About Club Carlson Premier Rewards Visa Signature Card

By J.R. Duren
HighYa Staff Published on: Aug 2, 2017

Say “Club Carlson” to the average person and they may not know what you’re talking about. But, they should. Why? Because the Club Carlson Premier Rewards Visa Signature is a great hotel rewards credit card and it can get you multiple free nights at thousands of hotels around the world.

Convinced yet? If you’re not, that’s okay. But assuming that you’re interested in finding out more about the Club Carlson Visa Signature, we’ve done some research on this credit card and come up with some really interesting information about how this card can help you get free hotel stays every year.

One of the things we noticed is that the card’s first-year benefits are really robust. After that, the benefits decline but they’re still worth a look. We also think this card has tremendous value for budget travelers who want multiple free nights in a modest room instead of one or two nights in a luxurious room.

Exactly how we came to all these conclusions is something we’re going to unpack throughout this review. We’ll break down some of the confusing terms and conditions as well as give you our expert opinion on the Club Carlson loyalty program.

When we’re done with all the details and other good stuff, we’ll give you three quick sections we think you’ll enjoy: pros, cons and who we think the Club Carlson Premier Rewards is good for.

The Club Carlson Premier Rewards Visa Signature’s First-Year Perks

Hotel rewards credit cards try very hard to get your business by offering you loyalty points if you can spend a certain amount of money in the first few months of owning the card. Along with that, they tend to offer some other perks that go beyond the first year.

In this section, we’re going to talk about the Club Carlson Visa Signature’s main first-year benefit: free Club Carlson loyalty points.

Here’s how a hotel’s loyalty program works. You get points for purchases you make on the hotel’s credit card and the credit card company transfers those points to your loyalty account, which is automatically set up when you’re approved for the card.

Club Carlson is offering its new Premier Rewards cardholders the chance to earn 50,000 Gold Points when you make your first purchase and then an additional 35,000 points when you spend $2,500 in the first three months of owning the card.

In terms of hotel rewards cards, this is a very lucrative intro rewards bonus. The Marriott Rewards Premier card offers new cardholders 80,000 points if they can spend $3,000 in the first three months. The Hilton HHonors Surpass from American Express gives 75,000 points for $3,000 in spending.

Unfortunately, you can’t just do a points-to-points comparison when it comes to hotel rewards cards because each hotel prices their rooms differently.

They divide their properties into categories. The lower the category, the fewer points it takes to book a room. The higher the category, the greater number of points you’ll need to lock down a night.

Here’s a chart showing the rewards points it takes to book standard and premium rooms at Carlson hotels:

Hotel Category Points Needed for an Award Night in Standard Room Points Needed for an Award Night in Premium Room
Category 1 9,000 13,5000
Category 2 15,000 22,500
Category 3 28,000 42,000
Category 4 38,000 57,000
Category 5 44,000 66,000
Category 6 50,000 75,000
Category 7 70,000 105,000

Category 1 hotels are 9,000 points. So, your 85,000 points are good for nine free nights in a hotel. Here’s the problem, though. According to Carlson’s website, the chain has five Category 1 hotels in the U.S.: one each in Alabama, Illinois, Indiana, Oklahoma and Texas.

You have more than 80 choices for Category 2 hotels in the United States. They’ll cost you 15,000 points, though, which means you can only book five nights with your intro bonus.

As you can see, the value of rewards points has a lot to do with how much it costs to book rooms of various categories and, also, how many of those lower categories are in the United States.

So, while Carlson says that you can book nine free nights with your intro points, there’s a good chance you won’t get that kind of value.

The Club Carlson Premier Rewards Visa Signature’s Long-Term Perks

Okay, now that you’ve got the rundown on the up-front rewards you’ll get with this card, we’re going to talk about what the long-term value of this card is.

Points on Purchases: 10x, 5x

Aside from the up-front bonuses you get in the first year of owning a hotel rewards card, then next most significant feature you’re probably concerned about is how many points you get on purchases.

Like we talked about earlier, the points you earn on your Club Carlson Premier Rewards card will be the main catalyst to the number of free nights you can get in years to come.

Carlson will give you 10 points for every dollar you spend at Carlton and Rezidor hotels. These are the properties included in these two chains:

  • Quorvus Collection
  • Radisson Blu
  • Radisson Red
  • Park Inn
  • Park Plaza
  • Prizeotel
  • Club Carlson

You’ll earn 5 points for every dollar you spend on everything else. Based on the research we’ve done on the average American family’s spending habits, we believe you could spend $24,000 a year on various expenses like groceries, gas, eating out, entertainment and a few other categories.

At $24,000 a year, you could earn 120,000 Gold Points every year, which, based on our research of hotel rewards cards, is unprecedented. As you saw in the chart a few seconds ago, that’s enough to get you eight nights in a Category 2 hotel.

40,000 Points Every Cardmember Anniversary

If you thought that 120,000 points was impressive, then you’ll be happy to know that Carlson will give you another 40,000 points when you pay your annual fee (more on that in a second).

In total, we could see the average family earning at least 160,000 points every year. Here’s how many nights that can get you at each category of hotel:

  • Category 1: 16 nights
  • Category 2: 10 nights
  • Category 3: 5 nights
  • Category 4: 4 nights
  • Category 5: 3 nights
  • Category 6: 3 nights
  • Category 7: 2 nights

In our opinion, this is an excellent deal for budget travelers who are looking for hotel rewards credit cards that provide the most free nights on a yearly basis.

Free Anniversary Night

Club Carlson will also give you a free night at any Carlson hotel. You can redeem that free night at any Carlson hotel. The fine print didn’t make any mention of restrictions on the category of hotel you can book.

A Quick Word About How You Can Get 28 Free Nights

At this point, we want to tell you that you can theoretically get 28 free nights with your first-year points bonuses. That’s right – 28 nights.

Add your intro points (85k) to the points an average family would get from spending (120K) plus the $10K spending bonus (40K) and the anniversary night. The result: 28 free nights at a Category 1 hotel.

Granted, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a Category 1 hotel in the U.S. at which you’d want to spend 28 nights. However, you can get 17 free nights in Category 2 hotels and 9 nights in a Category 3 hotel.

Free Gold Elite Status in the Club Carlson Program

The final major long-term perk you get with the Club Carlson Premier Rewards card is a complimentary upgrade to Gold Elite Status. Here’s a list of the perks you get as a Gold Elite member:

  • Complimentary room upgrade
  • 35% bonus on points earned from a paid stay
  • In-room welcome gift
  • 72-hour guaranteed availability
  • 15% off food and beverage purchases

These added privileges are something you’ll find in complimentary status upgrades you get with other hotel rewards cards like the Hyatt Visa, Marriott Rewards Premier and Starwood Preferred Guest American Express.

The Club Carlson Premier Rewards Visa Signature Card’s Rates and Fees

It’s easy to get caught up in all the free nights this card has to offer, right? But before you run to the Carlson website and sign up for this card, let’s take a minute to talk about rates and fees:

  • APR: 14.99%-23.99%
  • Annual fee: $75
  • Balance transfer fee: 3%
  • Foreign transaction fee: 2-3%
  • Late payment fee: $38
  • Returned payment fee: $35

What really sticks out to us on this list is the APR – the lowest interest rate is lower than all the Chase hotel credit cards (Hyatt, Marriott, Ritz-Carlton) you can get. It also has a lower APR than the popular Starwood Preferred Guest from American Express.

Expert and Consumer Reviews for the Club Carlson Premier Rewards Visa Signature Card

Most of the expert reviews about the Club Carlson card praise it for the points-earning opportunity and the various ways you can earn extra points and an extra night on your cardmember anniversary.

One of the knocks on the card, the experts said, is that the points aren’t worth that much. They’re saying that, since Club Carlson rooms tend to be cheaper than Hyatt, Starwood or Marriott, that makes the points less valuable.

This is a valid point, but only if you’re the kind of traveler who wants a little luxury with their free nights. If that’s not you and all you want is a ton of free nights, then you shouldn’t worry about this criticism.

Many of the consumer reviews we read were actually comments left on expert reviews about the card. Most of what we saw was outdated, though. A majority of the reviews were from 2015.

Our Closing Thoughts on the Club Carlson Premier Rewards Visa Signature Card

Based on our research, we think the Club Carlson Visa Signature has distinct pros and cons.

Pros of the Club Carlson Visa Signature

Without a doubt, this card’s biggest perk is how many points and free nights you can get every year. Based on our calculations, you can earn 245,000 points and a free night your first year and 160,000 points and a free night in subsequent years.

Cons of the Club Carlson Visa Signature

The main drawback of this card is the lack of Category 1 hotels in the United States. While Category 2 hotels can be booked for 15,000 points a night, it would be nice for budget travelers if there were more 9,000-points-a-night Category 1 hotels.

Who This Card Is Good For

The Club Carlson Premier Rewards card is the perfect fit for the budget traveler who wants a hotel rewards credit cards that will give them the maximum number of free nights per year.

The Final Word: A Points-Earning Champ

We’ve reviewed dozens of travel, hotel and airline rewards cards and found that no card even comes close to the points earning potential of this card. Nor have we found a card that affords you as many free nights as this card does.

If you aren’t a budget traveler and you’re looking for a card that gives you good value on luxury hotels, then our recommendation is the Starwood Preferred Guest from American Express. However, you aren’t limited to that card.

Read through our Best Hotel Rewards Credit Card of 2017 article to review some of the industry’s most popular hotel cards. There are a couple of luxury options in there we think you might enjoy.

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