The Merits of Keeping the Club Carlson Premier Visa Signature Card

It was only nine short months ago that I excitedly announced I finally got approved for the Club Carlson credit card. U.S. Bank is notoriously tough when it comes to credit card approvals – especially for credit card churners. At the time, Club Carlson offered a last night free benefit to cardholders booking award nights, which essentially doubled the value of the sign-up bonus and any future point earnings on 2-night award stays. Following a massive devaluation, Club Carlson did away with this benefit and replaced it with an annual free night certificate…which is earned after $10,000 spent and could only be redeemed at US-based Club Carlson hotels. All of these negative changes to both the Club Carlson program and credit card beg the question: Is the Club Carlson Premier credit card worth keeping past the first year? That should be determined by analyzing the benefits offered by the card:

Club Carlson Credit Card

Annual Free Night Certificate

As much research as I did in finding The Best Club Carlson Hotel Redemptions, I could only find a handful of US-based Club Carlson hotels that might even remotely make this certificate useful:

  • Radisson Blu Aqua Hotel Chicago
  • Radisson Blu Martinique on Broadway New York
  • Radisson Blu Warwick Hotel, Rittenhouse Square Philadelphia

There’s the question of whether it’s wise to channel $10,000 worth of spend onto the Club Carlson credit card in order to earn the annual free night. That amount of spend will generate 50,000 Club Carlson points while channeling it towards a card like the Barclay Arrival Plus World Elite MasterCard would earn $210 Arrival Miles. Since you’re also earning the free night certificate, that’s essentially two free nights every year. Even with the category and location restrictions, these two nights are worth well over $210. Renewing the Club Carlson Premier card gets you an extra 40,000 bonus points, good for a free night at a Category 4 hotel. If you actually have use for the free night benefits and bonus points, then renewing this card makes absolute sense. 

Elite Status

The Club Carlson Premier credit card grants cardholders Gold elite status, which comes with extra perks like a 15% food and beverage discount, 35% bonus points on paid stays, in-room welcome amenity, room upgrades and 72 hour guaranteed room availability. Nice perks, but they don’t quite add up to what Hilton HHonors offers to their mid-level Gold elite members: Free complimentary breakfast and the 5th night free. Maybe it’s not fair to compare the two, but it comes down to this: Are the Gold elite benefits offered by the Club Carlson Premier Visa Signature card worth keeping the card? Unless you’re a frequent guest and are really taking advantage of that 35% point bonus or getting over $75 worth of savings on dining, I would say no.

Spend Required for a Free Night

A free night at a Club Carlson hotel requires 9,000 – 70,000 Gold points per night, depending on the category. It takes just $1,800 – $14,000 worth of credit card spend to generate a free night at a Club Carlson hotel. This is quite generous, especially compared to other hotel rewards programs. But are you better off manufacturing spend for a free Club Carlson night or charging you hotel stay to the Arrival Card and earning points through the Club Carlson program on your  paid stays?

The Club Carlson rewards program pays out a generous 20 points per $1 to all members. At this rate, it would take just $450 – $3,500 worth of paid hotel stays to generate a free night. That’s 42,750 – 332,500 Arrival Miles in November, which means $21,375 – $166,250 worth of manufactured spending. At this rates, earning your Club Carlson points through the co-branded credit card is a much better option. 

The $75 Annual Fee and Downgrade Options

There’s very little distinction between the Club Carlson Premier Rewards Visa Signature card and the Club Carlson Rewards Visa. The only notable difference is that the Premium version earns 10 points per $1 spent at Club Carlson hotels (as opposed to 6) and 5 points per $1 on all other spending (as opposed to 3). The Premier version grants cardholders Gold elite status while the non-premier card offers Silver. The Club Carlson Premier card pays out a 40,000 point annual renewal bonus while the non-premier pays out 25,000. At $50, the annual fee on the non-premier card is $25 less than the Premier card. Are 15,000 Club Carlson Gold points worth $25? If you value them at 0.4 cents each like most people do, then yes. However, if you’re like me and you’re just going to let your Gold Points pile up until a devaluation, then no.

I’m still on the fence about canceling the Club Carlson credit card. Looking at it from a practical perspective, it doesn’t make very much sense for me to keep the card since I did’t actually redeem any of the miles I earned from it. However, no rewards program should be counted out and you never know when Club Carlson points might come in handy (hopefully before the next big devaluation). When the opportunity presents itself, it would be nice not to have to allocate my hard-earned Arrival miles for a Club Carlson stay.

If you’re in the same boat as me, I’d love to know your thoughts: Are you going to keep or cancel your Club Carlson credit card once the annual fee is due?

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Ariana Arghandewal


  1. I just was in the same position about two weeks ago. Instead of cancelling, I opted to downgrade it to a no fee version and got the annual fee refunded.

    • For my needs, keeping the card makes sense.
      Most my travels are road trips so a weekend at a country inn or lower tier radisson is 18,000-56,000. With a little MS I could easily rack up 20,000 points a month, and when the annual fee hits, the free night + 40k is darn close to a weekend stay at the aqua in Chicago, which could be $400+

      • Yeah I’m leaning towards keeping it as well. Though considering my track record with actually redeeming Club Carlson points, I might just opt for the non-premier version of the card.

  2. I too miss the second night bonus. Yet did manage to use it last april on Radisson Ocean Suites in Melbourne, Florida…. and every room there is…. superb. (if you like ocean front stays — the downstairs, not so…. yet hadn’t realized I had a 15% discount w/ the card…) Also have my eye on two Tunisia Rad Blue resorts — if I can muster the courage.

    Still waiting to see if I get the CC free night comp promo. they emailed out to many customers last month. If they don’t give that up, I may cancel the card, on principle.

    • I actually included the Radisson in Melbourne on my Best Redemption list, so it’s good to know the hotel is as nice in person as it looks in the photos. If you haven’t gotten the email, you can also send US Bank a direct message. I can’t remember where I read it, but a blogger was able to get their free night certificate this way.

  3. Since I haven’t even used my points from the signup bonus yet and I’m now at the 1-year mark, I’ll be canceling. Why pay for more points when I obviously don’t have a track record of using them?

    • That’s the wise thing to do. The only thing keeping me on the fence is that if I do end up needing Club Carlson points next year, it’s going to be hard getting approved for this card again.

  4. Interesting observations. I didn’t realize that it would be such a hassle to redeem my free night certificate. I still have the card and have usually been given upgrades to suites because of my Gold status. I was recently given a great suite at the Radisson Blu in Milan(which I booked a long time ago when they still had the free night with every stay). Also, most of their hotels have free breakfasts. The breakfast at Country Inn & Suites usually leaves a lot to be desired. We were given free breakfast at the Radisson Blu Milan because of the Gold membership. However, in addition to doing away with the free night after every stay they have also severely devalued their points system. For that reason I’ll probably cancel the next time the AF hits. My stay at the Radisson Blu in Chicago last April ended up costing 50K points total for 2 weekend nights. That same stay today would be about 140K points!

  5. I made out extremely well with Club Carlson and will keep the card, as sometimes their promotions can be extremely lucrative. Here are some examples.
    1. I started out with 15,000 gold points (15 separate nights at a Radisson) in 2012. Enter the famous Club Launches with a 50,000 bonus for a stay at a Radisson, 44,000 at a Country Inn and Park Inn and voila 15,000 Gold Points became nearly 244,000 Club Carlson Points.
    2. Got the credit card with a free night on a reward redemption using my 244,000 points for award redemption and I received nearly a dozen free nights with no deductions.
    3. Earlier this year they promoted a 30,000 bonus (and an additional 10,000 points) for a 3 night stay, and bingo 3 nights at a low priced Country Inn transformed into 44,000 points (using the Club Carlson credit card to pay for the room).
    4. Later in the year when they discontinued the free award redemption night, Club Carlson offered a 30,000 point bonus for a night staying paying with your Club Carlson Visa. Stacking with 2 other bonuses (triple points and a 5,000 booking bonus) and a one night $108 Country Inn stay earned 42,000 points.
    5. At least 3 points on every dollar spent is not to shabby. Quite often they provide additional point earning bonus on additional charges (one going on right now).
    6. Finally as an ex-New Yorker let me put in a personal plug for the Country Inn and Suites in Long Island City, Queens. Although a Country Inn (barely a mid scale property) its is very well run, real New York bagels for breakfast, convenient to four subway lines, 10 minutes (if that) from the City, and you can easily find free parking on a nearby street. Worth the 38,000 points and their rates in the winter months are quite low (About $70 a night)

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