Yes, the Ritz card is now the best value Marriott card

58

In Tim’s post on Thursday, he covered the changes to the lineup of Marriott credit cards. Buried deep within that detailed post, some readers may have missed the golden nugget: the no-longer-available-to-new-applicants (but likely still-available-via-product-change) Ritz-Carlton Visa Infinite Card is without a doubt the best value in the Marriott credit card lineup (some will no doubt find the Brilliant card worthwhile, but in my opinion the Ritz card offers the most objectively strong value proposition). I think Ritz cardholders made out very well with the current changes — and those with other Marriott cards might want to consider product changing at the right time. I have two separate opinions as to when that time is that I’ll cover within this post.

Ritz card gets the new 85K free night cert, keeps the old annual fee

The exciting news for the Ritz-Carlton Visa Infinite card is that the Ritz card’s annual free night certificate is getting an upgrade: moving forward, the card will get an annual 85K free night certificate rather than the previous 50K free night certificate (to be clear, this will only apply to newly-issued certificates moving forward, not retroactively to already-issued certificates). What makes that all the more exciting is that the annual fee will not increase on the Ritz card.

As a reminder, the annual fee on the Ritz card is $450 (some cardholders who opened the card years ago when it was still available for new applicants may pay even less; my Ritz card was grandfathered into a $395 annual fee). The card comes with a $300 annual travel credit that can be used for a pretty wide array of travel charges. I’ve used mine for baggage and seating fees on many low-cost carriers (both in the US and Europe) among other things. See this post for other things that have been credited, but keep in mind that it is very agent-dependent since you do need to call or send a secure message to apply your credits to qualifying charges.

Ritz cardholders will not get the additional elite nights being offered on the newly-enhanced Brilliant card, nor will Ritz cardholders get other benefits afforded to Brilliant cardholders like automatic Platinum Elite status or the annual choice award with big spend. Those things certainly may be worthwhile for some folks.

Still, for someone who stays enough nights each year to already reach Platinum status (and therefore not need it granted by virtue of holding the Brilliant card), the Ritz card will likely have a more compelling value proposition. Even if you only value the annual travel credits at 80% of their face value, you’re getting an 85K annual free night certificate for a net “cost” of $210 after you factor in the value of the travel credits.

To product change to the Ritz card, you would need a Chase Marriott card that has been open for at least a year (Chase typically won’t let you product change before you’ve had your card open for a year). Given the ability to product change to the Ritz card, I’m not sure why one would want to pay $250 per year for the mid-tier Marriott Bountiful card over product changing to the Ritz card (whether that means product changing your existing Marriott card or opening a new Bountiful card and product changing a year from opening). The Chase Marriott Bonvoy Bountiful requires $15,000 per year in spend to get a 50K free night certificate whereas the Ritz card offers an annual 85K free night certificate at less net cost (after travel credits) and without the required spend. When you additionally consider the excellent travel protections and Priority Pass offered on the Ritz card, it is clearly a better value proposition long-term.

The $250 cards are a confusing disappointment

While Tim covered this, it’s worth reiterating that the $250 cards just aren’t nearly as good a value long-term as either the $95 cards or the Ritz card. I am almost completely befuddled by the new Bonvoy Bevy and Bonvoy Bountiful cards. Not only is this naming convention impossible for anyone but a full-time blogger to follow (and even then I have to keep triple checking my work because I am confused), but the benefits here make little sense from a consumer standpoint.

I fully understand why Chase and Marriott are trying the free night certificate on the $250 card to annual spend. Clearly, they want to give you a reason to use the card rather than get it and put it in a sock drawer.

But I have to wonder what they were thinking here. The target market on the $250 card has to be people who were already willing to pay $95 per year but who were not previously willing to pay $450 (the old annual fee on the premium card, now $650). I have a hard time imagining who among that group that wasn’t willing to shell out $450 wants to shell out an additional $155 over the cost of a $95 credit card and not get an automatic annual free night certificate like they would with the $95 card? I just don’t see where the selling point is for that group. Sure, the mid-tier card has some 4x categories, but 4x Marriott points isn’t a leading return even within those categories, so committing $15K spend each year even if entirely within the 4x categories comes at some cost versus the best alternatives.

And for new cardholders who have never had a Marriott card — for example, the business traveler who stays in Marriott hotels because the company reimburses their stays but who probably isn’t fluent in rewards credit cards — imagine the prospect when someone says “You can get Card A for $95 and get a free night every year that’s very easy to use for more than $95 in value or you can pay $250 for one of these other cards and you also need to spend $15,000 every year on the card in order to get a free night that should probably be more valuable than the $250 annual fee”. I just don’t find it intuitive or simple enough for the target market to realize the value (and indeed it require some effort even for advanced credit card enthusiasts to get better value out of the $250 cards than the $95 card).

To be clear, I do think that a 50K free night certificate can be worth much more than $250, but you’ll need to work a bit to find situations where it’s worth more. Conversely, a 35K free night certificate (like the annual free night certificate that comes with the $95 Bonvoy Boundless card) is very easy to use for more than $95 value. Even if you burn that certificate at a fairly suboptimal airport hotel for a quick overnight before or after a flight, there’s a good chance you can get better than $95 in value without trying very hard. Using the 50K certificate to better-than-$250-value certainly isn’t impossible, but it requires more effort at maximization.

Again, I think the problem they are trying to solve is people who get a card and sock drawer it for the free night. Obviously Chase moved away from that model with the World of Hyatt business card and clearly they are going for a continuation of the spend-for-a-free-night model, but it just seems backwards to introduce that model on the mid-tier card. The Bountiful doesn’t feel more premium than the Boundless (nor does it sound more premium now that I type that sentence out).

When to product change

The big question for current Boundless or Bold cardholders who want the Ritz card is when to product change your from your Marriott Boundless or Bold card to a Ritz card. My understanding (as Tim noted the other day) is that your anniversary year will change upon product change and your first annual free night certificate will come a year from the date you product change.

That means that if you just recently received your most recent free night certificate on your Bonvoy Boundless card, now is a great time to product change if you determine that you want the Ritz card (keeping in mind Marriott’s really complicated rules in terms of how Ritz card acquisition will affect your ability to earn welcome bonuses on other Marriott card(s) you might want).

On the other hand, if you are due to soon receive your next annual 35K free night certificate on your Boundless card, you probably want to wait until after that certificate is issued before changing to the Ritz card. If you change to the Ritz card now (before your next 35K cert), you’ll end up missing out on that certificate and waiting for a year from today to receive your first Ritz cert. Better to get your 35K cert first and then product change to the Ritz so that next year’s cert is an 85K cert.

But what about everybody else who is somewhere in the middle of the cycle? The answer here is not so clear.

Chase has a long history of keeping alive cards that are no longer available to new applicants. Many of us still have Chase Ink Plus cards or various old United Presidential-type cards or IHG cards, all of which haven’t been available to new applicants for years. However, a common thread on a number of those no-longer-available cards is that, in many cases, they are no longer available for product changes, either. In other words, if you still have your Chase Ink Plus card (as I do), Chase has allowed you to keep your card and its benefits. However, you can’t product change a Chase Ink Cash or Ink Business Preferred to an Ink Plus — that hasn’t been possible for years.

Could the same thing happen to the Ritz card where it still exists for those who have the card, but it stops being available as a product change option? I don’t know. Part of me thinks that both Chase and Amex must have insisted on keeping product changes possible in order to keep alive their respective card portfolios on cards they can no longer issue new (in Amex’s case, the old $95 SPG card became an Amex Marriott Bonvoy card that is still a product change option from the Brilliant and on the Chase side you have the Ritz as a product change option from the lower-tier consumer cards). But on the other hand, if the Ritz card cannibalizes the market for the $250 Bountiful card, I wonder if and when Chase and/or Marriott might pull the plug on product changes. I really don’t know which way it will go.

The third option is that the Ritz card’s annual fee could increase. I can’t think of a precedent for that on a no-longer-available Chase card, but neither would it shock me if the Ritz card hangs around long-term as a product change option.

Mathematically, you’re better off waiting for your next free night certificate before product changing, but since the availability of the Ritz upgrade will never be guaranteed, I could see some jumping the gun and upgrading to the Ritz in the here and now for the long-term prospect of an 85K free night certificate for a great value considering the card’s $300 in travel credits against its $450 annual fee (and other benefits). To be clear, that might turn out to be a poor decision if the Ritz card’s annual fee is increased, but assuming it stays the same as it has so far, it could make sense.

In my case, I’m split on what to do. I currently have a Ritz card and both my wife and I have other Chase Marriott cards that could be upgraded to a Ritz card. I’m somewhat tempted to try an upgrade to a second Ritz card for the purpose of having two annual 85K free night certificates in my household, enabling us to get a two-night stay each year at a high-end Marriott property (which I find much more useful than a single free night). My wife’s anniversary free night is several weeks away from posting and old Marriott card is in the middle of the cardmember year. I’m not sure which we’ll upgrade, but I think it’s fairly likely that we’ll upgrade one of them to a Ritz card to have two high-end certs in the household. Whether I wait that out until November on her card or I upgrade mine mid-year remains to be seen.

Bottom line

The Ritz card got a lot more valuable this week with no increase in its annual fee. Moving forward, the card is scheduled to keep the same annual fee ($450 for most cardholders, including those who product change now) but receive an annual 85K free night certificate rather than the 50K certificate previously awarded on that card. Given the card has $300 in annual travel credits, the 85K certificate is quite a win before even considering the best-in-class travel protections and Priority Pass that exist on the Ritz card. While the Ritz card is no longer available to new applicants, it is still available as a product change option as far as I know and while you need to carefully consider how a product change will affect your eligibility for other card bonuses if you want other Marriott credit cards, I think a product change will definitely make sense for people who highly covet the 85K free night certificate.

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FLN

I’ve had the Chase RITZ card since the 140000 point offer way back and also grandfathered into the $395 annual fee. What a value! But… I was actually a tiny bit disappointed when I got my new cards – no longer the HEAVY METAL that set this card apart.

Of course, my travel wallet will appreciate the downgrade from the slab of metal to the standard, thin titanium like the Sapphire Reserve, but it was always fun to drop it on the counter and have it clank…

miles

unlucky for me, I just passed my anniversary of my bold card and called today. too bad they said the only option for me to product change is the 250 dollar bevy card — not even the 95$ boundless!! Idk if it’s just a particular representative who are not good with their IT system or it is indeed what chase is planning for…

O.S.

Does anyone know whether this is Chase policy, that Bold cannot product change to Ritz-Carlton?

Daniel

Here’s how the product change timing has worked for me so far. Approved for the Boundless card on 9/30/2020. The Boundless 35K free night was added to my Marriott account on 9/30/2021. The Boundless annual fee of $95 posted to my account on 10/1/2021. I called Chase on 10/4/2021 and product changed to the Ritz. The Boundless annual fee was refunded when the October 2021 billing statement cut.

I used up the $300 Ritz travel credit by the end of 2021. I used most of the 2022 Ritz travel credit in January 2022 (have about $90 still unused)). The $450 Ritz annual fee posted on 2/1/2022 (after I had already gotten over $500 in travel expenses reimbursed). The 85K free night award posted today on 9/30/2022.

Dave Hanson

Well done Daniel! A useful data point.

Nikki

My husband and I both have the Marriott Bonvoy boundless cards and got them February 2020 and April 2020. I want to upgrade both of us to the Ritz and it seems like waiting until our anniversary date would be best. I swear I read somewhere that we should get the mariott amex’s first because we won’t ever be able to get them after that. Is that correct? Would that make the most sense. This $650 card seems to be the only amex offer and honestly I am not even sure it makes sense to do for one year and then cancel.

When would be able to re-apply to the Marriott bonvoy cards?

Last edited 2 months ago by Nikki
Ronnie

You likely read that about the Amex cards because according to the T&C, you are unable to receive the welcome offer if you currently hold or have held the Ritz card in the last 30 days.

Sam

For using the $300 yearly credit – I haven’t tried this but I believe this trick will work for Southwest. I’ve seen a similar trick used for other airlines (confirmed for American Airlines)

Steps:

  1. Book a ticket in Wanna get away class (This part will not be refunded to your statement, but Southwest credits now do not expire)
  2. After booking the ticket, go back to your trips and upgrade the flight, using the Ritz Carlton Card as your method of payment
  3. (Can do this before or after you request credit refund from Southwest) Contact the Chase agent for credit when the statement posts
  4. Go back to the flight and request a refund for Southwest credits

Note: If you do this multiple times, you can also try purchasing your Southwest flight with travel funds, then upgrading using the Ritz Carlton card, so that you don’t have to buy a ticket with cash each time

Last edited 2 months ago by Sam
V L

Great idea! And it is totally within Terms and Conditions – getting reimbursed for the actual upgrade. The only addition I would make to your suggestion – buy not a WGA fare, but WGA plus. This way your credit is ALSO transferable one time.

Another note: if you have a LUV voucher, you can start with that vs cash as well.

One question.. after you cancel your Business Select or Anytime fare… can you get the travel credit vs actual refund (because those fares are refundable)? I would advise against getting the refund to the card after the Travel Credit is posted.

Question #2: If you re-use the credit multiple times, does it remain transferable?

Sam

I actually did try it this weekend and worked like a charm. From what I can tell, it is transferable and remains transferable whatever base fare you start with, even if a previous travel fund was used to purchase the ticket.

josh

Can you get approved for an upgrade to the brilliant card (from the old spg amex that gives 35k cert) if you hold the ritz card? I know you can’t apply directly for the brilliant and get approved if you hold the ritz card but what about an upgrade?

I’d like two 85k certs to make the ritz cert actually usable at a top tier property…and I’d rather not pay dearly for a second night at a st. regis or wherever.

Gordon

I had a similar question. Can one apply for the Brilliant, then product change to the Ritz card? This would yield 2 85k certs too if it can be done.

V L

You can apply for another Boundless card in 24 months (after the bonus received, which is almost in 1 year after the upgrade), and hopefully upgrade it to RC too in another year..
If all works you can have multiple RC cards this way (if nothing changes).
Unlike Amex cards RC is no problem for another Boundless Bonus

Pete Anderson

This is why we desperately need the Credit Card Competition Act of 2022 to pass Congress and be signed in to law.

Stevin

So all my years working toward lifetime platinum have become like Hilton, just hold the top cc card, eh?

Rob

Can I have the Ritz card and brilliant together and still get the elite night credits combined ?

Last edited 2 months ago by Rob
Nun

I have both but elite night credits dont combine. For that you need the Amex Marriott business card

V L

No. Elite nights do not combine from multiple personal cards.. Only from personal and business. Regardless how many of them do you have you can have only 2 credits combined – from one (of the) personal cards you hold, and from one (of the) business card. Since now Brilliant has 25 credits combining 2 you can end up with 40 (25+15). If it is any other than Brilliant you will end up only with 30 (15+15) or less (if you hold one of the old cards)

Gladys Russell

Maybe this was already covered, but can you product change from the Brilliant to the Ritz?

Jim Lovejoy

No. The Brilliant is an American Express card and the Ritz is a Chase card. You can’t product change between different card issuers.

Brian

I’ve had the Ritz card for at least 15 years and use the card almost every day. About 3 years ago I received a replacement card because the one I had was expiring and it went from a nice hefty metal card to a cheesy metal card. That’s my only disappointment with the card. I hope that someday they’ll bring back that solid metal card.

ActualMichael

I highly doubt it. Also, you should really not be using co-branded cards for general spend. Marriott points in particular are just not worth enough. I’d suggest getting a 2% cashback card if you want a one-stop rewards strategy. That 2 cents will be worth more than 2 Bonvoy points.

Tim

This is an interesting idea. I just signed up for Marriott Boundless (to get the 5 Free Nights), and I’d love to upgrade to the Ritz-Carlton when I’m eligible — but I assume there’s no way to do that at this point, because I need to have the card for at least one year before I can product change?

I’m afraid they might stop allowing product changes before I’m eligible. Is there another way I could get it sooner?

I also have had the Marriott Business card for years since it was SPG Business. But I’m guessing I can’t upgrade a business card to a personal card?

Thanks for the help!

ActualMichael

Nope. Has to be open at least a year. There’s literally a law about this (credit card issuers cannot increase the annual fees on a card within the first year). What you should have done was upgrade your Boundless to the Ritz before you churned a new Boundless. Holding the Ritz does not preclude you from welcome offers on other Chase cards, only the AmEx Brilliant and Bevy cards.

Stannis

Haven’t seen this addressed, but if you don’t have any Marriott stays in what’s left of 2022, is there any reason NOT to wait until January to get the Brilliant? Seems to make sense to keep your Platinum status from the card tied to the calendar year.

Julie

Following

ActualMichael

I’d honestly wait right now just because the new welcome offer really isn’t that great. But you are right. If you don’t need Platinum status right now, then you could probably hold off getting this card. However, the later you apply for your card, the longer you are left waiting to get your yearly free night certificate. If the 85K cert is the most valuable aspect to you, you should apply as soon as possible to start that clock.

Mike B

Nick wrote:

I am almost completely befuddled by the new Bonvoy Bevy and Bonvoy Bountiful cards. Not only is this naming convention impossible for anyone but a full-time blogger to follow 

Some of you were probably worried about the careers of the consultants who created the original names for the Hilton Aspire and Ascend cards. As you can see, they found great new jobs….

Ethan

There are already warning signs – a few data points said AMEX no longer offers downgrading to $95 Bonvoy card for their Brilliant card, this will changes value proposition of AMEX Marriott card much.
Plus I’ll upgrade my mid-cycle Boundless sooner than later (even with higher prorated annual fee) to avoid complete disappointment.

Benn

I fully understand why Chase and Marriott are *tying* the free night certificate….

Also, if I currently am holding the former Amex SPG card, am I eligible to get any of the Chase Marriott cards? These rules are too confusing

Captain Greg

How do the annual fees work if you switch from the boundless to the Ritz right after the 35k cert posts? Do you pay the $95 fee and then also the $450 fee immediately after? Or do they pro-rate the $95 fee down to like $10?

ActualMichael

The free night cert is an award at the end of your card year, not the beginning. You do not have to pay the annual fee to receive your cert. You can cancel without penalty as soon as you receive it.

Darlene

Sooooo – if the Ritz card is one I want to KEEP, I am paying $450 right away when I get it, but no hotel reward certificate for that first year… Then I have the certificate it at the beginning of year 2?

Captain Greg

Were some of those old cards you mentioned (Chase Ink Plus cards or various old United Presidential-type cards or IHG cards) ever in a situation where you could product change to them even if they weren’t accepting new applicants (like the Ritz card, currently)? If so, do we know what happened when chase stopped allowing product changes? Was it announced with a deadline? Or did it just change one night unannounced? I think that would be the most likely thing to happen here if the Ritz card does eventually lose the option to product change.

Last edited 2 months ago by Captain Greg
ktc

its scary to think 85k is the new 50k, 50k is the new 35k. 35k gets you a 4-points or Fairfield,
no way the enemy is throwing you any meats after they have stripped so much meat off the good old SPG chop… the points+certs overnight raises everything by 15k points.
Selling you off while making you counting their gains for them.

Last edited 2 months ago by ktc
Nun

I’d guess the annual fee is unchanged due to next year’s expansion of dynamic award pricing. Maybe the properties costing < 50k last spring will be closer to 85k next spring.

I agree it’s the best but wish we could talk about it in secret only, like with a code, the Chase Speakeasy visa.

V L

Devaluation is definitely coming, but the same applies to good old cash… same property will also cost more on cash due to the significant inflation 🙁
So, as long as the balance between annual fee and cash value of the certificate remains similar, it is still worth it.

Gene

I switched to the Ritz card back in May 2020, two months after my anniversary date. While the month my annual fee was charged changed, the day my free night certificate is issued did not. Still the same as when I originally opened the account.

Last edited 2 months ago by Gene
V L

Gene, you may have a very important DP. Since you changed mid year, was your next FNC after the upgrade (the one you got in March 2021) the new 50K (back then) or the old 35K.
I assume the cert you got in 2022 was 50K, but the question is what was your first cert after the upgrade?

brian

Logged into my Marriott account today and have platinum elite status with no spend or stays? Was this a mistake?

Jim Lovejoy

Do you have the Brilliant card? If so, no mistake. That’s one perk they’ve added to try to make the fee increase palatable.

farnorthtrader

Okay, I have a strange question maybe tangentially related to this topic. I thought “Fantastic, I just paid the annual fees for both my and my wife’s boundless cards, my free nights should arrive shortly and I can upgrade to the ritz card”. Except, in looking at my account history, I received my boundless award in February and my wife received hers in May. Anybody have an idea why our annual fees don’t match with our free nights?

farnorthtrader

i was able to get an answer from Chase. The anniversary date of your account never changes, so the issuance date of the free night never changes, no matter how many product changes you do. Only the annual fee date changes to the date the product change happens.
It appears that “your anniversary year will change upon product change and your first annual free night certificate will come a year from the date you product change” is incorrect and might change the rest of the advice. As far as I can tell, if I product change now, I will get back all or most of my $95 fee and will be charged $450 and the free night that arrives at the beginning of February would be an 85,000 point night. I think maybe I might be best off product changing to Ritz relatively soon to get the $300 travel credit this year and early next year and the 85,000 point night in February?

V L

This is a very interesting DP… so, if I upgrade just a couple of weeks before my 35K certificate posts (anniversary), does it mean that I get 85K cert right away, or no cert at all for another year?

Mikey

Quick question for the experts: Do the Ritz card Elite night credits stack with the Amex Bonvoy Business card’s? (total of 15+15) or do they need an Amex personal Bonvoy card?

And completely separately, is there a product change option from the personal $95 Amex Bonvoy card to any $0 AF personal Amex Bonvoy card (even if without the free night cert or ENC)?

Miles

Yes, Ritz cards nights will stack with Marriott business cards. I have the Ritz and had the old Chase Marriott business card, these stacked.

(Unfortunately, I cancelled my Chase Marriott business card back when Marriott disallowed that temporarily, and of course, now I can’t get it back and don’t want to waste an Amex spot. Oh well.)

Dan

Same boat! Bummer as the Amex business card is $25 more with no extra benefits vs the same chase card.

Mikey

Let’s also not forget that (a) Priority pass offered on the Ritz card includes “restaurant lounges” unlike Amex and (b) authorized users are no-cost for the Ritz card and each can get their own priority pass.

I value Priority Pass at practically zero for myself since there are so many cards that already give me that, but for my “less-travelled” family members, its kinda nice to get them their Priority Pass for no addl. cost, that too with the restaurant option for when they are traveling on their own.

This may not be worth the effective $150 fee ($450 minus travel credit) on its own but is a nice sweetener on top of the other perks you mentioned, especially with the 85K cert now. I have a feeling though that the annual fee might increase or a spend requirement might be introduced for the cert once people have adjusted to recent changes. The regular spending on the Ritz card is one of the worst values.

Vince

Always was the best of the lot. The 85K makes it sweeter, especially against this newly announced, relatively lousy competition.

Hpack

Note the $300 travel credit is on a calendar year, so upgrading while there is still time left to use it before 12/31 allows you to use this twice in the first year of holding the card

Grant

Yes, exactly what I was going to say. The $300 travel credit should be easy to use in the next 3 months. My wife just upgraded to the Ritz Carlton last week before the announced improvements.

Ron

Can you product change an Amex business Bonvoy card to a Ritz card?

ActualMichael

there are no other cards you can change the Biz Bonvoy to. You can also never product change across card issuers.

Bob

Automatic Platinum on Brilliant will give you breakfast. This may be a reason enough to downgrade Ritz to Bold and apply for new Brilliant. My understanding is that you will not be approved for Brilliant if you are holding Ritz

Jeff

Ritz card, after all the benefits and travel protections is one of the best values in the game. Switched to it a couple years ago thanks to the FM teams recommendation. Thanks guys.