It was only nine short months ago that I excitedly announced I finally got approved for the Club Carlson credit card. U.S. Bank is notoriously tough when it comes to credit card approvals – especially for credit card churners. At the time, Club Carlson offered a last night free benefit to cardholders booking award nights, which essentially doubled the value of the sign-up bonus and any future point earnings on 2-night award stays. Following a massive devaluation, Club Carlson did away with this benefit and replaced it with an annual free night certificate…which is earned after $10,000 spent and could only be redeemed at US-based Club Carlson hotels. All of these negative changes to both the Club Carlson program and credit card beg the question: Is the Club Carlson Premier credit card worth keeping past the first year? That should be determined by analyzing the benefits offered by the card:
Annual Free Night Certificate
- Radisson Blu Aqua Hotel Chicago
- Radisson Blu Martinique on Broadway New York
- Radisson Blu Warwick Hotel, Rittenhouse Square Philadelphia
There’s the question of whether it’s wise to channel $10,000 worth of spend onto the Club Carlson credit card in order to earn the annual free night. That amount of spend will generate 50,000 Club Carlson points while channeling it towards a card like the Barclay Arrival Plus World Elite MasterCard would earn $210 Arrival Miles. Since you’re also earning the free night certificate, that’s essentially two free nights every year. Even with the category and location restrictions, these two nights are worth well over $210. Renewing the Club Carlson Premier card gets you an extra 40,000 bonus points, good for a free night at a Category 4 hotel. If you actually have use for the free night benefits and bonus points, then renewing this card makes absolute sense.
The Club Carlson Premier credit card grants cardholders Gold elite status, which comes with extra perks like a 15% food and beverage discount, 35% bonus points on paid stays, in-room welcome amenity, room upgrades and 72 hour guaranteed room availability. Nice perks, but they don’t quite add up to what Hilton HHonors offers to their mid-level Gold elite members: Free complimentary breakfast and the 5th night free. Maybe it’s not fair to compare the two, but it comes down to this: Are the Gold elite benefits offered by the Club Carlson Premier Visa Signature card worth keeping the card? Unless you’re a frequent guest and are really taking advantage of that 35% point bonus or getting over $75 worth of savings on dining, I would say no.
Spend Required for a Free Night
A free night at a Club Carlson hotel requires 9,000 – 70,000 Gold points per night, depending on the category. It takes just $1,800 – $14,000 worth of credit card spend to generate a free night at a Club Carlson hotel. This is quite generous, especially compared to other hotel rewards programs. But are you better off manufacturing spend for a free Club Carlson night or charging you hotel stay to the Arrival Card and earning points through the Club Carlson program on your paid stays?
The Club Carlson rewards program pays out a generous 20 points per $1 to all members. At this rate, it would take just $450 – $3,500 worth of paid hotel stays to generate a free night. That’s 42,750 – 332,500 Arrival Miles in November, which means $21,375 – $166,250 worth of manufactured spending. At this rates, earning your Club Carlson points through the co-branded credit card is a much better option.
The $75 Annual Fee and Downgrade Options
There’s very little distinction between the Club Carlson Premier Rewards Visa Signature card and the Club Carlson Rewards Visa. The only notable difference is that the Premium version earns 10 points per $1 spent at Club Carlson hotels (as opposed to 6) and 5 points per $1 on all other spending (as opposed to 3). The Premier version grants cardholders Gold elite status while the non-premier card offers Silver. The Club Carlson Premier card pays out a 40,000 point annual renewal bonus while the non-premier pays out 25,000. At $50, the annual fee on the non-premier card is $25 less than the Premier card. Are 15,000 Club Carlson Gold points worth $25? If you value them at 0.4 cents each like most people do, then yes. However, if you’re like me and you’re just going to let your Gold Points pile up until a devaluation, then no.
I’m still on the fence about canceling the Club Carlson credit card. Looking at it from a practical perspective, it doesn’t make very much sense for me to keep the card since I did’t actually redeem any of the miles I earned from it. However, no rewards program should be counted out and you never know when Club Carlson points might come in handy (hopefully before the next big devaluation). When the opportunity presents itself, it would be nice not to have to allocate my hard-earned Arrival miles for a Club Carlson stay.
If you’re in the same boat as me, I’d love to know your thoughts: Are you going to keep or cancel your Club Carlson credit card once the annual fee is due?
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