Club Carlson

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The Club Carlson Premier Rewards Visa Signature Card offers 85,000 bonus points after spending $2,500 on the card in the first 90 days. After meeting the minimum spending requirement, you have enough points for up to 20 free hotel nights as I explained in my review of the card.

The points themselves would only be enough for 10 free nights, but the Club Carlson Premier Rewards Visa Signature Card has the killer benefit that cardholders get the last night free on all award stays of 2+ nights.

That means you can book 10 two-night stays with all your points (20 total nights) to maximize them.

  • How does the last-free-night benefit work?
  • Can you get two free nights on a four night stay?
  • Can you book multiple rooms at the same hotel and get the benefit multiple times?

The last-free-night benefit is automatic. Once you have the Club Carlson Premier Rewards Visa Signature Card, the fact that you are a cardholder is stored in your Club Carlson account online. When you make award bookings, the price reflects the last night being free.

I recently booked myself a two-night stay in Dubai. On clubcarlson.com, select Book with Points and perform your search.

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Dubai has six Club Carlson properties open and two more in the works.Screen Shot 2015-01-20 at 10.39.40 AM

Each property lists its points price, cash price, points + cash price (which is never a good deal in my experience), and a direct link to TripAdvisor reviews.Screen Shot 2015-01-20 at 10.45.13 AM

Hotels in Dubai ranged from 38,000 to 70,000 points for a free night. They are all Radisson or Radisson Blu brands, so perhaps the Park Inns that are set to open this year will be cheaper.

I selected the Radisson Blu Hotel, Dubai Deira creek because it is close to the airport, close to a metro station, and the Deira area looks interesting. (Let me know in the comments if I made a big mistake and should stay at a different Club Carlson property.)

After selecting the room, the initial screen does not reflect the discount.

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But right below the undiscounted price is a red-box indicating that the discount is coming. (You only see this box if signed in. If not signed in yet, you’ll still get the discount once you sign in.)Screen Shot 2015-01-20 at 11.37.54 AM

On the first screen, you review the hotel’s cancellation and other policies. I learned that I’ll arrive just after Dubai institutes a $4 per room per night tax.

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You also select your room type on this first screen.Screen Shot 2015-01-20 at 10.46.15 AM

On the next screen, the discount kicks in. The price dropped to 50,000 points total for two nights, and I booked.Screen Shot 2015-01-20 at 10.46.38 AM

Considering a paid two-night stay is $400, I’d say 50,000 points is a great deal especially since the cheapest cash rate is fully pre-paid, and my award can be cancelled until the day of arrival without penalty.

More Value

If you want a four night stay at the same hotel, can one person book two nights with one free and then the next two nights with one free?

No.

From the terms:

  • Only one Bonus Award Night will be available for a stay of two or more consecutive nights at the same hotel (early checkout with one night stay not eligible), regardless of the total length of stay, the total number of reservations or the number of check-in/check-outs, is subject to availability and all other terms and conditions and cancellation policies regarding Award Nights apply

And the computer follows this rule. If I try to book the two nights before or after my current Dubai stay at the same hotel, it prices as 100,000 points total for those two nights–no free night!

But if you have a travel companion and you both have the Club Carlson Premier Rewards Visa Signature Card, you can get two out of four nights free. Book the first two nights from one account and the next two from another. At check in, note that you have both booked a two night stay to split costs and would prefer one room for the entire four nights instead of having to check out and check back in.

And if you’re solo, you can still get two free nights on a four-night stay in the same city. You just have to change hotels. I am offered the last night free at another Dubai Radisson for the two nights after my stay at the Radisson Deira Creek:

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Also a solo traveler can get two free nights out of five at the same hotel. Imagine I want to stay April 1 – 6 (five nights) in one hotel.

  • I could book April 1 – 3 as one award: two nights with one free
  • then April 4 – 6 as one award: two nights with one free
  • then April 3 – 4 as a cash stay or an award: one night with zero free

The computer would price that out as five nights with two free. This pattern works infinitely, and can be stated like this:

A solo traveler, at a single hotel, can get his second night free and every third night free thereafter by booking two-night award stays interspersed with one-night award or cash stays.

If you want to book multiple rooms in the same hotel, will each room enjoy the last-night-free benefit?

No.

From the terms:

  • For multiple night/multiple room bookings, only one room will receive the Bonus Award Night

Your Take

How have you maximized the last-night-free benefit of the Club Carlson Premier Rewards Visa Signature Card?

And where would you recommend I stay on my first trip to Dubai?

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The Club Carlson Premier Rewards Visa Signature Card offers up to 20 free hotel nights after spending $2,500 on the card in the first 90 days.

The basic idea is:

  • 50,000 Club Carlson Gold Points after first purchase
  • 35,000 more Club Carlson Gold Points after spending $2,500 on the card in the first 90 days
  • Earn 5 points per dollar on all purchases (and 10 on purchases at Carlson Rezidor hotels), so you’ll earn at least another 12,500 points from meeting the minimum spending requirement. After meeting the minimum spending requirement, you’ll have at least 97,500 Gold Points.
  • Free nights at Radisson, Park Plaza, and other properties start at 9,000 Gold Points
  • On award stays of two or more nights, you get the last night free as a cardholder. That means a two night stay at a 9,000 point-per-night property costs only 9,000 total points.
  • That means 90,000 points is enough for 10 two-night stays (20 nights total.)

The Club Carlson Premier Rewards Visa Signature Card is a must have if you are traveling near the 1,000 participating Club Carlson hotels. No other card offers a free award night on all award stays of 2+ nights. I picked up the card in 2013 and don’t ever plan on canceling it.

  • At what hotels can you redeem Club Carlson Gold Points?
  • How does the free night on award stays work?
  • What can you do with 85,000 Club Carlson Gold Points?
  • Why should some people put all their spending on the Club Carlson card?
  • Why do I never plan on canceling my card?

What is Club Carlson?

Club Carlson is the loyalty program of Radisson hotels and several other brands with over 1,000 locations worldwide.

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Here is a map of the worldwide destinations, which shows impressive coverage in North America, Europe, and India.

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Racking Up Points

The Club Carlson Premier Rewards Visa Signature Card earns points at an extraordinary rate.

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The sign up bonus is 85,000 points–50,000 after first purchase and 35,000 more after spending $2,500 in the first 90 days.

The card earns 5 points per dollar on everyday purchases. That means you’ll earn another 12,500 points as you meet the minimum spending requirement, bringing your total to at least 97,500.

Every year you renew your card for the $75 annual fee, you get 40,000 more bonus points. That’s like buying points for 0.19 cents each. This renewal bonus is one of two reasons I never plan on canceling my Club Carlson Premier Rewards Visa Signature Card.

Redeeming Points

Club Carlson hotels are divided into seven categories, and free nights range from 9,000 to 70,000 points for a Standard Room.

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But cardmembers get a huge discount on awards.

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If you book an award stay of 2+ nights, you get the last night free. This is the second reason I’ll never cancel this card. Put another way:

  • 1 night awards have no discount
  • 2 night awards have a 50% discount
  • 3 night awards have a 33% discount
  • 4 night awards have a 25% discount

As you can see, cardholders are best off booking a lot of two-night award stays with their Gold Points. The 97,500 Gold Points cardholders will have after meeting the minimum spending requirement are enough for 10 two-night stays (20 nights total) at Category 1 properties, which cost 9,000 points each after the last-night-free perk.

Since the lower category hotels stretch your points farther, I took a look at Category 1Category 2, and Category 3 hotels for interesting properties. Category 1 has a ton of Indian properties and some properties in Eastern European cities that I might visit this summer like Sofia, Budapest, and Vilnius.

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Category 1 Hotels in Europe, Middle East, and Africa

 

Category 2 has about twice as many hotels and many more interesting ones in cities like Berlin, Riga, and St. Petersburg that cost 15,000 points for two nights.

Category 3 cities include Abu Dhabi, Capetown, Lisbon, Cork, Prague, Cairo, Beijing, and Bangkok. They cost only 28,000 points for two nights.

To search for award nights, head to clubcarlson.com and select the Book With Points tab above the search box.

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Your results will look something like this.

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There are no blackout dates on Club Carlson awards. If a standard room is for sale, you should be able to book it with points. According this FlyerTalk thread, sometimes no award availability is shown online even when a standard room is for sale. In that case, you should contact the hotel and remind them of the policy. Most people have had success getting the award space released.

Status

The Club Carlson Premier Rewards Visa Signature Card confers automatic Gold status on the holder, which normally takes 35 nights or 20 stays to earn. Gold members get:

  • free internet (all members do)
  • 27 points per dollar on hotel stays
  • 15% on food at certain hotel restaurants
  • free upgrades where available
  • early check in and late check out where available
  • an in-room welcome gift

Fees

The Club Carlson Premier Rewards Visa Signature Card has a $75 annual fee that is not waived. That is swamped by the massive 85,000 point sign up bonus in year one, and the 40,000 point renewal bonus in subsequent years. I don’t like annual fees, but this one is worth paying.

The card has a 3% foreign transaction fee, so don’t use it abroad.

Bottom Line

The Club Carlson Premier Rewards Visa Signature Card has a massive 85,000 point sign up bonus and is the only card that offers the last night free on all award stays of 2+ nights.

It earns an incredible 5 points per dollar on all purchases. When you consider this earning rate in conjunction with the last-night-free perk, you can see why for many people this card offers the best return on every day spending.

Just $1,800 in spending on the card would earn 9,000 points which is enough for a two-night hotel stay. No other hotel card offers a return like that.

Plus the 97,500 points you’ll have after spending $2,500 in the first 90 days is enough for 20 free hotel nights. Enjoy all those free nights with automatic Gold status.

Your Take

How have you used your points earned from the Club Carlson Premier Rewards Visa Signature Card?

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Club Carlson has a Flash Sale that lasts until 8:59 AM ET tomorrow (June 24, 2014) during which you can buy up to 70,000 Club Carlson Gold Points for 0.4 cents per point.

The sale is billed as a 75% bonus on Gold Points, so you can only buy points in increments of 1,750.

Today’s Flash Sale is about 11% cheaper than the Daily Getaways deal last week that sold out instantly.

I plan to buy the maximum number of 70,000 Gold Points for $280 today because I didn’t get around to it during the last flash sale.

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That 70,000 points will be enough for two nights at the top-tier Club Carlson properties or nearly 16 nights (I’d need 72,000) at Category 1 hotels that dot Europe because I have a Club Carlson credit card that offers one night free on all award bookings of 2+ nights.

That means that Category 1 hotels will cost me $18 per night at these point buying prices and top-tier Category 7 hotels will cost me $140.

For more information on the Club Carlson chart, great deals on the chart, and the last-night-free benefit that makes buying Club Carlson points twice as good, check out last week’s post on the Club Carlson Daily Getaway. While reading, just remember that the points are 11% cheaper today.

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Today is the second day of the last week of five weeks of discounted travel packages sponsored by the US Travel Association and American Express called Daily Getaways. Every weekday at 1 PM ET, a discounted travel package or packages will go on sale and will usually sell out in a few minutes.

Today only, Club Carlson points are being sold cheaply enough that you can stay at a hotel in Europe for as low as $20 per night!

Today’s deal is:

  • 100,000 Club Carlson points for $445.50 (0.45 cents each)
  • 50,000 Club Carlson points for $222.30 (0.44 cents each)

Screen Shot 2014-06-17 at 12.18.05 AM

Award nights start at 9,000 points, and those of us with a Club Carlson personal or business credit card get the last night free on award stays of 2+ nights, so on two night stays, we pay half price.

  • How can you get in on the deal?
  • How good is this deal?
  • How does the Club Carlson deal make buying points twice as good of a value?

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I’m interested in the businesses behind loyalty programs, so I always wonder:

  • What did that credit card company pay that airline for its miles?
  • How much does American Airlines pay Qantas when an AAdvantage award includes a Qantas leg?
  • How much did that hotel loyalty program reimburse that specific hotel for the free stay I just took?

Well last month I stayed at the Radisson Martinique of Broadway (review here), and I know exactly how much Club Carlson reimbursed the Martinique for my stay.

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How much did Club Carlson pay the Martinique for my stay? How do I know?

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Having just landed at Newark after a First Class flight from Honolulu, I took the AirTrain to New York Penn Station, and walked the few blocks to the Radisson Martinique on Broadway.

I had two free one-night certificates at any Radisson in the United States, and I knew that a New York City hotel would probably be the most expensive place to use them.

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Although we arrived at 1 PM, several hours before check in, my friend and I were quickly checked in and given the keys to a room with double beds.

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How was the room? How’s the location? Is the Radisson Martinique on Broadway worth your cash or your Club Carlson points?

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Per this thread on Flyertalk, Club Carlson is running a very interesting first quarter promotion. The full terms and conditions, as well as registration, can be found here. If you stay three nights at Club Carlson hotels between January 6th and April 13th, you will earn 38,000 bonus points.

Club Carlson Promo

What will 38,000 Club Carlson points get you?

38,000 points is enough for four free nights at a category 1 or one night at a category 4. The full award chart is below. You can see the complete list of category 4 hotels here if interested in splurging for a one night stay.

Club Carlson Award Chart

Any category 4 hotels stick out?

I wasn’t enthralled by the North American list, which consisted of quite a few airport locations. However, I saw some great properties in Eastern Europe, including the Radisson Blu Sofia which I am interested in staying this summer. The Radisson Blu properties in Krakow and Athens also caught my eye.

Radisson Blue Sofia Junior Suite. Image from radissonblue.com
Radisson Blue Sofia Junior Suite. Image from radissonblue.com

There are very few category 4 properties in Asia and the Pacific and nearly all are concentrated in India. If you do have upcoming travel to India, it makes sense to browse the list of hotels.

What if you want to stretch the bonus points farther?

Yes! This offer is a bit more enticing if you can target category 1-3 hotels that you are interested in staying at. For example, the bonus points would stretch to four nights at a category 1 hotel or two nights at a category 2 hotel with some points leftover.

Is this the most lucrative hotel promotion Club Carlson has ever run?

Not even close. Back in 2012, Radisson actually ran a “Buy One Night, Get One Free” promotion that awarded you a stay at any Radisson or Radisson Blu property in the US, Canada, or Carribbean even if you stayed at a dirt cheap Radisson to qualify for the offer. You could then use the points on incredible hotels such as the Radisson Blu Chicago.

Do cash & points rates qualify for this offer?

No. The terms and conditions expressly exclude these rates from the promotion.

What if I already had a Radisson stay and just now registered? Does that night count towards the three required nights?

No. Per the terms, registration must be received before checkout of the first eligible stay to qualify.

Is this promotion mattress run worthy?

Given your upcoming hotel stays, the credit cards you carry in your wallet, and how much you value time…possibly.

The least expensive hotels I could find in my area were $89 a night ($100 after taxes). The breakdown for a regular person is below who made three separate one night stays:

Average Joe

$300 in spend for three one night stays at Club Carlson property
Hotel earn: 5,340 points ($89 base rate * 20 points/$ * 3 nights)
Online booking bonus: 3,000 points (1,000 * 3)
Buy 3 promotion: 38,000 points
Total: 46,340 Club Carlson points

In essence, you would actually earn enough Club Carlson points for a category 5 hotel (45,000 points) with the model above. I didn’t factor any credit card points you receive for this either. However, you must also factor in time foregone and gas money spent as well. Unless you found an incredible value, $300+ for a one night hotel stay doesn’t look appealing.

What if you have the Club Carlson Premier Rewards Visa Signature?

This promotion gets quite a bit more appealing if you have the Club Carlson Visa. First, the card comes with Club Carlson gold elite status, boosting your earning potential. You get more points for booking stays online and for hotel spend.

Club Carlson Elite Benefits

Don’t forget the 10 points awarded for each dollar spent at Club Carlson properties when you pay with your credit card! Let’s take the same three night hotel stay from above, this time paying with the Club Carlson Visa.

Savvy Mattress Runner with Club Carlson Visa

$300 in spend for three one night stays at Club Carlson property
Hotel earn: 8,010 points ($89 base rate * 30 points/$ [Gold] * 3 nights)
Credit card earn: 3,000 points ($300 * 10 points/$ [Club Carlson Visa])
Online booking bonus: 6,000 points (2,000 [Gold] * 3)
Buy 3 promotion: 38,000 points
Total: 55,010 Club Carlson points

55,000 points is more than enough for a free night award at any Club Carlson property in the world. Still, $300 for one hotel night is a pricey proposition for most travelers. However, Club Carlson’s best benefit makes this promotion very intriguing.

Bonus Night Award

The Bonus Night Award is the killer feature of the Club Carlson Visa. In essence, when you redeem Club Carlson points for a two night stay, you only have to pay one night’s worth of points. For that reason, it makes sense to split award reservations into multiples of two.

Mattress running the latest promotion would actually give you enough points for two nights at any Club Carlson property, so you are really paying ~$150/night for the best Radissons, a far better deal with the co-branded  card than without.

Or it would be enough for six two-night stays (12 total nights) at Category 1 properties. That is certainly worth $300.

Partial Mattress Run

All of my examples so far have imagined pure mattress runs, where you are checking in and checking out just to get the points while getting no value from the room.

The calculations become even more favorable when you consider partial mattress runs.

A partial mattress run is booking a hotel stay because of the promotion that you would not have booked otherwise, but it’s a hotel stay from which you get some value.

For instance, imagine that–not accounting for promotions–you would stay in a Hilton for $150 per night. But because of this promo, you shift that one night stay to a Radisson that costs $200. In that case, the value of the room to you is $150 and the cost of the mattress run is $50.

When calculating whether a mattress run is worth it to you, consider whether it’s a pure or partial mattress run, and the exact cost of the partial mattress run.

Recap

Club Carlson announced a first quarter promotion where you receive enough bonus points for one night at a category 4 hotel after spending three nights at any property on an eligible rate.

This is great news if you already had stays planned, but this promotion isn’t conducive for a pure mattress run unless you have the Club Carlson Premier Visa.

Having that Visa and paying for the rooms with the card unlocks about 18% more bonus points. The fact that the card comes with a bonus night award feature seals the deal for me. Your points effectively are worth up to twice as much which turns this promotion into a very intriguing deal.

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2013 was a year of several major devaluation announcements including:

  • United (kicks in February 1, 2014)
  • Southwest (kicks in March 31, 2014)
  • Delta (already kicked in on current award bookings for travel that starts February 1, 2014 or later)
  • Hyatt (kicks in January 7, 2014)
  • Ultimate Rewards (with three major transfer partners devaluing–United, Southwest, and Hyatt–the program took a major hit through no fault of its own)

But the more things change, the more they stay the same. We’re still getting outsized value from our miles and points and traveling the world in style for next to nothing.

What’s my outlook for 2014 and what’s my strategy for earning and burning the major points’ currencies?

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Disclosure: I am getting two one-night stay certificates at U.S. Radissons for hosting this giveaway. I’ll look into giving them away too.

This week I ran two posts as part of a giveaway to give each of two winners:

  • One $500 Visa Gift Card
  • Club Carlson Gold Elite Status through February 2014 (If you already have Club Carlson Gold Status, you will receive Concierge Status through February 2014.)

The prizes were generously donated by Club Carlson. The Club Carlson Premier Rewards Visa Signature Card is the only hotel card to give you the last award night for free on stays of two or more nights. (That means two night award stays are 50% off!)

The two tweets that people had to retweet to enter the Twitter competition had 460 combined retweets. The random number generator has spoken and the winner is @CLMedina, who I recognize–from his Twitter picture–from the Chicago Seminars! Congratulations, Christopher. Enjoy the $500 prepaid Visa and Club Carlson Gold Status.

The two posts had a combined 773 comment entries. The random number generator selected Jen, who said her favorite perk of the Club Carlson Premier Rewards Visa Signature Card was “Last night free! Such a great perk.”

I very much agree with her that that is the best feature of the Club Carlson Premier Rewards Visa Signature Card and for her comment, she’ll win a $500 prepaid Visa and Club Carlson Gold Status too.

Thanks to the Club Carlson for donating the prizes and thanks to all the loyal MileValue readers and Twitter followers out there who entered.

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Disclosure: I am getting two one-night stay certificates at U.S. Radissons for hosting this giveaway. I’ll look into giving them away too.

The Club Carlson Premier Rewards Visa Signature Card has generously donated two $500 Visa Gift Cards and two prizes of Club Carlson Gold Status for two lucky MileValue readers. The contest ends tonight, Friday November 8, 2013 at 11:59 PM Hawaii Time. I will pick and announce the winners tomorrow. You can still enter in two ways today even if you entered twice on Monday!

Each of the two winners will receive:

  • One $500 Visa Gift Card
  • Club Carlson Gold Elite Status through February 2014 (If you already have Club Carlson Gold Status, you will receive Concierge Status through February 2014.)

What are the two ways to enter today? What are the two ways to enter from Monday? How can you enter four ways in four minutes?

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Disclosure: I am getting two one-night stay certificates at U.S. Radissons for hosting this giveaway. I’ll look into giving them away too.

The Club Carlson Premier Rewards Visa Signature Card has generously donated two $500 Visa Gift Cards and two prizes of Club Carlson Gold Status for two lucky MileValue readers. Each of the two winners will receive:

  • One $500 Visa Gift Card
  • Club Carlson Gold Elite Status through February 2014 (If you already have Club Carlson Gold Status, you will receive Concierge Status through February 2014.)

I just signed up for the business version of the Club Carlson Premier Rewards Visa Signature Card in August because it is one of the best hotel cards on the market.

The killer benefit is that cardholders receive the last night free on any award of two nights or longer. That means that two night award stays are 50% off!

Other benefits include:

  • 10 points per $1 spent in eligible net purchases at participating Carlson Rezidor hotels worldwide
  • 5 points per $1 spent in eligible net purchases everywhere else
  • 85,000 Bonus Gold Points to start – Receive 50,000 Gold Points after your first purchase.  Plus 35,000 points once you spend $2,500 on your card within the first 90 days
  • Bonus Award Night – When you redeem Gold Points for 2 or more consecutive Award Nights, your last night is free. Exclusively for cardmembers!
  • Club Carlson Gold Status is yours after you activate and use your card
  • 40,000 Renewal Bonus Points each year when you renew your card
  • $75 annual fee

The automatic annual 40,000 point retention bonus means I would plan to hold a Club Carlson Premier Rewards Visa Signature Card indefinitely.

Club Carlson Gold Points can be used at over 1,000 Radisson, Radisson Blu, Park Plaza, Park Inn, Country Inns and Suites properties worldwide.

After meeting the Club Carlson Premier Rewards Visa Signature Card‘s minimum spending requirement, you’d have at least 97,500 Gold Points, which with the last-night-free benefit on award nights, would be enough for 20 nights–ten two-night stays–at a Category 1 hotel like the Radisson Blue Beke, Budapest.

My aspirational Club Carlson property is the Category 6 Radisson Royal Hotel, Moscow, which costs 50,000 points per night. As a cardholder, you could stay two nights in the hotel for 50,000 points total.

How to Enter

There are two winners and two ways to win. You can enter both ways, but you can only win one of the prize packages. You have to be a Club Carlson member to collect your prize package, so sign up here for free.

#1 Comment

Comment once on this post with your favorite benefit of the Club Carlson Premier Rewards Visa Signature Card.

You can get a second entry into the random drawing of commenters by commenting on Friday’s post about this giveaway.

I will randomly pick one of the comments from this post or Friday’s post as a winner after entry closes at 11:59 PM Hawaii time on Friday, November 8, 2013.

(For those who have signed up to receive one free daily email with all of MileValue’s latest posts: replying to that email is not a way to enter this contest. Click this post’s title in the email to be taken to the post on MileValue.com.)

#2 Retweet

Follow @milevalue and retweet the following tweet, which can be found here.

I will randomly pick one person who retweets that tweet after entry closes at 11:59 PM Hawaii time on Friday, November 8, 2013.

Good luck to everyone! And thanks to the Club Carlson Premier Rewards Visa Signature Card for the generous prizes.

Terms and Conditions: MileValue.com is the sponsor of this giveaway. U.S. Bank, Carlson Inc., and their respective affiliates and employees are not sponsors and are not responsible for any part of the giveaway. Scott Grimmer’s decisions are final as to all aspects of the contest.

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Update at 1:35 PM ET: I missed the sale, which it looks like sold out in mere seconds. The good news is throughout the week, Club Carlson is having flash sales for just a few hours that sell points for about 0.4 cents each.

Follow me on twitter to learn about the next one.

Glad to see some readers got in on the deal!

End of update.

Today might be the best Daily Getaways deal so far. Club Carlson points are being sold cheaply enough that you can stay at a Radisson in Europe for as low as $15 per night!

Today is the third day of the second week of five weeks of discounted travel packages sponsored by the US Travel Association and American Express called Daily Getaways.

Every weekday at 1 PM ET, a discounted travel package or packages will go on sale and will usually sell out in a few minutes. Some of the offers will be awesome; some will be duds. Today’s is incredible.

Today’s deal is:

  • 100k Club Carlson points for $346.50 (0.3465 cents each)
  • 50k Club Carlson points for $174.60 (0.3492 cents each)

How can you get in on the deal?

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Sometimes I want luxury, and sometimes I want quantity.

Last week I talked about the Three Best Credit Cards for Free Nights in Luxury Hotels.

But what about going to the other end of the award chart? A lot of times when I am traveling I just need a pillow and a roof, since I plan to be out exploring the city all day. What credit card sign up would net me the most free hotel nights? (20 in all!)

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Club Carlson is selling points with a 50% bonus through November 10, 2012 bringing the cost down to 0.47 cents per point. Club Carlson hotels include Radisson, Park Plaza, Park Inn, and Country Inns & Suites.

To purchase points from this non-targeted promotion, start on the promotion’s home page. The promotion page lays out the rules. Every 1,000 points purchased costs $7 and earns a bonus 500 points.

The maximum Club Carlson points you can purchase in a given year are 40k, which would get you 60k total points under this promotion. The cool thing about this promotion is that you can also buy points for other people’s accounts with your own credit card. Club Carlson encourages you to give this gift!

To purchase for another person, you need the person’s full name, Club Carlson number, and email address.

To purchase for yourself, sign into your account, and most of the form will auto-populate:

The side bar mentioned that $7/1k is the pre-tax price. And you may be familiar with US Airways’ Buy Miles promotions that add a 7.5% tax to the purchase price. This purchase is tax free for Americans–Canadians will pay GST/HST.

That means in any increment that you buy the miles, the cost will be .046666 cents per point, a 33% discount on the normal 0.7 cents price. 60k points will cost $280.

Is it a good deal?

This deal should save you money if you don’t have any Club Carlson points, and you want to book a hotel in the near future. I wouldn’t buy points at this price speculatively–that is, without the redemption already in mind–but I would buy them for the following reasons (note that the purchased points take 2-5 days to post.)

Buy Points for a Cash & Points redemption that earns a free night later

Radisson is running a Stay One Night, Get One Night Free promotion right now. I’ve written about the promotion, and I just stayed a night at the O’Hare Radisson with Cash & Points to take advantage of the deal.

Generally the Cash & Points rate gives a really good value for the points used. For instance, this was my price menu at the O’Hare Radisson:

I could either pay $129 or 5k points and $77. That means that those 5k points saved me $52. I got 1.04 cents worth of value for them. That means you can buy them for 0.47 cents per point right now and redeem them for 1.02 cents or more.

Or in dollar terms, if I had no Club Carlson points, I could buy 4k with a 2k bonus (6k total) for $28. That $28 outlay would save $52 on the Radisson O’Hare by using the points for a Cash & Points redemption.

And of course, the whole reason for doing a cheap Radisson Cash & Points redemption right now is to earn the free night certificate for future use at an expensive Radisson in the US, Canada, or the Caribbean.

Buy Points for an Expensive Redemption

Here is the price menu for the Radisson Martinique in Manhattan for a Tuesday night in March:

The nightly rate is $386.10, or you can use 50k points. You can get 51k points by purchasing 34k with a 17k bonus at a cost of $238. That means buying the points would save you nearly $150. And keep in mind that if you are traveling with someone else, you can both buy 50k points to stay at the hotel multiple nights.

Recap

Club Carlson is selling its points for 0.47 cents from now until November 10. You can buy up to 40k with a 20k bonus (60k total) per account.

This 50% bonus–33% off–sale is exploitable, but I wouldn’t buy and hold the points. I would buy them with a specific redemption in mind. On that redemption, you should be able to get around 1 cent or more of value from the points that you buy for 0.47 cents.

Two key ways to redeem them well are Cash & Points awards–especially stacked with the current Stay One Night, Get One Night promotion–or points awards on very expensive properties.

Is anyone going to take advantage of the deal? How much are you saving?

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Recently I spent three nights in Krakow, Poland at two hotels. I’ll be reviewing four hotels in Krakow, based on my stays and their location relative to where you want to spend time in the city.

Before I get to that, let me say that I highly recommend a trip to Krakow. First of all, it’s in Poland which I found to be inexpensive, full of delicious food, and brimming with attractive people who spoke some English.

Of course, the English is not as strong as in western or northern Europe. Also, the younger the person, the better his English will be generally as the older folks are more likely to have learned Russian. But the English was passable, and being a native English speaker makes you someone people want to talk to and help in Poland.

The specific highlights of Krakow are a beautiful Old Town, an amazing urban river with walking and biking trails, and its proximity to Auschwitz, which can be seen on a day trip. Auschwitz is one of the most moving places I’ve been, and I recommend a trip there for anyone interested in history or psychology.

Here’s a map of Krakow with my annotations.

Pink Circle = Krakow Old Town

I spent most of my time in Krakow inside the pink circle–the Old Town. That isn’t the only cool bit of Krakow–I also spent time in Kazimierz and along the Vistula–but it is the most beautiful area and the area with the best restaurants, bars, and architecture.

The hotels I’ll discuss are the X’s. The Holiday Inn is red, the Radisson Blu is blue, the Sheraton is green, and the Park Inn is black.

Holiday Inn: Krakow City Centre, red X

Note: There is also a “Holiday Inn Express: Krakow,” which is inferior and farther away from the center.

I spent two non-consecutive nights at this hotel, and I very much enjoyed its location and welcome package. It’s amenities were adequate.

Upon arriving in Krakow, I walked the 500 meters from the train station (pictured on the map as the blue train icon) to the Holiday Inn. The hotel is also three blocks from the central plaza, near the river, and close to the Kazimierz district, so the location is impeccable.

Upon check-in I was given a card for one free drink at the bar, so this hotel starts strong. When I entered the room, more surprises awaited, a complimentary box of chocolates and a thank-you letter.

free drink card, free chocolate, free thank-you note

The room itself had two twin beds. I’m sure a better room was available, but I spent less than one waking hour in the room.

two small beds, table, desk, and TV

The bathroom was big and clean, again what you would expect, but nothing impressive.

My main complaint at the hotel was the internet. There was no wireless internet in the rooms. The wired internet was free, but only if you chose the slower speed. The slower speed was fine for browsing, but not suitable for downloading videos or uploading photos, and the high-speed internet cost $10 per day.

The Holiday Inn did have a small fitness center with free access.

In August, a night at the Holiday Inn is going for $160 or 20,000 Priority Club points or 10,000 Priority Club points and $70. Of course, Priority Club points can be purchased for 0.7 cents each, so if you want to minimize the cash outlay, purchase all 20,000 points for $140.

Park Inn, black X

The Park Inn’s location is much worse than the other three I’ll be talking about. It’s a full kilometer from the Old Town and across the river. It’s nice to be near the river, but it’s not that much closer than several of the other hotels.

One kilometer is obviously not too far of a walk, but it makes it tough to pop back and forth between the hotel and the sights multiple times in a day.

one bag, two beds, a table, and a TV

The interior of my Park Inn room was almost identical to my Holiday Inn room: two tiny beds, a TV, a desk, and a chair. I did prefer the Park Inn bathroom, which featured a shower instead of the tub-plus-shower-head that the Holiday Inn had.

The Park Inn did have free, wireless, high-speed internet.

A night at the Park Inn in August is going for $138 or 28,000 Gold Points or 5,000 Gold Points and $81. Gold Points aren’t as valuable as many currencies, so the cash and points option which gets over one cent per point is the best option among the three.

Sheraton, green X

The Sheraton is at a very interesting spot, at a bend in the Vistula, facing the river such that it looks like the river is coming right at the hotel. It’s an incredible view. The hotel is also right next to the Wawel Castle, which is one of the coolest sites in Krakow. The Sheraton is a few steps farther away from the Old Town than the Radisson Blu and Holiday Inn, so I would rate its location as slightly worse than theirs.

I didn’t stay here, so I don’t have any inside info. I’m sure the services are commensurate with what you expect from a Sheraton, and it has a heated indoor pool and a gym.

The Sheraton has free, high-speed, wireless internet.

A night at the Sheraton in August goes for $165 or 7,000 Starpoints or 2,800 Starpoints and $45. The cash and points option gets over 4 cents per point.

Radisson Blu, blue X

The Radisson Blu is at a great location, definitely my favorite of all the hotels in Krakow. It’s right across from a park that connects to the Old Town.

The Radisson Blu has a fitness center with free access. And it has free, wireless internet in all rooms.

Overall Club Carlson considers the Radisson Blu to be a much nicer property than the Park Inn, and who am I to disagree. Considering its awesome location, this is probably the top place to stay in Krakow.

A night at the Radisson Blu in August goes for $146 or 44,000 Gold Points, with no cash-and-points option. That’s only about 0.3 cents per Gold Point, so I would not make a points redemption at this low cash price.

Overall:

The best view is the Sheraton, but the best property and location belong to the Radisson Blu. At these cash prices, I would definitely stay at the Radisson Blu. For redemptions, the cash-and-points redemption at the Sheraton is a great value.

I stayed at the Holiday Inn mainly because I got it for $35 per night because it was on the PointBreaks list. Under no foreseeable circumstances would I stay at the Park Inn again. The location is bad, and it is only $8 cheaper than the superior Radisson Blu. The only reason I did stay at the Park Inn was that the Radisson Blu was much more expensive while I was in town, and I wanted to collect the huge 44,000 point bonus for a one night stay at the Park Inn.

Anyone who reads this blog regularly knows I am a couch-surfing, hostel-staying vagabond, and none of these hotels changed that about me.

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