I noticed a new offer floating around this morning on the Ritz-Carlton Rewards Visa Signature card by Chase. This card normally comes with a bonus of 70,000 points after $3,000 in purchases within 3 months. Right now, though, this special offer is good for 140,000 points after $3,000 in purchases, or double the normal bonus.
Normally I value hotel points much lower than airline miles, but 140,000 is an awfully big number. Taking into account not only the higher sign-up bonus, but the card’s other features, it might just be worth your time – and mine! – in spite of a high annual fee.
Up to $600 in Airline Fee Credits
First things first: the card comes with a $395 annual fee that is not waived for the first year. Yikes!
However, the card also offers a $300 airline fee credit every calendar year. That means it’s possible to sign up for the card today, take advantage of that fee credit before the end of the year, then use it again next year. Alternately, you can roll the dice on this offer still being around in January and potentially use the credit in 2015 and 2016.
According to the terms and conditions, these annual fee credits may be used toward airline lounge day passes, annual lounge memberships, seat upgrades, baggage fees, in-flight internet or entertainment, in-flight meals or Global Entry program fees. American Express offers a similar $200 airline fee credit to Platinum customers but requires them to elect one specific airline each year. Chase does not require that for this card, so you can pay for bag fees or other charges on any airline and have them covered, up to $300 per year.
While Amex limits their credit to one airline selected by you, they also automatically take care of the crediting process from there. Chase does not. You must contact them in order to request reimbursements for eligible charges. You may do this by calling them or by sending a secure message through Chase.com, which is basically like emailing customer service.
After digging through hundreds of posts at Flyertalk, it seems that many people have had success requesting credits for airline gift cards, especially from American, Delta and Southwest. Though not specifically covered under the terms and conditions, if you were able to get gift cards using this credit, you could use them toward flights or resell them to recoup the full value of the credit more quickly than you might using it toward lounge access and in-flight charges.
You can receive $600 in airline credits during the span of one annual fee, given that the airline fee credit resets every January 1st. That’s like turning a $205 profit before taking the big points bonus and other features into account. In theory, you may be able to request that amount in credits for the purchase of several airline gift cards. I’d recommend using the Secure Message system to communicate with Chase if you want to try requesting credit for gift cards, and I wouldn’t make requests for greater than $150 per transaction. If they decline your request to cover a gift card purchase, you’ll still be eligible to use the fee credits toward other expenses.
As I mentioned, the card’s sign-up bonus is presently double its normal rate, at 140,000 points after $3,000 in purchases within three months. Aside from that, you can also earn points at the following rates:
- 5 points per $1 at Ritz-Carlton and Marriott properties
- 2 points per $1 with airlines, car rental companies and restaurants
- 1 point per $1 on all other purchases
Each year, you’ll also receive a 10% annual points premium. If you’ve earned 50,000 points over the course of the calendar year, for example, you could expect an extra 5,000 points to post to your account in January or February. I’m not certain if the 140,000 sign-up points can be counted toward this 10% premium, but it’s best to assume not and be happily surprised if they did.
Gold Elite Status
The card offers Gold Elite status for the first year automatically. If you spend more than $10,000 over a calendar year, you’ll then earn Gold Elite for the year to come. At Ritz-Carlton locations, that means earning 25% more points on paid stays, enjoying complimentary room upgrades (suites and club rooms exempted) and free premium Wi-Fi.
Gold status with Ritz-Carlton also means Gold benefits with Marriott. That means…
- A 25% bonus on points earned through paid stays at Marriott locations
- Priority late checkout
- A 10% discount in the gift shop
- A 10% discount on Friday and Saturday nights at Courtyard and SpringHill Suites
- A room upgrade when available, including to Executive Floors or suites in some cases
- Guaranteed preferred room type at check-in
- Lounge access and free daily continental breakfast for yourself and a guest in the Executive Lounge at JW Marriott, Autograph Collection, Renaissance and Marriott locations
- Free local phone and fax service, and discounted long distance calls
- Hertz #1 Gold Membership
If you’re like me, your chances of staying at a Marriott property are about 99% higher than staying at a Ritz-Carlton property, so these are good benefits.
Premium Card Features
There are a number of rarely seen card features attached to the Ritz-Carlton Rewards Visa Signature.
Primary Rental Coverage
Most cards offer rental car coverage, but it almost always kicks in only after your own personal auto insurance carries most of the weight. This card is one of the few that offer primary coverage, meaning your card covers you on rentals in the US and many foreign countries before you’d need to touch your personal coverage, resulting in deductibles and potential rate increases.
Free Roadside Assistance
This card’s benefits stand in for many of the reasons you might join AAA. Up to four times per year, when you’re more than 50 miles from home, the card will cover up to $50 in expenses for towing, fuel delivery or flat tire fixes.
Many cards offer purchase protection for cases of theft or breakage for up to 90 days after purchase. This card offers that protection for 120 days. Normally, limits of $500 apply, but this card covers losses up to $10,000 per instance, which is essentially unheard of elsewhere.
Price protection is another nice benefit. If you make a purchase with the card and find an advertised price lower within the first 60 days, you can get up to $500 back, up to a total of $2,500 per year.
If something goes really, really wrong on a trip, the card will cover up to $2,500 in medical expenses for you or immediate family with you on the trip, and up to $100,000 in emergency evacuation expenses. These are secondary to any benefits offered by your health insurance.
In addition, there are generous trip cancellation and trip delay reimbursements available for eligible circumstances, stipends for lost or delayed luggage and more.
Concierge & Foreign Transactions
The card doesn’t charge a foreign exchange fee, making it perfect for use overseas. You’re also provided access to JP Morgan’s Premier Concierge service, which can be great for reserving dinners, ordering flowers, scoring hard-to-find concert tickets and making purchases.
Using Ritz-Carlton Points
Okay, with all that out of the way, it’s time for the exciting part: using the points! It’s critical to understand that Ritz-Carlton points and Marriott points are one and the same. That means “140,000 Ritz-Carlton Points” good for a couple nights at a top-tier property can just as easily be used towards even the cheapest Marriott properties.
PointSavers rates on Category 1 properties dip as low as 6,000 points per night. Combine that with the fifth award night free feature of Marriott’s program and you could book up to 28 free nights at Category 1 properties! That’s an absurd value. Unfortunately, there aren’t many Category 1 properties to go around in desirable vacation destinations, but for visiting family or business trips, you might find some crazy value here.
More reasonably, there are some outstanding Marriott properties featured in the PointsAway Book staring at Category 3, offering PointSavers rates at 10,000 points or standard rates at 15,000. For these properties, including the MeadowView Resort and JW Marriott in Jakarta, you’d still be able to book several weeks of free stays with this sign-up bonus. Crazy!
Air + Hotel Packages
Perhaps the best use of this sign-up bonus could be for Marriott’s Air + Hotel Packages. Again, this is explained in complete detail in the PointsAway Book, but the gist is this: for a certain number of points, you’ll receive a seven night stay at a Marriott property plus a large pile of airline miles.
For example, you can book a stay at any Category 1-5 property for seven nights under this program and receive 55,000 United miles for a total of 200,000 Marriott points. There are dozens of airlines to choose from, and the bonus rates vary, but you may select more miles or higher category stays for reasonable amounts of additional points.
You could book a 7 night stay at the Category 5 Hotel and Spa do Vinho in Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil, set admit a massive vineyard with tasting rooms and wine bars, then use miles from airlines like United or American to cover most of your trip down.
Alternatively, you could book a 7 night stay at the Renaissance Las Vegas, grab some cheap flights for cash or using other points, then stash the miles earned in this combo pack for use on a future trip. You’re not required to use them at the same time!
This is the way I’d probably opt to use the sign-up bonus. While 140,000 points alone won’t get you to that 200,000 points minimum threshold for Air + Hotel redemptions, you can always earn more points with this card, transfer points from Ultimate Rewards or even purchasing points directly. Of course, you could also stay at Marriott properties and earn points the old-fashioned way!
As I said early on, I normally shy away from hotel-specific cards and programs, opting to transfer points in from programs like Ultimate Rewards to cover stays when it makes sense. However, between the huge airline fee credits, massive sign-up bonus and the prospect of using these points towards a 7-night air + hotel package, I have to admit this is an extremely strong offer.
If you want to learn more, you can check out the application page for the card here. We don’t have any type of affiliate deal with Chase, so we’re just passing this along because it’s a great deal!