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.
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.
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!