Despite what the casual credit card community might say, the best keeper premium card (for simplicity’s sake let’s only include cards with $450-$500 annual fee) isn’t Chase Sapphire Reserve. That is a fact. My own list of “best premium cards” has not included CSR for quite some time. Yes, CSR may be convenient for many but it isn’t and never was a one card to rule them all. . The only correct answer to “what is the best keeper premium card?” question is – “YMMV” (your mileage may vary).
The best way to figure out what will be the best premium card(s) for you on the long run is to do a mixture of trying a bunch of them and reading about a bunch of them from unbiased sources. The latter half is important because a lot of blogs make tons of money pushing CSR and Platinum as the best premium card that ever existed in the universe. The good (or bad?) news is that this blog will pretty much never qualify for any kind of credit card affiliate links. The other good (or bad?) news is that only 1 out of 4 cards mentioned below has referral bonus of any kind. In other words, this post, like most of my credit card related post, does not exist with a sole purpose of selling you plastic.
My love letter to Citi and Thank You program is no secret. While I don’t make money for renewing Prestige card anymore, I am still locked into $350 annual fee simply because I had applied for it in branch some 2+ year ago. I also still get 15% annual relationship bonus from Prestige even though I have never had Citi Gold. One time I took retention offer of 10k Thank You points for spending $3k within 3 months and another time I took retention offer of $50 statement credit for spending $1500 or more in each statement for 7 months.
You might think $350 is a lot but it is super easy to trigger $250 annual credit, thus making Prestige a credit card with effective annual fee of $100. Tell me another card that does all Prestige does for mere $100. It blows Citi Premier, Chase Sapphire Preferred, and everything else in its price range. If you’re paying $450 annual fee than this doesn’t apply to you but that isn’t me…for now.
US Bank Altitude Reserve
I recently obtained my personal Altitude Reserve after 5 denials spread since its inception over a year ago….and I love this card. Unlike the other two cards in this list, Altitude Reserve is always in my “wallet” and gets the most usage out of the three cards in the list.
At the risk of repeating myself, I won’t go over why I like this card all over again instead I will simply link to an old blog post explaining why I think Altitude Reserve is really good.
I will say that the relatively new addition (yes 6+ month old news is still new in Travel in Points timezone) of “real time rewards” is amazing. It can practially makes Altitude Reserve a 4.5% cashback card at lots of physical locations. Can’t. Beat. That.
American Express Hilton Aspire
This card is a no brainier for most credit card gamers. I am still amazed by how much benefits it gives for the price of $450 annual fee. I still think that the Hilton Aspire, won’t last next 1-2 year in it’s current state.
Again I don’t want to repeat everything I have detailed out in a different post so I will just link to yet another post explaining why I think Hilton Aspire is amazing!
Honorable Mention: American Express Ameriprise Platinum
American Express Platinum charge card gives too much benefit so it should be no surprise to see it on the list. Unfortunately, the cost associated with giving too much benefit is a hefty $550 annual fee. However, the co-branded Ameriprise Platinum card waives first year annual fee.
Yes, Ameriprise flavored platinum charged card has no signup bonus but first year annual fee waiver on a card like Platinum is a big deal in itself. This is quite possibly the only card with no signup bonus that I would recommend churning in the old fashioned way.
If you get Platinum card around December, you can easily triple dip the $200 airline credit, quadruple dip the Saks credit, and enjoy all the other benefits as well. I would say $200 x 3 (airline) + $50 x 4 (Saks) is a solid signup bonus on its own.
Warning: avoid getting Ameriprise platinum card before chewing through 100k signup on vinalla platinum card. It is simply a good precaution.
After getting tons and tons of cards with $350+ annual fee I can safely say that most of them are….downright useless to me on the long run. Most of them can’t (or won’t) be a daily driver card and include redundant benefits such as GE and PP that I put $0 value on.