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Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available. View the current offers here – Marriott Rewards Premier Credit Card
TPG reader Vanessa sent me a message on Facebook to ask about getting a hotel credit card:
“Do you have a preference between the Ritz-Carlton and Marriott credit cards? I usually stay with Marriott when I travel either for work or on my own, though I’m traveling to Puerto Rico and plan to stay at the Ritz in February, and I do prefer Ritz overall. Which one should I choose?”
The Marriott Rewards and Ritz-Carlton Rewards programs are fairly intertwined, since both points and elite status are essentially interchangeable. However, their respective co-branded credit cards have some important differences, and the decision of which one to get depends on your travel patterns.
Both the Marriott Rewards Premier Credit Card and The Ritz-Carlton Rewards Credit Card earn 5 points per dollar spent at hotels within either chain, and 2 points per dollar on airfare (purchased directly from airlines), rental cars and restaurants. Both cards also waive foreign transaction fees, but that’s about where the similarities end.
The Marriott card currently offers a sign-up bonus of 80,000 points after spending $3,000 in the first three months, plus 7,500 points when you add an authorized user and make a purchase in the first three months. You’ll get 15 elite credits each year (enough for automatic Silver status), and an annual free night at a Category 1-5 hotel upon your account anniversary. That’s a pretty good value, even though there is an $85 annual fee.
The Ritz-Carlton card is much pricier, but while some people might balk at the $450 annual fee, the card makes up for it with superior benefits. You can use the $300 annual travel credit to cover things like baggage fees and other incidentals, which effectively reduces the annual fee to $95. That credit can be used toward a Global Entry application, and anecdotal evidence suggests some airline gift cards also apply.
Other benefits include a 10% premium on points earned through spending each year, upgrades to Ritz-Carlton Club level and a $100 hotel credit on paid stays and automatic Gold status for the first year — you can maintain status by spending $10,000 on the card each year after that. The current sign-up bonus is also more lucrative: You get two complimentary nights at participating Tier 1-4 Ritz-Carlton properties after spending $4,000 in the first three months.
The Ritz-Carlton card is even more attractive if you already have stays planned. The Ritz-Carlton San Juan is a Tier 4 property, and rooms are generally going for $500-$700 in February. You could use your free night certificates there and save a bundle, or if you’re planning to pay cash, you could take advantage of the Club level upgrade and hotel credit.
The Marriott card is a great option for many award travelers, but the Ritz-Carlton card offers enough value that it’s worth the high annual fee. Given Vanessa’s travel plans and hotel preferences, it’s a no-brainer.
For more info, check out these posts:
- 9 Marriott Properties that Make Awesome Award Redemptions
- How Much is Marriott Rewards Elite Status Worth?
- Which Annual Credit Card Bonuses Justify the Annual Fee?
If you have any other questions, please tweet me @thepointsguy, message me on Facebook or send me an email at email@example.com.