How to book US Bank Club Carlson e-cert free nights (it may be harder than you think)

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The Club Carlson Premier Rewards Visa and its business card twin used to be among my favorite cards.  In fact, I have one of each, and my wife has the personal card.  Until May of this year, the cards offered a wonderfully generous benefit called Bonus Award Nights: book two or more nights with points and get the last night free.  This meant that two night stays cost the same as one night stays (since the second night was free).

Attempting to use hastily booked Bonus Award Nights

Between credit card signup bonuses, annual 40K point bonuses (which the cards still offer), and past promotions, I had amassed a huge number of Club Carlson points.  When US Bank announced that they were ending the Bonus Award Night feature, my wife and I were sitting on almost 1 million points.  As the deadline for booking Bonus Award Night stays approached, I rushed to book as many stays as I could.  I booked two nights at a Radisson Blu in Dublin for this fall.  I tried to predict my son’s school break schedule and booked 4 nights in Cape Town (two nights from one account and two from another).  Guessing the timing of our next summer trip to London, I booked 4 nights at The May Fair.  Further out, I booked prospective stays in Amsterdam, Chicago, Philadelphia, and more.

We ended up having to cancel our Dublin trip, so I got our points back for that one.  I guessed wrong about my son’s spring break timing, so we’ll probably cancel our Cape Town reservations as well.  I was also wrong about our London visit timing (we have since booked a trip to coincide with the new Harry Potter play).  Only time will tell if we’ll use any of the other reservations.

For London, I tried to move the dates of our stay rather than cancelling outright.  I called the hotel and they told me that it probably can’t be done, but that I should call Club Carlson to give it a try.  Club Carlson told me that it can’t be done, but gave me another Club Carlson number to try.  The second Club Carlson number told me that they could rebook it for me, but I’d lose the Bonus Award Night.  Thanks, but I can do that myself!

I’ve heard that some people have succeeded in moving their Bonus Award Night reservations through the hotel directly.  If you know how to get that done, please share in the comments below.

Club Carlson E-Cert Free Nights

To appease the loss of Bonus Award Nights, US Bank sent free night certificates to cardholders who complained.  Since I had only complained, initially, about one of my cards (I have two and my wife has one), I originally received only one certificate.  Later, I complained to US Bank online after logging into each of the other accounts, and did eventually receive certificates for those accounts as well.  The certificates arrived via email with the subject heading “Your Free Night Certificate is Here!

Here are the primary contents of the first email I received:

Dear Greg,
In appreciation of your continued loyalty and for being a Club CarlsonSM Visa® cardholder, we are pleased to provide you with an E-Certificate for one night in a standard room at any Carlson Rezidor hotel worldwide.*
To redeem your exclusive E-Certificate:

  1. Visit www.clubcarlson.com/reservation and select your destination and stay dates
  2. Enter your unique E-Cert Code: E123456789 [code changed to protect the innocent]
  3. Enter the Promotional Code: USBANKEC
  4. Click “Go” to find available hotels and make your booking

We appreciate your business, and look forward to your continued loyalty toward the Club Carlson Visa Card.

I didn’t realize it at the time, but the later two emails were slightly different:

Dear Greg,
In appreciation of your continued loyalty and for being a Club CarlsonSM Visa® cardholder, we are pleased to provide you with an E-Certificate for one night in a standard room at any Carlson Rezidor hotel worldwide.*
To redeem your exclusive E-Certificate:

  1. Visit www.clubcarlson.com/reservation and select your destination and stay dates
  2. Enter your unique E-Cert Code: E987654321 [code changed to protect the innocent]
  3. Click “Go” to find available hotels and make your booking

We appreciate your business, and look forward to your continued loyalty toward the Club Carlson Visa Card

Notice how the second email doesn’t include a Promotional Code?  I missed that detail initially.  It turns out that it’s a pretty important detail.  If your email has the USBANKEC promo code in it, then you must enter that code in order to book the free night.  If you don’t enter the code, the search results screen simply says that the e-cert rate is not available:

Club Carlson e-cert Plaza on the River eCert no USBANKEC

If your email does not have the USBANKEC promo code in it, then you do not have to enter that code.

Booking Free Nights

Since The May Fair is a crazy expensive hotel, I decided that it would be a great use for our three free nights.  I ran a simple search for the first night we would be in London, but was disappointed to find that the e-cert rate wasn’t available.

It occurred to me that maybe you can’t use the certificates unless point awards are available at the same time.  So, I removed the e-cert and searched again.  It turned out that point awards were available for the same night (Club Carlson charges 70,000 points per night for The May Fair).

Club Carlson e-cert The May Fair

I Googled to see if others had issues using the certificates and I found a few references to the need to include the promo code “USBANKEC”.  So, I re-ran my search with the promo code included.  Still no luck.

“Call Dublin”

I called Club Carlson for help.  The person I talked to had no idea why it didn’t work so she transferred me to another department.  The next person also had no idea, but confidently told me that I should call Dublin.  Dublin can help me.  She gave me the phone number for Dublin: 353-1706-0203.

I found that a bit strange because I’ve always thought of Dublin as a city rather than a call center, but if the city could help I was happy to give it a ring.  So, I called Dublin but soon learned that I had to call back during office hours.  That meant calling in the morning, for me, since Dublin is in a later time zone.

When I finally connected with “Dublin,” the agent at first told me to simply book a paid rate and hand in my certificate at the hotel.  I explained that it was an e-cert, not a paper cert.  After a bit of back and forth, the agent asked me to read to her the full terms of the certificate (found here).  While the terms explicitly exclude only Quorvus Collection hotels, I read to her the hotels that are explicitly included:

  • Each E-Cert is valid for one night in one standard room, double occupancy, at any Radisson Blu®, Radisson®, Park Plaza®, Park Inn® by Radisson, or Country Inns & Suites By CarlsonSM hotel.

“There’s the problem”, she said.  “No wonder it didn’t work. The May Fair is a Radisson Blu Edwardian hotel which is not included in the list.”

I pointed out that the certificate says “any Radisson Blu, Radisson”.  Surely The May Fair is one of those?  Apparently not.  The agent confidently asserted that Radisson Blu Edwardian hotels are something completely different from Radisson or Radisson Blu.  She said that the Radisson Blu Portman, on the other hand, is a Radisson Blu and should work with the certificate.  She was right.

London is littered with Radisson Blu Edwardian hotels, so this unwritten exclusion is unfortunate.  Maybe I could get something by calling US Bank and complaining (after all, that’s how I got the certificates in the first place!), but it didn’t seem worth it.  Instead, I booked three nights at the Plaza on the River.  It’s not particularly convenient for us location-wise, but it looks like a great hotel and I know we’ll enjoy the easy access to the river walk.

Club Carlson e-cert Plaza on the River eCert 2 no USBANKEC

You can book other people’s certificates

I had three free night certificates, each tied to a different Club Carlson number.  I wanted to book all three nights, if possible, under a single account, mostly just to avoid confusion at check-in (but also because I was somehow upgraded to Concierge status on my primary account and I’d like to get the free breakfast benefit every day).  So, I booked the first night under my primary account.  Then, while still logged into my primary account, I ran a search for the second night but plugged in a cert tied to another account.  It worked.

I repeated the search for the third night and applied the third certificate.  Each night is now booked and will be completely free:

Club Carlson e-cert Plaza on the River eCert applied

Note that I did not have to use the USBANKEC code for the second or third night since those nights were booked with the more recently acquired certs.

Summary

Here’s what I learned about booking the “We’re sorry we ruined the credit card” e-certs from US Bank:

  • Depending upon when you received your e-cert, you may have to enter the promo code USBANKEC, in addition to your e-cert code
  • You can apply another person’s e-cert code to a reservation on your own account.  That can be handy for those trading free nights from different programs.
  • You cannot use the e-cert to book Quorvus Collection hotels
  • You cannot use the e-cert to book Radisson Blu Edwardian hotels
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