The Ritz 140K offer. Should you take it?

The usual offer for the Ritz Carlton Rewards credit card is 70,000 bonus points after spending $2,000 in three months.  The annual $395 fee is not waived the first year.  That fee sounds awfully steep, but it includes some really nice perks such as 3 club level upgrades; Gold status, first year (and each year thereafter when you spend $10K or more); $100 hotel credit for each 2 night or longer stay; complimentary Lounge Club membership; and $200 annual credit for airline incidentals.

A reader has alerted me to two even better targeted offers.  Via the MyFico forums, this thread details two offers: One for 70K bonus points with the first year fee waived, and the other for 140K bonus points, but the first year fee is not waived.

I called the number listed in the MyFico thread (1-888-846-7004) to see if the codes listed there could be used by people who were not targeted.  The phone agent I talked with wasn’t aware of the 140K offer, but she was able to find it when I gave her the promotion code (F5BP).  I was completely honest in explaining that I didn’t receive the code personally, so she did some digging to see if I could use it anyway. Finally, she apologized and told me that no, since I had admitted that I wasn’t targeted to receive the offer, I wasn’t qualified for it.  I didn’t ask her to check the other promo code (F53K), but I’m pretty sure I would have gotten the same answer.

Now, this is just a guess, but I’m betting that if you get targeted for either offer, you could successfully call and ask to be switched to the other one.  So, which is better?

The difference between the two offers is simple: with one offer you save $395 and with the other offer you get an additional 70,000 points.  Choosing the 140K offer is equivalent to buying 70,000 points for $395.  If those additional 70,000 points are worth more than $395, then the 140K offer is the better one.  If the points are worth less than $395, then the 70K, first year free offer is better.

How much are those 70,000 Ritz Carlton points worth?

In this context, when I ask how much Ritz Carlton points are worth, I mean “how much would you / should you pay for them?”  That is very different from asking how much value can you get from the points.  Let’s say, for example, that you use those 70,000 points to stay a night in a top tier Ritz property (see award chart below).  And, let’s say that the property would have cost $500 per night if you had paid cash.  In that case, you could argue that you got $500 in value from those 70,000 points.  That does not mean, though, that 70,000 points are worth buying for $500.  Not at all.  Why buy points for the chance of redeeming for the same amount?  The only reason to buy points is to get more value from the points than you could have gotten with cash.  It only makes sense to buy 70,000 points for $395 if you know for sure that you’ll get significantly more than $395 value from those points.


Marriott Connection

Ritz Carlton points are essentially the same as Marriott Rewards points.  Ritz Carlton points can be used to book not just Ritz Carlton properties, but Marriott properties as well.  Gary, at View from the Wing, covered the topic in detail here.  So, if we can estimate how much Marriott points are worth, we can estimate Ritz points’ worth as well…

Fair Trading Price

My Fair Trading Price page estimates the opportunity cost per point of various loyalty programs when people choose to use certain credit cards or stay in certain hotels instead of choosing other options.  The current estimated Fair Trading Price of Marriott points is shown as .5 cents per point.  Since Marriott and Ritz points are essentially the same, we can say that Ritz points also have a Fair Trading Price of a half cent each.  So, we can further say that the Fair Trading Price of 70,000 points is $350.  In other words, based on the Fair Trading Price, 70,000 Ritz Carlton points are not worth $395 (but it’s close!).


If you have the opportunity to pick one of the special Ritz Carlton credit card offers, think carefully about how much you would be willing to pay for points.  If the 140K offer will get you closer to a valuable award, then it may be worth paying $395 (.56 cents per point) for those extra points.  If you’re simply collecting points for someday, I’d say that the first year free offer is probably the better option.

What do you think?  If given the option, which offer would you choose?

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  1. This card offers a $200 airline credit each calendar year. As such, your annual fee on the “free” card is -$400, and on the paid card it is -$5. Add in three confirmable club upgrades (these are meaningful; this isn’t a “regency club”) and there is no reason not to take at least the 70k offer.

  2. I’d never pay $395 annual fee for a card unless it was getting you to a status or some other reach you normally couldnt get. You can easily manufacture 70k pts at a cheaper rate than $395.

    • MileageUpdate: You bring up an interesting point about manufactured spend, but I’m not sure that the math supports it without considering opportunity cost. For example, suppose you really need those extra 70K RC points, so you earn them by getting 2X Ultimate Rewards at gas stations where you manufacture $35K of spend. You could, instead, manufacture $35K spend on a 2% cash back card and earn $700. Then, you could use $395 of that to pay for the bigger bonus and still have $305 left over. I’m not saying this is a good idea, just that if you really want to buy 70K RC points through manufactured spend, I think it would be a better way to do it. Am I missing something?

  3. @FM @MileageUpdate The issue with manufacturing spend on Marriott points is that they are relatively worthless compared to other points that could be manufactured. If you used UR to get the Marriott points, 70k UR transferred to Hyatt is three nights in any Hyatt in the world, whereas 70k UR transferred to Marriott/Ritz Carlton would only be one night at any RC, at best two 35k nights at hotels even remotely similar to some of the best Hyatts. You’re giving up at least one, if not two physical hotel nights by transferring to Marriott instead of Hyatt. Therefore, I would rather pay the $395 here to get the 70k extra RC Rewards points, as I would lose too much value in manufacturing spend on the Marriott or RC card at 1x. I have the Marriott Premier Rewards card, and its only bonus categories are 5x at Marriott and 2x on airfare and car rentals, no real manufactured spend potential in those bonus categories.

  4. I think you’re right Greg in your response about the manufactured spend. I’ve often thought the same as MileageUpdate but I think you’re right. However you are missing the cost to manufacture which in your example would be $276.50 in either scenario. So it’d either cost you $276.50 to get 70K UR points or $276.50 to get $700 which you’d use $395 to get the RC points yielding $28.50 in profit with a 2% card.

    This can also be used to evaluate points purchase discount offers.

  5. I agree with your analysis FM. It does not make sense to manufacture RC points when you can get UR which are much more valuable. If I need 70k more points I would gladly pay the AF. But the point is whether 70k points are worth losing $395. Most folks will not have immediate redemption needs when it comes to points as most folks will want to use any free night certificates which have 1 year expiry dates before using points. Given this and also the possibility of future devaluation I would pocket 70k now and take the $200 travel credit. Those who have paid stays could also benefit from gold status

  6. does teh 70K (F53K) offer have the $2k/3 months spend? It doesn’t mention it on the MyFico thread (though it does state it for the 140K offer) and i’d rather not call and ask since I wasn’t targeted for the offer

  7. I cna’t stay 2 nights at a nice place, then the signup bonus isn’t worthwhile. I don’t see a huge value with this card but I guess it comes down to the specifics. What are good places to redeem the points at? A lot of worthwhile places are quite expensive on points. If

    • Andreas: I agree that 70k points is not as good as a two nights anywhere offer (like the Hyatt card offer), but it has the advantage of not requiring its use in the first year. Ritz points can be spent at Marriott properties too so there are a huge number of properties across the world where these points can be used. I’ve stayed at some very nice Marriott properties that go for about 25k or 30k points per night so it certainly is possible to get at least two nights out of this. It just depends where you use the points

  8. This has to be the VERY WORST MOST HORRIBLE premium card I have ever had the displeasure of having:
    1. You don’t get Club level with this card. You receive the “right” to upgrade to club level on three visits. Only problem is you have to call use their “homer” line which quotes a higher room than a Club level if you book direct with the hotel. SO YOU GET ANGRY AT BEING TOOLED.
    2. Same process on the $100 credit. That is only good if again you booked at the “HOMER line and HOMER RATE”. Otherwise the hotel looks at you and says what is this sorry?
    3. Lounge Club is NOT RITZ club…….it is bush league clubs thru small airports for “HOMERS” who aren’t already in free because they are flying business or first.
    4. Wait is RITZ CARLTON supposed to be a FIRST CLASS CARD?
    This card should be a HARVARD BUSINESS SCHOOL case study on how luxury brands sometimes are so far from the reality of their customers that they just stink everything they touch……………great hotel product PITIFUL CARD……………..

  9. @JustSaying: I’ve had no problem using my confirmed club upgrades on award stays and on FHR/Virtuoso bookings. The cost avoidance using the upgrades is ~$75 per night. I probably use these for six nights a year. Add in the airline credit (which for one 12-month hold period across two calendar years fully offsets the $395 fee), while not every aspect of the card is ideal (airport lounge access is indeed a joke, at least within the US), tough to see at least the free version of this card being good for everyone. It is both free points plus the $400 credit!

    If you are purely focused on finding he lowest possible room rate, you should probably consider alternate hotels.

  10. …and I wouldn’t go so far to call most RCs great hotels! They’re nice, far nicer than most vaunted Hyatts…but by no means tops.

  11. Just cancelled this card after having it for 1 year fee-free. The 70k bonus points came in handy for a few nights on a trip to Spain and I was able to get the $200 credit in 2012 and 2013 for airline gift card purchases (though both times they told me that was not the intended use of the credit).

    I’m very surprised to hear Tom’s report that he was able to use the club upgrade on an award stay as that’s clearly against the terms of the offer. I used a club upgrade on a stay at the Ritz Kapalua (for which I was actually reimbursed through work). I made a reservation via RC online at their best available rate, then called in to have the club upgrade applied. I received a response similar to what JustSaying reported, that the web rates were not allowed for club upgrade. I had the T&Cs in front of me though and argued that the only limit placed on the type of paid rate was corporate or promotional rates. Eventually, they gave in and granted me the club upgrade. Overall, I was very happy with the bonus and having it fee free the 1st year.

  12. Forgot to mention, I had no problem getting the $100 credit added by the same rep after convincing them to add the club upgrade.

  13. With the 140,000 Ritz Carlton points, can you combine these with your Marriot Points and book the Marriot Vacations with the combined points?

  14. Any word on when these offers expire? I did my last round of applications in early July and got two chase cards. Would a 5-6 week wait time between apps be sufficient?

  15. In addition Ritz is very dishonest with this offer as only “elevated rates” qualify for the $100 credit and Club level upgrade…… is amazing to me that a premium brand would use this bait and switch tactic………..lost me as a life long customer as a result of the insult………..

  16. This offer is still valid; I am on the phone with Chase right now opening an account using the F53K 70K bonus offer.

  17. You guys are going to be very bummed when you go to try and use the $100 credit and club level upgrades and find out they are only good with “juiced” rates…..

  18. Isaac: thanks so much for your info on getting an Internet rate with the club voucher. I will be staying in October & already had the agent change my rate to the higher rate. How did you get a copy of the T &Cs? What rate did you pay? Also do you remember the name of the agent who helped you as he/ she is already aware of this issue. I was going to stay there for a bday celebration but the club voucher rate was outside my comfort zone. Usually I can get great kamaaina rates ( for Hawaii residents) so I’m not used to even the regular rates. Any help you can give me would be deeply appreciated. Mahalo nui loa!!!!!

  19. Darlene: The T&Cs came with your card or you can read the terms of the Club upgrade on the Chase app page. Like I said, it is only specifically limited by the statement of “no promotional or corporate rates” but it also states that the club upgrade is based on availability. I made my booking on the RC website at their lowest standard rate and called in. They tried to tell me that their was no club upgrade availability at the lower rate, but I said that as long as I didn’t book a promo or corporate rate they would have to give me the upgrade at the rate I booked if there was “availability” at higher rates.

    And as for kama’aina rates, I just haven’t seen any good ones since the economy picked back up. I’m glad for that, but it’s certainly limited my weekend inter-island travel this year.

    • Hi Isaac,
      I wanted to get back to you and thank you. I did call back the RC & asked for a supervisor. He actually gave me the best internet rate for the Club upgrade without a problem. I was amazed.

      I also thought I remembered your saying something about using the $200 airline incidental credit for airline gift card purchases. Were you ever successful with that? What denomination did you buy? It also looks like you get $200 per calendar year even if your credit card year goes across two years. Is that true?

      Thanks for all your help in advance.
      Mele Kalikimaka

  20. @Darlene I would love to see your experience put in writing in the terms and conditions……..until then I will remain distrustful of Ritz Carlton Tahoe and fit Carlton Half Moon Bay and will go elsewhere until they change their policy………..really sad bait and switch that you have to go to that extreme to get your benefit………I love their hard product but the marketing team leaves hella lot to desire………

  21. Got approved for this deal and this card is amazing if used right, I am saved thousands. This is a no brainer for 4 reasons 1) You get GOLD status on Marriott ( free Lounge and breakfast)and the Marriott Card gives you only Silver status 2) Airline incidentals are 300$, I am aiming to use them when I select premium seats on Jetblue on my Caribbean flights, as well as on any change or cancellation fees. Best benefit is to pay Airlines like US Airways who charge 50$ per passenger as booking fee for reward bookings 3) Transferred the 140k points to my Marriott Account. Will book the The Marriott in Paris champ Elysees for 45k/pernight ( actual cost 650 Euros or 900 USD on average ) so planning to use it on that. Plus I get Upgraded to the Suite cause of the GOLD status 4.) Lastly, going to ask Carlson to Status Match myself to GOLD status as my wife is GOLD already on Carlson, we can now get 2 nights free on the Radisson in Europe by paying just for 2. Phew….

    • Thanks for the comment. I think there are a couple of pieces of confusion here, though…
      3) Marriott Gold status does not guarantee an upgrade to a suite. In fact I’ve had Platinum status for the past couple of years and have only been upgraded to a suite once that I can remember. Yes, there are great benefits to having Marriott Gold status, but room upgrades are not Marriott’s strong suit.
      4) To get 2 nights free with Club Carlson for paying just for 2, I think you have in mind the Bonus Award Nights that come with the Club Carlson Credit card. This is a feature of the credit card, not a feature of Gold status.

  22. I applied for the Marriott card in March and was approved & got the 70k.

    I just applied for the Ritz card last week and after moving some credit around, got the 140k Ritz card without having to close the Marriott card (although I probably will when AF is due).

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