I recently wrote a post about manufactured spending your way to the best hotels in the world, a post that contained explanations for SPG, Hyatt, Hilton, IHG, and Marriott. I chose not to include Club Carlson on that list because the program doesn’t have properties that are generally considered to be “aspirational” or truly high-end. A commenter quickly and correctly pointed out that there’s still extreme value to the program, so this post will explain that value.
I’ll also point out that I was told by many people that the Beginner’s Guide to Club Carlson Rewards post was extremely helpful because few people had discussed this program. Again, hopefully this post will give a better idea of how the program works.
Manufacturing Club Carlson Rewards points is extremely valuable because of two benefits of the Club Carlson Rewards Card:
- Earn 5x points on ALL spend.
- Your last reward night is free on reservations of 2 nights or more (thus always better to redeem for 2 nights to get the most value).
The high earning potential of the credit card combined with the essentially “half off” feature makes for a killer combo of benefits. I’ll point out here that you do not need to have enough Club Carlson points for the second night when redeeming that free night. Here’s an example of me booking a top tier, 70,000 point property.
First, notice I have only 93,000 points in my account but I’m trying to book 2 nights that would normally cost 140,000 total.
Once I click through to the next page, prior to confirmation, the discount is taken.
My confirmation shows that only 70,000 were debited from my account.
So even though I didn’t have enough Club Carlson points in my account for the second night, I was able to redeem for a two night stay because of the second night free benefit. Pretty cool!
Since the free night applies to the last night of a reservation, you’ll get the most value out of 2 night reservations (effectively 50% off). A 3 night reservation would effectively give you an effective 33% off, and so on. Can you game this and do back-to-back 2 night reservations? According to Club Carlson T&Cs, no. There might be ways around this but I haven’t tried personally.
Instead I would recommend booking the first two nights under your account, then the next two under a friend’s/spouse’s account. If needed you can book two more from your account after that. Yes your friend/spouse would need to have the credit card and enough points as well, but that’s the best we can do to legitimately take advantage of this. At the hotel just ask to combine the reservations so you don’t have to change rooms or check-in/out more than once.
Manufacturing Club Carlson Rewards Points
As I always do, I’ll break down some math to show how much the true cost of manufacturing nights at Club Carlson would be. I’ll calculate the cost using the standard gift cards I always do: $500 PIN-enabled cards for a $3 fee. Yes, there are better (and worse) ways to manufacture points so adjust these costs as necessary to your own MS habits.
Given the above information about the credit card, we know we need 70,000 Club Carlson points for 2 nights at a top tier hotel like the Radisson Blu Hotel Champs Elysees, Paris. To earn 70,000 points, we’d need to buy 28 gift cards (at $503 each) for a total cost of $14,084 and total points of 70,420.
Assuming you liquidate them for free via Bluebird(s), the total cost of your fees would be just $84 for two nights. That’s a miniscule $42/night average for hotels that can normally cost over $500. Here’s proof:
This is the same hotel and the same dates I used in the points reservation earlier in this post. If you paid the cash rate, it would cost a ridiculous 420 Euros per night. For a two night stay, that comes to $1,066 USD at today’s rates, where the dollar happens to be getting stronger versus the Euro.
You effectively saved $982 on this reservation by manufacturing Club Carlson Rewards points. I’d say that’s a pretty good deal! The good news (if it wasn’t good enough yet) is that if the hotel you’re targeting is in a lower tier, it only gets cheaper and cheaper.
At a bottom-tier Category 1 hotel it would cost 9,000 points per night. To manufacture this amount using the same method above, you’d need to buy only 4 gift cards of $503 each. Total fees would come to $12 for a two night stay or just $6 per night!
There may not be many Category 1 hotels you want to stay at, but you simply can’t beat that value. Quite simply, you can’t beat the value of this program when compared to any other hotel program that I know of for manufacturing spend.
Why Doesn’t Everyone Do This?!
I just explained how amazing this program could be, so why doesn’t everyone talk about manufacturing Club Carlson points? I mentioned earlier how the program simply doesn’t have any “aspirational” properties. They have really nice ones in excellent locations (hard to beat Champs Elysees for your hotel location in Paris) but there’s no Maldives, Koh Samui, Maui, or any other exotic location of that kind.
That doesn’t mean it’s not useful, of course. Many people don’t care for those destinations and would be much happier traveling through Europe. If that’s you, then Club Carlson is perfect. They have a HUGE presence in Europe including many smaller cities that other programs don’t have hotels in. Some of the Radisson Blu properties are very nice. Not quite St. Regis/Conrad/Park Hyatt/InterContinental-nice, but still very nice.
To add some more hope to the program, Club Carlson has announced a new Quorvus Collection brand that is supposed to be their new top-end brand. They’re rolling out with only 3 locations (Edinburgh, London, Kuwait), but I’m sure they’ll add more over the next year. It’s a new concept for Club Carlson targeted toward millenials that are seeking luxury. Think W Hotels from SPG.
This little-discussed program could be the highest-valued program for people who manufacture spend and want to travel through Europe. At an effective price of $42/night (or less if you’re an MS expert), you simply cannot go wrong with manufacturing Club Carlson Rewards points. I think the credit card is one that’s worth getting and keeping because of it’s benefits, and if you haven’t looked at the hotel portfolio yet, I recommend you do so to see if you can make use of any of them.