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Considering Club Carlson instead of Starwood

Ken555

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Opinions and suggestions welcome!

With the recent news that Starwood will be acquired by Marriott, I'm ready to jump ship. They might surprise me with offering a good plan, but I've generally been displeased with Marriott more so than Starwood over the years which was one of the original reasons I chose Starwood many years ago.

My travel habits have changed in recent years and I'm finding more interest in visiting smaller cities, have little interest in elite benefits (other than free breakfast, when offered), and could care less about having a marble bathroom in a hotel. I'm more interested in cleanliness, quietness, service quality, and being in a desirable location (easy transit, not far from sites, etc). In the last 10+ years I've used many (most?) of my SPG points in Europe. I also don't really care about suite upgrades (most of the suites I've had were less desirable than the regular rooms), though some perks are nice (water, high/quite floor, breakfast, etc). Starwood has some excellent hotels and I've enjoyed them, but don't need the best. I'm primarily interested in value for money (sound familiar? I bought my timeshares resale, too!). :)

The vast majority of my hotel points are earned via credit card. Starwood earns 1 point per $1, typically. This is what I use for all my calculations. While not comprehensive, my personal cost is ~9,600 points per night (across ~129 hotel nights over many years); I intend on updating this to be more accurate soon with recent stays. This means it cost me approx. $9,600 spend on the credit card per night.

As I'm more interested in redeeming points for travel in Europe (though I do some redemption in North America and elsewhere) I'm particularly interested in a program that has a good network of hotels especially outside of the big cities and at a reasonable rate. From what I can determine, I should consider Club Carlson.

Club Carlson credit card offers 5 points per US$ spent anywhere other than at the hotel (this is referring to their Premiere Visa - http://www.clubcarlsonvisa.com/credit/visaPremierCard.do). I randomly selected a few hotels in Europe to use for comparison. I was surprised to find the value available at some of the hotels, especially with cash & points (more value than the current Starwood redemption options). For example, here are five hotels (in big cities...) for comparison. These rates were all for the same three night stay in May 2016.

Park Inn Berlin City-West
c&p = 5,000 + $64.17, $0.0428 per point
free night = 15,000, $0.0356 per point
cash = $107

art’otel berlin kudamm
c&p = 5,000 + $88, $0.058
free night = 28,000, $0.026
cash = $146

park inn berlin alexanderplatz
c&p = 10,000 + $76, $0.025
free night = 38,000, $0.0165
cash = $126

radisson blu alcron prague
c&p = 10,000 + $135, $0.0455
free night = 44,000, $0.0257
cash = $226

radisson blu es. hotel, rome
c&p = 15,000 + $178, $0.0396
free night = 50,000, $0.0297
cash = $297

Club Carlson hotels may be viewed at https://www.clubcarlson.com/fgp/hotelcategory/displayhotels.do

Also, the "cost" for cash & points at many hotels is significantly less than Starwood. 5,000 Club Carlson points is only US$1,000 spent on the credit card, so a three night stay at the Park In Berlin City-West hotel would only require US$3,000 on the credit card + $64.17 per night. Or, 45,000 points for US$9,000 spend for free nights (which is less than my current average cost on a per night basis with Starwood).

Other than the obvious differences with many of the Club Carlson hotels (many of which appear more equivalent to Four Points by Sheraton, though some are quite nice) am I missing something obvious?

I haven't made a change of my primary hotel loyalty program is a long, long time so this is a big deal for me. I've read a bit at Flyertalk and elsewhere, and it seems Carlson would be a good fit for me. FWIW, I also looked at IHG but the redemption cost there appears, at first glance, significantly worse than even Marriott.

Thanks for reading and the time for your opinion.
 

am1

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Club Carlson has great hotels outside of the US.

Keep in mind that the cc has foreign transaction fees even if in US$ or at their own hotels.

I have been very happy with club carlson but was disapointed when they stop giving the last night free for award stays. The credit card offers great benefits at the hotels but no free breakfast.
 

Ken555

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Club Carlson has great hotels outside of the US.



Keep in mind that the cc has foreign transaction fees even if in US$ or at their own hotels.



I have been very happy with club carlson but was disapointed when they stop giving the last night free for award stays. The credit card offers great benefits at the hotels but no free breakfast.


Thanks for the reminder. I noticed that re the foreign transaction fees, but that's okay since I have two others I use when traveling. It would be nice for them to include this benefit, though.

Are there any other hotel programs you think I should evaluate?


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am1

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I am apart of:

SPG
Marriott
Hilton
Club Carlson
IHG
Hyatt

I may dump some points into Wyndham before the year is out.

I only have the status that is given to by having the credit card. It all depends on what hotels you want to stay at and how easy it is to earn points.
 

Jimster

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Club Carlson

I just stayed at Raddison in Munich, Prague, and Berlin. Several of them are your comparison hotels. I found them more than adequate. I have stayed at starwood hotels in Europe too. I think they are comparable- although I do like the Starwood in Edinbourgh very much.

Of course, in the USA for the type of stays you are describing you are probably talking about Country Inn and Suites which are among my favorites.

While it is true the CC credit card has foreign transaction fees, it also gives you gold status. That will get you an upgrade. I often get upgraded to executive floor when staying at Radissons. In Berlin I had a gorgeous room at the Raddison Blu and i also got a balcony room with executive status in Prague. Even the Park Inns I stayed at in Europe were quite satisfactory.

Of course, nothing much is going to happen with this merger for a year or so. I don't think there is any rush to decide. If you choose to make the switch maybe you want to burn your Starwood points in the interim. The one thing that may make a difference is if Starwood points go away, it may limit your ability to transfer these into airline miles.
 

BocaBoy

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Are there any other hotel programs you think I should evaluate?

I think you should look at Hyatt. Their credit card for normal spend gives you one point per dollar (2 points at restaurants and 3 points at Hyatt hotels) but there are a lot of Hyatt hotels that require only 5,000 points for a free night. Most are Hyatt Place hotels but there are some 5,000 point full service Hyatts also, including three good ones in the Chicago suburbs, as one example. And every year with the credit card you get a free night at categories 1-4, which includes most of their hotels, including central city hotels in many major cities (e.g., San Francisco). The credit card sign up bonus is two free nights at any Hyatt worldwide. We used our sign up bonus nights at the Hyatt Regency Maui. The Hyatt credit card also gives you platinum status, which at Hyatt can be a good deal. We got nice room upgrades in Maui, as well as a few other perks.
 
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mav

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Club Carlson

I am a Club Carlson, Marriott, Hilton, IHG, and Best Western member. Have status on all. I have stayed at many Radisson and Park Inns, and been very happy with them. All of the Club Carlson stays have been outside of the USA. I am a gold member on Club Carlson, and consistently get a room upgrade and welcome gift. No breakfast though. I believe you have a be a red member.
 

Jimster

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breakfast

I am a Club Carlson, Marriott, Hilton, IHG, and Best Western member. Have status on all. I have stayed at many Radisson and Park Inns, and been very happy with them. All of the Club Carlson stays have been outside of the USA. I am a gold member on Club Carlson, and consistently get a room upgrade and welcome gift. No breakfast though. I believe you have a be a red member.

First, a red member is the lowest level of CC. If you are a black member (Conceirge member), then you get all the perks. As for breakfast, most Park Inns and Country Inn provide breakfast to every one. If you get an upgrade to an executive or business room, you often get breakfast included but that is not universal.

I used to work for Raddison for many years so I am a little partial to them, but I agree too that Hyatt is a excellent option as well. Frankly, I am not tied to any one chain since I consider location to be probably the most important consideration assuming that the quality is equivalent.
 
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Ken555

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I think you should look at Hyatt. Their credit card for normal spend gives you one point per dollar (2 points at restaurants and 3 points at Hyatt hotels) but there are a lot of Hyatt hotels that require only 5,000 points for a free night. Most are Hyatt Place hotels but there are some 5,000 point full service Hyatts also, including three good ones in the Chicago suburbs, as one example. And every year with the credit card you get a free night at categories 1-4, which includes most of their hotels, including central city hotels in many major cities (e.g., San Francisco). The credit card sign up bonus is two free nights at any Hyatt worldwide. We used our sign up bonus nights at the Hyatt Regency Maui. The Hyatt credit card also gives you platinum status, which at Hyatt can be a good deal. We got nice room upgrades in Maui, as well as a few other perks.


Yes, I neglected to mention Hyatt. Actually, I looked at them first and several times over the last few months after the many rumors appeared that they were considering buying Starwood. Unfortunately, Hyatt just doesn't have the locations I want, and it seems the cost of free nights is considerably higher than Starwood in most of the locations I would visit.

I was looking forward to a Hyatt/Starwood merger. I am not looking forward to Marriott/Starwood.


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Ken555

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I just stayed at Raddison in Munich, Prague, and Berlin. Several of them are your comparison hotels. I found them more than adequate. I have stayed at starwood hotels in Europe too. I think they are comparable- although I do like the Starwood in Edinbourgh very much.

Good to hear. I was going to visit the Starwood in Edinburgh a few years ago (back when it was just cat4) but that portion of my trip got unfortunately canceled. I'll be back next spring but just in Edinburgh for a day visit for meetings (staying elsewhere).



Of course, in the USA for the type of stays you are describing you are probably talking about Country Inn and Suites which are among my favorites.

Never stayed at any of these. I suspect I'll enjoy them, too, though my primary focus is for overseas usage.



While it is true the CC credit card has foreign transaction fees, it also gives you gold status. That will get you an upgrade. I often get upgraded to executive floor when staying at Radissons. In Berlin I had a gorgeous room at the Raddison Blu and i also got a balcony room with executive status in Prague. Even the Park Inns I stayed at in Europe were quite satisfactory.

Never stayed at a Park Inn, and it's been years since I've been at a Radisson. Based on the website I'm sure I'll be fine with any of them.



Of course, nothing much is going to happen with this merger for a year or so. I don't think there is any rush to decide. If you choose to make the switch maybe you want to burn your Starwood points in the interim. The one thing that may make a difference is if Starwood points go away, it may limit your ability to transfer these into airline miles.


This is where our opinion differs. While there may not be any actual changes in the program for some time, I always plan ahead for most of my travel. This means knowing which loyalty program I'm likely to use, make reservations as far ahead as possible, etc. For instance, I've got just under 300k StarPoints right now which doesn't include my upcoming stays (as far out as Oct 2016). I'm actually having a problem finding available time based on travel already planned to use the 300k right now (I've tentatively got a trip for May 2017 where I'm trying to use these points but SPG only has some hotel availability then with others ending at Dec 2016). I hope to use at least 100k for that trip, and likely a bit more. So, no matter what I do at this point it seems I'll have 150-175k-ish left in my account to be potentially devalued by the merger...though hopefully there will be a few ways around it such as making random reservations and then changing them in future. I'm also looking at doing one or two Nights + Flights reservations but I really don't need more airlines miles.

My point is that I have enough StarPoints for my needs. And, since I don't trust Marriott, based on what little I know of the upcoming merger, I think it's time to start accruing points in a different program. Given Club Carlson's devaluation earlier this year I'm hopeful they won't have another similar round in the near future.

FWIW, I am surprised to find a lack of Club Carlson properties in Italy (i.e. none in Florence and elsewhere). I'm still looking at their map and valuations, but it looks like the best option so far.


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akp

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I haven't read all the responses, but I'd recommend that you select a program based on your needs at the moment. All of the hotel programs have great opportunities to supplement or replace timeshare usage especially for an individual or a couple. (It is less useful for a large family of 5 like mine when we are all traveling).

IHG (intercontinental) credit card offers a free night each year you have it. $49 annual fee. So if you and your spouse each get one, you get a weekend in New York (for example) at the Intercontinental Times Square for $98. Every year.

Hilton has so many affiliated credit cards it is hard to keep track of them all, and they all give large bonuses. You can get some of the cards multiple times.

The Hyatt credit card gives two free nights after you meet the minimum spend. Again, each member of a couple gets it and you have 4 free nights.

Or you have a timeshare week in Aruba but the flights are cheaper if you stay 9 days instead of 7. Supplement with 2 days at the Hilton or Hyatt in Aruba.

I loved Club Carlson when they gave the last night free; less valuable for me now so I've dropped those cards but I still have a ton of points.
 

Ken555

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I haven't read all the responses

There are only 10 posts! How long would it take to read them? A minute? Two? :hysterical:

I'd recommend that you select a program based on your needs at the moment.

Ironically, that is exactly the reason I started this thread. It should be obvious (had you read the initial post) that I'm looking for a change due to understandable reasons which directly means that not all programs will work for me.

I loved Club Carlson when they gave the last night free; less valuable for me now so I've dropped those cards but I still have a ton of points.

I would hazard a guess that the CC program is less valuable to *all* members now that the last night free is no longer included. :D

The point of this thread is to discover if there are any specific hotel loyalty programs (with an affiliated credit card in order to earn points) that would maximize value based on my intended usage, based on their current programs.
 

mav

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First, a red member is the lowest level of CC. If you are a black member (Conceirge member), then you get all the perks. As for breakfast, most Park Inns and Country Inn provide breakfast to every one. If you get an upgrade to an executive or business room, you often get breakfast included but that is not universal.

I used to work for Raddison for many years so I am a little partial to them, but I agree too that Hyatt is a excellent option as well. Frankly, I am not tied to any one chain since I consider location to be probably the most important consideration assuming that the quality is equivalent.

Yikes, you are so right, it's the black member. As a gold I have always been upgraded to a business class room. This past Februrary we were in Beirut, Lebanon for 2 weeks and were upgraded to a business class room, given lounge access AND breakfast. Their breakfast buffet was jaw droppingly good!Only time we were ever given breakfast or lounge access though.
 

Ken555

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Yikes, you are so right, it's the black member. As a gold I have always been upgraded to a business class room. This past Februrary we were in Beirut, Lebanon for 2 weeks and were upgraded to a business class room, given lounge access AND breakfast. Their breakfast buffet was jaw droppingly good!Only time we were ever given breakfast or lounge access though.


Great to hear from several, and other sources I've read online, that gold members do receive upgrades and occasionally other perks. This actually sounds more consistent than Starwood, even though much is up to the individual hotel at CC.


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Ken555

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Just made my first Club Carlson cash+points reservation, and it's at a nice 3.55% value.
 
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