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Targeted Club Carlson Visa Promo: 6 points per dollar in March and April

Screenshot 2015-02-23 16.18.04A really cool promo with some very confusing wording is being offered to select US Bank Club Carlson Visa cardholders.

It’s no secret that I love Club Carlson points. It’s probably my favorite hotel chain for collecting and redeeming points, alongside Hyatt. I use my Club Carlson Visa quite a bit – in fact, I’d argue that it’s one of the best cards for everyday, non-bonused spend as it earns 5 points per dollar on every purchase.

I use the card quite a bit already, so it’s not like I need to be incentivized to use it more, but all the same, I got targeted for a new promo where I can earn up to 2,000 bonus Gold points during March and April.

Le offer email

Le offer email

That’s nice and all, but you have to unravel some really squirrely language in the T&Cs:

T&Cs (click to enlarge)

T&Cs (click to enlarge)

OK, so here’s how I’m interpreting this (sorry, it’s been a really long day and my brain is mush):

You have to spend on the card $1,900 to “unlock” the bonus points. After that, the next $2,000 spent on the card will earn 6 points per dollar. And after that, you go back to the normal 5 points per dollar.

Is this right? Is it just me or is this some seriously roundabout wording?

Bottom line

I’m glad to see US Bank stepping up their offerings (and this is a great article about how to get a free checking account + $100 for putting $1,000 in a savings account with US Bank) and offering some bonus points, even to customers who regularly use the card.

Getting past the initial $1,900 shouldn’t be too hard, and then the other $2,000 will be pretty easy as well – but I won’t let this card touch my new, re-virginized Serve account. I’ve had luck buying PayPal cards with the Club Carlson Visa at CVS as well as using it for Evolve Money payments while they were accidentally free for a sec (and still are until tomorrow, presumably).

I’ve added a reminder in my Evernote account to switch out my cards on March 1st, as I’m focusing my spend on other cards right now.

Was anyone else targeted for this offer, or perhaps for another one? Would love to know if there are any variations on this promo.

Just booked: New Orleans for Mardi Gras!

We have lost our minds here at the Out and Out headquarters in NYC (AKA me in my living room in Brooklyn) – and my dog is giving me the side eye for using the royal “we.”

I’m going to New Orleans for Mardi Gras! (That is kind of a misnomer. “Mardi Gras” is a 3-week celebration. I am just going for the Baccus Parade and Fat Tuesday. But still – super stoked.)

How it happened

Really, I was just tinkering around on the Hyatt website looking at Category 3 and 4 hotels on a dark, snowy evening because that’s what points junkies do in the evenings, right?

But really, I had a free night cert from the Chase Hyatt Visa that I needed to use and wanted to maximize my value. I noticed, in the Category 3 list, the Hyatt French Quarter New Orleans. And then thought hmmm…. I wonder if…. (Basically a repeat of Oktoberfest booking.)

I couldn’t get the website to cooperate with redeeming the free night cert, so I called up Hyatt and a very patient agent plugged in a variety of dates surrounding Fat Tuesday (February 17th this year).

While she did that, I played around with points bookings with both Hyatt and Club Carlson (my two fave programs).

Paid $75 for the Hyatt card annual fee, getting back $315

Paid $75 for the Hyatt card annual fee, getting back $315

Hyatt French Quarter availability - 15,000 points or $500?

Hyatt French Quarter availability – 15,000 points or $500? #nobrainer

Now, I’d been saving my Club Carlson points for when I go to Ireland in May, but seeing that the Country Inn and Suites on Magazine Street in New Orleans was eligible for a BOGO booking sent me over the edge. I figure I can always manufacture some more Club Carlson points in the next couple of months, anyway. I still have my eye set on their Radisson Blu in Cork, Ireland.

Anyway, the Hyatt agent found a night at the Hyatt Regency in New Orleans that was eligible for the free night cert. A quick Google search showed me that it was on the route for the Bacchus Parade. PERFECT.

But then, flights…

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Hotel Review: Park Inn by Radisson, Abu Dhabi Yas Island, UAE

I stayed here as part of my RTW trip last year, following a superb flight on Etihad in Pearl Business class from MEL-AUH. South Pacific to the Middle East on Etihad using American AAdvantage miles is a sweet spot. For the 14 hour flight, they only charge 45,000 AAdvantage miles each way. That is a crazy steal of a deal on an amazing product.

I was also able to somehow convince United to let me drop CAI-JFK on Egyptair (which is a dry airline) in favor of Lufthansa AUH-FRA-JFK, which were pretty decent (and very “wet”) flights. It left us with an 18-hour gap to fill, and we didn’t want to stay in the airport the entire time. I poked around and decided to pay $90 for the layover at the Park Inn Yas Island. 18 hours would be plenty of time to sleep, eat, take a dip in the pool, shower, and get back to the airport.

So right when we landed, we found the chauffeur desk at AUH and took a car to the Park Inn, courtesy of Etihad (I believe the chauffeur service has since been discontinued on award bookings).

Etihad chauffeur desk

Etihad chauffeur desk

That photo encapsulates the whole experience I had that day: kind of a blur.

I did one of those where I showed up and crashed into the bed without taking pics first (bad blogger!), then woke up in a haze to a cloudy day and decided to catch up on email rather than swim.

Check in desk

Check in desk

Walkway to elevators

Walkway to elevators

When we got to the hotel, it was still the middle of the night. We were dead tired, but the check-in agent was fast and kind, and we veritably collapsed into the separate twin beds.

Hallways

Hallways

The room

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Hotel Review: Radisson Blu, Terme di Galzignano, Italy

After arriving in Venice on Swiss from ZRH, I picked up the rental car and set about orienting myself in the direction of Padova (Padua), Italy.

I went to Italy for my “round” birthday. After reading up on Venice, I made the executive decision to stay off site at the Radisson Blu in Terme di Galzignano. I wanted the freedom to spend a day or two in Venice, and then drive down to Florence if I wanted. I also wanted to see some of the Italian countryside, and it seemed like the resort was well-situated for day trips in multiple directions. And so it was.

My boyfriend and I booked 4 nights. We both have the US Bank Club Carlson Visa Signature, and both used our BOGO award night for 2 nights each.

We booked a “Superior Room” for 57,000 Club Carlson Gold Points for each 2-night block.

Premium room award rate

Premium room award rate

Premium Room description

Premium Room description

But why the Superior Room? 

We are both Gold in the Club Carlson program, wifi is free at all of their hotels, and for what’s it worth, breakfast is included in every room rate here. I might’ve even scored an upgrade to this room, owing to my status.

I just didn’t want to chance it. It was my birthday trip, and I wanted to be assured of my room choice before I got there.

The normal booking rate is 38,000 Gold Points, so we paid the extra 19,000 points to have our room preference locked in. Plus, I wanted to make sure I had the view of the hills. It was admittedly a purely emotional decision, and probably not the smartest, but I feel like for special occasions it’s worth it to have the peace of mind.

And also, Club Carlson points are just so easy to earn. So I never really overthink my redemptions with this program.

Getting there and first impressions

Dear lord, driving in Italy just about gave me a brain aneurysm – the highways are so poorly signed. Even though Padova was a “straight shot” on the map, in actuality, it required about half a dozen exits, each one leaving me second guessing for miles (or kilos) if I’d done the right thing.

The route to Radisson Blu

The route to Radisson Blu

When we finally got onto the one correct highway, I saw a series of (tiny) signs pointing toward the next turn, until finally, after about a hour, we were at the Radisson Blu.

It is very isolated. There is nothing going on in the hamlet of Terme di Galzignano.

There was another tiny town nearby, Battaglia Terme, that had a couple of restaurants and not much more.

Parking was easy outside of the Radisson Blu, and we went inside to check-in. It was a beautiful, sunny day and right away, the resort felt welcoming and friendly.

The agent checking us in spoke little English and we don’t speak Italian, so it involved a huge variety of hand movements, but after a few minutes, we had our room keys. He wrote down the phone number to the hotel office and indicated that they spoke English if we needed anything. Despite the language barrier, we understood that they recognized our Gold status, combined our reservations, and were fine to let us keep the same room all 4 nights.

Then we headed up to Room 306.

The room

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

Also see: 

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

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Hotel Review: Radisson Blu Resort Fiji Denarau Island

From the way overdue files… 

To NAN

As part of my epic RTW trip, my first two segments were JFK-LAX in American First Class, then LAX-NAN (Nadi, Fiji) on Fiji Airways (formerly Air Pacific) in economy.

You know, I gotta say… it was about an 11 hour flight time, an overnight flight. Even though the seats didn’t recline, it really wasn’t that bad. The seats were spacious for economy, there was great IFE, and they served meals and snacks.  I wadded up a hoodie and tried to fall asleep as best as I could, considering.

I knew going into it to set my expectations low, but the flight was actually pretty comfortable. The cabins had great colors and were designed well, the flight attendants were personable, the food wasn’t amazing but at least they served us full meals, and I can’t complain too much about the economy seat, honestly.

And when the plane door opened up in Fiji, I felt my lungs and skin instantly moisten from the humid Pacific air. I’d been in a particularly frigid New York winter with too much dry radiator heat and the humidity was so welcome and wonderful.

It’s always an odd feeling to walk around in a tropical place holding full winter regalia, but I was happy to be in Fiji for the first time. Very… island.

Booking the room

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Booking Dublin: Hotels

The Delta attack on United hubs elicited my first post written in utter excitement with little no editing.

After I booked the Dublin trip, I realized there were more pieces that had to fall into place, and thought it would be a good opportunity to document my trip-planning process.

The trip is IAD-ATL-DUB, and back the same way. I’m in New York, so I am anticipating:

  • Booking hotel rooms for six nights
  • Probably renting a car
  • Getting myself down to Washington, DC from NYC
  • Using my American Express Platinum Card to get into Delta and/or Priority Pass lounges in IAD and ATL (and DUB on the way back)
  • And of course, being in Ireland for the first time

Hotel options

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Club Carlson-ing my way through Europe

<3

<3

In the middle of Eurotrip 2014, I had a moment where I was like, OMG, I’m staying exclusively at Club Carlson properties (except for one night at the Grand Hyatt Berlin).

So the news that US Bank, issuer of the Club Carlson Visa, may be imposing cash advance fees for Serve reloads was disconcerting. And now that Amazon Payments is over, too… I don’t know what I’ll do to manufacture spend now. This is a hot topic in the points and miles community, and there is some speculation about the new REDcard and possible changes to Serve. In any case, I am looking forward to the next step because I do think the Club Carlson Visa is a very good card to focus on for day-to-day, non-bonused, or manufactured spend.

I couldn’t have done Eurotrip 2014 without that card.

How I did it

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Hotel Review: Park Inn By Radisson Munich-East

Eurotrip 2014 has been very centered around Club Carlson properties. In fact, I’ve done 80% of it with their properties (4 out of 5 – and 3 of those were Park Inns).

The one in Munich was the first.

The hotel

This Park Inn is located about 100m from the Johanneskirchen stop of the S8 S-Bahn stop, equidistant to downtown Munich and the airport. After landing at MUC, I was at the hotel, door-to-door, in about 30 minutes. Not bad.

Park Inn Munich-East check-in desk

Park Inn Munich-East check-in desk

The part of East Munich it’s located in really doesn’t have that much going on. It’s a sleepy section with a suburb-like feel. There isn’t much in the way of food and watering holes. Really just the hotel and a restaurant/beer garden across the street. But for what I needed from this stay, a little off the beaten path was perfect.

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Eurotrip 2014: Day Two – Lufthansa First Class Lounge and Radisson Park Inn Munich

Made it to Munich safely! Writing this from the fantastic Lufthansa First Class Lounge at MUC. About to get my bearings with a shower and maybe order some breakfast and a beer – I am here for Oktoberfest after all!

Meeting a friend around 1pm – might go ahead and head into the city proper and try to check in early to the Radisson Park Inn where I will be based throughout my Munich adventures.

From this, I can review the First Class Lounge and the hotel – and of course Munich.

So jazzed to be here. Will add more posts with pics soon!

Club Carlson: Is Second Night Free Using Points and Cash?

As a few of you know, there are some changes coming to Club Carlson starting March 15th (say it ain’t so!). Club Carlson has been one of the most generous hotel loyalty programs since its inception. It’s only fair that they take a little bit back. After all, the program wouldn’t be profitable if they continue to give give give.

Even with the upcoming devaluation and category changes, it still manages to offer supremely great value – especially if you hold the Club Carlson Premier Rewards Visa Signature card. Cardholders get 2-4-1 award redemptions. Meaning if a hotel costs 44,000 points per night, you can get TWO nights for that amount of points instead of just one – an amazing value no matter who you slice it.

They also offer Points + Cash redemptions. The question is, as a cardholder, do you still get the 2-4-1 deal on the points side? 

The answer: NO.

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If you can have only one credit card, which one should it be?

For points and miles addicts like us, posing a question like this is not only highly speculative, but nearly impossible. But let’s give this a shot: if you can have only ONE credit card, which one should it be?

It Depends On Your Goals

This first step to whittling down the huge assortment of cards is to honestly assess your own travel goals. Don’t think about upcoming trips, but the trips you want to take in the future. This will be the foundation for the ONE credit card you should pick.

Do you like long-haul travel in premium cabins? More focused on visiting family and friends domestically? Maybe your company pays for your airfare and you value hotel accommodations more highly than free (or really cheap) flights. Or, maybe you like to take cruises or trains to travel. These are all things to consider. How do you like to travel?

Long-term benefits

Some cards have great signup bonuses, but terrible ongoing benefits. This is another factor to consider in the quest to choose just one card. I’d throw out any card that doesn’t give some kind of ongoing value. The Citi® Platinum Select® / AAdvantage® World MasterCard®, for example, gives a 10% rebate on redeemed miles each year, up to 10,000 miles. 10,000 AAdvantage miles is worth ~$200 – well worth keeping the card for despite its $85 annual fee. The Chase Hyatt card gives cardmembers a free anniversary night in a Category 1-4 hotel. Similarly, the Chase Priority Club Visa offers a free night annually at any IHG hotel. Considering the annual fee is only $49 a year, keeping this card would be a no-brainer. 

Points currencies

There are three basic types of points currencies: some cards generate miles in one program while others offer points that transfer to a variety of programs. Still others feature fixed-value points: you’ll get the exact same redemption rate every time. This can be beneficial because you’ll know what to expect every time. Points or miles that are part of an airline or hotel program can devalue at any time, so storing them isn’t a good long-term strategy. Mileage accounts should be filled up for specific redemptions, then emptied (earn ‘n’ burn) – not treated as a savings account.

You should consider which points currency you’d like to accrue. Are you super loyal to one program? Prefer flexibility? Or maybe you just want to know exactly what you’re getting every single time. This question is right in line with considering travel goals. Which one points or miles currency will fit your travel goals the best?

Break It Down Even More

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