What Ritz-Carltons are Worth Getting a New Credit Card, Paying $450 Annual Fee and Spending $5,000?

Disclaimer: I do not have an affiliate or marketing relationship with Chase or Ritz-Carlton. Any link in this post will not compensate me.

The Chase Ritz-Carlton credit card had been quiet for a few years, not offering headline grabbing bonuses. Now it has relaunched with a publicity blitz among its marketing affiliates.

Existing cardmembers are immediately converted. This is the ‘same product’ as the prior card and excludes those who have gotten the bonus with 24 months of receiving it again. Many of us who previously got in on the 2013 70k/140k offers will be at 24+ months.

The dust has mostly settled, with concerns about loss of certain benefits now addressed:

  • Chase PR has said that the club upgrade benefits from the prior card have been retained, despite marketing materials being silent
  • Lounge access has shifted from Lounge Club to Priority Pass (both from the same company, with Prioity Pass having access to a larger pool of lounges), under Lounge Club you could bring in unlimited guests for no additional charge and card authorized users also got a card, reports from current cardholders are that they have already gotten Priority Pass cards

The new suite of benefits, to quote the press release:

Ritz-Carlton Card

Elite Travel

  • New: Unlimited $100 discounts on two or more domestic airline tickets*
  • New: Worldwide access to more than 900 airport lounges through Priority Pass
  • New: Global Entry application fee reimbursement credit
  • New: Car rental discount and upgrades
  • $300 annual travel credit
  • No foreign transaction fees

 Exclusive Privileges

  • Cardmember events, including exclusive sports, entertainment and culinary experiences
  • Three The Ritz-Carlton Club Level upgrades annually on paid stays of up to seven nights, subject to availability
  • Automatic Gold Elite status in Ritz-Carlton Rewards for the first year and maintain after spending $10,000 each year
  • Platinum Elite status in Ritz-Carlton Rewards after spending $75,000 each year
  • $100 hotel credit on each paid stay of two nights or longer

Faster Rewards

  • Five points for every $1 spent at participating The Ritz-Carlton hotels or worldwide partner brands within the Marriott International portfolio, including JW Marriott, EDITION, Autograph Collection, Renaissance Hotels and Marriott Hotels
  • Two points for every $1 spent on airline tickets purchased directly with the airline, at car rental agencies and restaurants
  • One point for every $1 spent anywhere else

*The $100 discount on companion domestic airline ticket is through this card being a Visa Infinite. You book through their portal. Flights are limited to American, Delta and United. Reports are fares are comparable to booking direct with airlines and other OTAs.

Better Chase customer service:

As a cardmember you get access to the JP Morgan Executive line which is useful for all your Chase products. When my annual Fairmont cert did not post this year and the Fairmint credit card line agents were no help over months of calls, it was only resolved, and quickly resolved, when I got a JP Morgan representative on the line.

Are the nights worth it?

The sign-up offer is 3 nights at category 1-4 hotels for $5,000 spend in 3 months. Plus 10,000 bonus points for adding an authorized user. The $450 annual fee is not waived in the first year.

A case can be made for the travel benefits being worth x dollars if you do this, that and the other, all that involve spending additional money that you may or may not otherwise spend.

You are either paying $450, plus the cost and opportunity cost of $5,000 minimum spend, to get a 3-night stay, or working the travel benefits to offset the $450. Cash, time, effort. Are those 3 nights worth it?

My take on Ritz-Carlton:

My only Ritz-Carlton stays have been at Ritz-Carlton Beijing and Ritz-Carlton Bangalore, where my former employer had contact rates. Beijing was unmemorable. Bangalore was more modern in design and the staff at the club lounge was great.

My impression of Ritz-Carlton is a lot of luxurious, stuffy, sometimes dated, city center hotels. Fine if you are heading that way. Not destination hotels.

If I am to get a new credit card for hotel certificates, usually that expire in 12 month, in lieu of flexible points, I want the hotel options to be destinations in themselves that other options do not replicate. Fairmont is an example of this with properties such as Fairmont Le Montreux Palace and Fairmont Mara Safari Club. In one you are in a historic palace where you wife spins in the room proclaiming “I am a princess!” The other you are the only people in Masai Mara at dawn.

A Ritz-Carlton in Bali may be fantastic on its own. Compared to all the other hotels and discount villas, is it worth getting this card for that stay?

Does Ritz-Carlton have such destination hotels that are unique?

Browsing Marriott Rewards you need to look at the Tier chart that applies to Ritz-Carlton redemptions. These certs will apply to categories 1-4, excluding 5. I am not considering cash rates or other promotions for these properties, only those which catch my eye.

Tier 1: nothing stands out

Tier 2:

  • Dove Mountain, Arizona, how I imagine a state I have not visited
  • Doha, Sharq Village looks like a lavish, beach Gulf experience, a better way to sample the country that holing up in Doha city
  • Istanbul EDITION looks cool in a city of many good choices
  • Penha Longa Resort, Sintra, Portugal, I would rather find smaller, traditional accommodation that this conventional looking resort, still, Sintra is a delight

Tier 3:

  • Reynolds, Lake Oconee, Georgia, beautiful
  • Hotel de la Paix, Geneva, Switzerland looks historic
  • Herzliya, Israel, doesn’t look as lavish as some, though for those of us who focus on history/religion tours of Israel, this will show the Mediterranean holiday side of things
  • Al-Bustan Palace, Oman, similar reasons to recommend as Doha, a way to experience the Gulf countries far from the hustle of the cities

Tier 4:

While you may want to ‘maximize’ you nights by picking the most expensive awards on paper, much of Tier 4 did not jump out at me. Consider that if you want a longer stay, the incremental points needed to add nights only increase, so picking something lower-tier can be a smart play. As always, get the trip you want, not the trip you think your friends will envy.

Will I get the card?

I would prefer a points offer though since I am at 24+ months from my prior card and I am confident my wife will like the California properties, I will double-check their room award availability and if it looks good, will probably apply for the card during my next round.

Update: Frank reminded me in the comments that I won’t get free breakfast, even with Gold status. Forget it. I don’t want to pay for an outrageous breakfast and don’t want to argue with my wife over not paying for breakfast. I’ll hold out for a points bonus offer.

Readers, what Tier 1-4 Ritz-Carltons do you recommend?

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  • Frank

    I’d rather have 3 top tier Marriott nights than 3 Ritz nights. At least with Marriott I can get lounge & breakfast free. Ritz hotels aren’t that nice overall and are a poor value on cash rates at most properties

  • @Frank – good point, if I have to pay for breakfast, or attempt to deny my wife breakfast…

  • Bill

    @ Frank: “Ritz hotels aren’t that nice overall…” I think this is fairly inaccurate, but it depends where you stay, as can be true with many hotel groups. There are some very nice RC properties in the USA and abroad. The question is whether it’s worth paying the $450 and spending $5000 for the chance to have 3 free nights at those that qualify. For me, I still don’t think so. For others, it may be.

  • The main reason I am considering this card is that it has good travel benefits. It is the only card that I know of that includes medical evacuation insurance. Insurance that covers this costs about $450/year/couple with a company like Geoblue.

    I’m not sure if they include this insurance if you are traveling on award tickets. I’m also not sure I want to be restricted to booking all airfare on this card.

  • @plane2port – I was unaware of this and I once had the card. Great find. The coverage benefits guide is here, I don’t know if a new one will be issued in the conversion to Visa Infinite, this one dates from 11/01/13. Terms say must pay all or portion of trip with the card so award tickets should be fine. Trip must be between 5-60 days and at least 100 miles from your residence. Coverage up to $100,000 and secondary to any other coverage you have. I wonder want the typical evacuation costs and if $100,000 is enough?

  • Unless you have a visa infinite with crystal bank this is your only US option to receive the concierge and 100$ 2-5 person booking credit. If you travel who cares about the ritz carlton part, the card is amazing when you count the 300$ airline reimbursement and priority pass for you and user. I think this card is on par with amex platinum and the devalued citi prestige.

  • italdesign

    No award chart has ever looked more boring. I spent an hour on the list and could not find one desirable destination + value combo. I agree Fairmont destinations are much more interesting.

  • andreas

    thanks for taking the contrarian view when everyone is going ga ga on this card.I”m excited about the card but the reality set in. Most places I want to go to have really high resort + parking fee. Expect atleast $80 total. Simmply ridiculous. So the $150 net fee plus $250 or so in resort fees.