Last week Club Carlson completely changed the award prices for many hotels and got rid of the free night benefit from the credit card (RIP). This post is about finding the sweet spots in Club Carlson going forward. While we have lost a great benefit, Club Carlson remains a great program for frugal travelers.
Also, I want people to know I have now updated the Complete Map of Club Carlson Hotels to reflect the new prices. This map has every Club Carlson hotel sorted by their new categories.
Let me quick go over earning and then spend most of the time talking about best uses. Earnings are still important as some of this has changed, but there are still great opportunities.
Why Club Carlson? (And how to earn Club Carlson points)
Many (including myself) feel like Club Carlson points are nearly half as valuable as they were when the credit card benefit gave a free night per booking. But gone is gone. There is no good in dwelling on what was. From now on I want to talk about what is.
Best earnings from paid stays
The fact is that when you look at the Best Hotel Rewards Program [InfoGraphic], Club Carlson still ranks number 1 on earning points. To get a free night at a category 1 or the top category 7, Club Carlson requires the least amount of money spent, with or without status.
- You earn 20 points per dollar as a regular member
- You earn 27 points per dollar as a gold member (you get this status with the credit card)
- You earn 35 points per dollar as a concierge member (requires 30 stays/ 75 nights (award nights count)
Promotions on earning points
Despite already giving the largest number of points per dollar spent at hotels, they have great promotions. Often (and currently) they have a promotion giving triple points. Which means you at least earn 60 points per dollar.
Promotions for discounts on paid stays
I’ve talked about the 2-for-1 rate and the 4-for-2 rate before, but these are fantastic deals. Often you can get a hotel in Europe, Africa, and the Middle East (where Club Carlson is strongest) for half off on weekends. It’s hit/ miss as to which hotels allow it. Check out the 2-for-1 here, but there are a number of other promotions out there for discounts on paid rates.
Credit card bonuses
I’m not sure if the card is worth keeping past the annual fee anymore, but it can certainly be a great source of points if you need them.
- The Club Carlson Premier gives 85,000 points for signing up for the credit card. And from what I hear, US Bank is generous in giving bonuses to existing members, so if you change your mind don’t hesitate to apply.
- The card gives 5 points per dollar on all spends. This means that even buying a $500 gift card would give 2,500 Club Carlson points. I therefore consider buying gift cards (at $5 cost) to be the equivalent of buying points at .2 cents each.
- The card gives 10 points per dollar at Club Carlson hotels.
- The card gives 40,000 points every year you pay the $75 annual fee.
- The card gives 1 free night in the US, on the $75 annual fee if you’ve spent $10,000 that year on the card.
One negative thing about the card is that they don’t waive the annual fee for the first year. However, it includes a lot of earning opportunities.
Best Use of Club Carlson points
Cheap Category 1 & 2 hotels
Before the recent devaluation, I don’t know if I said it, but I definitely thought of Club Carlson hotels as ranging from 9,000 points to 50,000 points. Yes, they had the 70,000 point category then, but so few hotels were in it and there were still cheaper options elsewhere. For example in both London and Amsterdam there were hotels at 70,000 points, but there were many hotels equally nice for 50,000 points.
But now nearly all the super nice hotels are 70,000 points for a standard room. In Vienna, London, Paris, Sydney, New York, etc… prices are now 70k. Some of these hotels are only $200 a night and yet they are 70,000 points.
In contrast there, are hotels that are 9,000 points that are worth at least $100 a night. Therefore I personally like using Club Carlson points at cheap category 1 and 2 hotels. Not that I’m against spending the points at the nicer hotels, but if there is a nice hotel that’s cheap, I’ll blow a lot of points. It’s 1/8th the cost in points and often only half the cash price.
Therefore, I’m going to start with some examples of hotels that are amazing low category redemptions.
Radisson Blu Resort, El Quseir, Egypt – 9,000 points
This Radisson in Egypt is often going for $150 a night and still maintains excellent reviews on TripAdvisor. I will try to check out the hotel later this year, and I will report back, but my guess is that this is one of the best Club Carlson redemptions out there.
art’otel Berlin Kudamm, Berlin, Germany – 15,000 points
Aside from being in the alps, Berlin is at least my favorite city in Germany. And I’ve only heard good things about the “art’otel” brand, and this is the only art’otel on the category 1 or 2 list. Great deal many times of the year.
Radisson Blu Beke Hotel, Budapest, Hungary – 15,000 points
We’ve stayed at this hotel probably 4 or 5 times in the last few years because it’s such a great deal, even when we get super odd suites… the location is great. Plus the city can get a little more expensive in the summer and the hotel easily brings in $100+ a night.
- Radisson Blu Resort Wetland Park Wuxi, China – 15,000 points
- Radisson Blu Hotel, Klaipeda, Lithuania – 15,000 points
- Park Inn By Radisson Kaunas – 15,000 points
- Radisson Blu Hotel & Spa, Limerick – 15,000 points
- Radisson Blu Hotel, Ankara – 15,000 points
Tons of cheap category 1 & 2 hotels in India
Let me first list some of the most interesting hotels in India.
- Radisson Blu Hotel Amritsar – 9,000 points
- Country Inn & Suites and Radisson in Goa – 9,000 points
- Country Inn & Suites By Carlson Mussoorie – 9,000 points
- Radisson Blu Hotel Chennai City Centre – 15,000 points
- Radisson Blu Hotel Haridwar – 15,000 points
- Country Inn & Suites By Carlson, Haridwar – 9,000 points
- Park Plaza Delhi CBD Shahdara – 9,000 points
- Country Inn & Suites By Carlson, Jaipur – 9,000 points
All of these are in the north, except the Radisson Blu in Chennai and Goa. Really, you could do a lot of these great places in one trip and by the way, I tried to pick hotels in interesting towns. Personally I’ve been to many of these places and here’s the route I would do if I could do it again right now (partly because I didn’t get to see Haridwar but wanted to and felt like I should have).
Start in Jaipur (the Country Inn is a much better location than the Radisson fyi), although I’d probably recommend seeing Udaipur or Jodhpur while you’re at it. Those are two of my favorite cities in India, hands down. Jaipur is just convenient for those two. Although you could do Ajmer if you wanted to stick with category 1 Club Carlson hotels.
Then go up to Delhi.
Then go up to Haridwar and Mussoorie. Three hotels to choose from in the category 1 and 2 range. This area is kind of the foothill of the Himalayas. This would be a totally different change of pace compared to a lot of India.
Amritsar could be your final destination in order to see the Golden Temple. Neither the Radisson nor the Country Inn & Suites are great locations for seeing the Golden Temple, but transport and taxis are insanely cheap. But the site is amazing.
Mid Range Club Carlson points hotels
All over Europe there are some great hotels in great places for mid range prices.
Tallinn and Riga both have hotels downtown for 28,000 points.
All over Germany. Now I’m not an expert on small towns in central Germany and I tend to get burned out on Germany rather quickly (just because it’s a lot like my own culture except without my friends and family and where people speak German instead… it’s just a personal thing that it gets boring). That being said, there are a lot of category 1 and 2 hotels in Germany as well as some great mid range hotels in cool cities like Berlin.
Park Inn Krakow, Poland – 28,000 points
Krakow’s old town is pretty small and this hotel is just a block away from the big beautiful castle. We personally stayed at the Radisson Blu for $50 a night with the 2-for-1 rate, but we got pretty lucky with the price.
Park Inn Prague, Czech – 28,000 points
Prague is one big old town. While this hotel isn’t in the dead center, transit is super easy and cheap. It has great reviews on TripAdvisor and looks like a great hotel. In terms of quality of hotels, so far this appears to be one of the best mention so far.
Park Inn by Radisson Hotel and Residence Duqm, Oman – 28,000 points
Out on the southern beach of Oman, this is a “getaway from it all” kind of destination. Seems like a great deal.
Radisson Blu Hotel, Alesund, Norway – 38,000 points
This hotel looks awesome and it went down in points. Plus Norway is super expensive, so this is a great place to burn points.
Radisson on Flagstaff Gardens Melbourne, Australia – 44,000 points
I’m just going to be super honest and say that I don’t know much about the hotel and I’ve only been to Melbourne on a layover… but it has good reviews. :-p
The nicest Club Carlson Hotels
(The “nice” hotels are going to be 70,000 points unless otherwise noted).
Thus far, my favorite Radisson is the Radisson Blu Vienna. The location is absolutely phenomenal and on our last visit they upgraded us to a Jr. Suite. Vienna is also one of the most beautiful cities I’ve ever seen, and the hotel maintains the looks by being in an 1800s bank.
Radisson Blu Sydney was a cool hotel, but it’s in an even cooler city.
London has a ton of options but the most popular one is definitely “The May Fair” hotel. It’s a great location and the most expensive of the really expensive hotels. For whatever it’s worth, when we visited with my Mom, we stayed at the Plaza On The River as it is a “suites” hotel above the Park Plaza, and our suite had separate rooms for sleeping. However, the location is across the river from Victoria, so it’s not as great as actually being near the Westminster area. Also, maybe it’s worth mentioning that the “Radisson Blu Edwardian Grafton” is also a great location but only 50,000 points. If you’d like to save 20k a night and still be in a nice hotel in downtown London… that seems like a great option.
Norway is super expensive but has a ton of Club Carlson hotels. My recommendation would be to visit the Radisson Blu Royal Hotel, Bergen, and the Radisson Blu Royal Hotel, Stavanger. While 70,000 points is a ton of points, there aren’t a lot of cheaper options.
Best use of your free night cert
Again, as an annual bonus, you not only get 40,000 points but you get an extra gift if you spent $10,000 on your card that year – you get a free night certificate, good at any hotel in the US.
Here are the hotels I see as the best in the US… although there aren’t a ton of nice Radissons here (and I thought the Radisson in NYC was only okay, but a great location).
- Radisson Blu Warwick Hotel, Philadelphia
- Radisson Martinique on Broadway
- Radisson Blu Aqua Hotel, Chicago
- Radisson Blu Minneapolis Downtown
This covers a lot, I know, but there are a lot of changes. Plus, I often try to take an “A to Z” kind of approach, meaning a little earning explanation even with a post on using points.
Hopefully this is helpful, and let me know if you caught any other new gems.
Oh and check out the new map.