How Does The Ritz-Carlton Annual Travel Credit Work?

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Yesterday I wrote in detail about The Ritz-Carlton Rewards® Credit Card, which is offering an incredible sign-up bonus:

  • Three complimentary nights at any Tier 1-4 Ritz-Carlton hotel after spending $5,000 within three months
  • 10,000 bonus points after adding an authorized user and having them make a purchase within the first three months

While the card has a $450 annual fee, the three complimentary nights along with some of the other perks make this card extremely lucrative.

Ritz-Credit-Card

One of the benefits of the card that is worth understanding is the $300 annual travel credit.

Ritz-Carlton-Travel-Credit

Nowadays there are quite a few credit cards with annual travel credits, and they all work differently, so it’s worth understanding the differences.

What can the Ritz-Carlton annual travel credit be used towards?

This card offers one of the more restrictive travel credits out there, in terms of how it can be used:

  • The credit isn’t automatic, but rather you have to call cardmember services within four billing cycles of the purchase date to request that it’s reimbursed
  • The credit can only be applied towards non-ticket purchases, including airline lounge day pass, or towards a yearly lounge membership of your choice, airline seat upgrades, airline baggage fees, in-flight Internet/entertainment, and in-flight meals

So this is a rather strict credit, and therefore I wouldn’t value the $300 credit at face value.

That being said, many report being able to use the credit for things other than the above, at least in practice. Keep in mind that typically they can’t actually see what you purchased, but rather just see the amount. There are of course exceptions, but Doctor Of Credit reports that lots of people have had luck using the credit for airline gift cards in small increments, for example.

As they say, this is a case of “your mileage may vary.”

Is the $300 credit per calendar year or cardmember year?

The $300 travel credit is issued per calendar year, meaning you’ll get two of these credits before you pay your second annual fee.

In other words, say you applied for The Ritz-Carlton Rewards® Credit Card today, September 3. You’d pay your first year’s annual fee with the first statement.

Then you’d have $300 worth of travel credits to use in 2016, and then another $300 in travel credits to use when the calendar year rests.

This means you’ll potentially have received $600 worth of travel credits before you have to pay your second year’s annual fee. If you can get anywhere close to face value out of those upgrades, they’ll more than cover the first year’s annual fee.

How would I use my $300 travel credit?

So this isn’t quite as straightforward as the $250 annual airline credit on the Citi Prestige® Card, which can be applied towards any travel purchase, and therefore I think is worth close to face value.

That being said, with airlines increasingly monetizing everything, I can even see someone with elite status getting quite a bit of value out of this credit:

  • It’s increasingly worthwhile to pay for a premium seat, be it a bid for a first class upgrade, an extra legroom seat, etc.
  • You can purchase day passes for Gogo for $16, which nowadays is often the best way to get wifi on a domestic flight; I might swap out my monthly Gogo plan (which costs $60) for just buying these passes, since lately I haven’t been doing more than four days of domestic travel per month, at least on flights with Gogo equipped planes on longer flights; I also get an hour of free Gogo wifi through T-Mobile

Save-Money-Inflight-Wifi-1

Ritz-Carlton $300 annual travel credit terms & conditions

Lastly, here are the full terms of this benefit, per the application:

To request a statement credit to apply towards qualifying airline incidental purchase(s) made with your Ritz-Carlton Rewards Credit Card, you must contact J.P. Morgan Priority Services at the number on the back of your Ritz-Carlton Rewards Credit Card within 4 billing cycles of the purchase date. Only the following types of non-ticket purchases qualify for this offer: airline lounge day pass, or towards a yearly lounge membership of your choice; airline seat upgrades; airline baggage fees; in-flight Internet/entertainment; in-flight meals. Purchases are when you, or an authorized user, use a card to make purchases of products and services, minus returns or refunds. Buying products and services with your card, in most cases, will count as a purchase; however, the following types of transactions won’t count and won’t earn points: balance transfers, cash advances, travelers checks, foreign currency, money orders, wire transfers or similar cash-like transactions, lottery tickets, casino gaming chips, race track wagers or similar betting transactions, any checks that access your account, overdraft advances, interest, unauthorized or fraudulent charges, and fees of any kind, including an annual fee, if applicable. We do not determine whether merchants correctly identify and bill transactions as being of a certain type. However, we do reserve the right to determine which purchases qualify for statement credits. Statement credit will post to your account within 5-7 business days and will appear on your monthly credit card billing statement within 1-2 billing cycles. Qualifying purchases made by authorized users on your account are eligible for statement credits; however, only the obligor on the account, not authorized users, may request statement credits. Maximum statement credit accumulation for this offer is $300 per calendar year. Annual credit will be issued for the calendar year in which the transaction posts to your account. For example, if you pay baggage fees at the end of 2015, and the airline does not post the transaction until 2016, the cost of the baggage fees will be allocated towards your 2016 calendar year maximum of $300. The Ritz-Carlton Rewards is not responsible for offer fulfillment or the provision of or a failure to provide the stated benefits and services.

Bottom line

Make no mistake, I wouldn’t value the $300 annual travel credit on The Ritz-Carlton Rewards® Credit Card anywhere close to face value. However, there’s definitely quite a bit of value you can get out of it, even if you’re an elite traveler. You’ll also get two $300 annual travel credits before your second year’s annual fee is due, which should very nicely help offset the card’s $450 annual fee.

Between the three complimentary nights, Ritz-Carlton Rewards Gold status, this $300 credit, etc., there’s a ton of value to be had through this card, in my opinion.

If you have the Ritz-Carlton Rewards Credit Card, what has been your experience with using the credit?

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Comments

  1. I had a southwest voucher and used it to go to Cancun but my voucher was not enough so I had a balance $250 which I paid using my new Ritz Carlton. I contacted Chase and they ask me what I used it for (the transaction does have the detail) so I said I use it for upgrade and ok’d it so they said they will be crediting me in the 1-days and it would take 2-3 billing cycle to post.

  2. I used my credit for an airline ticket. $900. They applied my remaining $196 towards it. No questions asked.

    So I would call a few times if at first you don’t succeed. Obv YMMV.

  3. I have a question for anyone about the free night accommodations. Is it accurate to say that these will be for the lowest class or dollar value room available? Thanks so much for any insight!

  4. @chris

    The rooms are the basic room. Just like with reward points. With the Ritz card you’ll have gold, so you may get upgraded one level

  5. I’ve used my credits to purchase Southwest early bird check-in for my son. He’s not an authorized user on my but he’s a college student and my dependent so I figured it wouldn’t be an issue. I’m new to the Ritz Carlton card so I was not sure how much information they see on their end when the transaction posts. But it was easy to get the credit. I purchased the ticket first and purchased the upgrade separately so it would be easy to identify the upgrade transaction.

    I’ve also used it purchase an “even more legroom” seat with JetBlue. I also purchased the airfare first and then upgraded the seat.

  6. I was just told that in order to qualify, these charges have to be made directly with an airline. Fees paid via online travel agencies for seats etc. do not count according to Chase rep I just spoke with.

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