Review: (U.S. Bank) Club Carlson Premier Rewards VISA Signature Card

Club Carlson is the loyalty program for the Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group, including the Country Inn and Radisson brands. While they have a moderate presence in the U.S., their real sweet spot is in Europe. T and I got these cards for a Euro trip we have yet to plan. One of these days, I guess. Meanwhile, the points will keep on accumulating (as we continue to pay for the annual fees).

Club Carlson Premier Rewards VISA Signature Card

Club Carlson Premier Rewards VISA Signature Card. Image Credit: Club Carlson and VISA.

Benefits:

  • 50,000 point bonus after first purchase and an additional 35,000 point bonus after spend of $2,500 in 3 months
  • Earn 10x Club Carlson Gold Points (per dollar spent) at participating Carlson Rezidor hotels
  • Earn 5x points for all other purchases
  • Earn 1 free night (for a U.S. stay) when you charge $10,000 then renew your card
  • Complimentary Club Carlson Gold Elite Status
  • 40,000 point bonus each year card is renewed
  • VISA Signature benefits

Damage:

  • $75 annual fee, not waived in the first year
  • 14.49% to 23.49% APR variable, based upon your creditworthiness
  • 2-3% foreign transaction fee
  • U.S. Bank tends to be very conservative in accepting applicants and may extend a very small credit line; see analysis for more information.

Analysis:

The first thing is, this used to be a really awesome card. Too awesome. The way they set it up, every time someone booked two award nights, the second one was free. So you could book multiple two nights stays (perhaps by switching off with a partner) and only pay for the first night each time. So, inevitably they took this benefit away. What we’re left with is a fairly okay hotel card with very few premium places to stay in the U.S. and none at all in Hawaii (and only one in Japan, the Narita Radisson). Redemptions are not bad, especially considering you’d earn 5x points on all spending; that would mean a Category 7 standard room would only require $14,000 in credit card spending to earn. By contrast, a top Hyatt room would require $30,000 in regular spending, and a top Hilton room would require $30,000-$70,000 in regular spending.

Club Carlson Award Chart. Image Credit: courtesy of Club Carlson.

Club Carlson Gold Elite Status allows you some discounts on food and beverages, you earn some bonus points on eligible states (35% of base points), and there is potential for room upgrade, early check-in and late checkout, and maybe a fruit plate or other welcome gift. But no free Continental breakfast (reserved only for top tier Concierge status).

This card should definitely be considered by those interested in traveling through Europe. The other major U.S. hotel brands are sometimes under-represented across the continent, and this particular chain would do well in filling in the gaps. Also, it’s a U.S. Bank card, so if you’ve worn out your welcome with Chase, Amex, Citi, and Barclay, well, then, here’s another option. That being said, as referenced above, U.S. Bank can be very conservative in accepting applicants, and those accepted might be granted very low credit limits, or (automatically) considered for lower tier cards. This actually worked, strangely, in my favor when I was initially granted a Club Carlson Platinum Rewards VISA Card (50,000 points after first purchase; 10,000 points after $1,500 spend in 3 months; 25,000 bonus upon renewal; $50 annual fee; 6x points at Carlson Rezidor hotels; 3x points on all other purchases; Club Carlson Silver Elite Status). After shrugging off the initial indignation, I quickly made the initial spending requirements, paid the balance, and then asked for reconsideration. Which was granted. So, ultimately, I was given the initial first purchase bonuses for both the Platinum and Premium Rewards cards (but only the spending bonus for the Premium card), for a total of 135,000 points (plus spend) for only one hard credit pull.

The Fields that are Alive with the Sound of Griswalds. Image Credit: courtesy of National Lampoon’s Eurpean Vacation directed by Amy Heckerling (1985).

Oh, one other solid benefit of this card: any elite member can transfer points from their account to another program member upon request. So Taryn and I may consolidate accounts and cancel one card in order to save on annual fee costs while preserving our points until we finally decide to make like the Griswalds. The 40,000 bonus points upon renewal are worth about $160, so it’s worth it for us to pay the $75 annual fee until then.

Questions, Comments or Criticisms?