Say what? No, this is not about George Clooney, who just broke up with yet another girlfriend. Lonesome George is a name of a giant tortoise, who for the longest time was considered the rarest animal on the planet, until his death last year. And I am just trying to draw a parallel.
1) Is the bonus substantial ? Should be at least 350 dollars in value upfront.
2) Is it worth putting everyday spending beyond the bonus for my pattern of expenses?
3) Is it worth renewing and paying an annual fee?
I can usually say “yes” to one or two questions, depending on the card, but never all 3. That is until now. There is a credit card, that is making me rethink getting cash back beyond just bonus, and it’s a hotel points card out of all things. I normally avoid actively collecting hotel points through spend because I consider them the equivalent of zimbabwean currency in this hobby.
In fact, right now I am almost out of hotel points because I hate hoarding them for too long. Anybody, who is familiar with devaluation in hotel programs this year, would agree. But, this one is a bit different. It’s US Bank Club Carlson visa, which does pay me commission, if you apply through my site. There are a few unique features about this card.
First, it gives 85000 points after 2500 spend in 3 months, easily doable for us. Every year it gives 40000 points to renew it for 75 dollar fee. The first year annual fee is not waived. It gives 5 points per dollar for everyday spend. And the best feature: when you redeem points for 2 nights consecutively, the last night is free. Let’s look at some specific redemptions in places, where a family would like to vacation.
We will assume 2 adults and 2 children per room. And we will try to compare against a 2 percent Fidelity Amex cash back credit card, the best available option right now without an annual fee. Finally, we will assume a 2 night stay to maximize value. Ignoring the bonus, is it worth it to continue to put everyday spend on this card?
1) Park Inn Celebration It runs at 15,000 points per night, with second night free. So, you would have to spend just 3000 dollars to get 2 nights here. You would forgo 60 dollars in cash back from 2 percent card. So, 30 dollars per night is a very good deal indeed.
2) Radisson Melbourne Oceanfront (that’s in Florida, not Australia BTW) This one is a bit expensive at 44,000 points per night. You would have to spend 8800 to get 2 nights here, foregoing 176 dollars with Amex. But the rooms are huge and all of them are oceanfront. I would argue, that 88 dollars per night for an oceanfront resort (redemption includes tax) is a very good deal, especially during Spring Break.
Actually, for me specifically the math would be twice as good. That is because I usually use Chase Freedom for non bonus spend and it earns only 1 percent cash back. I have different reasons for that, see previous post. So, I potentially would get an oceanfront room in peak season for just 44 dollars per night. Amazing!
There is one huge problem, though. This kind of rate of return is simply not sustainable in the long run. And Club Carlson has a history of raising redemption requirements with no notice. I hate to say it, but I don’t trust the program at this time. My vacations are set for next year, so I am holding off applying, for now.
They could take the “second night free” benefit away at any time, and that is , what makes this program attractive to me. But you can see why it is a good deal all around at this time and rivals even the best cash back card. How long will the deal be alive? Who knows?
So there you have it. Club Carlson Visa, the rarest of all credit cards. At least for now.
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.