Best Club Carlson Redemptions

Radisson Blu Resort, El QuseirWith all the changes I decided to make a New Best Use post. In the old one, the idea is proposed that Club Carlson points are better used at Category 1 hotels. It couldn’t be more true than now. Now that the credit card is here and their rewards program has changed, my conclusion is the same. Except, before it was just a program to cash in on, perhaps it’s more than that now?

With these recent changes to their award chart, there are now 7 Radisson Blu hotels that are category one hotels and 7 Radisson Blu hotels listed as category 2 hotels. This is awesome. Few of these hotels are worth much more than $100 USD but few of the top tier hotels cost more than $300.

Hmm… What’s the better value: a $200 hotel for 50,000 points? OR, a $100 hotel for 9,000 points? Definitely finding the high value category 1 hotels; and in general I find Radisson Blu hotels to be very nice. The fact that there are 7 in each of the lowest two categories is a great deal.

But before I go into examples of hotels that are great deals in terms of points, let’s first go over a few details about Club Carlson. It’s a great program for the simple goal of getting a free night. Availability is great, prices are reasonable and they’ve been giving points away like candy.

 

You need their credit card to double your points

I’ve already talked about the Club Carlson Visa, which is a great card, but the main thing to be highlighted is it’s ability to give free nights (it also gives 85,000 points and Gold Status). Once you have this card you actually get a free night per award stay. This means when you redeem points for a two night stay, one of the nights is free. Same thing on a three night stay, one of the nights is free. However, the best deal is obviously to stay two nights at a time as you’ll always get a “buy one get one free”, essentially. Sure, not every stay is two nights but it’s definitely a way to stretch out your points.

If you have 100,000 Club Carlson points and the credit card and attempted to use all your points at category 1 hotels and stayed two nights at a time (always getting one night free), it’s possible to get 22 free nights. And if you look at my list below, there are some nice category 1 hotels. And 100,000 points is nothing if you got in on their big 50,000 point promotions. I personally got about 200,000 points for about $200 with that big promotion. With a similar strategy that could be over 44 free nights with $200. A value of $4,400 in free hotels.

If you have a lot of Club Carlson points, this seems like an obvious way to stretch points, besides the fact that the card comes with a signup/yearly bonus.

 

To me these are the hotels I would consider a steal:

Radisson Blu Resort El Quseir, EgyptRadisson Blu El Quseir

  • 9,000 points a night.
  • “Super breakfast buffet included”.
  • 13,500 points for Premium Award –  “Private balcony or terrace with sea view“.
  • 5 star hotel with great ratings on trip advisor.
  • Free airport transfer.
  • $100+ per night value.

Radisson Blu Beke Hotel Budapest, Hungary

  • Great location in downtown Budapest.
  • 9,000 points a night.
  • 13,500 points for a Business Class room – slightly larger, free breakfast and view of Grand Boulvard.
  • $100+ per night value.

Other Category 1 hotels that are also a good deal:

But there are also category 1 hotels that aren’t Radisson Blu brand but appear to have some value. Like the Park Inn Island, ReykjavikPark Inn Central Tallinn and Country Inn & Suites By Carlson, San Jose.

Similarly there are a number of hotels that have great value on the category 2 list and are only 15,000 points a night. Radisson Blu Hotel & Spa, SligoRadisson Blu Hotel, Klaipeda and Radisson Hotel Flamingos-Mexico City as well as many others.

Again, my idea is that a hotel that costs 9,000 points a night but is worth $100+ is a better value and it provides more travel. After all, staying one night at a 50,000 point hotel means you can’t stay 5 nights at a category 1 hotel. What these people who only talk about “aspirational awards” need is a lesson on opportunity cost. You will have to pay for 4 nights’ worth of hotels when you could have had them free every time you stay at a category 6 hotel instead of a category 1.

 

Category 6 “aspirational awards”

That being said, I understand that these options are not always available and sometimes the top category actually makes better sense and there are reasons the hotel is a category 6. For example, a stay at the Radisson Martinique on Broadway is 50,000 points and a stay at the Country Inn Suites in Queens is 38,000 points. Well, if you need to be near Broadway the Radisson makes more sense and is only 12,000 points more. (Although I rarely see that particular Radisson available on points… but it’s just an example). Besides, I’m sure it’s a much nicer hotel for a small price. And that’s what you get in many cities.

However, I’m suggesting that one should try to save their points with Hyatt, Marriott, Priority Club, etc… and spend them in places like New York. After all, it’s really not that much more to spend 22,000 Hyatt points than the average stay. Plus the value is greater and their lower category hotels don’t have as great of a value – in general. And save your Club Carlson points and use them for these hotels in Europe, Egypt and wherever has great lower end value.

The reason I feel so strongly about the value being on the lower end awards is that the top awards are generally a value of $200 a night. Sometimes more, sometimes less. Still there are some great hotels available on the top end of things worth more.

These category 6 hotels seem to consistently be over $400 a night:

While the May Fair runs around $500 a night, you’re only getting a cent per point of value while the category 1 hotels can get a slightly higher value and they come with free nights. Of course this has two counter points. Again, the surrounding cheaper hotels available aren’t much cheaper in terms of points. And also, let’s be honest, luxury hotels are an experience in themselves. If you’re going to NYC on vacation, staying at the Ritz Carlton isn’t just about the service but it’s about being on central park. Right? That’s why you’re in New York and that’s partly why these hotels cost so much money.

the may fair london

Premium Awards and “Points + Cash”, worth it?

Points and + Cash can be a great deal. When they make the points a portion of the cost and the cash paid about half, it’s obviously a good value. But remember, you can go broke saving money. But the great thing is that Points + Cash stays have been eligible for their big promotions. In these cases, I want to spend money on a hotel to get the 50,000 points and an option of “5,000 points + $55″ is suddenly really appealing. However, I tend to burn the points and hope they offer more great promotions.

As far as “Premium Awards” go… it’s kind of a joke. You’re paying 50% more points and getting a room that’s a $6 upgrade (I’ll go over how to get a cheap upgrades in a later post on earning), so it’s generally not worth it. They don’t have a lot of aspirational award rooms to upgrade to and you’re generally upgrading one minor room type. Plus, I’ve gotten great upgrades as a Gold Member. I’ve been pretty “miss” in regards to lounge access, while I know people who have been “hit”… but even then, they don’t have a lot of lounges. If you’re a Gold, just take your chances.

 

There are a few ways you can be earning more with Club Carlson.

  1. They have great promotions. They have of course the 50,000 for one night but they’ve also had a promo where you get 9,000 points on an award stay and tripple points. All those are awesome. The tripple points is only good because they already give 20 points per dollar.
  2. Status match to Gold (or get the credit card). They’ve been very good about status matching to Gold and it actually comes with some great benefits.
    – 2,000 points for making a booking online.
    – 50% more points.
    This means you’re earning 30 points per dollar, plus 2,000 points, before any promotion. A $100 stay earns 5,000 points, now imagine if there was a promo.
  3. Again, if you have the credit card, you earn faster and spend slower.
    – Earn 10 more points per dollar.
    – Get a free night for every award stay.
  4. Transferring between accounts is easy. If your spouse has a ton of points, don’t bother getting an extra credit card, just transfer their points into your account and you’ll have all the benefits. It’s as simple as calling.

Again there is a complete guide to earning Club Carlson points coming but I hope this was helpful in deciding how to burn your points. Really, I just want everyone to think I’m right and that more free nights is better than less. Agree? Or do you still think that staying at the Radisson Blu in Paris is the better way to spend as it’s not normally an obtainable price?

 

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23 Comments

  1. Excellent post. Thank you.

    Reply
  2. Great analysis. From those listings, Club Carlson seems like a good program if you’re looking for properties in Europe.

    Reply
  3. I generally agree, with what you said. I prefer to stretch my points , since we don’t have a lot of money to travel. But this,
    just like often debated value of the miles, is very subjective.
    I am a SAHM with two little kids and it matters very little, that
    Egypt or Estonia have some very cheap properties, since I am
    not going there. Well, maybe Estonia, since I have family in Europe! I don’t plan my trips around hotels, but the other
    way around. So I will use the points, when it makes sense.
    I may save the points for better values elsewhere, but only
    if I know for a fact, I will go there in a near future. As you know, devaluation is a huge threat in hotel points world.
    But for someone, with your lifestyle, your philosophy makes
    perfect sense. Again, to each his own.

    Reply
  4. Which hotel credit card(s) would you suggest to earn points (and get the best value on) for a 3 week trip to Italy/Switzerland? Highlighting the cities of Rome, Venice, Florence, and the Berner Oberland region of Switzerland.

    Reply
  5. @ Chris D – Thanks!

    @ Macus – Yea, they are very much European… without officially being based in Europe.

    @ Is – Sure, I understand that people may have a trip to Paris planned and will never go to Egypt. Still, I’ll save my Hyatt points for Paris and my Club Carlson points for Germany. But ultimately, hotel points… well there’s really no wrong way to use them. But with Ultimate Reward points, I would cry if a family member bought a oneway to London for 150,000 UR points through their travel portal. With hotels… it’s pretty straight forward.

    @ Royce. First, my opinion is that hotel cards don’t tend to pay off as much as miles and you probably won’t be able to fund all the hotel points from credit cards (depending on what hotel and how long you go).
    That being said…

    The Marriott Card actually looks like a deal on this trip. You’d certainly be able to use the category 4 cert and the 50,000 points. There are hotels in Venice for 10,000 points a night. Might be my vote, and you can do the Platinum challenge.

    Other wise the Club Carlson card is great in terms of free nights, as you get the BOGO free on awards.

    The Hyatt card can get you two nights at the nicest Hyatt but I don’t know how many Hyatts are in that area. If so, you can also get a Sapphire preferred or Ink Bold and transfer to Hyatt.

    I’d say, of those, see which one has hotels that fit your route.

    Reply
  6. Loving these posts, thank you!

    Reply
  7. Just got the card. Looking to go big in Moscow.

    Reply
  8. Excellent post. I have recently status matched to Gold status with Club Carlson and have a lot of Amex Membership Reward points that I can convert across so this is perfect for me. I love posts that provide readers with extra knowledge that is not readily available. I will definitely be recommending this to other Club Carlson members as a must read.

    And I’ve stayed at the Radisson Blu Hotel Champs Elysees, Paris. It was nice but aside from the amazing location is not worth top category status. I had a Business Room with a balcony with wonderful view of the Arc de Triomphe, which made the stay worthwhile in itself but the room and hotel weren’t worth $300 a night. Just my two cents.

    Reply
  9. Thanks all! Glad it’s helpful.

    @ George – Yea, that’s the thing, is a lot of these hotels don’t seem like Ritz Carlton or Park Hyatt kind of hotels. While I’m sure they are 5 star, it’s not going to be a $1,000 a night hotel.

    @ Christian – Ok, that hotel actually looks amazing. It looks like a castle (it’s the second to last pic).

    Reply
  10. Do you know what the rules are for booking consecutive 2 night stays? I heard it’s better to have a spouse book the 2nd pair, but any way to do it with just one account? Can I put the 2nd set in her name? Can I book the 2nd pair if I leave a day between the bookings? Thanks.

    Reply
    • Right, so if you book 2 stays of 2 nights in your name… that’s just a 4 night stay. So you’ll only get one night free. If you book 2 nights from your account and two nights in your spouses account, you don’t even need the night in between. It is considered two separate stays regardless of your relationship ship. I’ll need to read up on this to make sure, but I’m pretty sure your spouse will also need the Club Carlson credit card as well to get the free night. But if so, no need to leave a day.
      Now, if you are by yourself, you could leave a day in between bookings and go somewhere else. And I’m not 100% sure, I’ll read up on this, but I imagine a paid stay would break it up as well.

      Reply
  11. Do you know if when the Club Carlson Visa will be available in Europe ?

    Reply
    • I really have no idea. Your guess is as good as mine.

      Reply
  12. Do you know how long it takes for points earned with the Visa card to post to your club Carlson account?

    Reply
    • It’s usually within a month after the spend/meeting the spend requirement.

      Reply
  13. hello,

    As far as I know, having the Club Carlson visa card gives you 1 free night for every 2 nights (or more) of award stay. However you mentioned 1 free night for every 1 night (“double your points”). How is it done?

    Thanks

    Reply
    • Hey David,
      It was a good question and ended up getting a response in the form of a post, here.
      That post shows how to book it and that you can indeed get a buy one get one free.
      Thanks

      Reply
    • Thanks for the great, detailed answer! I enjoy your blog.

      Reply
  14. Actually, cash+points rates do not qualify for free night offer with the credit card.

    Reply
  15. Your view on staying a at lower end hotels, using opportunity costs as justification, only works if both people (luxury traveler and point stretcher) will actually stay the same amount of time – a longer time period.

    Many people, like myself, are limited by time more than points. I have 3 weeks off from work, and my spouse has two weeks. We have plenty of points to create 2 luxury vacations a year, that we could not otherwise afford.

    Plus, as a business traveler, I stay at Hyatt Place’s and Hampton Inn’s all the time. The last thing I want to do on vacation is go stay at another one. I’d rather spend my time off at home if that were the choice.

    If you’re a broke college kid who wants to see the world, stretch your points in Cat 1 hotels, because your only other option is hostels. If you’re a 2 income working class family with limited time off and plenty of points – go live the life of luxury for a few days.

    Reply
  16. do you know if I can book for another person and the the free night? I won’t be there to check them in.

    Reply
    • I believe so. Just add their name to the reservation. Sometimes, I even send an email to the hotel saying, “hey my sister-in-law is checking in instead of me… treat her well, or whatever.” But it’s not necessary.

      Reply

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We have spent the majority of our marriage traveling full time, living out of hotels.   All the while, we list our expenses publicly, budgeting $25,000 a year for our nomadic life while still staying in mostly 4 or 5 star hotels across ~20 countries a year.
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