About RCI Elite Rewards MasterCard

By J.R. Duren
HighYa Staff Published on: Oct 16, 2017

Timeshares aren’t as popular as they used to be, but the RCI Elite Rewards MasterCard is helping maintain customer loyalty.

Exactly how the card does that is pretty easy to explain. It offers, via a points system, certain rewards that you can put toward your timeshare bookings or to amenities and activities available at RCI resorts around the world.

The card is something that can be a tool for the timeshare owners themselves, but it also can work on behalf of family owners who want to use their parents’ or friends’ timeshare as a guest.

We’ll explain how all that works later in this review. For now, it’s important to know that this is a pretty standard travel rewards credit card with very timeshare-specific perks.

If you’re already a fan of RCI, own a timeshare or have stayed at an RCI timeshare via an owner, then you might find this card has solid value.

However, if you’re just looking for a credit card with good resort rewards, then you might find some shortcomings in this card.

The question is, above all else, is this card the right fit for you? Now, you can just go with your gut instinct and say “yes” or “no,” but the wise choice would be to examine all the areas of the card that will affect you the most.

We’ve done a ton of research on credit cards and we’ve found that the areas of the RCI Elite Rewards MasterCard that matter most to consumers are:

  • Rewards
  • Benefits
  • Rates and fees
  • Public opinion about the card

Before you start reading through what we’ve found in each of these sections, remember that every credit card has its pros, cons, strengths and weaknesses. Each card also has a very specific type of consumer who will enjoy the card the most.

After we talk about the RCI Elite Rewards card’s rewards, benefits, rates/fees and public opinions, we’ll offer you our thoughts about its pros, cons and who we think it’s good for.

The RCI Elite Rewards MasterCard’s Rewards

The RCI Elite Rewards has a rewards structure that’s very similar to airline rewards credit cards: 2x on brand purchases and 1x on everything else.

What exactly does all that mean? We’ll explain it to you, so don’t worry.

2x Rewards on RCI Purchases

Whenever you use your credit card to make RCI purchases, you’ll earn 2 rewards points for every dollar you spend.

So, if you buy a $199 Extra Vacations package, you could earn 398 rewards points. As far as travel cards go, airlines use the same 2x bonus system when you spend money on their sites.

Hotels, however, are a different breed of credit card. Multiple cards –Club Carlson, Hilton HHonors – offer more than 10 points per dollar. We find the RCI Elite Rewards interesting because it takes the airline route rather than the hotel route.

The next question here is how much those rewards points are worth. Every RCI point you earn has a value of $0.01. So, 10,000 points are worth $100.

We read through what ended up being an insanely long list of terms and conditions and found that the 2x reward rate actually extends to RCI’s relationships with other travel brands; it’s not limited to the RCI name:

  • Room charges at Days Inn, Howard Johnson, Ramada, Super 8, Travelodge and Wingate
  • Car rentals at Avis and Budget

Redeeming Your RCI Points

Most credit cards you get have restrictions and rules about how you can redeem points. For example, points you get with the United TravelBank card are deposited as cash that you can use to book flights.

The RCI Elite Rewards card gives you several options for redeeming your points: RCI Resort Dollars and RCI Member Rewards credits.

RCI Resort Dollars

You have the option of using your points for RCI Resort Dollars, which basically amounts to an RCI gift card you can use when you go to an RCI resort.

Many of the premier RCI resorts have restaurants and other amenities where you can use your gift card. For example, the Holiday Inn Vacations Club at Orange Lake in Kissimmee, Fl., features multiple restaurants as well as paid amenities like miniature golf, a climbing wall, a lazy river and an inflatable waterslide.

You can use your RCI resort dollars to pay for those activities.

RCI Member Rewards Credits

Earlier we said that your RCI rewards points are worth $0.01 per point. That’s true, unless you redeem them for RCI member rewards credits. If you do that, then your points redemption value is boosted from 1x to 1.25x.

This means those 2,000 RCI rewards points are actually worth $125 in member rewards credits. Since I have access to an RCI account, I logged in and checked out what you can use member rewards balances for.

Turns out, according to RCI, you can use them for membership renewal fees, exchange fees, guest certificates and other options.

In other words, if you had family members or friends booking vacations and paying exchange fees and guest certificates, then there’s a good chance the rewards you earn on your RCI Elite Rewards could pay for their stay.

1x Rewards on Everything Else

Any purchases that don’t earn the 2x bonus will get 1 point per dollar, save for a few random cash-related purchases like credit card fees, traveler’s checks, gambling deposits and the like.

With this in mind, we believe that you can earn, as a family, at least 20,000 points a year. That points total is worth $200 in RCI gift cards or $250 in member rewards.

You aren’t limited to redeeming your points for RCI stays, though. The fine print says you can use your rewards balance to book airfare and car rentals through RCI, too.

2,500 Bonus Points

To sweeten the pot, RCI will give you 2,500 rewards points when you make your first purchase. It will take up to 60 days for those rewards points to show up in your account.

The RCI Elite Rewards MasterCard’s Benefits

There are two main non-rewards related benefits you get with your RCI Elite Rewards card: concierge and fraud protection.

The card’s concierge service is something offered through MasterCard. Basically, you call a number given by MasterCard and the phone representative will offer recommendations for where to eat, where to stay and which events to check out wherever you are.

As for fraud liability, it’s a feature that nearly every credit card offers. If someone steals your credit card or credit card number and makes purchases, you aren’t liable for any of the transactions.

The RCI Elite Rewards MasterCard’s Rates and Fees

Everything you’ve read so far is the good side of the RCI Elite Rewards card. While rates and fees aren’t inherently bad, they can become a serious problem if you pay late all the time and carry a balance.

Here’s a quick list of the RCI card’s rates and fees:

  • Purchase and balance transfer APR: 15.99%, 19.99% or 22.99%
  • Cash advance APR: 26.24%
  • Balance transfer fee: 3%
  • Cash advance fee: 5%
  • Foreign transaction fee: 3%
  • Late/returned payment fee: $37
  • Annual fee: None

The RCI Elite Rewards is a travel rewards card – hotels, specifically. These types of credit cards usually don’t’ have foreign transaction fees because the assumption is people who love to travel will use the card.

On the positive side, the RCI card offers 0% APR on balance transfers for 15 months if you make those transfers in the first 45 days after being approved for the card. Any balance leftover at the end of 15 months will be hit with the APRs we listed above.

Public Opinion About the RCI Elite Rewards MasterCard

The few websites who’ve reviewed this credit card give it below average ratings, as do the smattering of consumers who left critical reviews of the card.

As far as credit card rewards go, our research shows that the RCI Elite Rewards card doesn’t offer a lot of benefits. Along with the other sites we’ve reviewed, we agree that the card’s rewards rate is mediocre.

We predict you could earn around 20,000 rewards points a year with the RCI Elite card, whereas we believe you could earn $400 year with that spending via the Citi Double Cash credit card, which has a 2% cash rewards rate.

Pros of the RCI Elite Rewards Card

This card’s strengths are its lack of an annual fee and 15 months of 0% interest on balance transfers. This combined lack of interest and fees makes this card stand out among hotel, airline and travel rewards cards.

Cons of the RCI Elite Rewards Card

The downside to this card, in our opinion, is the lack of a lucrative rewards program. We also think it misses the mark in terms of status upgrades.

The leading hotel rewards cards like the Hyatt Visa and Marriott Rewards Premier give customers upgraded status in their loyalty programs.

We’d like to see the RCI Elite Rewards card offer some sort of discount on RCI Platinum status, a designation that, among other things, gives its members 10% certain resort amenities and bookings.

Who We Think This Card Is Good For

Based on the rewards structure of this card, we believe the person who could best use this card is someone who is an RCI member, travels frequently and uses the RCI website to book all their travel.

IF you’re not convinced the RCI Elite Rewards card is for you but you want to find a hotel credit card that can work to your advantage, stop by our Best Hotel Rewards Credit Card of 2017 article.

In the article, we compare seven hotel credit cards across eight categories to give you a solid perspective on which card could be the best fit for your travel preferences.

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