How Much Is Club Carlson Elite Status Worth?
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Whether you qualified for elite status in 2014 or fell short, the new year presents an opportunity to assess just how much that status means to you, and whether to pursue it again this year. Today, TPG Senior Points & Miles Correspondent Nick Ewen evaluates each level of Club Carlson elite status to help you decide.
Hotel status can be quite valuable, but that value isn’t always easy to quantify. Over the last month, I analyzed the value of elite status with Hilton HHonors, Marriott Rewards, Hyatt Gold Passport, and Starwood Preferred Guest. Today, I’ll take a crack at Club Carlson, offering my thoughts on just how much Silver, Gold, and Concierge level elite status are worth.
While this analysis is similar to the recent posts analyzing the value of airline elite status, there are some notable differences. For starters, it’s much easier to switch your loyalty from one hotel chain to another, given the global reach of their various brands. The same cannot be said for airlines, as you might be a hub captive or fly regularly to a city that’s only served by one or two airlines.
Another key difference is the level of complexity that many hotel loyalty programs provide. Airline elite status benefits are more consistent; they generally don’t change based on the departure city or arrival city. Hotels are the opposite. You may earn the same number of points when you stay at a Radisson Blu or a Country Inn & Suites, but the on-property benefits (and thus the value you get from each night’s stay) can vary widely.
As a reminder, I’ll be making a number of assumptions as I analyze the value of hotel elite status. For Club Carlson, I assumed the following:
- You qualify on stays, but your eligible nights are half way between the stay/night requirements (this is the same criteria I used for Hilton, Hyatt, and SPG). I’m sure many of you qualify based on both stays and nights, but I wanted to keep the estimates conservative to account for those who frequently stay in hotels for one night.
- Your average rate per night is $150. Award stays and Points + Cash stays do count toward elite status, so this lower average rate takes that into account.
- Approximately half of your nights are in higher-end (full service) hotels like Radisson Blu, while the other half are in budget properties like Country Inn & Suites locations.
Your stay and spending patterns may be quite different, so feel free to adjust these numbers up or down. There’s no single right way to conduct this type of analysis; running the numbers for yourself is an important step in determining whether it’s worth going for the next level.
Finally, I rounded valuations to the nearest whole dollar for simplicity. Read on to see what I determined.
Club Carlson Silver ($85)
As the lowest level within the Club Carlson program, Silver status is granted after just 10 stays or 15 nights. Silver status is also granted automatically to holders of the basic Club Carlson Rewards Visa Signature Card. For my valuation, I’m assuming 12 nights, split evenly between full-service and discount properties (6 nights and 5 stays each).
- Additional 5% food & beverage discount ($3): Regular (Red) Club Carlson members are granted a 5% discount on food & beverages purchased at participating hotel restaurants in Europe, the Middle East, Africa, and Asia Pacific. If you have Silver status, that bonus jumps to 10%. However, the “participating restaurants” qualifier is limiting, as are the regions to which this benefit applies, so it may not equate to any savings at all. However, savings could add up for frequent international stays. I’ll assume a single $50 purchase per year, resulting in additional savings of $2.50.
- Complimentary Room Upgrades ($25): Silver members with Club Carlson are actually entitled to complimentary upgrades, though (naturally) this will vary by property and brand. I’ve read that upgrades for lower level elites are nothing to write home about, so I’ll assume a $25 per night value and a 10% success rate (rounded down to one night).
- 15% points bonus ($32): In addition to the standard 20 points per dollar spent granted to regular members, Silver elites earn an additional 15% bonus on every stay, or 3 additional points per dollar. With 12 nights at $150 per night, you’d take home 5,400 more points than a Red member. In TPG’s latest valuations, he pegged Club Carlson points at 0.6 cents apiece, so the extra points would be worth $32.40.
- Early Check-in and Late Check-out ($25): As a Silver member, you can check in early and check out late, (subject to availability, of course). I’ll use the same assumptions from past posts: $25 value per use and a 10% utilization rate.
Club Carlson Gold ($456)
To earn Gold status in the Club Carlson program, you would typically need 35 nights or 20 stays in a calendar year. However, this status is automatically included on both the Club Carlson Premier Rewards Visa Signature card and the Club Carlson Business Rewards Visa card. For this valuation, I’ll assume 28 nights split evenly between full-service and discount locations (14 nights and 10 stays each).
- Additional 10% food & beverage discount ($10): Gold members receive a 15% discount at participating restaurants in the aforementioned regions, a 10% jump over that which is offered to regular members. While your typical travel patterns may increase (or eliminate) the value of this benefit, I’ll assume $100 in yearly discountable purchases, resulting in savings of $10.
- Complimentary Room Upgrades ($100): The published free upgrade benefit is actually identical across all Club Carlson elite levels, though I would assume that Gold members are given priority. Since these upgrades tend to be unspectacular, I’ll use the same $25 per night value I used for Silver, but increase the success rate to 15% (rounded down to 4 nights).
- 35% points bonus ($176): As a Gold member with Club Carlson, you’ll earn an additional 35% point bonus over the standard rate, giving you 7 extra points per dollar spent. Over 28 nights at an average rate of $150 per night, you’d take home an additional 29,400 points. Again, using TPG’s valuation, that would be worth $176.40.
- Early Check-in and Late Check-out ($50): Like upgrades, the published check-in/check-out benefits are identical for all Club Carlson elite levels. With the same criteria I used for Silver members, you would use this twice over your 20 stays, getting a value of $50.
- In-room Welcome Gift ($100): One added benefit for Gold members is an in-room welcome gift, though this varies from property to property. When TPG visited Iceland back in 2013, he stayed at both Club Carlson properties there and received a bottle of wine at the Radisson Blu Saga, but only a couple of chocolate covered strawberries at the Radisson Blu 1919. To keep this conservative, I’ll assume a $5 value per stay, or $100 total.
- 72-hour Room Availability Guarantee ($20): As I’ve said before, guaranteed availability benefits may be of little use, as these rooms are often quite pricey. However, if you absolutely need to stay at a hotel on a given night, it can be a nice perk.
Club Carlson Concierge ($1,472)
As the top tier in the Club Carlson program, you can earn Concierge status by completing 75 nights or 30 stays in a calendar year. There aren’t a ton of additional published benefits beyond those offered to Gold members, but you’ll be able to utilize them more frequently. For this analysis, I’m assuming 52 nights split evenly between full-service and discount properties (26 nights and 15 stays in each).
- Additional 10% food & beverage discount ($15): Concierge members have the same 15% discount offered to Gold members, though you may utilize it more frequently during the year. Again, the value you get from this benefit depends on your typical travel patterns, but I’ll assume $150 in yearly discountable purchases, resulting in savings of $15.
- Complimentary Room Upgrades ($250): Despite being the top tier of the program, Concierge members have the same published upgrade benefit as both Silver and Gold members. However, you would utilize this benefit more frequently and should (in theory) get priority over the lower tiers. With the same value ($25 per night) and a slightly higher estimated success rate of 20% (rounded down to 10 nights), you’re looking at a value of $250.
- 75% points bonus ($702): Club Carlson Concierge status is one of the most generous hotel top tiers when it comes to bonus points, giving you 75% more points than regular (Red) members. This results in 15 additional points per dollar spent. At $150 per night across 52 nights, you are looking at a haul of 117,000 additional points!
- Early Check-in and Late Check-out ($70): Again, the published check-in/check-out benefits are identical across tiers, so I’ll make the same assumptions as I did for Gold & Silver: $25 value per use and 10% utilization rate.
- In-room Welcome Gift ($150): The same welcome gift benefit applies to Concierge members, again valued at $5 per stay.
- 48-hour Room Availability Guarantee ($25): Concierge members get a slightly better guaranteed availability benefit than Gold members (48 hours instead of 72). Rooms booked using this guarantee come at a premium.
- Free continental breakfast ($260): While many Club Carlson properties provide free breakfast, Concierge status expands that benefit by offering complimentary continental breakfast at participating hotels (typically full-service locations). I’ll assume the same $10 per night value that I used for other chains.
The Club Carlson program is rapidly expanding, and you can see that each level of status carries some value. Personally, I love the Gold status that’s included with my Premier Rewards Visa card, but if your travels regularly take you to destinations with Club Carlson properties, pushing for status the “traditional” way can pay off nicely.
As always, you may feel differently about these assumptions, and your stay patterns may vary significantly from the ones I used for this analysis. Feel free to adjust the numbers accordingly to help you decide whether or not to push for the next level of status in 2015.
How much do you value elite status with Club Carlson?