Tricks For Carlson BOGO Award Nights. Last Call!

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It’s a busy weekend for those looking to take advantage of Club Carlson opportunities on both the earning and burning sides of the equation. In reality, both deals are tied to the same event…

As of June 1, the Club Carlson bonus award night for those holding the Visa card will be going away. This was an incredible benefit and I’m very sad to see it go.

As somewhat of a peace offering, Club Carlson is offering some bonuses for revenue stays this summer. They are simultaneously making our points worth a lot less and giving us more points. I really don’t think they understand how positive feedback loops work…..

That leaves us until the stroke of midnight on Sunday to:

  1. Make a bunch of actual or speculative award bookings that qualify for BOGO award nights, and
  2. Plan out a revenue stay to earn our 30K 5K bonus. [Edit:  It’s the 5K summer bonus that has to be booked by May 31.  To get the 30K bonus, you just need to stay by Aug. 31.]

This feels like finals week where every professor makes their problem set due on the same day! Am I going to have to pull an all-nighter just to get everything booked?

In this post, I’ll cover the burning side of the equation because that’s more fun. And I always do the fun assignments first.

BOGO Award Nights

When you book an award stay as a Club Carlson Premier Rewards Visa Signature® Card holder, you get a free night on each stay. For two-night stays, that amounts to a Buy One Get One free night, or a BOGO.

If you and your spouse, friend, neighbor, etc. both have the credit card, you can book alternating two night stays and get BOGO nights at the same hotel indefinitely (or until you run out of points, whichever comes first).

The booking deadline to receive the BOGO award night benefit is May 31, which is Sunday at the stroke of midnight. While you need to book by Sunday night, the stay can occur at any point in the future.

Radisson Blu Royal Copenhagen
Radisson Blu Royal Copenhagen

How Far Into The Future?

The Club Carlson website is technically capable of booking stays from now until May 2018. Come on, don’t you plan your trips 3 years in advance?

By comparison, Marriott and Hilton will only let you book one year in advance, Hyatt is 13 months, and Starwood 18 months. Clearly Club Carlson is twice as good a program as it’s nearest competitor! 

Now it’s important to note that just because the booking window extends for 36 months doesn’t mean that you can book stays that far into the future. My anecdotal research shows that the majority of properties don’t have their inventory loaded that far in advance. A few do, however, and a lot of them have it loaded through December 2016, which would still be industry leading.

It’s also interesting (and very convenient) that points stays seems to be the most common of the room types available to book once you move further than 18 months in the future. In other words, you can’t book a revenue stay at many of those properties in 2017 yet, but you can book an award, and that’s exactly what we should want to do.

Executive Suite at the Radisson Brunei
Executive Suite at the Radisson Brunei

What Good Is This?

Most of us probably have no idea where we want (or need) to be 3 years from now. But there’s no harm in speculating, right? Pick some dates, close your eyes, spin the globe, and point. Then find the nearest Carlson property and book yourself a vacation.

Or be a little more strategic. Either way.

Can I Change The Dates Later?

Well, that’s a good question. In the world of airline tickets, any date change will generally involve a reissue of the ticket. That means that if you booked under an old award chart (like we are doing here!), any changes would involve the airline repricing the entire itinerary under the new award chart and charging the updated amount of miles.

 I’ve come to learn that hotels operate significantly differently. They have a lot more autonomy and will occasionally act independently, dare I say they even occasionally go rogue. As we learned recently at the Hyatt Olive 8 in Seattle, just because the sign says Hyatt out front doesn’t necessarily mean they really care about following all of the Gold Passport terms and conditions.

Olive 8: an amateur when it comes to gaming award inventory.
The Hyatt Olive 8… where we make our own rules.

I expect that it may be possible to call the hotel directly and ask them to change the dates of your stay without repricing the reservation. I haven’t actually tried it, but I would probably just say that I need to make a simple date change on my reservation — you know, maybe October 10-12, 2017 to say, October 10-12 2015. Maybe you fat-fingered the year or something…. could happen.

Assuming that the same room type exists, hopefully they’ll just change the dates for you without cancelling and rebooking the stay.

Here’s why I think this could work.

The Carlson Gold Points have already been deducted from your account so there’s no real reason that the property needs to involve the mothership.

It’s quite likely that the property never even knew about the BOGO award night program — in my experience, most Carlson properties (i.e. Country Inn and Suites) barely realize they are part of a global chain at all! And if they did know it existed, the reservation in their system almost certainly just shows “points” next to the rate anyway, meaning they don’t actually know how many you paid.

Six months from now, nobody will realize that this reservation was booked in the waning hours of the BOGO program.

Park Inn, Heppenheim, Germany
Park Inn, Heppenheim, Germany

The best part? I doubt the property has any incentive to care! They are going to get their negotiated rate (likely based on hotel occupancy for the night of your stay) regardless of how many points were deducted. They shouldn’t really care when your stay is.

Anyway, this is all pure speculation, but really, what do you have to lose?

What Should We Book?

My approach would be a combination of high-value properties and places where I’m likely to actually use the reservation.

Since only you know which properties you are most likely to use, I’ve leave that exercise to you and instead focus on high value properties.

2016 Olympics In Brazil

The 2016 Summer Olympics are going to be held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, from August 5-21, 2016.

Sadly, there are no Carlson properties in Rio. However, the football matches are to be held in four other cities around the country, one of which is Sao Paulo where there are three Radissons. You can’t book revenue stays for these dates yet, but award nights are loaded into the system.

Radissons in Sao Paulo.
Radissons in Sao Paulo.

New York City

The Radisson Martinique makes the Hyatt Olive 8 look like amateurs when it comes to gaming award inventory.

For years now, award inventory at Martinique has randomly come and gone for huge swaths of the booking window. As in you won’t be able to find a single room on points for months at a time, and then all of sudden, they’ll be available every single day. Their inventory manager seriously may have schizophrenia.

But we’re in luck as at least some dates well into the future have rooms available on points. So why not book a few?

Book it before it's gone!
Book it before it’s gone!

Norway

My family visited Bergen, Norway in 2013 and loved it. We didn’t exactly love the prices, but we managed to spend a long weekend without spending much at all by leveraging points. We’d love to go back someday, perhaps in 2018…

The Radissons in Oslo aren’t available for award bookings in 2018, but my family could probably slum it in the Park Inn. By 2018, I’m sure that 22,000 points per night will look like a steal.

You can't book the Radisson Oslo for 2018, but the Park Inn is available.
You can’t book the Radisson Oslo for 2018, but the Park Inn is available.

I can’t really explain why, but I’ve also enjoyed wandering to the edges of civilization. We’ve driven all the way to Radisson, Quebec, (no affiliation to the content of this post) just because we could. It’s literally the end of the road, just short of Hudson Bay.

So naturally I’m intrigued at the idea of staying in the northernmost hotel in the world in Longyearbyen, Norway. It’s available for award bookings through December 2016 — though you might prefer the summer of 2016 instead.

Available for points bookings through December  2016.
Available for points bookings through December 2016.

London

No discussion of high-value Radisson redemptions could possibly be complete with mentioning London. Both the Mayfair and the Blu Edwardian are available for a Christmas stay in 2016.

We’ve actually stayed at the Edwardian on points, but sadly that was in the days before the BOGO even existed.  Wow, that makes me feel old!

London has perhaps the highest concentration of Carlson properties in the world.
London has perhaps the highest concentration of Carlson properties in the world.

Bottom Line

The Club Carlson free night benefit on award stays goes away tomorrow night.

You should book any stays that you know you will use now.

And then why not make a few speculative bookings while you’re at it? If nothing more, it’s fun to dream.


What Carlson award stays are you planning to book this weekend? Do you think the strategy of changing dates without repricing will work?

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Comments

  1. @Travis

    Might want to add the Radisson Blue Prague to the list, probably the best hotel you can stay on points in Prague.

  2. Kris — Thanks for the update. That’s too bad, as I thought it was a nice enough property and a great value on points. We enjoyed a few nights, right in town.

  3. For those planning trips to Bergen, consider the Radisson Blu Royal Hotel down by water.

    Avoid the Radisson Blu Hotel Norge, place is going down hill.

    If you are a single traveler on a budget or don’t want to deal with taxi drivers consider the Airport bus, come to a bit under 50% of taxi cost.

    http://www.flybussen.no/en/Bergen/Bergen%20sentrum%20-%20Bergen%20lufthavn?date=30/05/2015

    Start/stopping point in the city is outside Radisson Blu Royal Hotel, with a stop outside Radisson Blu Hotel Norge to and from the airport.

  4. From what I’ve found in searches, it is mostly the Park Inn brand that shows points availability into 2017. These are not the fanciest hotels, but it can still be a terrific value. I just booked 7 sets of two night stays in England for summer, 2017. From what I can tell, these hotels typically go for $100+ per night, but typically only 9000 – 15000 points (although I did “splurge” and use 38000 for two nights in York). All totaled, 125k points for 14 nights or~$1500 in hotels ($750 more then the points will be worth in 2 days) – I could have done even better if I had stuck exclusively to the tier 1 and tier 2 properties. I just hope I can actually take the trip in two years.

  5. Canceled the card and got my fee back paid 11 months ago. the bonus award night being removed was disaster and i wanted to wait to cancel , than they became more evil by increasing the number of points for award stay. mostly huge increase at over 300 of their properties. Many up to 70K points a night. Most of their hotels are like MOTELS except for BLU that requires 70k points and they don’t have many properties around the world. The GOLD benefit is name only with no real benefits and most of their hotels don’t even recognize gold members.

    Called yesterday and CANCEL and it was good riddance!

    I want you share you some important info .

    Due to massive complaints filed against US BANK & CLUB CARLSON with CFPB by card members, they allow you to cancel the card regardless of the date you paid the annual fee. Just don’t say if you can get fee back when you call, ask to cancel but make sure fee is refunded and they send you confirmation too.

  6. Phil — Yes, I saw mostly Park Inn as the brand available in the out months. And agree, can still be good value.

  7. No Name — We stayed at the Clarion in Berger (also a great value on points) which is right next door to the Radisson Blu Royal. It looked like a nice property as well, and you’re right about the convenience to the Flybussen.

  8. Jim — I actually think the card is worthwhile keeping. I’ve had some great experiences as a Gold. And 40K points for $75 seems pretty decent. But I’ll cover that in another post.

    I can certainly see your frustration though. Compared to what he had, this stinks. It’s only in comparison to everyone else that I think it’s competitive. Damn mean reversion….

  9. Are you saying the reservation to get the 30K bonus must be done by Sunday? I was not aware of that.

  10. Carl P: I’m sorry, it’s the Carlson 5K bonus that has to be booked by May 31. It’s hard to keep track of all these. I’ll update this post and have a separate post highlighting the promotions.

  11. I feel like I went on a wild hotel shopping spree. We thought we had just enough points to take a 10 trip or so in Germany this year. After I booked that, I still had so many points we booked a one month long trip to Germany and Scandinavia for September/October 2016. I was able to book 18 of those nights with Club Carlson–including upgrading to the Business Class Room in Stockholm and Copenhagen so we would be assured of getting breakfast in those cities!

  12. So cool you drove to Radisson, Quebec as well! Did you do the Hydro Tour? Visit Chisasibi? I scored some great pics of the auroras in September that ended up on Spaceweather.com

  13. Jim — Yep, the Radisson road trip was in the summer of 2004 with my parents while I was living in Boston. Just set off driving north and didn’t stop until we ran out of road! Did the Hydro tour, think we were the only ones on it that day. The dams are huge! Camped in the park in Radisson and watched the midnight sun. Visited Chiasibi, and had dinner with one of the native villagers in his teepee (didn’t spend the night though). Really cool place — felt like we were on the edge of the world!

    Back then, there was basically one guy’s website for information on the roads, some AAA maps, and my handheld GPS. (And our cellphone though I’m not sure how much coverage we had.)

    Awesome trip. One of the coolest I’ve ever done. Maybe I should try to scrounge up some pics (and foggy memories) for a much belated trip report?

    I still haven’t seen the aurora — all my trips north have been summer. Sounds like you had a great trip too! Glad you noticed that little detail in the post.

  14. Denise — That is truly awesome! What a haul! I’m impressed.

    I’m trying to decide how much thought to put into a trip, or whether I should just make some guesses and call it a day.

  15. @Dan: “Does the BOGO benefit apply when using the annual free night benefit of the Visa card?”

    @Travis: “Dan — pretty sure not.”

    I may be mistaken, but isn’t the “free night benefit” just an annual grant of 40K points? If so, any discussion of “stacking” is an apples/oranges conversation. Dan, there isn’t a “free night” (a la Hyatt, Marriott, etc) associated with the CC Card. It’s just 40K points granted on the anniversary.

  16. Colleen — I assumed he was referring to the free night that you will earn after $10K of spend each year under the new revision. So I said “pretty sure not” because the BOGO will be defunct by the time you earn and receive said free night.

  17. Booked 2 nights in Longyearbyen, Norway for mid August 2015. 50K pts including breakfast for two. Pretty darn good eh….

  18. Travis and/or Lucky –

    Other than The May Fair & The Plaza on the River, what are your thoughts on the most aspirational properties in London? It looks like the only other 5-star properties are the Edwardian Hampshire (great central location) & the Edwardian New Providence (not so great location). But plenty of the other 4-stars look pretty good too – I never realized how many upscale properties they had in London!

    Planning 13 days in Ireland & England…I’ve got just over 120k to burn, and all of the properties in London are 44k or 50k (except the May Fair & Plaza on the River which are 70k). So I *could* fit in a BOGO at 70k & another at 44k/50k. Then again, I did see that the Radisson Blu in Limerick goes for 15k – so I could grab that along with 2 50k stays in London, and take care of almost half of my nights at once =) Ah, decisions…

    First time in London – what would you book if you were in my shoes? (I also have Hilton, Hyatt, SPG, & Marriott points to burn as well but obviously want to get the Radisson BOGOs while I can)

  19. Jay, yes London in the land of Carlson! I’ve only stayed at the Radisson Blu Edwardian Hampshire. And that was just for a night (pre-BOGO!) And we had our very young son at the time, which kind of made it a bit of a disaster of a stay… but that’s another story for another time.

    So I’ll defer to Lucky, who has probably hit them all at one time or another, for advice.

  20. I booked super bowl weekend 2017 in Houston. It’s a crummy park inn, but who knows – maybe they’ll renovate between now and then. Conversely, maybe they’ll shut down – what happens then?

    Anyway, if the reservation stands, super bowl weekend for 15,000 points will likely feel like quite a steal.

  21. We booked a few nights at the radisson in Aruba. Booked 2 nights on points (50,000 with BOGO), then one paid night at $210, then 3 nights (50,000 plus 50,000 with BOGO).

    Burning 150,000 points, and then plan to cancel their credit card also.

  22. Anybody know what time the changeover kicks in? What time zone, I mean? I still need to transfer a few points over to my spouse and all Club Carlson offices are closed. (I tried them all.) But Sydney opens in time on Monday morning for me to beat a midnight Sunday deadline (Pacific Time).

    I called US Bank and the only info they had was “as of 1 June”. They were nice but didn’t have any other info.

    Even though I’ve had the card since inception and use CC brands a lot, I did not receive the original notice. So if anybody has any info, I would greatly appreciate a shout.

    Thanks.

  23. I’m at the Radisson Blu Plaza in Oslo right now! Checked out of the RB Scandinavia this morning and was at the RB in Bergen a few days ago. It’s my first time in Norway and I love it here. All properties are great. I speculatively booked the RB Warwick in Philly this Sept. and the Martinique in NYC Dec. 2016.

    Great article – thanks for the deadline reminder. Good times…

  24. @ jay @ Travis — Wish I had advice, though I haven’t tried any of the Club Carlson properties in London.

  25. Planning a Germany/Austria trip for May 2016. Booked two nights in Vienna and two nights in Salzburg using BOGO. That burned up all my 94k pts.

  26. FYI, you can book until 11pm CST on June 1. Just called Asia Pacific customer service because I need to transfer some points to make a booking and US customer service is closed. Bad news is that US customer service is the only one that can do that. But, the rep obviously was getting enough calls to know what is going on – she volunteered the information that bookings for BOGO can be made through 11pm CST 6/1. Hope this helps someone!

  27. Also, @Nick (2:27 am 5/31), in case you read this – you should rebook your Super Bowl weekend booking. I liked your idea and went to book it myself, and it looks like it dropped categories today and now is just 9,000 points :).

  28. As discussed above about if dates could be changed later on a previous booking with second night free, I have to inform you guys that this is not possible.
    I tried to change my dates on a speculative booking but the new booking wants to charge me the new corrected points.

  29. Paul —

    I’m assuming that you called Club Carlson and no, that’s not going to work.

    I’m talking about calling the hotel directly. And if that’s what you did then there’s no way you can issue a blanket statement of “it’s not going to work” — it just didn’t work with the hotel you tried it with (or the person you talked to). In other words, this is a highly YMMV situation. I doubt it will always work, and also doubt it will never work.

  30. So, just a data point for rebooking reservations made during the waning hours of BOGO. We made two for Cape Town–the Radisson Blu Le Vendome for 1 night+BOBO and one for the Radisson Blu Waterfront, also 1night+BOGO and genuinely made a fat finger mistake by booking one day later than our scheduled stay for both bookings (9/27-10/1 instead of 9/26-9/30).

    Initially tried Travis’ suggestion of contacting the properties to amend the reservations but both properties were very aware that these were CC loyalty reservations and responded that they could only be changed by contacting Club Carlson. Club Carlson’s first response was that we would lose the BOGO benefit if we changed the bookings. After some discussion and polite request to see if it could be escalated to someone who might be in a position to make a different call the agent went offline and then responded that as a one time exception they would contact the properties and see if they would allow a change. This request goes through their Dublin office and takes about 48 hours. We didn’t hear back at the end of the window and it took three follow up calls but now both hotels have contacted me saying that they have amended the reservations :). I’ve had about 10+ paid nights with them this year so not sure if that made a difference or just the polite persistence paid off but changes are definitely possible.

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