What Travel Credit Cards Should You Keep Open After a Year?

Posted By Trav

One of the most important decisions a miles and points maven must make is whether or not to keep a card open after they get their initial signup bonus and the annual fee comes due.  For most cards, deciding to keep it open for second year and whether to pay the annual fee is very subjective, and depends on each individual, their spending habits, and their travel plans.

However, there some cards out there that are worth keeping open for the second year (and beyond) for almost everyone.  I’ve listed them below, and grouped them in to three categories based on why they should be kept open after the first year.

Cards with No Annual Fees

If a card never charges an annual fee than there is absolutely no reason to cancel the card, even if you never use it.  Keeping it open will help your credit because it will make your average age of accounts longer and also give you more available credit.  I repeat:  These types of cards should almost NEVER be canceled.

Chase Freedom

Annual Fee: $0

Anniversary Bonus: None

Bonus Categories:  Revolving 5x categories that change every quarter.

Extra Perks:  None

Why you should keep it open after a year:  The 5x category spend is great and can rack you up an extra 30k Chase points if used correctly.  Even if you don’t use it, there is no annual fee!

American Express Hilton HHonors

Annual Fee:  $0

Anniversary Bonus:  None

Bonus Categories:  6x on Hilton

Extra Perks:  Automatic Silver status with Hilton as long as you keep the card open.

Why you should keep it open after a year:  It has no annual fee AND gives you Hilton Silver status.  If you close this card, you’re a fool!

Cards with Anniversary Bonuses

Oftentimes, a card will give you a bonus on your year anniversary as a reason to keep it open and pay the annual fee again.  Sometimes the anniversary bonus is just ok (like the Chase Southwest cards), in which case you’ll have to decide on a personal basis whether it is worth it to keep the card open.  If you’re on the fence, I always recommend erring on the side of keeping it open because keeping cards open HELPS your credit score.

However, the cards I’ve listed below are NOT cards you should be on the fence about.  These are cards that have anniversary bonuses that are generous enough that, in almost every situation, it is worth keeping the card open.

Chase Marriott Rewards Premier Visa


Annual Fee:  $0 for the first year, then $85

Anniversary Bonus:  1 free night at a category 1-5 each year.

Bonus Categories:  5x on Marriott purchases, 2x on airfare

Extra Perks:  None

Why you should keep it open after a year:  The free night can easily be worth $150 depending on the Marriott you stay in and Marriotts are pretty prevalent, so keeping this card open makes sense.

Chase Priority Club

Annual Fee:  $0 for the first year, then $49

Anniversary Bonus:  1 free night at ANY Priority Club hotel worldwide (Priority Club includes Holiday Inn, Candlewood Suites, Staybridge Hotels, Hotel Indigo, Crowne Plaza, and Intercontinental Hotels)

Bonus Categories:  5x at Priority Club hotels, 2x on gas, groceries, and dining

Extra Perks:  Free Gold Status

Why you should keep it open after a year:  The annual fee is pretty low to begin with and the free night can be worth upwards of $300 if you stay at one of the top end hotels, like an Intercontinental or Crowne Plaza.  Gold status is nice, and since Priority Club is the largest hotel group, there is always bound to be one nearby when you are traveling, so the free night should be easy to use.

Barclays USAirways Mastercard

Annual Fee: $89

Anniversary Bonus: 10,000 USAirways miles each year.

Bonus Categories:  2x on USAirways purchases

Extra Perks:

  • 5,000 miles off USAirways award flights if you are a cardholder
  • two $99 companion passes each year
  • 1 free USAirways Club day pass each year.

Why you should keep it open after a year:  Even valued conservatively, the 10k USAirways miles are worth at least $100, and much, much more if you know how to maximize and exploit the USAirways award chart.  On top of that you get some nice additional perks, especially the 5k off USAirways flights.  If you can make use of the companion pass, that is just icing on the cake!

Chase Hyatt credit card

Annual Fee:  $75

Anniversary Bonus:  1 free night at any category 1-4 Hyatt each year.

Bonus Categories:  3x at Hyatt hotels.

Extra Perks:  Free Hyatt Platinum status (free internet, late check out, premium rooms if available) as long as you are a cardholder.

Why you should keep it open after the first year:  The free night, even at a category 1-4, can be worth up to $150 and the platinum status not only scores you free internet but also allows you to bump up to premium rooms and possibly suites, which is a really nice perk!

Everyday Spend Cards

This category is much harder to make blanket statements about, such as “everyone should keep this card open”, because the value of the card can differ greatly depending on each person and how they use it.

What I’ve done in this category is listed the cards that I, as well as many other frequent flyers, tend to use as their everyday spend cards.  These cards often come with an annual fee and don’t offer great anniversary bonuses, so they aren’t worth keeping open based on that criteria.

What they do offer is really good earning potential for day to day purchases, either due  to great category bonuses or because they transfer to a slew of partners, both airline and hotel, that are extremely valuable.

Remember, just because a card is listed in this category doesn’t necessarily mean YOU should keep it open and pay the fee.  I’ve done my best to also try to point out who might benefit from keeping each one open, but each person will be different, so judge according to your own preferences and spending habits.

Chase Sapphire Preferred

Annual Fee:  $95

Anniversary Bonus: 7% bonus for all points earned that year (this means that if you earn 100,000 in a year, you’ll get an additional 7,000)

Bonus Categories:  2x on travel and dining

Extra Perks:  No foreign transaction fee

Why you should keep it open:  The 2x on travel on dining is the main reason most people will keep this card open.  Travel and dining tend to make up a large chunk of many people’s spending, so getting 2 points for each $1 is really nice.  Chase also has some good transfer partners, such as United and Hyatt, making Chase points valuable.

Another consideration is the no foreign transaction fee.  It’s always nice to keep a card in your wallet that doesn’t charge a foreign transaction fee, so if you don’t have any other cards like that, it might make sense to hold on to this one.

The 7% is nice for people who will spend a lot on this card each year, but for most people, its not enough to justify the annual fee.

If you have another Chase card that is a Ultimate Rewards card (like the Chase Ink Bold or Chase Ink Plus) and don’t care about the 2x on travel or the 7% year end bonus, you should consider downgrading to the regular Chase Sapphire.  Other than the perks I just mentioned, this card is the same as the Chase Sapphire Preferred but you won’t pay an annual fee!

American Express Starwood Preferred Guest

Annual Fee:  $65

Anniversary Bonus:  None

Bonus Categories:  2x at SPG hotels


Extra Perks:

  • 25% bonus when transferring SPG points to an airline.
  • Stay 4 nights and get the 5th night free when using SPG points.
  • An awesome Cash and Points system that allows you to pay a little bit of money but also use less points for a hotel stay.
  • 5 free nights towards elite status

Why you should keep this card open:  On the surface, the SPG card doesn’t look like the greatest card because it doesn’t offer any anniversary bonus nor a good bonus category.  However, the main reason so many people love the SPG card is because you can transfer SPG points to 30 different airlines(!) AND because when you transfer to an airline, you get a 25% bonus for each 20k points transferred.  Transfer 20k to American Airlines, SPG will give you an additional 5k for 25k total!

Essentially this means that you are getting 1.25x on every dollar you spend on your SPG card, regardless of category, which is a pretty good deal.

Additionally, when you use SPG points to stay at their hotels, they offer a ton of perks, such as the 5th night free and the option to use their Cash and Points system.

If you like the flexibility of having a ton of transfer partners (including American Airlines, which no other card transfers to) or you plan on staying at an SPG property, the annual fee of $65 is well worth paying!

If you don’t care about transferring to American Airlines and don’t travel to places with SPG properties than it might be worth it to save the $65 and cancel the card after the first year.

Chase Ink Bold or Chase Ink Plus

These are the same exact card except that one is a charge card (Ink Bold) and one is a credit card (Ink Plus).  You can get one of each card if you’d like.


The Chase Ink Bold is no longer available from Chase. The Ink Plus is still available.

Annual Fee:  $95

Anniversary Bonus:  None

Bonus Categories:  5x on wireless (cable, internet, and cellphone) bills, 5x on office supply stores, 2x on gas

Extra Perks:  No foreign transaction fee

Why you should keep this card open:  There is ALOT to like about this card.  The 5x on wireless is nice, as is the 2x on gas.  However, the main reason I keep this card open is because of the amazing opportunity that buying gift cards at office supply stores represents, which basically allows you to get 5x on all your purchases (to read more about how this works, click here).

Just like the Chase Sapphire Preferred, the Ink Bold and Ink Plus have no foreign transaction fee, so you might want to consider keeping it open for that reason if you don’t have another card that you use overseas.

Also like the Chase Sapphire Preferred, if you have another Ultimate Rewards card that you are leaving open, you may want to consider downgrading from the Chase Ink Bold or Chase Ink Plus to the regular Ink Classic.

The only difference is that you’ll pay a foreign transaction fee and that you’ll only earn the category bonuses for the first $25,000 you spend each year in that category, not the first $50,000 like you will with the Ink Bold and the Ink Plus.  However, you won’t pay the $95 annual fee with the Ink Classic, so if the perks aren’t worth the fee, downgrade to the Ink Classic.

Final Word(s)

Obviously each person’s situation is different and usually there is a lot of gray area in the travel credit card world, but in this post, I’ve tried to be as cut and dry as possible.

If the card does not have an annual fee, you should never close it.

If the card offers an anniversary bonus that is equal to, or exceeds, the annual fee, you shouldn’t close it (unless closing it means that you can open up another card and get the signup bonus again).

With everyday spend cards, its a little less clear, but just look at what value the card holds for you and decide whether you maximize its perks in the a way that makes it worth it to keep open.  If you don’t, consider closing it.  If you do, then by all means, keep it open and pay the annual fee.

Did I miss any clear cut, “you should definitely keep this open” cards?  What are you favorite long-term cards and why?  Let me know in the comments below!

(calendar photo courtesy of danielmoyle)

Disclaimer: This content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuer. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuer, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer. This site may be compensated through the credit card issuer Affiliate Program


  1. Jay says:

    This is something that I’ve been meaning to ask you about…

    Say, if one holds on to a bunch of these cards (for whatever reason).
    When doing the NEXT AOR, assuming that sufficient time has passed and one has a good credit score and history, won’t the Credit card companies SEE that the user already has a bunch of cards?
    So won’t the analyst wonder why one needs MORE credit cards if I already have these?

    Or is it assumed that if sufficient time is allowed to pass, then one won’t have to speak to an analyst and will just get the application approved automatically?


    1. Trav says:

      @Jay- An interesting question, for sure. Of course, no one knows exactly what the credit card companies will think each time (especially because it varies every time you call them!) but here is my take on that situation.

      Usually, it is better to have more credit available. This seems odd, but the main thing credit cards company DON’T want is for you to default. If they see that you have other credit cards available, the likelihood of you defaulting on their credit card is lower, since you’d have other options you could default on as well.

      Also, credit card companies usually only care about the amount of credit THEY are giving you, not how much other companies are giving you. This is why sometimes, if you apply for too many Chase cards, you’ll be forced to move credit from an older card to the new card or close the old card altogether to get the new card. They don’t mind giving you a new card, they just don’t want to give you more credit. I’ll also keep cards open until I have to close them, either because an annual fee comes up or because I want a new card and the company tells me that I need to close an old one to get the new one. Other than that though, it is better to keep them open if possible.

  2. hoglard says:

    What do you think of keeping open the Chase SW Airlines cards (personal, business) with $69 or $99 annual fees?

    1. Trav says:

      @hoglard- Great question! I think the that the 3,000 SW miles (for the $69 card) or the 6,000 SW miles (for the $99 card) come close enough to negating the fee that I’d keep them open. However, I didn’t list them because they aren’t a slam dunk, everyone-should-keep-these-open type card. They are cards that really depend on the individual, and whether or not they will use those SW miles or not. Personally, it makes sense to me, but I can see why others would consider closing them.

      1. Jake says:

        If I close them, when can I reapply and get the bonuses (and closeness to companion pass) again?

        1. Trav says:

          @Jake- You can only get bonuses for the same card twice if the card is “churnable”. Only a few of the cards out there are churnable, such as the Barclays USAirways card. In this case, you should wait at least 91 days between apps.

          Most cards are not churnable, meaning that if you sign up for the card and get the bonus once, you won’t be eligible to get it again.

          All Chase cards are NOT churnable for almost all people; if someone does close the card and get the bonus again, they are extremely lucky because it was a mistake by someone at Chase.

          I’m not quite sure about what you mean regarding the closeness to the companion pass. If you could elaborate, I’d be glad to help.

  3. Ken says:

    Can the regular Ink cards transfer points to airlines/hotels or is that only the Plus/Bold/Sapphire cards?

    1. Jay says:

      Only the Plus/Bold and Sapphire Preferred (Not the regular Sapphire) let you transfer points to airlines/hotels.

      1. Trav says:

        @Ken @Jay- Right on Jay. Only the Plus/Bold/Sapphire Preferred cards can transfer to airlines and hotels because they are the Ultimate Rewards cards. However, if you have one regular card, let’s say the Ink Classic, and one Ultimate Rewards card, like the Sapphire Preferred, you can transfer your Ink Classic points to your Sapphire Preferred account (turning those points in to Ultimate Rewards points) and then transfer them to airlines and hotels.

        That’s why I suggest if you downgrade to keep at least one Ultimate Rewards card open. As long as you have one Ultimate Rewards card open, basically all the points you earn from a Chase card are essentially Ultimate Rewards points because you can transfer the balances to the UR card and then transfer to airlines and hotels.

  4. Keith C says:

    This was a really great post. I appreciated the level of detail that you provided for each card, and the alternatives you offered. This is definitely something I’ll be referring back to in the future as my anniversary dates come up!

    1. Trav says:

      @Keith C- Glad you liked it. It’s one of the most important questions I get asked on a daily basis, so its nice to have a post to refer people to, and then have those people be able to refer other people to! Thanks for the compliments!

  5. Stewy S says:

    Thanks for the comprehensive and CLEAR post. Love your work, btw.

    Question: I have the Chase Freedom, and so I cannot transfer out to airlines. If I sign up today for the Sapphire Preferred, will it “unlock” the points I have in UR to allow them to be transferred out as well? Or is it only on new points earned moving forward…

    Tx in advance!

    1. Trav says:

      @Stewy S- This is a GREAT question. I can’t speak from personal experience, seeing as I don’t have the Chase Freedom yet (it’s on my list to get though) but it is my understanding that once you have the Chase Sapphire Preferred (or any other UR card) that you can transfer ANY points you have in your Freedom account to that card. Therefore, my guess is that it should work for any Freedom points you have built up.

      However, I’d suggest calling a rep and asking just to be sure. Please let me know what you find out, as this is a question a lot of people may ask.

      Thanks for the compliments, and if you do sign up for the Chase Sapphire Preferred from links in this blog, just let me know and I’ll enter you in the 10 Million Mile Challenge.

      1. Ken says:

        Once I got the Sapphire Preferred card I was able to transfer all points from both of my Freedom cards to my SP card and then transfer those points to partners. BTW, the Freedom card also uses Ultimate Rewards points, but they cannot be transferred to partners.

        1. Trav says:

          @Ken- Wow, thanks, that is good to know. So looks like you can transfer points you have earned previously! Yeah, I’ve always been confused as to why they call the Freedom points “Ultimate Rewards” points and yet you can’t transfer them. Sorry for the confusion, I was using “Ultimate Rewards” points to mean UR points that can be transferred, but yes, you are right, the Freedom points are also called that. Weird, right?

          1. Ken says:

            It’s because they use the UR portal ;)

  6. Stewy S says:

    @Ken, @Trav – Thank you for your clear reply. They really do confuse the issue by calling them (interchangeably it seems) Points, Rewards, and even Cash (as in when you sign up for Chase Freedom they promote it as $100 cash back, when in reality it is UR points).

    @Trav – Will do. I plan to do this in December since I just got the Freedom and don’t want Chase to deny my app for too many recent apps.

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