How NOT to Spend 65,000 Club Carlson Points

Club Carlson is one of the best hotel rewards programs when it comes to earning free nights and I’ve written extensively about their huge portfolio of amazing properties worldwide. While it’s easy to earn club Carlson Gold points, between the generous earning rate (even for non-elite members) and the Club Carlson credit card, you shouldn’t throw your points away on terrible redemptions. I’m talking about Club Carlson’s latest redemption option: Starting in July, Club Carlson members can exchange 65,000 Gold points for an $85 TSA Precheck application fee. My eyes nearly popped out of my head when I saw that number. 

Radisson Blu 1835 Hotel and Thalasso, Cannes

Don’t waste your points: For 70,000 points per night you could book the Radisson Blu 1835 Hotel and Thalasso in Cannes

Yes, for almost the same number of points as a top-tier Categrory 7 award night (which can set you back as much as $1,000 per night), you get the $85 TSA Precheck fee waived. Please don’t do that. I don’t care if your grandmother gifted you the points because she has no idea how valuable they are – do not redeem 65,000 gold points for an $85 TSA Precheck credit. You’re giving up at least $200 in value and if you’re going to part with that much cash, you might as well spend it on the annual fee for the American Express Platinum Card. Because then you’ll at least have $200 in airline fee credits and other benefits to justify the cost.

Most people value Club Carlson points at around 0.4 cents each – I don’t assign values to my points and miles, but even at that rate 65,000 points is worth $260. I try to make sure I get more value out of my redemptions than I spent earning the points needed. I don’t have the Club Carlson Premier Rewards Visa Signature card anymore but if I did, I’d have to spend $13,000 to earn 65,000 gold points. Channeling this spending towards Visa gift cards purchased from Simon Mall would cost $111.80 with gift card and money order fees factored in. Channeling the same amount of spend towards a 2% cash back card like the Fidelity Visa, would earn you $260 in cash back, which would not only off-set the $111.80 in fees but leave you with $148.20 in cash back…$85 of which you could use to cover the TSA Precheck fee.

Bottom line, please don’t use 65,000 Club Carlson Gold points to cover the $85 TSA Precheck fee. There are lots of credit cards that offer statement credits for TSA Precheck fees and you might be better off getting the fee covered through one of those cards and saving your Club Carlson points for an award redemption that will be worth more than $85. Or just pay the fee out of pocket and next time you’re staying at a the May Fair Hotel in London, you’ll be glad you didn’t have to pay $500+ per night because you squandered your points on a $85 TSA Precheck application fee. Most of you are savy enough to know this, but I’m saying it for those few newbies who might wander in here and think 65,000 points are worth $85.

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Ariana Arghandewal


  1. Good advice re. the really lame TSA pre-check promo, yet you lost me with your opening glowing reference to Club Carlson “being one of the best hotel rewards programs….” Since when? Is this like saying Ryan Howard is the greatest ballplayer even for the Phillies (never mind he’s been an absolute dud since they started paying him $25 million a year — five years now)

    Even the link you give us contracts your opening sunny disposition. I too am increasingly having a hard time finding western hemisphere locations where I’d want to redeem CC points. (we’ve done the aging Melbourne, Florida Radisson beach spot twice now, thank you — but it’s getting… old, like several of the other non-beach properties on your former go to Rad list)

    Sure, we’ll hang onto our 350K or so of holdover points, in hopes we can use them in the middle east. (say, Egypt, Tunisia, etc. — alas, not as good as Drew awol Macomber — in keeping fears of politics and terror out of mind when hazarding to hit the beach resorts in such places.)

    That said, I forgot to cancel our (business) version of the CC cards — and for $60, we have another 40k added to the stash…. just can’t get enthused about blowing them all on a night “at the port”…. Really dumb on my part — wish I’d followed your example back in January.

    So yes, great advice to avoid the TSA promo. Even better advice to kill the card entirely. (and by the way, if ya’all get any US Bank promos for 0% balance transfer offers for this card — run, run far away….. This is one of the few remaining cards whereby once you stick a balance transfer on the card, any subsequent purchases go to the bottom of the pile — which means that you’ll pay 24.99 percent interest on them — until AFTER you pay off the 0% balance transfer…. as Tump-like a business practice as it gets. By contrast, with most other cards these days, from Barclays, Chase, BA, etc., the payments are allocated first to recent purchases, then highest interest portions of the balances)

    • I call Club Carlson one of the best hotel rewards programs for earning free nights because as a base member, it takes just $3,500 worth of paid stays to earn a free night at a top-tier hotel. Compare that to $6,000 with Hyatt, $5000 – $10,000 with Marriott and at least $15,000 with Starwood. Club Carlson hotels in the US are terrible – other than the Chicago Radisson, the pickins’ are slim. However, their hotels in the Middle East, Asia, and even Africa are super nice. I cancelled my card because I just wasn’t making use of the points where I was traveling to at the time and I thought it was better to channel my spend towards earning Hyatt points. If you’re heading to the Middl East, you can really put your points to good use at some very nice Club Carlson properties.

  2. Club Carlson has some really nice hotels. I stayed at the Radisson Blu in Chicago last year and it was amazing. The architecture is so impressive that the hotel is featured on the architecture city boat tour. It’s the only time I’ve ever had a balcony at a hotel in Chicago. I stayed at the Radisson Blu in Milan last fall and was upgraded to a suite, which was huge. It was a little outside the city center, but still an upscale hotel. I’m planning at staying at a Radisson in the Lakes District of Chile in November, which is supposed to be another nice hotel. Club Carlson doesn’t have as many nice properties as the other major chains, but it’s not fair to say that they don’t have anything worthwhile in Western Hemisphere.

    • They do have really nice hotels abroad. Here in the US, they’re definitely lacking, with the Chicago Radisson Blue bing a standout property. It would be nice if they had more properties in major cities (SF, Miami, LA, etc.) or if their airport hotels were nicer.

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