Here is a simple yet effective spreadsheet for personal finance. It will help you assess whether you should pay the annual fee on a credit card or not.
For starters – free is the way to go
There are a myriad of credit card options available for us out there. How do we find out which one is best for us? Well, if you are not a huge credit card spender, or are just venturing into the credit card world for the first time, then I’d recommend that you start simple: start with one that’s free!
For more advanced users – assess annual fees on credit cards
However, what if you want something a bit more advanced? You may have come across credit cards with annual fees, which are gaining popularity. Although you have to pay a fee, they offer better rewards, which may actually be worth it depending on your spending habits. For example, if a family of four puts all of their expenses on one credit card, then it is likely that the financial benefits may actually be greater than the annual fee that you have to pay.
I have created a spreadsheet for you to assess if the annual fee is worth it. Here is how you can use the calculators:
- Find out whether the credit card you are interested in is a cash back credit card or a points. credit card.
- A cash back credit card is simple to understand: it gives you cash back for every dollar you spend using the credit card.
- The points card, on the other hand, gives you points (e.g., Air Miles) for every dollar you spend.
- Pick the section of the calculator to use based on your finding in step 1 above.
- Of course, you can use both at the same time if you are looking at both types of cards and want to compare the two. There’s nobody preventing you from doing that!
- Enter in data in cells highlighted in orange.
- I recommend that you enter the estimates based on your average actual expenses in the last six months. You can also add your categories of spending if they are not covered by the ones I have.
- As for the reward points, you may have to do some offline calculation yourself. You could use the “Your Notes” section in the spreadsheet to calculate exactly how much is each reward point worth in your currency.
- Note that some credit cards offer the same flat rewards level for all expenses, whereas others could differ by categories. Make sure you read their policies carefully.
- The calculator will automatically update with the input you provide, and you will be able to see whether it is worth it or not to pay the annual fee!
Spreadsheet usage case: John with two $99 credit cards
Here is an example: John has two credit cards that he is interested in paying an annual fee for. Both of them cost $99 a year. Are they worth it? John plans to use his credit card for only drug store expenses, eating out, transportation and recurring bill payments. He put in the orange cells how much he thinks he is going to spend on average every month, and the calculator shows that the cash back credit card is definitely worth it, but the points credit card is not.
Of course, please remember that you should never ever, and I repeat, ever, use credit cards to buy things just to earn rewards. The highest rewards that I have seen are around 5% (likely only during promo periods), which is much smaller compared to the interest the credit card companies charge if you don’t pay the balance on time. And please don’t buy unnecessary things just to make the annual fee you pay worth it.
I hope you find the spreadsheet useful in helping you assess the annual fee on your credit card. Leave me a comment if you’d like to see any enhancements or any other spreadsheets!
Of course, in order to qualify for a credit card, you need to have a high enough credit score. Check out my post to learn how you can raise your credit score by 200 points.