Why I’m Keeping The Club Carlson Card

In the interest of full disclosure, One Mile At A Time earns a referral bonus for anyone that’s approved through some of the below links. These are the best publicly available offers that we have found for each card. Please check out our advertiser policy for further details about the partners we work with. Thanks for your support!

There’s no arguing that the Club Carlson program — and in particular the Club Carlson Premier Rewards Visa Signature® Card — are undergoing a massive devaluation. For bookings as of June 1, 2015:

Club Carlson is destroying the value of their loyalty programs in many ways, though at the same time I can’t really blame them. The program was unsustainably generous, it just seems a bit extreme to rip the rug out from under us on both fronts at the same time. The cost of many of the two night redemptions I would have made is going from 50,000 points (Category 6 with second night free) to 140,000 points (Category 7 with no second night free). That sucks.

I get why the initial instinct is to cancel the Club Carlson Visa, since so much of the value is being taken away.

That being said, I’ll be holding onto the card. Why?

  • The card still offers 40,000 points upon your account anniversary every year, which more than justifies the $75 annual fee, in my opinion (that’s a valuation of ~0.1875 cents per point)
  • The card still offers Gold Elite status for as long as you have the card, which gets you some valuable perks, like room upgrades, bonus points, access to elite only promotions, a welcome amenity, etc.

Radisson-Blu-Oslo-Airport-3

Club Carlson properties aren’t aspirational in the slightest, at least compared to some of the properties which Hyatt, Starwood, etc., have. But the greatest thing about the Club Carlson Visa for me hasn’t even been the value of the card as such, but rather the fact that it has made me want to visit places which I wouldn’t have otherwise considered due to lack of hotel options.

For example, this summer I plan on finally making the visit to Longyearbyen (which I’ve been meaning to do for a long time), and the Radisson Blu is one of the only hotels there (it’s also the northernmost full service hotel in the world).

Radisson-Blu

And I’m really hoping to visit more of Northern Europe over the coming years, and Club Carlson is by far the best option there. While I’m primarily loyal to Hyatt and Starwood, those chains are also especially weak in Northern Europe, which is an area I’d like to explore more in the near future.

Bottom line

I don’t for a second disagree that a ton of value has been removed from the Club Carlson Premier Rewards Visa Signature® Card. And while I’d love to “show them” and cancel, in practice the card is still absolutely worth it to me:

  • I think even Club Carlson’s toughest critics value their points at a minimum of 0.1875 cents each, meaning the 40,000 point anniversary bonus more than justifies the annual fee
  • There are many places in the world where Club Carlson properties are the best option, and if you’re going to stay at a Club Carlson property, it’s nice to have Gold Elite status
  • Club Carlson continues to be very rewarding in terms of their points structure for actual hotel stays, and many of their promotions are specific to elite members and/or credit card holders, so you have a huge advantage by having the card
  • To keep my credit score as good as possible, I try to hold onto as many cards long term as possible, since average age of accounts is a major factor of your credit score

So while the value of the card has been greatly reduced for me, it’s still well worth the annual fee, in my opinion.

To those of you with the card, do you plan on holding onto it like me, or are you going to cancel? Am I totally off base by holding onto the card?

Regarding Comments: The comments on this page have not been provided, reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any advertiser, and it is not an advertiser's responsibility to ensure posts and/or questions are answered.

Comments

  1. “especially week” should it be “especially weak”?

    i haven’t canceled my biz card yet… the annual fee is only $60… but i’ll think about it for a long time before the renewal. right now could go either way.

  2. Lucky, I totally agree with you. I’ll keep both my personal and business cards because the annual bonus more than offsets the fee. In addition, if there is availability at the Radisson Martinique NYC for the “1 free night in the US after $10,000 spend”, (and assuming the free night is good for at least a year), I’ll put $10,000 of spend on each card. The big change is that I’m going back to my trusty SPG Amex for my non-bonused spend, so Club Carlson goes from being my primary program to “filling a niche” for me.

  3. My wife and I aren’t looking for aspirational properties through the use of the Club Carlson program; however, we have found each of the properties at which we have stayed to be more than adequate, very clean, and staffed with friendly employees who do have the “Yes, I Can” attitude that makes each of our stays pleasant. We have only one other credit card with a program that awards points, and that is the Southwest Rapid Rewards Visa.

    This blog entry and other previous entries have pointed out both the negatives and the positives of the revaluation. We have known for quite a while that the Club Carlson program has been wildly generous almost to a fault, and we have certainly taken advantage of their generosity. The result of their excellent promotions is that they have gained two loyal fans in my wife and me. We won’t leave the program now that we’ve experienced so many great stays at the variety of hotels that are under the Carlson brand.

    Being the meticulous vacation planners that we are, my family appreciates the fact that we can book Carlson properties more than two years out. In my opinion, that ability alone makes the program worthwhile. Throw in all the points that we consistently get through everyday spending and you have a very happy family who takes great comfort in knowing that we can take a restful vacation at a fantastic hotel paid for entirely with Club Carlson points.

    For us, these changes will have an insignificant effect on how we utilize the rewards program.

  4. @ Lucky – while I agree with your post in general, the last bullet point only is applicable if your Club Carlson card is older than average. If you’ve had the card for less than the average age of your accounts, closing it would only improve the average, right?

  5. To me, the category changes undid the pain caused by bonus night elimination. Most of their properties in India went down in category, some by 2. This means, for a property that now requires 38,000 points for two nights, will only cost 30,000 points after June 1. I’m certainly keeping it.

  6. Was a bit to soon to post.

    Seems you can stay on points with the Scandic hotel in LYR also

    https://www.scandichotels.com/Frequent-guest/Partners-and-offers/

    Might be a bit difficult for somebody in the US to book this hotel on points.

    Possible true SAS Eurobonus, points rates included breakfast
    https://www.flysas.com/en/eurobonus/earn-points/hotels/Scandic_Hotels/?NSSEXC=true

    To quote SK website:
    “You need 10 000 points per night incl. breakfast at countryside hotels and 20 000 points per night incl. breakfast at city/downtown hotels”

    Or Finnair Plus for weekend stays Fri to Sun
    https://pointshop.finnair.com/partner.php?cPath=3_566_687
    Not sure if transfer is possible just from Finnish AmEX or all AmEX?
    https://pointshop.finnair.com/partner.php?cPath=553_577

  7. @FreeTravelGuys

    Picture is from Radisson OSL airport where Lucky was upgraded to a family room.

  8. Well, Club Carlson probably achieved their goal with the “over indexed” program of the last couple of years. Your point about few aspirational properties is well made, and what this program did was expose people to the chain and put “heads in beds.” They served their purpose with me — I’ve stayed in some nice Radisson Blu’s in Europe and Australia, and walked away with a positive feeling about that brand.

  9. Too much too soon. They obviously fired the guy in charge of the program and brought in an MBA. I’ll leave now and check back in when the MBA is fired.

  10. Hmm, one of the biggest haters of CC in the past now has referral links to the credit card and says the program is still good…..

  11. It really comes down to math. Most of the “good” properties are going up to 70,000 points per night. You would need to spend $14,000 on the card to get 70,000 points. So if you’re goal is higher end hotels and you’re not using points at hotels that go for more than $280 USD per night (since you can simply earn 2% cash back for that spend on other cards), then the card is worthless for everyday spend. As for the annual bonus, I don’t think anyone in their right mind is going to have any Carlson points left after the devaluation coming June 1st. Which would mean they’d have to keep the card and pay another two annual fees to get another 80,000 points to be able to book one night at a top tier hotel. And by then they will have probably introduced two more tiers and a night at a top tier will be 120,000. So for me this card (and the Club Carlson program in general) is pretty much worthless after this coming devaluation.

  12. Not quite Ivan, after a card is closed it continues to ‘age’ on your credit report for quite awhile before it falls off.

  13. Club Carlson Gold status is nothing. Most of the times you have to pay for rooms upgrade The room’s prices is over value. I kept the card just because one award night free, but after they are devaluation, I don’t see any good things to keep this card any more.

    I stayed at Club Carlson hotels 3 times last year and decided to cancel Club Carlson credit card right after they made first devaluation in this year.

  14. @Ben I wouldn’t say Gold Status is nothing. While CC hotels are inconsistent at giving you the welcome gift, I do get it more times than not. I have also gotten every upgrade that I have requested at the time of reservation without paying anything. For example, I booked a standard award room at the Country Inn Orlando Airport, which comes with 2 queen beds. I requested a King bed as a Gold Elite upgrade when making the reservation and was upgraded to a King Suite (no welcome gift though). I haven’t had a time where my room wasn’t improved from what I originally booked (award or paid stay).

  15. @ Stannis – thanks for correcting me! Any idea how long it takes cards to fall off? I don’t open & close them all the time, but would be good to know for the future.

  16. I paid my annual in April but I haven’t received my 40,000 points. Any idea when they usually post the annual point? I want to use it before June 1 devaluation.

  17. Lucky,

    I agree with you. I loved Club Carlson, but specifically, because they offered tons of promotional points and, with the credit card, you could get extremely low redemption rates for some nice properties. I have literally spent less than $1,000 on paid Club Carlson stays in the past few years, but accrued enough points for award stays that would have cost close to $10,000 if I had paid for them (and I still have a lot of points leftover) – a very unsustainable situation.

    Now Club Carlson will go from being great for point aficionados to being run-of-the-mill, but that doesn’t mean they are worthless. 40k points per year for a $75 annual fee is definitely worthwhile (but I won’t be trying for the $10k per year spend).

    I just hope they keep the big promotions going.

  18. @Azulblanca I got my 40k points after I paid the annual fee and my statement closed again. So probably like a month after your get charged for the annual fee.

  19. I’m still on the fence about canceling the card. But I’m with UAPhil that this card has now moved from the card I used for EVERYTHING, to a card that I debate and generally don’t use now. The one thing they could do that would help would be to get rid of the foreign transaction fee.

  20. @ Azulblanca — Yeah, believe it should post once the statement closes, at least in my experience.

  21. @ FreeTravelGuys — Indeed. As noted above, I got upgraded to a “family room.”

  22. Lucky- I need to book two rooms for two nights and I wanted to know if the second night on both awards would be free.

  23. Tony,

    Only if you book the two rooms from different accounts – say one from your account and one from the wife’s account. You can call CC and transfer whatever points you need between accounts

  24. Yeah, I don’t think so. I have had trouble actually finding somewhere to stay with Carlson since getting the card. I have not been impressed, even with their “Blu” hotels that are supposed to be their best. I have not been upgraded except for a 1 night stay in Salzburg, and in fact, got a truly terrible room and no amenity at the Oslo airport in March. The 2 for 1 and 4 for 2 rates in EMEA might be a reason to keep the card, but you certainly can’t say that their hotels are nice enough to warrant keeping it. For only 25,000 more points, you can have the most expensive Hilton in the chain, and I get guaranteed benefits there.

  25. The 40,000 point yearly bonus seems to be varied. I’ve heard some people saying they got them a month after they were charged the annual fee, but the terms state they will post six to eight weeks after the fee is charged. I spoke with US Bank and they told me the points only post with a monthly statement, so I am seemingly hosed there (my annual fee showed up on April 2 statement and points didn’t post with May statement, so they told me it won’t post until next statement on June 2).

    I’d love to hear from anyone able to work around this somehow…

  26. My $75 annual fee was billed June 17, the date my statement closed. The bill was auto-paid in full around July 14. The 40,000 points did not post until August 20, one day after my August statement closed. So, unfortunately, there may be a one month delay posting the points even after you have paid the fee.

  27. What I’ve found empirically is that for lower end properties, usually they’re in much more inconvenient locations and also paid rates at nearby similar hotels are so cheap that the points become nearly worthless. The 2nd night free made up for that but now the value of CC points will definitely be in almost-top hotels, or maybe Cat7 but in the most expensive cities. That much harder to get a deal out of it now, so I’ll likely cancel. I’m better off accumulating Hilton points.

  28. While I disagree on keeping the card, I agree that Scandinavia is a good use. However, I don’t quite get the appeal of Longyearbyen. All the photos look sooo grey. Maybe it’s something you get while you’re there.
    We’ll be doing Scandinavia the end of June, early July. As always you’re welcome to visit our home, but I’m trying to book millions of club carlson points worth of hotels by the end of the month. Never have done this planning ahead thing.

  29. My wife ordered me a ClubCarlson credit card so I could be an authorized user and get the free night perk. The first time I called to make a free night reservation I was told an authorized user could NOT get the free night. She put me on hold and confirmed it with her supervisor. I hung up and called back and this time, the agent couldn’t access the hotel but had me do it online myself. So with him on the phone I booked 3 nights with points and got the 4th night free. I simply changed my wife’s name in reservation and provided the agent my confirmation # so he could double-check it. It looked good on his end – just my name on res and not my wife’s. It seemed so easy that I’m doubting it will actually work when I arrive at checkin. Am I overthinking this? This is for travel next year so I want to make sure it sticks before the perk goes away.

  30. I just want to add a note here. We are currently traveling in Rurope. We booked standard award nights 4 of 2 on my account and 2 for 1 on my wife’s account at Radisson Blu Berlin right near Aleksander Plats. We got a two room Junior Corner Suite Upgrade With Free Breakfast buffet, Every 2 days a welcome gift of bottled water and chocolate cookies. We then went to Radisson Blu Beke, Budapest booked 2 for 1 award stay on both our accounts and 1 night on son’s points at 15000 points Business class room with breakfast, but got a 2 room king suite about 66 Sq meters. In room welcome gift 2 bottles water. Stayed finally at Radisson Blu Bratislava booked standard 2 for 1 on both accounts award nights, upgrades to business class with breakfast and welcome gift bottle water and chocolates. My Gold status has always gotten me an upgrade either automatically or with my casual inquiry, “Do you have an upgrade available? ” Breakfast can’t be expected but we have been lucky as only Concierge members get that. Now I am booking like crazy for next year’s travels to Beograd, Srbija, Zurich, Istanbul before June 1st as these props go up in points and 2 for 1 gone. I will still keep my card but like mentioned above only for the 40000 good for around 1 night a year. It was good while it lasted!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *