Maximizing Club Carlson Series: Base Level Earning And Redemptions

Jan 10, 2013

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One of my New Year’s Resolutions is to learn more about and take advantage of Club Carlson’s loyalty program. To be honest, though they’ve had some lucrative promos in the past like their Radisson and Park Inn 50,000 point promos, I don’t really feel like I have a cohesive strategy in place to take advantage of the program long-term, and once you really look at the numbers, it really is one of the most lucrative hotel loyalty programs – if not the most.
So I’m going to write a series on Maximizing Club Carlson taking a look at:

-Base Level Earning And Redemptions
-Elite Status
-Aspirational Properties
-Co-Branded Credit Cards
-Cash + Points Redemptions
-Purchasing Points
-Non-Hotel Redemptions
-Maximizing a Sample Stay Through Bonuses and Cashback

…and more to create a one-stop resource so that you can decide if Club Carlson makes sense for you, especially compared to the other major hotel programs: Hilton, Hyatt, Marriott, Priority Club and Starwood.

Could Club Carlson be the most lucrative hotel program out there?
Could Club Carlson be the most lucrative hotel program out there?

Today let’s just look at the basics of the program.

Carlson Rezidor has over 1,000 properties worldwide – about the same scale as Starwood, more than Hyatt, less than Marriott and Hilton – with brands that include Radisson, Radisson Blu, Park Plaza, Park Inn and Country Inns & Suites.

Just note, that Carlson Rezidor does own the Missoni Hotels in Edinburgh and Kuwait, but these properties are excluded from earning and redeeming.


The earning ratio is constant across all brands – you earn 20 Gold Points per $1 spent including meals and incidentals but excluding taxes. Let’s compare this to the other hotel chains.

-Hilton: 15 points per dollar with Points + Points double-dipping
-Hyatt: 5 points per dollar
-Marriott: 5-10 points per dollar
-Priority Club: 5-10 points per dollar
-Starwood: 2 points per dollar


While Club Carlson appears to have the most lucrative earning ratio, that doesn’t mean it necessarily has the best value when it comes to redeeming. For instance if it took double the points to redeem while you’re only earning 25% more points per dollar, that’s not a great value proposition. However, top-tier Carlson property redemption rates are 50,000 points just like Hilton and Priority Club, so you’re earning more and have the same base redemption level for top tier hotels.

Carlson Award Night Chart
Carlson Award Night Chart

At the very base level, excluding any kind of bonuses, it only costs $2,500 in hotel spending to get a free Category 6 hotel night (50,000 points). If that room would have cost you $400 – not hard to do at some of their higher end European properties like Radisson Blus in Paris or the UK – you’re looking at a base rebate of 16%, which is even more enticing considering that once you factor in promotions, elite status and credit card bonuses, the potential for free nights at Carlson is incredibly lucrative.

Comparatively speaking, you’d need to spend the following amounts at other chains for top-tier redemptions:

-$3,333 for a free night at a top-tier Hilton (50,000 points)
-$4,400 for Hyatt (22,000 points)
-$4,000 at Marriott (40,000 points)
-$5,000 at Priority Club (50,000 points)
-$15,000 for a Starwood Category 7 property (30,000 points)

At the lower end, a category 1 hotel (like the Radisson Hotel Hacienda, Cancun) only takes $450 in spend for a free night! The lowest available rate I could find was $70, which is still a 16% return.

Apples to Apples?
Of course one of the things you need to take into account is: Is a top-tier Carlson property the same as a top-tier property elsewhere? For instance, it only takes 22,000 points for at the Park Hyatt Paris – but are there really comparable hotels within the Club Carlson portfolio? A top-tier hotel is different from chain to chain, so we’ll be taking a closer look at this in another post. Club Carlson’s not just about top-tier hotels, they’ve actually got a huge portfolio of low- and mid-tier properties as well, which can be great for budget travelers – yet another factor to consider.

There are so many other factors at play – including promos and elite status bonuses, online booking bonuses, credit card bonuses and discounts, etc. – and various other ins and outs of the Club Carlson program that we’ll cover in the rest of our series to help you make a decision about whether this is the right loyalty program for you.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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