On my mind (Ritz-Carlton addition edition)

UPDATE: Some of the speculation in this post is based on the assumption that the anniversary date of my Chase Marriott card will not change if I upgrade to the Plus or to the Ritz card. Thanks to Len, in the comments, I learned that this assumption was wrong. The anniversary date most likely will change. So, my best bet for either upgrade may be to wait until after my 2019 free night posts.

At the start of the week I had no intention of writing about Marriott all day, everyday, but things happen.  On Monday, I published my Marriott Bonvoy Complete Guide and figured that would be enough about Marriott for a while.  But then I realized that it was past time to publish up-to-date tips on earning Marriott Platinum status, so on Wednesday morning I published “10 Shortcuts to Marriott Platinum Elite status (2019 edition).”  I definitely planned on taking a break from Marriott stuff after that.

But then…

Soon after I published my elite shortcuts post on Wednesday morning, Amex and Chase announced changes to their Marriott/SPG credit cards.  That couldn’t be ignored, so I published “Marriott Bonvoy credit card changes announced.”  And, that led to more thoughts and questions, so I followed that up with “Bonvoy Opportunities,” and “Downgrade from Lux/Brilliant to SPG/Bonvoy? Yes, it will be an option.”  And I updated the post “Which Marriott Bonvoy card is best?

And now this post.

After learning about the Amex downgrade path described above, I wondered if going the other direction with Chase cards would be possible.  If you have a Chase Marriott consumer card, could you upgrade it to the Ritz-Carlton card, even though the Ritz card hasn’t been available to new applicants since last summer?  I reached out to Chase and was told “Yes”.

Rather than just take a Chase representatives word for it, I called Chase to ask about product change options from my Marriott Rewards Premier card.  I was told that there were two options showing on my account.  I could change to the Plus version of my card (but I wasn’t eligible for earning points on the upgrade anymore since that offer ended 12/31), or I could change to the Ritz-Carlton card.  I didn’t do either, but it gave me a lot to think about.

Upgrading from the $85 Marriott Premier to the $95 Marriott Premier Plus is almost a no-brainer since the former comes with an annual 25K free night certificate and the latter comes with an annual 35K certificate.  The 10K difference can easily mean the difference between staying in a highway-side hotel or a beach side hotel.  The main thing I would lose is the ability to earn an elite night credit for every $3K of spend.  But I’ve never used that feature before, so at best it’s a nice to have backup in case I’m very close to earning whatever level of elite status I’m shooting for.

Ritz Perks

But what about the Ritz card?  Should I consider upgrading to it instead?  The Ritz card costs $450 per year, but comes loaded with perks:

  • 50K free night certificate annually
  • Automatic Gold status
  • 15 elite nights (not stackable with elite nights earned from any other card)
  • Earn Platinum status with $75K membership year spend
  • $300 in airline incidental fee credits (see: Chase Ritz-Carlton Visa airline fee credits: What works?)
  • $100 Global Entry credit
  • Priority Pass with unlimited free guests
  • Authorized users are free, and each can get their own Priority Pass with unlimited free guests
  • Visa Infinite Discount Airfare $100 discount on multi-passenger ticket purchases
  • 3 club level upgrades for paid Ritz stays
  • $100 hotel credit for each paid 2 night or longer stay
  • Awesome travel protections (primary auto, trip cancellation & delay, emergency medical & dental, etc.)

That’s a huge collection of perks.  And, for many people, upgrading to the Ritz card can make a lot of sense.  But…

I already have a Ritz card.

If I upgrade from the Marriott Premier to the Ritz card, I would then have two Ritz cards.  And most of the perks listed above are meaningless if you have two of the same card.  The only perks that I care about from the second card are:

  • 50K free night certificate annually
  • $300 in airline incidental fee credits

I’ve learned how to get full value from airline incidental fee credits, but I still don’t value that perk at the full $300 since there is some effort involved.  Let’s say I value that perk at $250.  That brings the effective annual fee of the Ritz card down from $450 to $200.  So, that brings up these questions:

  • Is the 50K certificate worth $200 per year?
  • Is it worth paying $105 more for a 50K certificate vs a 35K certificate?
    (Here I’m comparing the $200 effective annual fee of the Ritz card to the $95 annual fee of the Premier Plus card)

My gut tells me that the answer to both of the above questions is yes, but only because I’m pretty sure that I can easily use the 50K certificate each year toward great value. I have a favorite use for these certificates that just happens to cost 50K per night:

St. Pancras Renaissance London now costs 50K points per night, standard.  We often visit London in the shoulder season so I expect that Peak pricing won’t be too much of an issue.

In my unique situation, the 50K certificate is arguably worth close to 50,000 points.  But points are worth more.  You can’t book a 5th Night Free award if you use free night certificates.  And you can’t book two nights at a 25K hotel with a 50K certificate.  Both of these options are available with points though.

The Decision

Ultimately, I should phrase the question to myself like this: Would I pay $105 per year to upgrade my 35K per night certificate to 50K?  This decision needs to be made before the annual certificate is issued (which, in my case means deciding by mid-March).  For some reason, when I phrase it this way, I lean towards “no”.  I don’t want to sink extra money into Marriott just in case I’ll get great use from the 50K certificate.

So, for this year, I think I’ll simply upgrade to the Premier Plus and see how it goes.  If I find during the course of the year that I really could have used that 50K certificate, and if it seems likely to happen again in the future, then maybe I’ll upgrade to the Ritz next year.

Thanks for listening!

Last updated on May 26th, 2019

About Greg The Frequent Miler

Greg is the owner, founder, and primary author of the Frequent Miler. He earns millions of points and miles each year, mostly without flying, and dedicates this blog to teaching others how to do the same.

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Sam
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Sam

@Greg- Ritz also makes sense for the Travel insurance perks and especially if one is locked in to the $395 fee. I plan to cancel all SPG cards and just keep the Ritz and open up a few Amex Slots. I like you spend a lot on the Delta cards so need 2 slots for that plus the Amex Blue Business. This 5 card rule with Amex sucks!!

Biggie F
Guest
Biggie F

Also for primary auto insurance.

Rob
Guest
Rob

Interesting thought…hmmm a second Ritz card. 2 nights a year in 50k hotel sounding a lot better than 1 and I’m sure I could use up the $300 air credit as I have always done, so for me it’s really only the difference between $150 and $95. $55 more for 15k pt upgrade definitely sounds worth it for me. Do you think they would give you 6 club upgrades a year, 3 per card?

Len
Guest
Len

I agree that $55 more for 15k point upgrade is a better value. Cat 6 hotels is a bigger upgrade from Cat 5 vs Cat 5 from 4.

Zac
Guest
Zac

Does Ritz-Carlton card come with primary rental CDW?

Allen
Guest
Allen

Yes

ryan1
Guest
ryan1

do you think they’ll allow marriot biz to ritz? looking for a better use of this card slot.

Rob
Guest
Rob

Probably not, Ritz is a personal card, difft underwriting from biz card.

Randy
Guest
Randy

A little off this particular subject. But for the ones of us that bought Marriott 7 night certificates, before the points increases. Do we know if these will be able to be extended, as they were in the past.

Blue
Guest
Blue

You should get one extension when it gets converted from the old cert to the new cert.

Len
Guest
Len

Why did you say you have to make a decision before the annual certificate is issued? My understanding is product change will reset the anniversary date, so wouldn’t it be better to change the product after you receive the cat 4 certificate so you won’t have to wait another year? Also, is there any data point out there that you can have 2 Ritz Carlton cards? Combining it with the Amex Luxury card yields three cat 5 certificates, which can make a real trip as 1-2 nights are too short to enjoy.

Len
Guest
Len

Sorry I meant three cat 6 certificates.

DSK
Guest
DSK

Another way to think of it—the only reason I am keeping the SPG Lux card is because I have the Ritz card. In that case, I can take both certificates together and stay at a 50k certificate hotel, which is starting to look like a mini vacation and not a one night stand. Add another night with 50,000 actual points and that four day/three night vacation works out very well. I also do the same with a Friday to Monday mini vacation using AMEX Aspire/Ascend free night certificates and one night paid for with points.

Blue
Guest
Blue

Exactly.

Mary Jane
Guest
Mary Jane

…Add the $250.00 yearly resort credit on the Aspire plus breakfast and you have yourself a completely free weekend!

Pam
Guest
Pam

I would also prefer the $300 Luxe credit (on spend at a Marriott propeety) as a complement to the $300 RC Travel Credit rather than 2, RC Travel Credits (since the free nights are otherwise the same). I have been using my RC credits on AA gift cards, & I would prefer an alternative spend rather than doubling down on more gift cards.

Surely AMEX will finally allow upgrades of the SPG card with decent bonuses when new apps are discontinued? Like they did with the Aspire (previous Reserve)? I received a 75k email offer thru Vistana, but when I called in to do AMEX knew nothing about it. Disappointing to say the least…

Blue
Guest
Blue

I think TWO 50 certs are worth way more than one. That’s a weekend in a nice hotel in a big city. And if you have the Lux you’d have three. That’s a long weekend in a major city.

I don’t get the value of a single 50K cert–mainly means I’m going to need to scrape up 50-100K Marriott points to make using it worthwhile (or I end up blowing it on a lower value redemption).

Bill
Guest
Bill

I upgraded to the MR P Plus and took the 50k points. Any risk of losing the points now by product changing to Ritz?

Clc
Guest
Clc

Question, so the premier plus card, do you not receive night credits with the spend?

Marshall
Guest
Marshall

When I PC’d my Marriott card for the RC last summer a week or so after they closed it, I was given a new anniversary date, I’d already gotten the 25k night cert from the MR card. I ended up with 6, two sets of 3 club lounge certs, and the 50k RC night in the weeks after I did the PC. All that might have been a mistake though.

Also at least last year RC was giving a second EQN, as a promo night, for every paid night but only if your membership was tied to RC and not Marriott. I got 7 additional EQN last year and 3 this year (from a New Years stay where the nights posted as ’18 night but additional promo nights posted in ’19. With Bonvoy they haven’t been able to tell me if that continueing in ’19. Now I only have 4 more CL certs to use before the new anniversary

bluecat
Guest
bluecat

“My gut tells me that the answer to both of the above questions is yes, but only because I’m pretty sure that I can easily use the 50K certificate each year toward great value.”

Don’t listen to your “gut”. Instead, you should whip out that very nice Ultra Premium Card Value Spreadsheet that you created a few months back, and answer the question more scientifically.

For me, the best-in-class travel insurance (tied with CSR), pushes this card to the “keep” column

ETA: I see that others are also mentioning the travel insurance. Nice for them to also catch this!

Pam
Guest
Pam

I tried doing this same upgrade last July, hoping for an easy path to Platinum status Chase unfortunately wouldn’t allow. I had to make new application which has still absolutely been worth doing.

JustSaying
Guest
JustSaying

Problem is that the upgrades and $100 credits are really worthless because they are only good on the higher standard rate. I love Ritz Carlton Hotels but the dishonesty of their team in the design of this card has made me swear off ever staying again. I’d rather just use Citi Prestige for 4th night or use Hotels.com and stay at the best boutique available in that city if there’s no Park Hyatt

TerryH
Guest
TerryH

Could you share (or point to) how to get full value out of the airline incidental fee credits?

Marc Elliott Levy
Guest
Marc Elliott Levy

Would make a great segue to full list and rank of cards available from all issuers via product change only.

tom
Guest
tom

Greg, how does this compare to the CNB Visa. That seems to be the most similar card in my eyes. I was thinking of going CNB, but now wondering if this is better (initially discounted RC card due to 5/24)

BML
Guest
BML

Please note that Southwest Gift Cards are no longer eligible for the Ritz travel credit. I called to claim credit of $75 GC just like the previous two times but was told that the transaction shows up as Gift Card purchase so not eligible. I didn’t have any problem in Oct doing the same reimbursement over the phone for SW GC, so I really can’t think of a good way to spend that $300 travel credit anymore. Wish they would be less restrictive like Chase Sapphire Reserve! You may want to update your “What works” page.

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Chris
Guest
Chris

I thought they got rid of the 1 elite night for each $3k spend; is it still around? What cards offer this and does it count towards lifetime status?

VQ_Power
Guest
VQ_Power

Greg,
I called Chase CSR regarding product change (Marriott Premier to Ritz Carlton). They said since this is a product change I won’t be eligible for platinum status upgrade once $75K spending threshold is met. Do you have any insight on this?