Since You Have to Choose, Should You Be a Marriott Rewards or Ritz-Carlton Member?

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With especially rich offers for the Ritz-Carlton Rewards® Credit Card readers have been asking whether you can get a Ritz-Carlton card if you’re a Marriott Rewards member, and vice versa.

This is a topic I covered back in 2013.

Marriott acquired Ritz-Carlton in 1998, but the hotels had limited participation in the Marriott Rewards program: you could spend points for Ritz-Carlton stays, but that was it. Luxury chains have for the most part eschewed points, the belief was that they provide recognition not freebies and compete to offer the best luxury experience. However they launched the Ritz-Carlton program in the fall of 2010.

You are only supposed to have one account between the two programs. You are supposed to choose between Ritz-Carlton Rewards and Marriott Rewards. However,

  • The programs are almost identical. I will go into the differences.

  • You can switch back and forth between the programs without restriction. You just have to call and ask to have your account moved from Marriott to Ritz-Carlton or vice versa. And you can switch back later if you wish.

  • You don’t have to make the switch before signing up for a new credit card in the other program. I’d just give my current number in either program when getting the card

Aside from credit cards, the main difference between the programs is promotions. The Ritz program has run more free night promotions and double elite qualifying promotions, but those have required Ritz stays. If you stay at Ritz-Carltons frequently you’ll do better with the Ritz program’s specific promos.

Generally promotion rules require all existing accounts to have been a member of that program when the promotion was announced, so you can’t switch after promotion details are announced because you want to take advantage of that particular program (although new accounts can register for a promotion after that promotion is announced).

The new Ritz-Carlton Rewards® Credit Card is a Visa Infinite card.

In addition to Gold Elite status (which is honored at Marriott hotels, comes complimentary the first year and that you retain each year you spend $10,000 on the card); a $300 Airline Fee credit, $100 Global Entry credit, and unlimited use $100 Airline Ticket discounts when buying for 2 or more passengers; 3 complimentary upgrades to The Ritz-Carlton Club® Level each year valid on paid stays of up to seven nights; plus airport lounge access and a premium concierge.

The card gives you a signup bonus of 3 complimentary nights at any participating Tier 1-4 Ritz-Carlton hotel after $5,000 spend on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening. Here are some places you can spend those free nights. And here’s my full review of the card.

Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel, Credit: Ritz-Carlton

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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Editorial note: any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any card issuer. Comments made in response to this post are not provided or commissioned nor have they been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any bank. It is not the responsibility of any advertiser to ensure that questions are answered, either. Terms and limitations apply to all offers.


  1. We are lifetime platinum with Marriott & when we wanted to stay at the Ritz Carlton Pentagon City we were told we would not have access to the lounge.

  2. I thought another difference is that with the Ritz Carlton Card one also has access to Priority Pass Select airport lounges. Am I mistaken?

  3. @EDJ – yes it has priority pass now.

    @Dave G – yes, but only one rewards account.

    From my, albeit limited, experience, one should always have a ritz award account. You get access to the Ritz promotions but also the marriot promotions. If you have a marriot account you only have access to the marriot ones.

    I speak from experience, having been able to sign up for the various marriot summer programs (like bonus points or free nights this summer). I received and redeemed both, very easily.

  4. @ken, yes just put the reward number in.

    Status transfers too… So if you have gold at RC you get it at Marriott. Note the benefits are different for the different brands…

  5. @Blackbird2150 – How does that work to redeem points from a RC account to book a Marriott award? I’ve never booked a Marriott award before. Thanks.

  6. @ken,
    So, I’ve called before to do it. But in the end the points are the points. I would hope it’s as simple as logging in while making a Marriott reservation online and selecting use points.

    As I said, I’ve only called to do it beforecand it was very easy.

  7. This post did not answer the question. What is the difference between the two programs?

    This seemed to be about plugging the credit card links, not the two programs.

    Kind of disappointed…

    Did Lucky write this? No, wait, even though he plugs cards he does answer the questions.

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