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An Unexpected Windfall of Club Carlson Points from US Bank, and Why That Program Rocks (Sometimes)

Few months  ago I wrote a post on how you need to make sure there is a charge on your US Bank Club Carlson Signature Visa the month your annual fee hits. Simply paying the fee in-full doesn’t seem to be sufficient for getting annual renewal  points. Everything with US Bank is a little bit weird.

I’ve mentioned that I decided to renew mine and my husband’s Club Carlson Visa and gave my reasons as to why. Anyway, we got the points eventually and I forgot all about it. Well, just a few days ago I received two identical  letters from US Bank  containing an apology for any misunderstanding. And as a result, my husband and I each got 40,000 points deposited into our respective accounts.

I didn’t ask for these courtesy points and never put any complaint, so the whole thing is quite puzzling. But what the hey, I’ll take it!

OK sign

Image courtesy of stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Apparently, many folks, including Shawn from Milestomemories blog got the points as well. So I guess I’m not special…

I’m sure you are aware that Club Carlson properties in US are labeled as dumps by most of our brethren. I strongly disagree. As I’ve said before, one really needs to  do research on Trip Advisor and other forums before dismissing a hotel based on its affiliation.

Believe it or not, not every Hyatt is a cat’s meow. We just love making cat analogies here at Miles For Family. In fact, there is a good chance that someday I’ll re-brand this blog and start focusing content on my (non-existent) pet cats. It’s a much more appropriate topic for a stay-at-home mom, no? 🙂

cat 1

Credit for meme goes to www.icanhascheeseburger.com

I still love you, Club Carlson!

Though I don’t love the way you went about this whole devaluation (a.k.a program gutting) thing last year. So far, my family and relatives  stayed in five or six Club Carlson properties, and every one of them was nice. I realize it’s a very small sample, but the outcry on dumpiness is just overblown IMO.

All hotels were  clean, comfortable and few included a free semi-decent breakfast. Some are tremendous bargain on points, like Country Inn and Suites, Orlando Airport. My brother-in-law just stayed there with his wife before an early flight, and they had nothing but good things to say about it.

The property costs 15,000 points per night and regularly goes for $100. If you choose to renew your Club Carlson Visa, you’ll get almost enough points for three nights at this hotel, all for only $75. There is a free shuttle to the airport and hot breakfast is included. How can you beat that?

Swapping IHG for Club Carlson

Of course, the biggest problem with Club Carlson chain is its small footprint. To me, this is the main determining factor when choosing which hotel currency to accumulate. I don’t like to be limited to destinations served by   a specific chain, which is why I’m a big fan of IHG despite the fact that it drives me crazy at times.

I choose where we go and then make the points work around our plans. Very often, there will be  a Holiday Inn Express in the area, so I get to put my cheaply acquired (or almost free) hotel currency to good use.

That said, occasionally, Club Carlson  properties can come in handy. Let’s say there is an IHG hotel that costs 25,000 points and a Country Inn and Suites that runs at 15,000 points. To me, those two chains are very similar when it comes to overall quality.  So if both properties have decent reviews and seem otherwise equal, I will choose the latter.

In my experience, with Club Carlson, the name of the game is compromise. Back when BOGO benefit was still alive, we once stayed a bit further away from our destination in order to take advantage of it. Originally, we had  a reservation at IHG property, but I convinced my in-laws to save the points and go with Club Carlson instead.

These days, I aim for convenience if the price on points is similar, but I also look at what it cost me to acquire each currency. I’ve previously compared hotel points to stocks, not in a  sense that they appreciate in value over time, but  that you need to consider basis when you are ready to “sell.” Let me give you an example.

Next month we are leaving for three nights in order to attend an event in another city. Originally, it looked like my husband needed to be there early each day, so I got a Holiday Inn Express across the street. The cost was 25,000 points per night, but we get a rebate of 10% due to having a co-branded IHG credit card. I have acquired IHG points via various promotions at a  cost of around 0.33 cent each. I didn’t keep track of an exact number, but this is a ballpark figure.

So, for three nights our total out-of-pocket cost comes out to around $223, not bad considering this hotel runs at $100 per night. Of course, it’s not dirt cheap either, but convenience in this case made it worth it. Well, we recently learned that my husband won’t need to  arrive early, so staying at a nearby property was no longer crucial.

I started looking at other options. At the moment, I have a stash of SPG as well as Club Carlson points. There was a Sheraton not too far away, but it costs 7,000 points per night. That’s too rich for my blood since I speculatively value this amount at $110. Not to mention, it doesn’t include breakfast.

On to Club Carlson. There is a Country Inn and Suites property 10 minutes away and it costs 28,000 points per night for a total of 84,000 points. At first glance, IHG might seem  like a winner, but not to me. You see, I paid $75 to renew each Club Carlson Visa, and I already had 10,000 extra points in my account, just sitting there. I got them for less than $10 via lucrative promotion. When you have elite status with Club Carlson (comes with credit card), you are allowed to transfer your points for free to anyone.

So, by that logic, our hotel would cost us $154 ($75+$75+$4). That’s a difference of $69 compared to IHG. Sure, we would have to drive a bit more each day, but there are a couple of things that made this option more appealing:

1) I get to save my IHG points which are far more valuable to me than Club Carlson currency.

2) We get to try a new hotel. We’ve already stayed at this Holiday Inn Express last year. It’s always fun to check out  a new hotel, even if it’s a run-of-the-mill Country Inn and Suites.

3) Club Carlson property has two king-size beds, while IHG hotel has two queens. My husband and I can share a queen, but king size bed makes it much more comfortable.

Bottom line

I renewed our Club Carlson credit cards without having a specific use for points in mind. Even though I’m not getting a mind-blowing value with this redemption, I think it’s respectable and will allow me to save IHG points for next Spring Break vacation. I’m thinking Holiday Inn Club Vacations Cape Canaveral Beach resort It costs 35,000 points per night and rates in March hover around $250 or more.

While not a fancy establishment by any means, it’s perfectly suitable for  a family vacation. Fun too! Just like Country Inn and Suites, Holiday Inn brand is good enough for me. I recommend you don’t buy into stereotypes on hotel chains and always do your own research. If a property has good reviews, appears to be clean, comfortable and happens to be cheap on points, what more  could you ask for?

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Author: Leana

Leana is the owner and founder of Miles For Family. She enjoys beach vacations and visiting her family in Europe. Originally from Belarus, Leana resides in central Florida with her husband and two children.

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