When Club Carlson announced it would be dropping the Bonus Award Night benefit from it’s co-branded credit cards, like many other cardholders I had to decide whether or not to keep or cancel my cards. With every credit card I always weigh the benefits that the card gives me against the annual fee of keeping the card another year.
Is the Club Carlson Visa Worth Keeping?
The Club Carlson Visa offers 40,000 bonus Gold Points each year you keep the card and pay the annual fee. The annual fees actually differ between the personal and business versions of the card. The personal card has a $75 annual fee, where the business card has a lower $60 annual fee.
In the past I have paid the annual fee on both of my cards—personal and business—and considered the 40,000 bonus points worth the fee if I could redeem them at the 2-for-1 award night level. However, with the Bonus Award Night benefit being pulled starting in June 1, 2015 I had to reconsider.
The new Free Night bonus beginning June 1, 2015 will be awarded every year you pay the annual fee and put $10,000 in spending on the card. However, the biggest drawback of this replacement benefit is that the free night is only good at any Carlson Rezidor hotel in the U.S. This limits not only ease of use, but ultimately value and is frankly not worth much to me since I mostly travel outside the U.S. The Free Night bonus cannot be applied in Europe, which makes it lose a ton of value.
It’s possible to get more value in stays using the 40,000 bonus points for award nights than the cost of the annual fee, but consider that your potentially losing half of the value without the 2-for-1 award night option.
For instance, let’s take a look at using the points for a stay in Budapest, Hungary where there are several good value Club Carlson properties. You could redeem the 40,000 annual points bonus for two nights after the Bonus Award Night benefit is gone and get double the value of the $75 annual fee. However the value proposition is much lower than redeeming the points while the 2-for-1 award night benefit is still available.
Paying the annual fee can conservatively get you $100 in hotel stays and on the upper end of value close to $300 at some properties.
Keeping the Card? Get a Retention Bonus
There are many reports of people calling into U.S. Bank and receiving retention bonus offers after complaining about the loss of the valuable Bonus Award Night benefit. The standard retention offer seems to be 7,500 bonus Gold points, but some reports are only for 2,500 points or nothing at all. A few reports claim that they were offered a refund of the annual fee and 7,500 bonus points.
I’m assuming that U.S. Bank is going to hit hard with account closures over the next year, so they will be looking to keep as many cardholders as possible. I wouldn’t be surprised if they offer some promotions as well to keep cardholders active with their spending.
My Experience Calling U.S. Bank
I called in and talked to representatives regarding both my personal and business Club Carlson credit cards. For both cards I politely told the representative that I recently paid the annual fee on my card and expected to be able to use the Bonus Award Night benefit for the remainder of my card year—since the benefit was offered when I paid the fee. I explained how this was the most valuable benefit for me as a cardholder and that it was a deciding factor for me to keep the card another year.
In both cases the representative (and supervisor) said that they could not refund the annual fee unless I close my account. On both cards I was offered 7,500 bonus Gold Points as compensation for the loss of the Bonus Award Night benefit.
I accepted the 7,500 bonus points on my business card and decided to close my personal card which has the higher $75 annual fee. The representative told me that I will be refunded the fee since I had no purchases on my account since paying the fee.
I’ll keep the business version of the card open to take advantage of the 2-for-1 Bonus Award Night benefit until June 1, 2015. Keeping the card open will also allow me to earn an extra 30,000 bonus points on the next paid stay from Club Carlson’s most recent promotion for it’s cardholders.
Are you going to keep or close your Club Carlson Visa? Did you get a retention offer similar to mine?