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To be fair, that’s partly because RCI Elite Rewards Mastercard isn’t a traditional hotel or general-purpose travel card. Rather, it’s the best way to take advantage of the boundless savings opportunities available through the RCI Elite Rewards program, an affinity marketing program operated by Augeo.
You can use your RCI Elite Rewards points, known simply as Rewards, to purchase almost anything through RCI’s e-commerce platform and the affiliated Perks Rewards Mall and Ampre portals. You earn Rewards for every purchase, and when you’ve accumulated enough, you can redeem for anything on sale in the RCI universe.
RCI Elite Rewards is a great way to save on the products, experiences, and adventures you already purchase every day. Here’s what you need to know about its features, advantages, drawbacks, and overall suitability.
You earn 2,500 bonus RCI Elite Rewards (“Rewards”) when you open your account and make your first purchase. That’s worth up to $31.25 when redeemed for gift cards, general merchandise, and resort credits with RCI and other travel partners.
Earning RCI Elite Rewards
RCI Elite Rewards Mastercard earns unlimited 2 Rewards per $1 spent on:
- Room charges (purchases) at participating hotel and resort properties (full list at RCIEliteRewards.RCI.com)
- Purchases with participating RCI car rental partners
- Purchases from partners listed in the Ampre and Perks Rewards Mall rewards portals
- Eligible purchases made directly through the RCI platform, excluding certain travel purchases
- Purchases made via promotional offers extended by participating RCI partners
All other purchases earn unlimited 1 Reward per $1 spent, with no earning caps or other limitations. Some Ampre and Perks Mall partners offer opportunities to earn additional bonus Rewards. For instance, through Ampre, you can earn 4 bonus Rewards per $1 spent on purchases at Olive Garden restaurants, for a total of 6 Rewards per $1 spent. These bonus offers, and the selection of participating merchants in general, change frequently, so it’s best to check back often. Once earned, Rewards don’t expire as long as your account remains open and in good standing.
Redeeming RCI Elite Rewards
You can redeem your RCI Elite Rewards for pretty much anything available on the RCI Elite Rewards platform. Eligible categories include:
- Gift cards from dozens of merchant partners, including national restaurant chains, office supply stores, department stores, social coupon providers, and more
- General merchandise, from electronics and appliances to home improvement products and clothing
- Travel reservations made through RCI’s online booking portal, with no blackout dates or Saturday night stay requirements
- Special experiences, including sporting events and vacation packages
- RCI Resort Dollars, which are resort credits that can be redeemed for virtually any purchase on participating hotel and resort grounds
- RCI Member Rewards, which can be redeemed for eligible purchases made directly through the RCI platform (general merchandise)
Other options abound. When redeemed for travel reservations, Rewards are typically worth $0.01 apiece. When redeemed for Resort Dollars, Rewards are worth roughly $0.0075 apiece. When redeemed for RCI Member Rewards, Rewards are worth $0.0125 apiece. Merchandise redemption values vary significantly based on the underlying cost of the product or service.
RCI Elite Rewards Mastercard has a 15-month 0% APR introductory promotion for balance transfers. Qualifying transfers must be made within 45 days of account opening. Following the end of the promotion, the regular balance transfer rate applies. There is no comparable purchase promotion.
RCI Elite Rewards Mastercard cardholders enjoy complimentary, 24/7 concierge service through Mastercard. Capabilities include travel and event bookings, reservations, general assistance for travelers, and more.
RCI Elite Rewards Mastercard has no annual fee. Foreign transactions cost 3%. Cash advances cost the greater of $10 or 5%. Balance transfers cost the greater of $5 or 3%. Late and returned payments cost up to $37.
This card requires good to excellent credit. If you have any rough patches in your recent credit history, you may struggle to qualify.
- No Annual Fee. RCI Elite Rewards Mastercard has no annual fee. For frugal cardholders who prefer to use this card solely to make purchases within the RCI and partner ecosystem, this is a major advantage that can significantly enhance its earning power.
- Generous Introductory APR Promotion. This card’s introductory 0% APR balance transfer promotion lasts unusually long – fifteen months from your account opening date for transfers made within the first 45 days. If you’re looking for a rewards credit card that can help you get a handle on high-interest credit card debt, this is a very good option.
- Returns Reliably up to 2.5% on Some Redemptions. When you redeem your Rewards for RCI Member Rewards, their value rises to $0.0125 apiece. That’s an effective 2.5% rate of return on RCI and partner spending, which earns unlimited 2 Rewards per $1 spent on purchases. And that’s not including bonus Rewards earned through the Ampre portal – as many as 5 bonus Rewards per $1 spent – though these bonus offers are subject to change.
- Opportunities to Earn Bonus Rewards at Higher Rates. Purchases made through Ampre, Perks Rewards Mall, and certain partners are eligible for bonus Rewards, beyond the unlimited 2-Rewards-per-$1-spent rate. If you plan your spending properly and wait for the right deals before pulling the trigger, RCI Elite Rewards Mastercard really pulls its weight.
- Expansive Rewards Program. With RCI Elite Rewards Mastercard, you can earn 2x Rewards on a vast range of products and services available through RCI and its partners. When it comes time to redeem, you can use those same Rewards to reduce or negate the cost of those same products and services. This is a big advantage over competing cards with more restrictive rewards programs that only allow you to redeem for, say, travel purchases.
- Easily Attainable Sign-Up Bonus. This card’s sign-up bonus is exceedingly easy to attain. All you have to do to earn 2,500 bonus Rewards is make a single purchase – in any amount – after opening your account. That’s a big advantage over premium travel credit cards’ sign-up bonuses, which sometimes require thousands in purchases within three or four months of account opening.
- No Penalty Interest Charges. This card doesn’t charge penalty interest. If you occasionally miss payments due to liquidity issues or unexpected expenses, this is a huge help that can significantly reduce your long-term interest costs.
- Difficult to Calculate Value of Some Redemption Options. RCI Elite Rewards Mastercard has a complex rewards program. It’s particularly vexing that the value of the program’s redemption options varies so widely – from well under $0.01 per Reward for Resort Dollars, to $0.0125 per Reward for RCI Member Rewards, to wildly variable values for general merchandise. These variable values make it hard to plan for general merchandise redemptions and complicate the important process of determining whether you’re getting a good deal for your redeemed Rewards.
- 3% Foreign Transaction Fee. This card has a 3% foreign transaction fee – more than enough to offset its earning power. If you routinely travel outside the United States, perhaps to international hotels and resorts that partner with RCI, consider getting a competing card with no foreign transaction fee. Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, which also has generous travel benefits, is a solid choice.
- Smallish Sign-Up Bonus. Though easy to attain, this card’s sign-up bonus isn’t particularly generous. The most it’s reliably worth is $31.25 when redeemed for RCI Member Rewards. If you redeem for Resort Dollars, it’s worth approximately $20. If you’re looking for a more generous sign-up bonus, check out Chase Freedom Unlimited, which pays out $200 in cash when you spend $500 within three months of opening your account.
- Few Value-Added Benefits. RCI Elite Rewards Mastercard has few value-added benefits, such as travel perks or complimentary extended warranties. Many competing cash back credit cards, including Blue Cash Everyday Card from American Express, include generous benefits that can come in handy on the road, in the store, or at home.
- Low Baseline Rewards Rate. This card earns just 1 Reward per $1 spent on most purchases. It’s therefore not a suitable general-spending card. For a better baseline earning rate, check out Citi Double Cash Card, which earns unlimited 2% cash back on all purchases.
- No Automatic Loyalty Status or Benefits. RCI Elite Rewards Mastercard doesn’t come with automatic loyalty status or members-only benefits as a matter of course. This is problematic for cardholders who like to be rewarded for remaining loyal to brands or service providers – in this case, RCI and its many partners. Many popular airline credit cards, such as Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select Mastercard, offer potentially valuable perks, such as free checked bags and in-flight discounts. Some popular hotel cards, such as the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass Card and IHG Rewards Club Select Credit Card, go one step further and extend complimentary elite status to cardholders. Depending on the hotel family, elite status benefits range from accelerated point earnings and flexible check-out times to complimentary room upgrades and free welcome gifts.
RCI Elite Rewards Mastercard is a shopping hacker’s dream. The complex RCI Elite Rewards program rewards consumers willing to put in the time and effort to find the best deals on available merchandise, services, and experiences – and patient enough to put off major purchases until the deal landscape aligns.
By the same token, RCI Elite Rewards Mastercard can be a massive temptation for impulse shoppers. Most of the products and services available through the RCI Elite Rewards platform and partner portals aren’t essential; foregoing them won’t change your life for the worse. It’s best to use this card only to purchase things at a discount that you’d buy anyway. If you can keep this thrifty deal with yourself, this card will serve you well.