Annual Fees: Scam or Service?

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Annual fees.   For a lot of people, this is the worst possible thing about a credit card.   That’s understandable, since paying interest is voluntary.  If you don’t want to pay it, you just need to pay off your balance within the grace period.   Annual fees, on the other hand, get paid, whether you want to or not, if the are a part of your credit card.

When I was 18, I applied for a credit card that raised an undying hatred of Providian in my heart.   I was dumb and didn’t read the agreement before applying.   When I got the card, I read the paperwork and nearly made a mess of myself.   It had a $200 activation fee, a $100 annual fee, a $500 limit, a 24% interest rate, no grace period, and a anthropomorphic contempt for all things financially responsible.

Yes, you read that right.  The day you activate the card, you are 3/5 maxed and accruing interest at rates that would make a loan shark blush like my grandma is a strip club.   Instead of activating, I cancelled the card and ran away crying.  It was a mistake but didn’t cost me anything.

In exchange for all of that, I got…nothing.   The card offered no services of any kind in exchange for the annual fee.

On the other hand, I have a card with an annual fee right now.   It’s $59 per year, but it offers value in exchange.

This card’s basic offering is a 2% travel rewards plan.    With most of our spending on this card, we’ve managed to accumulate $400 of rewards, so far, counting the 25,000 bonus miles for signing up.

In addition, it offers 24 hour travel and roadside assistance.   The roadside assistance itself will pay for the fee, because I think I’ll be canceling my AAA account after 16 years.    The card’s plan isn’t as nice, but I haven’t been using the AAA emergency services for the past few years, anyway.

It extends the warranty on anything I buy.   It includes car rental insurance and concierge service.      Concierge service is sweet.  Need reservations for dinner?  Call the card.   Need a tub of nacho cheese?  Call the card.  Need a pizza?  Well, call Zappos.com.

All in all, the card is paying for itself a couple of different ways, so in this case, the annual fee is definitely worth it.    I guess there’s a serious difference between Capital One Venture and Providan Screwyou.

How do you feel about annual fees?  Love ’em, hate ’em, have a card with one?

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  • 5 comments

    Comments

    1. I’m bad. I won’t even look at a card with an annual fee.

      We use the Pentagon Federal Credit Union Visa to get 5% cash back on gas and 1% on everything else (no minimums). The money is applied automatically at the end of the month to the bill.

      We also use Discover More for 5% cash back on rotating categories. I use the cash back to buy giftcards at a discount to places we use anyway like Starbucks, Bed Bath and Beyond, and Kohl’s. It also has $70 roadside assistance, extends warranties by a year, offers 3 month replacement coverage on stolen electronics (I used this already), and offers travel protection and concierge services. 🙂

      And since our cars are getting past the 5 year marks, we signed up for AAA too, lol. That’s my annual fee, hehehe.

    2. BTW, I like the changes you’ve made to the header area!

    3. Hate annual fees. I still have yet to find a card where they pay for themselves. BTW, I like the changes as well!

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