Pros and Cons of Club Carlson

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It is time to update the Pros and Cons of the Club Carlson program based on the developments of the past 12 months.

club-carlson-pros-cons

Last year, I did the Pros and Cons of Club Carlson for the first time and have had more experiences with their properties this year (to expand the cons).

Leave your comments below what you like and don’t like about Club Carlson.

Pros

– Quick customer service email turnaround time

– Stays rarely post incorrectly

– Number of properties in the United States and Europe

– Easy status match

– Gold 4-4-2 and 2-4-1 rates

– 2-4-1 awards for credit card holders (US only)

– You can earn awards faster compared to other chains

– Online booking bonus (GONE)

– Seasonal award discounts in Europe (GONE)

– Points + Cash

– Premium room rewards

– Friends & Family rates if eligible to use them (NEW)

Cons

– Few, if any, aspirational properties

– Hotel award categories can change midyear

– No proper announcement before category change (REMOVED)

– Award availability

– Gold property level benefits

– Very few properties in Asia, South America and Africa

– Lack of lifetime status

– Doesn’t have good brands (all dull)

– Radissons can be dire

– Radisson vs. Radisson Blu?

– Radisson Blu? (NEW)

– What happened to bonus promotions in 2013 & 2014?

– Relatively small compared to Hilton, IHG & Marriott

– Points to miles unannounced devaluation In 2013

– Trust?

– Carlson vs Rezidor?

– No stay or night credits for award rooms (NEW)

Pros and Cons Of Club Carlson Regions

Pros of Club Carlson

Quick customer service email turnaround time

When I have needed to contact Club Carlson by email, they have always get back to me within 24 hours. If I have inquired something during the week, the reply usually comes within few hours.

Stays rarely post incorrectly

The stays that I have had with Club Carlson have so far always posted correctly.

Number of properties in the United States and Europe

The chain has many properties in the United States due to Carlson and relatively strong presence in some European countries due to Rezidor.

Easy status match

Club Carlson status matches to their Gold-level very easily and there is no fast track requirement.  You can read more about Club Carlson status match here.

Gold 4-4-2 and 2-4-1 rates

Club Carlson Gold and Concierge members are eligible for 4-4-2 ( read more here) and 2-4-1 rates (read more here) in EMEA. You can stay for four nights and pay for two or you can stay for two and pay for one. These rates are not always available, but can provide substantial savings at times.

2-4-1 awards for credit card holders

Club Carlson credit card holders are eligible for 2-4-1 awards. This means that if you book an award for minimum of two nights one of the nights is free.

If you can book awards just for two nights, you only pay points for a night. This is exceptionally good offer for Club Carlson credit card holders.

You can earn awards faster compared to other chains

When I made a study earlier in the year comparing number of hotel loyalty programs, the number of awards you would earn for your Club Carlson stays was lot better compared to other chains. You can read more about this here.

Online booking bonus

Club Carlson offers online booking bonus of 1,000 to 3,000 points depending on your status.

Seasonal award discounts in Europe

Club Carlson often offers discounts for award stays in Europe.

Points + Cash

You can stretch your points further by paying your award nights party in cash and points.

Premium room rewards

You can often book business class room at 50% premium compared to base level one. This can sometimes be a good deal.

Friends & Family rates if eligible to use them (NEW)

The rates that are offered under Friends & Family program (read more here) are great when they are available. These don’t qualify for points or stay/night credits. You don’t have to be a family member of Carlson or Rezifor employee, but being a friend is enough.

Pros and Cons Of Club Carlson Brands

Cons of Club Carlson

Few, if any, aspirational properties

The chain is not strong when it comes to properties in aspirational locations

Hotel award categories can change midyear

There has been unannounced award category changes midyear.

No proper announcement before category changes

Club Carlson was very sneaky in their award category change announcement. Basically, there was no announcement at all. They just posted changes to a web page that you were on your own to find. Obviously, they didn’t want you to even be aware of the changes.

In 2014, Club Carlson made a proper announcement about their award category changes unlike in previous year.

Award availability

Hotels only need make certain percentage of their base level rooms available for awards. Once those are gone, the hotel don’t have to offer more inventory. So, there could be base level rooms for sale, but not available to be booked using points.

Gold property level benefits

Gold is the mid-level on Carlson’s program and the benefit package could be better.

Very few properties in Asia, South America and Africa

The chain is mostly nonexistent in Asia. Also, very few properties in South America and Africa.

Lack of lifetime status

Club Carlson doesn’t have lifetime status.

Doesn’t have good brands (all dull)

Radisson Blu is Carlson’s flagship brand. Country Inns & Suites or an average Radisson in the United States?

Radissons can be dire

Seems that some hotels become Radisson at the very end of their life cycle.

Radisson vs. Radisson Blu?

I stayed at one Radisson Blu that I thought should be under the Radisson flag at most.

Radisson Blu? (NEW)

Managed to stay at two Radisson Blu hotels in Denmark, and then stayed in Reykjavik, Oslo airport and Amsterdam also. Although these were all ok hotels, I would rank them somewhere 3,5 and 4 stars. Nothing that would make me to choose any of these hotels besides availability and price.

What happened to bonus promotions in 2013 & 2014?

Club Carlson had very strong promotional line up in 2011 and 2012. What happened?

Relatively small compared to Hilton, IHG & Marriott

The number of hotels that belong to the Club Carlson is about one third of Hilton, IHG or Marriott.

Points to miles unannounced devaluation

Club Carlson had a stealth points to airline miles devaluation in 2013. No prior announcement. Read more here.

Trust?

Due to the lack of clear and willing communication about the negative program changes, I have no trust for the people running this program. Don’t “bank” Club Carlson points or you may end up with worthless Goldpoints in a few years time.

Carlson vs Rezidor?

I have never understood the relationship that Carlson (US based company) and Rezidor (Scandinavian one) have.

No stay or night credits for award rooms

Hilton, IHG and Starwood all give you a qualified stay and night credits when redeeming for award rooms. Club Carlson does not.

Conclusion

Club Carlson is a good choice for those that have access to their US credit card and 2-4-1 award night and don’t mind staying at many of their so-so properties that are marketed as luxury wen they are not.

It is very difficult for me to get excited about staying at any of their hotels and won’t unless there is a good promotion around OR I can take advantage of their F&F or Travel Agent rates in an otherwise expensive location.

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