Note: This card is no longer open to new applications. Information listed here is accurate as of March 21, 2018.
The Verdict: A $450 annual fee is probably enough to scare most people off, but then again, the Ritz-Carlton crowd isn’t most people. So if you’re looking for a way to save on swanky hotel stays and can see past The Ritz-Carlton Credit Card’s hefty dues, you’ll find a number of positive attributes that enable the card to pay for itself when in the right hands.
For starters, spending $4,000 within three months of account opening will score you two free nights at a Category 1 to 4 Ritz-Carlton hotel. That’s worth around $720, based on Ritz-Carlton’s average daily room rate in 2015. Those free nights pay for nearly the first two annual fees, but thereafter you’ll need to rely on a $300 annual travel credit, $100 credits for paid hotel stays of two or more nights, and regular purchase-based rewards. More specifically, you’ll earn 5 points for each $1 that you spend at Ritz-Carlton properties and partner hotels such as Marriott; 2 points per $1 on airfare purchased directly from airlines as well as on car rentals and dining; and 1 point per $1 on everything else. Based on WalletHub’s analysis of the average Ritz-Carlton point value, those points equates to 3.95%, 1.58% and 0.79% cash back, respectively, or as much as 4.3% when you factor in your annual 10% earnings bonus.
All things considered, including fees, the Ritz-Carlton Rewards Card would earn the average person a net of $1,354 over the first two years of use. So if you spend at least 10 nights per year at Ritz-Carlton properties (recommended to avoid rewards devaluation); have the good or excellent credit required for approval (check your score on WalletHub); and plan to always pay your bill in full (this card offers no financing favors), you may have just found yourself a new credit card.
To make sure, check out the rest of our review, including how the Ritz-Carlton Card compares to the competition, below.
- 2 Free Nights: If you spend at least $4,000 (or about $1,333 per month) over the first 90 days that you have the Ritz-Carlton Card, you’ll qualify for two free nights at any Category 1 to 4 Ritz-Carlton property.
Given that you generally need 30,000 points for a Category 1 night and 60,000 for Category 4, this initial bonus is worth anywhere from 60,000 to 120,000 points for a two-night stay. And considering that Ritz-Carlton points are worth an average of $0.0079 apiece when redeemed for free nights, according to WalletHub research, you’re looking at a value of between $474 and $948 here. But don’t take too long to redeem this generous bounty, as the hotel certificate expires 12 months from the issue date.
- Up To 4.3% Back On Purchases: You will earn 5 points per $1 spent at Ritz-Carlton properties as well as partners from the Marriott family of brands, including EDITION, Autograph Collection and Renaissance hotels. Furthermore, you’ll receive 2 points per $1 spent on airfare (as long as you book directly through an airline), car rentals and restaurant dining. All other purchases yield 1 point per $1.
When you put this earning platform in the context of the average American’s $28,523 in annual credit-card-eligible spending, the Ritz-Carlton Card would yield about $596 over the first two years of use — just from its regular, purchase-based rewards. That takes into account the 10% annual rewards bonus that all cardholders receive as well as the modest average value of a Ritz point, which together translate the card’s earning range into 0.87% to 4.3% cash back. To put those rates in perspective, the average rewards credit card currently earns 1.06% back, according to WalletHub’s latest Credit Card Landscape Report.
- $300 Annual Travel Credit: If you fly often enough to make use of this benefit, you can consider it a 76% subsidy of your annual fee. This credit doesn’t apply to airfare, but it will cover baggage fees, seat upgrades, lounge membership of your choice, airline-lounge day pass, TSA Global Entry’s membership fee ($100), and in-flight Internet, entertainment and meals.
In order to redeem this credit, you must call J.P. Morgan Priority Services using the number on the back of your card within four billing cycles of the applicable purchase being made.
- $100 Credit For Consecutive-Night Stays: If you book a reservation for at least two consecutive nights at a Ritz-Carlton hotel or one of its partners, you will automatically receive a $100 credit to use for on-premises dining, entertainment and spa services. This credit cannot be used toward the cost of your room or taxes or to purchase alcohol.
- Complimentary Priority Pass Select Membership: Access to hundreds of airport lounges worldwide through your automatic membership in Priority Pass Select. So you’re in luck if you like to travel in comfort, and you can add this to the card’s annual-fee-offsetting perks.
- $450 Annual Fee: This card can easily prove to be well worth the money — if you’re a frequent, high-spending traveler — but that doesn’t change the fact that its significant fixed cost represents its greatest flaw. After all, you can buy an awful lot with $450, such as a new computer, season tickets for your favorite sports franchise or theater, a round-trip domestic flight or even a night at many Ritz-Carlton resorts.
- Potential For A Very High Regular APR: Your interest rate could be anywhere from 17.74% to 24.74% (V), depending on your creditworthiness. If you’re the type of person who likes to plan for the worst, just imagine paying interest at a rate higher than the average secured card’s (19.17%) and slightly below the average store card’s (25.48%). Hopefully that will dissuade you from making the mistake of carrying a balance from month to month with this card.
- Points Expire Due To Account Inactivity: If you don’t earn any rewards points or complete an eligible stay for 24 consecutive months, your account will be deemed inactive and you will forfeit any unredeemed rewards accrued at that point. That could wind up costing you a lot of money, so make sure to redeem regularly to minimize risk.
Other Things To Consider
- Gold Elite Status The First Year: As a cardholder, you will automatically have access to the benefits of Gold Elite status, including a 25% bonus on points earned during stays, complimentary room upgrades and guaranteed late checkout.
This is only temporary, however, as you must spend at least $10,000 every subsequent year after your first cardholder anniversary to maintain Gold Elite status. Spending at least $75,000 in a year will graduate you to Platinum Elite status, which provides a 50% earnings bonus and 1,000 bonus points for each stay.
- Three Annual Upgrades To Club Level: Each year, three of your stays will be upgraded to include Club Level access, which is notable primarily for the Club Lounge, where you can work, relax and enjoy snacks and beverages.
But watch out for the fine print: Club Level access is limited to paid stays of no more than seven days. Additionally, you must have an advanced reservation and e-certificate before you can enter the lounge.
- No Foreign-Transaction Fees: Ritz-Carlton has properties in more than 30 countries and territories. And if you’re a world traveler, you’ll be pleased to know that the Ritz-Carlton Credit Card doesn’t assess a surcharge on purchases processed outside of the U.S. That saves you 1.01% relative to the average credit card.