Update: The 70K Ritz-Carlton Rewards Card with annual fee waived online application has expired. There is a 140K Ritz-Carlton Rewards Card but Annual Fee is NOT waived.
Is the 70K Ritz-Carlton Rewards with no annual fee the first year worth it?
It could be, but let's first take a look at this Ritz-Carlton Visa offer, as well as other current offers for the card, and the pros and cons.
70K Ritz-Carlton Rewards Card with Annual Fee Waived the First Year (link removed, since expired)
- Earn 70,000 points after spending $2000 in the first 3 months (used to be after first card use)
- Annual fee waived the first year; thereafter $395
- $200 airline incidental credit per calendar year (so $400 during your first year; more analysis of this below)
- No foreign transaction fees
- Earn 5 Ritz-Carlton Rewards points per $1 charged to your guest room at participating Ritz-Carlton hotels
- Earn 2 Ritz-Carlton Rewards points per $1 spent on airline tickets purchased directly with the airline, at car rental agencies, and restaurants
- Earn 1 Ritz-Carlton Rewards point per $1 spent on all other purchases
- Automatic Gold Elite Status the first year; thereafter qualify for Gold Elite after $10,000 in purchases per account year
- $200 credit per calendar year for airline incidental (non-ticket) charges
- 24-hour JP Morgan Premier Concierge Service
- Receive a $100 hotel credit when you book a paid stay of two nights or more at participating Ritz-Carlton hotels
- Upgrade to the Ritz-Carlton Club Level on up to three paid stays of up to seven nights each by using an E-Certificate (but see restrictions as described below)
- Complimentary access to airport lounges via Lounge Club
Other Current Offers for the Ritz-Carlton Rewards Card
140K Ritz-Carlton Rewards Card, $395 annual fee is NOT waived the first year
This offer, which was reported in a MyFico forum, is not available online and is supposedly targeted, although some folks seem to have been approved for it simply by calling 1-888-846-7004 and mentioning code F5BP. So is it worth paying $395 for 70,000 more Ritz-Carlton Rewards points? My view is no. That's because you're then paying over half a cent per point, which is a deal where most airline miles are concerned, but, except for a handful of top Ritz-Carlton properties, the points just aren't worth that much. That's because the very best Ritz-Carlton resort properties, such as Dorado Beach and Phulay Bay, both of which are Ritz-Carlton Reserve properties, don't participate in Ritz-Carlton Rewards, so it's harder to gain truly aspirational awards for your points.
I discussed the 70K Ritz-Carlton Rewards card offer with the $200 gift card last year. However, even if you were to equate the $200 Ritz-Carlton gift card with cash, you'd still be $195 worse off compared to the offer with the annual fee waived the first year.
Targeted: 70K Ritz-Carlton Rewards Card + $200 Ritz-Carlton Gift Card + $300 Airline Incidentals, Annual Fee Waived First Year
Note that this offer is targeted to some Ritz-Carlton Rewards members (possibly those who do have NOT had the Marriott Rewards card) and is hard coded into the application, so it's not transferable and you must be targeted. Clearly, if you happen to bet targeted for this offer, it's by far the best one.
Am I Eligible for the Bonus If I Previous Had the Ritz-Carlton Rewards or Marriott Rewards Cards?
Per the terms, no: “Previous and existing The Ritz-Carlton Rewards or Marriott Rewards® Credit Card cardmembers/accounts are not eligible for this bonus offer.” That said, some have been able to receive the bonus for the Ritz-Carlton Rewards card even though they previously had a Marriott Rewards card, for example nitro888 on flyertalk writes “I got the Ritz card last year after having my Marriott card and received both 70K bonus points.
My wife has had her Marriot Visa for two years and just got the Ritz card last month. Her 70K bonus points just posted.”
Can I Apply for the No Annual Fee Version and Get Matched to the 140,000 Bonus Points Offer?
Possible and worth a try, but no guarantees, since there's no online link for that offer so it's more likely to be a targeted offer that you may or may not be matched to. And more unlikely to be matched to the no fee 70K Ritz-Carlton Rewards offer that includes the $200 Ritz-Carlton gift card, as that appears to be targeted to select Ritz-Carlton Rewards members. That said, please comment below if you were successfully matched to either offer.
The Airline Incidentals Credit Seems to Be $300 per Year: Will I Get Matched from $200 to $300?
Most likely yes: since the current public offer for the Ritz-Carlton Rewards card comes with a $300 airline incidentals credit, you can ask for the $200 airline credit to be matched. On Flyertalk, wise2u reports “…they raised the airline incidental to $300 per year and even though my fee free offer from last year stated $200 they raised the credit for me as soon as it was announced.”
Does the Airline Incidentals Credit Have to Be Only for Airline Incidentals?
Per the terms, yes-the $200 per calendar year airline incidentals statment credit ($400 over your first year of card membership) “…applies only to non-ticket purchases made with merchants that classify their merchant location for Visa in the airline category.”
That said, there are reports on flyertalk and elsewhere of being able to buy airline gift cards, which can then be used towards airline tickets. For example, tys90 writes “I got reimbursed for a AA gift card last year and a United gift card this year, no issues.”
All the same, you may want to buy lower denomination airline gift cards even though it's only possible to use one per ticket. In some cases, Chase has investigated the purchase, and has denied reimbursement. TheFlyingScholar on Flyertalk writes “This year, I bought a $200 gift card outright. The charge apparently didn't come up as a “fee”, so they declared they'd contact United to verify. I said I would find the receipt instead, but they indeed went back to my account and notated the fee as being based on an “e-gift,” so no HUCB [hang up call back; so no reimbursement in this case].”
Can the Upgrade to Ritz-Carlton Club Level Be Used in Conjunction with an Award Stay?
No, the upgrade to Ritz-Carlton Club Level is only for paid stays that are at full published rates (no corporate or promotional paid rates allowed).
Can Ritz-Carlton STARS 3rd Night Free / Fourth Night Free Offers Be Combined with the Upgrade to Ritz-Carlton Club?
No–these offers are not combinable. You would have to choose between the Ritz-Carlton STARS or Virtuoso offer and the upgrade to Ritz-Carlton Club Level on paid stays credit card benefit.
Can the $100 Hotel Credit on Stays of 2 Nights or More Be Combined with Virtuoso Amenities?
No, these benefits cannot be combined; you would have to choose one or the other.
How Does the Ritz-Carlton Compare with Other Luxury Hotel Chains?
I'll do a more detailed post on this in the future, but, while of course properties even in the same chain vary enormously, in general I don't find Ritz-Carlton hotels to be the very best in their respective markets. If there is a Four Seasons, Peninsula, or Mandarin Oriental property in the same market, they will almost always be better than the Ritz-Carlton, with few exceptions.
Which Other Credit Cards Should I Apply For at the Same Time?
- 70K Ink Plus Bonus Offer (annual fee is NOT waived)
- 75K Citi Executive AAdvantage (the 100K offer has expired)
- 40K US Airways Premier World MasterCard (this offer will disappear before the Dividend Miles and AAdvantage combine sometime in Q2 2015)
Verdict: It's great to see a Ritz-Carlton Rewards card offer with the annual fee waived the first year. And the up to $600 airline incidental credit could be great if you're able to actually get reimbursed for airline gift cards, although as noted above, this isn't allowed per the terms and reimbursement sometimes works, sometimes doesn't. That said, if you have a number of Chase cards and are choosing one Chase hotel card to sign up for, I would still sign up for the Hyatt Visa instead, unless you're a much bigger fan of Ritz-Carlton or Marriott hotels over Park Hyatt hotels, or you know for sure you'll be able to max out the $300 per calendar year ($600 total in the first year) airline incidental credit and don't mind the hassle of calling each time for reimbursement.
Do you have or plan to get the Ritz-Carlton Rewards card?
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