Is Club Carlson the best Amex Membership Rewards hotel partner?

American Express Membership Rewards has three hotel partners in the UK, assuming you want to redeem for points instead of a voucher for a free room:

Hilton HHonors, with a conversion rate of 1:2

Starwood Preferred Guest, with a conversion rate of 2:1

Club Carlson, with a conversion rate of 1:3

You can also redeem for various Melia properties via a voucher as I explained here.

Radisson Hamburg 350

Club Carlson, the loyalty scheme for Radisson, Park Inn and Park Plaza, is often forgotten about.  This is probably because the scheme is still relatively new – just five years old – and because their core brands are relatively low profile.

You ignore Club Carlson at your peril though.  The chain is bigger and broader than most people imagine, especially in London.

The Park Plaza hotel on Westminster Bridge (reviewed here) has become my default property for visiting friends and family.  It is relatively new, it has a pool, it is in a fantastic location for the Westminster and South Bank tourist attractions and it is a relatively quick taxi ride to us.

The 1:3 ratio of American Express Membership Rewards points to Club Carlson points is very attractive.  Let’s look at how many Amex points you would need for a good quality hotel in London:

Club Carlson requires 70,000 points for Park Plaza Westminster Bridge which is 23,333 Amex points

Hilton HHonors requires 70,000 points for Hilton London Tower Bridge which is 35,000 Amex points

Starwood Preferred Guest requires 25,000 SPG points for Le Meridien Piccadilly which is 50,000 Amex points

I would consider all three of these hotels to be relatively equal in terms of positioning, being the ‘just below the best’ property in London for that particular chain.

Club Carlson does not have the largest footprint of the hotel chains – although they are particularly strong in Scandinavia and have some good European properties – so there is no reason to do a speculative transfer of Amex points. If they have a good property in a place you need to go, though, it is worth a look. At the bottom end of the market, some Park Inn hotels are only 9,000 Carlson points, ie just 3,000 Amex points.

The other thing you can see from the analysis above is that Club Carlson actually offers better value than pretty much any other Membership Rewards redemption.

You will be getting around 1p per Membership Rewards point in the Park Plaza example above.  I don’t value an Avios point – or any airline currency – at more than 1p.  Redeeming Membership Rewards points for gift cards tends to get you just 0.5p.

Remember that you can get a generous 20,000 Membership Rewards points for free when you sign-up for the American Express Preferred Rewards Gold card.  That would be well over £200 of Club Carlson hotel rooms at peak periods.

(Want to earn more miles and points from credit cards?  Click here to visit our dedicated airline and hotel travel credit cards page or use the ‘Credit Cards Update’ link in the menu bar at the top of the page.)

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  1. And of course you can upgrade to their top tier with their status match.

  2. Shame outs now 70k for PPWB, was 50k in early 2015

  3. Hilton and Starwood are generally very difficult to get value out of them at the top levels. At the low-mid levels, I think Hilton and Starwood provide a lot more value than Club Carlson. In my experience there are a lot more 4k Starwood and (not as many) 10k Hilton hotels in places you would want to stay, than there are 15k or even 28k Carlson hotels.

    • Frenske says:

      Agree it seems the whole Europe hotel portfolio consists of high end hotels e.g. 50k and upwards. There are cheaper ones but are often in less travelled cities or out of the centres.

  4. Does anyone know how long Amex Friend Referrals take. I need to close my account to avoid 1 year fee in 2 weeks. Setting up one for my wife but T&Cs state it takes up to 10 weeks for me to get my bonus referral points?

    • Ive done several referrals recently and have always got the points before they have received the card. Dont think I have waited more than a couple of days for any of them.

  5. The fee will be refunded pro rata when you close it anyway so I would think you are better off waiting.

    The referral points usually post pretty quickly.

    • Trickster says:

      You can keep you MR account open for a period after cancelling your Gold card. Not sure if that would work to allow the referral points to post. Plus I think you only have telephone access to it.

  6. You can also convert MR to IHG points if you transfer via Virgin.

  7. Club Carlson have some great points and cash offers. Some London hotels which are usually £180+ are £100-£110 with 10-15,000 points. Great value… Also I have got some great points and cash offers for a holiday in Malta recently at the St Julian’s property.

  8. I’ve got the unusual amex golds, and I avoid Club Carlson at all costs. Why?

    I did them once, in the Radisson in Cardiff. They upgraded me. Fine. No lounge access came with their business room.

    Let’s face it, an upgrade _is_ the lounge access. The higher rooms were no different. Oh perhaps a pod coffee maker.

    I think when I looked it it, it appeared to not be consistent on this point. So maybe you will get the lounge in some places. No matter. I avoid. Pointless status. No free breakfast. No lounge access. Upgrades to rooms which are exactly the same.

    • (unusual = usual)

    • RIccati says:

      It has more to do that Radisson hotels in the UK are nothing special.

      70,000 level for all decent Radisson hotels is unreasonable — yes, hotels get some more cash and existing balances dwindle but there are no takers anymore to actively accumulate these points.

      As Raffles says many time, the purpose of these schemes is to drive loyalty. Which they don’t seem to do or at least pretend to (IHG offers aspirational promotions).

      Some, such as Park Inn Glasgow try to pull the tricks such as charging £10/hour for the late checkout to Gold members!

    • I have never got more than a minor upgrade staying in a Radisson property(Club Carlson Gold). I never once got lounge access. Their acknowledgement of elites, ime, is far weaker than Hilton, where I nearly always got lounge access as Gold, IHG or Marriott.

    • Always amazes me what people seem to think they should get through status that they were gifted. No, lounge access is not the only upgrade. Free breakfast is an advertised benefit for their top tier, not the mid tier giveaway status.

      In response to the article: I agree, it is probably the best hotel option. A cheap points stay at the Radisson blu in Edinburgh got me out of trouble when I accidentally booked a trip there during the festival and hotel rooms were silly prices. I have also used them (plus status upgrades) to get the penthouse at their new York hotel. And they always seem to accommodate 4pm checkout – handy when I booked 10 rooms for a stag group who were not flying home until 5pm. Their hotels age unexciting but the reasonable redemption pricing plus the no blackout dates policy does mean that club Carlson has it’s uses.

  9. BA announced a 35% bonus on hotel point conversions this morning… Wondering if moving my Amex Points to Club Carlson then out again to BA would be lucrative!


    • looks good: 35% bonus Avios will be awarded to customers who convert hotel points to Avios. Convert Starpoints, Marriott Rewards points, IHG Rewards Club points, Hyatt Gold Passport points, Shangri-La Golden Cirlce Award Points, Club Carlson Gold points and Hilton Hhonors points between 20 June and 5 July 2016.

  10. Matthew says:

    SPG transfer is the winner here.

    20,000 SPG points > 25,000 (free 5,000 from SPG when convert to miles) > 33,750 Avios.

    So 20,000 SPG points convert to 33,750 Avios, effectively a 68.75% transfer bonus.

    • Fantastic if you have some sitting there.

      No good for converting MR —> SPG though (2 Membership Rewards points = 1 Starpoints® )

      • I’m hoping American Airlines come up with the same offer. I would take 33,750 AA for 40,000 MR every time.

  11. Quite a few permutations then!

    I have 39,000 Amex Points I want to get rid of before I take a 6 month holiday…

    I should do a spreadsheet with options (unless someone else has!)


    • It doesn’t stack up – if you want to convert Amex points —> hotel points —> Avios

      • Soooo….

        Spreadsheet done… If I get my balance to 40,000 Amex MR points I can convert to 20,000 Starpoints get the 5k conversion bonus and then get the 35% on top as Matthew suggested… Getting to 33,750 Avios.

        I feel some Amazon vouchers on the way and a spending shift!

  12. Excuse my temporary loss of marbles… I could of course just exchange my current 39,000 MR for 39,000 Avios and cut out the middle man!

    Almost devised a cunning scheme to forge 10p pieces by cutting the corners off 50p pieces.

    Right time for a coffee!

    • Phew, glad you saw sense! Yes, generally this is a poor offer unless you have a balance of hotel points you’re unlikely to find a use for.

  13. 20k multiples of SPG points seem to be the winner here, netting almost 34k Avios each time.
    though am still debating whether its worthwhile, as am more “Avios rich” than “SPG rich” and would end up costing more if looking to replace the latter with MR points.

    Particularly with the addition of design hotels, there are now quite a lot of good value uses for SPG points out there IMO…

    • It is 1p per Avios if you buy the SPG points.

      Would I transfer an existing SPG balance? It partly depends on how many you’ve got. Even if SPG points are not useful to you now, the merger with Marriott Rewards in 2018 may change that. I have a lot of Avios and I value my SPG points, mainly for SPG Moments events, so my SPG points are staying where they are.

      • $490 = 20,000 Starpoints.
        Add on the SPG bonus conversion to Avios = 25,000 Avios @ £334
        Add on the BA 35% bonus = 33,750 Avios

        • Nothing wrong with sticking 67,500 Avios @ 1p in your a/c, ie you + best beloved, you might need them

  14. “For example Hyatt Gold Passport Programme is 1 Avios for every 2.5 loyalty points converted. Therefore, an Eligible Participant who converts 5,000 of Hyatt Gold Passport Programme loyalty points will earn 2,500 Avios in total. ”

    the example under T&C works out at 25%?

  15. SJotter says:

    Sorry Chaps and Chapessess

    Im a digital nomad and but cant help thinking that if we concentrated more on generating income for ourselves instead of these very trivial awards (Free Wifi , Free Water ! , Free lounge access with wifi and water!) we would be be liberated from this points equals prizes culture that keeps us from living our lives .Have we not lost our minds when the discussion is whether a nights stay at a Hilton in Baltimore Airport is worth X number of points ? Come now ! Surely as human beings we have more value . Rise Above !