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Until now, I’ve sort of thought of Club Carlson as the little hotel program that could. The loyalty program of Radisson, Radisson Blu, Park Plaza and other brands has simple but lucrative promos, offers decent elite benefits, has some great co-branded credit cards, and a sizeable worldwide footprint. Unfortunately, it was only a matter of time until the program made some changes, and they were just unveiled here. Here is my rundown of the changes and what to expect.
New Top-Tier Category 7 – 70,000 points per night
Until now, Carlson had just 6 categories, with the top tier requiring 50,000 points per night. Now the chain is introducing a new top category (7), that will require 70,000 points per night. The good news is that there are only nine of them (and 3 are in Paris and 2 in London):
- Radisson Blu Royal Hotel Dubai
- Radisson Blu Le Dokhan’s Paris
- Radisson Blu 1835 Hotel & Thalasso Cannes
- Radisson Blu Le Metropolitan Paris
- Radisson Blu Hotel Champs Elysees Paris
- The May Fair London
- Plaza on the River London
- art’otel Amsterdam
- Radisson Royal Hotel Moscow
Many other hotels will also be changing categories – shifting up or down a level – and you can find the list here. While these hotels will be moved into the new categories on March 15, 2014, new categories will only apply to bookings made on or after May 1, 2014. So if any of the hotels moving up a category – and most importantly, those shifting from Category 6 to the new Category 7 – and thus devaluing by 40%! – better book before then to lock in the current rates.
Premium Room Award Bookings
Although you can redeem Gold points for standard rooms or pay a 50% premium to book awards in premium rooms with Carlson, the program will be introducing new award redemptions where you can regularly redeem your Gold points for premium rooms, though the rates and availability are yet to be revealed.
Elite Status Bonus Decreases
Right now, Club Carlson elites earn the following points bonuses:
- Silver: 25%
- Gold: 50%
- Concierge: 75%
After March 15, 2014, they will earn the following bonuses:
- Silver: 15%
- Gold: 35%
- Concierge 75%
So both Silver and Gold are looking at a significant drop of over a third of their bonus points.
Online Booking Bonuses
Club Carlson has also been very good at offering online booking bonuses of up to 3,000 points depending on your status, but now those bonuses will only be available on a promotional basis.
According to the Club Carlson will also now be offering “an enhanced variety” of additional gift cards at top merchants, with new redemption levels starting at 7,000 points. While I don’t generally use my points for merchandise redemptions, perhaps there’s some value here for some folks.
Award Stays Count Toward Elite Status
On the positive side, Carlson follows the example of Starwood and Hyatt (well, for its new Cash & Points at least) and will now be counting award stays toward elite qualification. Elite members will also earn Gold points on food and beverage purchases charged to their room during award stays.
All in all, though these changes are mostly disappointing, but not entirely surprising. Though there’s a new Category 7 and the redemption rate is a high 70,000 points, it’s only going to be at 9 properties to start and those are all pretty high-priced ones in Europe.
The one thing I’m glad is not changing (for now, at least) is the award night benefit on the Club Carlson credit cards where you can basically get half-priced awards on two-night stays since cardholders get the last night of any award stay for free. However, the Gold status you get from having one of those credit cards is less valuable thanks to the reduction in Gold status points bonuses.
On the positive side, at least award stays count towards elite status, and you can earn points on food/beverage purchases during award stays, but it’s small consolation if you’re spending an extra 20,000 points per night at their top properties.