Last Friday I reported that Club Carlson credit cards will be losing their most valuable benefit: Bonus Award Nights as of June 1 2015. Club Carlson is replacing this benefit with a free night in the US, earned after $10K annual spend. The soon-to-be-gone Bonus Award Night benefit makes the last night of each multi-night award stay free. So, it is currently possible to double the value of your Club Carlson points by booking two night award stays. With two-night award stays, you pay (with points) for the first night and get the second night free.
With this benefit going away, here are my top suggestions for milking full value from your existing cards…
1. Book Bonus Award Nights for post-June 1 stays, 2 nights at a time
Starting June 1, you won’t be able to book stays with Bonus Award Nights, but you can still benefit from Bonus Award Nights. The trick is simply to book your future award stays prior to June 1. For each multi-night award stay you book, you will get last night of the stay free.
Based on the best information available right now, I believe that we won’t be able to change these reservations after June 1 without losing the free night.
If you don’t know your exact travel schedule right now, it could make sense to book award stays in small increments: 2 nights at a time (to maximize the free night benefit). This way, if your plans end up being slightly different than expected, you can cancel specific blocks of nights without losing all of your reservations. Note that back to back two night stays booked at the same hotel will receive only one Bonus Award Night unless you work around the system a bit (see suggestion 2, below, for details).
2. Book back to back bonus awards
Suppose you want to book a continuous stay of four nights or more. There are several ways to maximize your Bonus Award Nights. By default, if you book one continuous multi night award you will only get one free night. Here are a few workarounds:
- Personal + Business cards: If you have both a personal and business Club Carlson credit card then you probably have two Club Carlson account numbers as well. Book the first two nights from your personal account and the next two from your business account. If you want to stay longer, then continue to alternate: book the next two from your personal account, etc.
- You and your travel partner both have Club Carlson cards: If you and your travel partner each have a Club Carlson card, then alternate the person who books each two night stay. For example, for a six night stay, you book the first two and the last two nights, and your significant other books the middle two nights.
- Just one card: A couple of ideas…
- Put a paid stay in between each set of two night award stays. For example, to book a 5 night stay, book the first two nights as an award, the third night as a paid stay, and the final two nights as another award.
- Change hotels. If you’re staying in a city with multiple Club Carlson hotels, you could book two award nights at one hotel (for the price of one night), then book the next two nights at a different Club Carlson hotel.
3. Book the best hotels
Drew, at Travel is Free, recently published his picks for the Best Club Carlson hotels. His list includes hotels in Vienna, Sydney, Philadelphia, London, Berlin, Paris, Chicago, Cape Town, Shanghai, and Salzburg.
If none of the above locations work for you, check out Travel Is Free’s map of Club Carlson hotels. Here’s an image of the map where I filtered to just the top Category 6 and Category 7 hotels (just as an example of what’s possible):
I would use this map to find properties in areas you plan to visit in the next year. Next, I would visit sites like TripAdvisor to find properties that have great reviews. Then, book em.
Another way to go is to get advice from others. On Friday I tweeted/Facebooked this question:
Anyone know of an aspirational Club Carlson hotel? Is there such a thing? Time to burn points!
At the bottom of this post, I list the advice that was given in response.
4. Request compensation… twice
On Friday, when talking with a US Bank representative about the upcoming changes, I asked if any compensation was available for those who were unhappy with losing the Bonus Award Nights benefit. She told me that they were instructed to offer 2500 points to anyone who was clearly unhappy. I took it. 2500 points is a pathetic offer, but slightly better than nothing. I plan to call again after June 1 to cancel one or more of my cards (between my wife and I, we have 3) to see if they’ll offer any incentives to keep the card open. My guess is that they’ll be eager to retain customers and will be ready by then (but probably not before then) with a few offers.
5. Get more than 30,000 bonus points
Several hours after I posted about the loss of Bonus Award Nights on Friday, Club Carlson sent an email to cardholders with details about the change. In that email we learned that the new free night after $10K spend benefit is for US properties only. That’s a huge blow since most of Club Carlson’s best properties are in Europe!
On the other hand, they did throw a bone to existing card members:
And, to thank you for your continued loyalty, you can earn 30,000 bonus Gold Points® on your next Eligible Stay at a Carlson Rezidor hotel worldwide when you pay with your Club CarlsonSM Visa®. Offer ends August 31, 2015.
Not all cardholders received this part of the message, but Club Carlson has stated via Twitter that all cardholders are eligible.
Even though Club Carlson points will be worth considerably less as of June 1, a 30,000 point bonus for a one night stay is really good. Consider that the 30,000 points are in addition to points earned from the stay itself, from the credit card, and from any other special offers that may be going on at the time. One could rack up a huge number of points with a single one night stay. I might even consider a mattress run for this one (a mattress run is where you book and check into a hotel just to earn points and/or status even if you don’t intend to spend the night).
6. Sign up for a new card now (maybe)
This may sound ridiculous, but hear me out. Club Carlson has just massively devalued their program + credit card combination, so why would I suggest signing up for the card? The reason would be to take advantage of Bonus Award Nights plus the 30K one night stay bonus before its too late. If you don’t already have a Club Carlson credit card that offers Bonus Award Nights, then it might be worth it to sign up now. The signup bonus for the card gives you 50,000 points after first purchase and then another 35,000 points after $2,500 spend. 50,000 points is enough for at least one night at many of Club Carlson’s properties. So it should be possible to get the 50,000 points before June 1, and use them to book a two night award stay for the price of one.
If 50,000 points isn’t enough, you could get more points in a few ways. For one, you should be eligible for the 30,000 bonus point offer after 1 paid stay. If so (check with Club Carlson first), you could stay one night at a cheap property to earn the extra points you need. Or, you could quickly meet the $2,500 spend requirement to get the rest of the signup bonus (35,000 more points).
Or, if you’re interested in earning the 1 free night in the US with $10K spend, you could wait until May 28th to begin working on the $2,500 spend required for the rest of the card’s signup bonus. That way, the same $2,500 spend will get you the sign-up bonus’ final 35K points plus it will get you one quarter of the way towards a free night. Keep in mind, though, that points earned that late in the game cannot be used for booking Bonus Award Nights.
UPDATE: Earn even more points through Club Carlson’s triple points promotion! See next item, below…
7. Take advantage of Club Carlson’s Big Reveal
Via Twitter and other social media, Club Carlson is promising a Big Reveal, whatever that is. For example, in Twitter we see:
UPDATE 4/6/2015 8:45am EST: The big reveal is an offer for triple points.
Details can be found here: Club Carlson offering triple points between April and June.
Aspirational Club Carlson Properties
When I asked followers for recommendations of aspirational Club Carlson properties, here were the recommendations: