Why Renewing US Bank Club Carlson Signature Visa Could Still Be Worth It (for Some)

My long-time readers probably remember Club Carlson massacre that occurred  last April. I’m talking about the axing of BOGO benefit on redemptions, of course. Some of you signed up for their co-branded credit card right away in order to beat the devaluation before the deadline.

Just a few months later Club Carlson had the gumption to raise the rates on many of its top properties. A double whammy. I have to say, it was quite obnoxious of them, but at least, they did give advance notice. So, it comes as no surprise that many hobbyists consider Club Carlson points to be totally worthless. But are they right?

Not really. Don’t get me wrong, they aren’t that valuable to those who only want to stay in luxury properties in large cities. In London, for example, you’ll have to shell out 105,000 points for a family suite in some hotels.

To me, the biggest negative about Club Carlson program is its tiny footprint. But I still think there is value to be had when it comes to normal American family’s travel patterns. Let me show you why.

The reason I wanted to put this post together is because many are probably wondering whether they should renew the card and pay $75. You get 40,000 points in exchange, but is the juice worth the squeeze? I think it is for many.

Last April I actually convinced my father and mother-in-law to sign up for Club Carlson credit cards, and they don’t plan on canceling them. In fact, I will probably use the points myself and reimburse them the fees.

As much as I love “free” travel, the reality is, it’s almost never free. Even if you sign up for a hotel credit card bonus (see my list here), you end up channelling your minimum spending toward that card instead of cash back offer. That’s why now and again,  I like buying hotel points at discounted price whether it’s via participating in promos or paying annual fees.

Why you should at least consider renewing your Club Carlson Visa:

1) You can utilize Category 1-3 hotel stays in a near future. 

See all category 1 Club Carlson properties (9,000 points per night) and all category 2 properties ( 15,000 points per night). Park Inn Radisson in Orlando costs 15,000 points per night and is located close to Disney parks. The reviews are somewhat mixed, but it is an affordable option for a family on a tight budget.

Club Carlson program can be good for overnight stays near an airport before an early flight. I just booked one night in Country Inn and Suites  for my brother-in-law at the cost of 15,000 points. This hotel goes for $100 or more and includes breakfast.

If you only plan to spend one night and just need a place to sleep, does it always have to be Hyatt or Westin? We’ve stayed in several Club Carlson properties so far, and I can say with absolute certainty that “all US properties in that chain are dumps” statement is a gross exaggeration.

If you choose to renew your card, 40,000 points will almost cover a three-night stay at a Category 2 property. You can acquire 5,000 points by simply charging $1,000 on your card. Factoring in opportunity cost of losing 2% in cash back, you can get those three nights for $95 total. That’s less than $32 all-in per night, a pretty darn good deal!

It could even make sense to redeem points at a Category 3 property. Check out this hotel in Scranton, NJ:

radisson scranton

This looks like such a unique property, a converted  train station. My NYC friends, how about doing a short getaway in Scranton?  This hotel is located close to Poconos mountains and Bushkill Falls (quite impressive).

I’m not saying I would ever pay $180 per night, but doing it via points redemption could make sense. Let’s say both spouses renew their Club Carlson cards. You would get 80,000 points total since you can combine them.

You can easily do that by calling Club Carlson and the agent will transfer them immediately. Any elite Club Carlson member (you get Gold status via credit card)  can transfer points to anyone, which is a nice perk. I’ve done it with my in-laws’ accounts when we were short for a specific redemption.

You would have to only charge $800 in order to get the needed 84,000 points for a three-night getaway. Factoring in opportunity cost, your total would be $166 ($75 X 2, plus $16). It’s not free, but a pretty good deal in my book. Remember, you can cancel points reservation if someone gets sick or if you change your mind.

2) You plan to stay at Radisson Oceanfront Melbourne, Florida

This is one of the reasons I decided to renew our Club Carlson credit cards. We just stayed at this property and I think it’s a terrific choice for a short beachfront getaway after visiting Disney. I will write about it in more detail during upcoming weeks, but for now, you can see more info  in this post.

This property runs at 44,000 points. If you renew the card, you can get 1 night at this all-suite hotel for $91 total (factoring in earning 4,000 extra points), a very good deal during high season. I’m seriously thinking about taking my family  there during next Spring Break. And how can you put a price on seeing this from your balcony each morning?

rad sunrise


3) You hope to stay at their top end properties during high season.

I will say upfront that this is probably the least compelling reason to renew the card, but could still make sense for some. Let’s say you have a  1-night stay in London before the flight back to US and want to splurge on a nice, centrally-located property. Check out this hotel:

park plaza

Not too shabby of a view, right? If both spouses renew the card and you charge extra $1,500, you will get one night at this hotel for $180 all-in, factoring in opportunity cost. No, it’s not cheap, but you are still getting it at half price. Like I said, it’s very much a splurge, and sometimes it’s OK to splurge.

I’ve paid as much as $250 per night to stay in a castle. You don’t always have to settle for basic accommodations. If you are only going to be in a place for a short amount of time, consider getting something special now and again.

Important caveats to consider

It can take two months or more after paying the fee to get your renewal points. I just contacted US Bank about my husband’s account. He paid his annual fee two months ago, but the points are still showing as pending. I, on the other hand, got mine within a month.

The point is, a lot can happen in that time period. Club Carlson could devalue their program further, your property may no longer be available, some places may require a 2-night reservation, hotel may leave the chain etc. I recommend you always have a Plan B for your points. Still, the renewal fee is cheap enough that even a cheapskate in me is willing to pay it in order to get 40,000 points.

Readers, who is planning on renewing their Club Carlson Visa?

Click here to view various credit cards and available sign-up bonuses

Author: Leana

Leana is the 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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17 thoughts on “Why Renewing US Bank Club Carlson Signature Visa Could Still Be Worth It (for Some)

  1. This is so timely for me. I think mine comes up in May and have been going back and forth about this – I still have my certificate to use too in addition to 75000 pts – I stayed at a Radisson in Tucson when I went to visit my family and am thinking of staying there again when I go in August (unless IHG has a great point breaks deal then) – its a very nice property, especially for only 15000 points. Just not sure about the fee since I just got the Marriott card and will have to pay that fee too.

    • HML, it’s definitely up to you. I also hate paying fees and buying hotel points needlessly. If you are on a tight budget, $75 is nothing to sneeze at. So, I totally get it. However, to me, the investment seems worth it for now. It could change, of course, if Club Carlson decides to gut their program further. But I doubt that they will.
      I would say if you can get a Club Carlson hotel for 15,000 points in a near future, renewing this card makes sense. You said you like the place, so that’s another plus. Save your Marriott points for something else. They are way more valuable than Club Carlson currency.

  2. In my opinion, you only renew if you have specific properties in mind that you know will suit your needs (either from personal experience or opinions you trust) OR you frequently stay at their various properties so you are not surprised by the lack of consistency (some are fine, others are ehhhh). And don’t expect the world for your Carlson Gold status – it’s not like Hyatt Diamond or SPG Platinum. In other words, temper your expectations and know what you are getting in return. I never understood the BoardingArea fascination with Club Carlson. They are a second-tier hotel group in the same genre as Choice Hotels, Best Western, etc. (first tier being groups like Hilton, Marriott, Starwood, Hyatt, etc.). It’s not that they don’t have some good properties – they do – but the brand consistency just isn’t there. I’m guessing that Carlson Rezidor probably charges property owners less to affiliate with them and thus the brand standards are more liberally defined for a hotel to be compliant. You really have to check reviews closely to determine if a given property is a winner. When I was spending 25-35% of my nights per year in hotels, I’d usually only stay at second-tier chains when the first tiers were sold out or unavailable in the city. That might sound a bit snobbish, but I had enough random bad experiences with second-tier chains that I actively avoided them. Ain’t nobody got time for hotel room drama when you are spending that much time away from home. I will say that the second-tier chains that tended to be good were typically found in areas where the first tier chains weren’t located or there was a mismatch – i.e. a really nice Radisson vs. a Fairfield Inn.

    • @Erik I totally agree! I’m not suggesting that everyone should mindlessly renew Club Carlson credit card just because the points are cheap. If you’ve got hundreds of thousands of points already and can’t find a decent place to burn them, then why bother?

      I also agree that one should do research on each property. I actually meant to mention it, but thought it was obvious. I always look at Trip Advisor to see an overall trend. Sure, there might be few bad reviews here and there, but if most people like it, that’s good enough. If a property is universally hated, then you should probably stay away.
      Oh, I don’t think you sound snobbish at all! Everyone should do what works for them. I don’t think someone is stuck up just because they refuse to stay in Country Inn and Suites. I get it, and some of those properties do appear to be run down. That’s why I recommend everyone should do their research. We’ve had a good experience with Club Carlson so far, but maybe we just got lucky.

      That Radisson Oceanfront in Melbourne is not a property for those who want a sleek, sophisticated hotel experience. It’s basically a converted condominium, and a bit shabby at that. That said, suites are good size and have a separate bedroom area. To me, that’s huge! Being with my husband and two kids in one room for 4-5 nights is not my idea of vacation. We’ve done it before, but if we can have a real oceanfront suite for $91, I’m all for it. So, I’m willing to overlook peeling paint and few marks on the couch, as long as it’s clean overall. I’m a simple gal!
      As far as fascination with Club Carlson, it really had to do with BOGO benefit and the fact that some decent properties used to cost 50,000 points per night. So, one could stay 2 nights and get it for 25,000 points. Now those same places run at 70,000 points, ouch! I agree with you, based on photos and reviews, Radisson Blu brand was still a poor cousin of Westin and Park Hyatt. But for the price, the value was unbeatable. Still, I thought Club Carlson credit card was pushed a bit hard as perfect fit for everyday spending. One blogger even claimed it basically gave you a return of 3%, something I disputed in the comments section. Obviously, all of this came crashing down once Club Carlson gutted their program or adjusted prices to fair levels, depending on who you ask. 🙂

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