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Oh Club Carlson…you were so feisty and interesting. You were an underdog, a newcomer, an alternative, a program to watch. Now you are becoming a program to watch self-destruct one announcement at a time. Obviously a huge blow was the announcement that the last award night free benefit with the co-branded credit card will be ending after this month (so get your bookings in ASAP), but today’s award chart re-categorization is totally whacked. Apologies for the less than scientific description, but that’s how I view this particular re-categorization. To put it another way, 329 properties are reportedly changing category, with 212 going up in points price and 117 going down. (Thanks to Take Off With Miles for counting).
The “good news” is that there are no new categories being announced, and instead hotels are just moving between existing categories effective June 1st, but that’s where the good news stops. The reality is that until last year around this time their award chart maxed out at 50,000 points per night. Then effective May 1, 2014, they added a new top tier that cost 70,000 points per night, but only 9 properties were initially slotted into that top tier. That was fair enough as for the most part, they were properties that made sense to be in a category mostly to themselves.
Now this year the floodgates have apparently opened, and there are many, many hotels jumping to 70,000 points per night, with some jumping as many as three categories to get there! Even just a move up one category from a 6 (50,000 points) to a 7 (70,000 points) is a 40% increase in points, so these are big jumps. Make no mistake, this is a hefty devaluation. I think it is the biggest program devaluation we have seen in 2015.
A very rough count of the number of hotels increasing to 70,000 points per night is over 65, in addition to the 11 that were already in that top category. Going from 11 to almost 80 hotels in your top tier is a very big deal, and it certainly makes you assume it is likely a new (pricier) top tier will be announced the next time they make adjustments since there is no justifiable reason that The May Fair in London is in the same category as airport hotels and The Radisson Blu Minneapolis. No offense to Minneapolis…
Some examples of properties that will be going to 70,000 points per night include:
Radisson Aruba Resort, Casino & Spa
Radisson Hotel Barra, Rio de Janeiro
Radisson Blu Warwick Hotel, Philadelphia
Radisson Martinique on Broadway
Radisson Blu Minneapolis
Radisson Blu Mall of America
Radisson Blu Aqua Hotel, Chicago
Radisson Blu Style Hotel, Vienna
Radisson Blu Hotel, Zurich Airport
Radisson Blu Royal Hotel, Copenhagen
Radisson Blu Hotel, Madrid Prado
Radisson Blu Resort, Arc 1950
Radisson Blu Hotel, Nice
Radisson Blu Hotel, Edinburgh
Park Plaza Westminster Bridge London
Radisson Blu 1919 Hotel, Reykjavik
Radisson Blu Hotel, Amsterdam
Radisson Blu Resort, Trysil
Radisson Blu Scandinavia Hotel Oslo
Unless you like to use your Club Carlson points to stay at their budget properties, this devaluation is pretty bad. Almost any one of their properties that could possibly considered even remotely “aspirational” is going up in points price for reasons that aren’t totally clear to me. For example, we just stayed at the Radisson Blu Hotel, Madrid Prado. It is a nice enough hotel for what it is, but Madrid is hardly a city getting more expensive these days. Why the hotel would be going up in points price when hotel rates are on the decline in Spain and Europe in general is beyond my simple mind’s comprehension. When SPG announced their category adjustments a couple of months again we saw Europe as a region get less expensive on points, but that is certainly not the trend with Club Carlson. Another geographic anomaly is how multiple Club Carlson properties in Russia are going up in points price when that is something not really seen with the other chains these days.
Airport hotels, no matter how nice or convenient, should also pretty much never be in your award chart’s top tier. If they are, then something is wrong. Club Carlson now has at least two airport properties that are in their highest tier. I’m pretty sure that is something not duplicated by any other major loyalty program.
Yes, some properties are going down in points price and I’ll write another post on some of those examples later, but for now I’m just shaking my head at the little program that could…that now isn’t. They have had insanely lucrative promotions the last few years, but perhaps they should have instead fought some against award chart inflation since this is just a bit crazy.
My family has stayed at a fair number of Club Carlson properties on points over the last few years and based off a quick look, I think virtually every one of the properties we have stayed on points will now be a top tier 70,000 point property – including the airport hotel we stayed at in Oslo shown above!
If you weren’t already planning on wiping out your Club Carlson points balance before the May 31st deadline with the last award night free benefit, you sure better plan on that now before these new rates kick in on June 1st since I bet the majority of the Club Carlson properties you had on your “list” will cost more points after that date!