A $450 annual fee credit card? Who’s plundering who here? Hold tight Mateys, I know what you’re thinking but when we break down all the benefits, you’ll see why it could end up being a good deal for you. The Chase Sapphire Reserve was one of the first cards I got when I started on this mission of maximizing credit card rewards and I keep paying the renewal fee every year. Here’s why.

To begin the sign-up bonus of 50,000 Chase UR points after meeting the initial spend of $4,000 in the first 3 months is worth approximately $1,000. (We use The Points Guys valuations of $.02 per point) Then you’ve got the annual travel statement credit of $300. This means the first $300 you spend on any kind of travel: hotel, airfare, Uber, etc. will be refunded via statement credits. That essentially drops the annual fee to $150. So how does a Pirate justify that $150 a year? A hefty portion of that justification comes from the 3 points per dollar reward on all dining. Travel Pirates like us usually don’t pay for airfare or hotels, that’s what the game is all about, right? But we still must pay for food on those trips, plus dining out at home. Now, the First Mate has the lower fee Chase Sapphire Preferred with an annual fee of $95 but she only gets 2 of those Chase UR points per dollar on dining so we use my Sapphire Reserve and get the extra point for most of our eating off the ship. If we average $500 a month dining, that’s an extra $120 in dining points per year toward that annual fee of $150 that’s left after the travel credit. But wait, there’s more. The trip insurance that comes with the Chase Sapphire Reserve covers all travel booked with the card, insurance that would otherwise cost us $50 to $70 per trip. Then there is the excellent rental car insurance, trip delay insurance, lost baggage or delayed baggage insurance, and no foreign transaction fees. If you travel much at all, that included insurance alone covers the cost of the annual fee and the extra dining points are just bonus treasure. Both Chase Sapphire cards also come with a $100 credit if you sign up for Global Entry, a must-have for easy clearing back in if you travel internationally at all. As a bonus, if you have the Global Entry you also always get TSA Pre-check on every flight so you can keep your belt and shoes on while breezing through the short line at security! If the $450 annual fee is still too steep for you, there is the $95 annual fee Chase Sapphire Preferred card that still has great benefits and would be my first choice after the Reserve.

What other $450 annual fee cards does The Point Pirate recommend? We’ve got a few of them in our household but The First Mate’s job which involves a lot of travel has made some of them worthwhile to us but maybe not everyone else. Usually she’s staying at Hilton Hotels because of their large reach throughout the U.S. where she is working. The Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card has a $450 annual fee, but the benefits far outweigh that cost if you spend much time at all at Hilton Hotels. The automatic Hillton Diamond status that comes with the card has hooked us up with sweet upgrades, free breakfasts, free waters, etc. The card also comes with an annual one free weekend night at any Hilton property and a $250 resort credit. Then there is also a $250 airline credit for incidentals spent on flights, and Priority Pass lounge access at airports. We used our last free weekend night at the Boca Raton Beach Club Waldorf Astoria where we also used up the $250 resort credit. That was about a $600 value before all the Hilton points, lounge visits, airline credits, and Diamond status perks that come with the card. It’s a no brainer for us, that card is getting renewed every year and the $450 fee seems like a good deal when you break it all down.

Boca Raton Beach Club Waldorf Astoria
Boca Raton Beach Club Waldorf Astoria

The other $450 a year annual fee card that we keep renewing is the Delta Skymiles American Express Reserve card. The main reason is that Delta is the main airline at our local airport so we’re flying it a lot and this card includes free access to all Delta airport lounges. Free food, free drinks, and a much nicer place to hang out and wait for your flight. It usually compares to $40-50 worth of airport costs without the lounge, so 10 visits or more a year make it well worth it. For us that means an hour or two at our local airport, another lounge visit in Atlanta for a transfer, and another 2 visits on the way home. So, often 4 lounge visits a trip. This card also comes with a free domestic companion ticket for any class fare, including 1st Class. We used ours this year for a trip out west, where we were able to purchase one 1st class ticket and get the second free ($1500 value).