Evaluating the Club Carlson Visa Welcome Offer - Almost 4 Free Nights at a Top-tier Hotel

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With veteran cards like the Chase Marriott, Chase Hyatt, and the Citi Hilton HHonors around that already have solid relationships with their cardholders from years of bonuses and special perks, the Club Carlson Visa is turning heads and getting into people’s wallets--possibly making its way towards the title of Best Hotel Credit Card.

By earning 85,000 Club Carlson points, you almost have enough for four free nights in top-tier Radisson Blu properties in Europe, making it hard not to like this credit card. The Club Carlson offer is currently one of the most desirable hotel card deals out there and the program perks add a ton of value to award night redemptions.

The Card Details

  • Earn 10 points per $1 spent at Club Carlson properties, 5 points per $1 spent on everything else.

  • 85,000 Bonus Gold Points - receive 50,000 Gold Points after your first purchase plus 35,000 points once you spend $2,500 on your card within the first 90 days.

  • Bonus Award Nights - When you redeem Gold Points for 2 or more consecutive Award Nights, your last night is free

  • 40,000 renewal bonus points each year when you renew your card.

  • FREE Gold Elite Status upgrade - and free room upgrade upon availability.

  • $75 annual fee, not waived the first year.

  • 3% foreign transaction fee.

Welcome Offer

Both the personal and business premier cards offer 85,000 Club Carlson point bonus. You will earn 50,000 points after the first purchase and an additional 35,000 points after spending $2,500 in the first 3 months. The signup offer is higher than almost all other hotel card offers currently available. However the value of hotels points can dramatically vary, for instance it only takes 40k Marriott points for a stay in the highest category Marriott, but it will take you 95,000 HHhonors points to stay at the best Hilton. The highest points redemption level with Club Carlson is 50,000 and will let you stay in any of the Raddison Blu properties.

Club Carlson Award Chart & Free Award Nights

Since 85,000 points is higher than other hotel card offers out there, it is a amazing deal to begin with, but the free award nights make it even better. You receive one free award night when you redeem points for two or more consecutive award nights at the same hotel--making the 85,000 points much more valuable. This automatically happens when you book an award night online, for example when I recently booked two nights at a Category 6 Radisson Blu hotel in Istanbul, Turkey, the second award night was automatically waived on the confirmation page.

Club Carlson award chart:

Since you earn 5x per $1 spent, you’d also earn an additional 12,500 extra points for making the minimum spend of $2,500. After meeting the min spend you will have earned a total of 97,500 points--after another $500 of spending you round it out to 100,000 points and can use them for any of the following:

  • 20 free nights at a Category 1 (10 paid with points, 10 free)

  • 12 free nights at a Category 2 (6 paid, 6 free)

  • 6 free nights at a Category 3 (3 paid, 3 free)

  • 4 free nights at a Category 4 (2 paid, 2 free)

  • 4 free nights at a Category 5 (2 paid, 2 free)

  • 4 free nights at a Category 6 (2 paid, 2 free)

Here are some examples:

The Park Inn Budapest (Category 1) costs $90 a night. 20 free nights at that Park Inn location is worth $1,800.

The Radisson Blu Istanbul Pera (Category 5) has a standard room rate of $325. Four free nights at the Istanbul Radisson Blu is worth well over $1,300.

No matter what category you want to stay in, this card is a great value and is conservatively worth anywhere from $1,000 in free hotel stays. Many Radisson Blu hotels in Europe cost over $350 a night.

Check all the hotels and categories here.

How to Maximize The Free Award Nights Offer

To maximize the number of free award nights, you’d only ever want to book two night stays. This will essentially double the value of your points, which would mean you pay for the first night and get the second free. The downfall to maximizing the free nights is that terms and conditions state that “only one Bonus Award Night will be available for a stay of two or more consecutive nights at the same hotel, regardless of the total length of stay, the total number of reservations or the number of check-in/check-outs.” So if you want to book a stay at a hotel for longer than two nights, you will still only receive one free night. You also cannot make two separate reservations of two nights at the same hotel and get the second free night on second reservation--even if you check out and back in.

Anniversary Bonus

The 40,000 point anniversary bonus is enough to sway me to keep the card a second year and pay the annual fee. The 40k points is good for two free nights at Category 4 hotel and almost enough for two free nights at a Category 5 hotel. This is well worth the $75 ($60 for the business card) annual fee, making this a card that you can keep open after the first year.

Free Gold Status

Another great perk the card offers is its free Gold Status as long as you hold the card. Club Carlson's Gold Status will get you complimentary upgrades, free internet, early check-in and late check-out. Here are all the benefits of Gold Status.

Club Carlson Business Card

The only difference between the personal and business card is that the annual fee is $60 (instead of $75). Apart from that the welcome bonus and card benefits are the same. It never hurts to apply, but it seems that very few people are getting approved for both cards according to this Flyertalk thread. I applied for both in March and was only approved for the Business card. Recently I applied for the personal and was approved.

If you get both cards Club Carlson requires you to have the points deposited to separate accounts--or at least have a separate personal and business account. You can easily transfer your points balance from one account over to another other account. All you need to do is call Club Carlson with both account numbers and request that your points be gifted to your other account, they will happily do it for free.

The Bottom Line

The Club Carlson Visa is definitely one of the best hotel card offers out there and is easily worth four free nights at a top-tier Radisson Blu after hitting the minimum spend and spending an additional $500. The 85,000 welcome bonus is very lucrative on its own, and after you redeem extra nights with the free award nights it becomes amazing! You are essentially doubling the value of the points by maximizing them with only two night stays.

The $75 annual fee is well worth the bonus in my opinion and keeping the card after the first year is even worth it because you will be getting a 40,000 point anniversary bonus. With the free gold status and complimentary room upgrades, this card is now one of the heavy hitter hotel cards and will give the other major hotel cards--Marriott, Hilton, SPG, and Hyatt--a run for their money.

What's your take on this card? What are some of your favorite Club Carlson hotels that you have stayed at with points? Let us know in the comments below!

Extra tips on how to maximize your rewards

Getting the most out of your credit cards is a must. Compare the current best offers with our Card Maximizer tool or take a look at our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2020. Here are the highlights:

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10 comments on “Evaluating the Club Carlson Visa Welcome Offer - Almost 4 Free Nights at a Top-tier Hotel”

  1. Getting approved for the personal Visa card is almost impossible unless you have an excellent credit card and haven't applied for more than 2 credit cards in the past 12 months; otherwise you will have to call their reconsideration line and plead your case and tell them what your credit score is; apply for the business card first and once approved, then apply for the personal Visa; their recent devaluation of their transfer of Carlson points to airlines miles WITHOUT any notification is an indication to some industry insiders that they feel they have have to many miles floating around and will look to make other devaluation changes without notification so beware; otherwise the program is very good.

  2. Any restrictions on getting a second free night on a two night stay at the same hotel? The second stay would not be consecutive with the first.

    1. Since the stays would not be consecutive you would not have any restrictions until you hit the limit of 50 Bonus Award Nights per calendar year per member. If you wanted to get 2 second free nights on a 4 night consecutive stay, you can book back-to-back two night stays with different account numbers (spouse, friend, or business number). You will have to check-out and back in between stays, but since they are booked under unique account numbers both stays will qualify for the Bonus Award night.

  3. With the free bonus night, does your account need to have the amount of points for the entire reservation before booking?
    For example, if I wanted to spend 2 nights in a Category 6 hotel, would I need 100k points in order to make the reservation, and then have the second 50k points waived? Or would I be able to make the 2 night booking with only 50k total in my account?

    1. @ Rich - Yes, you do need to have the amount needed for the entire reservation before booking. On the confirmation page you will see the bonus free night with the points for the second night waived. If you need to round out the your points balance to have enough to book a two night stay with a free bonus night you can transfer points between accounts for free, then you can always transfer the points back after you book.

      1. Actually you would NOT need to have 100,000 points to book the two consecutive nights. You would only need to have the 50,000 points because the second night points are waived before the final reservation. I just reserved this same scenario with only 63,000 points in my account.

        1. You are completely correct, I was going off the information that the Club Carlson rep gave me when I asked that exact question. I had over 200k points in my account at the moment and couldn't test it. Since then I've booked several reserations and currently only have 29,000 points in my account and I was able to book two nights at 15k/night, I was able to complete the booking since it waives the second on the confirmation page.

  4. So if my husband and I each have the card, can we make two reservations and get 4 nights in the same hotel with 2 bonus nights?

    1. @ Silverorchid - Yes you book back-to-back 2 night reservations in the same hotel with different accounts--making it possible to stay 4 nights in the same hotel with 2 bonus nights. You can also do this if you have both a personal and business.

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