Pros and Cons of Club Carlson

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It is time to revisit the Pros and Cons of various hotel loyalty programs and Club Carlson is a good start.

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Last year, I didn’t include Club Carlson due to not having enough stay experience with them. I stayed at few of their properties in Europe this Summer, but I still don’t have nowhere near as extensive experience as I have with Hilton, Hyatt, IHG, Marriott and Starwood.

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 rats

– 2-4-1 awards for credit card holders

– You can earn awards faster compared to other chains

– Online booking bonus

– Seasonal award discounts in Europe

– Points + Cash

– Premium room rewards

Cons

– Few, if any, aspirational properties

– Hotel award categories can change midyear

– No proper announcement before category changes

– 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?

– What happened to bonus promotions in 2013?

– Relatively small compared to Hilton, IHG & Marriott

– Points to miles unannounced devaluation

– Trust?

– Carlson vs Rezidor?

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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 mans 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.

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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.

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 Radisson flag at most.

What happened to bonus promotions in 2013?

Club Carlson had very strong promotional line up in 2011 and 2012. What happened in 2013? Nothing to be excited about at all.

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 earlier this year. Again, no any kind of 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 few years time.

Carlson vs Rezidor?

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

Conclusion

Club Carlson made quite a comeback in 2011 and 2012, but were mostly invisible (gone) in 2013. Let’s hope that they have something else on their sleeves for 2014 than further program devaluation.

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