Here’s why Ritz-Carlton club level rooms remain so exclusive

Mar 12, 2020

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Reader Questions are answered twice a week by TPG Senior Points & Miles Contributor Ethan Steinberg.

Hotel elite benefits like suite upgrades, free lounge access and free breakfast tend to be worth more at luxury properties, including brands like St. Regis, Ritz-Carlton and Park Hyatt. This is partly because the quality of the offerings is better and partly because the benefits you’re getting for free would have been much more expensive if you’d been forced to pay cash. TPG reader Hannah wants to know if it’s possible to use Marriott Bonvoy points to upgrade to a club level room at a Ritz-Carlton hotel …

I’m planning a summer vacation to D.C. with my family and looking to stay at the Ritz-Carlton. I don’t have any Marriott elite status — is it possible to use points to upgrade to a club level room?

TPG READER HANNAH

First of all, even if Hannah had Marriott elite status she shouldn’t expect an upgrade to a club level room at a Ritz-Carlton hotel. Ritz-Carlton is much stingier with elite benefits than its ultra-luxurious counterpart St. Regis, which is a legacy SPG brand. Marriott elites of any level do not receive free breakfast at Ritz-Carltons, and Platinum elites are not eligible for suite upgrades there either (only Titanium and Ambassador elites). These reduced elite benefits are a big part of the reason that I’ll opt to stay in a St. Regis over a Ritz-Carlton any time I’m given the chance.

With that out of the way, let’s take a look at the Ritz-Carlton club level and why you’d want to upgrade there in the first place. This is nothing like your standard hotel lounge, which is often tired, out of date, and lacking in the food and beverage offerings. Ritz-Carlton club lounges offer five signature food and beverage servings every day, starting with breakfast and running all the way through hors d’oeuvre and cocktails in the evening. This is an impressive and often times expensive spread, and Ritz-Carlton as a brand has decided not to give this away, even to elite members.

Related: Palace in the sky: A review of the Ritz-Carlton, Hong Kong

Unfortunately, the only way to end up in a club level room is to book one outright or to pay cash to upgrade. If we take a look at the Ritz-Carlton Washington D.C., we can see that this coming summer, a standard double bed guest room costs 60,000 points per day (which means that this Category 7 hotel is operating under standard award pricing during these dates). You also have the option to book a one-bedroom executive suite for 189,000 points per night, worth $1,512 based on TPG’s valuations (a bad deal, since the cash rate is only ~$650).

Here and at other Ritz-Carlton hotels, you won’t see an option to use points to book a club level room. You might be able to get lucky calling an individual property and inquiring about that option, but I haven’t heard any stories of people having luck there. On these exact same dates, there are three different types of club rooms for sale, so the issue here isn’t availability.

Note that each of these rooms cost at least $200 per night more than a base/standard room, which means you’d have to eat and drink a lot in the lounge to make up for that extra cost. If you book a base room and decide to upgrade to a club level, the exact cost will vary from hotel to hotel so you’ll have to reach out to the specific property to inquire about the rate.

Related: Redeeming Marriott Bonvoy points for maximum value

Bottom line

Ritz-Carlton is one of the most iconically luxurious hotel brands out there, and it retains an air of exclusivity around its club level rooms even for elite members. Unfortunately you can’t use points to upgrade your stay to a club level room, so you’ll have to pay cash if you want to enjoy all the food and drink in the club.

Thanks for the question, Hannah, and if you’re a TPG reader who’d like us to answer a question of your own, tweet us at @thepointsguy, message us on Facebook or email us at info@thepointsguy.com.

Featured photo by Ethan Steinberg/The Points Guy.

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