Chase Ritz-Carlton Rewards card from Chase: don’t underestimate it!

I don’t think the Ritz-Carlton Rewards card from Chase gets enough credit. I’m not surprised given that Chase has so many great cards and it seems to be the issuer with which people are limited with new applications. That’s the reason I haven’t gotten the card yet, though it’s already on the list for my next “churn” cycle.

The card really is worth considering despite the $395 annual fee, if for no other reason than the Gold elite benefits at Marriott properties.

First, the card has a good sign-up bonus of 70,000 Ritz-Carlton Rewards points after spending $2,000 on the card within three months, enough for a free night at even the most expensive Ritz-Carlton properties (or two free nights at a combination of Tier 1 and Tier 2 Ritz-Carlton properties).

For example, you could redeem the free night at the Ritz-Carlton Central Park New York, where rates start at $895 per night (~$1,030 per night with tax).

But there are lots of great sign-up bonuses out there, so that hardly sets the card apart. It’s the benefits of the card that I love, which include:

Gold Elite status in the Ritz-Carlton Rewards program for a year

This status usually requires 50 elite nights per year to achieve. This includes benefits at Ritz-Carlton properties like room upgrades (excluding suites and the club level), free internet (which isn’t free at most Ritz-Carlton properties), a 25% points bonus, and more.

But here’s the real benefit of this that I think a lot of people overlook — Gold status in the Ritz-Carlton Rewards program gets you virtually all the same benefits as Gold Status in the Marriott Rewards program, which includes club lounge access for stays at Marriott family hotels. On Tuesday when I posted about Hilton’s co-branded credit cards, I said the following:

The reason this card is so awesome is because it comes with Hilton HHonors Gold status for as long as you have the card, which is hands down the most valuable mid-tier hotel status (perhaps with the exception of Marriott Gold, though that requires 50 nights per year, the same as other programs’ top tier status).

So yeah, Marriott’s mid-tier status requires as many qualifying nights as top tier status with Hyatt or Starwood, though with the Ritz-Carlton Rewards card you’re getting that for the first year, and can maintain it with $10,000 in spend for each subsequent year. That really isn’t all that much spend for a status level that gets you free internet and lounge access at Marriott properties (though I’m still not a huge fan of the Marriott Rewards program as a whole). There are actually very few differences between Marriott Gold and Platinum status, so it’s almost like top tier status with Marriott.

Three upgrades to the Ritz-Carlton club level annually and $100 hotel credit for stays of two or more nights

Just for having the card, you get three upgrades for stays of up to seven nights each to the Ritz-Carlton club level. You also get a $100 hotel credit for any stay of two or more nights.

The bad news is that this benefit only applies on stays booked at the best publicly available rate. AAA rates, corporate rates, and even Virtuoso/American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts rates don’t qualify.

Confusion over this benefit is probably what disappoints most people about the card. If you’re just making a short stay chances are you’ll get more value by booking through Virtuoso or American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts as you’ll typically get a hotel credit and free breakfast through them anyway.

That being said, I still find the club level upgrades potentially valuable, as Ritz-Carlton clubs are in a different league than “mainstream” club lounges. While the premium for club lounge access at most hotels might be $50-100, it’s frequently $200+ at Ritz-Carlton properties, given that they have five food presentations per day. And Ritz-Carlton is otherwise pretty strict about not giving club upgrades, so if you want to experience a Ritz-Carlton lounge, this is the way to do so. But even if you don’t value this benefit, I think it’s still a great card.

A $200 annual airline fee credit

Here’s a nice annual benefit that helps offset the annual fee. Every year you get a $200 airline fee credit. When you charge an airline fee to your card you just have to call within four billing cycles to request reimbursement.

Primarily collision coverage

After my rental car accident in Germany over the summer, I’m always on the lookout for credit cards with good car rental collision coverage, and best I can tell the Ritz-Carlton Rewards card offers primary coverage, even in the US. The T&Cs state:

You’re protected up to the actual cash value of most rental cars. Primary coverage for damage due to collision or theft is available in the United States and most foreign countries.

Primarily collision coverage in the US? Now that’s awesome. Keep in mind even some of the most generous cards for car rental protection, like the American Express Platinum, offer just secondary coverage.

And the best benefit of all…

Now that’s comforting! ;)

The bottom line

As far as I’m concerned the card’s annual fee is $195 (since I think most of us rack up $200 in airline fees annually), and for that I think the benefits are well worth it, especially for the first year. This is the easiest way to get Gold benefits at Marriott hotels for an entire year, and the car rental coverage is extremely valuable as well (and I’ll actually use this instead of the premium car rental insurance offered by American Express, which is a flat $25 per rental and I still consider to be a great value). The club upgrades will be useful for those that frequent Ritz-Carlton properties, though probably not for most. And I actually think the $10,000 of annual spend for Ritz-Carlton Rewards Gold is pretty valuable given the benefits it gets you at Marriott properties.

Look at the “big picture” of the card and you shouldn’t be disappointed.

Comments

  1. John says

    Are you able to buy gift cards with the $200 airline credit? Also, is this a card you would keep?

  2. Scott B says

    The Amex platinum will also cover expenses to ship your body home if you were to die on a trip. It also covers medical expenses as long as your trip is booked with your Amex. If you loose a limb Amex platnium will also compensate you for that.

  3. DW says

    Gold status with Marriott can be worthwhile, but it’s also important to note it’s main shortcomings: (1) the majority of lounges at US Marriotts are closed on the weekends, and only some properties make up for it by giving out breakfast certificates for use in the restaurant (which is a courtesy provided by the hotels as breakfast is never a guaranteed benefit at US Marriott properties) and (2) breakfast is not a published benefit for Golds or Platinums at Courtyard properties

  4. SW says

    In the past year I’ve tried both the Ritz Lake Tahoe (northstar) and Ritz Half Moon Bay. Both had disapointing aspects. I’ll pass on a Ritz credit card. I can have a mediocre experience at a lower lever chain without a credit report hit.

  5. lucky says

    @ Jay — Not that much, surprisingly. Most of the cards I get have no annual fees for the first year, and I usually cancel within that timeframe. For those cards on which I pay an annual fee, I always try to get a retention offer before renewing.

  6. lucky says

    @ John — I’m not sure I’d keep the card past the first year because one of my goals is actually to be involved in fewer (and not more) hotel programs. I already have top tier with Hyatt, InterContinental, and Starwood, and mid-tier with Hilton through the Reserve Card. I don’t get much additional value out of elite status with a fifth hotel chain. But for those that want elite status without having to stay many nights, I think this card is one of the best out there, and a keeper.

    It’s my understanding that the reimbursement is a manual process, and in practice can usually be applied on anything except actual fares. So I think you should be good, though can’t guarantee it. Otherwise lounge access, change fees, upgrades, etc., should be reimbursable.

  7. naps8906_ft says

    This card is crap. Everyone can gauge the pros/cons so I’m not going to speak for everyone else. But for me, I’m waiting for free annual fee promo. If it doesn’t happen, I wont feel I lost out on anything.

  8. Alex says

    I lucked out and signed up for the card under the residence club offer – the annual fee was waived and I earned 70,000 points after first use. You were supposed to be a residence club owner, but they never checked. You are only supposed to get reimbursed for airline incidentals, but I have had luck sending a secure message and getting reimbursed for air fare. I tried calling to get reimbursed for air fare once but they asked a bunch of questions and determined that it was for air fare and denied the reimbursement. I have also been reimbursed for buying AA gift cards. The great thing is that the perk is per calendar year, so if you get the card now you can get reimbursed $200 for charges up to 12/31 and then another $200 for charges after 1/1, so a total of $400 – which pays for the annual fee!

  9. Robert Hanson says

    The Chase United card also gives primary coverage for rental vehicles. In fact the other day I rented a U-Haul truck, and U-Haul had it on their website that cc’s “don’t cover rental trucks”. When I called the number on the back of my United card, I was very surprised to be told they would indeed cover the truck. Saving me $50 towards next years $95 fee, since the first year was free.

    Remember though, this only covers the rental vehicle itself, not liability for damage or injury. Of course, the U-Haul insurance wasn’t going to cover me for that either.

  10. Lynn says

    Is one able to transfer Ritz program points to Marriott and vise versa? I could not find any details on either of the programs websites….

  11. Dave says

    Lynn – you use the same membership number for both programs.

    I thought of getting this to top me off for a Marriott Hotel+Air redemption (I am at 200K, need 270k-300K), but there are so many good chase offerings I can’t bring myself to do it, especially since I don’t *need* the miles yet.

  12. duer says

    Does anybody have any good ideas about how to spend the airline incidental credit? So far, I have purchased drinks on board, drinks in the lounge, food on board, and Direct TV access. I have been reimbursed for all.

    How about spending while on the ground? I see the suggestion of buying AA gift cards, but I would not be able to use those. How about being able to buy merchandise, such as through SkyMall?

  13. saxorob says

    I’ve had this card for two years. The best benefit of it for us is the club lounge benefit. Club lounges at Ritz Carlton are completely different than club lounges at Marriott, Westin, Intercontinental, etc. Being on the club floor means four (and sometimes five) gourmet meal presentations a day. Since getting this card, our family now vacations only at Ritz Carltons, three times a year – the maximum number of times you can use this benefit. We pay the regular rate for the room, but we get free food and liquor, 18 hours a day for the entire vacation. When the club lounge serves three meats (including steamship round), fresh seafood, three vegetables, salads, soups, and gourmet desserts for dinner, there just isn’t any desire to spend any money eating anywhere else. We figure the food and wine for four people per day is easily worth $300-$400 if we went to the restaurant to eat the same food.

    The other benefit you guys are overlooking is that assuming you don’t apply for the card on Jan 1, the $200 airline incidental fees are reimbursed per calendar year, not membership year. That means $200 now, and $200 again in six months, which negates the annual fee. And yes, airline gift cards always work, but keep them under $50 each. You don’t even have to announce which airline all of your spending is going to be on at the beginning of the year like with Amex Platinum.

    The only other tip is that this card has been offered free of an annual fee each of the last two Augusts.

    You can talk all you want about Chase Sapphire and Amex Gold, but for a family of four (five people usually means renting two rooms) that enjoys staying at Ritz resorts for their vacations and eating gourmet food, this credit card will save you thousands of dollars per year

  14. Jay says

    I read some time ago that if one receives the sign-up bonus for a Chase Marriott card, you will not receive the sign-up for this card.

    Does that still hold true?

  15. lucky says

    @ naps8906_ft — Fair enough, and it might not work for everyone, but it’s (basically) Marriott Gold status for a year for $195 if nothing else. There’s no other card that gives you valuable status with Marriott so easily, and I think for those without other hotel status that can be extremely valuable.

    @ duer — Not merchandise, but you should be able to buy just about ANY airline gift cards and be reimbursed. Otherwise award ticketing/change fees should qualify as well, if you have any of those.

    @ saxorob — Happy to hear the card works well for you!

  16. lucky says

    @ Jay — Yes, typically it’s one or the other.

    @ Peetyrd — Still looking into this, but I don’t believe so, unfortunately.

  17. Lark says

    @ saxorob

    You said ‘Gourmet Food’ twice. In my opinion you are being a little too generous, but I am sure different properties offer different levels of Club amenities.

    We also get tired of the Club after a couple of days (except for breakfast), so cannot eat here every day – although we’ll stop by for a pre-dinner cocktail. :)

    I am still planning to renew the card though. $195 for Marriott / Ritz Gold with no stays is worth it for me.

  18. beachfan says

    Lucky; what types of fees do you incur that you use up all your credit card airline fee allowances?

    The only ones I incur are for SWUs when i want to upgrade someone else on AA, otherwise bags are free, food is free (for ExPlats), etc.

  19. lucky says

    @ beachfan — Well I just buy gift cards, usually American ones in $50 increments. But other than that I do often incur fees. For example, I frequently book awards through US Airways, where I pay the processing fee, and sometimes the close-in ticketing fees or change fees. So all the credit gets used.

  20. John says

    I am confused on the 3 club level upgrades. Let’s say I use my 70,000 points for a one night stay. Can i use one of my 3 upgrades for this reward stay? Thanks!

  21. Travel I says

    Another benefit that I found valuable is up to five authorized users can be added without charge.

  22. robertw says

    I just read what was posted about this card. The club upgrade certs, (from what saxorob) mentioned it appears that the club room upgrade cert would apply if you stayed ofr a few days? If this is correct. My thought was 1 cert per night but maybe that is wrong. I have been to Ritz Central park and the place is loaded with big shots and celebs. David Letterman show is around the corner and everyone stays there. Also got a ride in the house car which a few years ago was a Maybach (250K car) too bad the club cert could not be used on Central Park unless you paid huge $$$. Years ago I scored many Ritz nights for minimal points with Chase. Those days are long over. 70K points per night is a stiff price even for Central Park. Funny side note. I checked out early to catch a flight to vegas. Somebody called my room the ext morning very early looking for Jessica Simpson. Because my wife was distrurbed they gave her late checkout and room service lunch. Same weekend I was there- Courtney Coxm Jessica Simpson, David Arquette, and some teen star. Paparazzi was outside.Somebody mentioned stays they didnt like in Half Moon bay. I thought that was supposed to be a decent property. With Ritz some properties are better known. Like Central Park even though they have Battery Park.

  23. robertw says

    And the food in the CLUB lounges are AMAZING. I mean AMAZING. Ritz in Palm Beach was being renovated and I live in South Fla but the Lounge was AMAZING.

  24. yang says

    Lucky,

    Does $200 airline incident have to be in one transaction or can be combined by mutliple transactions to get the $200 reinbursement.

    Thanks,

  25. WC says

    Hi there, couple of questions on this card (interested now that the airline fee is up to $300 reimbursement).

    1) I think on AMEX platinum, authorized users get their own set of the perks, how does that work on authorized users of the RC card ? In other words do authorized users get a separate set of $300 reimbursement, gold status, club level upgrades etc ?

    2) Am I right in reading that each club level upgrade cert you use each year is good for up to a 7 day stay ?

    Thanks WC

  26. lucky says

    @ WC –

    1) On Both the AmEx Plat and this card, authorized users don’t get a separate fee credit reimbursement.
    2) That’s correct.

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