Maximizing Club Carlson Series: Elite Status

Jan 14, 2013

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This is part of my Maximizing Club Carlson Series. Other posts include Base Level Earning and Redemptions.

Like the other major hotel chains, Club Carlson offers elite status at various levels and has been very proactive in the past year about matching members’ status from other programs in an effort to recruit more high-level loyalty customers, as well as holding lucrative promos like last year’s Big Night Giveaway and a recent Stay 1 Get 1 Free night promo at Radissons this past October.

Many of the qualification requirements and perks are the same as at other chains, but here’s a details breakdown of each level, the thresholds to attain those levels, and what they get you.

Carlson Elite Chart

Levels and Qualification
There are four different levels of Club Carlson membership:

Red: This is the basic level with no stay requirements

Silver: The first level of elite status. Qualify with either 15 nights or 10 stays per year

Gold: The mid-tier elite level. Qualify with either 35 nights or 20 stays per year.

Concierge: The top-tier status with 75 nights or 30 stays per year.

To compare that to other chains, here’s how many nights you’d need to stay for each status tier:

-Hilton: Silver 4 stays or 10 nights; Gold 20 stays or 40 nights; Diamond 30 stays or 60 nights

-Hyatt: Gold 5 stays or 15 nights; Diamond 25 stays or 50 nights

-Marriott: Silver 10 qualifying nights, Gold 50 qualifying nights, Platinum 75 qualifying nights

-Priority Club: Gold 15 nights, Platinum 50 nights

-Starwood: Gold 10 stays or 25 nights, Platinum 25 stays or 50 nights

Credit Cards

US Bank also just launched a line of three co-branded credit cards, each of which awards cardholders with automatic Gold elite status.  I’ll get into the specifics of each card and a strategy in a future post, but for now, here are the basics on each one.

Carlson Cards

Both the Club Carlson Rewards Premier Visa Signature and the Club Carlson Business Rewards Visa Signature award up to 85,000 Bonus Gold Points to start. Receive 50,000 Gold Points after your first purchase, plus 35,000 points after you spend $2,500 on your card within the first 90 days, and you earn10 points per dollar on eligible purchases at participating Carlson Rezidor hotels worldwide and 5 points per dollar everywhere else Visa is accepted, plus an additional 40,000 bonus points each year  after you renew your card and pay the annual fee of $75 on the personal card or $60 on the business card.

The Club Carlson Rewards Visa Signature gives new cardholders up to 60,000 Bonus Gold Points to start -50,000 Gold Points after your first purchase, plus 10,000 points once you spend $1,500 on your card within the first 90 days. You earn 6 points per $1 spent in eligible net purchases at participating Carlson Rezidor hotels worldwide and 3 points per $1 spent in eligible net purchases everywhere else. You also get 25,000 bonus points each year  after you renew your card and pay the annual fee of $50.

Because the annual fees are relatively low, this could be an easy, cheap way to maintain gold status without ever staying in a Carlson Rezidor hotel.

Perks and Benefits
All Club Carlson members earn the standard 20 points per $1 spent on room rates and food and beverage charges to the room and can redeem points for hotels as well as on partners like airlines and prepaid cards. Free internet is also a brand standard across all Club Carlson hotels.

However, once a member hits Silver status and beyond, they start to enjoy a number of perks as well as increased earning power.

All elite members enjoy:

-Complimentary room upgrades

-Elite Rollover Nights – above and beyond qualification for each elite status  level

-Early Check-in and Late Check-out

-Elite Customer Service Line

Here’s where the levels start to differ:

-1,000 points for booking online

-2,000 bonus points for online booking
-25% bonus on earned points

-2,000 bonus points for online booking
-50% bonus on earned points
-In-room welcome gift
-72-hour room availability guarantee

-3,000 bonus points for online booking
-75% bonus on earned points
-In-room welcome gift
-48-hour room availability guarantee
-Free restaurant continental breakfast
-Global concierge access

Earning Analysis
So let’s say you booked three nights at a Park Inn online and spent a total of $500 on qualifying charges, here’s how your earning would break down.

Red: 11,000 Gold Points at the rate of 20 points per $1 including 1,000 points for booking online.

Silver: You’d earn 10,000 Gold Points at the base earning rate, plus 2,000 more points for booking online and a 25% bonus on those 10,000 base points for a total of 14,500 Gold Points.

Gold: Instead of a 25% bonus, you earn 50% at this level, so your total would come to 17,000 points.

Concierge: Including a 75% bonus and 3,000 bonus points for booking online, you would earn a total of 20,500 points.

So at the Concierge level, you’re earning almost double the amount of points as a basic Red member and for that $500 for two nights, you’re earning almost enough points even as just a Silver member for a free night in a Category 2 property (just 15,000 points per night) and more than enough as either a Gold or Concierge member.

An Earning Comparison
To put that in context, let’s look at the earning ratios of the elite tiers of each of  the other big hotel programs not taking the other perks like free internet or breakfast into account.

-Hilton: 15 points per dollar with Points + Points double-dipping for regular members, Silver members earn 15% bonus on base points (so 16.5 points per $1), Gold members earn 25% bonus on base points (so 17.5 points per $1) Diamond members earn 50% bonus on base points (so 20 points per $1)

-Hyatt: 5 points per dollar for normal members, Gold members get a 15% bonus so 5.75 points per $1, Diamond members earn a 30% bonus so 6.5 points per $1

-Marriott: 10 points per dollar (except at Residence Inn and TownePlace – which is 5 points per $1) for normal members, Silver 20% bonus (12 points per $1), Gold 25% bonus (12.5 points per $1), 50% bonus for Platinum members (so 15 points per $1)

-Priority Club: 10 points per dollar (except at Staybridge Suites and Candlewood Suites) for normal members, 10% bonus for Gold members (11 points per $1), 50% bonus for Platinum members (15 points per $1)

-Starwood: 2 points per dollar for normal members, 3 points per dollar for Gold and Platinum members, and 4 points per dollar for Platinum members who stay 75+ nights per year

Redemption Analysis
Let’s say you wanted to earn a free night at a top-tier Category 6 property, though. That would require 50,000 points.

To get a baseline, let’s say you had two different bookings at Club Carlson coming up and were gunning for that 50,000 points. Here’s how much money you’d have to spend at each level to earn them.

Red: You earn 1,000 points per online booking and then 20 points per $1, so to get to 50,000 points with 2 bookings, you’d need to spend $2,400.

Silver: You earn 2,000 points per online booking and a 25% points bonus, so 50,000 points would require $1,840.

Gold: Thanks to the online booking bonus and a 50% bonus on earned points, you’d only need to spend $1,333.34.

Concierge: With the 3,000-point online booking bonus and 75% earning bonus, those 50,000 points would only require $1,258 spending.

Rates at top-tier European properties regularly top 400 euros.
Rates at top-tier European properties regularly top 400 euros.

Then, in a best-case scenario, if you were to use those points for a hotel redemption like a free night at the Radisson Blu Ambassador in Paris, where room rates are regularly up at 405 EUR ($540), you’d be getting a rate of return of:

Red: 22.5%

Silver: 29.3%

Gold: 40.5%

Concierge: 42.9%

At all levels, the percentage return is highly competitive and potentially more lucrative as long as you get value in redeeming Carlson points. I’m still not 100% sold on switching a lot of my stays to Carlson because their network of aspirational hotels is relatively small and the perks of my Gold status still pale in comparison to Starwood Platinum and Hyatt Diamond (I love my suites!). However, the program shouldn’t be overlooked, which is the point of this series!

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