Dilemma: Should I Keep The Club Carlson Premier Visa Card?

a credit card with red text and numbers

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One of the many credit Cards I hold is the Club Carlson Premier Rewards Visa Signature Card (or the Club Carson Visa card as I’m going to refer to it for the rest of this post) and I’m not sure how much relevance it still holds for me.

The card comes with a $75 annual fee but I got it back in the glory days when it came with one of the single best credit card perks of the time – a free award night when you redeem points for two or more award nights (up to 50 bonus nights per year).

This credit card effectively meant that a 2-night weekend break at a Club Carlson property never cost me more than the price of a single award night….and boy did I make the most of that.

These were also the days when a top Club Carlson property like the May Fair in London (one of the best located hotels you could hope to find if visiting the UK’s capital) cost just 50,000 points per night.

a lobby with a large counter and a couchThe lobby of the May Fair in London

Those days are long behind us unfortunately and things are a lot worse now.

The card still has a $75 annual fee (which isn’t terrible), it still gives me mid-tier status (Club Carlson Gold) just for keeping the card and it continues to offer 40,000 points each account anniversary…but that’s about it.

Death by a thousand cuts:

In March 2014 Club Carlson introduced a new top-tier in its program which immediately raised the cost of an award night (at one of the better hotels) from 50,000 to 70,000 points per night – a staggering 40% price increase!

In April 2015 the credit card lost the free night bonus (that was a big hit to the value of the card) and, from 1 June 2015, another devaluation to the loyalty program saw a raft of properties bumped up into the top-tier category costing 70,000 points per night.

a white squares with black textCost of Club Carlson Awards

It was not a good 18 months for Club Carlson fans.

Still, I’ve held on to the card in the intervening years and rationalised that decision by considering the value of the 40,000 points that the credit card gives me every year…..but I’m not sure I’m right to do that any more.

Here’s The Dilemma

I value Club Carlson points at 0.3 cents each…and I think most will agree that’s a fair, possibly even conservative valuation.

That means that the 40,000 points that I receive each card anniversary are effectively worth $120….which more than offsets the $75 annual fee.

But here’s the thing – the 40,000 points are only worth $120 if I can actually use them….and I’m not really sure I can.

Important facts:

  • 40,000 points will get me an award night at a Club Carlson Category 4 hotel (38,000 points per night)
  • Two cities I spend most time in and around are Los Angeles & London
  • Of the 18 Club Carlson hotels in and around central London 14 are in Category 7 and 4 are in  Category 6
  • There’s only one Club Carlson property in Los Angeles and that’s in Category 5
  • There is a Category 3 property in Anaheim (near enough to LA to be viable for a random night away)….but I’d rather have my eyes pecked out by pigeons than spend any time in Anaheim.

a close up of a card

So basically I don’t really have any viable Club Carlson properties near enough to me to allow me to use my annual point bonus effectively.

More importantly it now sounds as if I’m actually looking to do a trip just to use up my annual points bonus…and that’s just idiotic. That’s a fantastic way to make sure that the miles & points hobby costs rather than saves me money.

Yes, I could always save up two year’s of credit card bonuses which would be more than enough for an award night at any Club Carlson property in the world….but is that a sensible thing to do?

I’m constantly writing that miles & point enthusiasts shouldn’t hoard their balances as they’re more than likely to devalue before they’re used…and that’s a colossal waste.

So what should I do?

My head tells me I should downgrade the card to a no-fee basic card….

a credit card with red text

….while my heart is telling me to ignore my better judgement and keep the card until I have enough points for a good award redemption that Joanna & I could enjoy (I would also have to pray for no further devaluation in that time).

Any thoughts?

4 COMMENTS

  1. Stashing the points for 2 yrs will (obviously) cost about 150 and potentially net a hotel stay that would cost multiples of that in some locations. Or, the Carlson properties in much of Europe are so much nicer than in US … and I’ve not been impressed with the London properties … can do much better. The European hotels (Baltics, for example) are largely why I’ve kept mine / ours.

    • I’ve only stayed at the May Fair and one of the Waterloo properties (I forget which) in London so I guess I don’t have a broad enough experience of CC’s London properties to comment on those.

      I definitely agree that European CC properties are better than those in the US…but they’re still hit and miss – The Radisson Blu in Helsinki was just about ok (but not worth a points booking) while the Radisson Blu in the Champs d’Elysées was “very nice” from what Joanna just told me.

      The main issue I have is will CC put through another serious devaluation (top properties to 90k / mid-tier 60k?) before I build my balance up again.

  2. The other reason I find myself doing points stays a lot (also Hyatts with Chase URs, for instance) is the pretty substantive difference of not having to pay all those nutty hotel taxes in some places. When lodging and sales and x+y+z taxes start stacking up and adding 25-30% to the supposed rate, points currencies can start looking pretty good. The devil is in the details, as some will still pile on resort fees, but in my experience (and not a resort guy) most points stays step around the taxes.

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