Travel Hackers - What Do You Do About Cards With Annual Fees?


#1

I’m trying to get into more travel hacking but having to keep track of so many cards is a little bit overwhelming to me. One question that I haven’t really seen an answer to is what to do about cards with annual fees. Do you just cancel them when the fee comes due?

Question 2 - if you cancel a young card, does it affect the age of your credit? I.e.lets say you have two cards, one that’s a 10 year old card and the other that’s a brand new card. If you cancel the brand new card within a year, does your average credit age go back to 10 years or do you permanently have a 1 year old card bringing down your average credit age forever?


#2

1.) No reason to keep a card with a fee (unless you receive higher value for said fee, such as a free hotel night etc). I cancel well before the fee is due so that I don’t forget. Alternatively, you can downgrade to a no-fee card depending on issuer…

2.) Your Average Age of Accounts includes closed cards. Closed cards stay on your report for 10 years. And your age is based on open date not close date, so if you opened a card last year nad closed it this year, it would show as a 10 year old card in 2026, and it would disappear in 2027.

The only thing that could bring your average age down is to keep opening new cards, but unless your applying for a mortgage, it’s irrelevant and you’ll most likely receive more value from opening new accounts and collecting free $$.


#3

I close my accounts before the annual fee is due - I put up a reminder on my calendar.

For some cards you need to have them open to keep the points, like the Chase Sapphire. Me and my husband have almost all of the Chase cards you can use to get Ultimate Rewards points, so when it comes time to close them, we’ll transfer those points to just one card and suck up the $95 annual fee on that one because it’s worth it (we have like 250,000 ultimate rewards points among our cards right now…that’s like over $3,000 worth of travel! Don’t wanna lost out on that.

Have you taken the free TravelMiles101 course? They have an excel template you can use to keep track of your credit cards. I use it and it works great.


#4

I haven’t taken that course yet, but I’ll look into it. The travel hacking world is super intimidating for a newbie.


#5

It is, but that course explained everything for me. Honestly, I would have paid a ton of $ for the course because it was so valuable, and I can’t believe it was free. I try to use their referral links before applying for a new card now just to pay them back, since that’s the only way the dudes monetize the site.


#6

You could transfer the UR points to a no-fee Freedom card, but you’d only be able to redeem for cash…but you could do that anyway with the sapphire. YOu could also convert the points into one of thier partenrs.

I don’t really bother with the points myself, that 250k pts is $2,500 that can be invested or pay off debt. :smiley:

But I also already have tons of air miles that I have no idea when I will ever use. :smiley:


#7

Typically the statement before the fee also points out the fee is coming, I believe it’s a legal requirement. When the reminder comes I first try to down grade, then cancel. Interestingly enough I’ve had a company give me a signup bonus for a different card for downgrading.

As for age of cards, I open about five cards for hacking a year. The impact of a lower credit utilization rate increases your score. The age decreases. In four years of this my credit score has dropped less then 20 points.


#8

Five cards!? Are they just sort of the same five cards always? Is this between you and a spouse or just 5 cards for yourself every year?


#9

Up until last year it was just under my name. Chase changed their plans last year such that if you get five cards in 24 months they won’t give you a card. So we now alternate. As for what card, I use a site like fatwallet to watch for the bonuses, then I signup for the highest one. Usually you have to spend 3k in four months to get the bonus. We move all our expenses over when we get a new card.


#10

@FinancialPanther - take a listen to this podcast. They answer those questions and more…


#11

Yep heard that one. That Chase Gauntlet seemed confusing to me for some reason. I don’t quite understand how to hit that minimum spend for the Southwest companion pass (based on my understanding, you snag yourself 100k bonus points from opening two cards, but then still need to also spend an extra 6k, which seems like a ton to me. Or maybe I just don’t understand it all that well.


#12

Depending on the card, I’ll keep it. I also usually call in and try and get them to waive the annual fee, which works most of the time on the 3rd or 4th call.

I opened 25 cards in the past two years and I’ll be keeping most of them. I’m expected to pay about $750 in fees a year to reap some nice rewards.

For the Chase Southwest Cards, you would first have to spend $2k on each card ($4k total) to get the 100,000 points (50,000 each). Then if you want to, you would spend $6k additional on the cards to get 6k miles on each card (totalling 12,000 miles).

Once you hit 110,000 miles within the calendar, you will earn the companion pass for that year and the following year. Remember that the points will post after your chase statement date, so you don’t mess up and don’t get the 110,000 miles within the calendar year.

Also, for Chase’s 5/24 rule, they aren’t really that strict with it, you can bypass it by going in-branch and checking if you are pre-approved for certain cards.


#13

Hey brother,

I teach an introductory course for free if you want to check it out.

I love travel hacking.

Cheers.


#14

Thanks everyone for all the helpful info! I got a lot to dig into. Love how this community helps each other out!


#15

That’s not been my experience at all. A lot of us missed out on the lucrative Sapphire Reserve opportunity because Chase would not budge on deviating from the 5/24 rule.


#16

You would typically have to go in and check a few times.

For the first time I went in branch, I wasn’t pre-approved for the Chase Sapphire Reserve. The week after, I went in again and was pre-approved. I had more than 20+ inquiries at that time.

You can see some data points here:


#17

@FinancialPanther

Do you just cancel them when the fee comes due?

you are going to love this… it depends

https://thepointsguy.com/2014/10/strategies-for-minimizing-credit-card-annual-fees/[details=`][/details]

How I look at it: I like to keep 1 no annual fee open with all the big banks Chase, Amex, Wells Fargo, Citi, Bank of America (maybe Capital One & Discover if you get that far). This allows for a relationship with the bank to build, your credit score to build (because have a low credit utilization ratio), and gives options for transferring credit when applying for future cards. Generally it make less sense to apply for no annual fee cards, but rather downgrade/convert to them as you go along.


#18

This may be a silly question but what happens to the points when you downgrade a card? The one thing keeping me from starting this whole process is timing. Like, if you don’t use the points in the year you are paying for the card do you lose them? Im assuming when you close the card you do but what if you just downgrade it? Or are you able to transfer points to other partners without losing them before you close it?


#19

The answer to that is it depends too.

With Miles cards (like AAdvantage, United, Delta) you keep the points because the airline program is separate from the credit card.

Points cards (Utimate Rewards, Amex Membership Rewards, Citi Thank You), you’d lose them, but you could transfer out to a partner.

Ask for your specific card in the Travel Mile 101 FB group.


#20

No such thing as a silly question in travel hacking :slight_smile:

I agree with @_TJ, once again… it depends

Bank Points: you would generally lose unless you have a pre-existing way to keep them
http://frequentmiler.boardingarea.com/2015/02/25/banking-transferable-points-and-keeping-them-alive/[details=`][/details]

Hotel points & Frequent Flyer miles: are transferred to your non-bank-owned accounts at the end of each cycle so those are yours to keep provided they don’t expire
http://millionmilesecrets.com/2013/01/03/airline-miles-expiration/[details=`][/details]