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As you may have seen, there was an unexpected and unannounced devaluation in the Club Carlson award chart on July 1st. Club Carlson is the hotel loyalty program many of us have grown to love over the past two years based on a couple very generous promotions, and a relatively new and lucrative co-branded credit card. They earned their fans by offering a good program and a good award chart. However, for points collectors, goodwill can be lost as quickly as it was earned in the case of award chart devaluations with no advance notice.
Fortunately, this change does not impact hotel redemptions, and instead only impacts those who transfer their Club Carlson points to airline miles.
Before yesterday the transfer rate from Club Carlson hotel points to airline miles was:
2,000 points = 250 airline miles
50,000 points = 8,000 airline miles
100,000 points = 18,000 airline miles
The new chart effective on July 1 is:
2,000 points = 200 airline miles
50,000 points = 5,000 airline miles
100,000 points = 10,000 airline miles
That means that they are going from one Club Carlson point equaling (up to) .18 of an airline mile, to one Club Carlson point equaling .10 of an airline mile. For those that use their points in that manner, that is a 44% devaluation without warning. To add insult to injury, they just finished up a week of flash sales where you could buy Club Carlson points for a very limited time at a discount. I know that some savvy travelers purchased points with the intent to transfer them to airline miles….oops.
If I’m being honest, I will say that I don’t particularly personally care that they changed their airline miles transfer rates. I don’t use my Club Carlson points in this manner, and didn’t intend to in the future. I think there are very good hotel redemption options, and most of the time that is what I use my hotel points for. I think the people this change hits hardest are those who manufacture points via the credit card and/or purchase points with the intent of transferring them to airline miles. While there is nothing necessarily against the rules in doing either of those things, I’m sure those aren’t the uses that the loyalty program was designed around.
What does bother me about this change is the manner in which it was done. Club Carlson has already shown the willingness to make changes without warning (like the Orlando properties moving up the award chart quietly and without notice), so going down that path again doesn’t give me warm and fuzzy feelings. I have also been told, and witnessed, a very good Paris property (Radisson Blu Ambassador Hotel Paris Opera) not playing nicely when it comes to standard award redemptions that should top out at 50,000 points. I couldn’t find any availability at the 50k level for months. The lowest I can find is 75k for non-standard rooms. That would make sense on certain dates when the hotel was out of standard rooms, but it seems “strange” for that to be the case day after day for months. Note that today I can’t find that hotel at all on the website (and read rumors it may have been switching to Marriott), so perhaps the lack of availability was a warning sign it was leaving the program.
It would not shock me if we saw a change to the hotel redemption chart in the next 9-12 months. A change in hotel redemptions would be bad across the board, but it would be infinitely worse if there were no advance notice for that type of change. I am sitting on about 300,000 Club Carlson points from promos and the credit card, and am not actively earning more right now. The best way to guard against devaluations is to earn and burn. Points are not an investment – they are there to be used as they typically only decrease in value. I think that is especially true in the case of Club Carlson points.
Don’t get me wrong, I still very much like the program and the current hotel award chart. Being able to stay at top tier hotels in places like Europe for just 50,000 points for two nights (if you have the Club Carlson Premier Rewards Visa Signature) is a killer deal that I will hopefully use several times. However, I don’t have 100% trust in the stability of the current chart, or how much advance notice might be given if/when it changes again. To me, that is the worst part of this recent devaluation – a devaluation in trust.
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