Big Changes Coming To The Club Carlson Visa Card?

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I’ve written extensively about the Club Carlson Premier Rewards Visa Signature® Card, which is hands down one of the most rewarding hotel credit cards out there.

Radisson-Blu-Royal-Copenhagen-12

What makes this card so special is that:

  • You earn 40,000 bonus Club Carlson Gold Points upon your account anniversary each year
  • You receive Club Carlson Gold status for as long as you have the card
  • You receive a free night when you redeem for two or more award nights, up to 50 bonus nights per year

While all those benefits are lucrative, the last one is the one that truly stands out. Just for having the credit card you can potentially double the value of your points, as long as you stay in two night increments.

Club-Carlson-4

A lot of people have said that the benefit is too good to last, and that might indeed be the case. The latest statement which Club Carlson sent out to members includes the following:

Starting 6/1/2015 Cardmembers can earn a Free Night at a Carlson Rezidor hotel by spending $10,000 annually and paying the annual fee. Free Night replaces Bonus Award Night. terms and conditions apply.

This suggests that:

  • The second free night award redemption benefit will be discontinued as of June 1, 2015
  • That benefit will be replaced by an annual free night when you spend $10,000 on the card per year

If this is indeed the case, there’s no denying it would be a huge blow to the value of the card. But it also wouldn’t surprise me, because that benefit really was that good.

I actually think the Club Carlson Visa is still worth holding onto for the 40,000 points annually and the Gold status alone. Club Carlson is still incredibly rewarding for hotel stays. So while I wouldn’t put much spend on the Club Carlson Visa anymore, it wouldn’t change my desire to hold onto the card.

So if you have the the Club Carlson Visa you might want to try and redeem your points before June 1, 2015, to maximize the free night benefit. And if you don’t have the card, it could still make sense to sign-up as soon as possible so you can still redeem some points on the card using the second night free benefit.

To those of you with the card, does the second free night benefit being eliminated change your desire to hold onto the card?

(Tip of the hat to Bd)

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Comments

  1. I wonder if they will pro-rate the annual fee if we cancel on June 1st. With this change, this card is worthless.

  2. The card unfortunately isn’t available in Europe, but the 2nd nigt free was one of the big reasons I wanted one. With other cards in my portfolio, I probably wouldn’t spend $10k on the card if it would be available, so the card is definately less valuable now. But, 40k anually and Gold status isn’t too bad, so I’d probably still get it if I could.

  3. Sad news! I have taken advantage of this benefit numerous times in the past – the most recent being in their aspirational properties in Paris. Just to clarify, do we get a free night every Club Carlson stay after spending 10K or do we only get 1 free night in total per year after meeting spend? I am hoping it’s the former but I am not getting my hopes up. Also does the free night roll over to next year or does it expire if unused?

  4. Gold status is nearly worthless. If it were Concierge I’d think differently.

    40k points for a $75 fee? They minted points like mad recently. That’s a lousy reason to keep it.

  5. What happens to reservations made for stays past June 1st? Have a couple for my planned Scandinavia trip in September and it would be a blow if those aren’t honored.

  6. I’m going to have to really debate this. Not that I use this card often or stay at Club Carlson properties often, but last year I had two stays where I did the BOGO with points at properties that would have cost $400+ a night. So that easily already saved me $800 plus those were the points I earned just for the sign up bonus. So about $1600 in savings. The BOGO is really worth it to me.

  7. If I book now for a June/July stay, but cancel in May, would the bonus night still apply? or do I have to be a cardmember during the stay?

  8. Taking this card’s one unique benefit away makes it identical to all those other hotel branded cards. 40,000 points yearly for a card with annual fee and foreign transaction fee does not seem all that special.

    It’s clever how they announce this after their daily getaway promotion.

  9. Still hasn’t been pulled from their Visa sign up page, no surprise as they probably want to bait and switch a few more customers.

    @mangoceviche terms say you must be a cardholder at the time of the stay.

    We just signed my significant other up a few weeks ago, so going to be calling to get the annual fee waived.

  10. Slightly OT, but one value proposition of this card, and Club Carlson points generally, is that they are (to my knowledge) the very last program that has freely transferable points. It’s only for elites, but if you have the card, you’re Gold(en).

  11. I wonder if the annual points bonus will also be replaced by this free night. It sounds like they are “enhancing” the card by combining two benefits into one and adding a spend requirement.

  12. Just great – planning a trip to Dublin summer of 16 and first BA bones me and now this…..damn it!

  13. For those with the IHG card and Platinum Elite status you can status match to Club Carlson Gold.

    Dang… I will be dumping this card.

  14. Thanks so much for this info. I have a reservation booked for next weekend. I need to reevaluate, possibly rebook.

  15. It was always too good to be true. I’ve got 10 nights in Europe booked for 190,000 points this summer. The rack rate is $2000 and the points cost me about $600 to acquire. I think CC lets you book two years in advance or so, so we should all make long term or speculative plans before June and then cancel our cards.

  16. The mentality in the travel blogosphere that emphasizes short-term gains over longer-term returns needs to be discouraged, in my view. Thanks to their co-branded credit card, which enables their top-tier elites to rake in loads of loyalty points through revenue stays at a rate of up to 45points/$ (by far the highest), Club Carlson still offers the best (lowest) “spend per free night” ratio of any program, and thus would still represent a great “entry-level” program and great value for folks who play the mile/point game on their own dime and are simply looking for ways to subsidize, e.g., a single small family vacation a year. “Aspirational” redemptions may not be right for everyone… 😉

  17. I get why they eliminated it since it seems like everyone is maxing it out with only two night stays and hopping hotels. I still think it’s a shame they couldn’t have reduced the maximum per year to something like 1 to 5 nights. Definitely canceling my card which just had the fee hit a few months ago. I got the card in early 2013 and stayed in a CC property in July 2013 in London when I got one free night and at the radisson blu st Martin in dec 2013 when I also got a free night. I’ve paid the fee a total of three times I believe so better get a refund on this third fee. $85 for 40k free points isn’t worth it at all when I don’t have much confidence in them not devaluing soon. Bummer and wish I could have gotten more value out of it but outside of Europe there’s not that many worthwhile properties especially after they’ve removed their two nicest Caribbean properties (St Martin and Aruba).

  18. But, what if you have a reservation booked for September? (or anytime after this “potential change?”) If you have the card, and you book a two night stay it clearly shows the “half-points,” (aka free night) on the reservation. Do you think they will rescind these reservations or re-price them? Carlson has already deducted that amount of points for the stay anyway. (based on the “free” night) So, in essence, you are holding a future reservation that is confirmed at the “lower” (free night) rate.

  19. Ironically, now I can consider them for 1 night stays. This does now kill this card for unbonused spend, I guess I’ll hafta get an SPG Amex.

  20. The Club Carlson Visa web page still advertises the Bonus Award Night as a benefit. It would be super tacky for them to advertise it in April and yank it away in June, or even later this year. I hope they don’t, I’ve used it twice and it’s saved me quite a bit of money.

  21. The BOGO benefit was the main reason why my wife and I each got the card, so the value of the card will be greatly diminished when this benefit goes away. My family was able to book week-long stays at half price by using the BOGO benefit and having two nights booked with my card, the following two nights on my wife’s, then the following two nights on mine, and so forth. It is a pity to see this opportunity go away.

    That said, I am grateful to Club Carlson for the tremendous value that they offered with the card for so long. What fun it was to have quick weekend getaways at half price! All good things must come to an end, and now my wife and I will do what we can to each earn the one free night per year.

  22. @Stannis — I am curious. What would the SPG AMEX do for you with a return of 1 pt/$ on general spend and just 2pts/$ for revenue stays or on-property spend, and some of the most expensive top-tier awards in the business?

  23. The bloom is off the rose. U.S. bank phone lines this morning are probably smoking due to the number of calls coming in to cancel…

  24. This definitely sucks and I am not happy about the change since I just got approved for the card 2 days ago. That said, do you think the 5x everywhere combined with the annual points and free night after 10K still make it worth while to pay the fee?

  25. you might want to follow up this post with one telling folks how to cancel a USBank card. Foreign transaction fees on a card where the only bonus spend is at their properties … And the only decent ones are oversees. No other bonus categories. Useless gold status. Some folks might find this renewal bonus a convenient way to buy CC pts but I’m not sure what the case will be to put regular spend on it. I hope US Bank is ready for this one to fall and fall hard.

  26. glad i didn’t buy any points from daily getaways!
    will be canceling the card for sure, not worth it any more.

  27. ARGH… I just applied for the card and was planning on using the second free night for a stay in Iceland… hope it comes really soon and the points post even quicker!

  28. People, please calm down! Nothing has been announced yet and the language in the email Lucky cited is vague. It is possible that they are getting rid of the 40,000 point renewal and replacing it with a free night for $10,000 spend. Let’s wait until we get something official before freaking out.

    Also, for existing reservations after June 1st, they have to honor them, otherwise they would breach their contract and USBank could get in a lot of trouble with regulators.

  29. I just sent an email through the USBank website asking them to waive/pro-rate my annual fee due to the removal of one of the benefits of the card where the sign-up page does not show that the Award Night benefit is subject to change/removal at any time.

    2 accounts, 1 for me, one for my gf were just opened in the past 2 weeks, so by the time those points hit, I won’t have use of the benefit and since a Credit pull was already done affecting my credit I asked that they waive the annual fee for those accounts as well as this amounted to bait & switch and I’d have no choice but to file a complaint with the FTC/State AoG office… ESPECIALLY as they still offer the benefit on their sign-up page even though the offer will expire in less than 2 months.

  30. Even though I’m still pretty upset, they way I think about it is as follows when comparing it to SPG when using SPG for hotel redemptions: the annual fees arebasically the same ($10 difference) and the SPG doesn’t give an annual bonus or a bonus for spend. The redemption values are about the same because 50k at 5x a point is the same as an SPG for 10k so thats a wash. SPG hotels might be better but for $10k in spend on both cards annually, you get one SPG night at most hotels or 3 at Carlson (annual 40k, free night with $10k spend and 50k with the $10k in spend). Because of this, I think it’s still worth keeping the card.

  31. @Aaron — That is the sort of cool-headed analyses that generally lack when a significant programmatic change (e.g., a devaluation or a CC benefit change) is announced. Folks just vow to jump ship or to take some drastic action (“I will trade this lousy card for the AMEX SPG!”) without coolly assessing how the change would affect them personally…

    I know the SPG AMEX. It is grossly and ridiculously overvalued by the bloggers…

  32. @tom please calm down as nothing is announced? You better check your paper statement on the usbank site as it has been announced. This is not speculation. This is fact. From my statement:
    “Program Update Notice
    For Your Club Carlson Visa
    Starting 6/1/2015 Cardmembers can earn a Free Night at a Carlson Rezidor hotel by spending $10,000 annually and paying the annual fee. Free Night replaces Bonus Award Night. Terms & Conditions apply. Clubcarlsonvisa.com”

  33. Even worse, that “free night” for $10K spend is only good for US (ie crap) properties. It’s not valid at overseas properties.

  34. Well it figures. I spend the last year of loyally staying at CC hotels racking up over 750,000 in points, Concierge status, etc. I planned to spend the next few years using loyalty points I accumulated taking advantage of the bonus nights. Does anyone definitively know yet how far in the future we can book bonus award night stays before the June 1 deadline? I’m thinking of taking my best guess at when and where I might want to stay and booking with the bonus nights over the next year — can always cancel and get the points back if I end up not wanting to use a future reservation.

    Thoughts?

  35. BTW I’m really disappointed about this and likely will cancel this card as soon as I have stayed my last bonus night, but will keep it until then.

  36. Why oh why did they not just limit the bonus nights to x nights per year — I always thought that the max of 50 per year was a ridiculous thing to offer in the first place.

  37. I have just finished making bookings through June 2017. The bonus nights were applied, so these stays will also be BOGO.

  38. Thanks for the heads up. Spouse and I are new – just over 100k points each with Carlson. Only upcoming trip is long weekend in May to SF to watch Giants. Successfully booked first 2 nights as BOGO and then paid for 3rd night at prepay 20% discount. Will wait to see if the one paid night garners the 30k point offer within same email announcing program change. Glad to have gotten this one booked before its gone and doubt we’ll renew our cards. Certainly won’t put 10k/yr spend on either card.

  39. This is BS!!! I just applied for the card, and in fact it just came in the mail today. I will have to work hard to meet the minimum spend in time to book. Do you think they would waive the AF because of the bait and switch?

  40. DCS, I don’t love SPG points as much as some do, but I use them to strategically supplement airline mile redemptions. With the transfer bonus it is effectively 1.25x on unbonused spend and I only use them where the airline redemption will be north of 2¢pm so that’s 2.5% in my books. More broadly speaking I try not to stockpile more than 50k points in any program UNLESS they’re transferable points like SPG/UR/MR/TYP.

  41. Can you book award nights for somebody else, or does the card holder have to be present on check-in? Would like to send my parents on a couple of weekend trips, if I have to use my points before June 1st.

  42. I am really upset about this change as well. As a new cardmember who signed up last September I thought the CFPB didn’t allow credit card companies to change benefits during the first year. At least Citibank, Bank of America, and Amex have made this claim anytime they have changed benefits during my first year of benefits.

    I also think it is interesting that they went from 1 night free for every 2 nights + on rewards stay to now requiring us to spend $10,000 for a 1 night stay in the US. Most of there US properties are not that great except the Country Inn & Suites locations but I would never spend $10,000 on a card to get 1 free night at a hotel brand that has rates at the places I stay of between $75 and $150. Plus the value of the points are much worse. I value the points at what Lucky always has which is 0.4 cents per points so now spending earns you 2% per dollar (.4 *5 points per dollars) instead of 4%. As someone who has multiple 2% plus cards that have no strings attached why would I ever buy into a hotel currency that is continually devaluing itself and has little regard for their customers. As much as I dislike IHG I think I may take my business back to them for hotel stays because at least I get 1 free night annually with no minimum spend and they run some really good promos and the current one has been trouble free for me so far in comparison to some of the previous ones which is why I switched to Club Carlson in the first place. In addition, IHG has far more properties in places I stay and the rates tend to be more affordable. That doesn’t help on the redemptions side where I struggle to get any value out of the points I have but at least these points are being earned from hotel stays. Plus IHG rewards availability tends to be much better than Club Carlson.

  43. Not sure if I had a prior email, but I received one today. I can see now, Bonus Award Night is definitely going away. “Bonus Award Night stays may not be booked after June 1, 2015.” Doesn’t say that Bonus Award Night is invalid after June 1, just that you must book on or before June 1. I also saw this: “And, to thank you for your continued loyalty, you can earn 30,000 bonus Gold Points® on your next Eligible Stay at a Carlson Rezidor hotel worldwide when you pay with your Club CarlsonSM Visa®.” The 30k bonus is good for a stay between Apr 1 and Aug 31. I have a stay coming up next weekend so I’ll get my 30k points, then book a Bonus Award Night stay before Jun 1 for later in the year.

  44. Why not write a post showing how people can file a complaint with the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau, how they should PDF the page that shows the benefits of the card and tell the CFPB they want a refund of their annual fee due to changes to the benefits associated, ” Enjoy all of these benefits for $XX Annual Fee† ”
    These are the pages that show the benefits you receive for the annual fee you pay:
    http://www.clubcarlsonvisa.com/credit/visaPremierCard.do
    http://www.clubcarlsonvisa.com/credit/visaPlatinumCard.do
    http://www.clubcarlsonvisa.com/credit/visaSignatureCard.do
    http://www.clubcarlsonvisa.com/credit/visaBusinessCard.do

  45. Hi to all my upset CC Visa cardholders. Reading the comments about how they did it after the Daily Giveaway. Well another point I would like to bring out, they did it after the Freddie Awards which I voted them as the Best Loyalty Rewards. What a planned devaluation they did this time. Club Carlson is blaming US Bank and vice versa from my calls. Probably more towards the credit card as they were offering it. Really going to be hard to want to keep it now as the new bonus is a joke especially staying here in the states. We are going to Europe in two weeks and have several stays lined up for the Bonus night (wife and I) we saved a lot of money using them. Altogether around 6 bonus nights. They should have changed it to give instead of 50 maybe 5 a year or 10. I have sent emails (no response) on my opinion on this drastic change. But as they say nothing good lasts forever!!

  46. @ DTS — If you add one of them as the second guest on the reservation that should probably do the trick.

  47. @ baccarat_guy — You’re fine as long as you book by June 1, even if it’s for a subsequent stay.

  48. Since Carlson-Rezidor properties worth visiting (yes, that excludes Radisson “green” and Country Inn & Suites) are mainly located in Europe, I thought some of you with Club Carlson Gold status might be interested in the following:

    As a CCG, you get 50% off weekend stays. You can either stay 2 nights and pay only for 1, or stay 4 nights and pay only for 2.
    The potential for big savings is definitely there.

    http://www.clubcarlson.com/2for1

    http://www.clubcarlson.com/4for2

  49. Hi,

    if we make date change to the award nights after 6/1, will we lose the additional 2nd bonus night? thx

  50. Ben,

    i just received the ClubCarlson card in the mail today. Do you know how long it takes for the 85k bonus points to post assuming I hit the 3k spend by Monday??? I don’t want to go through the hassle of the spend only to find out they won’t post before June 1st?

    Thanks

  51. @ Adam — In my experience they post shortly after the statement closes where you complete minimum spend.

  52. In addition to killing the bonus award night, Club Carlson is changes categories with more than 200 hotels going up, some 2 or 3 categories. Between the bonus award night going away and the category changes, this is the worst devaluation of a hotel program I have seen! The Radisson Blu Kuwait for example now requires 368% the number of points for a two-night stay! http://dreamtravelonpoints.com/2015/05/the-end-of-the-club-carlson-rewards-program-as-we-know-it/

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