Club Carlson’s devaluation… and my sigh of relief

We knew it was coming.  All other major hotel chains have devalued their programs in recent years.  The general trend has been not so much to make it harder to earn points, but to increase the points needed for top tier hotels.  Then there was Club Carlson.  With the introduction of their credit card, they made earning points and redeeming points ridiculously easy and affordable. 

On the point-earning side of things, the Club Carlson Premier Rewards Visa offers a standard 85,000 point signup bonus and a 40,000 point bonus each year upon renewal.  Plus, it automatically conveys Gold status which gives you, among other things, increased point earnings for paid stays.  And, the card offers 5 points per dollar for regular spend and 10 points per dollar at Club Carlson properties.

On the redemption side of things, the Premier Rewards Visa offers up to 50 Bonus Award Nights per year.  The way it works is that when you book an award stay of 2 or more nights, the last night of your stay is free.  For example, if you book a two night award, you’ll pay (in points) only for the first night!

I’ve written before about how valuable the Club Carlson credit card is: see “Club Carlson rocks our world… Again.”  And, I’ve written before about how overly generous they were with point earnings: see “Earn 70 points per dollar at Club Carlson hotels.”  Other than the fact that Club Carlson doesn’t have many high end properties across the globe, their hotel program had become ridiculously valuable.

Waiting for the shoe to drop

It was only a matter of time.  Everyone who has watched their other hotel program points devalue has known that the same would happen to Club Carlson.  It had to.  Their program was simply too generous.

Devaluation details

Most readers are probably already familiar with this information so I’ll summarize the changes briefly:

  • Club Carlson realigned some existing hotels into different categories and introduced a new top tier category that would cost 70,000 points for a free night (the previous top tier cost 50,000 points)
  • Their previous and generous online booking bonus has become “promotional.”  In other words, sometimes you’ll get a bonus and sometimes you won’t when booking online.
  • The automatic elite bonus for points earned on paid stays has decreased.  Gold members used to earn a 50% bonus, but now will earn a 35% bonus instead.

On the plus side, along with the above devaluations, Club Carlson announced a few new benefits:

  • You can now earn points on food and beverages purchased during award stays.
  • Award nights will now count towards elite status. 
  • You can now use points to book suites (but pricing hasn’t yet been revealed).

For more details about the Club Carlson changes, please see Loyalty Traveler’s post here.

A sigh of relief

For those who earn points from stays, this devaluation may be particularly painful.  You will now earn fewer points with your stays, and those hard-earned points will be harder to use.  For those of us, however, who earn points primarily from Club Carlson credit cards, the news isn’t so bad.  They didn’t change our ability to earn points quickly at all.  And, they didn’t take away our awesome Bonus Award nights.  The only real pain here is that some hotels became more expensive to book with points.  Even at 70K per night, though, free night awards are a bargain.  Some hotel credit cards offer a free night if you spend $10K or $12K per year with their credit card.  The Club Carlson card, though, gives you 40K points per year automatically and so all it takes is $6K of 5X spend to earn enough points for a free night at a top tier hotel each year.  Even better, those 70,000 points can be used to book two free nights thanks to the Bonus Award night feature!

A better program for luxury travel

For those who like to use miles and points for luxury travel, Club Carlson has had little to offer.  Yes, they have some nice high end properties, but not many.  Now, however, they have announced a new luxury brand called the Quorvus Collection.  We don’t know much yet about this new brand, other than what Club Carlson tells us:

Quorvus Collection is a new generation of expertly curated luxury hotels inspired by the lifestyle and sensibilities of the contemporary global traveller.Individual and inspiring, each property within the collection offers a distinguished guest experience – and an invitation to immerse oneself in the best a location can offer.From a host of world-leading guest facilities to ‘Q24’, our signature suite of hallmark services, all Quorvus Collection properties offer a unique destination for guests and locals alike – a modern take on the luxury way of life.A star in the making, the Quorvus Collection has strong growth ambitions with plans to see the portfolio grow to 20 hotels in operation and development by 2020. Different by scale, architecture, ambiance and design, our future portfolio will include historic landmark properties, contemporary residences, classic boutiques and urban retreats.

Looking out to the future, the combination of new high end hotels, the ever growing Radisson Blu brand, and the new ability to book suites may go far towards bridging the gap between Club Carlson and other hotel chains for those who prefer top tier travel.


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Comments

  1. The free 2nd night for award bookings, isn’t actually like the typical BOGO deal. You first need to have a points balance to cover both nighs, (eg. 140k balance to book 2 70k nights), and only then does it let you book both for the price of one.

  2. @yuneeq – you couldn’t be more wrong, please check your facts before posting as such. With 50k points in an account, you can book a 2 night award stay at a 50k property, with the first night being 50k points and the 2nd night being free. That’s the entire “last night free on award stays” draw that we’ve all been talking about for the past year.

  3. Carlson did the inevitable. And they’ll continue to do devaluate going forward. The lack of premium properties keeps me from bothering with them other than getting a few sign up bonuses in case Carlson is my only choice.

  4. Here’s the thing Club Carlson needs to keep in mind: to get people to switch to their program from more established brands, these devaluations are not helpful. Other brands can afford to devalue because their customer base is already so large. With Club Carlson, devaluations like this will cause many people not to bother with the program at all.

  5. TFM – I’m trying to expand my horizons beyond simply collecting cash back. For starters, my wife and I will each earn a Southwest Companion Pass this month so we can fly with our kids for free/points – now we need a hotel program to begin with. Would you recommend Carlson as a good starter hotel program or a different one (Hilton, SPG, other)? Thanks for your help.

    • Ryan, yes Club Carlson is a great option if you’re happy with mid-tier hotels and if they have properties where you want to go. I think their country inn and suites brand is particularly good for family travel. Use the web site awardmapper.com to see which chains have properties in places you’re likely to travel. If Club Carlson looks good, I definitely recommend their credit card to get the most out of the program.

  6. I’m relieved that they kept the second night free. I’m a bit surprised they devalued the Radisson Blu hotel in Bloomington, MN. This is conveniently attached to the Mall of America. This was a beautiful hotel that I stayed in last summer on points. I had to request an upgrade, but I was upgraded to the upper floors with access to the lounge. Free appetizers and drinks between 5-7. In the morning, they served an ample breakfast. I’m happy to see it go from 50,000 points to 44,000. I have a paid stay coming up in the next few months, when I called on the reservation, they automatically said that I was going to receive an upgrade to the floor with lounge access. On the other hand, the recently renovated Days Inn turned Country Inns and Suites in Traverse City, Mi is now increasing to 44,000 points. The hotel was o.k. and better than other Country Inns. An average free breakfast was included, but the place was packed in the morning. The second night free is a great perk along with the free upgrades to the large suite rooms. This is a card that I’ll keep and continue to use provided Club Carlson continues with the suite upgrades and 2nd night free.

  7. FM: for low-to-mid level hotels, it seems the 2nd night feature is key. I just did a search for hotels in MI and a standard room was about 35,000pts. That is 7,000 worth of spend – about $56 worth of VRs for a $85 room – not so great. Yet, $56 dollars for two nights is a very good deal.

    This seems like a good card that can complement others. E.g. use Marriott points or a Barclay arrival for single night stays and the CC for 2 night stays.

  8. Shannon: thanks, didn’t know about the traverse city property.
    .
    Roger: yes, good point. CC point value is often not very high unless paired with the free night benefit. There are exceptions, of course, where the paid rate is much higher and so you can get decent value even for a one night stay

  9. Count me as relieved, too. Happy to see Radisson Blu Mall of America go down a bit, it is the best option to convince my wife to come to my hometown.

    My only minor complaint with the excellent credit cards is US Bank fraud protection is too aggressive on large purchases, even after a year of regular activity.

  10. I’m actually happy with the changes. I have a huge stash of points from previous promos and credit cards, so I can handle the modest award price increase at some properties. Being able to book premium rooms with points is awesome, since I certainly have plenty of points. For people who are satisfied with mid-tier hotels (as I am), I think club Carlson is a great hotel program.

  11. So glad you didn’t tell everyone that for just a $79 cost in reloads they could have two free nights at their top properties before the devaluation and $111 post devaluation.

    • @TrvlGuru – so many people are snobs about Club Carlson properties, typically based on a few experiences in the US, that is doesn’t matter. There are some tremendous hotels and values where there may not be a Hyatt for hundreds of miles. Northern Europe, Russia, Middle East, and Scandanavia all have great options, often at much lower points costs that competitors, even before the credit card benefit.

  12. thanks for the info FM.I have the card but not yet used for stays. I recentl got an email about the changes and also there was a point in bold that ‘five qualifying nights will be added after 1 eligible stay before March 19..’ – Does anyone received such an email? I was wondering if a mattress run is worth for the five nights…

    • No, there’s no point in trying for elite status. With the card, you automatically get Gold status. The next level, Concierge status requires a bazillion or so nights. Unless you’re close to getting that status anyway, I wouldn’t recommend mattress running for it.

  13. @Rapid Travel Chai, I will be enjoying my two night stay at The Mayfair in London for $79 in April. Glad the snobs won’t be there.

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