Benefits are worth $0 unless you actually use them…

There’s so much talk about this card doing this, that card being able to do that – but the only benefits that matter are the ones you can actually take advantage of. Who cares if a card can save you $5,000 on business class if you’d never pay the first $5,000 needed to take advantage? Each year we take inventory of the credit card benefits that actually benefited us, and which ones probably need to get the chuck. Here are the benefits that paid their own annual fees.

Priority Pass Airport Lounge Access

Credit Card: Offered via Amex Platinum, Chase Sapphire Reserve, Citi Prestige.

Usage: In places like Europe and Southeast Asia, you’re crazy if you don’t take advantage of the incredibly cheap deals on discount airlines. PriorityPass is the great trick in this pursuit, offering lounge access regardless which airline you fly. With two people regularly traveling, who value lounge access at $25 per visit, per person, this benefit gained easily $300 of value this year. Of course, if you only fly business and always have lounge access, it’s useless.

4th Night Free Hotel Benefit

Credit Card: Citi Prestige World Elite Mastercard

Usage: From Citi’s standpoint, this is a genius benefit, because most frequent travelers never stay four nights anywhere. However, we managed to find occasions this year where Citi Prestige’s 4th Night Free benefit did save $100’s of dollars. On a recent trip to Laos, the online interface offered the same price as booking direct with the hotel via their 30% off sale, but also included the 4th night free, saving over $200 in one go. This benefit combined with the $250 annual fee credit and Priority Pass makes the card a keeper, for now.

Primary Rental Car Coverage

Credit Card: Chase Sapphire Preferred

Usage: We don’t rent cars with any great frequency, but since Chase Sapphire Preferred only carries an annual fee of $95, this benefit is extremely solid. This benefit saved at least $75, and probably more like $150 over the course of rentals around the world, which makes paying the modest annual for a year of strong earning and valuable points seem all the more worthwhile.

And That’s Literally It

Everyones experience with credit cards and benefits will be different, but for us at GSTP, those were the only real benefits of consequence. We didn’t have any flight delays long enough to have trip delay coverage kick in, we didn’t break our phones, we didn’t have any flight purchases which would’ve benefited from the International Airline Program, and we didn’t need a concierge to do what OpenTable already does. If your experience is completely different, that’s great, this is just a reminder to actually hold some account for the benefits you consume, rather than just pay for.

How do you square your benefits paid versus benefits consumed?