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TPG reader Jacob sent me a message on Facebook to ask about hotel loyalty programs:
“I’ll be staying at a Ritz-Carlton property soon, and was wondering whether I should sign up for their loyalty program or Marriott Rewards. If it makes a difference, I have Gold status with Hilton and Platinum status with Hyatt.”
While Marriott has owned and managed Ritz-Carlton for nearly two decades, the two brands opted to maintain separate loyalty programs when Ritz-Carlton Rewards was launched in 2010. The rules state that you can only be a member of one program or the other, so readers often ask me if I have a preference.
The short answer is that it doesn’t really matter which program you choose unless you stay with Marriott or Ritz-Carlton regularly (and it sounds like that’s not the case for Jacob). Your earning rates and redemption options are similar either way, so there’s no advantage in terms of maximizing points. The elite status requirements and benefits are also similar, such as the opportunity to earn United Premier Silver status through the RewardsPlus partnership.
The main difference between the two programs is the offers you’ll be targeted for as a member. Naturally, Marriott Rewards members receive Marriott promotions like the MegaBonus, while Ritz-Carlton Rewards members receive Ritz-Carlton promotions like double elite nights, which is being offered again in 2016. However, this doesn’t mean much if you already stay with one brand more than the other, since in that case the decision is obviously to sign up with that brand.
Choosing between them is really only an issue if you tend to visit Marriott and Ritz-Carlton properties equally. If I had to choose one in that case, I’d go with Marriott Rewards partly because there are more properties (i.e., more opportunities to take advantage of bonuses), and partly because I think Marriott Rewards promotions are slightly more useful to the average award traveler. But again, I’m splitting hairs here.
Keep in mind that there’s very little at stake in your decision, since you can switch your membership from one program to the other with a simple phone call. You can’t switch back and forth to take advantage of current promotions because you must already be a member to be eligible for promotional offers. However, you could always switch with the hope that a new bonus will be released before an upcoming stay.
For more on Marriott Rewards and Ritz-Carlton Rewards, check out these posts:
- The Award Traveler’s Guide to Marriott Rewards
- 80,000 Point Sign-Up Bonus on the Marriott Rewards Premier Card
- Should I Get the Marriott or Ritz-Carlton Credit Card?
Now that Marriott and Starwood have joined forces, you can transfer your points between the two programs depending on what makes the most sense for you. Each year after your anniversary date, this card will earn you 1 complimentary night stay at a category 1-5 location and you will earn 15 Elite Credits that will guarantee you at least Silver Elite Status.
- Earn 75,000 Bonus Points after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.
- $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $85.
- Enjoy 1 Free Night Stay at a Category 1-5 hotel every year after your account anniversary date!
- Earn unlimited Marriott Rewards points and get Free Night Stays faster
- Earn 5 points per $1 spent at participating Marriott Rewards & SPG hotels
- 2 points per $1 spent on airline tickets purchased directly with the airlines, at car rental agencies & restaurants. Plus 1 point per $1 spent everywhere else
- The fastest way to earn Marriott Rewards Elite Status. Receive 15 Elite Credits guaranteeing Silver Elite Status or better.