When I first started signing up for credit cards to get crazy cheap flights and hotels, my primary goal was risk aversion. Despite plenty of research on the process, there are still a lot of unknowns signing up for that first card simply because I’ve never gone through the process before. Overall, the risks are minimal if you trust yourself to be responsible with credit, but without having ever redeemed a point or mile for travel before, I thought it was best to be conservative.
For that reason, the one thing I avoided like the plague in the first 6 months to a year were annual fees. Why pay anything up front for an unknown future benefit? Luckily, the banks are aware of this hesitation to sign up for new credit cards and many offer products that waive the annual fee completely for the first year (not to mention all of the cards that don’t have an annual fee to start with). These types of cards gave us plenty of opportunities to get our feet wet with new credit cards, earn a variety of points, and start redeeming for ultra cheap travel.
Over time, we became much more comfortable with the process and earned the knowledge and experience necessary to maximize the benefits of all the different miles, points, and credit card benefits that came with each new application. That was when we stopped fearing the annual fee and had no problem paying a bit up front or over time if we knew that we could get way more than that cost back in value.
Adding up the totals as we get towards the end of the year, it looks like we’ve paid just north of $2,000 in credit card annual fees this year alone, but have gotten far more than that back in benefits. I’ll break down all of the fees we’ve paid below and why I think the benefits have far outweighed that cost.