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.
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.)