Ritz-Carlton Rewards Visa: Strong Value for Ritz Guests and Frequent Marriott Customers

The Ritz-Carlton Rewards® Credit Card

About four months back there was an offer for the Ritz-Carlton Rewards Visa that waived the $395 annual fee the first year (for owners of Ritz-Carlton Residence condos). I didn’t pay it much mind at the time because I’m not a huge fan of the Marriott program, and Ritz-Carlton Rewards is largely a rebrand of Marriott Rewards. A $200 annual fee credit on a card that I wouldn’t have been paying a fee for is nice, but I look for more than $200 in value from signing up for a card from Chase.

I started looking at the card again because I have an upcoming stay at a Ritz-Carlton resort (and at an incredibly, shockingly favorable rate, y’all will see a trip report when it happens).

Ok, get ready for Mommy Points to call me “Mr. Fancy Pants” again. But I’m not the sort of guy who stays at Ritz-Carltons frequently, or at Four Seasons or similar level properties. I’m pretty strictly an upscale chain kinda guy, Hyatts and Westins and Sheratons and the like. I’ve certainly stayed at a few for work conferences in the past, though. Years ago I do know my Marriott Rewards account had the ‘RZR’ designation for ‘Ritz-Carlton Repeat’ — I’m not sure how since Ritz didn’t have a program and wasn’t linked to Marriott Rewards in any way. The only personal stay I’ve ever booked at a Ritz property was my wedding night, and that was on point.

Now, it happens that this card probably won’t be worthwhile for my one upcoming stay. I was interested in it for the club lounge benefit, and my rate won’t be eligible.

The card won’t make sense for many readers — but it does make sense for regular Ritz-Carlton guests, folks who will stay more than once a year at a Ritz or similar-level property. There are also some folks who stay at Marriott properties, but not frequently enough to earn anything about Silver status, for whom this card will be a great fit.

Here are the benefits:

  • 70,000 point signup bonus after $2000 spend within 3 months. That’s enough for a night at a top tier Ritz property like Hong Kong or New York Central Park. Or two nights in Seoul, Atlanta Buckhead, or Beijing. Or for upgrades, and of course the points can be redeemed at Marriott properties as well.

  • Earn from spend: 5 points per dollar at Ritz-Carlton properties, 2 points per dollar on airline tickets purchased directly with the airline, with car rental agencies, and at restaurants, 1 point on everything else. (I consider this the best for spend at Ritz properties of course but would use my Sapphire Preferred on travel.) No foreign currency transaction fees.

  • Automatic Gold status the first year, and then Gold status with $10,000 each year in spending. Here are the benefits of Gold. Note that this is, effectively, Marriott Gold status as well. Which means that you can ‘buy’ Marriott’s status which comes with free lounge access or breakfast (during the week at non-resort properties), upgrades, and internet for the cost of a credit card signup and you can keep that status with $10,000 each year on the card. For the frequent Marriott guest who doesn’t stay enough to earn Gold, this could be a pretty good solution. (Personally I’d still prefer to stay at Hilton and earn in the HHonors program with Gold status provided by the $95 a year Citi® Hilton HHonors™ Reserve Card.)

  • Club Level Upgrades. This is sort of a big deal, three times a year (on stays up to seven nights) you can upgrade a reservation to the club level. Ritz-Carlton clubs aren’t like Marriott, Westin, Hyatt, etc. clubs. More food presentations and of a much higher quality throughout the day, and really good service as well. They don’t provide elite upgrades to club level, and they don’t upgrade to club level on Virtuoso reservations or bookings made through a Ritz-Carlton STARS agent. They really do protect the exclusivity of the clubs. You have to pay the prevailing rate for a room, you cannot use discounted rates like corporate or group rates. So it wasn’t going to work for me on my upcoming conference stay.

  • $100 folio credit on each stay of 2 nights or more. This takes much of the sting out of not being able to access the card’s benefits (other than those received via Gold status) when booking on a Fine Hotels & Resorts, Virtuoso, Stars, or corporate rate.

  • $200 airline fee credit. Unlike American Express Platinum, you don’t have to designate an airline for the year to use this benefit, it applies to any airline fee. And I’ve seen reports of folks getting (4) $50 airline gift cards they purchased with the card credited without a fuss. So you make back half the card’s annual fee with this benefit.

  • Lounge access from The Lounge Club which is the credit card-branded version of Priority Pass (since, apparently, the name Priority Pass Select was too confusing).

You’re supposed to have to choose between a Marriott account and a Ritz Rewards account, the two programs are virtually identical but separate. You can convert your account online. Though not everyone does, there are folks who continue to have a Marriott account and a Marriott Visa even along with this card. But it’s not really a big deal for most to convert if necessary.

Ultimately at one point per dollar on most spending, and with the ‘expensive’ Marriott/Ritz-Carlton reward chart, I wouldn’t use this card for everyday spend. It’s a great card to have and not use for the benefits for folks who stay a few times a year at Ritz-Carlton hotels, and for Marriott stayers who don’t earn Gold on their own (for whom the annual fee and $10,000 spend will make sense in future years).

If you decide to get the Ritz-Carlton Rewards® Credit Card using my link, I receive referral credit. This offer is the best one I’m aware of for the card.

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 InsideFlyer.com, 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. The 200 airline fee credit is on an annual calendar basis irrespective of when signing up for the card. That means one can obtain 400 back in the first year. Very nice!

  2. If you use the Ritz card to pay for a bill at a Marriott do you still get 5 points per dollar?

  3. @LR – LoungeClub isn’t the same in that there are fewer lounges, but my understanding is this is a repackage and rebranding of Priority Pass Select

  4. The Ritz Central Park goes for about 1000.00 a night plus tax. If there are no restrictions to use that FREE night that is a good way to get started. Gary mentioned he could not use the Club/Lounge upgrade on his rate. What restrictions are there regarding this. I thought it said 7 nights upgrade to Club. That alone is a nice perk. Can those be used on Ritz Free night stays using points? The Lounge at Ritz is amazing. The food is really good and high quality. It is not your usual lounge with a few sodas and stale chips.

  5. @robertw you’re going to have to pay best available rate pretty much in order to use the club certificates, they do not work on free nights or on corporate or group discount rates. I haven’t tried AAA.

    As for the availability restrictions, I believe as long as a standard room is available you should be able to redeem it for points.

  6. You could pay the 1k to the RC in NYC and then upgrade to the club level for free OR use your 70k in points to get one free night in a standard room.

  7. Just got priority pass select membership card last week. If the lounge club is the PPS rebranding, it hasn’t hit those receiving PPS via AMEX Plat yet.

  8. So with this card you get breakfast and or lounge access with Marriott the first yr? I don’t think they give you free breakfast at RC’s though with this.

    Also, with Marriott gold I thought you can get upgrades to suites with avail. at Marriots (not RC’s)?

  9. More credit card posts make the boarding area blogs go around. Seriously, you should considr stop using referral credit links when talking about cards. Just have a separate page for them or something. Not only is it a huge huge conflict of interest, but it’s affecting the substance of your posts.

  10. @jfhscott Ritz Carlton is OWNED by Mariott. Therefore it is the same program effectively. If anyone is interested CNBC did a recent documentary inside Mariott. You can see how that business is run and their strategies. Often this is special and others about travel are rerun on weekends on CNBC.

  11. to Truthiness, I like Gary’s referral links. They have worked well for me. And get off you high horse. If you don’t like a blog then stop reading it rather than taking shots at it.

  12. This has to be the worst premium card I have ever experienced………and I stay at the Ritz a couple of times a year and was looking forward to the Club upgrade as Ritz clubs are usually over the top…….but this card never worked for any of my reservations…….the “bonuses” ONLY work on near RACK rates and no one is paying those so the card is just a plain and simple ripoff……..the marketing person at Ritz that created this card should be permanently banned from the hospitality industry………WORST CARD EVER!

  13. What a rip off. To use the club upgrades you MUST pay FULL RACK rate. Nobody does that. I’m in the midst, after having this crap visa for three weeks, trying to cancel it and get a refund. It is not at all worth the price. The airline club room program is by limited. I have called several times to try and use the $100 credit for booking a two night stay and out of four inquiries for different properties on different dates, each time I was told the $100 spending credit was not available.
    Don’t waste your time or money on this card.

  14. @Fred WORST CARD EVER! How stupid for RITZ to screw up their brand with such a chump effort at loyalty! I used to spend 10 nights a year at Ritz but I am still fuming over this card and haven’t been back….don’t think they know or care………..

  15. Unless their rules have changed, you DO NOT have to pay FULL RACK rate, to use the club upgrades. I’ve used the upgrades twice with no issues. Both times they were used on a weekend rate. As long as the room type you are booked in is available in the club, they’re upgrade you. If you usually book a a couple of months in advance, look at rates at different times of the week and month. I’ve found rates change drastically as well as room types.

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