Abstract Rolling contact fatigue (RCF) behaviors of titanium matrix composites (TiB+TiC)/Ti–6Al–4V are investigated, including the microstructural variables, the stress distribution and the RCF life. The effect of reinforcements on RCF is observed in detail. The microstructural information, especially pertaining to the reinforcements, is obtained through scanning electron microscope. The influence of reinforcements on stress distribution is studied via analyses of subsurface stress distributions based on an approximate numerical method, in which the reinforcement distributions are taken into account. The results reveal that the existence of reinforcements causes RCF life reduction due to the stress concentration in and around the reinforcements.