Posted by Ric Garrido

Club Carlson announced changes today including a reduction in elite bonus points for Silver and Gold members, elimination of the online booking bonus as a standard feature and a new category 7 hotel award level at 70,000 points.

On the plus side (yes, there are some enhancements too), award stays will be elite qualifying, room upgrades using points will be offered and members can earn points for food and beverage purchases during award stays when charged to the room. The last benefit is one I never noticed did not already exist.

Club Carlson March 15, 2014 benefits changes announcement can be seen here along with the list of hotels changing award category.

Overall, this is a major program devaluation in my opinion, although the benefits being eliminated and reduced were above the industry norm for hotel loyalty program benefits since Club Carlson was launched in 2011.

Online Booking Bonus eliminated, except for promotional periods.

Overall, my quick assessment of these changes is elimination of the online booking bonus is not a surprise. That was an outlier benefit for hotel loyalty programs. In the three years since Club Carlson launched, the ability to earn 1,000 to 3,000 points for booking through the hotel chain’s reservations was highly generous. The years of promotions and Club Carlson Visa card members receiving complimentary Gold elite meant millions of points were being issued simply for booking rooms. 2,000 bonus points for a reservation was equivalent to the points earning of $100 hotel spend.

 

Club Carlson Gold elite bonus reduced from 50% to 35%.

Club Carlson Silver elite bonus reduced from 25% to 15%.

Club Carlson Concierge elite bonus remains the same at 75%.

The reduction of the elite member bonus earning rate for Club Carlson Silver and Gold members is a big blow on top of the elimination of the online booking bonus. Again, this aligns more with the other major hotel loyalty programs.

The change still maintains a higher than industry average for Club Carlson Gold elite members at 35% compared to 25% for Hilton and Marriott. However, the change for Club Carlson Silver elite members dropping from 25% to 15% places the program on par with Hilton and Hyatt low tiers, while Marriott Rewards Silver elite members get 20% bonus points.

The numbers for a $100 hotel stay reveal the impact of these changes.

Before March 15 changes, a Gold elite member earns 5,000 points.

  • Online booking bonus 2,000 points.
  • $100 x 20 points = 2,000 points.
  • 50% Gold elite bonus = 1,000 points.

After March 15 changes, a Gold elite member earns 2,700 points.

  • $100 x 20 points = 2,000 points.
  • 35% Gold elite bonus = 700 points.

This is a 46% reduction in points earned on a $100 hotel stay.

That is a massively substantial reduction in points.

 

New Category 7 Hotel Awards at 70,000 points per night

London, Paris, Cannes, Amsterdam, Moscow and Dubai will be the locations for the initial category 7 hotels.

As of March 15, 2014, the hotels listed below will move to a new Hotel Category, resulting in an increase in the number of points required to redeem an award night. The new categories apply to bookings made on or after May 1, 2014.

Update Feb 20: The original webpage from Club Carlson mistakenly showed May 1, 2014 as the date new categories would apply for reward bookings. That was corrected to March 15, 2014. You must book by March 14 to get hotel reward nights at current rates for hotels rising in hotel reward category.

Club Carlson Category 7 Hotels (9 properties)

  • Radisson Royal Hotel, Dubai, UAE
  • Radisson Blu Le Dokhan’s Hotel, Paris Trocadero, Paris, France
  • Radisson Blu 1835 Hotel & Thalasso, Cannes, France
  • Radisson Blu Le Metropolitan Hotel, Paris Eiffel
  • Radisson Blu Hotel Champs Elysees, Paris
  • art’otel, Amsterdam
  • Radisson Royal Hotel, Moscow
  • The May Fair. London
  • Plaza on the River, London

Time to burn those points now if these hotels are in your travel plans, since a 40% increase in award cost is a big devaluation.

Complete list of March 15 Club Carlson Hotel Award Category Changes.

The new category 7 hotel award level is unwelcome, but again, not unexpected, especially following the announcement yesterday of the new Quorvus Collection luxury market segment brand to launch in late 2014.

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Certainly some or most of these QC hotels will occupy the category 7 award level.

Room Upgrades with Points and Elite Qualifying Award Stays

On the plus side room upgrades using points will be a sort of new feature. Club Carlson already offered premium rooms at many hotels for 50% more points. Award stays will count for elite status. This follows the tend of other hotel loyalty programs in recent years. Elite credit for award stays is of little benefit to Club Carlson Visa card members who receive Gold elite status complimentary as a card benefit, unless you are in the ballpark of making Concierge status with award stays.

The good news?

For now, the one free night on award stays as a Club Carlson Visa card member remains. Nice – if you are an American.

We will have to wait and see how the points upgrade rooms works out.

All in all, not a pleasant post to write, and for this loyalty traveler, the changes dampen the excitement of the Radisson Red and Quorvus Collection new hotel brands announcement yesterday.

*****

Let your voice be heard.

I am currently in Bloomington, Minnesota  at the Radisson and Radisson Blu Americas Conference surrounded by the top executives of the Carlson Rezidor Hotels Group.

Leave comments and questions on this post for me to share regarding these Club Carlson changes.

11 Responses

  1. Ric:

    Thanks for the quick analysis. I concur with your opinion. Disappointing, bad news. Decreases my interest in CC. Will just drive me toward Hotwire/Priceline.

    46% reduction for Gold earnings on a typical $100 stay in one whack is brutal.

    Comment by toomanybooks on February 19th, 2014 at 2:28 am
  2. Thanks and bye bye…

    With all the devaluations recently it’s time to reconsider booking better rooms for cheaper prices, right away, at Expedia, booking.com, Priceline and the like…

    At the end of the day, I might as well book club level rooms at discounted prices in the first place and not worry about loyalty programs altogether, anymore.

    Same as with the airlines. It was nice while it lastet but now it’s time to move on.

    Comment by Mike from Berlin on February 19th, 2014 at 5:01 am
  3. What I don’t get is that prices for rooma and airfare keep increasing, anyways, so the companies DO make even with inflation that way, already. Why devalue their programs ON TOP of that, at all?

    Comment by Mike from Berlin on February 19th, 2014 at 5:02 am
  4. Major Devaluations at CC ….

    A complete blood bath!!!

    And they have the balls to email us for a Freddy vote…

    Thanks Ric for your post.

  5. […] If you’re interested in more details, Loyalty Lobby has a great post this morning detailing the changes and impact on elites. […]

  6. As Concierge the loss of the 3K bookinh bonus is the major hit.

    Lacking special promotions going on (recent 38K bonus for 3 nights etc.) CC is no longer an obvious choice for building points when no other programs have anything special going.

    I am switching much more to be driven 100% by promotions (Megabonus, Big Win etc.). In other words the playinmg field is leveled and loyalty to any brand is now greatly rediced after all the progam changes.

    By end of April I will have maxed Megabonus, CC 38K, and Big Win. Won’t know where I’m staying after that until the new promos came out.

  7. @toomanybooks – the decrease in points earned drops as hotel spend increases. For example, a $500 hotel stay for Club Carlson Gold will be about 20% fewer points since the booking bonus is per stay.

    Yet, a $500 stay earns 10,000 base points and the drop in Gold elite bonus points is 1,500 fewer elite points for the stay.

    I use $100 stays as my mainstay analysis assuming a person stays one night in a hotel. Many members will spend well over $100 per stay.

    And obviously award stays counting for elite is a big program improvement, especially for members outside the USA who can’t get Gold elite simply through the Club Carlson Visa.

    Reaching 35 nights or 20 stays for Gold elite may be much easier for some Club Carlson members with award stays counting. Although these members may earn 20% to almost 50% fewer points with each hotel stay making it harder to accumulate points needed for award stays.

    The real incentive is for members earning Gold elite through hotel stays or racking up lots of credit card points to use those points for awards and try and reach Concierge with 30 stays or 75 nights.

    But I think it is probably a small subset of Club Carlson members who will have the points or the time to book and stay that many nights on award stays to bridge the gap between Gold and Concierge even with the program change to count award nights and stays as elite qualifying.

    That is why I think the program is devalued for a majority of members with the loss of online booking bonus and reduction in elite bonus points at the Silver and Gold level.

    Room upgrades with points is likely the better program improvement than award stays counting for elite with these changes for members in the USA.

    Comment by Ric Garrido on February 19th, 2014 at 9:26 am
  8. There are three things that are constant in life, taxes, death and devaluation. There is still going to be opportunities to get great deals but we will have to continue to evolve to exploit them.

  9. Update Feb 20: The original webpage from Club Carlson mistakenly showed May 1, 2014 as the date new categories would apply for reward bookings. That was corrected to March 15, 2014. You must book by March 14 to get hotel reward nights at current rates for hotels rising in hotel reward category.

  10. […] anticipated devaluations ever. Actually, I did not think it was that bad. Loyalty Traveler has the complete scoop without seeing this as an excuse to assault your eyes with the Club Carlson credit card affiliate […]

  11. […] what they like to call an “update”) to their program.  Loyalty Traveler as usual has the full scoop, but the basics […]

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