About four months back there was an offer for the Ritz-Carlton Rewards Visa that waived the $395 annual fee the first year (for owners of Ritz-Carlton Residence condos). I didn’t pay it much mind at the time because I’m not a huge fan of the Marriott program, and Ritz-Carlton Rewards is largely a rebrand of Marriott Rewards. A $200 annual fee credit on a card that I wouldn’t have been paying a fee for is nice, but I look for more than $200 in value from signing up for a card from Chase.
I started looking at the card again because I have an upcoming stay at a Ritz-Carlton resort (and at an incredibly, shockingly favorable rate, y’all will see a trip report when it happens).
Ok, get ready for Mommy Points to call me “Mr. Fancy Pants” again. But I’m not the sort of guy who stays at Ritz-Carltons frequently, or at Four Seasons or similar level properties. I’m pretty strictly an upscale chain kinda guy, Hyatts and Westins and Sheratons and the like. I’ve certainly stayed at a few for work conferences in the past, though. Years ago I do know my Marriott Rewards account had the ‘RZR’ designation for ‘Ritz-Carlton Repeat’ — I’m not sure how since Ritz didn’t have a program and wasn’t linked to Marriott Rewards in any way. The only personal stay I’ve ever booked at a Ritz property was my wedding night, and that was on point.
Now, it happens that this card probably won’t be worthwhile for my one upcoming stay. I was interested in it for the club lounge benefit, and my rate won’t be eligible.
The card won’t make sense for many readers — but it does make sense for regular Ritz-Carlton guests, folks who will stay more than once a year at a Ritz or similar-level property. There are also some folks who stay at Marriott properties, but not frequently enough to earn anything about Silver status, for whom this card will be a great fit.
Here are the benefits:
- 70,000 point signup bonus after $2000 spend within 3 months. That’s enough for a night at a top tier Ritz property like Hong Kong or New York Central Park. Or two nights in Seoul, Atlanta Buckhead, or Beijing. Or for upgrades, and of course the points can be redeemed at Marriott properties as well.
- Earn from spend: 5 points per dollar at Ritz-Carlton properties, 2 points per dollar on airline tickets purchased directly with the airline, with car rental agencies, and at restaurants, 1 point on everything else. (I consider this the best for spend at Ritz properties of course but would use my Sapphire Preferred on travel.) No foreign currency transaction fees.
- Automatic Gold status the first year, and then Gold status with $10,000 each year in spending. Here are the benefits of Gold. Note that this is, effectively, Marriott Gold status as well. Which means that you can ‘buy’ Marriott’s status which comes with free lounge access or breakfast (during the week at non-resort properties), upgrades, and internet for the cost of a credit card signup and you can keep that status with $10,000 each year on the card. For the frequent Marriott guest who doesn’t stay enough to earn Gold, this could be a pretty good solution. (Personally I’d still prefer to stay at Hilton and earn in the HHonors program with Gold status provided by the $95 a year Citi® Hilton HHonors™ Reserve Card.)
- Club Level Upgrades. This is sort of a big deal, three times a year (on stays up to seven nights) you can upgrade a reservation to the club level. Ritz-Carlton clubs aren’t like Marriott, Westin, Hyatt, etc. clubs. More food presentations and of a much higher quality throughout the day, and really good service as well. They don’t provide elite upgrades to club level, and they don’t upgrade to club level on Virtuoso reservations or bookings made through a Ritz-Carlton STARS agent. They really do protect the exclusivity of the clubs. You have to pay the prevailing rate for a room, you cannot use discounted rates like corporate or group rates. So it wasn’t going to work for me on my upcoming conference stay.
- $100 folio credit on each stay of 2 nights or more. This takes much of the sting out of not being able to access the card’s benefits (other than those received via Gold status) when booking on a Fine Hotels & Resorts, Virtuoso, Stars, or corporate rate.
- $200 airline fee credit. Unlike American Express Platinum, you don’t have to designate an airline for the year to use this benefit, it applies to any airline fee. And I’ve seen reports of folks getting (4) $50 airline gift cards they purchased with the card credited without a fuss. So you make back half the card’s annual fee with this benefit.
- Lounge access from The Lounge Club which is the credit card-branded version of Priority Pass (since, apparently, the name Priority Pass Select was too confusing).
You’re supposed to have to choose between a Marriott account and a Ritz Rewards account, the two programs are virtually identical but separate. You can convert your account online. Though not everyone does, there are folks who continue to have a Marriott account and a Marriott Visa even along with this card. But it’s not really a big deal for most to convert if necessary.
Ultimately at one point per dollar on most spending, and with the ‘expensive’ Marriott/Ritz-Carlton reward chart, I wouldn’t use this card for everyday spend. It’s a great card to have and not use for the benefits for folks who stay a few times a year at Ritz-Carlton hotels, and for Marriott stayers who don’t earn Gold on their own (for whom the annual fee and $10,000 spend will make sense in future years).