A year ago I got my first annual fee credit card – $450/year! A big pill to swallow however I knew what I was getting myself into and looking back, I’m glad I got the card.
Completing the Trifecta
I got the Chase Freedom, Reserve and Freedom Unlimited in a period of two months with the hopes that I’d collect on the sign-up bonuses on large expenses I knew were coming.
Hence I had travel and dining, 5X quarters as well as miscellaneous expenses covered. Additionally, I had the ability to transfer my points out to transfer partners or use the Chase portal for a 1.5X point redemption.
I travel whenever I can and I tend to eat prior to my flight so that I don’t spend money on those expensive in-flight purchases. Thanks to the Priority Pass membership that comes with the CSR, I have till date made over 32 lounge/partner-restaurant visits, with guests in some occasions. Taking the standard value of $28/visit from Priority Pass’s website (not really accurate in every case), that’s an imputed value of $896. I did add one person on as an AU (which would normally cost $75 but since I did it halfway through my membership, for reason, I was not charged the fee) who also used the lounge about 6 times with a plus one and they received a total value of $168.
That brings the total to about $1064 in just lounge access. Now some lounges were (honestly) pointless with no true value, while some had showers or spa’s or sleeping pods which I definitely made use of.
The fact that you get free unlimited alcohol (unless you’re drunk) more than covers what it would cost otherwise to buy at any restaurant (almost $10min/drink).
Some of the lounges/restaurants I visited using my PP card:
- ITC Hotels Green Lounge (DELHI – T3)
- Plaza Premium Lounge (DELHI – T3)
- Bird Lounge (PUNE)
- Travel Club (KOLKATA)
- Al Maha Transit Lounge (DOHA)
- Al Safwa (transfered from Al Maha) (DOHA)
- IASS Executive Lounge (TOKYO)
- KAL Business Class Lounge (TOKYO)
- TEI Lounge (TOKYO)
- Cadilac Mexican Kitchen (HOUSTON)
- Landry’s Seafood (HOUSTON)
- Air France Lounge (HOUSTON)
- KLM Crown Lounge (HOUSTON)
- The Club SEA (SEATTLE)
- Bambuza (SEATTLE)
- Tanzanite Lounge (Kilimanjaro)
- Karibuni Lounge (Entebbe)
- IGA Lounge (Istanbul)
- ISG Int’l CIP Lounge (Istanbul)
- Plaza Premium
- Club Aspire
- SkyTeam Lounge
- Aspire (all Heathrow)
Car Rental Status
With the CSR, I got status with National and Avis out of which I used the former to status match and go from Five Star with Hertz to President’s circle.
Then I used my Hertz elite status to match with National to get Executive Elite with them and subsequently Platinum with Enterprise. Why is this useful? Well now I can book an economy car for ~$25/day using my company CDP and pick up any vehicle I want from the lot (including mid, full, intermediate SUVs and sedans). I have also been lucky to find premium cars such as the Jaguar XF, Range Rover Evoque from the Hertz IAH Houston airport parking lots while only paying $25/day after taxes.
This way I avoided paying the hefty premiums on car rentals – I can’t put an exact number on my savings because rates keep changing and an accurate assessment can’t be made. However I know I have saved hundreds of dollars thanks to the status perk.
Primary Rental Collision Damage Waiver
Whats better than renting an expensive car for $25/day? Getting free insurance on it! And that’s what the CSR offered. With a limit of upto $75,000 in claims, the card offers Primary Insurance which means my personal car insurance would never be touched incase I got into an accident or there was damage to the rental. I did end up having to claim damages once when I accidentally caused a rather nasty dent in the door while opening it at a gas station.
I filed a report with Chase and they kindly reimbursed me the $750 that Hertz charged in damages as statement credit (I had to provide photographic proof for the same, as well as an incident report).
Had I had to tap into my own car insurance, the premiums would’ve definitely gone up!
This is probably the biggest advantage I’ve had and it has attributed to me basically getting free flights and hotels all year round for me, friends and family.
Houston – Chicago (~$96 off-season)
Houston – Phoenix (~$1100 a day prior)
Houston – Kilimanjaro (~$1250)
Dubai – London ($1800 business)
Houston – Seattle ($1200 business one leg)
Hyatt Houston ($777)
Hyatt Cancun ($5093)
Hyatt Phoenix ($350)
Total Value: $10,376 in free travel
Travel Insurance Benefits
This is another perk which I’ve already covered here.
$12,453 – thats the value I got from spending $450 upfront (effective fee: $150 because of the $300 travel credits) while not including the car rental savings.
Now I don’t know about you but that’s heck of a lot of value if you ask me. 83X the value on the $150 I spent last December.
There are many more perks to the card that I did not get into because I did not use them – although they are their incase need be. To learn more on those, check this out.
If you’d like to open any of the Chase cards mentioned in this article:
However, do note that this was MY use case and that your mileage may vary. You may get more value or less depending on how and when you redeem/use your card benefits. Additionally, if I did not have this card, I can assure you I would NOT have gone out of my way to spend anywhere close to that amount. It’s only because I knew I could (without ever spending extra money), I made the most of what I had at my disposal and you could too!