My Marriott Bonvoy Credit Card Strategy – Chase Edition (It’s A Little Odd)


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I hold two Marriott co-branded credit cards (one issued by Chase and one issued by American Express) but despite the fact that most of my hotel spending goes Marriott’s way neither of my Marriott credit cards is the best Marriott card that the banks issue…but that may be about to change.

Yesterday I explained what I plan to do with my Marriott Bonvoy card issued by American Express and today I’ll explain my plan for my Chase Marriott Premier Card (which is no longer open to new applicants).

I Haven’t Felt The Need To Upgrade

Up until now, I’ve not felt any great need to upgrade my Chase Marriott Premier Card for three main reasons:

  1. I already have a Bonvoy card that earns as many points/dollar at Marriott properties as Chase’s Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Visa Signature Card.
  2. My Chase Marriott Premier Card offers my bonus elite nights for the spending that I out on the card and no other Marriott Bonvoy card offers this feature.
  3. Although the newer (and slightly more expensive) Chase Bonvoy card offers an annual certificate for a free night at a property costing up to 35,000 points/night (my current card’s certificate only works at properties costing up to 25,000 points/night) I’ve never been convinced that I’d really get much use out of the certificate…so the upgrade felt a little meaningless

Now, however, a few things have changed and I’m seriously re-evaluating what Marriott cards I should be holding…both from Chase and American Express.

My Chase Marriott Bonvoy Card Plan

The Chase Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Visa Signature Card comes with a $99 annual fee and is currently offering a welcome bonus of 100,000 Marriott Bonvoy points…but I’m ineligible for this offer thanks to the fact that I still hold the Chase Marriott Premier Card and because I currently hold the Marriott Bonvoy American Express card.

Fortunately that doesn’t really matter.

The Chase Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Visa Signature Card is a good Marriott card but I don’t really need the 6 points/dollar that it earns at Marriott properties worldwide and I don’t really need the free night that the card offers every year…so that’s not where my strategy will be taking me.

My strategy is going to take me down a slightly unusual path as it’s going to see me upgrade one card that’s no longer open to new applicants to another – I plan to upgrade the Chase Marriott Premier Card to the Ritz-Carlton Rewards Credit card.

I only recently found out that this was possible but, having checked with Chase, I can confirm that if you hold the Chase Marriott Personal Card you can upgrade it to the Ritz-Carlton Rewards credit card even though that card is no longer open to new applicants.

On the face of things, this upgrade makes absolutely no sense whatsoever because of two things:

  1. One of my originally stated concerns about applying for the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant American Express Card (in yesterday’s post) was that I didn’t want another $450/year credit card in my wallet…and yet here I am saying that I’m happy to take on another $450/year fee with the Ritz-Carlton Rewards card.
  2. The Ritz-Carlton Rewards card recently lost one of its most coveted benefits when the $100 Visa Infinite Airfare discount was discontinued.

Fortunately, there’s some reasoning behind my madness 🙂

For a $450 annual fee, the Ritz-Carlton Rewards credit card offers…

  • 6 points/dollar at all Marriott properties worldwide
  • 3 points/dollar on dining car rentals and airline purchases
  • 2 points/dollar on all other spending
  • An annual free night certificate (for properties costing up to 50,000 points/night)
  • $300 in airline fee credits annually
  • $100 Ritz-Carlton/Marriott credit which can be used during paid stays of 2-nights or longer
  • $100 Global Entry credit
  • 3 club-level upgrades at Ritz-Carlton properties (on paid stays)
  • Priority Pass Select Membership
  • 15 elite night credits per year
  • Marriott Bonvoy Gold status
  • Marriott Bonvoy Platinum status after a cardholder spends $75,000 on the card in a year.

…as well as a number of solid travel insurance/protections that are only really matched by the Chase Sapphire Reserve credit card.

For me, the Gold status, the ability to earn Platinum status, the status credits, and Priority Pass membership are all meaningless because I already hold lifetime top-tier status with Marriott and I hold other credit cards that already give me the other benefits.

What I’m most interested in are the $300 airline fee credit and the annual free night certificate because together they should more than cover the card’s annual fee every year.

The Ritz-Carlton Airline Fee Credit

The airline fee credit that comes with the Ritz-Carlton credit card works differently to the airline fee credit that the Platinum Card from American Express offers in two key ways:

  1. The airline credit isn’t applied automatically, you have to call up to have it applied (within 4 billing cycles of the charge being made).
  2. Cardholders do not have to select a single airline on which to use the airline credit every year. The credits can be applied to fees charged by most airlines worldwide.

Where the Platinum Card’s credit and the Ritz-Carlton Card’s credit are much more alike is when it comes to what the airline fee credit covers:

  • Airline lounge day pass
  • Yearly lounge membership
  • Airline seat upgrades
  • Airline baggage fees
  • In-flight Internet/entertainment
  • In-flight meals.

Unofficially, the Ritz-Carlton airline credit can sometimes also be used for award fees/taxes, and airline upgrades – it just depends on how the purchase appears on the customer representative’s screen when you call up to get the credit applied.

Airfare purchases are specifically excluded.

While I find it difficult to make the most of the Platinum Card’s airline fee credit I should have no trouble using the credit that the Ritz-Carlton card offers because I’m not restricted to using it on one single airline.

I frequently pay for w-fi when I’m traveling on American, British Airways and JAL, I often make food and drinks purchases when I’m traveling on short-haul British Airways flights, I sometimes pay for seat allocation for friends who don’t have status and, occasionally, I even have to pay to check a bag.

Based on my travel and spending patterns I’m happy to value the Ritz-Carlton’s airline fee credit at the full $300.

The Ritz-Carlton Annual Free Night

If you’ve read yesterday’s post about my plans for my Bonvoy Amex card you’ll know that I’ve recently discovered a Marriott property that’s not too far from where I’m based (when I’m in the UK) and which I like quite a bit. It’s called The Langley, it currently costs between 30,000 points and 40,000 points per night (room rates start at ~$450!) and award availability for this property is easy to find.

Where in the past I’ve had concerns that I may not always have a chance to use a 50,000 points/night free night certificate (at least not to its full potential), I now know that I have an excellent fall-back option for the free night certificate should I not get the chance to use it when I’m traveling away from home.

Pairing Two Good Cards For Great Benefits

If I follow through with my overall Marriott Bonvoy credit card plan and upgrade my  Marriott Bonvoy American Express card to the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant Card these are the key benefits I’ll be getting for a total annual fee outlay of $900:

  • 2 x annual free night certificates worth up to 50,000 points each
  • Up to $300 in statement credits per year for spending at Marriott properties worldwide
  • $300 in airline fee credits every year
  • $100 Ritz-Carlton/Marriott credit which can be used during paid stays of 2-nights or longer
  • $100 property credit when using a special rate for a 2-night minimum stay at The Ritz-Carlton or St. Regis
  • 2 x $100 Global Entry credits every 4 years
  • 3 club-level upgrades at Ritz-Carlton properties (on paid stays)

I’m not going to have any trouble getting the $300 Marriott statement credit or the $300 airline fee credit so that means that as long as I can get $300 of value out of my two free night certificates the two credit cards I plan to upgrade to will pay for themselves…and that’s not going to be a problem at all.

2 nights at a Marriott property costing 50,000 points/night is almost always going to cost a lot more than $150/night (including taxes) and as two nights are more useful and easier to use economically than one, I should comfortably make the cards pay for themselves even if I get no benefit from the Global Entry credits, the club-level upgrades or the Ritz-Carlton/St Regis property credits.

Bottom Line

Even without the Visa Infinite airline credit, the Ritz-Carlton credit card makes a lot of sense for me…and much more so than the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Visa Signature Card for which Marriott has been sending me upgrade offers.

On its own, the Ritz-Carlton card gives me enough genuinely useful and usable benefits to ensure that I entirely offset its annual fee. Paired together with the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant Card it forms part of a great 2-card combination that should make my travels cheaper and, if I can use the club-level upgrades, possibly even a little bit more comfortable…and isn’t that the whole point of miles & points credit cards?

4 COMMENTS

  1. Lame … who wants to have to call them to get a credit applied several times? If not for that, it could make sense over, e.g., the CSR.

  2. […] The decision to upgrade to the Ritz-Carlton card was an easy one (despite the fact that the card no longer offers the great airfare benefit that once came with it) and, even though this is another card that will now cost me $450/year, the free night certificate (up to 50,000 points), the $300 in airline fee credits and the $100 Ritz-Carlton/Marriott credit, should see me claw back all of that fee…and a little more too […]

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