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Reader Stannis asked the following question on a recent post about redeeming Starpoints:
On the earning side, would you agree that all unbonused spend should rather be directed to the Club Carlson card? I’ve recently acquired this card and have shifted my spending away from the SPG Amex to it instead because of the 5x earning and the last-night-free redemption.
I’d argue two of the most lucrative credit cards for everyday, non-bonused spend are the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express and Club Carlson Premier Rewards Visa Signature® Card.
As a reminder, the Starwood American Express offers one Starpoint per dollar spent on everyday spend, while the Club Carlson Rewards Visa Card offers five Gold Points per dollar spent.
As anyone involved in this hobby knows, not all points currencies are created equal. In terms of valuations, I value these points currencies roughly as follows:
- Starwood Preferred Guest Points: ~2.2 cents per point (return of ~2.2% per dollar spent)
- Club Carlson Gold Points: ~0.4 cents per point (return of ~2.0% per dollar spent)
On the surface that means the Starwood Preferred Guest Card is better, though lets look at this a bit more closely:
Benefits to spending on the Club Carlson Premier Rewards Visa Card
The benefits of the Club Carlson Card go far beyond the return on everyday spend. The biggest perk of the card is that the second night of every award redemption is free whenever you redeem points.
My valuation of 0.4 cents per point doesn’t account for that benefit. So if you only stay in two night increments, that can potentially increase the value of Club Carlson points to ~0.8 cents each. At five points per dollar, that’s potentially a return of ~4% on everyday spend.
Of course this is a very specific use of points. Club Carlson points are most useful for stays in Europe, and the quality of hotels can vary substantially, as I recently experienced.
Radisson Blu Oslo Airport
Some people can’t get enough of Club Carlson points, while others can’t seem to find a use for them.
Benefits to spending on the Starwood Preferred Guest American Express
The single greatest benefit of Starpoints is how versatile they are. They can efficiently be used for hotel stays and for airline mileage transfers, given that they convert 1:1 to about two dozen airline programs, and for every 20,000 points you transfer you get a 5,000 point bonus.
So if you want to collect a flexible points currency because you don’t really know how you want to redeem your points, Starpoints are tough to beat.
Under a very specific set of circumstances I do think you can get a higher return on everyday spend using the Club Carlson Premier Rewards Visa Signature® Card. This assumes at least some of the following conditions:
- You mostly redeem hotel points for two night stays
- You have a fairly short term use of points (since they could devalue the program in the future)
- You stay in cities where Club Carlson properties represent a good value
That being said, if your plans aren’t quite as concrete and focused, I do think the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express is a “safer” bet, since you’re not tied into one currency quite as much.