Unless London is Calling, Time to Check Out of the Club Carlson US Bank Credit Card

Unless you are a frequent traveler to London, it is time to discontinue your use of the Club Carlson Visa Signature Card from US Bank.

Club Carlson is the parent company of Radisson and several other hotels, and for the last several years it has had an attractive loyalty program, paired with an attractive credit card partner, that enabled valuable rewards to early by ramped up. However, Club Carlson and US Bank recently announced that one of the most attractive features of the Club Carlson Visa Signature Card from US Bank is being discontinued at the end of May. Previously, on a multi-night stay, your last night would be free. This feature enabled many - myself included – to stay at some of their nicest hotels by redeeming only enough points for one night. Now that benefit is quietly being removed (although apparently reservations may be made through May 28 that will not allow cardholders to take advantage of this feature through the end of 2016).

The removal of this feature is effectively a 50% devaluation of the program to cardholders who used it effectively by redeeming points for two night stays. To make matters worse, it comes on the heels of a change in the number of points required to stay at their nicest hotels from 50,000 to 70,000 points (this change occurred in 2015 for most top tier European hotels like the May Fair in London, and is occurring this year for the Radisson Blu Chicago).

The experience with Radissons in the US is always hit-or-miss (actually, miss) and the Club Carlson website seems to date from 1997. Nevertheless, the May Fair in London and some of the European Radisson Blu hotels are very, very comfortable hotels. Less than one year ago, 50,000 Club Carlson points would get you a two night stay at one of these hotels. At 5 points per dollar spent, this was an exceptional return for $10,000 of credit card spend. When it was raised to 70,000 points for a two night stay, it continued to be a very good return on $14,000 of credit card spend. After May 28, that two night stay requires points accumulated for $28,000 of credit card spend.

In London hotels are prohibitively expensive, and the May Fair is as good as any hotel (with rack rates regularly exceeding GBP 500). I think that a two night stay there for points accumulated through $28,000 in credit card spend can make sense. Additionally, some of the other Radisson Blus in London – including the Radisson Blu Edwardian Hampshire Hotel - can be redeemed for 50,000 points a night (or through $20,000 in credit card spend). To boot, your sign up bonus will get you a free night and your annual renewal bonus will get you half of a free night.

But, those who don’t travel to London regularly will see little value going forward in the Club Carlson program. But, even in the other European cities where Radisson Blu has comfortable hotels, Hyatt (Paris, Moscow) or Starwood (Amsterdam, Madrid) now provide much more value than Club Carlson for your spend on their credit cards.

Ari Socolow
Ari Socolow: Ari Socolow is the Chief Economist and Editor-in-Chief at BestCashCow. He is particularly interested in issues relating to bank transparency and the climate crisis. Since co-founding BestCashCow in 2005, Ari has been frequently cited in the media as an expert on local and national savings accounts, CD products, mortgage and loan products and credit card rewards products.

Editorial Disclosure: Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author's alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities.

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