We only recommend this card if you already stay at Club Carlson hotels frequently and are aware of the limitations of its hotel locations.
You won’t find many Carlson hotels in beach locations like Hawaii or the Caribbean, and they tend to be strongest in Europe. You also won’t find many locations in big U.S. cities, but you will find plenty in the suburbs and smaller cities.
The hotel options are just too limited to be useful to most people, so you’re probably better off with a more versatile travel rewards card.
Club Carlson points can be used for free nights at Carlson family hotels, which include:
Carlson doesn’t have many hotels in beach areas like Hawaii, the Caribbean, or Mexico, so don’t count on Club Carlson points to get you a beach vacation. But they have lots of hotels throughout Europe, and they’re great for saving on hotels there.
The price of a free night depends on the category of the hotel you’re booking and these are the prices for each category, with links to a directory of hotels in each category:
Category 1 – 9,000 points
Includes hotels like the Park Inn Budapest
Category 2 – 15,000 points
Includes hotels like the Radisson Baton Rouge
Category 3 – 28,000 points
Includes hotels like the Radisson Blu Lisbon
Category 4 – 38,000 points
Includes hotels like the Radisson Orlando Lake Buena Vista
Category 5 – 44,000 points
Includes hotels like the Radisson Blu Milan
Category 6 – 50,000 points
Includes hotels like the Radisson Blu Rome
Category 7 – 70,000 points
Includes hotels like the Radisson Champs Elysees in Paris
We value Club Carlson points at about 0.4 cents each, so 10,000 points can get you about $40 in hotel value.
Earning 5x points per dollar on the Club Carlson Premier Rewards credit card, here’s what you’d need to spend on the card to earn a free night in each category:
So if you spend between $1,000 and $2,000 a month on the card, you have a good shot at earning a free night from your spending. And that’s on top of the 40,000 points you get each year for holding the card, so it’s not too hard to get a few hundred dollars in rewards every year, if you like staying in places that have a Club Carlson hotel.
If you don’t want to pay an annual fee at all, and want to earn Club Carlson points, the basic Club Carlson Rewards Visa is your option.
The point earning is pretty bad, though. You only earn 1 point per dollar you spend (compared to 5 points per dollar for the Premier) – so it could take you $5,000 – $10,000 a month in spending to earn a free night at many properties.
A better bet is to just get a general travel rewards card with no annual fee like the Bank of America Travel Rewards card, that earns points you can use like cash for any travel. With $1,000 – $2,000 a month in spending on that card you’ll rack up around $300 a year in rewards, enough for at least a free night at many hotels.
The Club Carlson Rewards Visa looks identical to the Premier Rewards version, but has a $50 annual fee ($25 less than the Premier). The Rewards Visa Signature lets you earn 3x points on all your spending, versus 5x on the Premier, and you get 6x points for purchases at Carlson hotels, versus 10x points for the Premier.
You also get 25,000 points each year you renew the card, instead of 40,000 for the Premier.
See the pattern?
Our view here is if you’re going to pay an annual fee to earn Club Carlson points, you’re better off paying $25 more for the Premier. The extra 15,000 points with the annual bonus gets you about $25 – $50 in hotel value, and 5x points on everything makes you come out even further ahead.
The main purpose of this card is for U.S. Bank to have a card for people whose credit quality isn’t as high as it wants for the richer rewards of the Premier. Our advice is to stay away from this version – either pay no annual fee or go for the $75 level.
The Club Carlson Premier Rewards Visa is from U.S. Bank, and they tend to be pretty strict about approvals if you’ve applied for many cards recently. And beware that if you apply for the Premier with a $75 annual fee, and your credit profile isn’t strong enough, you might be given a Rewards Visa Signature instead with a $50 annual fee and less lucrative rewards.
Nothing will happen to your points if you cancel your card. Club Carlson Gold Points expire after 24 months of no activity in your account. Anytime you earn or use points, the clock is reset another 24 months, so you don’t need to have the credit card to keep your account active.
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Or, consider other cards for 50,000 more miles or points that transfer into United miles with additional flexibility for your everyday spending.
Reward nights start at 10,000 points. Free anniversary night (no points needed) good at any IHG hotel (Intercontinental, Crowne Plaza, more).
$1,000 toward travel or transfer to United, Southwest, and more.