Club Carlson Announces Program Changes March 15, 2014

Club Carlson has been one of the most generous hotel loyalty programs over the past several years, as they’ve run a bunch of generous promotions to try and gain market share. Not only has their loyalty program as such been generous, but the Club Carlson Premier Rewards Visa Signature® Card is easily one of the most rewarding hotel credit cards. The most valuable benefit offered by the card has to be that the second night of every award redemption is free, so it’s basically like a “buy one get one free” award redemption for as long as you have the card. That’s really tough to beat. The card only has a $75 annual fee, and as far as I’m concerned that’s offset by the 40,000 Gold Points you get upon your account anniversary each year.

I’ve certainly wondered when their next devaluation will be given how generous they’ve been, and the answer seems to be next month.

Just today Club Carlson announced several changes to their program which kick in as of March 15, 2014. Here’s a rundown of the changes:

Club Carlson will be introducing new Category 7 properties

Many hotels will be shifting categories, with some hotels going up and others going down. While award rates stay the same for Category 1-6 properties, Club Carlson is also introducing Category 7 properties, which will cost 70,000 Gold Points per nigh (previously the highest category cost 50,000 points per night). The nine new Category 7 hotels are as follows (not surprisingly all except one are in Europe):

  • Radisson Royal Hotel, Dubai
  • Radisson Blu Le Dokhan’s Hotel, Paris Trocadero
  • Radisson Blu 1835 Hotel & Thalasso, Cannes
  • Radisson Blu Le Metropolitan Hotel, Paris Eiffel
  • Radisson Blu Hotel Champs Elysees, Paris
  • The May Fair
  • Plaza on the River, London
  • art’otel, Amsterdam
  • Radisson Royal Hotel, Moscow

It’s worth noting that these new award rates only apply for bookings made on or after May 1, 2014.

While the addition of Category 7 sucks, it could have been much worse in my opinion.

Club_Carlson_Award_Chart
Old award chart with only six categories

Gold Points will be redeemable for premium rooms

Club Carlson members will have a choice of room types when redeeming Gold Points for award nights. In addition to standard rooms, members will be able to redeem points for premium rooms at participating hotels. Ultimately we don’t know what the rates or availability look like, so it’s anyone’s guess if this is actually worthwhile.

Award stays will now count towards elite status

Club Carlson members will be able to achieve elite status faster, because both eligible and award nights will begin to count towards status.

Reduction in elite bonus Gold Points

Previously Gold Elite members would earn a 50% points bonus, while Silver Elite members would earn a 25% points bonus. As of March 15 those bonuses will be cut to 35% and 15%, respectively. Concierge Elite members will continue to earn a 75% points bonus.

Earn Gold Points for food and beverage purchases on award stays

If charged to the room, elite members will be able to earn Gold Points for food and beverage purchases on award stays.

More minor changes

There are a few other changes which I don’t find especially significant:

  • Club Carlson will now offer an enhanced variety of additional gift cards at top merchants, with new redemption levels starting at 7,000 points
  • The Gold Points bonus for booking a stay online will now be offered only on a promotional basis, so watch for upcoming opportunities
  • Concierge Elite members will still receive a 75% Gold Points bonus on Eligible Stays, and will still have access to the Concierge Elite reservation number on the back of the Concierge Elite member cards. Our 24/7 Global Concierge Service will be discontinued effective March 1st, 2014.

Bottom line

These changes are no doubt negative on the whole. They’re introducing new Category 7 properties and changing hotel categories, while also cutting elite points bonuses (including the bonuses for Gold Elite status, which is what comes with the Club Carlson Premier Rewards Visa Signature® Card).

On the plus side, award nights will begin to count towards status, and you can earn points for food and beverage purchases made during award stays. Theoretically it’s also exciting that award nights will be redeemable for premium rooms, though in practice it’s anyone’s guess what availability and rates will look like.

(In the interest of full disclosure, I earn a referral bonus for anyone approved through some of the above links. Thanks for your support!)

Comments

  1. You can already redeem points for premium rooms.

    On 50,000 point hotels, like Zurich Airport, you can book a “Business Class” room for 75,000 points.

    Will this mean you could book a Suite with points?

  2. These changes seem relatively minor to me. Sure, the best hotels in London and Paris are now 70k points, but they didn’t touch the ridiculously generous credit card benefits of last night free and the 5x earnings on all credit card spend. Even spending 14k on the credit card to get 2 free nights at a nice property in London or Paris is still pretty darn generous, and I can’t think of another hotel program where that’s possible.

  3. I redeemed two nights at the Radisson Royal in Dubai over Christmas week for 50k points (using the credit card 2-for-1 deal). Sad to see the price go up as it was a spectacular value at the old rate using the 2-for-1 deal.

  4. *Breathes sigh of relief* That could have been so much worse. Also, oddly, one of the Paris ones (Opera) seems to be staying at 50,000

  5. Thanks, Lucky, for sharing this. I agree that it could have been a lot worse. I’ve been worrying that I’m building up a larger balance of CC points than I can use for desirable properties.

    @James K – Opera is no longer a Radisson property.

  6. “The nine new Category 7 hotels are as follows (not surprisingly they’re all in Europe):

    Radisson Royal Hotel, Dubai”

    Guy who travels around the world doesn’t know where Dubai is or what?

  7. Lucky, is Plaza on the River, London that good? I always stay at The May Fair and maybe I should change my upcoming stay to the Plaza?

  8. @ Alan — Haven’t stayed there myself, though have heard good things about both The Plaza on the River and The May Fair. Can’t go wrong with either, guess it depends what part of town you want to be in.

  9. Hi Lucky,

    Can you clarify if I get it right about the term?
    If my future stay is on or after May 1st, I have to make the reservation before Mar 15th. But if the planning stay is before May 1st, I can reserve the room with the old category anytime before May 1st.

    Am I right about it?

    Thanks

  10. @ yang — Best I can tell, you can make bookings at the old rates until April 30. Starting May 1 any bookings made (for future stays of course) would trigger the new costs. But you should be able to make a booking in April for a stay in May or later at the old rates.

  11. So that’s another hotel programme hit by points inflation from an overly generous US credit card offer. I wish these companies would open up their card deals to the rest of the world if we’re all going to be stung with the higher redemption rates!

  12. If I apply for this card now and get both the new account first-spend bonus and spend an additional $2,500, how much total do I need to spend to earn 2 nights free at the London Radisson Blu Leicester Square in May/June this summer (assuming it’s available by the time I spend enough)? I vaguely remember reading that I’d have to have enough Gold Points in my account to trade-in for the 2 nights upfront, and only get the 2nd night credited back after I’ve used my points to pay for the 2 nights (i.e. I’d need to have let’s say 100K points upfront (assuming 50K points per night) rather than actually trade in only 50K points for two nights). Can you clarify?

  13. @ Rick — Nope, you don’t need the full points upfront. You would just need 50,000 points total, assuming you can rack them up before the devaluation hits.

  14. @Lucky, assuming 50K Gold Points are required per night, if I had 100K Gold Points, could I make 2 reservations at one hotel for 2 nights each under the same name & get the 2nd night free on both reservations? That’d be 4 nights for a total of 100K GP. Or, would I have to switch hotels in the same city after 2 nights to get the 2nd night free on the 2nd reservation?

  15. @ Rick — If you do back-to-back reservations then you can’t do the second night free twice. Only the second night is free, and back-to-back reservations at the same hotel qualify as one stay.

    So you could do that if you have a night between the stays, or if you do two nights at two different hotels.

  16. @alan

    I stay there a lot near vauxhall / Lambeth Bridge because it was ironically cheaper with points!! it’s not fantastic and I don’t think it’s better than the Westminster on the Southbank which is in a better location ( it’s a bus ride or long walk from Waterloo, and it can feel isolated at the Riverside one being nearer Vauxhall) and has a nicer bar and a better restaurant. The food is good there but the feel of the hotel is a bit corporate. One thing to note, they are a conference venue so this might explain the strange increase. there are often big conferences held there. Westminster – a large hotel but much cooler and doesn’t have the conference feel. The Brasserie Joel is nicer as well.

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