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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  • Dasmeet

    Hey now they give stay and night credits for award bookings. Got them twice this year.

    • Could be dependent of the property in question.

  • constituo

    Let’s not forget to add that their best price guarantee (BPG) is a complete joke, citing prepared text snippets and not taking seriously the replies you send them. One example is giving them full details about the BPG and they reply with asking for the same details you just provided them. One more for the cons list.

    • Good comment!

    • Send your BPG correspondence (with copy of emails to show dates) via US mail with CC to the Federal Trade Commission in Washington DC for deceptive advertising and see how quick they will offer a proper response.

  • DavidB

    The devaluation midyear was a real hit to most accounts…better European properties went from 44K to 66K a night…50% increase! Only major promotion this year was the AA and AC bonus miles (7.5K after 3 stays IIRC) one.

    • Yep. The Club Carlson 2014 promotions were lackluster.

  • Kurt

    I understand the 2-4-1 deal for Carlson Credit Card holders a little differently. If you book 2 nights using points, you get a third night free. You can’t book 1 night with points and get the 2nd night free, which is how I understand your explanation in the Pros portion. It’s still a good deal when you want 3 nights somewhere.
    I think they replaced their good booking bonuses by having a 3000 point promo if you booked with their App from Sept 8 – Nov 16.
    Luckily, I “aspire” to visit Winnipeg, Regina, Saskatoon and Bismarck on vacation next summer and they all have nice downtown Radisson locations. 🙂

    • It is one night free minimum of two night award stay. So as long as you book two nights, you only end up paying in points for one.

      • Rick b

        false. it’s one night free on any award booking of 2+ nights. Holders of two CC cards like myself can book alternating two night awards as well

        • Two nights OR longer. 2+ could be interprefted requiring more than 2.

        • Filip

          You are wrong. You reserve two nights and pay only for one. Or 4-4-2 deal, you get 4 nights and you pay for 2. It is not theory. I’ve done that a few times.

  • Filip

    Personally I quite like CC. Even at silver you get quite good benefits (compare to Hilton where it is almost none). As commented previously award nights count now towards membership. Also now quite often you get good promos to speed up status. In winter there was a promo with one night giving you extra 6 night credit. Now there is a promo doubling your stay. I hope it will double my 2 for 1 and 4 for 2 EMEA rates :-). Compared to Le Club Accor, CC offers quite easilly suite upgrades. Even though stays post accurate, it takes extremely long – standard is over a week with Hilton or Le Club usually requiring 2 days.
    Also you can find excellent deals for points. I reserved my summer holiday at 5 star brand new Radisson in Egypt for 9000 points per night for standard room of 55 m2 (equivalent of 36-56 USD per night based on purchase points rates).
    Unlike John I don’t see much value in Business Class rooms. They are usually 30-50% more expensive nad you get the same room size with some extra cosmetics, newspaper and a bathrobe.

    • The double stay promos do double the 4-4-2 and 2-4-1 as long as they post correctly.

      • Filip

        Even though the hotel didn’t post my stays, after contacting Club Carlson, those stays were posted as I expected. I had one 2-4-1 stay and one 4-4-2 stay and they gave me in total 12 nights for 3 paid nights (costing me in total only 170 usd).

  • Aaron

    ‘Easy status match’. You should add that they allow back-to-back status matches!

    • Yep. You can get Gold matches back to back without any issues.

  • Henry C

    One extra pro I feel I should mention; repeat status match – if you don’t requalify for Gold (or whatever status you were matched to), then CC are happy to do another status match when your current status expires. I’m not sure how this would be seen if you’d done no stays, but certainly if you’ve done a few Carlson stays then they should rematch.

  • Art

    Regarding quick responses by email…past the 24 hr mark now. Maybe they don’t work weekends. Currently at RadissonBlu Paris & wanted to upgrade using points, front desk said it was extra 100 euros a night even though you can still book same upgraded room with points.