What is Club Carlson Visa’s annual 40K Gold Points bonus worth?

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I’ve said over and over that I think the US Bank Club Carlson Visa Signature card is one of the best for everyday, non-bonused spend. In addition to 5 Gold Points per dollar on every purchase, you also get buy-one-get-one-free award bookings, and an annual bonus of 40,000 Gold Points by renewing the card – which is $75 per year.

Got my annual 40K Gold Points bonus!

Got my annual 40K Gold Points bonus!

My bonus posted a couple of days ago and got me thinking: what is the annual bonus actually worth? Or rather, what could it be worth? After Club Carlson-ing my way through Europe a few months ago, I can firmly say, “a lot.” But I like putting numbers and values to things, and hence this post was born.

Club Carlson has an awesome online interactive tool where you can filter hotels by category… which is pretty sweet. They currently have Categories 1-7, but for this post, I’m only going to focus on 1-5.

Category 1

This category can get you 8 free nights at Club Carlson properties.

How?

With the buy-one-get-one (BOGO), you pay just 9,000 Gold Points for every 2 nights. Even if you book 8 nights at Category 1 hotels, you’d still have 4,000 points left over – and realistically if you stay 8 nights in a hotel, you’ll get 5,000 more from room charges (make sure to charge everything to your room at Club Carlson properties, because with the card you get 30 POINTS PER DOLLAR20 points per dollar for being Gold + 10 more points per dollar for using the credit card – which is insanely awesome!). And then you could book 10 free nights. 🙂

A few Category 1 properties that jump out at me are:

8 nights in Sofia would run you ~$500

8 nights in Sofia would run you ~$500

8 nights in Bratislava would also run you ~$500

8 nights in Bratislava would also run you ~$500

This is a pretty sparse category, but if you are in the right place at the right time, it could really be a boon.

Category 2

This one’s a little tricker because it’s 15,000 Gold Points for 2 nights at Category 2 properties. Tricky because 15 isn’t a nice multiple of 40. You could either get 4 free nights for 30,000 Gold Pointsor- 6 free nights for 45,000 Gold Points. But, again with the in-hotel spend. It would be easy to get to 45,000 Gold points to get 6 free nights.

A few Category 2 properties that jump out at me are:

6 nights in Orlando would other be ~$624

6 nights in Orlando would otherwise be ~$624

The Park Inn, Houston would be ~$744 for 6 nights

The Park Inn, Houston would be ~$744 for 6 nights

6 nights in Limerick would be ~$696

6 nights in Limerick would be ~$696

6 nights in Khatmandu would be $528

6 nights in Khatmandu would be $528

Category 3

This one’s also a little tricky because 2 nights in Category 3 properties would run you 28,000 Gold Points. 4 nights would be 56,000 Gold Points – significantly higher than the 40,000 Gold Points awarded annually for having the US Bank Club Carlson Visa Signature card. So, I will touch this one very lightly. Suffice it to say this category doesn’t lend itself well to my little gedankenexperiment and is really only significant for 2-night stays.

2 nights in Prague would be ~$405

2 nights in Prague would be ~$405

Many good properties in this category, but will require some bolstering of points to reach 4 free nights.

Category 4

I find myself in this category a lot for some reason. It’s also the easiest category to see direct value from your annual bonus – it’s 38,000 Gold Points for 2 nights in any of the properties here, very close to the 40,000 Gold Points bonus.

A few Category 4 properties that jump out at me are:

2 nights in Antwerp would be ~$250

2 nights in Antwerp would be ~$250

Pretty much anywhere in Germany, dang!

Pretty much anywhere in Germany, dang!

Incredible value in Iceland! ~$606 for 2 nights

Incredible value in Iceland! ~$608 for 2 nights

Category 5

Ah, Category 5. This one is 44,000 Gold Points for every 2 nights you redeem. It’s a little over the annual bonus, so I will stop after this one. As you can see, the options get progressively nicer and/or the cities get larger the higher up we go in these categories.

A few Category 5 properties that jump out at me are:

~$350 for 2 nights in Brussels

~$350 for 2 nights in Brussels

Another great value in Iceland. ~$656 in Reykjavik

Another great value in Iceland. ~$656 for 2 nights in Reykjavik

~$490 for 2 nights in Dublin - this is my value

~$490 for 2 nights in Dublin – this is the value I received

~$443 for 2 nights in London

~$443 for 2 nights in London

Categories 6 and 7

For the sake of completion, Category 6 properties are 50,000 Gold Points per 2 night award redemptions, and Category 7 properties require 70,000 Gold Points.

Category 6 has big markets like New York, Chicago, London, Sydney, San Francisco, Vienna, Paris, and several others that are all scattered around. While 50,000 Gold points isn’t that much of a stretch from 40,000 Gold Points, I didn’t want to stretch it too much. But if you’d like to see the whole list of any category, here is the link. If you want to stay in major metropolitan cities, this is most likely gonna be your category.

And Category 7 is pretty sparse.

Here is the entire list:

Club Carlson Category 7 property list

Club Carlson Category 7 property list (click to enlarge)

Observations

  • In general, it seems like sticking to Categories 1 and 2 will give you the best value from the annual 40K Gold Points bonus
  • Category 3 is middle-of-the-road, and should be taken case by case
  • Categories 4 and 5 are wildly inconsistent, with 2 nights costing as little as $250 and as much as ~$700+
  • I personally just redeemed 44,000 Gold Points for 2 nights in Dublin, Ireland and received ~$490 dollars in value. Considering I paid $75 to renew the card, it’s as if they turned right back around and gave me $415 back right away, which is awesome

Points always have a personal value. If you really wanted to use your points for a 2-night stay that would retail at $250, that is totally fine. Club Carlson points are so easy to earn that I really wouldn’t overthink it too much. But obviously you get more value if you redeem at a higher-priced property. It’s also hard to assign a value to Club Carlson Gold Points, and hotel points in general.

Also, I am way behind on my hotel reviews. I might spam you guys with Club Carlson hotel reviews in the next couple of days now that I am on the war path.

Bottom line

It’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of Club Carlson. Their properties are really inconsistent and located a little off the beaten path, in general. But a few of them are real gems: extremely modern, incredible locations, and beautifully designed. Within that umbrella of inconsistency, however, I find that they do a good job of managing expectations within individual brands (Park Inn vs. Radisson Blu, for example).

Even if you keep the US Bank Club Carlson Visa Signature card just to earn and burn the annual bonus, it’s incredibly easy to recoup the annual fee.

Combine this with the ease of earning Gold Points – it’s an incredibly generous program. I think I’m borderline obsessed a huge fan.

Does anyone else use Club Carlson to augment other hotel chains? Any tips or really wonderful properties anyone would like to share?

Editorial Note: Opinions expressed here are author's alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, hotel, airline, or other entity. This content has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of the entities included within the post.

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About Harlan

Just a dude living in Dallas.

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    • Christian, there are 3 Club Carlson properties in Budapest that are in Category 1, 2, and 3.

      The Park Inn by Radisson, Budapest is Category 1.
      The Radisson Blu Beke Hotel, Budapest is Category 2 (used to be a Category 1 last year – this is the one you are thinking of).
      The art’otel budapest, by park plaza is Category 3.

      So Budapest is pretty friendly with the Club Carlson program. I stayed at the Radisson Blu Beke Hotel recently for two nights for 9,000 Gold Points (booked before it switched categories) and will post a review soon!

  1. The Radisson in Limerick is just ok. It seemed a bit dated when we were there in July 2012. It is a bit out of town so their dining room was the easiest meal to grab and it wasn’t a meal to remember. The hotel was a good jumping off point for exploring the west coast of Ireland like the Cliffs of Moher, the Burren region, and Galway. Don’t miss Clonmacnoise monastery near Athlone on your way west and Newgrange north of Dublin (my 2 favorite stops on our trip).

    • Thank you, Paul! Just added this to my Dublin 2015 notebook in Evernote. Really appreciate the tips on the Radisson in Limerick and on things to see. Right now, I am leaning toward heading down to Cork after Dublin.

  2. I agree that this is a great card to have (my wife and I both have one), but I don’t think it’s that great of a card to actually put spending on – I’d rather put it on a Barclay Arrival or maybe something that earns Chase points.

    • I put spend on various cards – whatever I want more of at the moment, attuned with my travel goals. I like to mix up Chase (Freedom, Sapphire Preferred, and Ink Plus), Amex (EveryDay Preferred, sometimes Platinum), Arrival, and Club Carlson, and a couple of others here and there.

      The Club Carlson card is a great one to have even if you hold it just to earn and burn the annual 40K Gold Points bonus, IMO. But I do put some spend on it here and there – the earning ratio is so generous!

  3. On a trip to Ireland/Scottland this spring we will spend 6 of our 8 nights in Carlson hotels, on 2-night stays to stretch the points. 44k for Radisson Blu Royal, 15k for Limmerick, and 62.5k in Edinburgh. That’s just 121,500 points for 6 nights. The card has an 85,000 pt sign-up bonus that covered most of this. You can bet I’ll be renewing.

  4. I stayed @ the Radisson Aruba for 10 nights using points over Thanksgiving. My Wife and I both have the card. Due to availability, it was a combination of 75K & 50K redemptions. Total points used was 300K. Sounds like alot but taking into consideration we racked up 130K last month alone, why not splurge. One should also take into account that there is a good chance of an upgrade which makes your stay more valuable. Our upgraded suite in Aruba was about $700 per night. The property is beautiful and well maintained. We liked it so much we are returning the 2nd week in March for 8 nights. There is no other hotel card that comes close to delivering such value IMO.

  5. I will be in Dublin when you are. My Delta flight is IAD to DUB via Paris over and via Atlanta back. Not sure exactly which nights will be at the Radisson and which nights will be at the Hilton. Enjoying your review of CC hotels.

  6. Hi. I just stayed at the Radisson Blu in Prague, and last year at one in Dubai. I intend to blog about it, but I often find it’s worth the extra 50% (i.e. 22,000) points to reserve the “club” level award as it includes an upgraded room, breakfast and cocktails/snacks.

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