First of all, what a silly topic for a post, right? Well, considering all the drama that is currently unfolding around the world. I’m referring, of course, to Jay-Z’s new album (He DID cheat on Beyonce after all! ). Oh, and there is also something-something about North Korea. But, as the say, the show must go on, and my “first world problems” blog keeps on chugging along… for now.
So, on to Club Carlson. I have mixed feelings about this program. In fact, when almost everyone abandoned it after the death of BOGO redemption perk, I was one of the few holdouts who stuck with it. I kept on renewing the co-branded Club Carlson credit card and convinced my in-laws to do the same. A nice perk of having Gold elite status (comes with credit card) is the fact that you can pull your points with anyone for free.
However, I think it’s time for me to say adios to all of our Club Carlson credit cards…maybe. So, let’s break down my dilemma into three sections: the Good, the Bad and the Ugly.
Despite the fact that Club Carlson points are somewhat mediocre, I got huge value out of them over the last few years. Honestly, I have nothing but fond memories of our time together, which is why breaking up will be so darn hard. Last year we treated my parents to a 5-night stay in Radisson Suite Oceanfront hotel in Melbourne (see my review) I redeemed points on two suites, and it was totally worth it.
We used BOGO perk and e-certs that US Bank has deposited in our accounts in order to entice us not to cancel the credit cards after Club Carlson betrayal. And it worked! Sure, the hotel ain’t no swanky Hyatt, and looks more like your grandma’s condo (minus plastic flamingos by the pool). But with this view, who cares?
And you get to enjoy it from every single room. Scratch that, a suite that has a separate bedroom area. This is so much better than sharing a tiny room with kids. Plus, very often, you get a chance to upgrade to a bunk suite (fits six total) for only $35 extra per night.
I actually think this hotel is a decent deal even without BOGO perk. Sure, 44,000 points per night isn’t exactly cheap, but considering the fact that rates in March run at $200 all-in, renewing the credit card and paying $75 fee doesn’t seem so bad.
On Tuesday I’ve mentioned that I ended up with 162K Club Carlson points after my mom decided to vacation in Poland instead of Russia. You may also remember that this summer we were supposed to go to IHG resort in Cape Canaveral and how I was really looking forward to it. The thing is, though, it looks like we will need IHG points if my crazy plan for next year comes to fruition.
Since we are tight on money, does it make sense to burn my valuable IHG points when I have Club Carlson stash at my disposal? I decided that it’s not. Like I said before, since we plan on spending a huge $ amounts on various trip expenses, points have to go first. So, as much as I hated to do it, I went ahead and canceled my reservation at Holiday Inn Club Vacations Cape Canaveral Beach Resort and burned 132K Club Carlson points on 3-night stay at Radisson in Melbourne.
Sure, it doesn’t have a waterpark or a playground, but there is a pool and a hot tub. And of course, the ocean at your doorstep. I really wanted to take my family on a beach getaway this summer, so Club Carlson points came in handy.
There are other instances when they came in handy, like during our recent layover in Frankfurt. I burned 66K points on a business class room at Radisson Blu Schwarzer Bock Hotel, Wiesbaden Totally worth the splurge, and the best breakfast buffet we’ve ever had at any hotel.
Rustic meets fancy
Many Club Carlson properties in US are tired, to put it mildly, and you can’t always trust the reviews. Just read Nancy’s recent experience with cold hot tub, dirty carpets and unsafe pool conditions. To be fair, Club Carlson did give her 56K points as compensation, so they made it right.
My family mostly had a positive experience with this chain, though there was a Country Inn and Suites property that had a room number written on a piece of paper and taped to the door. However, I knew what to expect based on TripAdvisor reviews, and in that case, burning Club Carlson points has allowed me to preserve my IHG stash. So, it was worth it.
That being said, the hotel wasn’t exactly cheap at 28,000 points per night. Back in the days of BOGO perk, at least you could extract great value from 2-night stays on pretty much any property. Now, at this rate, it’s just not that much of a bargain. Sure, renewing the credit card means that you are getting it for around $50 all-in.
It’s still cheap, but not that cheap. Especially if you can’t use the hot tub or walk on the carpet barefoot. For 15,000 points, sure. At 28,000 points? That’s when I wonder if I should just chase the latest IHG promo and book a Holiday Inn Express instead.
Club Carlson has a terrible footprint, the worst of any hotel chain in US. I can even deal with ahem humble properties and so on. What I don’t like is compromising when it comes to location. Let’s take my plan for next year as an example. We will probably need an overnight in Los Angeles and San Francisco. There is nothing available in downtown or close to the airport.
Sure, you can stay near Staples center, 15 minutes away from famous LA attractions. But I’ve never been to LA, so I don’t really like the idea of having to commute during our one day there. I don’t even mind paying more in points, just give me a convenient location.
Going to New Zealand? Club Carlson points won’t be of any help. There are some properties in Australia, but they are not cheap. The one in Sydney costs 70K points per night. It actually doesn’t seem like a bad deal based on paid rates, but who cares about paid rates when you can book through AirBnB or Priceline? Plus, I’m hoping to stay in Park Hyatt Sydney using my 2 nights from Hyatt credit card.
Another issue is the fact that Club Carlson sometimes raises award rates without notice. I’ve noticed that Country Inn and Suites Orlando Airport now costs 28,000 points instead of 15,000 points. Nope, there was no official announcement. Sure, most hotel programs do stuff like that. But they also have more properties to choose from.
Right now, the only Club Carlson hotel in Florida that I’m interested in is that oceanfront Radisson in Melbourne. However, is it really wise to speculatively collect the points, only to have the program raise the rates to 70K points per night without any warning?
Besides, my husband isn’t a huge fan of that area, and would prefer to go somewhere else for vacation. We won’t be flying to Europe for at least three years, and that’s a very long time in loyalty world. By then, Club Carlson may be completely gutted.
I still have a few months to decide on what to do with my Club Carlson credit card. Right now I’m leaning towards ending the affair, but who knows? I still think there is plenty of value to be had, especially if you are a frequent traveler. Renewing the card essentially amounts to buying points for 0.18 cents apiece, and that’s a fairly good deal.
However, once you get the points, then there is a challenge on where to use them, and Club Carlson doesn’t exactly make it easy. Plus, you might be like me and end up planning an extra getaway just because you can. I want to simplify my life, not complicate it further. And above all, I want to cut any unnecessary expenses in anticipation of our possible trip to South Pacific.
Readers, are you one of the last Club Carlson holdouts? What are your thoughts?
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.