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The Updated Ritz-Carlton Rewards Card Review

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Chase recently announced changes to the Ritz-Carlton Rewards Credit Card, including a larger sign-up bonus and a few new perks. Today, I’ll review the updated card, in addition to showing you how to maximize some of its top perks.

The Updated Card

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The Ritz-Carlton Rewards Card has a higher annual fee, but it’s also added some new benefits.

The most noticeable upgrade to the Ritz-Carlton Rewards Credit Card is the new sign-up bonus of three nights at a Tier 1-4 property after $5,000 in spending in the first three months of account opening. Previously, the sign-up bonus was two free nights in a Tier 1-4 hotel after spending $4,000 in the first three months. Other changes to the card include:

  • Annual fee increases $55, from $395 to $450
  • Lounge Club membership replaced by Priority Pass Select membership
  • $100 Global Entry application credit added as a separate perk from the $300 annual travel credit
  • Visa Infinite benefits, including a $100 discount on domestic airfare for two or more passengers

The annual fee increase is disappointing, but in return you get an additional free night at a Tier 1-4 Ritz-Carlton hotel along with a few new perks.

Benefits Explained

Here’s a full list of its earning structure and perks, with updated or new benefits highlighted in bold:

  • Earn 5x points at Ritz-Carlton and Marriott properties; 2x points on airline tickets, car rentals and dining purchases; and 1x points everywhere else
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • 10% annual bonus on all points earned with the card
  • Three Club Level upgrades per year on paid Ritz stays of up to seven nights
  • $100 credit for incidentals on paid Ritz stays of two nights or more
  • Gold Elite status for the first year of account opening and in each subsequent year when you spend $10,000 on the card
  • Upgrade to Platinum Elite status when you spend $75,000 or more in a cardmember year
  • $300 annual travel credit for baggage fees, lounge membership, upgrades and more
  • $100 discount on select airfare
  • $100 Global Entry application credit
  • Priority Pass Select membership
  • J.P. Morgan Premier Concierge Service
  • $450 annual fee

We’ve covered most of the Ritz-Carlton Rewards Credit Card’s benefits in a previous review and through various posts on TPG, so in this section I’ll only focus on the new benefits/specifics. First, though, it’s important to remember that points earned with this card can be redeemed at both Marriott and Ritz-Carlton properties, as the two chains essentially share a loyalty program. This also means that your Gold status also applies to your Marriott stays, entitling you to lounge access, bonus points, breakfast and more. You can also pool your points for free with your spouse or domestic partner to redeem for a specific award.

First up for new perks is the Global Entry application credit, which covers the $100 fee in the form of a statement credit. If you aren’t currently a member, you should definitely consider signing up for Global Entry, since it lets you speed through immigration when you arrive back in the US from abroad, and it also entitles to you membership in the TSA PreCheck program for fast-track airport security. Previously, you could use the Ritz-Carlton Rewards Card’s $300 annual travel credit toward expenses such as Global Entry, but now it’s offered as a separate perk, so you can use the $300 credit to cover other costs (more on that later). If you are currently enrolled in Global Entry, use this card’s application fee credit when your five-year membership is up and you need to re-enroll — especially if you don’t have an application fee waiver through another card like the Citi Prestige or The Platinum Card from American Express.

Another new benefit is Priority Pass Select membership, which replaces Lounge Club membership as a card perk. Priority Pass is definitely a superior program, as you get access to significantly more airport lounges (more than 900 around the globe), and some of them are especially worth visiting.

Finally, the card’s now charging a $450 annual fee, up from $395. But considering that the sign-up bonus is now three free nights at a Tier 1-4 Ritz-Carlton hotel — which can be worth well over $1,000 — and that you get a Global Entry application fee waiver, a $100 airfare discount on select flights and Priority Pass Select membership, it’s definitely something you can live with.

MAXIMIZING CARD BENEFITS

With the card’s changes and main benefits out of the way, let’s take a look at some of the specifics to keep in mind when leveraging various benefits. The following tips are based on what I learned during the booking process and my stays at the Ritz-Carlton Bahrain and the Ritz-Carlton Dubai.

Three Club Level Upgrades per Year

Ritz-Carlton Club level lounges are usually spectacular. Photo courtesy of The Points Guy.
Ritz-Carlton Club Level lounges are usually spectacular.

Taking advantage of this perk requires a bit of extra effort. During the booking process, I discovered that there are special rate codes the reservation agents have to search to see if there’s space available for you to book a room and then use a Club Level upgrade. You must also go through a Ritz-Carlton reservation agent; not a Marriott agent, as they didn’t seem to know what I was talking about or how to find the necessary rate to book. The Ritz-Carlton Rewards reservation desk can be tough to get in touch with, as it has limited open hours and it operates on Mountain Standard Time.

The Ritz-Carlton Beijing Financial Street Club Lounge. Photo courtesy Ritz-Carlton.
The Club Lounge at the Ritz-Carlton Beijing Financial Street. Image courtesy of Ritz-Carlton.

The Club Level upgrades cannot be used on any group/corporate/special rates, which includes the government rates I usually travel on. At a recent stay at the Ritz-Carlton Bahrain, I would have had to pay an additional $130 per night to become eligible to use my upgrade. However, as with many things in the points and miles hobby, I find talking to the right person solves issues. When I checked in to the property in Bahrain and handed them my Ritz-Carlton Rewards Credit Card, I explained my disappointment in not being able to use the card’s benefits. A front desk manager called me shortly afterward and offered to move me to a Club Level room and allowed me to redeem an upgrade.

For the Ritz-Carlton Dubai, I found the daily rate was actually cheaper than the government rate, so the Ritz-Carlton Rewards phone agent promptly re-booked me at the lower price and then applied my Club Level upgrade. In addition, I discovered that you can apply the Club Level upgrades to other individuals’ reservations — I found this out when I successfully used an upgrade for a coworker.

At both properties, the lounges were fantastic and luxurious, and offered ample food and drinks, as well as a great place to relax and get some work done. The rooms on the Club Level at both properties were equally as enticing, so overall it’s definitely worth redeeming the three annual complimentary upgrades if you can.

$100 Credit for Incidentals

I got my son a Ritz-Carlton Duck with my $100 credit. Photo courtesy The Ritz-Carlton Orlando, Grande Lakes.
I got my son a Ritz-Carlton Duck and a few other souvenirs with my $100 credit. Photo courtesy The Ritz-Carlton Orlando, Grande Lakes.

As with the Club Level upgrades, taking advantage of the $100 credit (on paid stays of two nights or more) requires having a phone agent find an eligible rate for your dates. At the Ritz-Carlton Bahrain, my government rate was not eligible, and I didn’t want to push my luck after having received the supposedly ineligible Club Level upgrade.

When I booked the Ritz-Carlton Dubai, the phone agent applied the $100 credit to my room, in addition to the Club Level upgrade, without issue. Note that it’s important to get this perk added ahead of your stay. Back in January, I stayed at the Ritz-Carlton Okinawa and asked for the $100 room credit upon checkout. The staff had no idea what I was talking about, and a phone agent told me that this had to be arranged ahead of time. I was a bit annoyed, but the moral of the story is to do your homework before your stay.

Upon check-in at the Ritz in Dubai, the front desk agent told me the credit was good for anything on the property, but that I would need to pay for my room with my Ritz-Carlton Rewards Credit Card. At the hotel gift shop, I got my son a Ritz-Carlton duck and a few other souvenirs which I charged to the room in anticipation of the $100 credit being applied.

However, at checkout, the front desk agent said the credit was only good for food and beverage and I would need to pay the balance on my room, to which I objected. He checked with the manager and came back and said he was sorry and removed the purchase from my bill. I also paid the room balance with a different credit card and had no issue receiving the credit contrary to what I was told at check-in. I feel this may be a “your mileage may vary” situation, depending on the agent checking you out.

$300 Annual Travel Credit

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Use the $300 annual travel credit for expenses such as baggage fees. Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

The key to maximizing this benefit is the timing of when you apply for the card. I applied for the card on December 27 of 2014 and asked for my card to be rush-delivered. It arrived December 30, and I immediately used the $300 and was quickly reimbursed over the phone for those purchases. On January 1, 2015, I used my $300 again and was quickly reimbursed after a phone call requesting the credit. So you can easily get at least $600 in statement credits while paying the annual fee just once if you time it right. Eligible purchases for the annual travel credit include baggage fees, lounge access, seat selection and in-flight Wi-Fi.

Bottom Line

The Ritz-Carlton Rewards Credit Card offers some great benefits, and the addition of Priority Pass Select lounge access, a Global Entry application fee waiver and other Visa Infinite perks, and a new sign-up bonus of three complimentary nights make it a better option than ever. The higher annual fee is a bummer, but at least you’re getting more value in return.

Getting the most value out of the card’s perks does require a bit of work, but it’s well worth it. Club Level rooms during my stay at Ritz-Carlton properties in Bahrain and Dubai were going for about $650 a night, so those three complimentary upgrades per year can be quite lucrative. Plus, the $100 on-property credit and $300 annual travel credit almost wipe out the $450 fee — and that isn’t even taking into account all the points you can earn by using this card, and the Gold status benefits you can enjoy at Marriott hotels. Overall, as long as you follow the rules and read the fine print, the Ritz-Carlton Rewards Card can be incredibly valuable.

Featured image courtesy of the Ritz-Carlton Bahrain.

What’s your favorite benefit of the updated Ritz-Carlton Rewards Credit Card?

The Ritz-Carlton Rewards® Credit Card

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  • Earn 3 Complimentary Nights at any participating Tier 1-4 Ritz-Carlton hotel after spending $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.
  • A $300 annual travel credit to use for qualifying airline purchases such as seat upgrades, baggage fees and preferred lounge memberships or passes
  • A complimentary $100 credit for qualifying dining, spa or other hotel recreational activities on paid stays of 2 nights or longer
  • A complimentary annual Priority Pass™ Select membership with access to over 900 VIP airport lounges in over 400 cities worldwide (~$399 retail value)
  • Automatic Gold Elite status during your first account year and each account year thereafter when you spend $10,000 on your card.
  • Upgrade to The Ritz-Carlton Club® level 3 times annually on paid stays of up to 7 nights
  • Pay for your Global Entry application (currently $100) and receive a $100 statement credit. You'll also be eligible to receive TSA Pre √® privileges if you are approved.
  • All for a $450 annual fee
Intro APR Regular APR Annual Fee Foreign Transaction Fee Credit Rating
N/A 16.24% - 23.24% Variable $450 0% Excellent Credit