Monday, June 1, 2015

Club Carlson Changes

As people in the Miles/Points community know all too well, May 31st was the deadline for several major changes in the Club Carlson hotel rewards program.

First, it was the last day to book hotel free night awards using the old pricing chart. Several top tier hotels are going from 50k points/night to 70k points/night!

Second, it was the final day to use the Last Night Free benefit that comes with holding an active US Bank Club Carlson Visa Card.

Last Minute Bookings
We had just over 100,000 Club Carlson points in our account. So we made a few future bookings this past weekend before the deadline hit.

1. Radisson Blu in Rome.  My aunt and grandmother were going to be in Italy and fly out of Rome in July, so my father booked them a few free nights at the Radisson Blu to finish off their vacation.

This hotel was a Category 5 (44,000 points/night). It was moving to Category 6 on June 1st (50,000 points/night), so we locked in two nights for a total of 44k points (thanks to the Last Night Free benefit).

To be fair, the hotel isn't that highly regarded. It's rated 3.5 out of 5.0 on TripAdvisor with a #595 ranking among hotels in Rome. Further, we could have paid $152 USD/night cash for the same stay, so it's a weak redemption value (0.7 cents/pt, even after the free last night benefit) relative to booking the expensive Club Carlson properties in London, for example. However, we'd still end up saving $300 in cash for a hotel stay that my family would need in the near future.

2. Radisson Fallsview in Ontario.  My parents still had about 56,000 Club Carlson points left without any clear identifiable need for any future 2 night stays. So we decided to book speculatively knowing that it would be free to cancel.

So for Labor Day weekend, we reserved two nights for the Radisson property at Niagara Falls on the Canadian side. There was also a Country Inn & Suites (limited service hotel) nearby which was actually ranked higher on TripAdvisor, but we wanted to get a more upscale full-service hotel experience (Radisson). So we used 38,000 Club Carlson points for the two nights (saving ourselves about $183 USD/night). That equated to a respectable 1.0 cents/pt redemption.

We're not even entirely sure that we'll be going to Niagara Falls for our final summer vacation, but it was a free option to lock in the Final Night Free bonus. Worst case scenario, we cancel the booking and get back our 38,000 points to use for a free 1 night stay somewhere else.

US Bank Credit Card
Now that the US Bank credit card served its purpose and has less value to my parents, they didn't feel appropriate to pay $75 to keep the card another year. Sure, they would receive 40,000 anniversary points in the next few months (worth about $200 without the Free Last Night benefit) by paying the fee and keeping the card open.

But as you've seen above, these Club Carlson properties just aren't as exciting as those offered by Starwood or Hyatt. We really struggled to find a few properties that we'd actually want to stay at.

The only one might be the Radisson Blu Zurich Airport hotel if we were flying through Zurich on the way to Israel. However, that hotel is now 70,000 points/night, and we're likely only staying there during a long daytime layover, not even a full night.

So with that fact pattern, my father opted to downgrade this premium card to the No Fee version of the card, which had fewer watered-down benefits.

But to be honest, we have no intention of actually spending money on this card. We just wanted something active to keep our US bank relationship (and credit line) in good standing.

So while not our most impressive credit card churn and points redemption, we're still happy we got into the US Bank Club Carlson card program. For using this card to spend $2,500 on things we had to pay for anyway (groceries, daycare, etc), we scored $650 worth of hotel stays.

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