5 luxury credit cards with high annual fees that more than pay for themselves

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  • Many premium credit cards charge high annual fees, sometimes reaching or exceeding $450 a year.
  • That sounds like a lot, but some of these high-fee cards, like the The Platinum Card® from American Express and the Chase Sapphire Reserve, have fantastic benefits.
  • You have to decide if you'll use the benefits enough to justify paying for one (or more!) cards with a high annual fee.

When it comes to choosing a luxury rewards credit card, there are many options to choose from. From hotel credit cards to airline-only credit cards, it seems that every bank will pull out all the stops to compete for new cardholders' loyalty.

But the lucrative incentives they offer often come with a high annual fee. While some annual fee charges reach $450 (or even more), the Platinum Card from American Express, the Chase Sapphire Reserve, the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card, the Delta Reserve® Credit Card from American Express, and the Hilton Honors Aspire Card from American Express offer benefits that can effectively cancel out or outweigh their high annual fees.

Keep in mind that we're focusing on the rewards and perks that make these cards great options, not things like interest rates and late fees, which can far outweigh the value of any rewards.

When you're working to earn credit card rewards, it's important to practice financial discipline, like paying your balances off in full each month, making payments on time, and not spending more than you can afford to pay back. Basically, treat your credit card like a debit card.

Platinum Card from American Express

Annual fee: $550

The Platinum Card from American Express comes with a whopping $550 annual fee - in fact, it's the highest annual fee of any card that we're covering here, but it's definitely possible for the benefits from this card to outweigh the annual fee.

For starters, each year, you will receive an airline incidental fee credit up to $200 that is meant to cover expenses like seat selection, in-flight food and beverage, and checked bag fees. You'll also get up to $200 worth of Uber credits in mostly $15-per-month increments. December gets a $35 Uber credit to cover extra holiday travel. By completely using these two benefits alone, you've already covered $400 of the $550 in annual fees from the Platinum Card.

The other place that the Platinum Card excels is in lounge access. You'll get a Priority Pass Select Membership that is valid at over 1,200 lounges around the world, access to Delta SkyClub Lounges when flying Delta same-day, and American Express' ever-growing network of Centurion Lounges. If you usually spend $15 on food and drinks at the airport, it would only take you five round-trips per year for the rest of the card's annual fee to be covered, assuming you travel alone. If you're traveling with friends and family, the savings will add up even faster.

Learn more about the AmEx Platinum from our partner The Points Guy »

Chase Sapphire Reserve

Annual fee: $450

While the annual fee is $450, this card will earn you points that you can transfer to 13 different airline and hotel partners. You will also earn $300 in annual travel credit, so that high $450 annual fee is really more like $150.

This card will also give you access to over 1,000 Priority Pass airport lounges worldwide, and if you travel a couple times per year or more you can quickly rack up a ton of savings by eating and drinking at the lounge before your flight.

A nice perk to having this credit card is the ease and accessibility of redeeming points through Chase Ultimate Rewards. You can use points for airline tickets and hotels directly through Chase's travel portal, where each point you have is worth 1.5 cents - this is what Chase means when it say it's giving you a 50% bonus. Or you can transfer your points to any of Chase's 13 transfer partners for more options to redeem your points.

Additionally, Chase offers Sapphire Reserve cardholders the ultimate in coverage and protection with generous trip delay coverage. For example, if you are delayed more than six hours, you can submit a claim to Chase and have your expenses covered, up to $500 per ticket. Another way this card pays for itself is the roadside assistance and higher trip cancellation insurance, travel accident insurance, and higher purchase protection.

Learn more about the Chase Sapphire Reserve from our partner The Points Guy »

Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant American Express CardAmerican Express

Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant from American Express

Annual fee: $450

Marriott Bonvoy is the new loyalty brand replacing the former Marriott Rewards, The Ritz-Carlton Rewards, and Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG). While there was much disdain for the replacement program, new cardholders are jumping on board to take advantage of the brand's portfolio of hotels in 129 countries and territories.

With an annual fee of $450, new cardholders will earn 75,000 bonus Marriott Bonvoy points after making $3,000 in purchases within the first three months of account opening. While the points can be redeemed for hotel stays, where this card can offer you really unique opportunities is with its Marriott Bonvoy Moments program, a portal where cardholders can use points to purchase unique experiences in 1,000 destinations worldwide. Some experiences include glacier hiking in Patagonia, a desert excursion in Morocco, or a cooking class with NYC restaurant owner and chef Daniel Boulud.

Similar to the Chase Sapphire Reserve credit card, you will earn up to $300 in statement credits each year for eligible purchases at participating Marriott Bonvoy hotels, bringing the effective cost of the annual fee to $150. Additionally, you will earn an annual free night award, which really brings the annual fee to $0.

The Ritz Carlton Coconut Grove in Miami, for example, typically $400 a night, falls within the points range for the redemption of an annual free night. Once you add up all the perks of Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant, it is clear to see how this high annual fee card pays for itself.

Learn more about the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant from our partner The Points Guy »

American Express Delta Reserve

Annual fee: $450

If you are a loyal flyer of Delta, the $450 annual fee on the Delta Reserve Credit Card from American Express will pay for itself in almost no time at all. As a cardholder, you will enjoy exclusive perks such as Complimentary Sky Club Access, a miles boost of 15,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) and 15,000 bonus miles after you reach $30,000 in eligible purchases on your card in the calendar year.

Not to mention, you will gain a guaranteed spot on the priority upgrade list and 20% off all in-flight purchases.

Read more: The best credit card rewards, bonuses, and benefits of 2019

If you fly often, access to all of Delta's airport lounges is invaluable. As a cardholder, you gain access to the lounges of partner airlines like Air France, KLM, Alitalia, Aeromexico, and Virgin Australia Airlines.

To really make the high annual fee worth it, this card includes a benefit of an annual companion certificate. This means you will receive a domestic First Class, Delta Comfort+ or Main Cabin round-trip companion certificate for a friend or family member to fly with you at no additional cost (except for taxes and fees).

Depending on your destination, the companion certificate equals hundreds of dollars in value, so even if you only hold the card for this reward, you are still being overcompensated for the $450 annual fee.

Learn more about the AmEx Delta Reserve from our partner The Points Guy »

Hilton Honors American Express Business CardAmerican Express

Hilton Honors Aspire Card from American Express

Annual fee: $450

The Hilton Honors Aspire Card from American Express is one of the best hotel cards out there if you stay at Hilton hotels. This card has a $450 annual fee, but like the other cards on this list, it will pay for itself in no time.

To start, each year you'll have a Hilton Resort statement credit up to $250 to use. This can go toward covering food and drinks during your stay or even the room rate. Similar to the Platinum Card, you'll also receive up to $250 in airline fee credits each year that are valid on incidentals like checked bags, seat selection, and in-flight food and beverage. With these two benefits, you have already covered the cost of the annual fee.

And this card also has some other awesome benefits like complimentary Hilton Honors Diamond status (which gets you free breakfast!) and a free weekend night certificate. It's almost a no-brainer to get this card, even if you only stay once at Hilton Hotels each year.

Learn more about the Hilton Honors Aspire from our partner The Points Guy »

The bottom line

Do you prefer a free hotel night, airline points and airport lounge access, or are you searching for the best insurance coverage? Before picking a credit card because a coworker or friend tells you it's superior, you need to decide which type of card is best suited to your lifestyle. Otherwise, you could find yourself paying $1,500 per year in annual fees.

If you are someone who enjoys airline perks as much as hotel stays, the Chase Sapphire Reserve card is preferable as an all-around credit card. If you are more interested in hotel nights and experiences, the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant card is a better choice, because it allows greater flexibility in these areas.

Finally, if you fly Delta, the Delta Reserve credit card should be your No. 1 pick, with a complimentary companion certificate awarded annually. Ultimately, all three of these stellar cards offer benefits that far outweigh the high annual fee. It's up to you to decide which one you stand to benefit from the most.

Learn more about the AmEx Platinum from our partner The Points Guy »

Learn more about the Chase Sapphire Reserve from our partner The Points Guy »

Learn more about the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant from our partner The Points Guy »

Learn more about the AmEx Delta Reserve from our partner The Points Guy »

Learn more about the Hilton Honors Aspire from our partner The Points Guy »

Disclosure: This post is brought to you by the Personal Finance Insider team. We occasionally highlight financial products and services that can help you make smarter decisions with your money. We do not give investment advice or encourage you to adopt a certain investment strategy. What you decide to do with your money is up to you. If you take action based on one of our recommendations, we get a small share of the revenue from our commerce partners. This does not influence whether we feature a financial product or service. We operate independently from our advertising sales team.

Business Insider may receive a commission from The Points Guy Affiliate Network, but our reporting and recommendations are always independent and objective.

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