Is your rewards credit card worth it? How much you have to spend on travel and more to break even.


With so many rewards cards available today, it can be extra tricky figuring out whether they're actually worth it. The $300 annual travel credit for the Chase Sapphire Reserve sounds great, for example, until you realize there's also a $450 annual fee that you have to pay upfront.

To help you figure out which rewards card makes the most sense for you, RewardExpert analyzed your choices based on how much you'd have to spend per month to break even, using spending data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics on things like food, gas and travel. Since the first year sign-up bonus can skew a card's perceived value, the site calculated how much you'd have to spend in the second year of having a card when you no are no longer eligible for the bonus.

Using real spending habits is key because it gives you a better idea of how likely you are to charge enough trips, restaurant meals and entertainment to actually make any given card worth it. As you can see from the BLS chart below, household spending varies widely depending on your age.

To help you figure out the right card based on your spending habits, Mic calculated how much you would need to spend to break even around the four-month mark enough time to start reaping real rewards before your second-year annual fee comes due. Until you spend that "break-even" amount, you are not really getting a good deal.

Here's how the cards shake out: See which one might make sense for you.

Premium credit cards with high annual fees

American Express Platinum

Break-even point for spending: $18,321

Best if you spend: Around $4,500 a month  

Annual fee: $550

If you buy lots of big-ticket items or use your rewards card for most of your purchases, then the American Express Platinum might be right for you.

While you have to spend about 158% more than you would on the Chase Sapphire Reserve — and 62.5% more than with the Citi Prestige — according to RewardExpert, perks include a $200 Uber credit, $200 airline fee credit and a $100 global entry/TSA pre-check fee credit.

Citi Prestige

Break-even point for spending: $11,275

Best if you spend: Around $3,000 a month

Annual fee: $450   

This card is ideal for those who like to slap restaurant, airfare and hotel purchases on their card, because the Citi Prestige earns triple points on hotels and airfare, plus double points on restaurant purchases. There's also a $250 travel credit for any flight-related expenses and free access to VIP airport lounges. On the downside, you have to spend over $4,000 more before you'll break even compared to the Chase Sapphire Reserve, which has the same high annual fee.

Syda Productions/Shutterstock

Chase Sapphire Reserve

Break-even point for spending: $7,105

Best if you spend: More than $2,000 a month

Annual fee: $450

The Chase Sapphire Reserve, another good travel card, offers triple point-back earnings on airfare, hotels and dining. With sign-up bonus points worth $750 in travel and a $300 annual travel credit, the metal card has gotten a lot of buzz for its generous rewards. But if you charge less than $2,000 a month on it, you'll need about four months to break even in terms of rewards. What's more, you have to spend at least $4,000 in the first three months to get the sign-up bonus points.

U.S. Bank Altitude Reserve Visa Infinite

Break-even point for spending: $3,803 

Best if you spend: About $1,000 a month

Annual fee: $400

With the best break-even value for a luxury rewards card, the U.S. Bank Altitude Reserve Visa Infinite offers $100 off global entry/TSA pre-check fee, complimentary VIP airport lounge access and free in-flight W-Fi. Plus, cardholders earn triple points back on all mobile wallet purchases. 

Low-fee credit cards for rewards fiends

Chase Sapphire Preferred

Break-even point for spending: $7,000

Best if you spend: More than $2,000 a month

Annual fee: $95 (first year fee is waived) 

While cardholders pay no annual fee the first year, you have to spend the most on the Chase Sapphire Preferred compared to other low-fee cards listed here before breaking even. Benefits include double points for airfare, hotels and dining purchases and one point for every dollar spent. Plus, earn $625 worth in bonus points if you spend $4,000 during the first three months.

Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard

Break-even point for spending: $4,450

Best if you spend: More than $1,500

Annual fee: $89 (first yearly fee is waived)

The low annual fee on the Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard makes this card attractive to anyone who is fee-averse. You can earn double miles on flights, and they never expire. Plus, cardholders earn 5% of their miles back every time they redeem them.

CapitalOne Venture

Break-even point for spending: $3,000

Best if you spend: About $1,000 a month

Annual fee: $59 (first yearly fee is waived)

The winner for lowest fee and best break-even value, the CapitalOne Venture card offers double rewards on airfare, hotels, groceries, gas and more. No fee for the first year, CapitalOne Venture is a great card for someone who doesn’t make credit card use a habit but still wants some rewards for less.

No-fee cards that pay you back immediately

BankAmericard Travel Rewards

Break-even point for spending: $0

Best if you spend: About $1,000 a month

Annual fee: $0

Don't spend enough on travel to justify a premium rewards card like the Citi Prestige, but still want the top-flight travel rewards? The BankAmericard Travel Rewards card gives you a $200 statement credit toward travel purchases if you spend $1,000 in the first 90 days. That's in addition to the 1.5 points you earn for every dollar you charge. If you spend just $1,000 a month, for example, you may earn another $180 travel credit. Sweet.

Citi Double Cash

Break-even point for spending: $0

Best if you spend: Any amount

Annual fee: $0

You don't have to waste money on an annual fee to get rewards. Citi Double Cash gives you 2% back on everything single item you charge. You get the first percent when you make the purchase and the second percent once you pay your bill. Redeem cash back for either a statement credit, a check or gift card.

Sign up for The Payoff — your weekly crash course on how to live your best financial life. Additionally, for all your burning money questions, check out Mic’s creditsavingscareerinvesting and health care hubs for more information — that pays off.