Get Marriott Status and a Free Ritz-Carlton Night at Zero Net Cost

Via mo26 on Milepoint, there’s an offer for the Ritz-Carlton Rewards Visa that gives you a $200 Ritz-Carlton gift card after first purchase on top of the usual bonuses and benefits.

I reviewed the card extensively last year.

The Ritz-Carlton Rewards program is essentially the same thing as Marriott Rewards, the key differences being promotions that are offered and the particulars of their co-branded credit cards.

With the Ritz card you get enough points for a free Ritz-Carlton night after $2000 spend within 3 months. And the card comes with Gold status (equivalent to Marriott Gold — so the easiest way to achieve 50 night elite status) the first year and then continues to provide that status each year with $10,000 spend.

Now, there’s a $395 fee for the card. But the first year that seems easy to me — since this offer gives you a $200 gift card, and the card has embedded as a feature a $200 airline reimbursement that is generally more liberal than the one that comes with American Express Platinum even.

That nets out to $0 if you can make use of the Ritz-Carlton gift card at face value and you use the fee credit which means you pocket Gold status and Marriott points for a $5 profit.

Now, if you’re a United MileagePlus Gold elite you can have Marriott Gold status for free anyway so this makes less sense for United’s mid-tier and higher elites. And folks who don’t stay at Ritz-Carltons or Marriotts won’t value it much either.

But I’ve frequently said that the Hyatt and Starwood hotel programs are the most rewarding, but that their footprints aren’t large enough (order of magnitude 500 and 1000 properties respectively) so it’s useful to have a backup program and ideally a backup program with status. For me, that backup program has been Hilton HHonors. This is a play to use Marriott as the backup.

Note: This credit card offers no referral credit to me, it just seemed like it would be interesting to some. Mommy Points calls me Mr. Fancy Pants, and I did have one work-related Ritz-Carlton stay this year. But she stayed at the Andaz on Maui while I stayed at the Hyatt Regency. Nice enough, but not as fancy. 🙂

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About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Is it wrong that I was so excited to see VFW post something of mine that I also felt the need to post in the comments….

    Just thought I would add that being a member of RC instead of MR lets you double-dip on both promo’s, that got me interested!

  2. Only thing about this card to consider is the hefty $395 annual fee. When I compared with Amex plat the Amex had more benefits. It had the lounge access, gold in spg, $200 airline refunds but also have concierge service has a fine hotels program and $100 global entry credit.

    I paired this with a Marriott rewards card (also giving 5 points per dollar at Marriott) which is only $85 and gives 15 elite status points per year that can be used toward gold or plat. And every $3k spend gives extra elite point. So I can use marriott as my primary hotel program (I’ve had better experiences there and they have more locations) but I have SPG gold as backup.

  3. This is NOT the easiest way to get Marriott Gold status. Having status with United is the easiest way — “Premier Gold, Premier Platinum, Premier 1K® and Global ServicesSM members can now register for RewardsPlus and enjoy complimentary Marriott Rewards Gold Elite status and benefits”.

  4. @Gene I link to and mention getting Marriott Gold via United Gold or higher, and I think I’m clear enough that this is a strategy for people who don’t have that status. If you are not ALREADY a 50,000+ mile flyer on United, then this is the easiest way.

  5. Gary, can you describe the deal where you can only have a ritz carlton or marriott accout? It is very confusing to me. I have a marriott account and I use that number for stays. I never have enough for gold but I am accumulating points in that account to work toward an air and hotel package. If I get the ritz card is there any way to be elevated to gold on my existing Marriott account? Or do I have to create a scon account?

  6. Does that $200 airline fee coverage reimburse you for ticket change fees (same question re the Amex card)? I had to cancel 2 unrefundable UA tickets, and while UA gave me a credit for the value of those tickets (about $220), it’s not really useable since I don’t have status with them and the ticket change fee ($250) is worth more than the value of the credit.

  7. Gary – glad to see you mention this card 🙂 For a family of four wanting to take nice vacations together, I propose that this is the very best card out there because the club upgrades basically cover a nice selection of food for your family, along with nice drinks for the grown-ups for a week’s stay. Regardless of other people’s replies, the rates that are combinable with the club upgrades are a little higher, but not prohibitively expensive. If you’re looking for a $99 weekend room at a 5 star beach resort, you’re not going to find it at a Ritz anyway – Marriotts will be a better choice for some. Also – the $200 airline allowance is per calendar year, not membership year, so it’s effectively a $400 reimbursement if one signed up now.

  8. Ha ha! You will always be fancy in your HR ocean front deluxe suite that was comped due to the Andaz not yet being open. I think you won that fancy contest…well maybe not since the Andaz was great, but you at least came in a very, very close second. 😉

  9. @Gary Reading from some of the comments from your previous coverage on this particular card, I see that people were having issues with the UPGRADE to CLUB lvl, where people were stating that the hotels required you to pay at full rack rate in order to be upgraded? Also, the $100 hotel credit for 2 night stay minimum was also a hit and miss. Do you have any personal experience with this or anyone who’ve had experience regarding these issues care to chime in? These two issues would be a huge blow to this credit card and I would pass on it.

  10. Note that this offer was mentioned awhile ago on TravelSort:  Most of the Ritz-Carltons I most want to stay at don’t participate in the program, and it’s more of a pain to use up the airline incidental credit because you have to call, and any large charges have to be proven to be truly incidental, not gift cards.

  11. Does anyone know if the airline incidental charges include lounge membership dues like the Amex benefit? Also, from the wording on their site, it still seems unclear if change fees are covered.

    On a less serious note, if you take both your Ritz Visa and Chase Sapphire on the same trip, you might have to pay extra for your bag being too heavy. Those credit cards are made of some heavy metal!

  12. I just cancelled my card about a month ago as the annual fee renewal was up. It was a great card. Signing up now you get to double up on the $200 of incidentals since you can get it for 2013 and 2014. I bought a bunch of AA gift cards and the credited the fees no questions asked. The lounge acces is through Lounge Club. They are their own separate pay per use club. The bad thing is that they are mostly in the international terminals so if you fly mostly domestic in the US you don’t see many of them. Your membership is accepted at the Alaskan airlines club which is useful. I will try to apply again. Wish me luck.

  13. @Flip – that would be Amex, it’s their program.

    @Vanessa – The card is a Visa Signature. Visa Signature has a concierge, and a hotel program similar to FHR, and a few other things.

    Personally, between this card, and more importantly UA freebies to Gold, I have to believe Marriott Platinum status makes (or will make) a difference, and the Marriott card gets you 15 nights+, and is essentially cheaper than free with the free night on annual renewal.

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