Racking Up 60 Points Per Dollar With Club Carlson

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One type of hotel point that used to be a pretty rising star among point junkies was Club Carlson points. They were easy to obtain and really easy to stretch for big value if you had the co-branded Club Carlson credit card. Then after a couple of years they increased the maximum number of points required for many of their hotels from 50,000 to 70,000 points per night, and eliminated the super valuable last award night free benefit that came with the credit card. The huge points promos from paid stays also significantly decreased around the same time.

 

Thanks to all this (and being busy having a raising a baby) I ignored them for about a year. I think that many others did the same even without having the new baby. However, we recently had a stay at the Radisson Blu Edinburgh that reminded me how much I really do like Club Carlson points, even if I don’t like them quite as much as I used to.

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I’ll do a full review of the hotel in the next week or so, but today I want to just offer a reminder of how quickly Club Carlson points can still add up, even without the truly massive promos we saw 3-4 years ago.

Racking Up Lots of Club Carlson Points

Thanks to having the co-branded Club Carlson credit card I have automatic Gold status in the Club Carlson program. This doesn’t mean too much in practice, but it does mean you earn a 35% points bonus on eligible stays. Factoring that bonus into the equation, here’s how our recent stay quickly turned into 36,000+ points!

  • Earn 20x points per dollar on eligible Club Carlson stays and food/drinks charged to room
  • Earn 35% bonus on those base points for having Gold status (via the credit card)
  • Earn double the normal base points via the current Work Hard Play Hard promo through 10/31/16 – would have been triple on a weekend stay. Maximum earning of 50,000 bonus points during this promo. 
  • Earn 10x points for Club Carlson charges on the co-branded credit card…though this card very unfortunately still charges foreign transaction fees, so you may just want to use it for domestic Club Carlson stays to avoid that now pretty antiquated fee.

When you start talking about these huge multipliers it doesn’t take much for a paid stay to turn into a good haul of points to use in the future. In fact, our stay was actually an award stay, but we paid a cash co-pay to go from a standard room to a true one-bedroom suite. We also had another room booked for Grandma for one night and we charged a few food items and drinks to the room. All-in for those expenses we spent about $587 USD at a Club Carlson property, and that quickly turned into around 36,000 Club Carlson points earned at over 60x points per dollar spent, which is nothing to sneeze at.

While standard rooms at their top tier properties are now 70,000 points per night, category 1 Club Carlson properties start at 9,000 points per night. In other words, 36,000+ Club Carlson points still have real value for us. I was pleasantly reminded how quickly Club Carlson points can add up when I logged in to my Club Carlson account this morning. I am looking forward to putting those points to good use in the future at a property like the Radisson Blu Edinburgh, the Radisson Blu Madrid Prado, the Radisson Blu Trysil Ski Resort in Norway, or the May Fair in London!

Do you still make use of the Club Carlson program, or you still “on a break” with them? Are you as impressed as I am at how quickly the points can add up on stays?

 

Editorial Note: The opinions expressed here are mine and not provided, reviewed, by any bank, card issuer, or other company unless otherwise stated.

The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

Comments

  1. If I cancel my club carlson credit card can I still use my buy 1 get one free that I already book before they ended that program?thanks

  2. I also forget about them. Keep the card only for the 40000 points a year. But the program was way better with the last night free. Best redemptions that I had were at MayFair London and Park Inn Prague. That Radisson in Edinburgh looks very nice…that is why is good to have points with every program…to have more options

  3. Summer, the elimination of the free reward night was a deal breaker. Yes, its easy to rack up points with Club Carlson, but their relative value per point compared to other loyalty programs is low, and the cost to redeem them for a free night is much higher.
    To illustrate, I am planning a six night trip to Amsterdam. Cost using IHG for a Holiday Inn Express is 120,000 points where a six night reward stay at a Park Inn is 264,000 Club Carlson points. Considering a 10% point rebate with the IHG credit card, one free night anywhere (even at an Intercontinental), Platinum status, quarterly promotions, Point Breaks, and a large buffet of hotel choices make IHG a better overall loyalty program

    • Club Carlson was one of my favorites with the 2nd/last night free. I have stayed at a 9,000 point Park Inn at Dallas Love Field (not worth even that much), and I’ve stayed at a number of Radisson Blu’s in Europe (excellent, but now overpriced on points, IMO). I think the sweet spot is a stateside Radisson (e.g. Salt Lake City Downtown) for 28,000. Lastly, nobody seems to mention the E-Certificate, good at any Carlson hotel, that comes with a $10,000 annual spend by card anniversary. Only do the $10k and you get 50,000 points plus the free anywhere room.

  4. Agree with Steve T; Carlson points are over-valued. Not only did they do away with the 2nd free night but they inflated point requirements to a ridiculous level.

    IHG is much much better. Also Choice and Wyndham.

  5. I’ve kept my Club Carlson cards for the 40k annual points, but pretty much don’t use them. I blew 220k points on five nights at the Country Inn & Suites Cooperstown for the Baseball Hall of Fame induction ceremony this summer, of which we only stayed three. Prices in Cooperstown that time of year are obviously very expensive and they had a 5(!) night minimum, as did other places. The actual $/point value on this booking wasn’t that high, but I was very happy with this redemption. My annual fees just posted, and I actually spent $10k on one of them this year for the free night certificate, so I’ll have 130k + a free night coming soon. I have no idea when or where I’ll use them.

    I don’t think I’ll cancel my cards just yet, but I don’t expect to use them again or have any paid stays. I’ll probably just book a night at a top property every year for the combined $135 in annual fees.

    (Note: This property is no longer a Country Inn & Suites. It is now an independent hotel, but they honored the points reservation I had made with Club Carlson.)

  6. I’m in limbo with Club Carlson. I really love some of the properties but the loss of the free last night and the devaluation was a one two punch. I agree with Steve T. I have Spire and Ambassador status with IHG and get a much better value for my efforts. Weak spot for both is lack of good properties in Hawaii. I hate Choice and Wyndham is dead to me from past experiences. Hilton is too devalued. I like Marriott and may start earning more with them.
    I’ll likely keep my club Carlson card due to the annual bonus and US Bank is my primary bank so it’s easy to manage the card. Statehood and Hyatt don’t have enough locations for my needs.

    • Danin and Summer:
      A loyalty program for the budget or Mid priced traveler that doesn’t receive any coverage is the La Quinta Returns program. Like Southwest Airlines its simple to use, great customer service and a predictable cookie cutter of hotels so you know what your getting. They do vary in quality from a Motel 6 (forget it) to a Hampton or a Courtyard by Marriott. Its easy to tell the quality of the hotel by the number of points required and location. La Quinta properties are plentiful in the West, South and Southwest. Very often they do run promotions stay two nights get one free. Drawbacks are its only domestic (except Mexico), not for the luxury traveler, free continental breakfast can be disappointing and points expire if there is no activity in an 18 months period. (However if you call then they will reinstate your points as a one time exception).

    • I am writing from the Hyatt Regency Waikiki Beach…stay on points+cash. I agree that there isn’t Hyatts everywhere like Hilton or Marriot (that’s why I also collect Hilton points) but been a Diamond member with Hyatt is the nicest status that you can ever have with a hotel chain. Marriot points are less valuable that any other program….you need 40000 points to stay in a $80 room, and points are hard to get.

  7. Club Carlson still makes sense for me. I can get a free night at a nice, centrally located London property for $14,000 in credit card spend – which remains cheaper than other programs. Add in the 40,000 anniversary points, and the US free night cert (hello, Radisson Martinique Manhattan) for $10,000 in spend, and for me keeping my Club Carlson personal and business cards is an easy decision. (But in BOGO days I put as much spend as possible on the cards; now I just target $10,000/year.)

      • Marcos – The May Fair is considered the “best” hotel. We’ve stayed several times at Radisson Blu Edwardian Hampshire Hotel on Leicester Square, right in the heart of the West End theatre district, and close to Trafalgar Square, and been very satisfied.

        Now most of the London hotels are 70,000 points/night, but there are a few that are 50,000 points in reasonably good locations.

        • Yes, I stayed at the May Fair the my first time in London using the last night free. Very good value for the points at the moment. Nice hotel and location. Last time I stayed at the Conrad St James with 2 certificates from Hilton credit card. Very nice too plus we have benefits like breakfast and lounge access….something that we didn’t have at the May Fair.

  8. I know it is U.S. Bank’s fault but the service I get with the CC is terrible. Wrong interest rates, mistakes (always in their favor), time it takes to call and get resolved, waiting for 2 freaking months to get my 40K points to post, and did I mention I had one nasty rep that raised her voice to me? It makes me want to forget my CC account entirely. For now I’m putting up with it, but only for the 40K points. Maybe I will dump them in the future due to the lousy, LOUSY service that I get from U.S. Bank.

  9. “I think that many others did the same even without having the new baby.” LOL! Bingo. No baby — but I used last of BOGO + the free night booby prize from when BOGO stopped to book some nice nights in Paris. Because of the stupid fx fee, the card didn’t get to go to Paris; the card went in the drawer to sleep. I keep looking at Radisson Blu U.S. bookings, but paying $$ seems to always be cheaper than 70,000-105,000 points per night — even at my valuation of $ .003 per point. Oh, yeah, and Warwick Phila left the program. So card stays in the drawer. I was offered a hilarious credit card challenge recently, where after spending $50 to qualify(!!!) I get an extra point for each $ up to $2000 thru September. I figure that’s about a $6 reward. Good credit line and a low renewal fee offset by 40k points ($120) keep me in the Club.

  10. Eliminating the second night free did leave me a little sour. I am having to move my vacation time due to not being able to get a particular week off work…this means I can change my reservations but end up losing 3 (BOGO) nights free! Wish they would have a little sympathy for changing reservations already made 🙁 I really do LOVE their properties but will be researching other hotel credit cards for the future.
    P.S. Thanks for all you do!

  11. While I was as unhappy as everyone else at the changes Club Carlson made, I’m keeping both my personal and business cards. The value at some hotels is still pretty nice. For the price of an annual fee, I get 2+ nights at the Radisson in Budapest at 15k a night, rather than $75 a night.

  12. We have 5 cards between us and that gets us 200,000 points per year just paying the annual fees: 2 x $75 and 3 x $60 = $330. We use them for 3 stays in Manhattan each year (70,000 points per night) – not bad for $110 per night with no taxes. And we go for various promotions where we have now amassed a lot of points in addition. Not a bad program. Hotels aren’t the best but OK.

  13. I 100% agree with those who think the program lost luster with the BOGO elimination and jump from 50k to 70k for many properties. I haven’t bothered with them since then, but they were a great option in Edinburgh and I’m glad to still have some CC points to return there or a similar property. They have lots of properties that don’t excite me, but there are a few I’ve stayed in that were very nice and a pretty good value on points…even at current rates. In other words, I will keep them a bit more in mind on the earning side now that I have gotten over how good they used to be. They won’t be my primary program by a long shot, but they still do have use in my miles and points system.

  14. My husband and I both have the Club Carlson Visa, and we are paying the annual fee this year for the 40K points. Once they post, we’ll have 200K points. But, I am not sure how long we will continue to keep the cards. We were planning to use them in Scandinavia next year before/after a cruise but are pushing that out to 2018, so we most likely won’t be in Stockholm or Copenhagen until then.
    However, we got great value from the program with not much spend – in 2014, using the last night free we stayed 2 free nights at the Radisson Blu Royal Brussels and 6 free nights at the Radisson Blu Amsterdam in a lovely canal view room. In 2015 we stayed 4 free nights at the Rad Blu Mercer Street London and 4 free nights at the Rad Blu Dublin in a business class room, breakfast included. We also each got a free night certificate from US Bank after complaining about the end of the 2-for-1 benefit. Used 1 at the Radisson Leicester Sq London but somehow they put the cert back into my husband’s account! We’ll be using them both soon on an upcoming trip.
    So for about $850 in AFs and some points purchases, we’ve had 19 free nights and will have 200K points – not too shabby, I think.

  15. I recently stayed at Radisson Blu hotels in France and Spain. Fortunately I booked last year with the BOGO offers. The room rates are very expensive (summer) so it’s almost always best to use points, and all 4 of the hotels were very pleasant to stay in. I’m keeping my card for next year’s Scandanavia trip.

  16. We will be leaving in about 10 days for a 33 day trip to Scandinavia & Germany. I have used various points programs for all but 2 nights, but the predominant one is Club Carlson clocking in at 17 of those nights. 16 of the nights were booked on BOGO before devaluations so I feel like we got our money’s worth! And we’ve kept both my card and my husband’s until at least after this trip as we wanted the 40,000 Anniversary points in case we needed them for this trip. Will make a further decision when the Annual Fees come up.

  17. We burned most of our points for an awesome Scandanavia/Germany trip and hit three Radisson Blu hotels for four nights each with the BOGO bonus, for both myself and my spouse. Great experience and the hotels in Copenhagen, Stockholm, and Berlin were awesome.

    Funny thing is that I have one last BOGO stay coming up that I booked (I think in May 2015) for New York at the Martinique over Christmas. Staying two nights but only paying for one! I did have to let my card renew because I was afraid that my New York hotel reservation might get cancelled somehow if cancelled the card? Now I have an orphan 40K points in each account that we will have to figure something out and burn them on an upcoming trip.

  18. Does this Work Hard, Play Hard promo apply to the cash portion of cash and points stays? I can’t find this info any place. Thanks!

    • I can tell you it doubled all of our points earned, including those earned on the cash co-pay of our upgrade. So, my guess is yes, but that is just a guess.

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