I’ve used Club Carlson quite a lot over the last year, and even though I didn't burn through all of my points in the back of my mind I suspected there was a devaluation looming. Their program has been one of the most generous hotel loyalty programs over the last year with its huge welcome bonus, generous point earning promotions, and amazing 2 for 1 award nights.
Was it inevitable that they eventually devalued their points? Probably and it was just a matter of time, and now it’s official. In my inbox this morning I had a suspicious looking email from Club Carlson with the subject line: “An important update from Club Carlson.” When a loyalty program has an ‘update’ or ‘improvement,’ it’s almost never a good one.
Coincidently, Club Carlson announced today it's two new hotel brands, more than likely with hopes that the coverage on that news would drown out all the bad publicity created by bloggers over the devaluations.
The Bad News
First off, the changes will take effect on two different dates: March 15, 2014 is when most of the changes take effect, but the award category changes go into effect May 1, 2014. After announcing the devaluation, Club Carlson moved the devaluation date forward so all changes will go into effect March 15, 2014. So make sure to keep this date in mind if you have any upcoming award stays with Club Carlson. One of the biggest changes is the introduction of a Category 7 hotel group that costs 70,000 points per night instead of the earlier 50,000 points.
New Category 7 Properties
The new Category 7 properties which will cost 70,000 points per night for stays booked on or after March 15 include:
Radisson Blu Le Dokhan’s Hotel, Paris Trocadero
Radisson Blu Le Metropolitan Hotel, Paris Eiffel
Radisson Blu Hotel Champs Elysees, Paris
Radisson Blu 1835 Hotel & Thalasso, Cannes
Radisson Royal Hotel, Dubai
The May Fair
Plaza on the River, London
Radisson Royal Hotel, Moscow
Other Club Carlson hotels will change categories with some increasing and other decreasing. Overall the changes are pretty minor and most hotels remain unchanged. There are many hotels in Asia that are actually moving down a category or two so they will cost less. The hardest hit properties were the more pricey category 6 hotels, but there are only a handful that got bumped up into the new category. Even at 70,000 points per night, I consider most of these Category 7 hotels a pretty good deal when you redeem 2 for 1 stays with the Club Carlson Visa.
The new hotel categories go into effect on booking after March 5, 2014.
Paid Stay Bonus Points Lowered
The other not-so-great news is that the bonus points awarded on paid stays for Gold members decreased from 50% to 35% and from 25% to 15% for Silver members. This change goes into effect March 15, 2014. However, Concierge members will still receive a 75% bonus.
The Good News
There were some other changes that can be considered good news to some, and others may just see them as Club Carlson catching up to other hotel loyalty programs. The first is that premium rooms and suites can be booked using points, so if you don’t have elite status or want to gamble on getting an upgrade you can book a nicer room using points. You’ll also be able to earn points for food and beverage charged to your room on award stays. I was actually surprised this wasn't the case in the past.
One of the more positive changes is that award stays will not count towards elite status with Club Carlson. If you have the Club Carlson Visa this won’t be much of a perk, but if not this can be an easier way to get elite status.
Club Carlson Still a Good Value?
I still consider Club Carlson to be a pretty good value since the Club Carlson Visa has a 85,000 points welcome bonus and gives you the second night free on any award stays of two or more nights. I stayed at a handful of Radisson Blu hotels in Europe last year and redeemed 2 nights that would normally cost 100,000 points for half the price at 50,000 points. Even with the devaluation, the program remains a good way to earn hotels stays in Europe, but with the card and in other destinations its value may have staggered. This benefit is a great deal in my opinion and if you can find some of their better hotels in their portfolio you can find get a great value.
With that said, I will only keep the business version of the Club Carlson Visa this next year and end of canceling my personal card with the higher $75 annual fee. I’ll still receive the 40,000 point anniversary bonus on my business card and pay the $60 annual fee for the coming year. After that, well...we’ll see how much value I get from the program from this year.
The Bottom Line
In this game miles and points can (and will) be devalued sooner or later, so make sure to use them for some amazing trips and get value from them! After all... earn points, go travel!
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