Club Carlson Reward Category Changes for March 31, 2011

Club Carlson is replacing the goldpoints plus loyalty program for Carlson Hotels as of March 31, 2011. Carlson Hotels includes the hotel brands of Radisson, Country Inn & Suites, Park Plaza and Park Inn.

The announcement this week of major hotel loyalty program changes for goldpoints plus has many members wondering if they should burn their points now before Club Carlson changes go into effect.

There are still many unknowns for the program member. I’ll share what I know at this time regarding some of the changes.

Carlson Club Hotel Reward Category Table

The good news is the reduction in points for every category.

Loyalty travelers know the assignment of hotels within the hotel reward category structure is what really matters. And here the good news is mixed with bad.

Carlson Hotels communications team provided me a list of the new hotel categories. I have made a rough preliminary assessment. There are over 1,000 hotels and I will not be able to complete a detailed analysis for at least a week. The numbers I am sharing here are not precise.

My Preliminary Observations on Carlson Club Hotel Reward Category Changes

  • Category 6 = 60 hotels in 2011 vs. 65 hotels in 2010
  • Category 5 = 163 hotels in 2011 vs. 130 hotels in 2010
  • Category 4 = 263 hotels in 2011 vs. 147 hotels in 2010
  • Category 3 = 382 hotels in 2011 vs. 220 hotels in 2010
  • Category 2 = 165 hotels vs. 436 hotels hotels in 2010
  • Category 1 = 45 hotels vs. 134 hotels in 2010

Again, let me reiterate that these are not precise numbers. There appear to be about 75 hotels too many listed for 2010. I am sharing these rough estimates primarily to point out some notable changes and I will develop a more detailed, more precise analysis of hotel category shifts in the next two weeks.

Category 6 Hotel Rewards

The good news is a reduction from 60,000 points to 50,000 points for aspirational properties in the Club Carlson portfolio like the Radisson Royal Hotel Moscow, recently voted the #1 luxury hotel in Russia in the World Travel Awards 2010.

[Update Feb 18, 9:30pm — I find it ironic when I saw an interesting coincidence to see Brian Kelly, The Points Guy quoted in this article published in The Independent yesterday:

“My biggest problem with Carlson is the lack of ‘aspiration’ properties – properties [where] I look forward to redeeming my hard earned points,” he told Relaxnews, “Radissons are hardly my idea of a retreat from the rigors of corporate travel.”

This landmark Russian hotel is one of the Seven Sisters skyscraper projects commissioned by Stalin. It is ranked the #3 Business Traveler hotel in Moscow on TripAdvisor and #12 overall of 161 Moscow hotels.

Look over the 60+ goldpoints plus category 6 hotels and you will find several aspirational hotels.]

Radisson Royal Hotel (formerly Ukraina Hotel), Moscow, Russian Federation

My analysis of the category 6 changes show 21 hotels currently designated as category 6 properties for 60,000 points/night will drop to category 5 rewards at 44,000 points per night.

  1. Radisson Blu Palais Hotel, Vienna Vienna Austria
  2. Regent Esplanade Hotel, Zagreb Zagreb Croatia
  3. Radisson Blu Alcron Hotel Prague Czech Republic
  4. Radisson Blu Le Dokhan’s Hotel, Paris Trocadero Paris France
  5. Radisson Blu Hotel, Berlin Berlin Germany
  6. Radisson Blu Resorts Schloss Fleesensee Goehren Lebbin Germany
  7. Radisson Blu 1919 Hotel, Reykjavik Reykjavik Iceland
  8. Radisson Blu Royal Hotel, Dublin Dublin Ireland
  9. Radisson Blu Majestic Resort Galzignano Terme Galzignano Terme Italy
  10. Radisson Blu Resort, St. Julian’s Malta St. Julian’s Malta
  11. Radisson Blu Hotel Norge, Bergen Bergen Norway
  12. Radisson Blu Royal Hotel, Bryggen Bergen Norway
  13. Radisson Blu Hotel, Bucharest Bucharest Romania
  14. Radisson Slavjanskaya Hotel, Moscow Moscow Russia
  15. Radisson Blu Hotel, Dakar Dakar Senegal
  16. Radisson Blu Hotel, Madrid Prado Madrid Spain
  17. Radisson Blu Hotel, Edinburgh Edinburgh United Kingdom
  18. Park Inn Russell Square London United Kingdom
  19. The Regent Beijing Beijing China
  20. Radisson Hotel Delhi New Delhi India
  21. Park Plaza Hotel Gurgaon Gurgaon India

There are 19 hotels currently in goldpoints category 5 to be assigned category 6 in Club Carlson. The reward price will remain unchanged at 50,000 points per night, so I am not listing them here.

There are 2 hotels currently in category 6 dropping to category 4 in Club Carlson: (60,000 points now and dropping to 38,000 points.)

  • Radisson Blu Milan   
  • Al Muna Kareem Radisson Blu Hotel, Al Madinah, Saudi Arabia

One hotel currently in Category 4 (40,000 points) is rising to category 6 in Club Carlson at 50,000 points.

  • Radisson Blu Hotel Astana (changes from 4 to 6)

[Update Feb 18, 9:30pm – I want to highlight an important aspect of Club Carlson category 6 hotel rewards. Last month I wrote a column for InsideFlyer “Scaling Peaks of High Category Hotel Awards”  showing how most hotel loyalty programs require $4,000 in hotel spend to earn a free night at the highest reward hotels. Carlson Club will be the fastest hotel program for earning a top category reward night.

Comparison of Hotel Spend to Top category reward night across major hotel loyalty programs

  • Carlson Club = $2,500 in hotel spend to earn 50,000 base points = category 6.
  • Hilton HHonors (Points & Points earner) = $3,334 in hotel spend to earn 50,000 base points = category 7.
  • IHG Priority Club = $4,000 in hotel spend to earn 40,000 base points = InterContinental upper tier.
  • Marriott Rewards = $4,000 in hotel spend to earn 4,000 base points = category 8.
  • Hyatt Gold Passport = $4,400 in hotel spend to earn 22,000 base points = category 6.
  • Hilton HHonors (Points & Miles earner) = $5,000 in hotel spend to earn 50,000 base points = category 7.
  • Starwood Preferred Guest = $10,000 in hotel spend to earn 20,000 base points = category 6.
  • These comparisons exclude higher end properties like Waldorf-Astoria (up to 80,000 HHonors points); Ritz-Carlton (up to 70,000 Marriott Rewards points); and SPG category 7 properties (up to 140,000 points).


Bad News comes at Low Category reward nights

The major negative change of Club Carlson is going to be the upward shift in hotel reward category for 200+ hotels in Club Carlson that currently are in the lower categories 1, 2 and 3 of goldpoints plus. 

Category 1 will be depleted by two-thirds of its current hotel category assignments when about 90 of the 135 hotels shift up in category. The decrease in reward cost from 15,000 points per night to 9,000 points (40% decrease) is tempered by the fact that the category will see most of its hotels move to higher category reward levels.

This change places Club Carlson  category 1 hotel assignments (45 hotels or about 4.2% of hotel portfolio) in a similar situation as Starwood Preferred Guest category 1 (31 hotels or about 3% of hotel portfolio) and Hilton HHonors category 1 classification (42 hotels or about 1.1% of hotel portfolio). 

Club Carlson has a truly accurate marketing statement, “the fast way to a free night”.

5 paid nights on $90 room rates or $450 in base points earns 9,000 points for a free night at a Club Carlson category 1 hotel.

Comparison of Hotel Spend to Earn Category 1 across major hotel loyalty programs

  • Carlson Club = $450 in hotel spend to earn 9,000 base points = category 1 reward night.
  • Hilton HHonors (Points & Points earner) = $500 in hotel spend to earn 7,500 base points = category 1 reward night.
  • IHG Priority Club = $500 to earn 5,000 base points for PointBreaks reward night.
  • Hilton HHonors (Points & Miles earner) = $750 in hotel spend to earn 7,500 base points = category 1 reward night.
  • Marriott Rewards = $750 in hotel spend to earn 7,500 base points = category 1 reward night.
  • IHG Priority Club = $1,000 in hotel spend to earn 10,000 base points = Holiday Inn low tier reward night.
  • Hyatt Gold Passport = $1,000 in hotel spend to earn 5,000 base points = category 1 reward night.
  • Starwood Preferred Guest = $1,000 in hotel spend to earn 2,000 base points = category 1 weekend reward night.

Even better is Club Carlson Concierge members will earn 9,000 points with just $257 in hotel spend.

Travelers will earn 9,000 points quickly, however, you will find fewer hotels designated as category 1 rewards offering these fast free nights.

Even worse I fear for the U.S.  traveler frequenting Country Inns is the large upward shift of category 2 hotels; currently the largest hotel reward category by number of hotels. These category 2 hotels are primarily Country Inn & Suites properties in the U.S. Over 60% of this category looks like it will shift to category 3, 4 and even 5.

  • Country Inn & Suites Bloomington MOA rises from category 3 to category 5 (30,000 to 44,000).
  • Country Inn & Suites New York City Queens rises from category 3 to category 5 (30,000 to 44,000).
  • Country Inn & Suites Galveston Beach TX rises Category 2 (25,000) to category 5 (44,000).

The increase of earning points from 15 points/$1 to 20 points/$1 is a 33% earning rate improvement. Much or all of this improved earning rate will be lost at hotels rising 2 or more category levels.

The largest increase in reward cost will likely be seen for current category 2 and 3 hotels moving to category 4. I have not analyzed this specific shift, but looking at the overall change in properties in categories 2, 3 and 4 indicate there will be 100 to 200 hotels making this change.

A category 3 hotel currently at 30,000 points rising to a category 4 reward night at 38,000 points is nearly a 27% increase. Keep in mind though, this is probably a fair exchange since these Country Inns will earn 33% more points in Club Carlson when the earn rate changes from 15 points/$1 to 20 points/$1.

Carlson Club Points-to-Miles Exchange Rates will remain unchanged.

The word I have received is there will be no changes to the current points-to-miles exchange rates. Carlson has a dynamic exchange rate meaning the points-to-miles rate is better with higher points transfers. The exchange rate of 100,000 points to 18,000 airline miles in Club Carlson is only surpassed by Marriott Rewards with a better exchange rate at the 125,000 points for 50,000 miles exchange and Marriott’s Hotel + Air Packages.

Club Carlson exceeds SPG, Hyatt and HHonors for points-to-miles exchange rates.

What I Still Do Not Know

  • Will the 10% reduced night rewards remain for multi-night reward stays?
  • Will Points + Cash rewards remain unchanged?
  • The reward cost for Club Med all-inclusive vacations and CWT independent hotels.

I will try and post the Club Carlson hotel reward category assignments in the next few days and complete a detailed analysis of hotel category shift by the end of February.

Related posts:

Club Carlson loyalty program launches March 31 – replaces goldpoints plus (Feb 14, 2011)

Carlson Hotels Press Release (Feb 14, 2011)


  • Dave February 18, 2011

    Any chance you know if the Radisson Phuket will still be in Category 3? Thanks.

  • Ric Garrido February 18, 2011

    Radisson Plaza Resort Phuket Panwa Beach = category 4.

  • Dave February 18, 2011


  • SocialAdept February 19, 2011

    I somewhat agree with The Points guy with regard to Calrson lacking truly aspirational properties. While you mention a couple of exquisite properties they are the exceptions that provse the rule IMHO.

  • Ric Garrido February 20, 2011

    My primary consideration is geographic coverage rather than aspirational properties.

    St. Regis Bora Bora may be the most incredible hotel in the world, but I wouldn’t spend 140,000 Starpoints per night to stay there.

    If I find myself in Belarus, Latvia, Slovakia, Mozambique, Mali, Lebanon, Libya, Ethiopia, Bangladesh and so on… will I have a choice of a hotel in Starwood or Hyatt or even Hilton and Marriott?

    Club Carlson may not be your ideal program, but I have found myself in the past really wishing I had goldpoints for a hotel redemption when I was in a place with skyhigh room rates and no other major chain option.

  • The Points Guy February 22, 2011

    You may disagree with my assessment that there are few aspirational properties, but I’m not sure how its ironic?

    That statement was also tied into their partnership with Club Med, which I lauded. As nice as the Radisson Royal Moscow is, I don’t know many business travelers who want to use their points to take their family to Moscow on a relaxing retreat.

  • Ric Garrido February 22, 2011

    Ironic wasn’t the correct word to use. I was rather ill and writing with a fever Friday night.

    I just found it an interesting coincidence that I had written this post stating Radisson Royal Moscow as an aspirational property and you were quoted the day before stating a lack of Radisson aspirational properites.

    In general, my evaluation of programs is whether you can get a good earn:burn ratio through hotel stays. Club Carlson offers that value in my opinion. Corporate travelers accruing loads of points may want aspirational properties. My focus is more on paying for three hotels and getting one somewhere else for free. The hotel may be in London or at San Francisco Airport. With 1,000+ hotels there are many places to redeem a free night with Carlson Hotels.

    I read plenty of good commentary and analysis on The Points Guy.

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