What’s Better – 6 Hilton HHonors Points Or 5 Club Carlson Points Per Dollar?

by on June 23, 2013 · 23 comments

in Carlson, Hilton, Sunday Reader Questions, Video Blog Post

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TPG follower Joanna tweeted this week asking if she should earn Hilton or Club Carlson points on grocery shopping:

@thepointsguy should I use my Amex Hilton HHonors Surpass or Club Carlson card for grocery shopping? I am curious if 6 Hilton HHonors points or 5 Club Carlson points per dollar makes more sense.”

Personally, I value Club Carlson points more highly than Hilton HHonors points, so if you’re just basing your decision on that I  would take the 5 Club Carlson over 6 Hilton points.  Before making your decision, however, there are a couple other things you should consider.

The Club Carlson cards can be very valuable because it carries the unique cardholder 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 redeem for two-night stays. That essentially lets you double the value of your points. The Hilton HHonors program, on the other hand, has a lot more properties where you can redeem your points and a lot more aspirational properties, which is what I look for in a program.

Hitlon HHonors point requirements.

Hilton HHonors point requirements.

In the end, your question amounts to: would I rather have a boatload of Hilton HHonors points saved up or a boatload of Club Carlson points? For my travel, I would prefer Hilton because there are a lot more high-end properties in a lot more places that I can redeem my points for. What takes away from Hilton is their major devaluation that recently took place in March and gutted the HHonors program and the value of those points. After these changes were made, redeeming for a top night will now cost you up to 95,000 points per night. So solely in terms of grocery shopping, you’d have to spend $15,834 for a single free night at a top-tier Hilton property.

By contrast, with Club Carlson points you can get top-tier hotels for 50,000 points per night, although you can’t really compare a top Carlson hotel with a top Hilton property like the Conrad Maldives Rangali Island for example. Still, just going off the 50,000-point figure, you’d only need to spend 10,000 for a free hotel award night – and since you would have the Club Carlson card, you could actually redeem those 50,000 points for two free nights instead, doubling your value.

Club Carlson point requirements for a free night.

Club Carlson point requirements for a free night.

Although I value Club Carlson points more and I think that the card is better overall, with the Hilton card you can spend your way to top-tier status and get a lot of other perks as well. Really it depends on your needs and travel preferences so I would recommend that you try to map out some future trips that you would like to take and decide which program would be best for you and see where you can get the most value.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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  • Aha Moment

    “you can’t really compare a top Carlson hotel with a top Hilton property like theConrad Maldives Rangali Islandfor example,” except perhaps for the two properties Radisson are opening up this year in the Maldives?

  • Bill from Maine

    I have accumulated 350,000 points in Club Carlson only because of the gigantic bonuses on stays last year and signing up for 2 of their credit cards. But what do I have for choices to spend those points on in New England? 2 properties in MA and RI, 1 in NH and none in VT, CT and ME. What is there to like?
    On the other hand Hilton is everywhere. Sure there was a major devaluation, but the majority of the hotels I frequent stayed the same or moved up 5,000-10,000 and that includes the properties in Boston. The quality of Hilton properties is far more consistent than Carlson and Gold’s get breakfast at Hilton.
    My understanding is that Carlson and Hilton have fantastic properties overseas but that’s not where I spend the majority of my points. On an upcoming stay in Prague I wired the Radisson Blu property and was told that access to the executive lounge would cost me an extra Euro 80.00 per night. I will receive this perk N/C at the Hilton Old Town. Carlson offers lounge access for a 22,000 point premium (66,000) if staying on points but they do offer the last night free, Hilton is 30,000 for a room and as a Diamond I have access to the lounge included. It’s pretty close but I’m going with Hilton based on what I read about both properties.
    I guess it would be a wash if I lived in Europe but for me Hilton is much more valuable than Carlson until there comes a time when they get a bigger presence in my neck of the woods.

  • Sir Nixalot

    Agree with this, the Carlson properties in the US are usually pretty lousy, if there are even any properties in the area you want to stay in. However in Europe the value is much higher and I only use my points there. Properties may not be 5 star, but they are always centrally located, often right next to the major train station, and often include free breakfast. With the credit card, you can hop around Europe with 50,000 points for every 2 night stay, that’s pretty great value and pushes each point up to 1-2 cpp for me.

  • Kacee

    I just got .9 cents per Hilton point on a points+cash stay at the Hilton Hong Kong. I believe that’s almost twice what I’ve typically seen Club Carlson points valued at (.5 cents per).

    Also, there’s an intangible here of dealing with AMEX, which has far and away the best customer service of any issuer, vs. US Bank, which is a total nightmare.

  • Kacee

    Conrad Hong Kong. Whoops.

  • Kevin

    I just started paying my mortgage with manufactured spend using Bluebird and Vanilla Reload Cards. I received my first AX Surpass statement yesterday and it appears that I only got 3 points for the purchases at CVS. I just confirmed with AX that the Surpass no longer qualifies for 3 point bonus for spend at pharmacies! :-(

  • frequent churner

    you can get over 20 points per $ spent on Radisson properties, if you use the credit card, book online, and if you participate in various promos, it could approach 40 points per $. There’s no question that CC makes it much, much easier to earn points and get a free night at one of their top properties. Only require $5k in normal spending to get 25k points.

    In Europe, I’d say CC is better because there’s more high end properties than Hilton. In Asia and Oceania, maybe Hilton has an upper leg but the rates are so rapacious, it’s not worth acquiring points just for those properties when I could be getting 4x as many free nights at Radisson for the same spend.

  • Stripy

    If you redeem points under the “book 2 nights get 1 night free” option wouldn’t you be getting 33% off a 3 night stay rather than 50%?

  • Jerry

    what about IHG Priority Club vs Club Carlson ?
    IHG has a lot of promotional points
    is CC the best hotel loyalty program ?

  • disqust101

    Carlson doesn’t have true top tier – at best their Radisson’s are mid tier. As such, comparing “top tier” 95K HH at places like Conrad Koh Samui or Conrad Maldives to a 50K Radisson “wherever” borders on the absurd.

    Unless you are simply content just to stay at a decent place with a roof over your head, and not an aspirational property, Carlson isn’t for you (or me).

  • disqust101

    Yes, they changed that effective your statement that closed in May. Now you get 6x at groceries/gas/restaurants and 3x everywhere else. Cost is now $5.95 per $500 gc vs $3.95 per $500 VR.

  • disqust101

    Carlson doesn’t have high end properties – at all. They are mid tier when compared to Conrad’s. So your silly comment about “rapacious” rates is just that – silly.

  • disqust101

    And if the new Radisson is remotely equivalent in quality, I’d expect Carlson to add new tier/raise rates. But Carlson is going to do that regardless – they are giving away points like Hilton was – at an unsustainable pace, forcing them to devalue, sooner than later.

  • Kalboz

    @disqust101:disqus not true … Radisson has the Blu brand which can be as good and even better than the isolated properties of Koh Samui and Maldives that you mentioned. You know exacvtly what you are paying (50K CC points) and the 2nd night is free when redeeming points. See here for more:

  • Waggera

    The other -ve is that CC is difficult to get approved for their card – we were denied cos of too many applications, despite always paying on time and a great credit rating, and 3 calls to reconsideration
    United Bank is to be avoided !!!

  • trey

    the way I read it, the second night is free on a 2 night stay (50% off). the third night is free on 3 nights stay (33% off) and so on…

  • Stripy

    Thanks, that makes it a very cool benefit. I was reading it as a 3 for 2 rather then 2 for 1

  • frequent churner

    First of all, FALSE. Have you been to Radisson hotels in Paris or London? Plenty luxurious for me. Not sure what else one might want…they have a concierge hovering over you, marble everywhere, overpriced restaurant and drinks, etc.. How much nicer do you need?

    I’ve been to a Concrad hotel before, it’s just wasted extravagance. If someone is that vain that Radisson Blu isn’t nice enough for them, they should just stay in the US at a Hilton and not bother travelling.

    If I can stay 3 nights at a Radisson for 1 night at a Conrad, I’ll trade any time. For most normal people, travel is about the destination, not sitting in the hotel. Considering also that we get all this free, on points, it’s silly to argue about one being inadequate vs. the other.

    If you’re paying out of pocket, that’s another story.

    I blame the bloggers, (yes TPG too) for this obsessive coverage of only top tier hotels and airplane cabins. As long as I can sleep comfortably on the plane or the in the hotel, I’ll spend the least amount of points/effort to get that.

  • Samantha

    That’s correct–we recently had a two night reward stay and our second night was free. Great perk!

  • Raffles

    Carlson is playing a longer game, I think. They have come from literally nowhere to being a fairly serious player in just 3 years. Not sure why they would blow it now.
    50k is also the top redemption rate at InterContinental, remember. Just because Hilton (and to a lesser extent Marriott) have gone crazy doesn’t mean PC, Carlson and Hyatt will follow.

  • Raffles

    Forgot to add, I have redemptions (for family) at The May Fair and the Park Plaza Westminster – the 2 best UK CC properties – next weekend, so I will get to see the properties myself for the first time.

  • Sherm

    it’s at the best of interest to bloggers to promote the high-end flights/hotels.

  • Annette

    Anybody know if Hilton is going to unveil a 3rd quarter promotion for 2013?

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