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Few credit cards are as, or more expensive than the Ritz-Carlton Rewards® Credit Card. In order to justify paying its annual fee, and have the card be actually net positive, you should consider whether the luxury benefits it offers appeals to you. If not, cards like the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card or Marriott Rewards® Premier Credit Card might be better choices – they can still earn points towards Ritz-Carlton stays, though at a significantly lower cost to cardholders.
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Review: Is the Ritz-Carlton Rewards® Credit Card Worth Its $395 Annual Fee?
If you’re thinking about signing up for the Ritz-Carlton Rewards® Credit Card, ask yourself: will I use the card’s bonuses or benefits? Only through these can users hope to come out ahead of the $395 annual fee they’ll be paying with the Ritz-Carlton credit card. There are other credit cards that may be better at earning users rewards points – this should not be your end-goal with this card. Instead, the Ritz-Carlton Rewards® Credit Card shines when it comes to showering its users with added benefits, including Club level upgrades, and travel credits. You can find out more about the different available redemption options by reading our comprehensive guide to the Marriott rewards program.
The luxury perks included with the Ritz-Carlton Rewards® Credit Card rival that of The Platinum Card® from American Express, a long-time favorite. The airport lounge access, provided through complimentary Lounge Club™ membership, isn’t as expansive as that on The Platinum Card® from American Express, but may still be enough to leave consumers satisfied.
Individuals poised on obtaining Ritz-Carlton Gold/Platinum status also have a lot to take out of this card. During your first year of cardmembership, you will be granted Gold Elite Status for free. Each year after that, when you make at least $10,000 in purchases, you will be granted this status again. If you’re a high spender ($75k+ annually), this card will unlock Platinum Elite status. You can read about all the perks that come with these statuses here.
Bottom Line: If you frequently stay at Ritz-Carlton hotels, or their partners, and want to add an extra level of comfort to your stays, consider getting the Ritz-Carlton Rewards® Credit Card. Before you do, however, make sure that you can make use of its many side-benefits, to the point that they cover the card’s high annual fee.
Ritz-Carlton Rewards® Credit Card Benefits & Features
The Ritz-Carlton Rewards® Credit Card gives its users plenty of opportunities to earn rewards points, which can be turned into anything from stays at their properties, or room upgrades. When you use the card at Ritz-Carlton, or their partners (JW Marriott®, EDITION®, Autograph Collection® Hotels, Renaissance® Hotels and Marriott Hotels & Resorts®), you will earn 5 points per $1. Purchases of airline tickets, bought directly from the airline, will yield 2 points per $1. Likewise, shopping at car rental agencies and restaurants will earn users 2 points per $1. All other purchases will result in just 1 point per $1.
At the end of each year, you will receive a 10% points premium, with no cap. For example, if you used the Ritz-Carlton Rewards® Credit Card to pay for a $1,000 stay at their hotel, you'll get 5,000 points (5x per $1). At the end of that cardmemeber year, you will receive a bonus 500 points (10% of 5,000).
Lounge Club™ Membership
A big benefit of owning the Ritz-Carlton Rewards® Credit Card is the complimentary membership to Lounge Club™, which provides access to over 350 lounges across 200 airports worldwide. Lounge Club™ values their membership at around $99 annually, though it is currently impossible to purchase it directly. The only way to obtain membership is to have one of the few credit cards that offer it (including the Visa Black Card, American Express Preferred Rewards Gold Card, and, of course, the Ritz-Carlton Rewards® Credit Card).
Lounge access provides cardholders with the ability to enjoy a quiet place, with complimentary Wi-Fi, snacks, beverages, conference rooms, and even showers (in certain lounges). This can be particularly useful for a business traveler, who frequently finds themselves in an airport.
Ritz-Carlton Specific Benefits
It’s difficult to justify getting the Ritz-Carlton Rewards® Credit Card if you plan to use it only for the benefits outlined above. The true value of the card, and the reason it costs $395 annually, lies in the non-spending related benefits.
Two Complimentary Nights
If you spend at least $3,000 on purchases, within the first 3 months of opening your Ritz-Carlton Rewards® Credit Card account, you will be awarded 2 complimentary nights at any participating Tier 1-4 Ritz-Carlton Hotel. We estimate the value of this benefit to be roughly $930. We arrived at this rate by sampling several benchmark booking from category 1-4 Ritz-Carlton Hotels, across a variety of locations. Based on this, we've calculated the value of a single night to be, on average, $465.
In order to qualify for this benefit, the $3,000 must be reached via purchases. This means balance transfers, cash advances, and fees do not count. Furthermore, if you qualified for this benefit within the past 2 years, you are also ineligible from receiving it again.
Upgrades To The Ritz-Carlton Club® Level
Every year you remain a Ritz-Carlton Rewards® Credit Cardholder in good-standing, you will receive 3 complimentary upgrades to Club® Level. This differs from a regular rate stay, by giving you access to an in-hotel lounge. This special lounge works similarly to airport lounges most travelers will be familiar with. Inside these lounges, Ritz-Carlton guests can enjoy complimentary beverages, concierge services, and a relaxing atmosphere.
The difference between a regular-rate hotel room, and a Club® Level one comes out to about $120 per night – a sizable difference.
Every year, Ritz-Carlton Rewards® cardholders receive $300 in travel credit. This can be used towards baggage fees, Global Entry, seat upgrades, or lounge access (both day-passes and annual membership). In order to qualify for this benefit, cardmembers must charge the purchase to their Ritz-Carlton Rewards® Credit Card, and notify J.P. Morgan Priority Services within 4 billing cycles of the transaction. Ritz-Carlton Rewards® Credit Card also receive $100 in Hotel credit, every time they stay at a Ritz-Carlton affiliated hotel, for at least 2 consecutive days. This credit can be used to cover room upgrades, and services (though not ones provided by a third party). The $100 credit can also only be used towards add-on charges, meaning you cannot use it to pay for the actual stay itself.
Gold/Platinum Elite Status
When you are first approved for the Ritz-Carlton Rewards® Credit Card, you receive complimentary Gold Elite Status for the first year. With this, you get benefits which include late checkouts, and free room upgrades. In order to maintain Gold Status past your first cardmember year, you must make at least $10,000 in purchases on your card annually.
If you spend $75,000 in an account year (average of $6,250 per month), you will receive complementary Platinum Elite Status. This gives users 50% more rewards points for their bookings, an additional 1,000 bonus points upon each booking, and the guarantee that a room will be available to you, up to 48 hours before you need it.
Note that you can also get Gold/Platinum Elite status by other means, namely accumulating Elite Qualifying Nights (EQNs) with Ritz-Carlton - you earn these every time you pay for a stay at their properties.
How Does the Ritz-Carlton Rewards® Credit Card Compare To Other Credit Cards?
When shopping for credit cards, it is a good idea to keep your eyes wide-open for your options. It’s impossible to choose a best credit card in a vacuum – comparing choices is a must if you hope to maximize your value. To that end, this section profiles the competitors of the Ritz-Carlton Rewards® Credit Card.
Ritz-Carlton Rewards® Credit Card vs The Platinum Card® from American Express
The Platinum Card® from American Express comes with an annual fee of $550 (See Rates & Fees) – that’s $155 more per year than the Ritz-Carlton Rewards® Credit Card. Both of these cards are focused around luxury travel, however The Platinum Card® from American Express is not tied down to any particular brand. One reason one might prefer The Platinum Card® from American Express to the Ritz-Carlton Rewards® Credit Card is the type of airport lounge access they offer. With the Amex card, you get membership to Centurion Lounges, which are considered to be some of the most luxurious and best equipped. Outside of this, The Platinum Card® from American Express comes with Priority Pass membership, which is a better version of the Lounge Club™.
For rates and fees of the The Platinum Card® from American Express, please click here.
Ritz-Carlton Rewards® Credit Card vs Marriott Rewards® Premier Credit Card
If you’re the type of person who doesn’t care about high-end travel benefits, the Marriott Rewards® Premier Credit Card may be for you. This card has the same rewards point distribution as the Ritz-Carlton Rewards® Credit Card (5-2-1), but comes at a greatly reduced price-tag – the Marriott Rewards® Premier Credit Card has an $85 annual fee. Since Marriott and Ritz-Carlton are partners, the points earned through the Marriott Rewards® Premier Credit Card can be used to book stays at Ritz-Carlton properties.
Ritz-Carlton Rewards® Credit Card vs Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
Some consumers – those who hold no brand loyalty to either Marriott or Ritz-Carlton – will be better off with a general travel rewards credit card like the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card. This credit card earns users Chase Ultimate Rewards points, which are part of one of the most valuable rewards programs. Instead of luxury, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card gives its users the flexibility to use rewards on a variety of things – from travel statement credit to the ability to transfer them to one of 11 partner programs (including Marriott). The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is most beneficial to individuals with high dining and travel spending, as it gives 2 points per $1 in these categories. If you spend at least $4,000 annually on these things, and value flexible rewards, consider this card instead.
If you’re searching for a card that will give you the highest returns on spending, you can use our tool below to help you. This tool does not take into account secondary benefits, such as travel/hotel credit or room upgrades, since these features are harder to model (mainly because of the unpredictable redemption nature). Use this tool more as a guideline to narrow down your search, then evaluate each of your top choices more closely, before applying.