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On Monday I wrote about the co-branded Club Carlson credit cards, and I’ve been giving them some more thought. Actually not exclusively the cards, but the Club Carlson program as a whole, because I think it’s at a really interesting stage in its “development,” if you will.
For a moment it took me back to the good old days of Hyatt Gold Passport and their “Faster Free Nights” promotion. For several consecutive years Hyatt ran a promotion offering one free night at any Hyatt property in the world after two stays with no limit to the number of free nights you could earn. Think about that for a second — you stay two nights at your local airport Hyatt which is maybe $80 per night, and you get a free night at a Park Hyatt (be it in Sydney, Tokyo, Paris, etc.), that retails for upwards of $600 per night. And that doesn’t even factor in that back in the day the promotions were stackable, so you were often racking up another 5,000 points per stay on top of that.
The promotion was unreal and unsustainable. But Hyatt ran it year after year. I actually only got in on the promotion the last year it was offered, and took full advantage of it, and was able to redeem for some amazing Park Hyatts for a fraction of their retail cost. Hyatt’s strategy was clear — they were in a high growth period in terms of their global footprint (and still are), they wanted to grow their loyalty program, they were going public, and they had plans to introduce a co-branded credit card in the US. So given those circumstances who wouldn’t want to acquire loyal customers, even if it comes at a cost?
At this point Hyatt has come out and basically said they won’t be offering a similar promotion again, yet they’re still one of my favorite loyalty programs thanks to all the other improvements they’ve made. I think a lot of us are kicking ourselves for not having gotten in on the promotion earlier.
And the reason I’m mentioning that is because I see a lot of the same characteristics in Club Carlson now that I saw in Hyatt a few years ago. They just rebranded their loyalty program a couple of years ago, they just introduced a co-branded credit card in the US, and a majority of their properties aren’t even in the US. So they’re hungry for new customers… even if they come at a cost.
But what’s different about Club Carlson than Hyatt is that it’s not their loyalty program as such that’s unsustainably generous, but rather their credit card. Club Carlson has been running some really generous promotions not in any way related to their credit card, but what they offer with their credit card is so generous that it’s in a totally different league.
Again, Club Carlson’s award chart looks as follows:
Conservatively I value their points at 0.4 cents each. They have a ton of nice properties in London and Paris, for example, markets where your points usually don’t otherwise go very far. 50,000 points is enough for a free night at a really pricey hotel in London, for example, so I think valuing those points at $200 is pretty conservative (though I tend to value my points conservatively).
Meanwhile the Club Carlson credit card gives you the second night free on points redemptiosn, which more or less doubles the value of your points. So suddenly your Club Carlson points are conservatively worth 0.8 cents each. And this card offers 5x points per dollar spent on every day purchases, so that’s the equivalent of a 4% return on every day spend at a valuation of 0.8 cents each. Seriously, is there any other card that gives you that kind of a return?
The bottom line
I have two very strong feelings about Club Carlson and their credit card:
- You’ll want to get in on this ASAP, because the 85,000 point sign-up bonus, 40,000 point anniversary bonus, the complimentary second night on any redemption, the 5x points per dollar spent, and the Gold status
won’tcan’t last. They can’t possibly. You want to be the person that maxed out Hyatt’s “Faster Free Nights” promotion for several years in a row, and not the person that kicks themselves for waiting too long.
- You don’t want to hoard Club Carlson points. As they say, if something sounds too good to be true it probably is. We saw that recently with Hilton. So you want to rack up Club Carlson points quickly, and you want to burn them fairly quickly as well. Unlike Starwood points, Membership Rewards points, and Ultimate Rewards points, which are extremely flexible, there’s a high risk/cost to “holding” Club Carlson points in my opinion. But if I had to guess, I’d say we still have a bit of time before any major changes occur, since they’re really at the very beginning of their growth stage in the US market.
This card is part of my next round of credit card applications, which I plan on doing next week. On one hand I don’t really want to have to “deal” with more hotels — I already have top tier status with Hilton, Hyatt, and Starwood, and it’s enough of a stretch to qualify for those each year. On the other hand, what I’ve come to realize over the past several days is just how many legitimately nice properties Club Carlson has in places that other hotel chains don’t have many properties. For whatever reason I always kind of assumed their hotels were dumpy, though the more research I do, the more I realize that’s not the case.
I’ll have a post this weekend with 10 Club Carlson properties I’m eying, that I consider to be an especially good use of points.