Ahhhh….Club Carlson. I have only had your credit card for 1 year now and in the beginning you were full of promises and Bonus Nights.
But now? Now you are like a cheating lover who has punched me in the heart and destroyed my faith in all hotel loyalty programs.
Too dramatic? Yeah. Maybe. But the past couple weeks I have been seriously stressed out by the looming devaluation of the Club Carlson Rewards Program.
It is crazy easy to earn Club Carlson points without ever staying in one of their properties. You earn 5 points per dollar spent and they offer an 85,000 point sign up bonus for their Premier Rewards Visa Card. After your sign up and initial spend, you’ve got a cool 97,500 points to redeem. Factor in the Bonus Nights (R.I.P.) and you could spend 4 nights in a 4-star European hotel for just $75. (that is the annual fee that is not waived for the first year)
Granted, their US properties are not the greatest (with a few exceptions) but many of their European properties are quite nice.
As you all know by now, the Bonus Night perk went away on June 1, 2015. Between Matthew and myself we had about 350,000 Club Carlson points that would be worth half as much after June 1. (it was 337,000 but Matthew stayed at a Radisson on business and earned more points) And to add insult to injury, they were also making a bunch of Category changes on June 1, with most properties moving UP a category.
I spent the last 2 weeks of May trying to decide what speculative bookings to make, hoping I would be able to make them all work.
What I Did
I am planning a trip to Australia in June 2016. That much, I know. I do not really know the exact dates, but I have a general idea of when I would like to go and how long I would like to stay. I also know that I would like to end my trip in (and fly home from) Sydney. So I took a big gamble and booked 4 nights at the Radisson Blu Plaza Hotel Sydney. I used 50,000 miles from my account and 50,000 miles from Matthew’s account.
It’s a beautiful 5 star hotel within walking distance of the Sydney Harbor Bridge and the view of some kind of futuristic looking Opera House.
Now all I have to do is hope I can secure 3 business class seats home on Virgin Australia using Delta miles when the schedule opens up in mid July! Of course I also have to hope that I can secure 3 business class seats on Cathay Pacific using American miles to even get there in the first place! Hopefully all the planets align and the dates I want/need will be available.
Next up – Spring Break 2016. This was a tough one, but yet a very easy one at the same time. I had tossed about the idea of going to Cancun to visit Chichen Itza. I also considered Peru and Machu Picchu. Some kind of Mayan phase I was in, I guess. I had also seriously considered Egypt. Parker is fascinated with Egypt right now and has had an Egyptian themed birthday for the past 2 years! But Egypt is so hard to get to! (read: it costs more miles than I am willing to spend) I could not find what I thought was a reasonable redemption to get us to Egypt so I put it back on the shelf for a while.
I asked Parker where he would like to go for Spring Break next year (other than Egypt) and, without hesitation, he said, “Paris”. Done and done. You really do not have to ask me twice to go to Paris. I am going for 2 days in October of this year, but that’s ok.
So. I booked 4 nights at the Radisson Blu Paris Champs Elysees. 50,000 points for 2 nights from each of our accounts. Now this redemption worries me just a little bit. The 50,000 point redemption is for a “Deluxe Room” which has one queen size bed. The 3 of us cannot really sleep comfortably in one queen bed. With each of us having Gold Status (by renewing the Visa card for another year) I am hoping we will be upgraded to a Business Class room with a king bed or a room that will accommodate a rollaway bed. It’s a gamble and I know that upgrades are never a sure thing. I could have redeemed 105,000 points for the Business Class room. But you know I would never do that.
My original plan was to book 6 nights at the Champs Elysees, but as luck would have it, they did not have availability for 2 nights in the middle of my stay. My solution was to spend 2 nights at Disneyland Paris. (Euro Disney?) At 7, I don’t think Parker will have outgrown it yet.
Using 50,000 points from Matthew’s account, I booked 2 nights at the Radisson Blu Disneyland Paris. I’m not sure what to expect of Disneyland Paris, but I do not expect an American experience.
Matthew and I are huge geeks. Especially when it comes to Halloween. One of our favorite Halloween attractions is Halloween Horror Nights in Orlando, FL.
My favorite time to go is early October, but I going to Romania with my paranormal team in early October. I also have lots of things planned for later in October so my only option for Halloween Horror Nights was the last weekend in September. I do not have any flights booked yet (I am hoping for a deal on Frontier) so I took a chance and made a speculative booking at the Country Inn and Suites Orlando Universal. I used 28,000 points from Matthew’s account for 2 nights.
I also made a speculative booking at Country Inn and Suites Sandusky OH over the 4th of July 2016. Matthew’s birthday is July 4 and in the past we have gone to amusement parks for his birthday (see above statement about being geeks), so why not next year? Parker has never been to Cedar Point and he is big enough for almost all the rides. Another 28,000 points from Matthew’s account for those 2 nights.
As of May 31, I was left with about 15,0oo points in my account and Matthew had about 30,000. I could not let them go to waste!
We love California and have gone every year for the past 10 or more years. Since I will likely buy a Platinum Cedar Fair pass next year (to go to Cedar Point on the 4th of July), if we went to California we could go to Knott’s Berry Farm. And of course Disneyland. I found the Radisson Suites Hotel Buena Park which is walking distance to Knott’s Berry Farm. Big problem though! The Radisson Buena Park was 38,000 points. Neither of us had enough points. Club Carlson will allow Gold Elite members to transfer points to another member’s account by calling their Customer Service Center. The Customer Service Center is closed on weekends and the reservation agents can’t (or won’t) do it. Remember, the Bonus Night was going away on Monday, June 1.
At this point I was determined not to lose that point redemption and went so far as to install Google Voice on my phone and call the Club Carlson Australian Customer Service Center! I waited on hold for 18 minutes (and 36 cents) before my call was answered by their Dallas TX reservation center. What? Apparently the Australian Service Center was getting so many calls, they were being routed back to the US. The lady on the line wanted to know why they were getting so many calls about transferring points. (Really?) I told her I was actually calling Australia to talk to Customer Service and the call was routed back to her. She said Customer Service was closed on weekends and she could not understand that it was actually Monday morning already in Australia and why in the world would I call Australia??? I hung up before wasting another 2 cents.
I woke up Monday morning, sad that I lost out on one last Bonus Night award redemption. But wait…what’s this? Notifications on my computer that Bonus Night bookings were still going through! I hopped on the phone and had points transferred from my account to Matthew’s. As fast as I could, I logged on to the Club Carlson site to book the Radisson Suites Buena Park. Score! And guess what else? The Radisson Suites Buena Park actually moved DOWN a category on June 1. So not only did I get the Bonus Night, I also saved 10,000 points!
As a side note, the Radisson Blu Paris Disneyland also moved down a category and was now 6,000 points less than what I booked it for. I thought about canceling my reservation and rebooking at the lower rate but either my computer or the Club Carlson website was acting funky and I was afraid of losing it completely. In my opinion, it was not worth it to potentially lose 38,000 points for the sake of maybe saving 6,000.
So…my Club Carlson Tally:
4 nights Radisson Blu Paris Champs Elysees – 100,000
2 nights Radisson Blu Paris Disneyland – 50,000
4 nights Radisson Blu Park Plaza Sydney – 100,000
2 nights Country Inn and Suites Orlando – 28,000
2 nights Country Inn and Suites Sandusky OH – 28,000
2 nights Radisson Suites Buena Park CA – 28,000
We each have just over 10,000 points left in our accounts. Hopefully we will be able to find some use for them in the next year or two.
Mini App – O – Rama
Because I feel like I am not doing anything if I am not actively earning miles and points, and because I just finished the minimum spend on Matthew’s most recent AOR, I decided to do one for myself.
I don’t feel like making one of my little charts, so I will just tell you what I did.
1. Citibank AAdvantage Platinum Select Mastercard. I will earn 50,000 AAdvantage miles after spending $3,000 in the first 3 months. $0 annual fee for the first year.
- Reason: you can NEVER have enough AA miles! I am using a big chunk for Cathay Pacific business class to Australia and I want to make sure I have some in the bank.
2. Bank of America Alaska Airlines Signature VISA. I will earn 25,000 Alaska Airlines miles just for signing up. No minimum spend required. $75 annual fee is not waived for the first year.
- Reason: This is not the greatest sign-up bonus but I am going to start stockpiling Alaska miles to use to get to Fiji in the next 2 years. As of now, Alaska BOA cards are highly churnable.
3. Barclay’s Frontier Mastercard. 40,000 Frontier miles after spending $500 in the first 3 months. $69 annual fee is not waived for the first year.
- Reason: My first thought was to use Frontier miles to get to Orlando in September for Halloween Horror Nights. But it will depend on the fare. If I can get a good value for the redemption, I will use the miles. If not, I will pay cash. I can still use the miles for a ski trip I plan to plan (“plan to plan”, I like that!) for January 2016.
I am getting 115,000 airline miles for $144. Not the biggest or the cheapest AOR I have ever done, but I have a somewhat immediate need for these miles.
So that’s it for now! I am also working on a post about my recent Manufactured Spending experience. Hopefully I will have that one up in the next couple days.
I know I don’t have a huge following, but for the handful of people who do read my blog – I appreciate it! Maybe if I would write more…..