The Chase Ritz-Carlton Visa Infinite card comes with a $395 annual fee, but it’s one of the most valuable cards in my portfolio. Even though I didn’t receive any retention offer from Chase, I’m going to pay the annual fee, keep the card, and take advantage of its valuable benefits for us and our family.
I first obtained the Chase Ritz-Carlton Visa Infinite card 3 years ago (RC Visa). It was actually my first travel rewards card as I started to get involved in using credit cards, points and miles to get great value for our travels.
Back in 2015, Philly and I were planning a trip to Maui, and the Ritz-Carlton Kapalua on Maui looked enticing. We found a good rate for a week in late October, booked a room, got the RC Visa card, and used one of our Club Level Upgrade certificates to get ourselves into a club-level room for our stay. The property was great, the club lounge food was tasty, its drinks were plentiful, and the service was on-point. It was a great and high-value experience for us in our first serious venture into travel rewards.
Fast-forward to today – the RC Visa card remains one of the most valuable cards in my wallet, despite its hefty $395 annual fee.
Unfortunately, the card is no longer available for new sign-ups, having been taken off the market by Chase a few months ago. Also, some cardholders will have an annual fee of $450 rather than $395. The annual fee increased after we got the card, but we are grandfathered in to the lower $395 fee.
Benefits and Features of the Ritz-Carlton Visa Card
Let’s take a look at the key benefits and points-earning structure of the RC Visa card:
- Annual Free Night Certificate each year after account anniversary, good at Ritz/Marriott/SPG hotels at a redemption level up to 50,000 Marriott Rewards points
- $300 annual credit per calendar year for airline fees
- This includes baggage fees, seat upgrade fees and in-flight food/beverage/entertainment purchases
- It excludes airfare, fees on award tickets, and gift cards (although people have been able to get some such charges covered if Chase didn’t ask them exactly what the charge was for
- It’s good on any airline
- You have to call Chase or send a secure message to get the credit applied, which can be a pain even though the phone call itself is easy
- $100 Visa Infinite airfare discount
- Applies to 2 (or more) people traveling together on the same domestic coach itinerary – the second ticket is $100 off
- You must book through a specific website and pay with your RC Visa card
- Authorized Users (AUs) may use this benefit
- There is no limit to the number of times you can use this benefit, and there are no blackout dates
- Priority Pass membership for primary cardholder and AUs, with no limit on the number of guests
- No additional fee for AUs
- 3 Ritz-Carlton Club Level Upgrade certificates per cardmember year
- Each certificate is good to upgrade you during a single stay of up to 7 days
- Requires you to book a qualifying rate – Marriott Rewards-member discounted rates qualify, but you cannot use an upgrade certificate when booking with a corporate rate, AAA rate, or advance purchase rate – this can be a meaningful limitation on using the certificates
- Automatic Gold elite status with Marriott Rewards
- Plus, you can earn Platinum elite status if you spend $75,000 on the RC Visa card in a calendar year
- Beginning in 2019, 15 Marriott Rewards elite nights credit each calendar year
- 15 elite nights is the cap across all Marriott/SPG/Ritz cards; elite nights credit is not additive if you have multiple Marriott/SPG/Ritz cards
- $100 Global Entry application fee reimbursement, good once every 4 years
- No foreign transaction fees
- Points earning structure:
- 6 Marriott Rewards points per dollar at Ritz/Marriott/SPG hotels
- 3 Marriott Rewards points per dollar for airfare, dining and car rentals
- 2 Marriott Rewards points per dollar on everything else
The Value We Get from the Ritz-Carlton Visa Card
For us, the value we get from the RC Visa card far exceeds the $395 annual fee. I am the primary cardholder on our account, and Philly and each of the 5 Middle Age Miles kids (all college-age or older) are AUs. A lot of our value comes from being able to have the kids be AUs and use the benefits; it would be a closer call if we couldn’t take advantage of the AU benefits.
Here’s how we’ve used the RC Visa card’s benefits:
- We use the full $300 annual credit each year. Given our elite status on AA, Philly and I don’t have many incidental fees. But the kids do. The kids use their RC Visa AU cards when flying, mostly for baggage fees. We used the full $300 credit in 2015, 2016 and 2017, and as of October we only have $10 of credit left in 2018.
- Philly and I have used the $100 Visa Infinite airfare discount 7 times during 2017-18, and I’m estimating that the kids have used it about 8 times during that same time period.
- We all use the RC Visa for our primary Priority Pass card, given that its benefits are the most extensive with unlimited guesting. Philly and I each have at least one other Priority Pass card with guesting privileges, so for us the incremental value from the RC Visa card is less. But the kids don’t have other Priority Pass cards. They’ve been able to get some nice benefits, including Dylan visiting the Turkish Airlines lounge at Dulles (which many reviewers say is the nicest PP lounge in the US) and Andrew getting free lunch at the Timberline Grill in Denver before his flights to Prague this summer.
- Philly and I have used 3 Club Level Upgrade certificates during 2017-18. Even though we certainly haven’t maximized the benefit from these certificates (frankly, we don’t stay in Ritz-Carlton hotels that often), we’ve definitely gotten some value out of them. We used a certificate for a 4-night stay at the Ritz-Carlton St. Thomas in March 2017, and the value from that certificate was outstanding. We’ve also used certificates for two 2-3 night stays at the Ritz-Carlton Tysons Corner (combining the certificate with great low weekend rates at that DC-area hotel, which we wrote about recently!).
- Going forward, we look forward to using the new benefit, the annual Free Night certificate at a hotel up to 50,000 points. We expect to be able to get $250-350 in value from that certificate, easily, and perhaps even more. [I’ll note that the Free Night certificate from our new cardmember year is already in my Marriott Rewards account, even though I have not actually paid the annual fee yet; thus, paying this year’s annual fee actually gets me the certificate that I’ll receive in October 2019.]
I’m not going to try to precisely quantify the value we’ve gotten out of the RC Visa card in the past year. A ballpark estimate might be in the neighborhood of $1,500, but in any event it clearly exceeds the $395 annual fee. Looking forward, I’m estimating that we’ll use the card benefits similarly during our next cardholder year – and even if we use the benefits a bit less, we’ll still get way more than $395 in value.
Results of My Retention Call (Data Point)
Even though I knew I was going to keep my RC Visa card for another year, I put in a call to Chase to see if any retention offers were available. As usual, I told the representative that I’d just received my statement with the annual fee, that I’m trying to decide whether to keep the card or close it, and I wondered whether there were any offers or anything else to help offset the annual fee.
I did not receive any retention offer on the RC Visa card. I was not surprised by this at all. This is already a discontinued product for new sign-ups, so Chase isn’t trying to attract customers for it. We’ve spent a few thousand on the card in the past year, but mostly on air tickets using the $100 discount benefit plus paying for one or two hotel stays.
The call was fairly short. The representative said she didn’t have any offers for me, but she wanted to remind me of some of the card benefits. Interesting, she only mentioned Priority Pass, the $300 travel credit, and the $100-per-4-years Global Entry credit. She didn’t mention the other benefits that make the card truly valuable for me. This gave me an opening to respond – we have Priority Passes from other cards like the Chase Sapphire Reserve; the travel credit is only for incidentals which we don’t normally have since we have elite status with AA; we have other cards with Global Entry credit – and fish again for an offer. No luck. At least I tried, and I wanted to be able to report the data point back to Middle Age Miles readers.
What is your experience with the RC Visa card? Are you keeping or canceling when your annual fee comes due next? Please share with us and other Middle Age Miles readers in the Comments!
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