Club Carlson Basically Implodes Their Award Chart

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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…

Radisson Aruba jumps to 70,000 points

Radisson Aruba jumps to 70,000 points

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.

Europe may be cheaper, but not on Club Carlson points!

Europe may be cheaper, but not on Club Carlson points!

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.

Airport hotel in Oslo - now a top tier destination!

Airport hotel in Oslo – now a top tier destination!

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!

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  1. Unless U.S. Bank waives my Wife & I annual fee this month, it’s bye, bye Club Carlson. We booked 10 nights in Grenada over Thanksgiving and have another 350K to burn before the end of May. On another note, hello Barclay’s Wyndham signature card to take the place of Club Carlson. The new offer is sweet!

  2. Do you think this was planned like this all along? Do these programs offer increased benefits for a launch period to snag a bunch customers and then plan to scale back the offering once they customer base is in place. Or is this more reactionary?
    Adding outsized benefits gets them a whole lot of press from Bloggers etc and doesn’t really cost them a lot if they scale back the benefits before most can take advantage.

    • Nick, I have a hard time imagining their plan all along was to end up with airport hotels in the top tier. It feels reactionary to me to some extent for sure, but that is just a guess.

      • I really dont get it, this really hurts those who purchased the daily get away points at a discount. The devaluation is significant. There are only so many vacations a person can take a year, this is too fast and too soon.

    • It’s obvious that this is the result of some horrible mismanagement or accounting snafu. Their program is now completely useless to even people who would regularly pay going rates at these CC hotels.

      I could understand them sticking it to US based freeloaders and capping the free night promo on the US Bank cards to a few nights a year, but what they’ve done screws over even loyal paying customers…however few they probably have.

  3. Club Carlson are pretty much morons for doing this. We will burn our points at their crappy hotels, and almost certainly never stay with them again. It’s not the devaluation that will keep us away in the long-run, but their horrible properties.

    • Gene, well I agree that they have a lot of properties that aren’t exactly exceptional…they are just places to sleep. That is totally fine, of course, but it means you have to make up for that in other ways, and this devaluation and the loss of the last award night free take away much of the “making up for it in other ways”.

        • I also totally agree. Now with this devaluation added to the mix, the time has come to part ways with Club Carlson AND its credit card. Adios ——

      • Exactly, and that is why this such a stupid move on CC’s part. It’s not like the last 3-4 years of promos have convinced anyone that they have nice hotels. At least when Hyatt invested heavily in promos, they had lots of properties to wow people with before pulling back on promos and award charts.

  4. Burning 150k and cancelling tonight. One of our stays next year was going to be for four nights (50k x 3 + free). After June 1st, it becomes two (70k x 2 + nothing). Yuck.

  5. Several major devaluations in just over a year. I just wish I had a place to burn the points quickly. Most of my travels in the coming year are to places CC is not represented, and beyond that, I may make a couple of speculative reservations, but there’s not much I can do. Too bad, it was a good program for me; now I doubt I’ll renew the card unless I have a specific good use in mind for the 40,000 points at that time.

  6. I was on the fence about keeping my Club Carlson Visa card next year, but this ensures I will be cancelling. Before, the renewal 40,000 points, coupled with $2,000 of spending on the card, meant a free night at properties like the Radisson Blus in Chicago or Philadelphia. Next year, it will be the 40,000 points + $6,000 of spending to get those same nights.

  7. I was on the fence about applying for the Club Carlson credit card. This decision along with the removal of the last night free benefit all but guarantees I will not apply for the card.

  8. I never was a big fan of Radisson but having their credit card with the free nights on 2+ award nights and decent reward levels were pulling me closer and closer to being a fan… but BAM!.. right cross with the credit card devaluation.. then Upper Cut with these category jumps just knocked me out. I don’t foresee any Radisson stays in my future.

  9. RIP Club Carlson. Glad I already booked one last stay for the Aqua in Chicago for the Broncos/Bears game. My only regret was doing a mattress run for 30k points 2 weeks ago because now I’m having to wait on the bonus 30k (they didn’t post instantly for me like a lot of people). If that 30k doesn’t post before June 1, it was a wasted run.

  10. Do you think travelers using points have the power over how they choose to travel? How about a boycott until they realize why we chose them in the first place. They were once a no name hotel. With loosing the 2nd nights and increasing rewards point, I feel they are no longer worth it. They are no Hyatt!!!

  11. Glad I was able to milk the clubcarlson awards as much as I can. In the past couple of years, we have stayed in the following places using their second night free award.

    Radisson blu in Champs-Élysées (4 nights, using 2 cards and paying for 100K total points in March 2013)
    Radisson blu in Madrid Prado (2 nights at 44K pts in March 2013)
    Radisson Blu Sun Gardens in dubrovnik (4 nights for 100K in Dec 2013)
    Radisson Blu Vienna (2 nights for 50K in Dec 2013)
    Park Plaza In Beijing ( 2 nights at 38K or 44K in March 2014)
    Park Plaza in Bangkok ( 4 nights using 56K in March 2014)

    I am sure I am missing some more but these were the highlights and yes I am heading to Dubai and Sydney next year to burn rest of the points.

  12. Just for clarification, can I still book the “+free night” for Feb 2016? Or does that all end by May 31st 2015? Thanks. Sorry if its clear in the article but I missed it. Trying to multitask during a work meeting.

  13. I applied just before the loss of the last-night free program. I am glad that I was able to book the Reykjavik 1919 with the bonus, but that 44,000 points for two nights right now will be 140,000 points for two nights on June 2nd. That’s just insane.

    The only value with this card now is if you want the cheap properties. Spending only $1800 for a free night at a Cat 1 property is still a good deal. But my guess is that most of the people who got this card didn’t get it for hotel rooms that would otherwise be $69 a night.

  14. Eh, I’ll stick with them. They have been good to me, and I’m bullish on the Park Inn Orlando at 9k/night. That place is extremely convenient to WDW. I’d rather stay there than the “All Star” resorts on Disney property any day. WDW buses. Ugh. So unreliable.

  15. I’m down to the biz card only, and I think I’m probably going to let it go…

    This is poor management. It’s almost like they don’t know what they are doing. How do they expect to compete?

  16. There are 2 properties that I think of that are still (moderately) good value in the US–i.e. properties that are okay in redemption price in comparison to surrounding properties and in an area I would actually visit (maybe only 1). That’s it. I was pretty much done after the dropping of the 2nd night free, but was still contemplating keeping the card for a once a year redemption in Chicago (plus 10K more points than yearly award). However, this devaluation ends it. My favorite two US redemptions were Chicago Aqua Blu and NYC Martinique. Both now go from 50K for two nights, to 140K for two nights. That is (effectively) a 180% increase in the cost of points (and I don’t care if people claim it is only a 40% increase b/c I shouldn’t count the 2nd night free, b/c I do count it). I just don’t understand how anyone trusts this program after this. It wasn’t that long ago when I remember sitting around the computer waiting for the Big Night promotion (or whatever it was called) when Club Carlson first started.

    And @mommypoints–my thought was exactly the same as yours regarding the number of now “top tier” hotles: Club Carlson is putting out a 100K top level redemption category next year b/c there is no way the London May Fair and the Minneapolis Radisson Blu are in the same universe with each other for purposes of redemptions.

  17. I love it. “I can’t manufacture spend and milk promos to get thousand dollar hotel stays during peak Europe travel season at extreme discounts, so I’m outta here!”

    My guess is the Club Carlson execs are holding the door open for you as you leave, if their generosity over the last few years isn’t making you actually stay with them on paid stays instead of award stays…

    • I have to disagree. I have never MS one single Club Carlson point. They handed them out like candy through legit promos and then imploded their award chart.

      • Absolutely correct MP! I never once MSed. I had paid stays at their properties when they had bonus point promos and I may have (can’t remember) bought a Daily Getaways a year or two ago. I even mattress ran a couple of times, which obviously benefited me greatly, but also CC revenue at properties that they otherwise would not have gotten Then, in essentially a month, they devalue their points at their best properties by making redemptions on two night stays cost 140% more. Devaluations I can handle, they happen. But in the same year to increase costs on 2 night stays by nearly 1.5 times is insane and is really not fair to those people who took them at their word and opted for their program over others. While perhaps you were out manufacture spending left and right, others of us were not. If CC wanted to make this more palatable, they could have done something like, “if you have X number of qualified nights in a year, you still get the free night bonus.” That would have greatly reduced the manufactured spenders. But they didn’t. Instead, they just completely blew up their award chart. They will not only lose the MSers that took advantage, they are going to lose the occasional business traveler that opted for their hotels b/c of the perks. If you want to talk about sustainable, there are just too many better hotel chains for this kind of change to be sustainable.

    • I MSed them but so what. The credit card offered no special category bonus that I was abusing. Anyone with legitimate high spend would get the same points and CC with US Bank knew exacatly what they were getting into.

      CC are a bunch of scumbags who screwed over US bank. Sold a ton of points, go them to sign up all the card members and then backstabbed all of us.

      • I think you have an interesting point about U.S. Bank. I called them, and they said the elimination of the free night was a Club Carlson decision, not a U.S. Bank one. The movement of properties is certainly the same. I don’t know how these deals work, but I agree U.S. Bank is taking a lot of the heat and will be losing plenty of business because of CC moves that may have blindsided them too.

        • Yes..I heard the same from their online CSRs when I called to complain. I kind of feel sorry for them so I won’t be filing any government agency complaints, as long as they peacefully cancel my cards and refund my AF at the end of this month.

          US Bank really should be suing CC, as they suffered a lot more than we did.

    • Yikes, … sounds like sour grapes. I thought the point was to maximize and take advantage of opportunities when available. I’m guessing you do not have the Club Carlson card and live outside the U.S.. A vast amount of people would never be able to travel if it wasn’t for credit card bonuses and deals like the Club Carlson BOGO. Maybe you forgot that only a few short years ago the people bailed out the world banks. That was w/ my hard earned tax $’s and yours. Consider MS & BOGO stays payback from the banksters. I will never feel guilty, as long as it’s legal!!!

  18. Well…unchecked printing of money always results in a devaluation of currency. Same applies to points. A program were one could earn 100k – 150k Club Carlson points by staying a few times at Country Inns, then redeem points for 4 nights (3x50k + Free CC) at a $500/night property in Europe is simply not sustainable. The only surprise is why it lasted as long as it did.

  19. I replied back on my BBB & CFPB complaints saying, they must remove the hard inquiry and refund my fee $75 or I will report you guys to states AG’s office for fraud, dishonest deceptive business practise. The rep called again saying they can’t remove the hard pull but they can refund me $75 fee and asked me if that is ok. I replied yes. will cancel it once the next fee comes up.

    not worth any more since the bonus award night is gone and award rate for 210 of their motels are going up worldwide

  20. Currently have less than 4,000 points left after just making reservations for 8 nights in Europe for September. CC’s credit card is also no longer in my wallet. As stated before, “Adios CC!”

  21. Combine the insulting tidbits that Carlson is offering as replacement of the “last night free” benefit with the surly, uninformed CSRs at US Bank and you have a bad loyalty program. Like so many of the people who are writing to you, I’ll somehow use my 300k Carlson points and than say bye-bye to this program.

  22. I called to request a refund of the $75 annual fee. US Bank stated that they could do the refund, but I would have to cancel the card. I told them to go ahead and cancel it. They will send me a check for $75. The reps at USBank seem to feel badly about the deval.

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