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:
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?
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:
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?
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.