Maximizing Free Night Awards With the Club Carlson Visa Signature

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Club Carlson is still a relatively new hotel points earning program, but they kicked it off right with a couple of generous promotions. First was the 50,000 points from one stay promotion. Then, they ran a triple points promotion on top of the standard 20 points per dollar. Then it got even better.

Many of us were already sitting on hundreds of thousands of Club Carlson points when they announced the debut of the Club Carlson Visa Signature card. Like most hotel-branded credit cards, it offers a signup bonus and a status bump in the program.

This card also adds a unique perk: a free award night when you book two or more nights.

Yes, this means that you can get a two night stay for the price of one. A Radisson Blu in Paris or London goes from being 50,000 points for one night to 50,000 points for two nights. Getting the card was a no-brainer. I added points to my already large stash and doubled their value.

Here, we’ll go over strategies and how to use and book the free night award.

The free night is automated

Once you have the credit card, the process of booking the free night is built into your Club Carlson profile. Book an award night on the website like you usually would, and the free night is automatically applied.

1) Go to ClubCarlson.com and select the “Book With Points” tab.

book-with-points

2) Go through the normal booking process of selecting your destination and select at least two nights for desired dates.

gold-points

3) It will start to price without a discount but ignore and follow through. If you’re logged in, it should tell you that you get a free night in a red box near the bottom of the page.

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4) On the second screen it will have the adjusted price.

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It’s very simple (and automated!). If you have the card, log on and book a free night. It will charge the points right away but the stay can be canceled. If you do cancel (within the allowed time of cancellation), the proper amount should be refunded immediately.

Rules of the free night

  • Free night does not work with cash and points
  • The free night only applies to one room at a time
  • You only need enough points for the amount the final price would require
  • You get a max of 50 free nights in one year, but I seriously doubt you’ll have to worry about that
  • You can not book two free nights back to back

Getting around the one stay restriction

If it’s not obvious, the hot spot is certainly one free night on a two night stay. It’s essentially a “buy one get one free” – every stay. However, you can not book back to back award stays at one hotel. The website is pretty smart and will restrict you from booking two of these stays in a row. But there are three main ways to maximize this:

1) Leave a one night gap.

It might be inconvenient, but you could certainly go somewhere else for a night and then come back. Redeem points for another hotel and come back the very next night for another two night stay.

2) Switch hotels to a different Radisson.

If there is more than one Club Carlson hotel in a city, do a two night stay at each. In other words if you have four nights, book two nights at one property and two nights at the other. You’ll for sure only have to pay for two of those four nights.

3) Have your spouse book the second stay.

This tip requires two credit cards between two people – just rotate accounts. You could book two nights at a single hotel with your account and then log into your spouse’s account and use their account to book the next two nights. The free night will book without a problem.

Added benefits of the credit card

  • The main advertised benefit is 85,000 points after spending $2,500 in the first 90 days
  • After the first year, you’ll get an anniversary bonus of 40,000 points
  • Gold status
  • Bonus award night benefit

The downsides

1) Unfortunately, the annual fee is not waived for the first year. Still, $75 isn’t a bad annual fee considering both the benefits and the annual bonus. You could always get the business version of the card, if you qualify, as it’s only $60.

2) US Bank is notorious for downgrading applications, meaning you’ll apply for a card and get approved for a lesser version of it. As bad as that sounds, all of the Club Carlson credit cards have the free night benefit and decent sign up bonuses. They all have great values in terms of signup bonuses relative to the annual fee.

Neither of these downsides are worth avoiding this card. The free night benefit is worth any version of the card and its annual fee. The more points you have, the better the benefit.

Not only is it a great card if you have points, it’s a great card if you will take the time to earn points. They continually have great promotions and even sell points for a decent price every now and then.

Free nights apply to award nights only

…it doesn’t affect cash rates at all. However, Gold members get an interesting benefit of a “2 for 1″ rate for weekends. Go here to check out the 2 for 1 availability. It’s just as it sounds: you stay two nights and pay for one.

It’s only good for stays starting Thursday or Friday. It’s also only available for Europe, Africa and the Middle East.

There is also a “4 for 2″ rate. Check here for the 4 for 2 rate. As it sounds, you stay four nights and pay for two. Similarly, it’s for stays starting Wednesday or Thursday and is only good in Europe, Africa and the Middle East.

A generous program

Club Carlson is such a giving program that the hardest part is determining which discount to use. And sometimes the promotions are so generous you would rather pay cash than use points.

Club Carlson may be one of the best programs in terms of earning free nights but it comparatively lacks in two ways: status and brands. While even Gold members get generous upgrades, top tier status (concierge) can hardly be compared to Hyatt or Starwood.

But this is partly because of the properties. Hotels don’t always have lounges to give access to. In general it’s not a luxury hotel chain like Hyatt or Starwood. I even find some of the Radisson Blu hotels (which is the Ritz Carlson or Park Hyatt of Club Carlson) to be barely decent hotels. Not all Radisson Blu hotels are created equal.

Bottom line:

In the end, even if your loyalty isn’t with Club Carlson and even if all their hotels aren’t 5 star this is a great card to have. Perhaps the sheer number of nights you can get out of the lower category redemptions would be worth it to you. Or perhaps two nights at one of their nicer properties (which they do have) would be worth.

 

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About Harlan

Just a dude living in Dallas.

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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. The opinions of the commenters are not necessarily the opinions of this site.

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