Club Carlson Visa Eliminating 2nd Night Free on Award Benefit

Frequent Miler reports that the Club Carlson Visa is eliminating the one thing that makes it — and the Club Carlson program — such a hugely valuable offering.

This should come as 100% expected since Gary’s Law of frequent flyer programs is that anything which is several standard deviations better than what other programs offer will not last.

Club Carlson offered the last night on an award redemption for free for their co-brand credit card holders, first introduced in December 2012.

This was effectively a 50% discount on two night award stays. Plenty of people would get a card for themselves and spouse or partner, stay 2 nights in their own name and 2 nights in their partner’s (and then even flip back to themselves on a 6 night stay).

Effective June 1 the ‘Bonus Award Night’ will be replaced by a single free award night after $10,000 spend on the card each year.

The Club Carlson program still offers the strongest return for spending on hotels, with the least spend of any major chain required in order to redeem for a typical big city hotel and for their top tier hotels (and the second cheapest for entry-level redemptions behind Hilton).

The Club Carlson chain is relatively small and has a ton of very bad properties. There are decent enough Radisson Blu properties in Europe. But it takes truly going out of one’s way to stay loyal to them, and sacrificing quality in many cities. That’s something that many savvy frequent flyers did given the outsized value of the Bonus Award Night benefit from the Club Carlson Visa. But it’s something that’s likely not to be worthwhile to many without that benefit.

Update: to be clear, you can still get the Club Carlson Visa and its 80,000 point signup bonus. Earn a bunch of points on it in the first month, too. You can make bookings using this Bonus Award Night through May 28 including for travel beyond that date. So there’s still nearly two months to leverage the single best hotel offer out there, before it goes away..

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Shouldn’t that be “Leff’s Law”?

    And yeah, I can imagine manufactured spend + lots of cards = bleeding a ton of award nights in $300-400+ a night European properties.

  2. Great post, with accurate caveats. I would simply add that, because it offers the best (lowest) “spend per free night” ratio, Club Carlson still represents a great “entry-level” program for folks who play the mile/point game on their own dime and are simply looking for ways to subsidize a single small family vacation a year. “Aspirational” redemption may not be for everyone… 😉

  3. Oh, that’s bad news! I’ve made enough use of that perk that I’ll really miss it. I seem to recall that USBank eliminated the 40K points for renewal offer some time ago. The card might still be worth it, but it’s no longer a “no brainer” dresser-drawer-card.

  4. @Andyandy The 40K for renewal is still showing on the current offer page. Although that’s less of a good deal now than it was before.

  5. While folks will try to spin this one to save those affiliate link clicks, US Bank better get ready for lots of cancellations of this card. This benefit helped make up for all the weaknesses of Club Carlson …. But all that’s left now is a third tier program where most of the usable properties are overseas.

  6. Guys I just called the free night is given out in e certs. They free nights can ONLY be used in us and Puerto Rico currently.

  7. @Tom – no spin, as i think you can see in this post (I don’t know who ‘folks’ are that you’re referring to but I think you’re commenting on the wrong blog!), this guts the club carlson program and the co-brand card once the benefit goes away at the end of next month

  8. Gary under the new rules the free night that will be given to us after 10k spend is limited to U.S and Puerto rico. This is for award nights after the program has changed over.

  9. All the talk about what it will become is really meaningless when some of us have stays booked AFTER June 1 but booked on points (with last night free) many months ago. It’s not clear if these advanced reservations will be honored or are we screwed? It seems like Club Carlson doesn’t want my patronage and US Bank doesn’t want my spend. That’s cool but if I need to rebook about 13 nights in London and Amsterdam I might get a little upset.

  10. Hi Gary- I’m about 4k short of a redemption I wanted to make for a trip this summer. I had a couple of paid Radisson Blu nights booked in June (including The night of June 1) but it looks like I’ll just miss the deadline to get my pts and then book with the 2 night benefit. My travel from now to June doesn’t include any destinations with CC properties. Do you have any suggestions on how to quickly get 4k CC points?

  11. I doubt I will bother getting this card. SPG is much stronger for me and the perks are pretty decent for plats. Also US bank is a real pain to deal with once you have several cards with large lines with them.

  12. This is very disappointing. It still is a very good value. I always debated whether to value these points at 0.7 cents (with the free night) or 0.4 cents. now, the answer is 0.4 cents. So, we’re down to 2% on spend at 5x. Not terrible. But, for $12,000 of spend (60k points) and 40k annual bonus, with the free night cert, you get three nights at a 50k hotel that can go for $300 per night. That’s a net return of $825 (after the $75 fee), and still a return of nearly 7% on your spend.

    The inability to use the free night outside US is a bummer however, because they have so few good hotels here.

  13. I just sent an email through the USBank website asking them to waive/pro-rate my annual fee due to the removal of one of the benefits of the card where the sign-up page does not show that the Award Night benefit is subject to change/removal at any time.

    2 accounts, 1 for me, one for my gf were just opened in the past 2 weeks, so by the time those points hit, I won’t have use of the benefit and since a Credit pull was already done affecting my credit I asked that they waive the annual fee for those accounts as well as this amounted to bait & switch and I’d have no choice but to file a complaint with the FTC/State AoG office… ESPECIALLY as they still offer the benefit on their sign-up page even though the offer will expire in less than 2 months.

  14. @Gary claims: “…this guts the club carlson program and the co-brand card once the benefit goes away at the end of next month.”

    I doubt that very much. This will not gut the program any more than doing away with paying for upgrades per night rather than per stay or the demise of My Elite Rate “gutted” Hyatt GP. It is a decrease in benefit but the free award nights benefit on this CC was just too generous to both be sustained and for the program to remain competitive. Something had to give, and now it has. the sky won’t fall. The only thing that will happen is that the NOTION of the program being “gutted” will be picked up and then it will spread like wild fire in the blogosphere echo chamber. However, longer-term benefit seekers, who know that this is the program with the best “spend per free night” ratio and will stay put, will find that the program will change very little. They may even find their benefits increased due to the thinning of the heard as panicked elites bail out to look for non-existent greener pastures elsewhere…

  15. I think I will simply close one of my two accounts (1 personal, 1 business). It sure was nice while it lasted since having two accounts allowed me to book more than two consecutive nights. I have 6 consecutive nights booked in London in June.

  16. This is really sad news. I’m not fond of many Club Carlson properties nor their near nonexistent treatment of elites. The best thing they had going for them was the 2nd night free via the credit card. I often used extra points to book a premium room so that I would have those benefits for the 2nd free night.

    I’ve received no information from the credit card company re the elimination of this benefit. They should advise us of this change.

  17. There are not enough good properties in the US to make just one extra night ticket worthwhile. And you can’t use the extra night in Europe where there are good properties.

    If they’re are removing this benefit than the only thing that will keep this in my wallet would be a better transfer ratio to FF programs which is currently 10:1.

    Will go to the back of the pack unfortunately and I will probably not renew.

  18. If I book now as a credit card holder to take advantage of the bonus award nights, do I need to still have the credit card when I actually stay at the hotel? I would like to cancel my card at renewal, but not if it would invalidate the bonus nights that I have booked.

  19. Very sad to see this go. This is why I got the card, and the only reason I have been staying at Club Carlson properties (both paid and award stays). Though there is still the benefit of 40,000 per year, which gets you a decent hotel, it really isn’t worth it due to the quality of their hotels here in the U.S.

  20. Any devaluation is a shame, but as someone based in the EU where we’ve got lots of Carlson properties but never had the credit card offered it’s good to see a slightly fairer playing field resume. We still can’t earn points nearly as easily but getting a free night on every reward booking was clearly unsustainable.

  21. Also note when filing your CFPB complaint that their landing page states: “Enjoy all of these benefits for $XX Annual Fee† ” and the Bonus nights are listed as a benefit for paying the annual fee, hence, Bonus nights are a benefit of the annual fee you are paying and if they are being removed you should have a right to a refund or they continue to offer them through the term of your annual membership.

  22. Gary, what is your take on all of this? Can we request a refund of annual fee? I paid it mainly because of the bonus night benefit and now it is being taken away. Can they change the benefits just like that?

  23. Hi,

    if we make date change to the award nights after 6/1, will we lose the additional 2nd free night? thx

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