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

Aug 10, 2020

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Editor’s note: This is a recurring post, regularly updated with new information.

As travel rewards continue to grow in popularity, credit card issuers have had to adapt their customer acquisition strategies to attract valuable, long term customers and not just those interested in a quick bonus. One trend this has produced in recent years is a notable shift away from the standard “spend X in the first Y months” bonus structure.

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Instead, a number of recent offers have multiple spending tiers that often require you to spend much more in order to unlock the full bonus over a longer period of time. As the spending requirements creep higher, people have to get even more creative to meet their sign-up bonus or welcome offer spending requirements. TPG reader Mike wants to know if paying a credit card annual fee counts toward the welcome bonus…

Do annual membership fees count towards bonus spend requirements?

TPG READER MIKE

Generally speaking, cards with higher annual fees often have higher spending requirements to earn a full welcome offer. For example, The Business Platinum Card® from American Express has a $595 annual fee (see rates and fees) and currently offers a welcome offer of 125,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $15,000 on eligible purchases with the Business Platinum Card within the first 3 months of Card Membership. But does that $595 fee count?

This is one of the most common questions we get from beginners here at TPG, and so the answer bears repeating: 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 credit cards clearly state that fees — including annual membership fees — do not count toward your bonus spending threshold. Here are the terms and conditions on The Business Platinum Card® from American Express, which clearly state that fees and interest charges don’t count:

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.

It’s always important to have a plan of how you’re going to 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. Note that Amex even calls this out in the above language on the Amex Business Platinum:

“… or if you cancel or return purchases you made to meet the Threshold Amount), we may not credit Membership Rewards points to, we may freeze Membership Rewards points credited to, or we may take away Membership Rewards points from your account.”

Many new cardholders will always spend an extra few hundred dollars above the minimum spending requirement just to include a buffer — just be sure to factor out any 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. And again, if you’re working on a new welcome bonus right now, make sure to check out TPG reporter Katie Genter’s list of ways to hit your spending requirement.

Thanks for the question, Mike, and if you’re a TPG reader who’d like us to answer a question of your own, tweet us at @thepointsguy, message us on Facebook or email us at info@thepointsguy.com.

Featured photo by Image Source / Getty Images.

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

Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card

Earn 50,000 bonus miles and 5,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $2,000 in purchases on your new card in your first three months of card membership. Plus, earn up to $100 back in statement credits for eligible purchases at U.S. restaurants with your card within the first 3 months of membership.

With Status Boost™, earn 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, up to two times per year getting you closer to Medallion Status. Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels, 2X Miles at restaurants and at U.S. supermarkets and earn 1X Mile on all other eligible purchases. Terms Apply.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Earn 50,000 bonus miles and 5,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $2,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months.
  • Plus, earn up to $100 back in statement credits for eligible purchases at US restaurants with your card within the first 3 months of membership.
  • Accelerate your path to Medallion Status, with Status Boost®. Plus, in 2021 you can earn even more bonus Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) to help you reach Medallion Status.
  • Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels.
  • Earn 2X Miles at restaurants worldwide, including takeout and delivery and at U.S. supermarkets.
  • Earn 1X Miles on all other eligible purchases.
  • Receive a Domestic Main Cabin round-trip companion certificate each year upon renewal of your Card. *Payment of the government imposed taxes and fees of no more than $75 for roundtrip domestic flights (for itineraries with up to four flight segments) is required. Baggage charges and other restrictions apply. See terms and conditions for details.
  • Enjoy your first checked bag free on Delta flights.
  • Fee Credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®.
  • Enjoy an exclusive rate of $39 per person per visit to enter the Delta Sky Club® for you and up to two guests when traveling on a Delta flight.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • $250 Annual Fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
Regular APR
15.74%-24.74% Variable
Annual Fee
$250
Balance Transfer Fee
N/A
Recommended Credit
Excellent/Good
Terms and restrictions apply. See rates & fees.

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.