Months before the annual fee was due on my Club Carlson credit card, I was contemplating whether to keep, cancel, or even downgrade the card. When I got the card, it came with one of the best credit card benefits out there: The last night free on award bookings of two or more nights. Unfortunately, this benefit was discontinued in June 2015 and replaced with an annual free night certificate which could be redeemed at any U.S. Club Carlson hotel. The down side? You’d have to put $10,000 worth of annual spend on the Club Carlson credit card to earn the free night certificate and it’s only good at U.S. Club Carlson hotels. Up until this point, when someone has complained about Club Carlson hotels, I’ve been able to point to the Best Club Carlson Hotel Redemptions series, but even I’m at a loss when it comes to picking top U.S. Club Carlson hotels to redeem the annual free night certificate.
Despite this massive devaluation of the Club Carlson credit card and the subsequent announcement that over 200 hotels would be moving up in category, I still remained on the fence about whether or not to keep the card. After all, Club Carlson is one of the easiest programs to earn free nights with and factoring in the generous category bonuses from the credit card, earning free nights would be even easier. There was just one major problem: Despite having over 600,000 Club Carlson points, I had a hard time redeeming them. As I pointed out before, Club Carlson’s hotels in the U.S. aren’t the best – even in major cities like New York and Chicago, there are better places to stay. There are much better properties abroad, but most of them are cheap enough to justify an Arrival redemption. Who knows when I’d get to redeem my points anyway, so it didn’t make sense to keep earning them – especially at the rate at which Club Carlson points have been devaluing lately.
Perhaps the biggest factor in my decision to cancel the card was the fact that my manufactured spending was better focused elsewhere. I would much more prefer earning Alaska miles, Starwood points, Ultimate Rewards, United miles, and even AAdvantage miles – those are currencies that I won’t leave lying around for two or more years until they devalue. Channeling my manufactured spending activities towards cards that earn those currencies is a much better use of time and resources.
It also didn’t make sense to pay $75 annually for the Club Carlson card when there are other hotel cards that give you more bang for your buck. The Chase IHG Rewards Club Visa not only has a lower annual fee of $49, but it also comes with an annual free night that can be used at any IHG hotel – no geographic restrictions whatsoever. Some hotel cards offer elite status, like the Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve card, which can make paying the annual fee worth it even if you don’t end up putting a dime of spend on the card each year. Somehow, I think I’ll survive without Club Carlson Gold status for the year.
Ultimately, it came down to the comparative value of both the Club Carlson credit card and rewards program, and neither made it worth it for me to keep earning points through the co-branded credit card. If I’m ever in need of a huge stash of Club Carlson points, I can always earn them the old fashioned way (i.e. paid stays), since their program is so generous in that regard. Or perhaps a a mattress run-worthy promotion will be just around the corner. In my case, both of these options are more preferable to keeping the Club Carlson card.
Do you have a Club Carlson credit card? How are you deciding whether to keep or cancel it?
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