When applying for a credit card with an annual fee, it can be hard to know whether the card’s perks and rewards make up for its yearly charge. Some cards make it easy, however, offering a bonus each year when you pay your annual fee.
“If one of my cards has an annual fee,” says Judah Ross, a 28-year-old from Austin, Texas, “pretty much the only way I’ll keep it is if they offer a substantial anniversary bonus.”
With some credit cards, the bonus easily makes up for the annual fee. With others, it only covers it partially. For Ross, he needs to be making a profit on the bonus alone to make annual fee cards worth it.
Here is a list of the best credit cards that offer anniversary bonuses. But first an important disclaimer.
Credit cards can (and they do) change their terms at any moment. We try our best to keep things accurate, but we have no control over changes in a card’s terms. Please visit the card’s profile and carefully read terms and conditions before submitting the application form.
Alaska Airlines: The Alaska Airlines Visa Signature offers an annual companion fare worth up to $121 ($99 for the ticket plus up to $22 in taxes and fees).
British Airways: The British Airways Visa Signature’s Travel Together ticket can be worth thousands of dollars depending on how you use it. It’s a companion fare that gives you a second seat on the same flight and in the same cabin. The card does require that you spend $30,000 a year on the card to earn the Travel Together ticket, though.
Delta Airlines: With the Platinum Delta SkyMiles Credit Card, you’ll get a domestic main cabin round-trip companion ticket each year. The card’s annual fee is fairly steep, though, so you may or may not get your money back depending on how you use the certificate.
Hawaiian Airlines: The Hawaiian Airlines World Elite MasterCard offers a $100 discount on a coach companion ticket on round-trip travel. The catch is you can only use it for travel between Hawaii and North America. You’ll also get an extra 5,000 bonus miles if you spend $10,000 on the card during the previous year.
Southwest Airlines: Both the Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card and the Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card offer anniversary bonuses. You’ll get 6,000 points and 3,000 points, respectively. Neither of the bonuses is likely to cover the cards’ annual fees, but they are a nice incentive for someone who plans to keep the card anyway.
United Airlines: With the United MileagePlus Explorer Card, you won’t get a companion ticket like with many of the other airline cards. Instead, United offers free lounge access. Each year, you’ll get two United Club passes. And if you spend $25,000 during the year, you’ll also get a 10,000-mile bonus.
Club Carlson: The Club Carlson Premier Rewards Visa Signature Card is unique among hotel credit cards. That’s because you can get several free nights with its anniversary bonus. You’ll get 40,000 bonus points each year when you renew your card. That’s worth up to four nights at the hotel chain’s Category 1 properties. You’ll also get a free night at any of Club Carlson’s hotels if you spend at least $10,000 during the year.
Hilton: The Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve Card gives you one free weekend night each year, good at most Hilton properties. It doesn’t come free, though; you have to spend at least $10,000 during the previous year to get it. If you plan to spend the money anyway, you could get significant value back.
Hyatt: You’ll get one free night a year in one of Hyatt’s Category 1-4 properties with the Hyatt Credit Card. A night’s stay at most of the eligible properties is worth far more than the card’s annual fee. Among Ross’s favorite anniversary-bonus cards, he was able to get a free night in Costa Rica worth close to $500.
IHG: The IHG Rewards Club Select Credit Card is often touted as the best anniversary bonus by credit card enthusiasts, including Ross. Despite the card’s low annual fee, you’ll get a free night stay at any of IHG’s worldwide hotels each year. The bonus gives you a chance of getting a solid return on investment every year.
Marriott: The Marriott Rewards Premier Credit Card makes its annual fee worth it by offering a free night each year. The certificate is good for any Category 1-5 Marriott property.
Wyndham: The Wyndham Rewards Visa is unique in that its rewards program makes it hard to assign a value to its anniversary bonus. You’ll get a 6,000-point bonus every year, but you need 15,000 points to book a stay at any of Wyndham’s properties. Of course, that includes the hotel chain’s all-inclusive resorts. So depending on how much you use the card, it may or may not be worth it.
Should you choose a card with an anniversary bonus?
The good thing about credit cards with anniversary bonuses is that they often pay for themselves, so to speak. Even if you don’t ever use the card, the value you get often outweighs the annual cost. It’s a great way to get effectively discounted travel that you might not be able to afford otherwise.
As you review your upcoming travel plans, check out each of these individual cards to see if they fit what you need. And if you already have one, make sure you’re using the bonus each year, as most of them expire. To compare cars and read views, go to SuperMoney’s Best Personal Credit Cards review page and tick the “rewards” box.