Club Carlson is one of the best hotel rewards programs when it comes to earning free nights and I’ve written extensively about their huge portfolio of amazing properties worldwide. While it’s easy to earn club Carlson Gold points, between the generous earning rate (even for non-elite members) and the Club Carlson credit card, you shouldn’t throw your points away on terrible redemptions. I’m talking about Club Carlson’s latest redemption option: Starting in July, Club Carlson members can exchange 65,000 Gold points for an $85 TSA Precheck application fee. My eyes nearly popped out of my head when I saw that number.
Yes, for almost the same number of points as a top-tier Categrory 7 award night (which can set you back as much as $1,000 per night), you get the $85 TSA Precheck fee waived. Please don’t do that. I don’t care if your grandmother gifted you the points because she has no idea how valuable they are. Do not redeem 65,000 gold points for an $85 TSA Precheck credit. You’re giving up at least $200 in value and if you’re going to part with that much cash, you might as well spend it on the annual fee for the American Express Platinum Card. Because then you’ll at least have $200 in airline fee credits and other benefits to justify the cost.
Most people value Club Carlson points at around 0.4 cents each. I don’t assign values to my points and miles (but even at that rate 65,000 points is worth $260). Instead, I try to make sure I get more value out of my redemptions than I spent earning the points needed. I don’t have the Club Carlson Premier Rewards Visa Signature card anymore but if I did, I’d have to spend $13,000 to earn 65,000 gold points. Channeling this spending towards Visa gift cards purchased from Simon Mall would cost $111.80 with fees factored in. Channeling the same amount towards a 2% cash back card would earn you $260 in cash back. This would not only off-set $111.80 in fees but leave you with $148.20 in cash back…$85 of which you could use to cover the TSA Precheck fee.
Bottom line, please don’t use 65,000 Club Carlson Gold points to cover the $85 TSA Precheck fee. There are lots of credit cards that offer statement credits for TSA Precheck fees. You’ll be better off getting the fee covered through one of those cards and saving your Club Carlson points for a free night worth more than $85. Or just pay the fee out of pocket and next time you’re staying at a the May Fair Hotel in London, you’ll be glad you didn’t have to pay $500+ per night because you squandered your points on a $85 TSA Precheck application fee. Most of you are savy enough to know this. I’m saying it for those few newbies who might wander in here and think 65,000 points are worth $85.
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