Why I Caved and Got the Club Carlson Credit Card Again

It was only seven short months ago that I wrote about cancelling my Club Carlson credit card after the annual fee was up. At the time I had decided that my (at the time somewhat limited) manufactured spending was better channeled towards other hotel credit cards or flexible reward cards like the Barclay Arrival Plus World Elite MasterCard. I’ve since written about how Club Carlson is one of the best rewards programs for earning free nights, and pointed out the minimal amount of spend required to earn a free night at a top-tier Club Carlson hotel via credit card spending. I was aware of all this before canceling the card, but a recent shift in my travel plans has made me realize that I do need this card in my wallet after all.

Deluxe Room at the Radisson Blu Edwardian Bloomsbury Street

Deluxe Room at the Radisson Blu Edwardian Bloomsbury Street – 70,000 points per night or $450+ in September

A few weeks ago, my cousin and I were looking at booking a Fall trip to Europe. On our list was Dublin, London, and maybe someplace in France. Finding a decent hotel in London with a good location within our price range was tough during the dates we picked. When it came to award redemptions, there were a few reasonable options but it was tough to generate the points needed for 4+ nights in each city via credit card spending. Remembering their huge portfolio in Europe and especially London, I decided to check Club Carlson’s website. It turns out they’ve added even more impressive hotels to their London portfolio, which ranged from 50,000 – 70,000 points per night.

Earning those points via Simon Mall gift card purchases would cost $86 – $120 out of pocket. Of course, this amount would be further reduced through Visa gift card purchases made through giftcards.com. That’s when I kicked myself for getting rid of my U.S. Bank Club Carlson Visa Signature Credit Card. It’s not even about the accessibility of Club Carlson awards – they had some of the nicest hotels in the city and if the paid rate wasn’t so high (the Park Plaza Westminster Bridge London for example, was going for over $650 per night), I would have totally booked a stay and then redeemed Barclay Arrival Miles for it. However, the nightly rates were too high and since I didn’t have enough Gold Points for a 5 night stay, I really kicked myself for getting rid of my Club Carlson card.

It wasn’t just London: I’ve always wanted to check out the Radisson Blu Royal Hotel, Dublin and France is awash in amazing Club Carlson hotels. If you’re wondering at this point whether it wouldn’t be easier to just change travel plans, it wouldn’t have been. I was working with my cousin’s schedule (I don’t really have one) and taking her budget into account. Airfares were also much cheaper (i.e. $380 roundtrip from Toronto), so the dates weren’t really flexible.

As someone who wrote an extensive series on The best Club Carlson Hotel Redemptions and has been an advocate for a diversified points portfolio, I should have known better than to dismiss a credit card based on my immediate travel needs. I’ve decided to travel to Europe more often and Club Carlson really does have great properties outside of the U.S., so I’m rededicating myself to the program. 

At the time I closed my account, many of these points were irrelevant because it really came down to my travel plans and the fact that Club Carlson wasn’t a good fit anymore. However, now that I’m looking to travel to Europe more frequently (where Club Carlson has a huge presence) and have more manufactured spending opportunities available to me, I can dedicate more spending to this card and get more rewards from my non-bonus category spending compared to other hotel credit cards.

The annual free night certificate issued after $10,000 worth of spending is still pretty useless since it’s limited to their shrinking U.S. hotel portfolio, but the 40,000 point renewal bonus is a nice way to top off my account every year. All of this is worth the $75 annual fee to me, so I’m willing to keep this card long term going forward. 

I’d love your feedback on this: Have you ever cancelled a credit card and then regretted it (i.e. an unintentional card churn)? What do you think of the Club Carlson credit card post-devaluation and what criteria do you use to decide whether a credit card is worth keeping

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Ariana Arghandewal


  1. Yes. I cancelled one of my chase business ink and have regrets. On a side note I want to see if anyone is having the same problem that I’m having with purchasing visa cards at office max using the chase business ink card. I went in one day and purchased 1 and the next day 2 they just showed up on my statement as work related worth 1 point not utilities like they always have worth 5 points,anyone else have this problem.

    • The statement category of work related vs. utilities doesn’t have much meaning. I believe it’s just there for you to keep track of business expenses. It even lets you manually change the category. Did you go into Rewards Summary to see how your points were earned? I just looked at mine and it shows +1 point for everything and then +4 points for cable, phone and office supply. The Visa gift cards I purchased are showing up in that +4 category.

    • I did the same thing Jim – I cancelled my brother’s old Ink Bold card and am now thinking I’m missing out on 250k easily UR points every year. I haven’t had the problem you’ve mentioned (though I haven’t purchased any cards lately). I’ll give it a try with orders and in-store purchases. Hopefully it’s a fluke.

      • Actually everything is OK. Even though they did not show up as utilities they still gave me 5 pt per dollar. I still dont understand how or why but now the latest problem is I went and bought $800 worth of visa cards at office max and my local walmart as of yesterday no longer sells money orders with a debit card unless it has your name on it.

  2. FreeUS night certificate not necessarily worthless for everyone. Just redeemed one outside of a busy national park at very busy time without a lot of advance planning. Hotel was sold out when we were there. Paid rate with tax about $240. Hotel not fabulous, but more than ok.

    • It’s good you got to put it to use. Unfortunately, that’s tough for most people to pull off, with the limited number of good hotels in the U.S. I am working on a post though that will outline the best redemption options left.

    • Did you put the $140000 spend on the card for the free night? I did and card renews soon. Does it auto renew in your account with no hassle? I’m concerned and want my free night. Otherwise, I’ve kept the card. I’ve stayed in some great properties that I never would have if I hadn’t been with CC.

  3. HI Ariana! I love Club Carlson esp that they are all over Europe. Had stayed with them using points in expensive places such as Iceland, Scandinavia, Paris, London, etc. I have kept both credit cards and MS with them regularly. The card also gives you gold status — a free upgrade to the next best room (been upgraded to suites in Milan, Amsterdam, etc). They also have an ubiquitous presence in South Africa if you plan to go to Cape Town in the near future. Great decision to apply for this card again!

  4. I think Club Carlson is good internationally but not so great in the US. I loved them before the devaluation, but it really was too good to be true. I had a hard time using that free night certificate. Just about every place I tried to use it for was blacked out for the free night although you could still book with points. I ended up using it at a hotel in Long Island City, Queens after a late night arrival into LaGuardia. On the plus side it is a good card to MS. It blows away all the other hotel cards with a base rate of 5x points plus the occasional extra bonus point during promotions. And more often than not I’ve been given free upgrades to suites because of the elite status that comes with the card.

    • Totally. I think they were trying to expand quickly by offering these really great promotions and credit card perks, but it wasn’t sustainable in the long run. I’m glad to hear they offer upgrades to Gold members – not many chains will do that for mid-tier elites.

    • Totally. I think they were trying to expand quickly by offering these really great promotions and credit card perks, but it wasn’t sustainable in the long run. I’m glad to hear they offer upgrades to Gold members – not many chains will do that for mid-tier elites.

  5. I absolutely love this card. I just got back from Copenhagen a few months ago and stayed 2 nights one with certificate and one with points. You could not ask for a better location and it is the tallest building on that part of town and I was on the top floor. What a view. I’m loading up points and hope to have about 200,000 pts saved up in a few months. I take about 20 cruises a year and always try to stay at radisson blues if available. Cape town was amazing also, perfect location.

  6. I agree that MS on the Carlson card is very useful for European vacations. I have stayed at Belfast and Dublin and was also able to use the free night at SEA. One problem is lack of breakfast or a lounge but sometimes one can pay extra for an upgrade that includes breakfast.

    • That is somewhat inconvenient. However, if I’m spending just $86-$120 per night a top-tier hotel, then paying for breakfast actually doesn’t bother me much. Also, it’s nice that Club Carlson extends a 15% discount on food and beverages to Gold members at participating hotels.

  7. I downgraded to the no annual fee Club Carlson card and I have a question about reapplying for the Premier version, which is the one you’re talking about in this post. Do you know whether one can get the bonus again? Have you already applied and been approved for the card? Reason I ask is, if you were approved after having cancelled only 7 months ago, I’m wondering if Club Carlson will allow you to receive the bonus. I’m interested in getting the card again, even if I don’t get the bonus, precisely for the MS reasons you mention. It’s a great card. The no-fee version is fine, but it’s only 3 club carlson points per $1, rather than 5.

    • The card came in the mail last week but I’m not sure if I’ll get the bonus again. Like you, I was interested more in the card benefit rather than the bonus. I’m going to meet the spending requirement this week and will provide an update at the end of the billing period.

  8. Correction – The no fee Club Carlson card gives 3 club carlson points per $1 spent on Club Carlson properties and only 1 club carlson point per $1 spent everywhere else. Sorry for posting wrong info in my previous comment. This is why I rarely use the card anymore.

        • Thanks Zach! The card doesn’t appear on ClubCarlsonvisa.com so I had no idea it existed. It’s actually a really great card if you want to downgrade from the Premier version and don’t mind missing out on the 6 points/$1 at Club Carlson hotels offered through the non-premier card.

        • Yup. That’s the one I have, but I hate missing out on 5 Club Carlson points per $1 on regular spend. I basically get 1 club carlson point per $1 spent, which is not great. I mainly downgraded to this no fee card just to keep the generous credit line they granted me when I first opened the Premier card, but now I’m sort of stuck. If you do get the bonus, Ariana, please update us. I may just end up cancelling this no fee card and just applying for the Premier card once again…

          • I’ll definitely provide an update, but why don’t you get both cards? The Premium Club Carlson card is great for ms and the no-fee version gets you a free annual night for $10k worth of spend. If you’re a heavy ms’er, this is a minimal amount of spend and you’re not paying an annual fee, so you really don’t lose out on anything.

  9. I have a somewhat different POV. Over and over again, I have compared CC advanced paid rate (sometime w/ 15-20% off) vs. points redemption and I found the points are worth about 0.3cents. Even w/o the advanced purchase it is less than 0.35cents worth. So, keeping the card for 40K points, you are getting around ~$120 by paying $60-$75. Not much value difference when paying cash w/ a 2x-3x Hotel credits using other more valuable cards/points..So, this card doesn’t carry enough value for the long term vs. other cards..

    Upgrades are NOT guaranteed and so you can’t count on it everytime. Instead you can count on the value the point!

    • That’s an interesting way of looking at it. Personally, it’s more about the ms value for me. If I can generate an award night at a top-tier hotel for less than $120 (especially when some hotels go for $500+), then the card is worth keeping for me.

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