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In my last round of credit card applications (well my last app-o-rama rather than my recent applications) I got the The Club Carlson Premier Rewards Visa personal card, which not only has a nice sign-up bonus, but also a bunch of great perks.
Although the sign-up bonus of 85,000 points sounds like a big number, it’s actually not that much compared to other hotel credit cards like the Citi Hilton Reserve that gives two free weekend nights at almost any Hilton (which nowadays is almost 190,000 points).
However, the card (which has an annual fee of $75) has several potentially very valuable benefits including:
- 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
- 10 points per dollar on eligible purchases at participating Carlson Rezidor hotels worldwide and 5 points per dollar everywhere else Visa is accepted
- 40,000 bonus points each year after you renew your card and pay the annual fee
- Automatic Gold Elite Status once the card is used. Existing Gold Elite members receive 15 qualifying nights toward Concierge Elite Status
- Bonus Award Nights – when Gold Points are redeemed for two or more consecutive award nights, the last night is free – exclusively for cardmembers
And it’s that last one that really makes this card worth it since it gets you discounts on award nights of up to 50% that can mean big savings over the whole spectrum of Club Carlson hotels.
Half-Off Award Nights
I decided to take my new Club Carlson card out for a spin for an upcoming stay in Madrid (one of my all-time favorite cities). I’m going to be there on a rather expensive weekend where room rates are north of $400 a night, so I’d love to use some points, and thanks to my participation in the Radisson Big Night Giveaway last year, I have a few Club Carlson Gold Points to burn.
So I looked into booking the chain’s Radisson Blu Madrid Prado property in the city since it looks pretty nice and is in a great location. For the dates I wanted, the hotel was going for a total of 330 EUR, or $430 for two nights.
The hotel is a top-tier Carlson category 7 property, requiring 50,000 points per award night. If I weren’t a Club Carlson credit cardholder, I’d have had to shell out 100,000 points total for my stay – getting a value of 0.43 cents per point. Not great.
However, because I now have this credit card, I was able to book both nights for a total of 50,000 points (half price!), bringing my per-point value up to 0.86 cents. Considering you have to spend 0.7 cents per point to buy Club Carlson points, I’m getting a premium on the ones I’m redeeming for this stay – and even better, the discount occurred automatically since my card is registered to my account, so I didn’t even have to do anything.
Although this is a decent but not jaw-dropping example, there are plenty of ways to get several times that amount of value per point if you’re looking at booking lots of two-night stays at the chain’s top-tier hotels. So for today’s Top 10, I wanted to do a roundup of great redemption options that are even better thanks to the cardholder award night redemption discount.
Top 10 Half-Price Redemptions
1. The May Fair: The most extreme example is probably the May Fair in London, one of Carlson’s flagships. Rooms there later this week are going for 434 GBP ($660), but are also available for 50,000 Gold Points per night, yielding a cardholder value of 2.64 cents per point.
The May Fair is a prime property right in the heart of one of London’s toniest neighborhoods, which is why rooms go for such a premium here. This historic hotel, first opened in 1927, has 400 rooms including 12 suites. Plus the hotel’s restaurant, Quince, is one of the area’s hottest tables.
2. Paris Hotels: The chain’s Paris properties are always expensive including the Radisson Blu Le Metropolitan Hotel with great Eiffel Tower views. It’s going for 310 EUR ($405) per night in July, or 50,000 Gold Points per night. However, now that I have my Club Carlson credit card, I would only need 50,000 points for two nights, getting me $805 in value, or 1.61 cents per point.
While rooms can vary greatly in size and layout at this particular hotel, the service is high-end, the bathrooms are spacious by European standards, there’s an indoor pool in the fitness center, and the WiFi is free. Plus some of the suites at the front have million-euro views of the Eiffel Tower.
3. Park Inn Krakow, Poland: As I mentioned above, it’s not just the high-end hotels that can offer some great point values and savings. I was thinking of swinging through Poland this summer and checking out Krakow, which is supposed to be beautiful. There’s a Category 4 Radisson Blu there for 38,000 points a night, but there’s also a Category 2 Park Inn where prices are pretty much the same, but that only requires 15,000 points per night, and it still comes with the same benefits like free WiFi (though the location isn’t quite as good).
4. The Radisson Blu Waterfront Cape Town, South Africa: Another great example is the popular Radisson Blu Waterfront in Cape Town, South Africa. Its rates are regularly between $300-400 – as they are this month. But you can get rooms for 50,000 points. So with my cardholder discount, I’d get two nights for a total of about $670 for 50,000 points – a value of 1.3 cents per point.
The hotel has 177 guest rooms including 11 two-bedrooms suites, and business class rooms which come with a complimentary breakfast buffet. Guests can relax at the Quantum Spa’s vitality pool and the hotel also has a heated-rim flow swimming pool. The main restaurant is Tobago’s Restaurant, which serves both local and international cuisine and has a wide selection of South African wines.
5. Country Inn & Suites, Jacksonville, Florida: As I said, it’s not just about the expensive high-end properties. I have family in Florida and visit them in Jacksonville sometimes. One of the Country Inn & Suites there is a Category 1 Carlson property requiring just 9,000 points per night, and it’s got fun little amenities like cookies and coffee in the lobby, an evening reception with wine and cheese, and free WiFi, plus the rooms are spacious.
Instead of paying $85 per night for 2 nights at a total of $170, I would only have to redeem 9,000 Gold Points for both nights, yielding a value of just under 1.9 cents per point – pretty good, even at this level.
6. The Radisson Blu Plaza Hotel Sydney, Australia: A highly appealing Club Carlson property in the southern hemisphere is the Radisson Blu Plaza Hotel Sydney, which has 336 stylish rooms and 26 suites with chic boutique accents. Extra touches include complimentary WiFi, deep bathtubs, flatscreen TV’s, and shuttered windows. The Health Club & Spa is located on the Mezzanine level and features a 15-metre indoor pool, a spa, a steam room and a gym, along with personal training, boxing, Pilates and nutritional advice. Located a short walk from the Harbour Bridge and the iconic Sydney Opera House, I was considering it as a place to ring in the New Year when room rates for January 1 are 837 AUD ($773) per night or 50,000 points, which means I could get an excellent value of 3 cents per point.
7. Radisson San Isidro, Lima, Peru: Another great mid-level option is the Category 3 Radisson Hotel San Isidro in the heart of Lima. Not only is the hotel in a great area, but it’s newer than its sister hotel, the nearby Radisson Decapolis in Miraflores and it’s two categories cheaper. Rates there this month are going for as high as $164 per night, but only 28,000 Gold Points – meaning I’d get a value of 1.17 cents per point by booking a two-night award here.
8. The Radisson Blu Dubai Deira Creek: This stunning property on the banks of the Deira Creek has 276 rooms and suites and offers views of the lights of the glittering Dubai skyline. Each room has complimentary WiFi, a flatscreen TV and access to 24-hour fitness facilities. A grand total of 16 on-site restaurants offer endless international dining options from the Palm Grill and Bar contemporary steakhouse, to traditional Persian cuisine at Shabestan. Room rates at the Category 5 property are 1,150 AED ($313) per night in July but only 44,000 points since it’s a Category 5 property, which means you get a value of 1.42 cents per point.
9. The Radisson Blu Resort Fiji Debarau Island, Fiji: The idyllic Radisson Blu Resort Fiji Debarau Island property is the ultimate escape and within easy reach of Nadi International Airport and close to Port Denarau and Nadi Town. The 270 rooms and suites all include complimentary WiFi, a flatscreen TV, a private balcony and sleek decor. Opulent facilities at the tropical location include an 18 hole golf course, six tennis courts, lagoon pools, a selection of activities at Adrenalin Water Sports, and the Harmony Retreat Day Spa. All this can be yours for $378 per night in August or 44,000 points, which is a point value of 1.7 cents per point.
10. The Radisson Blu Aqua Hotel, Chicago: The towering Radisson Blu Aqua Hotel, Chicago is an architectural landmark in and of itself. Located within walking distance of Millennium Park, North Michigan Avenue and the Chicago lakefront, the stylish urban retreat has 334 fashion-inspired rooms and suites with complimentary WiFi, a flatscreen TV and Anne Semonin bath products. An 80,000-square-foot modern lifestyle outdoor garden offers an escape from the busy city and features a 1/5 mile running track, sundeck, fire pits, cabanas, dedicated yoga space, 25-yard lap pool, wading pool and hot tub. Room rates in October at the height of convention season are $281 or 50,000, but with the two-night discount you get a point value 1.12 cents per point.
As with all point redemptions, the value of your point depends on where you want to use it, and while there are some great values to be had with Carlson, I will say that I sometimes think some of their properties are overpriced for what you get – but if you were booking these and had to pay cash, well, that’s what you’d be paying, so the value is real. In the meantime, you might as well get a 50% discount on your points, and considering some of the redemption values that are out there in the Club Carlson portfolio, saving more than $75 to compensate for the card’s annual fee isn’t a stretch.
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*Bonus value is an estimated value calculated by TPG and not the card issuer. View our latest valuations here.
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