Edit: Reader Clay makes a good point with his question below. I went for the Ritz Card because it is EXEMPT from 5/24! Even with my wife who had 11 cards in the last 24 months got approved by shifting $10k credit from one of her other credit lines. The card went into review, but appeared the next day in her Chase online account.
Well good to see so many of you readers getting the Ritz-Carlton Rewards Card from Chase, and getting the $450 Annual Fee Waived via the MLA! This is one of the most valuable and overlooked cards out there. I had the Ritz card since June of 2015 and kept it open well after getting the sign on bonus. I gladly paid $1,295 in annual fees because I get so much use out of being a card holder, right off the bat I got $900 in travel credits and have booked 4 round trip flights for $400 in discounts. The free nights, club upgrades as well as the multiple $100 hotel credits have all been icing on the cake on top.
A little bit of history here, the annual fee was $395 before it was upped to $450 when it became a Visa Infinite product. When the annual fee hits again in June of 2018 I might just cancel my card and remain as the AU on my wife’s MLA annual fee waived Ritz Card, unless of course I value the $100 Visa Flight Discount more for booking flights of 4 people.
I have made more than $1,295 as mentioned above in travel perks. I have made it in these three perks: $300 annual travel reimbursement, $100 hotel credit for stays of 2 nights or more, 3 annual club level upgrades.
Since moving back to CONUS, the real money is in the $100 Visa Flight Discount on domestic flights. I am thinking of keeping both my $450 annual fee card and my wife with the waived fee card just to hit this bonus twice. I can split the party into two pairs, just to book in groups of 2 to get a $100 per pair. For example, I book for me and my kid, and my wife books for herself and my mom and then we get $200 off for the 4 of us rather than just $100 off for the 4 of us.
Also if you haven’t been giving away global entry like hotcakes, then you get another $100 to charge on this card for a loved one or friend to join you in the TSA pre check line. The other side perks is first year Marriott Gold which you already get with AmEx Platinum, and then 2 free nights at a Tier 1-4 Ritz anywhere in the world.
The Optimized Ritz-Carlton Card Trip
I am getting a lot of shit from a local O-4 about my desire to book a trip to Cleveland, but it has been on my radar for some time now. It happens to have a Category 2 Ritz which is super cheap at 40k points a night! Rather than use points or even the 2 free night cert I decided to see if they have a Gov’t rate:
For $141 a night for 2 nights we spend $328.53 with tax, but remember a paid stay of 2 nights means a $100 hotel credit. Essentially we are paying $228.53 for two nights which means $114.27 a night.
If we look at compatible properties in Cleveland we can see it’s even cheaper than the Holiday Inn Express with this credited adjusted for.
This credit can be used at the gift shop, spa, or even room service. I tend to use it in the gift shop for gifts to bring back home.
Now lets say we wanted to book the club level and use one of my 3 upgrades, you would have to pay the full $332 for a room or $439 for a one bedroom suite. This is certainly not as cheap, but cheaper than the club level rate:
I can tell you from experience that the club level is awesome, 5 different food services a day with free drinks. However for nearly twice as much I usually book a single night and extend early check-in and really late checkout to maximize its benefits. I was given the corner Lakeview one bedroom suite in Chicago recently by using my club level upgrade.
The food is awesome in the lounge and is always nicely presented, but to maximize this benefit in this case you would have to book on a non-busy weekday to ensure the highest level upgrade to justify the room premium. It all depends on what kind of traveler you are, and who you are traveling with.
Now flights are booked using one of two ways. You can do the slow churn of buying $50 gift cards 6 times on American Airlines and then calling it in for reimbursement. Then use those gift cards for your ticket. The $300 annual credit has been successfully used for these things. Even though it was only meant for these non-ticket purchases:
- airline lounge day pass
- yearly lounge membership
- airline seat upgrades
- airline baggage fees
- in-flight Internet/entertainment
- in-flight meals
The more useful option is to use the Visa Discount Air Benefit which means $100 off for RT flights of at least two passengers for unlimited bookings. The price are comparable to booking directly with the airlines, but it searches all the major airlines at one time:
For about $56.70 a segment you get full economy service with a free checked bag from the United military waiver. This is only $11.70 more than the MegaBus to Cleveland:
When you fly the route you will earn full PQMs and PQDs for status as well as the segments, the $100 is not reflected on the airline side. You can also use the Ritz Card to upgrade yourself to a economy plus or buy food and drink on the plane.
Lastly my most favorite trick to the card is there is no age requirement for authorized users. I added my 6 month old son and 4 year old daughter as my AUs just for the sole purpose of getting them a Priority Pass card. American Express will not allow a card member under the age of 15. I used this benefit at MSP last month to earn a $15 credit for the 5 of us for breakfast at the PGA lounge at MSP. I took these $15 coupons to Ike’s downstairs and a very nice waiter allowed me to combine them in a single tab for an awesome steak and eggs, crab cake eggs Benedict, french toast and giant insane bloody marry breakfast.
For all the Ritz Card newbies out there, don’t be ignorant and just use the card for the two free nights. It is very useful for many of your future travels with or without staying at the Ritz!