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Though Club Carlson offers some lucrative promotions like earning 30,000 bonus points on 3-night stays, or 5,000 points just for booking stays on its mobile app, lately the program has been making some major negative changes.
Last month, Carlson — the loyalty program of brands including Radisson and Radisson Blu, Park Inn and Park Plaza, among others — announced that beginning June 1, it will take away the Bonus Award Night from its co-branded credit cards like the Club Carlson Premier Rewards Visa Signature. The Bonus Award Night equated to a free night when you redeemed Club Carlson Gold Points for a stay of at least two consecutive nights. Essentially, you could get up to half off when using points at Club Carlson properties.
While Carlson replaced that benefit with an annual free night valid at US properties when you spend $10,000 on the card in a calendar year, and the card still carries other benefits like an annual bonus of 40,000 points upon card renewal, losing the bonus award night was a major blow to the program.
Apparently, though, it wasn’t enough. Carlson has just announced yet another devaluation that is making me reconsider the value of its points and the program in general. Bookings made June 1 and after will be subject to Carlson’s latest recategorization. Over 300 of the chain’s properties are changing categories, with over 200 of them going up by one or more categories. Of those 200, nearly 70 are jumping up to Carlson’s top tier Category 7, which it introduced last year with a staggering redemption rate of 70,000 points per night.
It’s not unusual for hotel loyalty programs to revamp their award categories each year (as IHG also did recently), moving certain hotels up a category or two, and others down. However, these changes to Carlson seem particularly unfriendly to award travelers. Properties changing from Category 6 to 7 will see a 40% increase in the cost of award nights (from 50,000 points to 70,000 points)! Here are a few examples:
- Radisson Blu Aqua Chicago
- Radisson Blu Minneapolis
- Radisson Blu Warwick Philadelphia
- Radisson Blu Royal Hotel Copenhagen
- Radisson Blu Hotel Madrid Prado
- Nearly all the Radisson Blu properties in London
- Radisson Blu Istanbul Pera
- Radisson Blu Plaza Sydney
Even worse, some hotels (like the Radisson Blu Mall of America and the Radisson Blu Residence Dubai Marina) are jumping from Category 5 to 7, meaning redemptions will increase almost 65% from 44,000 points per night to 70,000.
What adds insult to injury is that many of these properties are in markets (in particular, Europe) where the dollar is as strong as ever and room rates have stagnated, so this appears to be a flat-out points devaluation that is untethered from actual demand or pricing. Basically, it’s a slap in the face.
In the past, Club Carlson has been the little program that could, outdoing some of the bigger players with aggressive points and elite status promotions, introducing competitive credit cards, and expanding the slate of premium properties. It appears that the program has reached a turning point, and is joining the ranks of programs like Hilton HHonors, that devalue with no notice and little regard for members.
I wish I could say that this is the worst of it, but I have a feeling we’ll be seeing even more negative changes to Club Carlson in the future, so stay tuned. With some great bonus categories, the American Express Gold Card has a lot going for it. The card offers 4x points at US restaurants, at US supermarkets (up to $25,000; then 1x), and 3x points on flights booked directly with airlines or through amextravel.com. It is currently offering a welcome bonus of 35,000 bonus points after you spend $2,000 in the first three months.
With some great bonus categories, the American Express Gold Card has a lot going for it. The card offers 4x points at US restaurants, at US supermarkets (up to $25,000; then 1x), and 3x points on flights booked directly with airlines or through amextravel.com. It is currently offering a welcome bonus of 35,000 bonus points after you spend $2,000 in the first three months.