Club Carlson has just released a new credit card. As far as I know it’s their first credit card product ever, and it seems like a hit.
First off, what we most care about, the sign up bonus is 85,000 points when you spend $2,500 in the first 90 days. This is quite a generous bonus and worth roughly $500 if you value Gold Points at 0.6 cents/point as I do. In fact, if you are disciplined you can get much better value than 0.6 cents if you plan you travel smartly. For instance, I just stayed at the May Fair hotel in London for 50,000 points per night. The lowest rate available during my stay was 400£, which equates to about $700 including taxes! this was easily double the 0.6 cents/point standard value for Gold Points.
What else does this card offer?
- 10 points per $1 when staying at Club Carlson hotels
- 5 points per $1 spent on everything else
- 85,000 Bonus Gold Points – Get 50,000 Gold Points after your first purchase. Earn another 35,000 after you spend $2,500 in three months
- Bonus Award Night – When you redeem Gold Points for 2 or more consecutive Award Nights, your last night is free.
- Club Carlson Gold Status
As far as I’m concerned the real value of this card is not the Gold status (which sucks as far as I’m concerned when compared to their competition like SPG and Hilton), but rather the Bonus Award Night when you redeem for two consecutive nights. Hence, if you apply the free night to a two night stay you are paying half price in points per night. Think about it this way, if I had stayed two nights at the May Fair, I would be paying only 25,000 points per night, and therefore increasing my redemption value by double! I would be getting over 2.4 cents per point. If you assume that you are earning 5 points per dollar on average. A 2.4 cent per point redemption rate would net you over 12 cents per dollar or a 12% rebate. Even if you only get the average value per point at 0.6 cents/point, you are still earning 6% cash back on standard everyday purchases, which is pretty darn good.
What Else Should I Consider?
First off, the annual fee is steep. At $85/year you are paying a premium for these benefits. Of course the first year sign up bonus nets you $500 in free hotel stays, which clearly outweighs the annual fee. Second, the card is issued by US Bank who is very selective and strange when it comes to approving applicants. Of course, you need a credit score over 700 to even consider applying for this card. From what I’ve read online, you should make sure that you don’t have more than 1-2 hard pulls on your credit profile over the last 6 months. It sounds like pulls beyond 6 months don’t have much impact on their decision. Also, your annual income seems to play a role as people with higher annual income seem to have a better chance of being approved. Finally, it sounds like if you apply for multiple cards on the same day (not just US Bank), they can see that activity and will likely disapprove you, or at least bring it up when you call for reconsideration.
Finally, there are also a couple of other versions of the card including a Business Flavor and also a “Non-Premier” just “Rewards” Visa, which earns only 3 points per dollar on everyday spend, and offers just a 60,000 point bonus. I’ve also read that US Bank is notorious for downgrading your application and approving you for the lesser version of the card. For instance, if you apply for the Premier they will downgrade you and approve you for just the “Rewards” card.
This is an intriguing card and one that I am definitely interested in. The buy one get one free night is a huge perk, especially if you travel to places where Club Carlson has a strong presence. Of course, as a SPG Platinum, I don’t often stay at Radisson properties, so I won’t be earning many points through stays, although I did earn 50K recently through their Big Night Giveaway promotion during a stay at the Radisson LAX. I can see this being a compliment to my SPG status, especially if I’m traveling to London or Western Europe where it can sometimes be hard to find a reasonably priced SPG property, even at a Cash + Points level.