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TPG reader credit card question: Do credit card annual fees count toward bonus spending requirements?

Oct. 25, 2021
3 min read
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Editor’s note: This is a recurring post, regularly updated with new information.

2021 has been a golden year for travel credit card welcome offers. We've practically seen more cards with 100,000+ point bonuses than ever before.

But many lucrative card bonuses are guarded by a sizable minimum spending requirement. For example, The Business Platinum Card® from American Express comes with 120,000 bonus Amex Membership Rewards points after spending $15,000 on eligible purchases within the first three months of card membership. That might be difficult to accomplish (though there are plenty of strategies you can use to achieve the Amex Business Platinum's bonus).

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With large spending requirements like this, every dollar spent helps. TPG reader Mike wants to know if credit card annual fees qualify as a purchase towards meeting minimum spend requirements towards unlocking a new welcome offer.

Do annual membership fees count towards bonus spend requirements?TPG READER MIKE

This is one of the most common questions we get from beginners here at TPG, and it's an important one. Unfortunately, annual fees do not count towards your bonus spending requirement.

Unlike some parts of the points-earning process, there isn’t any ambiguity here either. Most cards clearly state that fees — including annual membership fees — do not count toward your bonus spending threshold. Here are the Amex Business Platinum rates and fees, which clearly state that fees and interest charges don’t count.

(Screenshot courtesy of American Express)

And here are the terms for the Chase Sapphire Reserve sign-up bonus, which are quite clear in stating that annual fees do not count.

(Screenshot courtesy of Chase)

It’s always important to have a plan of how you will meet your minimum spending requirement before you open a new credit card, so keep these guidelines in mind.

In addition, be sure to factor in returns when you’re determining how much you need to spend to earn a welcome bonus. A scenario may arise where you earn a bonus and then need to return some items that helped you earn the bonus. Banks have been known to claw back bonuses if they think you're trying to take advantage of them (for example, purchasing a $10,000 refundable first class flight, earning the bonus, and then canceling your refundable flight).

You should always spend an extra few hundred dollars above the minimum spending requirement just to include a buffer. Factor out your annual fee when determining this amount.

Bottom Line

While some policies vary heavily between different card issuers, the answer to this question is nearly universal: Your annual fee does not count toward your bonus spending requirement. You’ll need to make actual purchases in order to earn those bonus points. We've created a guide to give you creative ideas for meeting your minimum spending requirement. You can spend more organically than you probably think.

Let us know if you have any head-scratchers you’d like answered for our weekly reader question series. You can tweet us @thepointsguy, message us on Facebook or email us at info@thepointsguy.com.

For rates and fees of the Amex Business Platinum card, click here.

Featured image by (Photo by Isabelle Raphael for The Points Guy)
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

TPG featured card

Best starter travel card
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards

1 - 3X points
3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
1XEarn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases

Intro offer

Earn 80,000 ThankYou® points60,000 points
For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening

Annual Fee

$95

Recommended Credit

670-850
Excellent, Good
Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

Why We Chose It

The Citi Premier’s 3 points per dollar spent across a wide range of popular categories is one of the more lucrative offerings in the world of points and miles. The Citi Premier comes with a $95 annual fee and is currently offering a solid sign up bonus of 80,000 points after you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first three months. It also has some valuable transfer partners to make the most of your rewards. Add in access to Citi Entertainment plus a $100 hotel credit for any single-stay hotel booking that exceeds $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through the Citi travel website, there are few reasons why the Citi Premier should not be in every traveler’s wallet.

Pros

  • Earns 3x points on restaurants, supermarkets, gas stations, air travel and hotels.
  • $100 annual hotel savings benefit (on single hotel stay bookings of $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through thankyou.com)
  • Points transfer to 16 airline programs, from JetBlue to Virgin Atlantic.
  • World Elite Mastercard benefits, extended warranty, damage and theft protection.

Cons

  • $95 annual fee
  • Lacks travel protections that other travel rewards cards come with
  • For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
  • Earn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Annual Hotel Savings Benefit
  • 80,000 Points are redeemable for $800 in gift cards when redeemed at thankyou.com
  • No expiration and no limit to the amount of points you can earn with this card
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees on purchases
Best starter travel card
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
1XEarn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Intro Offer
    For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening

    Earn 80,000 ThankYou® points
    60,000 points
  • Annual Fee

    $95
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    670-850
    Excellent, Good

Why We Chose It

The Citi Premier’s 3 points per dollar spent across a wide range of popular categories is one of the more lucrative offerings in the world of points and miles. The Citi Premier comes with a $95 annual fee and is currently offering a solid sign up bonus of 80,000 points after you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first three months. It also has some valuable transfer partners to make the most of your rewards. Add in access to Citi Entertainment plus a $100 hotel credit for any single-stay hotel booking that exceeds $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through the Citi travel website, there are few reasons why the Citi Premier should not be in every traveler’s wallet.

Pros

  • Earns 3x points on restaurants, supermarkets, gas stations, air travel and hotels.
  • $100 annual hotel savings benefit (on single hotel stay bookings of $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through thankyou.com)
  • Points transfer to 16 airline programs, from JetBlue to Virgin Atlantic.
  • World Elite Mastercard benefits, extended warranty, damage and theft protection.

Cons

  • $95 annual fee
  • Lacks travel protections that other travel rewards cards come with
  • For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
  • Earn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Annual Hotel Savings Benefit
  • 80,000 Points are redeemable for $800 in gift cards when redeemed at thankyou.com
  • No expiration and no limit to the amount of points you can earn with this card
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees on purchases