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!

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