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A little over a week ago I wrote about checking in to see if you’ve maxed out the travel credits on your premium travel credit cards. In that post I highlighted the Chase Sapphire Reserve®, the Citi Prestige, and the Amex Platinum as the cards to pay attention to. A reader pointed out that the Ritz Carlton Credit Card, issued by Chase, is another commonly held premium travel credit card that some might forget comes with incidental travel expense credit. 

Let’s take a look at the credit card John is talking about and explore exactly what is covered by the $300 travel expense credit as well as how you go about collecting your credit.

Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel (Dana Point, CA)
Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel (Dana Point, CA), which is also pictured at the top of this post.

$300 per Calendar Year Airline Incidentals Credit

There are two major upsides to this benefit.

  1. Cardholders are entitled to $300 of incidental reimbursement per calendar year. If you sign up for the Ritz card in July, spend $300 on airline incidentals by December, and spend another $300 on airline before canceling the card the next June, then you will receive $600 of value without paying a cent up front.
  2. The incidental fee credit is available on any and all airlines. The American Express Platinum card has offered a similar benefit for years  (for $200 instead of $300), but in the AMEX program cardholders must designate one airline on which they wish to receive incidental reimbursement. With the Ritz card, no airline designation is necessary, since the program reimburses incidental purchases on all airlines. Granted, it’s usually pretty easy to buy airline gift cards and have them reimbursed as statement credits on your Amex Platinum, which it isn’t as easy to do with the Ritz Rewards card.

Let’s dive into that second point a little more in-depth.

What counts as an “airline incidental?” Specifically: airline lounge day pass, or towards a yearly lounge membership of your choice; airline seat upgrades; airline baggage fees; in-flight internet/entertainment; in-flight meals.

There have been reports of buying airline gift cards and successfully getting reimbursed, but not with anything close to 100% success. This would be by far the most attractive use of the credit in my opinion. But there are reports that buying airline gift cards in large denominations can trigger the system to not reimburse the charge. There is no hard and fast rule here, YMMV, but the wiki from the Flyertalk thread about the Ritz card gives the following advice…

“DO NOT attempt to get all $300 in one transaction. Most CSRs will question what incidental charge would be so high. Instead, get multiple smaller gift cards which line up with fees that airline charges. Make sure that whatever amounts you choose, you have an explanation ready for each. For example, AA overweight baggage fee is $150. $50 is first checked bag for 2 ppl. $75 is in the range of upgrade fees, etc.”

**IMPORTANT NOTE added 12/13/17: Reader Jerry commented the following on this post: 

Considering this data point, I wouldn’t try buying Delta gift cards and plan on getting them reimbursed. If anyone else has had a similar experience please share in the comments!**

In my opinion, the incidental travel fees alone could make this card worthwhile for the following groups:

  • Families that travel frequently with checked bags
  • Frequent travelers who like to upgrade their class of service at the last minute
  • Business travelers who are reimbursed for travel expenses–incur charges, submit the expense report, and then receive statement credits to “make” $300 per calendar year

Otherwise, you might have to get crafty to earn the incidental travel expense statement credits back.

Ritz-Carlton Half Moon Bay (outside San Francisco)
Ritz-Carlton Half Moon Bay (outside San Francisco)

Collecting Your Credit

In his comment, John mentioned that you have to message Chase from within their site to trigger the statement credit (he’s referring to sending Chase a secure message from within your online account).

Does that hold true across the board? Or was that just John’s experience?

John is correct that the statement credits are not automatic–that’s outlined in the card’s offer terms. You must either:

  • Call cardmember services (the number on the back of your card) and tell them what you should be reimbursed for and how much.
  • Send a secure message to Chase, briefly outlining what you should be reimbursed for and how much.
    • This way of going about your reimbursement is not mentioned in the offer terms, to be clear, but I’ve ready plenty of data points online reporting this method works.

Do one of the above–I’d recommend sending a secure message as that should be much more expedient–within four billing cycles of the purchase date and you should be set.

When do I need to spend $300 by?

Unlike other premium cards, which stop your travel credit clock and re-set it after your December statement closes (December 17 for a lot of people), you should have through the end of December to spend on incidental travel expenses and still have them reimbursed for 2017. The following is from the Ritz Card’s Flyertalk wiki

“As of 1/2/2015, credit for these charges are based on TRANSACTION (purchase) date, not posting date. If you made an eligible purchase before the end of the year, even if it doesn’t post until the following year, you can still receive credit for the previous year.”

I don’t have a Ritz Carlton card but my interested is piqued.

Read Who Should Get the Ritz-Carlton Rewards Card? for more info. The Ritz Carlton Rewards Card is not for everyone, but people with specific circumstances (outlined in that post), the card can provide a lot of value.

It’s also NOT SUBJECT to Chase 5/24 Rule, making it easier to obtain than most valuable Chase travel rewards cards.

Bottom Line

If you have a Ritz Carlton Rewards Credit Card, make sure you’ve cashed in on the $300 incidental travel fee credit. This is one of the most valuable benefits of the card that helps outweigh the $450 annual fee.

If you haven’t yet and don’t plan on organically spending on incidental fees by December 31, 2017, I’d try buying airline gift cards in smaller denominations–but do your research first. Check the airline you want to fly’s website to see the cost of typical incidental fees, like baggage, upgrade, etc., in case you are questioned when you call/write Chase to redeem your credit.

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