The Club Carlson Visa is one of those cards that I plan on keeping in my wallet for a long time. It’s actually an interesting card, because I don’t think it is useful for everyone…but if it is useful to you, it is probably VERY useful and provides a huge amount of value.
For me, the savings have been substantial. In fact, every time I think about it, I am amazed at how much money I have saved by having this card. I want to talk about it because I think it’s such a great deal, and I think it’s sometimes a little overlooked.
But first, let’s talk about why it might NOT be a smart pick for you.
One reason is that Club Carlson does not have many premium properties. So, if you want to stay in luxury hotels, the issue with Club Carlson is that there are only a few luxury offerings available, and many of them are in Europe.
Also, while Club Carlson may be one of the best programs for earning free nights, it is comparatively lacking in elite status perks. While even Gold members with Club Carlson get generous upgrades, in my opinion, the benefits you receive with top tier status (Concierge) is not equal to top-tier status at, say, Hyatt or Starwood.
The benefits you get with the Club Carlson Visa are fantastic. Just fantastic. And if the card works for you, you will save a lot of money by using it.
What are the Club Carlson Visa benefits?
- 85,000 point sign-up bonus — 50,000 after first purchase and 35,000 more after $2500 spend within 90 days
- “Bonus Award Night” – when you cash in points for an award redemption, your last night is free
- Club Carlson Gold status
- 40,000 points a year on your “card anniversary”
- $75 annual fee
What does this all mean for you? Well, the most lucrative benefit is that for each award stay of two nights or more, cardholders get one free night.
In other words, cardholders can book a two-night award stay for half the points. This is true for even the most expensive Club Carlson properties, such as the Radisson Blu Champs-Elysees in Paris or the May Fair in London, which normally go for hundreds of euros per night. For example, while the Radisson Blu Champs Elysees would cost 510 euros if you paid in cash, it would cost 70,000 Club Carlson points…for two nights!
Also, free night redemptions at Club Carlson properties start at only 9,000 points per night, so if you want to really maximize the value of your points, you can consider such options as the Radisson Hacienda in Cancun. At 9,000 points a night, this is already an incredibly inexpensive stay…but by using your Club Carlson Visa benefits, you could stay TWO nights for only 9,000 points.
How I used this card to save hundreds of dollars:
Before I applied for the card, I knew that I had trips planned to both Paris (France) and Chicago (Illinois). So I knew that I would be able to get a lot of value from the sign-up bonus, the Gold status, and the two-for-one night benefit.
Both Josh and I applied for the Club Carlson Visa. This gave us 85,000 points each, plus another 12,500 each from making spend on the card (minimum spend of $2,500 x 5 points per dollar = 12,500 points). This is a grand total of 195,000 points, so we spent another $500 on each card, which gave us a total of 200,000 Club Carlson points.
We used these points for two nights at the Radisson Blu Champs Elysees, followed by two nights at the Radisson Blu Paris Eiffel. Because there are four people in our family, we had to book two connecting rooms at each hotel, so our points didn’t go as far as if we only needed one room – but I was really grateful that we had so many points to work with, and that we had the perk of the free night benefit! Also, we booked all of our travel before the Club Carlson points devaluation that happened on March 15 of this year, so we were able to lock in lower rates than are currently available. We spent 50,000 points/night on each room (and got a night for free); points bookings at these hotels now go for 70,000 points/night (which is still a deal).
So, all told, we each got four free nights in Paris from the sign-up bonuses on these cards. If we had paid cash for these rooms, we could have paid upwards of $4,000. Instead, they cost a total of $150 (the annual fee for both of our cards combined).
I made a similar redemption for two nights at the Radisson Blue Chicago. I’ll be there soon with a friend, and I’m thrilled that I saved us hundreds of dollars by using my card. (Because honestly, I would much rather spend that money on a new bag or a new pair of jeans!)
And that is why I am keeping my Club Carlson card.
Do you have this card yet? Are you planning on getting it? What Club Carlson properties have caught your eye?