Why I Finally Got Rid of My Club Carlson Credit Card

Months before the annual fee was due on my Club Carlson credit card, I was contemplating whether to keep, cancel, or even downgrade the card. When I got the card, it came with one of the best credit card benefits out there: The last night free on award bookings of two or more nights. Unfortunately, this benefit was discontinued in June 2015 and replaced with an annual free night certificate which could be redeemed at any U.S. Club Carlson hotel. The down side? You’d have to put $10,000 worth of annual spend on the Club Carlson credit card to earn the free night certificate and it’s only good at U.S. Club Carlson hotels. Up until this point, when someone has complained about Club Carlson hotels, I’ve been able to point to the Best Club Carlson Hotel Redemptions series, but even I’m at a loss when it comes to picking top U.S. Club Carlson hotels to redeem the annual free night certificate.

Club Carlson Credit Card

Despite this massive devaluation of the Club Carlson credit card and the subsequent announcement that over 200 hotels would be moving up in category, I still remained on the fence about whether or not to keep the card. After all, Club Carlson is one of the easiest programs to earn free nights with and factoring in the generous category bonuses from the credit card, earning free nights would be even easier. There was just one major problem: Despite having over 600,000 Club Carlson points, I had a hard time redeeming them. As I pointed out before, Club Carlson’s hotels in the U.S. aren’t the best – even in major cities like New York and Chicago, there are better places to stay. There are much better properties abroad, but most of them are cheap enough to justify an Arrival redemption. Who knows when I’d get to redeem my points anyway, so it didn’t make sense to keep earning them – especially at the rate at which Club Carlson points have been devaluing lately.

Perhaps the biggest factor in my decision to cancel the card was the fact that my manufactured spending was better focused elsewhere. I would much more prefer earning Alaska miles, Starwood points, Ultimate Rewards, United miles, and even AAdvantage miles – those are currencies that I won’t leave lying around for two or more years until they devalue. Channeling my manufactured spending activities towards cards that earn those currencies is a much better use of time and resources.

It also didn’t make sense to pay $75 annually for the Club Carlson card when there are other hotel cards that give you more bang for your buck. The Chase IHG Rewards Club Visa not only has a lower annual fee of $49, but it also comes with an annual free night that can be used at any IHG hotel – no geographic restrictions whatsoever. Some hotel cards offer elite status, like the Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve card, which can make paying the annual fee worth it even if you don’t end up putting a dime of spend on the card each year. Somehow, I think I’ll survive without Club Carlson Gold status for the year.

Ultimately, it came down to the comparative value of both the Club Carlson credit card and rewards program, and neither made it worth it for me to keep earning points through the co-branded credit card. If I’m ever in need of a huge stash of Club Carlson points, I can always earn them the old fashioned way (i.e. paid stays), since their program is so generous in that regard. Or perhaps a a mattress run-worthy promotion will be just around the corner. In my case, both of these options are more preferable to keeping the Club Carlson card. 

Do you have a Club Carlson credit card? How are you deciding whether to keep or cancel it?

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Ariana Arghandewal


  1. must be a slow miles & points period…. guess you needed something really profound to tell us about. Bravo for you that you’ve come to this moment of divorce from a card and hotel chain you once loved/hawked so dearly.

    But since you asked, 🙂 yes, we still have two business versions of the card…. ($60 annual fee — which they waved last time around and threw in a free night — when we called. Did you try retention? — they are quite aware they lost a lot of good will after last year’s devaluation) Plus we also then got the annual 40,000 point haul…. upon renewal (which you curious neglect to mention in your zeal to justify your divorce. 🙂 ) In our case, that works out roughly to a free night during peak season at Melbourne, Florida. You also keep talking about CC as if it’s only an American based hotel…. and you apparently don’t travel outside the US much. (so no need mention the great CC spots/values in Europe and beyond. But for those staying inside ‘merika, where it’s so sooooo safe (*tic), then no need to write about the world outside the land of Trump & the NRA.

    You also curiously didn’t mention how cheap/easy it is to earn CC points via ms. Ah, but let’s not confuse things. You wanted to get rid of the card, and no need to confuse matters.

    As always, suit yourself. Lots of folks will be following you, no doubt. Perhaps we will by mid-year, esp. if no new credit-card connected promotions come around.

    • I addressed pretty much all those things, but I guess skimming is necessary with such a long post. 😉 I traveled abroad once last year (Asia) and there weren’t any Club Carlson properties where I could redeem my points. I had initially stock piled those points in hopes of a Maldives redemption, but those opening dates have been getting pushed back for years now. Adding another 40k to that pile didn’t seem like a wise thing to do. While ms’ing with the card is cheap/easy as I mentioned, I’d rather channel my spend towards a different card earning a more valuable currency I actually use frequently. I didn’t get a retention offer when I cancelled, but that was fine – it wasn’t why I called. I’d like to think readers are smart enough to make decisions based on their own needs rather than to simply toss a card out because I did.

    • What a ridiculous comment! If you are so unhappy with her analysis, why bother reading it? Get ahold of yourself.

    • Is the Club Carlson card your girlfriend? OMG a blogger is canceling a card I hold dearly! My world is shattered.


  2. Last year, I got the best Hotel redemption/value from Club Carlson. $1800 room for a mere 75K points for “two nights” with breakfast incl room service (upgraded due to having the card). In another occasion I got a 2 room suite upgrade.
    But I paid the annual fee this year for the 40K pts and the goodwill points. I may also cancel the card if they don’t increase the footprint or I have exhausted my point balance.
    You can always reapply and get the 85K again, I hope…

    • Club Carlson makes it tough to churn the card (getting it in the first place wasn’t easy), but I’ve made my peace with it. In your case, it worked out well for you – you’re actually using the points and getting great value from them. For me, that extra 40k at the end of the year would have been a waste because it would just add to the pile of miles I still haven’t redeemed. But I’m glad the card is working out well for you!

  3. I have personal and business cards and am keeping both and spending $10,000 per year on both.

    I get 40,000 each from the annual fee bonus. I get 50,000 each from the $10k spend each year. I also get 2 free domestic US nights. No brainer for my travel patterns.

    I do travel domestically each year to places in the USA that have good Carlson properties (MSY and NYC). Between the 2 free nights and the points that covers those needs easily. I have also stayed at several abroad which are perfectly fine for me. A hotel is a place to sleep and shower to me so I don’t need Park Hyatt-level hotels everywhere I go. I am not picky.

    My MS bandwidth is high enough where I am not seeing much opportunity cost with my redemption patterns. I still earn more than I can burn across the board. Some of that is switching to cash these days.

    In the end you have to do what works for you. Carlson works very well for me. Which reminds me! I need to book a free night in BKK for this year.

    • The BKK properties are very nice and if you’re actually staying at Club Carlson properties domestically, then it seems like the card is a good for you. You hit the nail on the head – do what works for you.

  4. I still have my cards as I still have some last night free reservations pending. I was afraid I would lose them if I cancelled my card before I traveled. But once I do, its gone.

    • I cancelled my personal card with multiple 2 for 1 reservations for the future and the reservations are still intact. The only reason why I held onto the business card was because US Bank mistakenly did not close my account as I requested but took off the annual fee while I thought they closed the account. That was an interesting call…

      Another interesting point is a few weeks after cancelling the personal card I asked about the sympathy free night certificates people where receiving after complaining about the devaluation of the card via SM on my business account and they still gave me a free night worldwide on both accounts!

  5. I’m keeping mine. I’ve stayed at great ones around Europe with fantastic breakfasts which is a huge savings with my family of 5. I’ll be staying in at least a few this year stateside. I like the program and I’ve always been upgraded which is great for us who will doubtfully ever be Hyatt Diamond.

  6. The Radisson Aqua Blu in Chicago is a beautiful hotel. They feature it on the Chicago boat tours and I even saw it in a calendar this year of beautiful buildings. I stayed there last year using points and I was very impressed.

  7. I have stayed at their properties in Germany during my BMW European delivery last October using my “last night free” reservations. Always upgraded and always free breakfast. Stayed at Radisson Aruba and St. Martin before they closed. But with devaluations and closing of Caribbean properties I no longer see benefits of keeping the card, at least the one with annual fees.

    I am Hilton Diamond and Hyatt Platinum. Without “last night free” benefit, I think Hyatt is the best points per stay ratio at this time.

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