Club Carlson Visa Perks Still Worthwhile

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Last week Club Carlson announced some changes to their program. Some of these changes were positive, like:

  • Award stays will count towards status
  • Points will be redeemable for premium rooms
  • Gold Points can be earned for food and beverage purchases on award stays

But the negative changes out-shadowed them, in that Club Carlson added a new Category 7 to their hotel portfolio, which will retail for 70,000 Gold Points per night. Previously Category 6 was the highest at 50,000 points per night, so this represents a 40% increase for select hotels. On the plus side, there are only nine hotels belonging to the new Category 7 initially, so it could have been much worse.

While this was no doubt a devaluation all things considered, it doesn’t even begin to compare to the Hilton HHonors devaluation we saw last year, for example.

As someone that’s US-based, probably the single most tempting aspect of the Club Carlson program is their co-branded credit card, the Club Carlson Premier Rewards Visa Signature Card.

I’ve written about the card in the past, but just to recap the basics:

  • The card comes with a sign-up bonus of 50,000 points after the first purchase, and an additional 35,000 points after spending $2,500 on the card within 90 days
  • You get 40,000 points on your account anniversary each year, which more than justifies the $75 annual fee
  • You get Club Carlson Gold status for as long you have the card, which most notably offers free internet and room upgrades, along with some other perks
  • You earn five points per dollar spent on everyday purchases
  • The second night of every award redemption is free, basically meaning you get “buy one get one free” award redemptions, assuming you stay in two night increments

That last benefit is so generous that it really puts the card in a league of its own, assuming you have Club Carlson properties you’re interested in staying at.

And while a 40% increase in the number of points required for top hotels sucks, on the plus side it’s only nine properties.

Compare that to Hilton, where we saw nearly a 100% increase in the number of points required at far more hotels than that.

The card offers five points per dollar for everyday spend, so realistically for Club Carlson’s top hotels you’re looking at 50,000-70,000 points per night. If you’re accruing those points at the rate of five points per dollar, that’s $10,000-14,000 of spend per free night.

But when you factor in that every second night is free, that means you’re basically earning a free night for every $5,000-7,000 of spend. Fortunately there are lots of other ways to accrue Club Carlson Gold Points as well, like through hotel promotions, the annual bonus, and the occasional promotion on the purchase of points.

Radisson Blu Cannes Pool
The Radisson Blu Cannes retails for over $450 per night in summer.

So while the devaluation is no doubt disappointing, it doesn’t fundamentally change the value proposition of the card relative to other hotel cards, in my opinion. While there are other hotel cards that are plenty rewarding, I can’t think of any others that get you a free night at a top tier hotel for $5,000-7,000 of non-bonused spend.

And really, the card is worth keeping for the sign-up bonus, anniversary bonus, and “buy one get one free” capability alone.

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Comments

  1. Since my travel is mainly family oriented so free breakfast is a huge saver. Despite all the massive devaluation by Hilton, their gold status is still very valuable to me and saves a ton.

  2. FYI. Here I am looking at this strictly from the POV of somebody earning points by actually staying at Club Carlson properties regularly (which seem to be the minority).

    I do mainly one night business stays. Let’s say the average rate is $100. As Concierge, with 75% bonus, I’ll get 3,500 points for the stay (100X20x1.75) when there is no internet booking bonus. In the past I would have gotten 6,500 points (with the 3,000 Concierge internet booking bonus).

    With a 50K hotel going to 70K it will take 20 one night stays for me to get the reward night. It used to take less than 8. That’s a big hit when it comes to earning with stays with nothing else special going on.

    The Club Carlson program won’t be “bad”, but this is certainly the great equalizer, and when there are no special Club Carlson promos on there is a good chance I will be elsewhere where promos are happening.

  3. Don’t get me wrong. I have the credit card, and will keep it (and can certainly see why bloggers have their emphasis on the fact that the card is still good).

    The changes certainly hit people that pay for staying at the properties, and that aspect of earning award nights, much more than people getting points in all the other ways.

  4. Is there a limit to how many free nights you can get per property, per stay? In other words, could I book 4 consecutive nights and only pay 2 nights worth of points?

  5. @ Taryn — Yes, only the second night of a given stay is free. So you can’t book two back to back reservations for two nights each at the same property.

    That being said, you can do two nights at one property and then two nights at another property, and the second night at both properties would be free. Alternatively, if you skip a night between reservations then the second night would be free on both reservations as well.

  6. Have both personal and bus. cc cards,changes won’t affect my use of these cards. Still a great program. You said Gold status is good as long as you have the card. On one of my cards it says Gold status valid through 2/15. Do I lose it after that date? Can anyone answer this? Thanks.

  7. If only they had more hotels. The value of the program and card is very good, I believe. Most of their nicest hotels are in the 38-50 k range, costing 8-10k of spend. That’s better than any other hotel cc, I believe. In addition, they give out a fair number of points for stays and cc use in the hotel. After three nights and hitting the minimum spend on the cc, I’m at 140k points, worth 6-8 nights with the free night thrown in.

  8. Lucky, interesting, you say “So you can’t book two back to back reservations for two nights each at the same property.” – have you actually tried this? will the system reject the second reservation?
    I have this card and all along I assumes it was possible to book back-to-back reservation to take advantage of free nights.
    This is sort of disappointing.

  9. @ Lantean & Lucky — if you are traveling with a friend/partner/SO and both of you have CC cards, wouldn’t you be able to book two nights on one card and two nights on another?

  10. Ivan – As long as you do one booking under your Carlson account, credit card and name, and they books their’s under their account number, credit card, and name, it will work.

    You’ll have to talk with the hotel seeing if you can avoid a room change.

  11. I think in terms of “credit card spend to earn a free night”. Club Carlson remains the clear winner (with “last night free” bonus, $5,000 or less per free night at most properties, vs. $10,000 or more at other chains for comparable properties).

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