The Ritz-Carlton Rewards Credit Card from Chase review

The Ritz-Carlton Rewards Credit Card from Chase review

Updated: May 8, 2020
Updated: May 8, 2020
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From the moment it arrives in your mailbox, the Ritz-Carlton Rewards card, from Chase, clearly is something special. One cardholder described the sleek box containing the card as “Apple-esque packaging.” Another posted a video of the unwrapping of the box containing the striking black metal card.

Perfect for the frequent traveler and jet-setter, the card’s perks include free airport lounge access, free luxurious room upgrades and elite status in Ritz-Carlton’s hotel loyalty program.

The Ritz-Carlton Rewards card’s $450 annual fee, though, may be hard to for the average consumer to justify. Unless you can cash in on the card’s certificate for three free nights within the first 12 months, or you are a frequent guest of Ritz-Carlton hotels, the card may be out of your league.

Sign-up bonus: Two free nights at Ritz-Carlton hotels

The card comes with a generous sign-up bonus – a certificate for two free nights at a tier 1-4 Ritz-Carlton property to cardholders who charge at least $5,000 in the first three months. That certificate for free nights alone can more than cover the annual fee for new cardholders, at least for the first year.

The certificate for free stays is valid for most properties within the Ritz-Carlton portfolio, and there are some plush properties to be found in this range, including the Kapalua resort in Maui. Considering that a standard room at Ritz-Carlton can go for $300 or more per night, a two-night stay is on par with some of the largest sign-up bonuses in the credit card industry.

However, there are drawbacks to a certificate for free hotel nights. The biggest: Unlike a point-based bonus, the certificate applies only to Ritz-Carlton properties. Also, while points don’t expire as long as your account is active, the certificate is valid for only 12 months.

Note, too, that you won’t get the sign-up bonus if you’ve previously applied for this card and received a sign-up bonus in the past two years.

Modest annual bonus

Chase also offers a 10 percent annual bonus on earned points. The bonus, though, favors those who spend a lot of money on the card, or at least on Ritz-Carlton hotels, and offers little value to the average cardholder.

Meager rewards rate

The earnings rate on the Ritz-Carlton Rewards card rewards frequent travelers. Cardholders earn five points per dollar on Ritz-Carlton purchases and two points per dollar on directly purchased airline tickets, but general purchases earn only one point per dollar.

For members of the Ritz-Carlton loyalty program, there is one bright note: The Ritz-Carlton Rewards card gets you automatic gold status in the loyalty program, which includes a 25 percent bonus on your base point earnings.

Plentiful redemption options

Ritz-Carlton is owned by Marriott and – while Marriott keeps the loyalty programs separate – the loyalty programs are basically the same, meaning your points apply to any of the 3,600+ properties in the Marriott portfolio.

Marriott also recently acquired Starwood hotels, and, though you can’t book Starwood hotel stays from your Ritz-Carlton account, you can transfer your points to the Starwood program at a reasonable 3:1 rate.

If you don’t have the minimum points for a hotel stay, you have several options. You can upgrade a room for 5,000 points, or you can use the points-plus-cash option to book a room for as little as 15,000 points, using cash to make up the difference.

A bounty of benefits

The Ritz-Carlton Rewards card includes an impressive list of benefits to satisfy an elite cardholder. The recently launched Priority Pass program gives free access to more than 900 airport lounges worldwide. The card also offers three club-level hotel room upgrades per year. These upgrades, which depend on availability and apply only to standard room rates, include access to Ritz-Carlton’s plush array of hotel lounges.

The Ritz-Carlton Rewards card’s many travel benefits can easily cover the high annual fee if you travel often enough. For example, cardholders get a $300 yearly travel credit – which applies to baggage fees, lounge access, seat selection and in-flight Wi-Fi – and a $100 credit toward Global Entry status.

Chase also gives you a $100 credit toward hotel fees – to cover dining, spa and recreational purchases – every time you book a two-nights-or-longer stay at a Ritz-Carlton.

Ritz-Carlton Rewards is a Visa Infinite card, which means it includes a wide range of travel card benefits, such as concierge services, room upgrades, and car rental and trip cancellation insurance. One unique, especially valuable benefit is the $100 discount on domestic airfare. The discount, though, requires a booking for two or more passengers and applies only to certain airlines and bookings.

Why get the Ritz-Carlton Rewards card?

  • You are current member of the Ritz-Carlton rewards loyalty program and want to boost your earnings rate and status.
  • You frequently travel and stay in luxury hotels, and you can take advantage of all the perks and travel credits.
  • You want free access to airport lounges.
  • You want a card with a large sign-up bonus.

How to use the Ritz-Carlton Rewards card:

  • Make sure you spend enough on the card or travel enough to cover the $450 annual fee. After your first year, by our estimates, the average cardholder would have to spend $40,000 or more to earn enough points to match the fee, so this card is not for light spenders.
  • Spend at least $5,000 in the first three months to earn your certificate for three free nights.
  • Be sure to use the free nights certificate before it expires in 12 months.
  • Charge your baggage fees and airline costs to your Ritz-Carlton card – the $300 travel credit can help make up for the annual fee.
  • Pay attention to the type of room rate you use to book your room – the $100 hotel credit applies only to standard room rates.

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