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 Honors, 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

Because Starwood Preferred Guest points can be transferred into Marriott Rewards at the ratio of 3:1, you can add to that list:

Marriott Rewards, with a de facto conversion rate of 1:1.5

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 six 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 London 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 Honors requires up to 70,000 points for Hilton London Tower Bridge which is up to 35,000 Amex points

Starwood Preferred Guest requires 20,000 SPG points for Le Meridien Piccadilly which is 40,000 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.

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Comments

  1. I have never used one of their hotels but am about to request Club Carlson Gold status through Amex Platinum to status match with Sixt Platinum as I have a car hire booking coming up.
    https://www.headforpoints.com/2014/05/12/free-sixt-gold-card-for-club-carlson-gold/

  2. Probably depends on the hotel, that nice Park Plaza Westminister could previously be had for equivalent of 16,667 MR pts. Great stay there in 2015. I managed instant Gold with Carlson earlier last year through a Promo offer, hadbgreat stay n Manchester as a result.

    Any of course as Genghis & co know, the decent DoubleTree KL can be had for equivalent of only 5000 MR pts, but you’d also currently get 2000 HH pts back in the current promo…
    https://www.headforpoints.com/2017/01/09/doubletree-kuala-lumpur-hilton-hhonors/

    However my coin flip has landed on a cash booking at the Hilton KL, hopefully with Exec access, will give a snippet of feedback after my stay…

    • Request a park view.

    • Great choice if u like spending all day in lounges or visiting empty conference centres. Not so good if you want to see and breathe KL

    • Axel – Probs too tired for much tourist stuff, this is purely a one nighter positioning for the flight home, hope to spend most of the day near the swimming pool….

      Thanks for the tip Crafty, got a Lake view.

    • In Doubletree KL right now! Great property for the price and a decent location with the LRT station a few minutes walk away.

  3. Last time I stayed at a club Carlson property they gave zero recognition of gold status with them and they completely ignored my request to be away from lift by putting me opposite the lift!!!! This was Radisson Manchester City centre

    • the_real_a says:

      Hint – ask for a coffee machine in the booking comments 🙂 I doubt you would notice an upgrade otherwise. And don’t be afraid to call down for the welcome gift, its often a large fruit plate or a decent qty of chocolate.

    • Was there in November, 3 double rooms all upgraded to superior with free breakfast for all guests, would definitely return..

  4. So you need to spend £33,000 to £40,000 plus to get a one night stay worth maybe £150 or so.

    Hardy good value on any of them.

    • Not if your savvy you dont, just a few more quid past hitting your target spend of £2000 on a new card would get you the PPWB….

  5. Pangolin says:

    On pretty much the same day I got upgraded to Gold status in Club Carlson, they removed the 241 and 442 deals for Elite members. As this was the only worthwhile thing about their program I’ve been happy to ignore them ever since. As Gareth says above, they have zero recognition of status so there’s no reason to patronise them now that the weekend deals are history.

    It’s similar to Accor. Once they canned Happy Mondays most people here probably gave up on them. At least Accor can be dirt cheap though.

    • Not true for me, I get upgraded all the time, including a huge suite when on holiday in Malta with my partner and child. I’m only gold.

  6. Alan Young says:

    Happy New Year Rob, can my wife move her MR points to my Club Carlson account?

    • I did this once, years ago, and it did work. Try it with a very tiny transfer (minimum is 9 points!).

    • The Original Nick says:

      Alan, I’m convinced I moved some of my Mum’s MR points to my Dad’s CC account. Same surname and address. Do a dummy run of a small amount first.

  7. I stayed at the Radisson in Vilnius and was treated like an emperor. Was the first time I stayed in one of their hotels after having status match from Accor Platinum the other year so maybe thats why. Upgraded room was excellent, but shame about the Soviet style balcony.

    We had the free breakfast in room and ordered everything on the menu and got everything! Felt a bit embarrassed when the trolley came heaving with way too much food (didnt realise we would get double of each item) but they said why not go for it!

    Had fruit basket and wine as gift and had the option of bonus points or taxi credit on check out too. This was late 2016.

  8. Graham Walsh says:

    I’ve got a stash of CC points as it’s now my default go to in Oslo. Tempted to see where I can use them on a summer holiday if possible and transfer Amex points to them.

    I’ve found recognition is hit and miss. They know I stayed last month in an upgraded room and my status and no recognition or upgrade. I know that depends on availability but welcome back Mr Walsh thanks for being a Gold member takes 30 seconds.

  9. I’ve got a stash of around 100,000 club Carlson points that I have had for ages. Any suggestions where to burn them for a weekend in Europe?

    Anyone know of any sites listing the 9,000 point properties?

  10. Lee Grant says:

    Not sure how spending £33,000 to £40,000 plus on a charge card is good value when exchanging for a hundred pound or so basic room.

    There has to be far better returns.

    • Genghis says:

      For example? A bit more than £100 IMO and obvs depends on how you earn your MR points. I also wouldn’t recommend £40k of spend on one card.

    • the_real_a says:

      I sometimes feel Mr Mid market these days, or just generally tight – but the best Carlson redemption’s in my opinion are the regional park inn`s that go for circa 9k-15k points.

  11. Park Inn Oslo airport is our go to hotel to start our ex-EU trips. Always had recognition with upgraded room and breakfast. Sometimes use MR points or cash depending on price. Have gold through Amex Plat

  12. Hilton Tower Bridge at 70,000/night is a poor comparator for this article IMHO as it is rarely that expensive. Just checked tomorrow 41000, a Saturday in August 51000, and Royal Wedding day on 19 May when it does hit 70000. Conrad is fairly stable at 70000ish but is that comparison really fair either? My guestimate for a comparable city centre Hilton group property most of the year would be 45000-55000 so call it 50000.for something like DT Westminster. Add to that, the flexibility of using points and cash at Hilton, the greater UK and global coverage, and the recent evidence amex can increase the transfer rate to 1:3 then perhaps the conclusion needs to be re-evaluated? I’m not saying it does but it’s worth considering. At the end of the day it’s a complex issue to boil down into a short, simple article with a general conclusion.

    Happy new year to all.

    • The Hilton would hit 70,000 points on any night where the cash rate exceeded £200. And, midweek for a business hotel next to EY’s HQ, £200 is a fair price much of the time. It is cheap at weekends admittedly.

      • I was still uncertain about that so checked 5 random week days over the next 4 months. Prices ranged from 39k up to 70k with 2 out of 5 for the latter. I realise it does not matter tnough because your article remains illustrative of any 70k Hilton night regardless of the hotel in question.

  13. HNY to all. Any thoughts on how to get c135k Club Carlson points (that I do not wish to use for Club Carlson hotel redempions) converted into Avios by whatever transfer/conversion method? Or is impossible?
    Thanks for your help

    • Genghis says:

      10:1 conversion (no intermediary necessary) so about a loss in value of about 2/3.

    • They convert into Avios but the rate is poor (10:1). You are a lot better off using them for hotels, even if it means selling them to friends on the cheap. If you value an Avios at 1p and a CC point at 0.33p then you are losing 2/3rd of the value.

  14. No Bits today, but found a useful thing on a Lufthansa flight this evening – Boingo access via Amex Plat works for free inflight WiFi 🙂 (posting it from on board just now!).

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