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Club Carlson’s Points + Cash option, like Starwood Cash & Points and Hilton HHonors’ Points + Money Rewards, allows guests to combine their points with cash copays for potentially higher values hotel stays. Though unlike Starwood and Hilton, who fix the cash copay amount based on hotel category, the Club Carlson Gold Points redeemed amount is fixed and the cash copay changes depending upon the nightly rate. Also of note: you earn Gold Points on the cash portion of a Points + Cash award night for eligible, paid room rates (earning rates vary depending on your elite status, promotions, etc.).
You can find all the category breakdowns here, but for reference:
Let’s take a cross section of hotels from several categories to see how this works and how to compare values between paid rates, award nights and Points + Cash redemptions, keeping in mind that you can purchase Gold Points for 0.7 cents each.
At the Radisson Blu Waterfront Capetown, a top-tier Category 6 property, a typical standard room rate in March is $441.34. A free night would cost 50,000 Gold Points, or 15,000 Gold Points and $264.80 for Points + Cash. The free night using points gives the points a value of .88 cents per point and the Points + Cash option yields a value of 1.177 cents per point. In this instance, the Points + Cash option makes these points significantly more valuable and offers what is comparable to a 50% bonus on their value if you had bought those points. Plus, in this case, the Points + Cash option earns you 5,296 points on the cash copay just in terms of base earning.
The Radisson Blu Milan Hotel is a Category 5 hotel where a standard room rate in March is about $281 or 44,000 Gold Points for an award night. Using Points + Cash, you’ll need 10,000 points and $168. So using Gold Points for just the straight-up award redemption makes each point worth .6 cents each, and using Points + Cash, they’re worth 1.1 cents each – nearly twice as much, though you’re still looking at a pretty substantial copay.
Now let’s take a look at the Category 4 Radisson Blu St. Helens Hotel in Dublin, where a standard night in March costs $129.25, or 38,000 Gold Points for a free night. Using Points + Cash, you’ll use 10,000 Gold Points and $79.25. Using the points option values the points at .34 cents each. Using Points + Cash, the points are then valued at .5 cents each. In this case, I’d rather pay for the hotel outright since you’re not getting a great return on your value here.
For Category 3, I chose Country Inn & Suites by Carlson in Scottsdale, Arizona. A standard room in March is $139, or 28,000 Gold Points. Using Points + Cash, it will cost you 5,000 points and $83.40. So you’re getting a value of less than 0.5 cents per point with the free night award redemption, but up to 1.1 cents each using the Points + Cash option – a much better proposition.
Now, let’s have a quick look at a Category 2 property like the Radisson Resort Orlando Celebration in Kissimmee, Florida. A room here in March would cost you $109, or 15,000 Gold Points for an award night. With Points + Cash, you would use 5,000 Gold Points + $65.40 cash. Using the 15,000 Gold Points values them at .7 cents each. Using the Points + Cash option values them at a slightly higher 0.8 cents each.
Another way to look at whether you are getting a good value out of your Points + Cash redemption is to use the 0.7 cents price on Gold Points as a benchmark. In order to make up that value, you would need to be saving the following amount of money per category (meaning the difference between the best room rate you find and the cash copay on Points + Cash redemptions is higher than the following numbers):
Categories 1-2: $35
Categories 3-5: $70
Category 6: $105
As with other hotel loyalty programs, Club Carlson’s Points + Cash option can be a great opportunity for travelers who want to save a little money on stays and reap more value out of those Gold Points.
However, keep in mind, those cash copays can be hefty, especially in the case of those upper-tier properties (the one at the Radisson Blu hotel in Cape Town was nearly $265, after all!), but using points to save a little cash can definitely be worth it, especially given Carlson’s generous earning structure.
Of course, this whole value proposition changes if you have one of the Club Carlson co-branded credit cards from US Bank, which all carry the unique benefit of a bonus award night when you redeem Gold Points for 2 or more consecutive award nights, meaning you could get awards for as low as 50% off the normal amount of points if you carry one of these cards and redeem for two night stays. That essentially lets you double the value of your points.
To determine whether it’s the best option for you, always do the math and make sure you’re getting a decent value from the points you are using.