I have 14 credit cards and pay more than $2,600 in annual fees. Here's how I'm deciding which cards to keep

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  • I have 14 credit cards, and their annual fees total more than $2,500. I'm planning to get rid of the cards I don't fully utilize.
  • It's easy to justify some of those fees, like on the Chase Sapphire Reserve and the Platinum Card® from American Express thanks to their amazing perks and annual statement credits. But I don't travel with certain airlines and hotels enough to continue paying the high fees for some other cards.
  • Take a hard look at whether you're fully utilizing the benefits of each credit card to decide whether it's worth continuing to pay. And if you do decide to get rid of a card, consider the impact it will have on your credit score.

It's all relative, especially in the world of points, miles, and award travel. I have 14 credit cards - a jaw-dropping number in the eyes of most of my friends and family, but a modest lineup compared to plenty of others who put time and effort into maximizing every dollar they spend to fuel their adventures around the globe.

I recently did a personal credit card inventory and found that I'm paying $2,654 in annual fees. It adds up quickly, especially because I have four premium credit cards with annual fees of $450 or higher.

Some cards are easily worth the high fee for me

A few cards are no-brainers for me to keep open, as I use their perks on a regular basis and they offer me bonus rewards on the purchases I make the most. These include the following:
  • The Chase Sapphire Reserve - Thanks to that $300 annual travel credit and the strong earning rate of 3x points on travel (excluding the $300 travel credit) and dining. I also find Chase points some of the easiest to use, thanks to a strong selection of travel partners including Hyatt and United, and the ability to redeem points directly through Chase's travel portal at a strong rate of 1.5 cents apiece.
  • The Platinum Card from American Express - Yes, the $550 fee is a lot. But this card's list of benefits is the longest around. You get up to $200 in Uber credits each year, up to a $200 annual airline fee credit, access to Amex's fancy Centurion Lounges at select airports, 5x points on flights booked directly with airlines or through American Express Travel, and much, much more.
  • American Express® Gold Card - I love this card, and not only because I was lucky enough to get the limited-edition rose-gold version. It earns me 4x points at US supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per year, which I'll never even approach, then 1x), so it's my go-to for stocking up on groceries. The annual fee is $250, but that feels reasonable to me given other perks like 4x at restaurants and up to $120 in dining credits at select vendors including Grubhub and Seamless each cardmember year and up to a $100 airline fee credit each year.

I'm on the fence about one premium card

The Citi Prestige's annual fee rose from $450 to $495 recently, and Citi's slashing benefits like travel and shopping protections in September 2019. Still, the 4th Night Free perk makes it worth it for me. I frequently use this to book stays in Bermuda, and the savings I get from the free fourth night always top $600, which is more than the annual fee. So I'll keep this card open for now, but may put it on the chopping block in the future.

Re-evaluating airline and hotel credit cards

I have a handful of airline and hotel cobranded cards, and while I'm happy to pay the fees on the United Explorer Card, the World of Hyatt Credit Card, and the JetBlue Plus Card in order to enjoy some extra perks with those travel brands, it's harder for me to justify the $450 annual fee on the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card.

I don't travel as frequently as I used to, and I'm no longer loyal to Marriott, so the Bonvoy Brilliant Amex card's benefits like $300 in statement credits for Marriott Bonvoy purchases each cardmember year and complimentary Gold elite status aren't as important to me. (Plus, I already get Gold Marriott status from my Amex Platinum.) If you stay at Marriott properties several times a year, this card could be an obvious choice, but it no longer is for me.

My United Explorer Business Card is also on the chopping block. It offers nearly identical benefits to the personal United Explorer Card, so this is an easy $95 to save.

Maintain a high credit score by downgrading rather than closing accounts

I don't want to damage my credit score in the pursuit of saving money on annual fees. The average age of your credit card accounts figures heavily into determining your credit score, so it's worth seeing if there's an option to downgrade to another credit card with no fee (or at least a lower fee) rather than canceling a card outright. I'll call Chase to ask if I can downgrade the United Explorer Business Card to another option, and do the same with Amex in regards to the Bonvoy Brilliant Amex.

If downgrading isn't an option or you're simply not interested, you can also ask to move the credit line from the card you're canceling to another card you're keeping open. That way, you won't be taking a big hit to your debt to credit ratio, which is one of the biggest factors in determining your credit score.

Click here to learn more about the Amex Platinum Card from Business Insider's partner The Points Guy »

Click here to learn more about the Chase Sapphire Reserve from Business Insider's 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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