As someone who’s applied and been approved for over 30 cards over the past five years, I’ve seen some pretty great offers come and go. In fact, I still remember the first offer that got me started on this miles, points and credit card journey that I’m now on.
I was sitting at work casually browsing Slick Deals and saw a thread about the Amex Gold Card. They were offering 75,000 points and 2 years no annual fee. After a couple of minutes of research I found out those points were worth $750 in gift cards (little did I know they could be worth 2-3x that much if redeemed for travel). I applied, was approved and a couple months later I had 75,000 points in my account. That whole process took about 20 minutes and I made $750 tax free. I was sold.
The Ritz Carlton Rewards Card
This offer has actually been around for a few months but I somehow missed it. I guess getting married and honeymooning threw me off my game! But the reason why I’m so excited about this offer is two fold. First, you can rack up a ton of Ritz Carlton/Marriott (they are partners so points are good with both) points and you can use those points to get Southwest Companion Status for two years if you act quickly.
But there are a few tips and tricks you will need to know along the way.
Public vs Targeted Offers
I’ve never even heard of this card until a few weeks ago but it’s offered by Chase and the standard offer will net 70,000 points, $300 in airline incidentals per calendar year, unlimited Lounge Club Access, $100 hotel credit on 2 night stays at the RC and 3 free RC upgrades: all for a $395 fee. That right there is already a pretty good deal although the annual fee (AF) kind of kills it for me. I hate paying AF’s!
There is currently a targeted offer though that waives the annual fee! So you get all of the above for free and once the AF hits, you can just cancel the card. If you were on the fence about the public offer, this targeted one just became a no-brainer. And remember, since the airline incidentals are per calendar year you will actually get $600 in statement credits!
Now, if that wasn’t good enough, there is actually a second offer on this card that gives you 140,000 points and all of the same benefits (but the annual fee is not waived). So you’re basically paying $395 for 70,000 extra points. Normally, I don’t like paying for points but in this case it might make sense since there are some awesome redemptions available if you can rack up 270,000 points.
Targeted But Not
This offer is actually targeted to certain customers but you can apply by calling in to the Chase Ritz Carlton Membership Line and giving the following codes:
Call 1-888-846-7004 to apply
F53k – 70,000 Points After Spending $2,000 in 3 months, Annual Fee of $395 is waived for the first year
F5BP – 140,000 Points After Spending $2,000 in 3 months, $395 Annual Fee
Some reps will try and make you apply via online or tell you the code isn’t valid but just keep calling back until you get a rep who can make it happen. They are a very small call center though so you may want to call a few hours later or a day later so you don’t get the same rep. They are open 24 hours a day so it shouldn’t take long to find a rep that will work with you. It took me two tries before I got a rep who would put my application through.
Applying With Chase
Since this is a co-branded card with Chase, the credit requirements are a lot more lenient than a card like the Chase Sapphire Preferred. Most people are being approved instantly and for very high card limits. I applied for the 140k offer for my wife and she was approved instantly with a 10k credit limit. She didn’t have a Marriot/RC rewards number so I let them create one for her.
A few days later, I applied for the 70k offer and was also instantly approved. I know there is some confusion about whether you can apply for this card if you already have a Chase Marriott but I didn’t have any problem applying and I don’t suspect there will be a problem getting the bonus points. If you are worried though, you could let them create a new Ritz-Carlton rewards number or apply for the Chase Marriott after the RC card.
WTF Are Airline Incidentals?
Airline incidentals are defined by RC as change fees, upgrades, baggage fees, lounge passes, on-board food, etc. So pretty much anything other than actual flights or gift cards. You definitely won’t be able to get actual tickets re-imbursed but there are lots of reports of cardholders getting statement credits for things like gift cards and Global Entry.
If you value airline gift cards, you might want to try with some random denomination first though. Once you make the purchase all you have to do is call in and ask them to re-imburse your transaction. I’ve seen reports of successful gift card reimbursements with American Airlines, Delta and Southwest. YMMV on this one though and I wouldn’t count on being able to buy gift cards since you’re technically not supposed to be allowed to do so. But I’d say you have a good chance.
Worst case scenario, you’ll get to live it up when you actually do fly. Buy your row a round of drinks, upgrade your seat, buy the $30 a day wifi and hang out in a lounge before your flight, all for free 🙂
70k vs 140k Offer
I debated for a while whether I wanted to do the 70k or 140k offer but ultimately I decided to do one of each. I already have 80k Marriott points from a recent Chase Marriott sign-up and my goal was to get 270,000 points which I could then redeem for a Marriott Travel Package.
Doing one of each will bring my total to 290,000 points and ensure that I’m able to redeem for a travel package this January. If you can take advantage of the airline incidentals, the 70k offer is probably the best offer I’ve ever seen. They are basically paying you $600 and giving you 70,000 points (plus Lounge Club access!) to use their card. I’d say that even trumps my most recent Citi Executive card that netted me 100,000 points and $200 cash.
It’s really hard to say whether paying the $395 for an extra 70,000 points is worth it or not because it depends on so many different things: how you redeem the points, how much value you get out of the 7 night stay, and which airline you select as part of the travel package. You could spend a lot of time figuring out the true redemption values but to be honest, either one is a great deal! I decided to basically just hedge my bet and do one of each.
Marriott Travel Packages
Marriott has decent hotel redemption options but the real value of their points program lies with their travel packages in my opinion. You can redeem 270,000 Marriott points for 7 nights in a category 1-5 Marriott hotel AND 120,000 SW points. On the surface, this seems like a pretty good deal. Cat 5’s are usually in the $150-$200 range and 120,000 SW points are worth around $2,000 (1.67 cents per point). So altogether a value of around $3,000-$4,000 for 270,000 points.
That’s a decent redemption rate for Marriott points but the coolest part about this option is that the SW points will qualify you for companion status. I’ve written before about how I think the SW Companion Pass is one of the best deals in the travel industry. And now that SW flies to places like Cabo San Lucas (my family has an awesome time share here!) and Costa Rica, it’s gotten even better.
If you convert the package in January you’ll have the companion status for a full 2 years and 120,000 points to book flights with. That will be worth about $4,000 tax free if you travel with your companion every time.
Note: This is currently a loophole in the Southwest program, there’s no guarantee that it will be around forever but worst case scenario you’ll be stuck with 120,000 SW points and no companion pass 🙂
The first thing you’re probably thinking is how the hell am I going to rack up 270,000 Marriott points? You could get there with the personal/business versions of the Chase Marriott card in addition to the 140k RC offer but that might take a while. Instead, utilize your spouse, family member or friend since you can transfer points that way. Marriott/RC’s actual terms state that only transfers between spouses are allowed, but in practice they usually allow transfers between anyone. So it doesn’t matter if you’re related or even in the same household, you can still transfer points to each other.
However, you will only be able to transfer in from another account the exact amount of points required for a redemption. So if you have 150k and your wife has 150k and you want to redeem your account for a 270k package, you will only be able to transfer in 120k points from your wife’s account and the leftover 30k will remain in hers.
Booking 7 Nights tips/tricks
Since I’ve already done the Chase Southwest cards and I will never fly enough to qualify for the companion pass that way, this is a pretty sweet deal for me. I actually value the companion pass so much I would probably even redeem the package if I didn’t get the free nights. But the 7 hotel nights are just icing on the cake.
When you redeem the package, you will have to select a hotel so it helps to have one in mind. If not though, you can book a placeholder hotel reservation and cancel it later. One other thing to note is that you can actually book the hotel reservation ahead of time as long as award nights are available. Once you redeem your package, you would just have to call Marriott and ask them to apply the certificate to your reservation.
The hotel certificate expires one year from being issued but you can usually get it extended 1 and maybe even 2 years!
A couple notes:
- The 7 nights MUST be consecutive and at the same hotel. There were some reports in the past of being able to split it up into 5 days and 2 days but it still had to be at the same hotel.
- If you don’t have a specific hotel in mind, you can book the cat 1-5 option and pay the difference to upgrade later on. But if a hotel changes categories before you have time to upgrade it or they raise the price for the package you will have to cough up more points than if you would have bought the higher level in the first place.
- You can book the 7 nights in someone else’s name so if you don’t travel much, this would be a great present for someone else. In fact, you can pretty much always do this.
I think the hardest thing for me when it comes to redeeming these nights is going to be picking a place where I want to stay 7 nights. I don’t even remember the last time I stayed at the same hotel for 7 nights. I’ll probably end up using 5 or 6 of the nights and just ditching the remaining nights. Please let me know if you have any good ideas for hotel redemptions in the comments below.
The Ultimate Redemption
If you fly a lot, I think this card is an absolute no brainer. I know a lot of people are on the fence about 70k vs 140k though so here’s a situation where it would make sense to pay the annual fee. If you and your wife both apply for the 140k offer, you would end up with 280,000 points which you could then redeem for 7 nights in a Cat 1-5 and 120,000 points.
If you apply now and redeem in January, this would get you instant companion status and 120,000 points with Southwest plus 7 nights in a Cat 1-5. If you use all the points within the next two years, your total savings would be around $5,400 ($4,000 from SW flights and $1,400 from Marriott hotels).
You would also get $600 in airline incidentals for each person bringing the total to $6,600. There are some other benefits like lounge club access and upgrades but I’m going to ignore those for now.
Remember, that $6,600 is also tax free and unlike business class redemptions where you get 3-4 cents per mile but would never actually pay that in real life a SW point is actually worth 1.67 cents per point. Subtract the $800 in annual fees and you get $5,400 in value or if you want to look at it from a pure investment standpoint:
You invest $800 and get back $5,400. $5,400/$800 over two years = 350% return. Yes that’s right, a 350% return on your initial investment of $800 over two years. Now tell me where else can you get that kind of risk free return.
Ok now for the moment you’ve all been waiting for: The Ritz-Carlton Rewards Credit Card From Chase Unboxing Video (thanks to my wife for filming/not laughing 🙂
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-Harry @ PF Pro