ⚬ 2X dining and entertainment

Noteworthy perks: ⚬ $250 air travel credit (including airfare) per calendar year ⚬ Free lounge access: Citi Properietary Lounges;, and Priority Pass Select with free guests ⚬ $100 Global Entry application fee credit ⚬ Use points for 1.25 cents value for any flight or transfer to airline partners ⚬ 4th night free hotel benefit ⚬ Reduce annual fee to $350 by signing up in-branch or by opening CitiGold Checking

CNB Crystal Visa Infinite Credit Card

Annual Fee: $400

Card Type: Visa Infinite

Earning rate: ⚬ 3X gas, grocery, airline, hotel, taxi, limousine, rental car, train bus, restaurant, fast food and takeout food and dining purchases ⚬ 1X everywhere else

Noteworthy perks: ⚬ Up to $250 a year in statement credits for airline incidental fees ⚬ $100 Global Entry fee reimbursement ⚬ Priority Pass lounge membership for 2 cardholders. (Includes unlimited guests.)

Note: This offer is only available if you apply in branch. Branches are located in NY, DE, TN, GA, NV & CA. Full list of locations.

U.S. Bank Altitude Reserve Visa Infinite Card

FM Mini Review: With points worth 1.5 cents each towards travel, this card offers an excellent signup bonus. For ongoing use, this card is a winner for those who spend a lot on mobile payments (at 3X, rewards are worth 4.5%)


Annual Fee: $400

Card Type: Visa Infinite

Earning rate: 3X travel and mobile wallet payments

Noteworthy perks: ⚬ $325 in travel credits per membership year ⚬ Points worth 1.5 cents each towards travel ⚬ Priority Pass Select airport lounge access (4 per year) ⚬ 12 free Gogo Wifi passes per year ⚬ Primary car rental coverage ⚬ No foreign transaction fees

See also: US Bank Altitude Reserve Complete Guide

Airline Cards

Delta Reserve Business Credit Card from American Express

FM Mini Review: Excellent choice for frequent Delta flyers who can make use of SkyClub access and companion certificate. Also a good choice for big spenders seeking Delta elite status.


Annual Fee: $450

Card Type: Amex Credit Card

Earning rate: 2X Delta

Big spend bonus: Earn 15K bonus miles and MQMs (towards elite status) after $30K spend and another 15K bonus miles and MQMs after $60K spend per calendar year. Terms apply.

Noteworthy perks: Free domestic economy or first class companion certificate after first year ⚬ SkyClub access ⚬ Priority boarding ⚬ free checked bags. Terms and limitations apply. See Rates & Fees

See also: An Analysis of the Delta Reserve Credit Card

Delta Reserve Credit Card from American Express

FM Mini Review: Excellent choice for frequent Delta flyers who can make use of SkyClub access and companion certificate. Also a good choice for big spenders seeking Delta elite status.


Annual Fee: $450

Card Type: Amex Credit Card

Earning rate: 2X Delta

Big spend bonus: Earn 15K bonus miles and MQMs (towards elite status) after $30K spend and another 15K bonus miles and MQMs after $60K spend per calendar year. Terms apply.

Noteworthy perks: Free domestic economy or first class companion certificate after first year. SkyClub access. Priority boarding and free checked bags. Terms and Restrictions Apply. See Rates & Fees

See also: An Analysis of the Delta Reserve Credit Card

Chase United MileagePlus® Club Card

FM Mini Review: While pricey, the Chase United MileagePlus® Club Card is a great choice for those who want a United club membership and waived close-in award fees.


Annual Fee: $450

Card Type: Visa Signature

Earning rate: ⚬ 2X United ⚬ 1.5X everywhere else

Noteworthy perks: ⚬ United Club membership ⚬ No fees on close-in awards ⚬ Priority check-in, security screening, baggage handling, and boarding ⚬ Free 1st and 2nd checked bags ⚬ Hertz President's Circle Elite Status ⚬ Hyatt Discoverist elite status ⚬ Primary auto rental collision damage waiver

Note: You may be targeted for a 75K offer on this card. Details here.. This card is known to be subject to Chase's 5/24 rule.

Citi AAdvantage® Executive World Elite MasterCard®

FM Mini Review: Excellent choice for those who need Admirals Club access (included for both the primary member and authorized users). Heavy spenders who are short of the miles necessary for status can earn 10K elite qualifying miles with $40K spend. Plus, it offers the usual collection of perks for flying AA (free checked bag, priority boarding, etc.).


Annual Fee: $450

Card Type: Mastercard World Elite

Earning rate: 2X AA

Big spend bonus: 10K Elite Qualifying Miles towards elite status when you spend $40K in calendar year

Noteworthy perks: ⚬ First Checked Bag Free ⚬ Admirals Club® access for both primary and authorized users ⚬ 25% savings on eligible in-flight purchases on American Airlines and US Airways flights ⚬ Up to $100 Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee credit

Hotel Cards

Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card

FM Mini Review: This card is loaded with valuable perks that are more than worth the card's annual fee if you stay in Hilton resorts at least once per year, and other Hilton properties a few times a year..


Annual Fee: $450

Card Type: Amex Credit Card

Earning rate: ⚬ 14X Hilton spend ⚬ 7X US restaurants, flights booked directly with airlines or amextravel.com, select car rental companies ⚬ 3X everywhere else ⚬ Terms & Limitations Apply.

Big spend bonus: Second free weekend night after $60K spend in calendar year

Noteworthy perks: ⚬Annual Weekend Night Reward upon signup and every year upon renewal ⚬ Free Diamond Status ⚬ Priority Pass w/ 2 free guests ⚬ $250 Hilton Resort Credit per membership year ⚬ $250 Airline Incidental Fee Credit per calendar year ⚬ $100 on-property credit w/ Aspire Card package ⚬ Terms Apply. See Rates & Fees

See also: Amex Hilton Aspire In-Depth Review

Starwood Preferred Guest Luxury Card from American Express

FM Mini Review: Decent ultra-premium option for Marriott / SPG fans, but Hilton fans may prefer the ultra-premium Hilton Aspire card.


Annual Fee: $450

Card Type: Amex Credit Card

Earning rate: 3X airfare charged by airline, US restaurants, 6X Starwood and Marriott Properties; 2X everywhere else

Big spend bonus: Platinum Elite status with $75K calendar year spend

Noteworthy perks: ⚬ 50K Free Night Award each year upon renewal ⚬ $300 SPG/Marriott Rewards statement credit per membership year ⚬ Gold Elite status ⚬ 15 elite nights credit ⚬ Priority Pass Select with 2 free guests ⚬ Global Entry fee credit ⚬ Free premium internet at SPG/Marriott properties ⚬ Unlimited Boingo Wifi

See also: Ultra Premium Hotel Cards: Hilton vs. SPG/Marriott

Chase Ritz Carlton Rewards Visa Infinite

FM Mini Review: While the card is pricey, the annual free night, plus $300 in ariline fee credits, plus other perks make this card a keeper.


Annual Fee: $450

Card Type: Visa Infinite

Earning rate: ⚬ 6X Ritz, SPG & Marriott.⚬ 3X airline tickets purchased directly with the airline, at car rental agencies and at restaurants ⚬ 2X everywhere else

Big spend bonus: $75K spend per account year for Platinum elite status

Noteworthy perks: ⚬ Annual 50K hotel certificate upon renewal ⚬ 3 club level upgrades. $100 hotel credit for each 2 night or longer stay ⚬ Priority Pass Select with unlimited guests ⚬ $300 annual credit for airline incidentals ⚬ $100 discount on multi-passenger ticket purchases. ⚬ Automatic Gold Status

My Personal Keepers

Here’s where I landed after analyzing each card:

To understand the above results, keep in mind the following dependencies:

  • The CNB card is an obvious no-brainer since it offers up to $1,000 per year in airline fee credits for $400.  As a result, other cards that offering duplicative benefits were not valued as highly.  For example, I don’t value getting Priority Pass from any of the other cards since this one gives me Priority Pass with unlimited guests.
  • After analyzing both the consumer and business versions of the Amex Platinum card, I realized that the business card made more sense to me, so I zeroed out the duplicate benefits on the consumer spreadsheet.  For example, there’s no advantage to having two cards that offer Emergency medical evacuation.
  • Similarly, the values I assigned to the Delta Reserve business card assume one already has the consumer card, so some of the card’s benefits were zeroed out.

Also keep in mind:

  • I live near a Delta hub (Detroit) and like to use Delta credit cards to manufacture high level elite status for both me and my wife.
  • I rarely fly AA or United
  • I’ve gotten very good at getting full value from credit card travel credits, so my net cost on many of these cards is far less than it appears.

Currently, I have all of the above cards except for the Platinum Business card, United Club, AA Executive, SPG Luxury Card, and Hilton Aspire.  Based on the analysis, I should think about cancelling my consumer Platinum card when the annual fee comes due and upgrading my business Green to the Platinum Business card.  And, I should consider getting the Hilton Aspire if I can ever free up credit card slots in my Amex portfolio.

My wife currently has the Amex Platinum Business card, Sapphire Reserve, both Delta cards, and the SPG Luxury card.  We’ll probably drop her Sapphire Reserve card and add her as an AU on my account.  And we’ll consider getting her a Hilton Aspire card at some point in the future.  With her SPG Luxury card we’ll probably downgrade her to the regular $95 SPG card when the second annual fee comes due unless we decide that the 50K free night certs are worth that much more than the 35K certs.

About Greg The Frequent Miler

Greg is the owner, founder, and primary author of the Frequent Miler. He earns millions of points and miles each year, mostly without flying, and dedicates this blog to teaching others how to do the same.

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Nicholas
Guest
Nicholas

The only “ultra premium card” that I think I’ll be keeping after one year is the American Express Business Platinum card. My wife and I live in Las Vegas so get a lot of use out of the Centurion lounge on every outbound flight. I travel for business to destinations on the West Coast (LAX, SEA, SFO) all of which either have or will have Centurion lounges. When I fly to SEA, I often grab a super cheap Delta fare and use the Sky Club (which is phenomenal) that I get access to with the card. I get full value out of the airline travel credit by buying Southwest gift cards to use with our companion pass.

It is an easy decision for me – the annual fee can be written off because it is legitimately used for my business, so that makes the value proposition even better.

Diego
Guest
Diego

Can we use Centurion Lounge and Sky Club in USA fly? I thought it allow you only international.

Nick Reyes
Editor

You don’t need to be flying International. You can access the Centurion Lounge anytime if you’re a platinum card holder. You must be flying Delta to access the Delta Sky Club with your platinum card.

Jason
Guest
Jason

You mean the very crowded Centurion lounges? No thanks. If they were quiet, relaxing places that would be different.

Gan
Guest
Gan

How do you get 1k of incidentals when it offers 250 annually

Steve
Guest
Steve

Authorized users each get the credit as well

Nick Reyes
Editor

To be clear for anyone else reading this, that’s only on the CNB card.

Steve
Guest
Steve

What is the fee for an AU card?

Nick Reyes
Editor

$0.

projectx
Guest
projectx

Nice tool, Greg!
While it did confirm what I already knew (for MY travel needs, CSR is the best while Amex Platinum is nearly useless, YMMV and all that), I realized I need to be taking a closer look at CNB. Thanks!

jeph36
Guest
jeph36

Can we please get the “official” info for the CNB Crystal Visa updated to also include MN as a branch that can open this card? This one for me is a definite keeper as long as I can pay $400 annually for $500 in AA gift cards. I am still undecided if I should simplify and just keep that one as my premium card, or if I should continue to keep others.

Steve
Guest
Steve

How do get $500 in gift cards “annually”? I understand you can get that much in year one, but ongoing, it’s just $250, right? Thanks for the info on being in MN!

Nick Reyes
Editor

Didn’t know it was available in MN. I’m making some updates on our Best Offers right now and will add that.

R Johnson
Guest
R Johnson

There appears to be a branch in downtown Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Biggie F
Guest
Biggie F

Small point to be sure, but since I had forgotten about it and then was startled yesterday to see a bunch of extra TYPs…. For those of us grandfathered in to the Citi Prestige at $350, via once having been Citigold, they seem to still be rebating 15% TYPs annually.

toomanybooks
Guest
toomanybooks

Thanks for the roundup. Enjoy getting others’ perspectives.

For me it’s got to be the Prestige at the top. 4th night free while getting stay/night credits and status benefits on almost all stays is an immense value. Nothing else comes close IMO. Could be many hundreds of dollars a year, and it’s in cash. Generally can stack if the hotel is having a “stay 2 or 3 and get an extra free night.” 3x TY points. And for just $100 a year with Citi discount after the airfare rebate? THAT to me is a no-brainer.

One thing some folks may have not considered is that you can use the free 4th night benefit on a 3 night stay by leaving early. Costs essentially the taxes, but you get an extra status night. Beats a mattress run.

But man cannot live on cashback and TY points alone.

Couple this with (depending on preference) the HH Aspire for Diamond and/or the Hyatt card that gives status nights with spend, and a 5x Ink card for a zillion GCs at Officemax/Depot/Staples and you could be pretty set. Maybe a supermarket/gas card also.

Assuming that $100 rebate works on WN fares, I need to look seriously at that CNB card.

Would enjoy a roundup post sometime about cards with around $75-150 a year annual fee.

Chucks
Guest
Chucks

So I think your analysis of the Prestige is correct, it does rely on the existence of those 4 night stays you’d otherwise have paid sticker for in your iteninary. That may sound like a no brainer but for me it wasn’t happening for over a year. Either I’d have a night somewhere, a weekend conference, or if I was vacationing for a week or two, the one night off sticker wasn’t cutting it.

So yeah, if you have a four night stay AND there’s no other discounts (Priceline express deals, portal bonuses etc) it’s a nice ~15-20% discount as taxes now aren’t covered. If it’s 5 nights and longer almost certainly not the cheapest option or a discount.

If you can make it work, great, but my sneaking suspicion is most people are going to be able to use this for less in savings than the Otherwise Best Price.

Jason
Guest
Jason

I get huge savings from using the CITI Prestige – and NOT by paying higher prices. I hunt for the lowest price I can get and usually am able to get the same rate using my CITI Prestige card. Once I find the best rate, then I call CITI to get it for me. However, I am occasionally able to get an even lower rate by contacting the hotel directly and asking for a really good rate that is even lower than the total cost I would get with the free night through CITI. Doesn’t happen often though.

Busy
Guest
Busy

I have 5 ultra-premium cards. I don’t value lounge access high enough and like cards that pretty much pay for themselves so I think Amex Platinum is a horrible card.
I have Citi Prestige, Chase Sapphire Reserve, Hilton Aspire Amex, Ritz-Carlton Rewards, and SPG Luxury Amex.
The most no-brainer card out there is the Hilton Aspire Amex. That weekend night puts it over the top and that card should be in every traveler’s wallet.
Citi Prestige has been fantastic due to the amount vacays I took in the last two years (Vegas at Cosmo, Cabo at Hyatt Ziva, Jamaica at Holiday Inn, Jamaica at Hilton Rose Hall, and coming up, Cancun at Hyatt Ziva Turquoize).
Ritz and SPG Lux offering that 50K night make them no-brainers. Those are premium nights but we’ll see how that shakes out once peak nights go into effect.
CSR almost pays for itself outright besides the $150 (or $120 if you factor Global Entry) but it’s currency is THE best around.

Priority Pass is good enough. I would love Centurion lounges but that’s the only perk Amex Platinum offers that I would value. Not worth the cost, however.

I await Citi Prestige to get nerfed again (soon) and the Hilton Aspire Amex to get nerfed (later). I could see them getting cut due to devaluation.

For me, I don’t travel for business at all but I’m one of few that can say these cards got me spending more on travel JUST because of the perks. Previously, Marriott and Hilton got none of my business and I used timeshares. Now, I’ll get a hotel room for a local beer festival when I’d previously just drive home (sober, of course).

Blue
Guest
Blue

Great work…but I think we also need to consider the upgrade/downgrade Amex cycle as well for both the Aspire and the Lux cards (if that works in a similar way Hilton cards have worked historically). You should be able to shave off a significant portion of the annual fees on these cards while generating bonuses without HPs or new lines of credit.

Credit
Guest
Credit

Can you explain with an example what you mean?

Bob
Guest
Bob

I would be curious as to whether Citi is not offering any retention bonuses on the Prestige this year to others and not solely me and my wife. Despite three calls over the last month, no offers are showing up either from the CSR or the one time I was able to speak to the retention department directly. We have only put on the card the spending required to either get the welcome or retention bonuses so I am wondering if that is a factor or whether it has anything to do with Citi revamping the card.

Steve
Guest
Steve

Word has it that Citi is not giving any retention bonuses on Prestige right now (but was earlier in summer). I called and the CSR said no without even looking anything up on the account, like it was just known.

Nick Reyes
Editor

I tried a few times in late spring and had nothing on the Prestige, but they gave me 2x extra on the ATT&T Access More on up to $17.5K in purchases over 6 months. That made it easy to keep the Prestige. Ialso just got an email offer for 5x at grocery stores, gas stations, drug stores, and something else the other day on my Prestige — only up to $625 in purchases, but I’ll take the bonus 2500 points.

Bob
Guest
Bob

As a data point, I called again today (2 days before annual fee payment was due) with every expectation of downgrading both of our Prestige cards. Instead, the front-line rep offered both of us $100 off the annual fee plus 4000 TYP. No transfer to retention department. She initially stated something like “I don’t think we are offering anything on the Prestiges still, but let me check again” before coming back with the offer. I took the offer (my AF was $350) but my wife downgraded to the TY Preferred (her AF was $450). I don’t know what the moral is- HUCA 4x? Call over lunch time? Wait until AF is almost due?

Hsn
Guest
Hsn

Can i get aspire bonus if i already got hilton bonus from ascend?

Steve
Guest
Steve

Yes.

Ell
Guest
Ell

Correct me if I’m wrong, but the SPG Lux card also offers Boingo wifi. I see it in the benefit details on the Amex page. I took a quick look at the spreadsheet and did not see that benefit listed.

Don
Guest
Don

This is tangentially related to ultra premium cards–I just received my SPG Luxury Card yesterday, and my Marriott Premier Plus application is still pending. Both cards were applied for BEFORE August 26 (On Aug 25), but the SPG Lux wasn’t APPROVED until after (and the MR Premier Plus still isn’t approved yet. Do the post 8/26 restrictions still apply to me? I’m trying to figure out if I should push for approval from chase, but if I’m still locked out of getting both welcome bonuses the I won’t even bother.

Busy
Guest
Busy

Right. I wish there was some tool to tell whether you are getting the welcome bonus without having to call. I got the Ritz card early August, already had the old Marriott Premier, and was immediately approved for SPG Lux on Aug 25 (before the deadline). I actually received the card a few days later but, yeah, if I’m not eligible for the welcome bonus, $5K will be spent elsewhere.

Josh
Guest
Josh

Pretty cool spreadsheet! I break even or come ahead on the Amex Plat Schwab, CSR, and Ritz, and SPG Lux (with the last two depending on how valuable the free night cert is)

Busy
Guest
Busy

That night should AT LEAST be worth $250.

Nick Reyes
Editor

YMMV. That really depends on how you use it (will you hold it and wait, hoping for a high value use and then blow it on an airport hotel at the last minute before it expires?) and on how much you would otherwise be willing to spend on a hotel night. I love staying in expensive hotels on points / certificates, but I can probably count on two hands the number I’ve lifetime nights I’ve spent in a hotel where I paid $250 or more for a night. The truth is that if I had $250 and a choice between a very nice hotel in the center of a city for $250 or a good enough hotel 15 minutes away for $150, I’d probably spend $150 on the room and throw a hundred bucks towards a great dinner. That’s why I valued the nights at $150 in my analysis — it’s not that I can’t get a much more expensive hotel out of them (and I’m sure I’ll enjoy the hunt for a great use), but $150 is a price I know I would pay a couple of times a year for a hotel if I didn’t have a free certificate. Getting to stay in the center of the city at a really nice place is something I really enjoy, so I’ll be happy to have the certs (and perhaps I should include some “enjoyment” valuation there), but I wouldn’t enjoy it enough to spend an extra hundred bucks. Truthfully, I should probably value the certificate in Ultimate Rewards points since that’s what it actually saves me 9 times out of 10.

Of course, they may well be worth at least $250 to you. You may regularly spend $300+ per night on hotels. That’s the reason for a spreadsheet like this.

Josh
Guest
Josh

Exactly! And I use points for most of my stays, so the likelihood that I am paying $250 out of pocket for a hotel night is pretty low.

Jason
Guest
Jason

I used to be just like you and save $100 at a place 15 minutes away. The problem is, does it really only “cost” 15 minutes?. What about the cost in transportation, hassle, and physical energy that has to be spent coming and going? For example I hate staying at the MGM in LV, but will stay there even though there is a place 15 minutes away that is cheaper and nicer when I have a convention at the MGM. For vacations, I am willing to pay more for a more enjoyable location and view. It’s not all about the dollars and cents, and we can be shortchanging ourselves if we don’t take other important factors into consideration. Lastly, there is no promise of tomorrow so I try to get the best experience while I still can.

James Silver
Guest
James Silver

I’ll keep CSR and CNB since I could gain value out of it. 5X flight, $200 ubereat, $200 airline fee credit, $100 Saks are enough for me to keep Amex platinum.

Also, I’d would keep Ritz since it gives so much benefitsthat exceed annual fee: $100 visa discount air, $300 flight, unlimited priority passes for family members, free night, and it could be used to impress 19 years old cashier.

Mary Jane
Guest
Mary Jane

Great article. That is why you guys are my only “must” read bloggers. Greg, I did a little bit of research (obviously, not as thorough as you!) and, as far as medical evacuation goes, I think Medjet is better than Amex. At the time that you may need it, I’m concerned about “loophole” language in the Amex terms. However, that might just be personally more important to me, than you, at this point. Also, Nick, You mentioned that you rarely pay for hotels and that is the same situation for my husband and I so the Hilton Aspire seems like a no-brainer-I believe the free weekend night is not generally restricted. Am I right on that one?

Nick Reyes
Editor

Apart from the fact that it can only be used on weekends and there must be “standard” room availability, no. There are a handful of places that are excluded (all-inclusive properties and a few others — though you’ll note that many of the top properties like the Conrad Maldives and Conrad Tokyo are not excluded). Here are the excluded properties:

http://hiltonhonors3.hilton.com/en/promotions/weekend-reward.html

It’s basically all-inclusives and condo-like properties that are excluded.

UAPhil
Guest
UAPhil

Many comments ignore the “convenience” factor in claiming rebates. I like the CSR, Citi Prestige, SPG Luxury, and US Bank Altitude cards because their rebates are convenient to earn – all I need to do is spend on airfare or travel. I don’t like Hilton Aspire or the Amex premium MR cards because their rebates require spending on airline fees I seldom incur or resort hotels where I seldom stay.

Nick Reyes
Editor

The Amex airline credits trigger automatically, and though excluded in the terms, in many cases an airline gift card will trigger them. In some cases, cheap flights even trigger them. See this resource page:

https://frequentmiler.boardingarea.com/amex-airline-fee-reimbursements-still-works/

Definitely not as easy/automatic as the others, but pretty easy, The Ritz card credits are the least convenient to use since you need to call / secure message.

Ben
Guest
Ben

No directly related, but I wonder regarding cards that you don’t want to extend. Will you cancel/downgrade slightly before or slightly after the annual fee?
I heard different opinions about it.

JustSaying
Guest
JustSaying

You don’t even mention the rebate for booking with AMEX miles on the Business Platinum card……..that is a big oversight you should correct soon!
I am using those Uber credits on the AMEX personnel card and Uber is getting a lot more of my business as a result……..
Citi Prestige 4th night pays for itself in one trip on the countryside in France where brand hotels are nowhere to be seen…….but the Small Luxury Hotels alliance with Hyatt is going to change my life and may mean the Citi Prestige no longer has luxury value per se…….
SPG is so yesterday………just have to figure out if Alaska miles are worth the squeeze now and how to get Japan Air miles…….
RITZ card design is made up by a bunch of liars and scam artists that make the upgrades and other perks somewhat meaningless unless you are booking rack rates……….and they can’t answer their phones or complete a merger…….what a TOTAL UTTER DISGRACE to their customers…………they are the middle class version of Motel 6…….if you are stuck in middle class then this new version of Motel 6 is perfect for you……………
Airline cards????? ARE YOU KIDDING?????? USA flag carriers are so broke…….why does anyone choose to fly on them unless absolutely necessary and then you use AMEX miles to fly First……..
For all the millennials who still scream across the table at each other and scare us affluent old people off I say “God bless you and keep chasing those US carriers deals………I won’t be getting in your way young lady or young man!

Jim Lovejoy
Guest
Jim Lovejoy

The only ultra-premium card we own is the Hilton Aspire. It is definitely worth it. Last year we used the $250 resort credit within a month of getting the card, and even though I hate AmEx’s restrictive ‘Airline Incidentals Credit’ we are going to use all of them by the calendar year end. That puts us $50 ahead even without the free night. Oh and Diamond status has already meant about $180 in free breakfast credits and an additional 8500 points (over gold). The only downside is that my wife holds the card and doesn’t value the lounge access, so no lounge assess for me.

The AmEx incidental restrictions make the credit close to valueless after the 1st card. I can jump through their hoops to get close to $250 value from one credit, but getting another $250 is just not worth it. That greatly reduces the value of having more than one AmEx ultra-premium.

American Express Platinum would only be worthwhile in a year when we would put huge spend on airlines. I don’t do uber, and I discount very substantially a credit that requires that I make a change that I wouldn’t otherwise. I’m 5/24’d from Chase, and Citi doesn’t seem to be making offers for the Prestige. The major benefit of the Delta Reserve seems to me to be the 1st class companion fare, and I don’t value that very highly even though I live in a Delta semi hub. The Ritz and SPG luxury would be worthwhile if they earned what the SPG regular card earned before August, or if you could stack the status nights. It’s mostly academic anyway since I would have to upgrade to the SPG card at 15K points instead of 100,000. No thanks.

So, in conclusion it looks as if I won’t even get any of the other ultra-premium for the 1st year, yet alone keep them after the 1st year.

Nick Reyes
Editor

There aren’t really many hoops to jump through for using the Amex credits. If you live in a Delta semi-hub I would think it would be pretty easy for you to get nearly full value out of the credit….or know someone who would be happy to help you use it. See this page for what works:

https://frequentmiler.boardingarea.com/amex-airline-fee-reimbursements-still-works/

WR2
Guest
WR2

Although I am all about spreadsheet models, and I loved your Hyatt points/cash/cash+points decider spreadsheet, I don’t need one to determine which premium cards I should keep.

Paying a 2nd AF on any Amex Plat is ridiculous, there is always a new flavor to get bonus for, or worst case churn the Ameriprise.

CSR to me is not worth net (generously) $150. I’d rather put spend towards new MSR than get 3x. The ability to transfer is pretty much all there is, so I preemptively transferred my UR to Hyatt, then downgraded. I plan to upgrade later when my UR balance warrants it.

The only cards I will every pay high AF on is Amex Aspire and CIti Prestige. Aspire is an easy keeper, and Presige I have at $350 AF, and I make extensive use of 4NF.

Jason
Guest
Jason

Thanks for creating and sharing the spreadsheet! GREAT JOB!!!

Jess
Guest
Jess

This is amazing, Greg! Thank you! Must have taken you lots of time, but now that you’ve outdone yourself, it would be so awesome if you made separate spreadsheets for all hotel cards, all airline cards, etc. Just sayin’! 🙂 From a grateful PointsGuy convert!

adfsdfsd
Guest
adfsdfsd

great post.

i would discount some of those valuations even more because of the time, hassle and meticulousness needed to harvest the value from some of the features.

Fazzu
Guest
Fazzu

I just applied for the CNB Card today in person. They needed w-2 along with 2 forms of ID. Question is they underwrite every card. What is likeliness of getting approved? Score is around 780 as recently got Amex Aspire.

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[…] post inspired Greg to make an awesome spreadsheet for evaluating your ultra-premium cards (See: Your turn: Which Ultra Premium Cards are Keepers?). I initially set out this week to do a similarly mathematical analysis of my current collection of […]