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As you may know by now, I love my credit cards. Being in the military, and utilizing the benefits of the SCRA, we can get some amazing benefits without having to pay exorbitant fees, especially from the upper echelon cards, or the luxury cards. Depending on your opinion of what constitutes a luxury card – my definition is any card with an annual fee over $200 – you can really live it up! For now, I’ll consider a couple cards as luxury cards – Amex Platinum, Citi Prestige, Chase (JP Morgan) Ritz Carlton, Chase United Club, Visa Black Card, and Citi AA Executive. Of course the Amex Centurion and JP Morgan Palladium are luxury cards, but not many of us, outside of huge spenders, are going to qualify for those. Of the above, I’ve gotten all but the Black Card and the United Club.
First off, the welcome kits with these cards are a little over the top:
Citi AA Executive:
Each of these welcome kits weighs at least a pound, and has far too much packaging for just having a credit card in it. I think the companies are genuinely trying to drum up excitement about having their card. I have to admit though, that it works – I do get excited when these packages arrive in the mail!
If you’ve read my articles before, you know that you can get your annual fees waived by being in the military. And in the cases of these cards, that’s huge! Just as a reminder – how to get your annual fees waived on American Express cards, how to get your annual fees waived on Citi cards, how to get your fees waived on Chase cards.
Amex Mercedes Benz Platinum annual fee: $475
Citi Prestige Annual Fee: $450
Citi Executive Annual Fee: $450 (I have two of these, so $900)
Chase (JP Morgan) Ritz Carlton Visa Annual Fee: $395
Total money I’ve saved because I’m in the military: $2,225 just for these four cards!! Now, on to the main benefits of having these cards.
For the Amex Plat, the two main perks are the annual $200 airline fee waiver and the airline lounge access, both Centurion lounge and Priority Pass select. The fees are ostensibly only supposed to cover things like baggage fees, in-flight purchases, etc., but can be used for airline gift cards (check out this flyertalk post). Unfortunately, you can only use it for one airline per year, and need to designate it beforehand. And, if you have the opportunity to visit a Centurion lounge a couple times per year, you know how truly nice they are! They’re currently available in DFW, LGA, LAS, and SFO, and will seen be available in both MIA and SEA. Also, because of their frequent Amex Sync offers, having an extra card to sync is huge. Finally, automatic SPG Gold status is pretty awesome too!
For the Citi Prestige, I think it’s combination of benefits is the best out of all of these. First off, you get $250 of airline credit per year, and it can be any airline and go towards any airline fee, including tickets! This is way more useful than unspecified airline fees! You also get the Priority Pass select. Another awesome benefit, one that is not talked about a lot, is their golfing benefit. You get 3 free rounds per calendar year, at a huge selection of courses, available through the Prestige site. During my recent trip to Las Vegas, I played at Bali Hai (typical greens fee $250), Rhodes Ranch ($65), and finally the gorgeous TPC Las Vegas ($199). That’s over $500 for free!
The Citi AA Executive doesn’t offer a whole lot of extra bonuses for it’s annual fee, other than US Airways and American Admiral’s Club lounge access. The main reason to sign up early last year was for 100k AA miles (that offer is no longer available). There is a current offer for 50k AA miles after $5000 spend, and $450 annual fee. Not worth it to me.
Finally, I recently signed up for the Chase (or JP Morgan) Ritz Carlton Visa Signature card, which gives 140k Ritz Carlton or Marriott points after $2k in spend, and with a $395 annual fee. The most obvious benefit, other than the points, is the Marriott Gold status for the first year (and each year after w/ $10k spend), but I think the biggest benefit is the $300 of airline fee credit per year. This, like the Amex Plat, is only supposed to go towards actual fees, but also like above, can go towards airline gift cards (check out this post about it by Doctor of Credit).
As you can see, I’ve not only saved a lot of money on not paying annual fees, but also gotten a ton of money’s-worth benefit out of having these four awesome cards. If you’re in the military and have a good credit score, I’d highly recommend checking these out.