Big Club Carlson devaluation announced, but it’s not all bad

Club Carlson, the Radisson / Park Inn programme, announced a devaluation of the programme yesterday – although you wouldn’t have thought that given the way their email was worded!

Let’s look, step by step, at what is actually happening.

The changes are formally outlined on the Club Carlson website here.  All apply from March 15th.

May Fair Hotel

The changes

A new Category 7 is launched, requiring 70,000 points.  This replaces the current cap of 50,000 points for Category 6.  Initially, only nine properties will be in Category 7:

  • Radisson Royal Hotel, Dubai
  • Radisson Blu Le Dokhan’s Hotel, Paris
  • Radisson Blu 1835 Hotel & Thalasso, Cannes
  • Radisson Blu Le Metropolitan Hotel, Paris
  • Radisson Blu Hotel Champs Elysees, Paris
  • art’otel, Amsterdam
  • Radisson Royal Hotel, Moscow
  • The May Fair, London
  • Plaza on the River, London

A number of other others change category, both up and down.  The list is here.

The online booking bonus, offering up to 3000 bonus points per stay, is scrapped.

Hotels will, at their discretion, be able to open up additional room categories for redemption at higher price points.

Points will now be earned on food and drink purchases on reward stays.

Reward stays now count towards retaining status.

The status bonus for cash nights will drop from 50% to 35% for Gold members and 25% to 15% for Silver members.

My view

Overall, I think, this is not too bad.  The programme had been over-generous in many areas, and some of these ‘sweet spots’ will still be in place after these changes.

The new Category 7 only includes nine hotels, although obviously it may grow over time.  (Radisson announced plans this week to launch a new super-luxury chain, Quorvus, later this year.)   I am not desperately keen on The May Fair (small rooms, rather too ‘buzzy’ for most people) and, given that good London hotels like Park Plaza Westminster Bridge are still at 50,000 points, it is not a great loss in London.

Paris is a bigger problem.  Pretty much all of the decent Paris options will now be 70,000 points.  If I had to guess, I would suggest that – with Hilton having almost no presence in Paris – Carlson was seeing a disproportionate number of redemption nights from US tourists.

Moving the Cannes property to 70,000 points is a shame - I recommended it to HfP readers last year.

A slight tapering of the status bonus simply brings the scheme in line with competitors.  The ’20 points per $ spent’ is still, by far, the most generous earnings rate around. 

The change to the online booking bonus may or may hurt you.  If you book lot of cheap stays yourself, it will be a real blow – a Gold, earning 2,000 points from the bonus, gets the equivalent of spending an extra $100.  However, anyone who uses a corporate travel agent won’t have been receiving this anyway.  It also has only a modest impact on long, expensive stays.

The ’1 to 3′ transfer rate to Club Carlson from American Express Membership Rewards is still there.  The 70,000 point properties are still an OK deal if you can get them for 23,333 Amex points.  You also still get Carlson Gold for free with American Express Platinum.

The 2-4-1 and 4-4-2 deals for Gold card holders are not going away, and these can be great value.

Allowing hotels to offer more room categories on points COULD be very positive for me.  At present, redeeming for a family of four means two standard rooms.  If I can book a bigger room for less than I used to pay for two standard rooms (or book a suite for the same price as two standard rooms) then I will be happy.

Carlson is also giving a decent notice period for this devaluation, so they learnt something from their behaviour last year in cutting airline transfer rates overnight.

(To see our complete list of all current hotel promotions for the major chains, click here to visit our ‘Hotel Promos’ page or use the link in the menu bar at the top of the page.)

Superb Heathrow Rewards deal .... 1000 Avios / Flying Club / Miles & More for £10 spend!
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Comments

  1. RogerWilco says:

    I agree with most of what you say here. The online bonus was exceptional and unique value for me, but as CC is my third program only I used them and I used them only very opportunistically the loss is not too big. And the old saying “use ‘em or lose ‘em” still stands. It seems that saving up to the “big redemption” is foolish with any chain. Yes 6 or maybe 12 months of collecting may be on the safe side but planning further than that is not very clever.

    I envy your 3:1 conversion ratio from MR. We only get 2:1 (which still beats the Hilton 1:1 by 100%)

  2. Totally agree with your analysis, Rob. In particular you make an interesting point re Paris and US cardholders – yet another case of companies offering stonking deals to part of the world but then everyone else has to pick up the impact of points inflation!

    Le Dokhan’s in Paris is a lovely hotel, glad I squeezed in a 50k redemption there last year!

    @RogerWilco – is it a US Amex you have? If so remember you’re earning MRs at a 1.6x higher rate than those with GBP cards ;-)

  3. Great summary thanks. Agree the flexible room types may help – I am indeed in the May Fair tomorrow – 2 rooms for a family of 4. I also note the 75% bonus for Concierge members stays as-is, good news for those. like me, who live in Radissons!

  4. Yeah the “exciting new benefits” line in the email is taking the mick really. Still like you say it could be worse. Its a shame the online booking bonus is being scrapped as that was a handy extra earning stream however I lost count of how many times I had to contact Club Carlson to have it added manually when it was not added by the hotel.

    The Paris changes are a shame also but at least London still has plenty of options. Like Raffles I am not fussed on the Mayfair, vile hotel with vile staff but am fond of the Plaza on the River!

    At least the concierge bonus stays the same which gives me an incentive to re-qualify this year!

  5. isnt Hilton opening a hotel in paris later this year?

  6. I like the addition of being able to earn points on food and drink purchases on reward stays – I see that as a real benefit, particularly as I’ve just had a week reward stay and didn’t get anything for my spending in the hotel restaurants, etc.

    A shame about the Paris properties but other than that, I agree, it could have been a lot worse – we can’t say we didn’t see it coming!

  7. Andrew (@andrewseftel) says:

    The recategorization has been brought forward to 15th March

    • Gut feeling is that is hasn’t been brought forward but was simply a mistake. The only mention of May 1st was on the document of hotels changing categories, it wasn’t in the press release.