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.