The 85,000 Point Club Carlson Credit Card Offer Review

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Club Carlson VisaIf you are a reward seeking type you may have come across a direct mail ofer for the Club Carlson Visa. On the envelope it will proclaim you can earn up to 85,000 bonus points.

“85,000 Bonus Gold Points to start” in big red writing. Sounds impressive, right?

And then the normal ongoing rewards on the card are:

  • 5 points per dollar on regular purchases
  • 10 points per dollar at Carlson Rezidor hotels (Radisson, Park Plaza, Park Inn, and Country Inns & Suites)

The point value for 2014, or lack thereof

How much are Club Carlson points worth?

Obviously, any credit card that gives 5x points on every purchase could be a big red flag that the points are worth far less than the typical 1 cent each. But how much less is the question? Review the Club Carlson rewards redemption chart for the answer…

rewards chart

Now paying 9,000 points per night would be a good deal… if only they had more hotels which were actually in that category! As of last year (2012) the distribution by category for their 1,110 properties was…

hotel category distribution

Hmm… 4.3% for Cat 1 is almost 1 out of 25. If you search their website you will see that most of the locations, even the not-so-fancy Country Inns and Radissons, will end up being a Cat 3 or 4.

Translation? If you apply for the Club Carlson credit card just to get the bonus, you’ll probably only get about 2 or 3 free nights out of it.

Now I wouldn’t say this is a bad deal, but it’s just not wowing me. Especially considering the fact that you have to spend $2,500 in the first 90 days to get the full 85k points. After your first purchase, you only get 50k points and the rest come after meeting the spending requirement.

But there is a benefit that increases the value. I’m talking about the Bonus Award Night that is given to cardholders. When you redeem points for 2 or more consecutive award nights, then you get the last night free.

Example: You cash out points to get a 5 night stay. The first 4 nights will cost you, but the 5th one will be free.

Another perk that comes with the Club Carlson card is Gold Status.

Drawbacks?

This card does come with an annual fee, but at $75 per year, it’s comparable to what many other hotel cards charge. But unlike the other guys, beware that this fee is NOT waived the first year. So if you’re thinking of signing up to get the bonus, factor in the $75 you will be paying for it.

Another downside about this card is that it’s issued by US Bank.

Now don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against US Bank, except for how they handle their reward card applications. They have an uncanny knack for weeding out applicants who apply for too many card bonuses (in other words, those who care most about the bonuses).

How do they do that? Applicants with too many credit inquiries on their report may be given a lower level card, even if you don’t want a different credit card. If you look in the terms and conditions, you will see they give themselves permission to do this, check for yourself.

So if you submit an application for the Club Carlson Premier Rewards Visa Signature, you might end up with the “non premier” Rewards Visa Signature, which gives a lower signup offer and lower ongoing rewards (3 pts/$1 on regular purchases, 6 pts/$1 at their hotels).

The lesson? Credit card enthusiasts…. caveat emptor when applying for promotions from US Bank.  It may be a great deal depending on your circumstances.  Just understand all the potential gotchas and make an informed decision

This review was last updated February 7, 2014

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