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With the recent introduction of the new Chase Sapphire Reserve®, there’s a major new premium Chase credit card on the market. The Chase Sapphire Reserve® and The Ritz-Carlton™ Credit Card have comparable $450 annual fees and both have ways to get $300 worth of credits each year, but there are a lot of differences. In this article, we’re going to look at the benefits of both credit cards and help you determine which card is a better fit for your needs, or if it makes sense for you to have both of them.
We’re going to get into more detail below, but the short answer is:
- Get the Chase Sapphire Reserve® if you’ll get more value out of the more flexible points earning than from the $100 Discount Air Benefit for roundtrip domestic coach tickets booked for two to five travelers from The Ritz-Carlton™ Credit Card, or the Ritz Carlton status and upgrade benefits.
- Get The Ritz-Carlton™ Credit Card if you’ll get more value out of the $100 Discount Air Benefit for roundtrip domestic coach tickets booked for two to five travelers than you will from the more flexible points earning from the Chase Sapphire Reserve®.
- If you think you’ll be able to use the $100 Discount Air Benefit from The Ritz-Carlton™ Credit Card at least twice per year but also value the more flexible points earned from the Chase Sapphire Reserve®, it might make sense to get both cards. This might sound intimidating since both cards have high annual fees, but if you would normally spend at least $600 in travel and airline fees in a calendar year, you can easily discount this from the cost of the annual fee.
- Or, if you spend a lot (think $10,000 or more a year) at Marriott / Ritz Carlton hotels and want to earn Marriott Rewards points for those purchases, and you spend a good amount on other travel and dining (think $7,500 or more a year) you can use The Ritz-Carlton™ Credit Card for the Marriott purchases and Chase Sapphire Reserve® for other purchases.
Here’s a rundown of the main features of each card:
- Chase Sapphire Reserve®: 3X points on travel immediately after earning your $300 travel credit. 3X points on dining at restaurants & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases. 1:1 points transfers to a variety of hotel and airline programs, no foreign transaction fees on purchases made abroad, $300 annual credit for travel purchases, up to $100 statement credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck, airport lounge access, $450 annual fee.
- The Ritz-Carlton™ Credit Card: Three complimentary nights at Tier 1-4 Ritz-Carlton Hotels signup bonus, 5 Ritz-Carlton/Marriott points per dollar spent at Ritz-Carlton and Marriott hotels, 2 Ritz-Carlton/Marriott points per dollar spent on air tickets purchased directly with the airline, car rentals, and dining purchases, and 1 Ritz-Carlton/Marriott point per dollar spent on all other purchases, 10% annual points premium, no foreign transaction fees, $300 annual airline fee credit, $100 discount air benefit when booking travel for 2-5 people, airport lounge access, complimentary Ritz-Carlton Gold status the first year, $450 annual fee.
Now we will look at the relative pros and cons of each card and help you decide which card makes the most sense for you or if it makes sense to have both cards.
Chase Sapphire Reserve®
Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.
3X points on travel immediately after earning your $300 travel credit. 3X points on dining at restaurants & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases.
$300 Annual Travel Credit, Airport Lounge Access, and Flexible Redemption Options
- Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
- Named "Best Premium Travel Credit Card" for 2018 by MONEY® Magazine
- $300 Annual Travel Credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year
- 3X points on travel immediately after earning your $300 travel credit. 3X points on dining at restaurants & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases. $0 foreign transaction fees.
- Get 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 50,000 points are worth $750 toward travel
- 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
- Access to 1,000+ airport lounges worldwide after an easy, one-time enrollment in Priority Pass™ Select
- Up to $100 application fee credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®
See additional details for Chase Sapphire Reserve®
- Earn 3X points on travel immediately after earning your $300 travel credit. 3X points on dining at restaurants & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases.
- Every year you’ll have a $300 credit for travel purchases you make on your card that’s automatically applied. Airfare, hotels, even parking and tolls can all be reimbursed up to $300 a year, automatically.
- If you don’t have TSA PreCheck or Global Entry yet, the Chase Sapphire Reserve® is another avenue for you to get it for free. Your application fee will be reimbursed when you pay for it with your Chase Sapphire Reserve®.
- Access to Chase Ultimate Rewards® transfer partners means that your points are super flexible.
- Ability to book flights through Chase’s travel portal without first transferring points to partners with a 50% bonus.
- A Priority Pass Select Membership lets you bring all your traveling companions into many airline lounges around the world as well as a handful domestically.
- No foreign transaction fees on purchases made abroad. This is a pretty standard benefit on any premium credit card, but very important to have if you plan on using this card abroad at all.
- The Chase Sapphire Reserve® has an annual fee that is up near the top of the spectrum: $450.
- There’s no discount airfare program or lounge access with a major U.S. airline like United.
The Ritz-Carlton™ Credit Card
- Earn three nights at a Tier 1-4 Ritz-Carlton property after you spend $5,000 within the first three months of account opening. That could be worth $1,500 or more depending on the room rate at the time.
- Every year you’ll have a $300 credit for airline purchases to cover incidentals like checked bags, seat selection, and food and beverage onboard. This benefit is more work for The Ritz-Carlton™ Credit Card than for the Chase Sapphire Reserve® because you will need to contact a representative to get the reimbursement, and it’s not nearly as broad, because things like airfare and hotel spending don’t get reimbursed.
- A Priority Pass Select Membership will get you and all your traveling companions into many airline lounges around the world as well as a handful domestically, but guests aren’t unlimited like with .
- If you frequently book domestic coach flights for 2-5 travelers, you can get a $100 discount on your airfare every time you book via the Visa Infinite Discount Air Benefit website, which often has the lowest fares.
- Complimentary Ritz-Carlton Gold status for the first year. After the first year you will need to spend at least $10,000 to continue having Gold status. If you spend at least $75,000 you can earn Platinum status instead.
- Chase doesn’t appear to be as strict when approving people who have opened 4 or 5 new bank card accounts in the last 2 years with the Ritz card.
- While earning 5x points at Marriott / Ritz Carlton hotels and 2x on airline, car rental, and dining purchases is good, Ritz-Carlton/Marriott points aren’t as valuable as Ultimate Rewards points. Even once you consider the 10% annual bonus on points earned, you would get more back for your spending by putting the same purchases on a Chase Sapphire Reserve®, though if you really want to earn Marriott points The Ritz-Carlton™ Credit Card comes out ahead.
- The $300 airline fee credit isn’t as broad. It won’t cover airfare or many travel gift cards. Instead only the following types of non-ticket purchases qualify for this offer: airline lounge day passes, or towards a yearly lounge membership of your choice; airline seat upgrades; airline baggage fees; in-flight internet/entertainment; in-flight meals; Global Entry fees. And you have to call in to manually request the credit.
- Marriott points are nowhere near as flexible as Ultimate Rewards, which is the main reason they are not valued as highly.
- The Ritz-Carlton™ Credit Card also has a relatively high annual fee: $450, and the fee is not waived the first year.
- There’s no lounge access with a major U.S. airline like United.
Does having both cards make sense?
There are a lot of overlapping benefits between the Chase Sapphire Reserve® and The Ritz-Carlton™ Credit Card.
Both are high-end credit cards issued by Chase and will give you benefits like a Priority Pass Select Membership with free access for all your traveling companions, no foreign transaction fees, and a $300 airline fee credit.
So by having both cards you can earn you $600 worth of airline fee credits every year, though the Chase Sapphire Reserve® is less restrictive by including any travel purchase.
Assuming you are able to make use of both fee credits, you bring the annual cost of holding each card effectively down to $150.
The main benefits that are not shared between the two cards are the Visa Infinite Discount Air benefit for roundtrip domestic coach tickets with The Ritz-Carlton™ Credit Card and the separate $100 Global Entry fee credit for the Chase Sapphire Reserve®, as well as the, in most cases, more flexible points of the Chase Sapphire Reserve®.
It would make sense to carry both of these credit cards if you value the non-shared benefits of one card by more than the increase in the annual fee, after accounting for the airline fee credit (assuming you can use it).
Basically, if you generally favor the Chase Sapphire Reserve® but can make use of The Ritz-Carlton™ Credit Card $100 Discounted Air Benefit at least twice per year, you will be covering the cost of paying for the annual fee, again, assuming you are already making use of the $300 airline fee credit.
Or, you can use The Ritz-Carlton™ Credit Card for Marriott purchases – if you make a LOT of them, and the Chase Sapphire Reserve® for other spending.
With the 5x points on Marriott / Ritz purchases vs the lower travel rate for the Chase Sapphire Reserve® at 3X points on travel immediately after earning your $300 travel credit. 3X points on dining at restaurants & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases. You can make up the $150 cost of carrying The Ritz-Carlton™ Credit Card after the airline fee credit worthwhile if you spend about $10,000 a year at Marriott / Ritz properties. That earns you an extra 20,000 or so points a year, which when valued at about 0.7 cents each, gets you about $150 in extra value.
And you can justify the $150 cost of the Chase Sapphire Reserve® after the travel credit by spending at least $7,500 a year in dining or other travel categories, assuming you use the points for high value things like international flight awards that can get you 2 cents per point in value or better via Chase Ultimate Rewards.
Not a lot of people do this kind of spending, so you’re probably better off sticking to just one unless you make a lot of use of the Visa Infinite Discount Air benefit.
Which card is right for you?
Both of these credit card offerings from Chase are quite good. Again, assuming you can make use of the $300 travel and airline fee credits, the annual fees are effectively reduced to a much more reasonable $150 each. In order to determine which card makes more sense for you, you have to ask yourself which benefits you value and how much.
If you can make use of the $100 Visa Infinite Airfare Discount regularly, or really want to earn and use Ritz Carlton / Marriott Rewards points, get The Ritz-Carlton™ Credit Card. It’s a faster way to earn Marriott Rewards points.
If you care about the highest points earning potential with the most flexible points currency, the Chase Sapphire Reserve® is likely a better option.