Welcome to Round 5 of the credit card showdown. This series is due to a session that was presented at the Frequent Traveler University conference a month or so ago.
The previous debates with the pros/cons of each card include:
- Debate 1: United Explorer vs. British Airways Visa (currently the United Explorer card is winning – prior blog post)
- Debate 2: Chase Sapphire Preferred vs. Starwood American Express (currently the Chase Sapphire Preferred card is winning by a lot! – prior blog post)
- Debate 3: Chase Ink Bold vs. Alaska Airlines Visa (currently the Chase Ink Bold card is winning – prior blog post)
- Debate 4: American Express Premier Rewards Gold vs. Capital One venture (currently the American Express PRG card is willing – prior blog post)
The fifth debate at the FTU conference was between the American Express Platinum card (represented by Me!) and the Ritz Carlson card (represented by Tommy777). At the end of the debate, I clearly did a much better job at proving my point and the American Express Platinum card won! While this isn’t necessary a card I’d recommend using for your every day purchases, it is a card that is worthwhile for the perks alone.
American Express Platinum card (application link)
- Get 25,000 points by applying for the card after spending $2,000 in the first three months
- Get up to $200 back in airline credit fees per calendar year. At the beginning of the year you will need to select one airline where you would like the fees reimbursed. You must make the purchases on the Amex Platinum card to be reimbursed. Some have reported being able to get gift card purchases for the airline reimbursed as well. Typically, these reimbursements are for checked baggage fees, flight change fees, status challenges with American Airlines, and in-flight food. Remember, that you get this per calendar year, so if you close your credit card prior to your first year anniversary fee hitting, you can still get the credit for two years.
- Access to Amex Fine Hotels & Resorts program. This can be a huge savings at many hotels where each participating program will give you some perk by staying there and booking through this program. Perks include room upgrades, late checkout, complimentary breakfast, $100 resort credit per day, resort dinning credit, etc. The free amenity varies per hotel, but can many times be an unbelievable value. The only downside is that you are not able to use a special rate (AAA, Corporate, etc.) to book the hotel, so you need to take that into consideration as well.
- Complimentary airport lounge access to more than 600 international airport lounges in more than 100 countries. This will give access to you plus a guest.
- Global entry fee reimbursement. You will receive a statement credit for $100 after applying and paying the $100 application fee for the Global Entry program. This membership is valid for 5 years and allows you to quickly get through US customs. You can learn more about Global Entry program here.
- Add up to three additional cardholders for $175 total. This entitles all three card holders lounge access and reimbursement for the Global Entry program. The additional cardholders will not get the $200 credit for airline incidentals (only the primary cardholder).
- Starwood Gold status – 50% bonus points on hotel spend
- Since it is an Amex you can use this card so sync to many of the social media promotions and many other Amex sponsored deals out there. I am currently a huge fan of Amex cards as I’ve received close to $1,000 back in statement credits for spend I would have done anyways!
- Since it is an Amex, has many purchase/travel protection perks when using your card, such as:
- Lost or Delayed Baggage – Insured up to $3,000 for carry-on and checked luggage – protects against loss, theft or damage
- Travel Accident Insurance – Insured up to $500,000 in coverage for Card member and family
- Purchase Protection – If you purchased an item using the card and within 90 days or purchase the item is lost, stolen, or has accidental damage, you can be reimbursed for the item up to $10,000 per occurrence and $50,000 total per year
- Return Protection – If you purchased an item using the card and within 90 days the merchant will no longer accept the item back as a return, you are eligible for a full refund up to $300 per item and $1,000 total per year
- No foreign transaction fees
- $450 annual fee – yikes!
- Only receive 1 point per $1 spent, there are no spend bonus, so not a card to use for travel, gas, groceries, etc. as with many other cards can you receive 2x-5x points on this categories – this is a huge disadvantage and is a reason why this card is not good for everyday spend, but simply the perks
- When using the Fine Hotels & Resorts program perks, you need to pay the standard rate – heavily discounted, AAA, corporate rates, for example, do not apply
Ritz Carlton card (application link)
- Get 70,000 points for new applicants after your first purchase on the card
- Earn 5 points per dollar spent for spent at a Ritz Carlton hotel and 2 points per dollar spent with airlines, car rentals, and restaurants. You’ll earn 1 point per dollar on all other purchases (including Marriott hotels – they do not receive the 5 points/$ bonus)
- Earn a $100 hotel credit when staying for 2 nights or more – this can be used for dinning, hotel activities, spas, etc. (this is only valid for paid stays)
- Three times a year you can upgrade to the Ritz-Carlton Club Level – this is only on paid stays and good for up to 7 nights (this will give you complimentary food throughout the day – a great perk!)
- Get Gold elite status for the first year – this will give you a 25% bonus on points earned as well as free internet and the chance for an upgrade (this will also give you Gold status with Marriott)
- Continue to earn Gold elite status by charging $10,000+ on your card annually
- Complimentary airport lounge access regardless of the airline you are flying (similar perk to the Amex Platinum card)
- $200 annual credit towards airline fees – checked baggage fees, change fees, etc. (another similar perk to the Amex platinum card, however slightly better as you do not have to select just one airline!)
- Additional cards are free (unlike the Amex platinum that charges $175 for up to three cards)
- No foreign transaction fees
- Ritz Carlton award redemption range from 30,000 points – 70,000 points, so the sign up bonus is not even good enough for 2 free nights and might not even be enough for one free night depending on where you are looking to stay (the Fairmont Visa and Hyatt Visa both give two free nights to be used at any of their respective hotels)
- $395 annual fee
- Can only redeem points at Marriott and Ritz Carlton (without diluting the value) – lacking flexibility
- While I do not have personal experience with this, there has been much controversy over which rates allow you the $100 resort credit and club lounge access – I believe only standard rates apply (which might be different then the lowest publicly available rate online) and AAA, corporate rates, etc. do not apply (this is a huge disadvantage as sometimes those rates can be $100+ off the standard rate)
Ultimately, both cards are those you get for the perks, not for every day spend. Both have similar perks with the airline lounge access and $200 airline incidental credit. The Amex platinum card credits you the $100 Global Entry fee, while the Ritz card gives you $100 hotel credit for a 2+ night stay and club lounge access three times a year (with certain paid rates). The Amex platinum card has NO spend bonus and the Ritz card is very minimal (the Chase Sapphire Preferred card has much more flexibility, and those points can be transferred to Marriott or many other loyalty programs so much more flexible and value). That is why neither card should be used for your every day spend, but just for the perks. With both cards you can earn perks that outweigh the annual fee and if kept less than a year can actually make you money by getting the $200 airline incidental credit twice since its based on calendar year.
I personally do not have either card yet, however, with a huge Amex Platinum bonus I will absolutely jump on the opportunity (although cancel within the year). I personally do not care about lounge access, but for those that do, getting one of these two cards is a great way to access the lounge and then get the additional perks that come along. I am also being selective with the Chase cards I apply for as there are many great promotions available.
You can learn about the various credit cards that earn you points and miles towards free travel here.
So which card do you think is better?
Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. I will, however, only post the best offers available as my ultimate goal is for you to travel for FREE (or close to)! If you want any help with figuring out the best credit cards for your travel goals, feel free to email me at email@example.com.