No Annual Fee Club Carlson Credit Card: A No-Brainer?

Did you know that Club Carlson has a $0 annual fee credit card? Last week, when I wrote about 10 places to redeem the Club Carlson annual free night certificate, reader Zach brought it to my attention. Sure, I knew about it back when the Club Carlson credit cards first came out, but since the no annual fee version no longer appears on the Club Carlson Visa landing page, I assumed it was no longer available – perhaps a casualty of the Club Carlson program massacre of 2015. Anyway, this post isn’t all about my cluelessness about the no-annual fee Club Carlson card, it’s about the benefit that makes getting this card a no-brainer.

Radisson Blu Plaza Hotel Sydney Club Carlson

We all know how great the Club Carlson Premier Rewards Visa Signature Card is for generating free nights via manufactured spending, but with the no annual fee version of the card you won’t have to spend $1,800 – $14,000 for a free night at a U.S. hotel. In addition to having no annual fee, this card offers a annual free night certificate valid at U.S. hotels when cardholders spend $10,000 in a calendar year. That’s the same bonus paid out by the other three Club Carlson credit cards, except those cards carry annual fees. Yes, those cards also offer an annual 25,000 – 40,000 point bonus in addition to the free night certificate, but you’re paying a $50 – $75 annual fee for that extra benefit. So if you don’t care about that annual point bonus or earning Club Carlson points via manufactured spending, then the no annual fee Club Carlson might be for you.

The sign-up bonus and earning rate aren’t as generous as what the cards with annual fees are offering, but they’re still great for a $0 annual fee card:

  • 30,000 bonus Gold Points after you spend $1,000 on your card within the first 90 days.
  • 3 points per $1 spent in eligible net purchases at Club Carlson hotels.
  • 1 point per $1 spent in eligible net purchases everywhere else.

This isn’t the best credit card for manufactured spending since it earns just 1 point per $1 spent on non-category bonus spending and the sign-up bonus isn’t anything to get excited about, but if you’re someone who regularly stays at Club Carlson hotels in the U.S., then the annual free night benefit is enough of a reason to get the no fee version Club Carlson card. Since you’re not paying an annual fee, you’re getting an annual free hotel night that’s actually free! If this describes you, the $0 annual fee Club Carlson card is really a no-brainer for you. 

As for channeling $10,000 worth of spending on the card, it’s really just four giftcards.com orders and liquidating them via money orders can be done in as little as a day. Uf you’re someone who anticipates being able to put the annual free night to use, then getting this card and putting a minimal amount of effort into meeting the spending requirement seems worthwhile.

What do you think of the no annual fee Club Carlson credit card? Do you think it’s worth keeping just for the annual free night benefit?

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Ariana Arghandewal


  1. I think that if you’re “someone who regularly stays at Club Carlson hotels in the U.S” you’re much better off with their fee card earning substantially more points. This card is only a good alternative for those who got a fee card for the bonus and just want to downgrade to a card with no annual fee…..

    • True, but I think if you’re putting that annual free U.S. hotel night to use, then you might want to shoot for both cards. After all, there’s zero harm in having this card if there’s no annual fee. As someone who wants to earn Club Carlson points via spending, the premium version works much better for me.

  2. If you have absolutely no use for Club Carlson points, this might not be a bad option… But if you value those points at all, it seems to make sense to pay the annual fee in order to get the 40k annual points + the higher earning rate on the $10k spending you’ll do to get the free night cert (you’d get 50k if you spent it on the $75 annual fee card, but only 10k on the no annual fee card).

    • Good point. That is why I have the premium version, but I’m thinking if I actually had a use for the annual free U.S. night certificate, I might also get the no fee version.

  3. Started following you about a year ago…love your blog! Quick question please…has nothing to do w/ Club Carlson credit card…since you deal with so many debit gift cards I figured you may be able to help me…..I have several (about 10) that I am not sure are completely drained to $0….I have called the customer service number to find out my balance, only to be told that the security info. is wrong…….I have checked my balance on many in the past…I know I am not entering incorrect info…..do you how I could find out if I used all available funds besides pulling out all ten in front of a cashier? Thanks so much in advance!

  4. Off-topic from this post but I’m wondering which type of Serve is the best/correct one to get in order to do a very modest amount of MS?

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