This is the first of our overview series of the main hotel loyalty schemes. Each scheme will be covered over two posts. One will list the basic facts of the scheme, the other – on the following day – will be my subjective view of what is of particular merit.
Club Carlson was launched in 2011 from the ashes of Radisson GoldPoints. It covers 1,000 hotels globally under the Radisson Blu, Radisson Red, Radisson, Park Inn, Park Plaza, Quorvus Collection and Country Inn & Suites brands (the latter is rarely seen in Europe). The Club Carlson home page is here.
What is the geographic spread?
In the UK, Radisson Blu hotels are dotted around the major cities and there are a number of budget Park Inn properties. Radisson has a London-specific sub-brand called Radisson Edwardian. Park Plaza runs a number of high quality properties in London, particularly around Waterloo / Westminster. Two of the three Quorvus Collection hotels are in the UK – The May Fair in London (review) and the G&V (ex Hotel Missoni) in Edinburgh. Redemption opportunities in London are good.
Outside the UK, Radisson is especially strong in Scandinavia and Germany. The only Radisson Red hotel in Europe so far is Brussels. In general, the chain is weak in Asia and lacks high quality hotels in North America.
Do I use them?
I rarely pay to stay with them to be honest. I do transfer American Express Membership Rewards points to Club Carlson via the generous 1:3 rate. These are generally redeemed for Park Plaza properties in London for visiting friends, usually County Hall.
I reviewed my pleasant stay at the Radisson Blu Hamburg Airport here and my stay at the Radisson Blu at Stockholm Arlanda Airport here. The Park Plaza Westminster Bridge in London is very nice as I reviewed here. I have Club Carlson Gold status via my American Express Platinum charge card.
Elite membership levels
Silver – requires 10 stays or 15 nights. Benefits are 15% bonus on base points and upgrade if available.
Gold – requires 20 stays or 35 nights. Benefits are 35% bonus on base points and upgrade if available.
Concierge – requires 30 stays or 75 nights. Benefits are 75% bonus on base points, upgrade if available and free breakfast.
Note that Silver and Gold members should receive free breakfast if upgraded to a ‘business room‘ at a Radisson Blu since that is a defined benefit of that room category, although some hotels play hardball and refuse to provide it. Other ‘business room’ benefits include free pay TV films and an in-room coffee machine.
Free internet is generally provided at all Club Carlson hotels.
All elite members can roll over their additional elite nights – but not stays – into the following year to aid requalification. They can also request late check-in and check-out.
Suite upgrades are NOT an elite benefit.
Reward nights count towards elite status qualification or requalification.
The generous benefit of 2-4-1 and 4-4-2 offers for cash stays mixing midweek and weekend nights was withdrawn in early 2017. These were exclusive to Gold and Concierge members and often provided great value – I used it in Riga once.
Club Carlson does not offer lifetime status.
Club Carlson gives a substantial 20 points per $1 spent. You will also receive an elite status bonus if applicable.
The programme has historically been relatively light on promotions and you cannot be certain that they will always be running an offer, unlike Hilton, Marriott or IHG. See our ‘Hotel Promos’ page for any current offers. The recent offer of 5,000 bonus points per night was decent.
Redemption rates for hotels run from 9,000 points in Category 1 (the cheapest Park Inn properties) to 70,000 points in Category 7. The full chart is here.
There are no discounts for extended stays.
Some hotels make business class rooms, family rooms and suites available at a premium – usually 50%. At a Radisson Blu booking a business room would mean breakfast and Pay TV is included, which can represent a good deal.
A 5-star 70,000 point redemption would typically require a Gold member to spend $2,600, excluding promotions. This is better than most of its competitors. This is based on 20 points per $1 plus the 35% Gold bonus.
Can you upgrade using points?
Not online, although you can at some hotels book higher room categories – not just standard rooms – for a larger number of points. Some hotels also allow you, at the front desk, to use points to upgrade a cash room to a higher category.
Are ‘cash and points’ redemptions available?
Yes – see the Carlson website here – although not all hotels offer them. The cash element is generally 60% of the cost of a refundable room. These deals are generally poor value if the hotel is offering aggressive discounts for prepaid bookings – the cash element on a reward night can be close to that of a prepaid ‘all cash’ room – but at other times they can work out OK.
Airline redemption options
Club Carlson point can be transferred to a large number of airlines including Avios. The ratio is a weak 10:1, however, compared to the value of using the points for stays. Arguably it is not a bad deal based on the amount spent – you still receive 2 Avios per $1 based on 20 points per $1.
Many hotels offer in-hotel ‘instant’ redemptions such as breakfast, spa credit, upgrades etc. Points can also be redeemed, at poor exchange rates, for gift cards.
Can I earn Avios directly without collecting points?
Yes, see ba.com here. You can earn 500 Avios per stay by showing your British Airways Executive Club card at check-in. You do not need to be a member of Club Carlson to do this.
Credit card partnerships
Can you get elite status with a UK credit card? Yes, American Express Platinum members receive Gold status for as long as they retain the card.
Is there a Club Carlson credit card in the UK? No
Is Club Carlson an Amex Membership Rewards partner? Yes, at the very generous transfer rate of 1:3.
Purchasing and transferring points
You can buy Club Carlson points for $7 per 1,000 via this link. This is a very reasonable price. You can buy up to 40,000 points per year. Carlson runs occasional bonus promotions which give you an additional 30% or more points with every purchase.
Points can be transferred to other members without charge, which is a useful benefit. Details are here. If you are not an elite member you need to share an address with the other person.