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I went pretty much “all in” on the big Club Carlson promotions of 2012 where you could stay one super cheap night at any Club Carlson property and earn 50k bonus points just for doing so. 50,000 points is enough to stay at one of their top-tier hotels around the world, so a cheap night was a pretty good investment! Couple that with getting the Club Carlson Premier Rewards Visa Signature that awards 85,000 sign-up bonus points (50,000 after first purchase and 35,000 more after $2500 spend within 90 days) and it is fair to say I had hundreds of thousands of Club Carlson points in my account. This is a newer loyalty program, and while they haven’t yet done anything much to the meat of their award chart, that doesn’t mean I trust them to leave it the same long-term…or even medium-term for that matter. We have seen the huge promotions from them totally dry up in the last 12 months (other than the credit card sign-up bonus), and my guess is it is only a matter of time until we see them tighten up on the redemption side of things.
So, I did what any reasonable miles and points collector would do and made it a priority to use these points whenever possible. I have given strong preference to two night stays as the “last award night is free” when you have the credit card, so that meant that I could get two award nights for the price of one. I have used Club Carlson points for a few stays like at the May Fair in London, and have been using them to book future stays such as for a Notre Dame game next year in Indiana, a couple nights in Amsterdam next spring, a couple of nights in Paris, and I actually still have a pending points reservation for the Olympics that they never got around to cancelling (though it no longer lines up with my dates), and now I have just about emptied my account by booking two nights in New York City at the Radisson Martinique on Broadway to hopefully take my daughter to see the Thanksgiving Day Parade in 2014.
It is very fair to say that all of those hotels combined would have cost thousands of dollars if I paid retail. Frankly, they would have still been quite expensive even if I went the budget route as Paris, Notre Dame on a home football weekend, Amsterdam, London during the Olympics, and New York City at Thanksgiving can all be quite expensive. Heck, Russia during the Olympics isn’t even really bookable with cash, so that one is even harder to place a value on (though like I said, the dates no longer work for me). I have been taking great advantage of Club Carlson’s very advance booking window on points.
Other than basically doubling the value of my points by getting the second award night free, my favorite feature of all this is being able to make risk-free bookings. If my plans change and I can no longer make it to one of these destinations, I can cancel and get the points right back until just before the stay. The recent United devaluation was all too clear of a reminder to not hold your points for the long term. I am not sad or nervous that I have emptied out a points account, on the contrary, I am happy that my Club Carlson account is almost empty. That means I got huge value out of the points for trips I actually wanted to take, and I can always earn more points via their credit cards or possible future promotions. Heck, I’ll get 40,000 points soon enough when the card renews, and I’m sure I will use those points to get two reward nights somewhere by using the last award night free benefit.
If you need some inspiration on how to use your Club Carlson points, here are some of my favorite uses within the US. How are you using your Club Carlson points? Are you still sitting on a huge balance, or are you putting them to good use?