How I Lost 84,000 Club Carlson Points

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As you likely know, I like to plan way in advance and use miles and points when cash prices for hotels and airfare are high.  It’s a simple strategy that has taken us around the world.  Normally this strategy works great, but it can backfire when things don’t work the way you hope.  I like sharing success stories much more than unsuccessful stories, but I think there are lessons to learn in each so here is how a mess-up on my part (and a stingy hotel policy) cost us 84,000 points.

Over a year ago I put our planning ahead strategy into action when my parents and my family decided it was time to plan a return trip to the holy grounds of South Bend, Indiana.  Yes, it was time to see the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame take on our ‘local’ team, the Rice Owls (a game that just happened this weekend).  We were going to attend the Friday Night pep-rally, hear the trumpets play in the rotunda, line up for the Saturday morning ‘parade’, and of course cheer the team on in the stadium while praying to ‘Touchdown Jesus’ (yes, there really is a Touchdown Jesus).  For those interested, we wanted Notre Dame to win, but for Rice to put on a good show. 

This was also to be my kid’s first trip to South Bend (where she obviously will want to go to school in 14 years…), though not technically her first Notre Dame game. As you could probably guess, hotel rates on home game weekends are very high for the modest hotel properties that are in the area.  We are talking $300 – $500 high in many cases.  However, planning so far in advance allowed me to lock in award nights using Club Carlson points at the Country Inn and Suites in nearby Mishawaka. 

Notre Dame Cheerleaders

Shamrock Series” game in Arlington 2013

Country Inn & Suites is not a fancy joint, but we have stayed there before, and I think it’s a good deal on Notre Dame game weekends at 28,000 Club Carlson points per night.  Of course since I have the Club Carlson Premier Rewards Visa Signature® Card my second award night was free.  Two nights on a home game weekend for 28,000 points – yes, please!  I also booked nights for my parents at 28,000 points a piece, so I was all-in for 84,000 Club Carlson points for the weekend.

Club Carlson Notre Dame

However, uncertainty crept into the trip pretty early on in the planning process when Notre Dame sort of joined the ACC, and as such would potentially need to drop an already announced game in the 2014 season, and the Rice game we wanted to attend was high on the possibility list of being dropped.  Months crept on and no formal decision had been made about the Rice game’s fate on the schedule.  I wasn’t worried since I had nights locked in on points that I could back out of if we needed to, but I held off on booking airfare.

Life went on, more leisure and work trips got added, we never felt secure enough to buy airfare to Chicago or South Bend, and if/when a formal decision was made to keep the Rice game was announced, I missed it.  By the time it was clear the game was going to happen, we were frankly just too busy to realistically be able to afford the time or money it would cost to go.  It just no longer made sense and I’ve (slowly) learned not to force trips to happen when it really isn’t a good time to go as that detracts from not just that trip but all of the surrounding activities.  Over-stressed and over-tired families are something to be avoided at all costs.

At some point earlier this summer when it was clear the trip wasn’t going to happen I went online to cancel the Club Carlson award reservations and the system wouldn’t let me.  I was too busy at the moment to pick up the phone and call, so I decided to circle back to that task later on..

Fast forward to later in the summer and I picked up the phone to call Club Carlson to cancel the award nights.  The rep on the phone had the same problem I did trying to cancel so they called the property for help.  She came back with bad news.  The deadline to cancel the award reservations was two months before the check-in date and that date had already passed.  Two months before?!  Even ski properties and most remote resorts don’t have that strict of a policy!

Club Carlson Cancellation Policy

I didn’t give up that quickly as I thought perhaps if I contacted the property directly I could work something out.  If I could reduce my losses and get some points back perhaps they could bring in more revenue by selling the room for cash.  Well, there was absolutely no negotiating when I contacted the property.  That made more sense once I saw Gary’s post about the hotel pulling in quite a bit for our award nights during sold out nights, which the game weekend seemed to be.  Potentially even over-sold if I had to guess….

I booked the nights so long ago I don’t remember if I noticed the two month cancellation policy at the time or not.  At the time of booking I didn’t think our attendance at the game was in question, but sometimes things happen, and in this case being so far removed from making the hotel booking led to my missing/forgetting the cancellation details and losing out on points.  For the record, the cancellation policy was on my original email from the property, so I’m certainly not saying this is the property’s fault, though the cancellation time frame and policy is much longer and stricter than most.

Ultimately the Fighting Irish won the game, and we enjoyed it from our living room couch instead of a stadium bleacher.  We had lost 84,000 Club Carlson points, but it was the right decision for our family to not go this time.  Obviously we should have gone about keeping tabs on that reservation and canceling it earlier to avoid losing the points.  Lesson learned – time to move on and work on identifying another better weekend to head to South Bend!

Have you lost points (or cash) in a similar way?

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  1. I’ve screwed up my spending and missed meeting the spending amount to get a CC signup bonus by one day (twice). Thankfully in both cases I’ve been able to get the points eventually (though in the case of Amex, they posted 12 months later and I’m still not sure why…)

  2. All I can say is wow! That’s terrible! 🙁
    We’re staying at the Park Inn in Prague in November. After reading your post, I checked my reservation and it said I can cancel before 6:00pm day of arrival. Must be property specific.

  3. Good morning Summer, I had a similar situation at the Hilton Garden Inn in Corvalis, Oregon. I had booked an award stay for Friday night when Oregon State was supposed to play the following afternoon. I was unable to cancel the reservation online, so I ended up calling Hilton to cancel the stay (1 week out). They told me that during certain “football weekends,” they had stricter cancelation policies, even for award nights. After a few minutes on gold, the hotel manager was on the phone with me and able to cancel the stay and refund the points into my account. The bigger lesson here: don’t assume you can cancel award stays whenever you like, even though *most* properties allow cancellations up to 12-24 hours before checking in. I’m sorry you lost your Club Carlson points, that’s a major bummer. Maybe their social media team can offer something in return.

  4. Iphone calendar is your friend. I had the same type of booking where cancelation policy was 2 months in advance and I placed a reminder in my calendar for 2 weeks before the deadline so I could take action.

  5. I wouldn’t normally do it but did you try just keeping the reservation and offering it to another person visiting the area (for a small fee of course)?

  6. Ouch! That is alot of points. I know you value your points and I know you didn’t give up easily. Like you said, learn and move on.

  7. Bummer! I had to book a room this week for End of Jan using points. I was surprised the points where non-refundable at time of booking. I was willing to take the risk…8K Hyatt points for room that is going for $499…

  8. Hearing about losing points makes me want to cry. But I understand your reasons for not wanting to force a vacation. Our schedule needs to be very flexible so I always place a reminder in my iPhone even for a 6pm day of cancellation. It really helps when you have so much going on.

  9. I came close once. I needed a night in Maui over the New Years week and was surprised to see a standard room available at the Hyatt on points, when the revenue rate was over $600. I was about to book when I read the guarantee policy. It was buried and vague, but the upshot was that it was completely nonrefundable. Fairmont had a similar deal for the same night. I booked using a free night, but if I don’t cancel by November and no show, they say I will be charged TWO nights even though my reservation is for one. I think you have to be really careful with special events bookings.

  10. Thanks for sharing that! We all think you bloggers never make mistakes like us! I lost 15k club Carlson points because I’d reserved too many different hotels, not knowing which I really wanted. Well, I totally forgot to cancel the 3 nights and 5k points each plus cash for Club Carlson. I’m surprised they didn’t charge me the cash for 1 night!

  11. I had a similar problem with CC points. I booked a room at the Sydney Radisson Blu over New Years (100k points, because they required a 3-night minimum that week). A few days later I decided to shift our dates by one day, so I cancelled, intending to immediately rebook. But the points were gone! I read the fine print and realized that reservations are completely non-refundable at that hotel. Luckily, when I contacted the manager she kindly reinstated my points and made the new reservation. Lesson learned!

  12. If there is a “big event” in town, I have run across this quite a bit, especially sporting events or concerts. Went to the BCS game in Pasadena when UT Longhorns played and none of the reservations three months out were refundable- the minute you booked you were locked in. No surprises- the Sheraton was very upfront about it when the reservations were made.

  13. I can assure you at least this blogger makes travel goofs from time to time and I am pretty sure everyone else does to varying degrees, too!

    This stunk, but wasn’t worth stressing over once all realistic options were exhausted. It’s a small price to pay for all the cool things I have done and will do with Club Carlson points.

    All of us will goof with travel or points stuff from time to time, so key is just to learn from it and move on to more earning and burning!

  14. Two months out is really a long time, but I have noticed that CC usually has longer time frames for cancelling. Usually my Choice and IHG reservations can be cancelled until that day, but often the CC reservations have to be cancelled at least a few days ahead of time.

    This summer I had two nights at the Country Inn in Rapid City, SD and my flight got cancelled that day. I wasn’t able to rebook until two days later. I called Club Carlson, who called the hotel, and they allowed me to cancel my stay and rebook without losing any points even though I was past the deadline. I guess I just got lucky. That hotel was booked up every night we were there, so I figured they didn’t have any trouble refilling the room. When we were checking in they kept turning people away who were calling or stopping by looking for rooms.

    As a side note, I stayed at that Country Inn in Mishawaka during the Big Night Out.

  15. Mine would be “How I lost 10,000 United Mileage Plus Miles”. I was going for the 10,000 miles bonus and I just realized that one of the places I bought a gift card on last Friday does not give credit on Fridays. So, I will not get my 10,000 bonus miles. I am very sad…and trying to figure out how to break the news to my husband! 🙁

  16. To clarify my previous post–it was on the Dining program bonus. I drove around buying gift cards last Friday to get to my 10 dines…

  17. I had this issue with the Hyatt in Park City. Our flight was cancelled due to weather and we were already past the hotel’s cancellation deadline. TIP: Ask the hotel to reschedule the dates, which many hotels will do even if past the cancellation deadline. I moved the stay dates out 2 months and then called back to cancel, which was now well before the cancellation deadline and had no problem collecting back the points.

  18. Going to Hawaii December 7-15. Usually this is a slow travel period, falling between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Hilton Waikaloa on points – cancellation is 3 days prior; Marriott’ Maui Ocean Club on points- cancel 14 days prior; Andaz Maui on Chase Visa free nights – cancel 21 days prior. I was quite surprised, so will just hope it all works out OK.

  19. I have a system I have forced myself in that ANY type of travel booking, especially hotels, before I put my credit card information in I check the cancellation penalty information and put it in my Google Calendar. It’s just a part of my process so it never gets skipped. Assuming anything especially with travel reservations (like a standard cancellation policy) is bad bad bad.

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