11 credit cards that can get you $1,000 bonus or more in first-year value

May 30, 2021

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When I recommend new credit cards to friends and family members, any mention of annual fees is often received with wariness. And it’s a valid question to ask — why pay money to use a card when there are so many options that don’t charge annual fees?

Well, the truth is that most rewards cards that have annual fees provide far more value than they charge … assuming you make use of the benefits. In fact, a number of the top travel cards can easily provide more than $1,000 in value in the first year.

So today, I’m walking through 11 cards that provide $1,000 in value in the first year.

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Methodology

Before we dig into it, let’s talk about how I’m quantifying how much value a specific card has. For each of our top travel and rewards credit cards, I looked at the following:

  • Sign-up bonus/welcome offer: I’m using TPG valuations to determine how much each of these is worth.
  • Annual statement credits: If the card offers travel credits, dining credits, resort credits or other types of annual statement credits, these are included in the total value.
  • Automatic elite status: I’m using the TPG valuation of how much specific elite status tiers are worth for each program in these calculations.
  • Quantifiable perks and benefits: Not all perks and benefits can be assigned a specific dollar amount. But I am including the ones that can be more easily quantified than others, though we do make a few assumptions in this category.
  • Annual fee: Once I’ve tallied a card’s overall value, I’ll take into account the annual fee. Only cards that still have $1,000 in value after factoring in the annual fee will make this list.

Keep in mind that I’m only including quantifiable perks in this equation. There are plenty of cards with perks that aren’t directly tied to a dollar amount — such as Centurion Lounge access, Delta Medallion Qualification Miles boosts at spending thresholds, elite-like perks such as priority boarding, free checked bags and more.

Please note that just because a card didn’t make this list doesn’t mean it can’t provide this level of value, it just becomes an even more case by case situation.

Cards that provide $1,000-plus in first-year value

Card Sign-up bonus/welcome offer value* Total first-year value  Annual fee  Net first-year value 
The Platinum Card® from American Express $1,500 $4,195 $550 (see rates & fees) $3,645
Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card $900 $4,525 $450 (see rates & fees) $4,075
The Business Platinum Card® from American Express $2,500 $5,095 $595 (see rates & fees) $4,500
Chase Ink Business Preferred Credit Card $2,000 $2,000 $95 $1,905
Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card Up to $600 $2,340 $450 (see rates & fees) $1,890
IHG Rewards Club Premier Credit Card $750 $1,930 $89, waived for the first year  $1,930
Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card $1,020 $1,800 $95 $1,705
American Express® Gold Card  $1,200 $1,440 $250 (see rates & fees) $1,190
Chase Sapphire Preferred Card $2,000 $1,710 $95 $2,060
Chase Sapphire Reserve  $1,200 $1,780 $550 $1,230
Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card  

$780

 

$2,035

 

$0 intro annual fee (see rates & fees) for the first year, then $95 (see rates & fees). Offer ends 8/25/2021.

 

$2,035

*Sign-up bonus/welcome offer value is determined using TPG valuations and is not provided by or reviewed by the issuer.

The information for the Hilton Aspire has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

The Platinum Card from American Express

(Photo by Isabelle Raphael/The Points Guy)
Welcome offer Earning rate  Annual fee 
75,000 points after spending $5,000 on purchases in the first 6 months of card membership.

Terms apply.

  • 5x points per dollar on flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel (on up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year), and on prepaid hotels booked with American Express Travel.
  • 1x points per dollar everywhere else.
  • New cardholders earn 10x on eligible purchases made at U.S. gas stations and U.S. supermarkets, on up to $15,000 in combined eligible spending during the first 6 months of card membership.
$550 (see rates & fees)

Quantifiable benefits: 

  • Welcome bonus ($1,500 value, according to TPG valuations).
  • Up to $200 in Uber Cash annually (for U.S. services) — $15 per month plus an additional $20 in December ($200 value).
  • Up to $200 in airline incidental statement credits per calendar year ($200 value)*.
  • Up to $100 in annual Saks Fifth Avenue statement credits — $50 each half-year ($100 value)*.
  • Up to $100 for Global Entry/TSA PreCheck application fee every four years ($100 value).
  • Complimentary Marriott Bonvoy Gold elite status ($840 value, according to TPG valuations)*.
  • Complimentary Hilton Honors Gold elite status ($1,255 value, according to TPG valuations)*.

*Enrollment required for select benefits.

Net first-year value: $3,645

The Amex Platinum is one of the best travel cards out there for luxury travelers because of its extensive lineup of perks — and the ones listed above are only part of the puzzle. You’ll also get Uber VIP status, rental car privileges, access to Amex Fine Hotels & Resorts, travel and purchase protections, access to the Amex Platinum concierge and unmatched access to airport lounges, including Centurion Lounges, Priority Pass lounges and Delta Sky Clubs (when traveling on same-day Delta flights) (enrollment required).

Related: Amex Platinum card review 

Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card

(Photo by Eric Helgas/The Points Guy)
Welcome offer  Earning rate  Annual fee 
150,000 points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months of account opening.

Terms apply.

  • 14x points per dollar spent at eligible Hilton properties.
  • 7x points per dollar spent on flights booked directly with airlines or Amex Travel, car rentals booked directly from select car rental companies, and U.S. restaurants.
  • 3x points per dollar on all other eligible purchases.
$450 (see rates & fees)

Quantifiable benefits: 

*Enrollment required for select benefits.

Net first-year value: $4,075

The Hilton Honors Aspire is the top-tier card in the Hilton cobranded card lineup. If you stay with Hilton regularly throughout the year, you can get a ton of value out of the benefits offered by the card. In addition to the benefits listed, you’ll also get a free weekend night each year (and a second if you spend $60,000 in a calendar year) and Priority Pass lounge access (enrollment required)  — neither of which were included in the value tally because they aren’t easily quantifiable with a dollar value.

And keep in mind that Diamond elite status may be worth more or less than the stated value, depending on how regularly you stay at Hilton properties throughout the year. Also note that the normal Diamond breakfast benefits are temporarily adjusted — which may be better or worse for your situation.

Related: Hilton Honors Amex Aspire card review 

The Business Platinum Card from American Express

(Photo by Isabelle Raphael/The Points Guy)
Welcome offer Earning rate Annual fee
125,000 Membership Rewards points after you spend $15,000 on eligible purchases within the first 3 months of card membership.
  • 5x points per dollar on flights and prepaid hotels booked at American Express Travel.
  • 1.5x points on purchases over $5,000 (up to 1 million additional points per calendar year).
  • 1x points per dollar spent everywhere else.
 $595 (see rates & fees)

Quantifiable benefits:

  • Welcome bonus ($2,500 value, according to TPG valuations).
  • Up to $200 in annual airline incidental statement credits ($200 value).*
  • Up to $200 in Dell statement credits (for U.S. purchases) — $100 each half-year ($200 value).*
  • Up to $100 for Global Entry/TSA PreCheck application fee every four years ($100 value).
  • Complimentary Marriott Bonvoy Gold elite status ($840 value, according to TPG valuations).*
  • Complimentary Hilton Honors Gold elite status ($1,255 value, according to TPG valuations).*

*Enrollment required for select benefits.

Net first-year value: $4,500

The Amex Business Platinum offers almost identical benefits to the Amex Platinum, but with a couple of key differences. First, you’ll get up to $200 in Dell credits annually (for U.S. purchases) rather than a Saks Fifth Avenue credit. You’ll also get a couple of extra perks that aren’t included in our quantifiable list of benefits, including a 35% Pay with Points rebate (up to 500,000 points per calendar year). But like the personal Amex Platinum, this card is only worth it in the long term if you’re really taking advantage of these perks.

Related: Amex Business Platinum card review 

Chase Ink Business Preferred Credit Card

Sign-up bonus Earning rate Annual fee
100,000 bonus points after you spend $15,000 on purchases in the first 3 months of account opening. 3x points on the first $150,000 spent in combined purchases in the following categories each account anniversary year:
  • Travel
  • Shipping purchases
  • Internet, cable and phone services
  • Advertising purchases with social media sites and search engines

1x points on everything else.

$95

Quantifiable benefits:

Net first-year value: $1,905

In addition to the card’s fantastic sign-up bonus, the main value this card brings is its earning structure — which is hard to quantify in a dollar amount since it depends entirely on your spending habits. The card only charges a $95 annual fee, making it an easy card to consider keeping in the long term. Additionally, you’ll have access to a 25% redemption bonus through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal, cellphone protection and extensive travel protections. 

Related: Ink Business Preferred review 

Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant American Express Card

(Photo by Isabelle Raphael/The Points Guy)
Welcome offer Earning rate Annual fee
Earn 75,000 bonus points after you spend $3,000 in purchases within the first three months.​ Plus, earn up to $200 in statement credits for eligible purchases at U.S. restaurants within the first six months of card membership.
  • 6x points on eligible purchases at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy program
  • 3x points at U.S. restaurants and on flights booked directly with airlines.
  • 2x points on all other eligible purchases.
$450 (see rates & fees)

Quantifiable benefits:

  • Welcome bonus (up to $600 value, according to TPG valuations).
  • Complimentary Marriott Bonvoy Gold elite status ($840 value, according to TPG valuations).
  • Up-to-$300 annual statement credit on eligible purchases at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy program ($300 value).
  • Up-to-$100 Marriott property credit (when you use your card to book via Marriott directly) — terms apply ($100 value).
  • Annual free night award — up to 50,000 points ($400 value).
  • Up-to-$100 Global Entry/TSA PreCheck application fee credit — every four years ($100 value).
    • Enrollment required for select benefits.

Net first-year value: $1,890

The Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant also comes with 15 elite night credits, a pathway to Platinum elite status after spending $75,000 in a calendar year, Priority Pass lounge access (enrollment required) and travel protections — all of which could potentially add even more value to the card. Keep in mind that our valuation for Gold elite status is based on the assumption that you’ll stay with Marriott at least a certain number of nights in a year, so you could get more or less value from that benefit depending on your traveling habits.

Related: Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant card review

IHG Rewards Club Premier Credit Card

(Photo by The Points Guy)
Sign-up bonus Earning rate Annual fee
Earn 150,000 bonus points after spending $3,000 on purchases within the first three months of account opening.
  • 10x points on IHG purchases.
  • 2x points at gas stations, grocery stores and restaurants.
  • 1x points on everything else.
$89, waived for the first year

Quantifiable benefits:

  • Sign-up bonus ($750 value, according to TPG valuations).
  • Complimentary IHG Platinum elite status ($880 value, according to TPG valuations).
  • Anniversary reward night — up to 40,000 points ($200 value).
  • Up-to-$100 Global Entry/TSA PreCheck application fee credit — every four years ($100 value).

Net first-year value: $1,930

The IHG Rewards Club Premier packs quite the punch for such a low annual fee. In addition to the above benefits, you’ll also get 20% off when buying IHG points, a 10,000-point bonus after you spend $20,000 in a year, fourth-night award nights, cellphone protection and travel protections. Keep in mind that our elite status value calculations assume that you are staying at IHG a certain number of nights per year, so that perk could potentially be worth more or less depending on how often you take advantage of it. 

Related: IHG Rewards Club Premier card review 

Capital One Venture Rewards Card

(Photo by The Points Guy)
Sign-up bonus Earning rate Annual fee
60,000 bonus miles when you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening. 2x miles on every purchase. $95

Quantifiable benefits:

  • Sign-up bonus (up to $1,020 value, according to TPG valuations and not provided by the issuer).
  • Up-to-$100 Global Entry/TSA PreCheck application fee credit — every four years ($100 value).

Net first-year value: $1,025

While the Venture Rewards card doesn’t have a long list of benefits, it’s hard to resist that 60,000-mile bonus — if you can spend the $3,000 in yhe first three months from account opening. The card does come with an up-to-$100 Global Entry/TSA PreCheck enrollment fee credit, plus you can transfer your bonus miles to 16 airline and three hotel partners. Since you earn 2x miles on all purchases, it may not be as hard to spend the top amount needed to earn the 60,000-mile bonus.

Related: Venture Rewards card review 

American Express Gold Card

(Photo by John Gribben for The Points Guy)
Welcome offer Earning rate Annual fee
60,000 Membership Rewards points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new card within the first 6 months of account opening.

Terms apply.

  • 4x points on restaurants and at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year, then 1x).
  • 3x points on flights purchased directly with the airline or at amextravel.com.
  • 1x points on all other eligible purchases.
  • Terms apply.
$250 (see rates & fees)

Quantifiable benefits:

  • Welcome bonus ($1,200 value, according to TPG valuations).
  • Up to $10 per month in Uber Cash for U.S. rides and Uber Eats (up to $120 value annually). Card must be added to Uber account to receive benefit.
  • Up to $10 per month in dining credits at participating restaurants (up to $120 value annually).
    • Enrollment required for select benefits.

Net first-year value: $1,190

The Amex Gold (now also available in the popular Rose Gold version) is one of the best cards out there for foodies because of its earning structure and two food-focused perks. I easily get more than $1,000 in value from my card each year just from the points I earn on spending. Keep in mind that you could potentially be targeted for an even more valuable welcome bonus (up to 75,000 bonus points) through the CardMatch tool, although offers are subject to change at any time.

Related: Amex Gold card review 

Chase Sapphire Preferred Card

(Photo by John Gribben for The Points Guy)
Sign-up bonus Earning rate Annual fee
100,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.
  • 5x points on Lyft rides through March 2022.
  • 2x points on dining and travel.
  • 1x points on everything else.

 

$95

Quantifiable benefits:

  • Sign-up bonus ($2,000 value, according to TPG valuations).
  • Up to $60 back on an eligible Peloton Digital or All-Access membership ($60 value).

Net first-year value: $2,060

The Chase Sapphire Preferred is one of the best cards for beginners — it comes with an excellent sign-up bonus and a low annual fee. Additionally, you’ll have access to a 25% redemption bonus on travel booked through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal.

Related: Chase Sapphire Preferred card review 

Chase Sapphire Reserve

(Photo by John Gribben for The Points Guy)
Sign-up bonus Earning rate Annual fee
60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.
  • 10x points on Lyft purchases through March 2022.
  • 3x points on travel and dining.
  • 1x points on everything else.
$550

Quantifiable benefits: 

Net first-year value: $1,230

The Chase Sapphire Reserve does charge a high annual fee, but a few perks help offset that cost to still give this card just over $1,200 in first-year value. You’ll also get Priority Pass Select lounge access, complimentary Lyft Pink, complimentary DashPass through DoorDash and a 50% redemption bonus for travel booked through the Ultimate Rewards portal. Plus, this card has a solid earning rate on broad categories and excellent travel protections.

Related: Chase Sapphire Reserve card review

Hilton Honors American Express Surpass Card

(Photo by John Gribben for The Points Guy)
Welcome offer Earning rate Annual fee
Earn 130,000 Hilton bonus points after you spend $2,000 in purchases on the card in the first three months of card membership. Offer ends 8/25/2021.
  • 12x points per dollar spent at eligible Hilton properties.
  • 6x points per dollar spent at eligible U.S. restaurants, U.S. supermarkets, and U.S. gas stations
  • 3x points per dollar on all other eligible purchases.
$0 intro annual fee (see rates & fees) for the first year, then $95 (see rates & fees). Offer ends 8/25/2021.

Quantifiable benefits: 

Net first-year value: $2,240

The Hilton Honors Surpass is the mid-tier card in the Hilton cobranded card lineup. If you can meet the minimum spend requirement to unlock the entire welcome offer, you can earn 130,000 points, which TPG values at $780. Even if you’re an infrequent Hilton guest, as a Surpass cardholder, you’ll earn perks such as 80% bonus points on stays, space-available room upgrades, breakfast for two and a fifth night free when you book a stay completely with points.

In addition to the benefits listed, you’ll also get a complimentary weekend night reward each year after spending $15,000 on purchases on your card in a calendar year. Cardholders also get Priority Pass lounge access (enrollment required)  — though just like the premium Hilton Honors Aspire option, we didn’t include these benefits into the value tally as it’s harder to quantify a dollar amount for these perks.

Related: The Hilton Honors Amex Surpass card: 5 reasons to get it

Bottom line

While I’ve listed out the dollar values of perks and benefits where I can, there are a lot of perks and benefits that cards offer that are more subjective in nature. If you have a card where you spend a lot each year within its bonus categories, you can easily get more than $1,000 in value from a card just based on spending alone. Conversely, if you aren’t taking full advantage of benefits offered by a card (such as lounge access, yearly statement credits or elite status perks), you could get less value from a specific card because it’s not suited to your needs.

But hopefully, this gives you a starting point to see which cards offer $1,000 or more in value in the first year to those who can use the card’s benefits.

For rates and fees of the Amex Platinum card, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Amex Gold card, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Hilton Aspire card, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant card, click here.
For rates and fees of the Amex Business Platinum card, click here.
For rates and fees of the Hilton Surpass card, click here.

Featured photo by Atit Phetmuangtong / EyeEm

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.