May 16, 2013
Club Carlson recently announced their new summer promotion: stay two nights and get 10,000 bonus points. There’s no doubt that this is a nice bonus if you plan to stay two nights anyway. The question I have is whether this promo is good enough to go out of one’s way for. Is it worth booking a weekend stay just for the points?
Stay two or more consecutive nights anytime between May 13 and July 21, 2013 at any of our more than 1,000 participating Carlson Rezidor hotels worldwide to earn 10,000 bonus Points for each eligible stay.
Details about Club Carlson’s new promotion can be found here. Make sure to register, just in case! You can also read Mommy Points’ view of the promotion here; Points, Miles & Martinis’ view here; and Lucky’s view here.
In 2011 and 2012, Club Carlson ran promotions in which it was possible to earn up to 50,000 points for a one night stay. There was no doubt then that it was worth booking a cheap stay just for the points. This promotion, though offers only 1/5 the points and requires a two night stay instead of one. So, this promotion requires deeper analysis…
Near Optimal Earnings
In the post “Earn 70 points per dollar at Club Carlson hotels” I showed how it is possible to stack multiple Club Carlson points earning options onto a single stay. Almost all of the possibilities are unlocked simply by getting a Club Carlson Premier Rewards Signature card (or its twin Business card). With either card, you’ll earn 10 points per dollar at Club Carlson properties when you pay with the Club Carlson credit card, and you’ll earn bonus points as a Gold elite member (which is an automatic perk of the credit card). You could do slightly better with top level Concierge status, but for most people that is out of reach since it requires 75 nights or 30 stays to achieve.
Another way to boost earnings is to sign up for “Club Carlson for Business.” If you are a business owner, you can get a business account and earn an additional 10 points per dollar for bookings made online. You will also qualify for a 5% discount off their standard rates.
Here is a full run-down of points earned for a regular stay (without the summer promotion) if you have the Club Carlson credit card and a business account:
- Base earnings for any stay: 20 points per dollar
- Elite bonus (Gold members): 10 points per dollar
- Credit card earnings: 10 points per dollar
- Club Carlson for Business: 10 points per dollar
- Online booking bonus: 2000 points
So, even without a promotion, it is possible to earn 50 points per dollar plus 2000 points per stay (not per night) for booking online.
10K Promotion: 110X
By stacking the points earned as shown above, with the summer 10K promotion, you can now earn up to 50 points per dollar plus 12,000 points per stay.
Ignoring taxes, with a $100 per night stay, you would spend $200 and earn 22,000 points. In other words, you would earn 110 points per dollar!
How much are points worth?
A few months ago, I looked at Club Carlson hotel prices and redemption rates in a number of cities. I found that, in my sample, the per point value of Club Carlson points ranged from .22 cents to .89 cents each. The average point value came to .43 cents. So, 110 points per dollar is like a 47% rebate.
The math gets better with the Club Carlson credit card which offers a free night with each reward stay of 2 nights or more. In other words, if you stay two nights on points, you only need to pay for one night! For details, see “Club Carlson rocks our world… Again.” So, by focusing on two-night stays, your points can be worth twice as much! The value of points then (based on my sample) goes up as high as .44 to 1.78 cents per point with an average value of .86 cents each.
If you value Club Carlson points at .86 cents each, then 110 points per dollar is like a 94.6% rebate! Clearly, if you’re planning to travel anyway and if a Club Carlson hotel is a viable option, then you will do very well with this promotion.
Taxes vs. Cash Back
It’s hard to estimate how much you’ll pay in taxes since that varies from State to State and from city to city. Credit card points will be earned for the full cost of your stay, but other point multiples shown above will be based on the stay cost before taxes.
It’s worth noting that there are a number of cash back portals that include Club Carlson properties such as Radisson, Park Plaza, and Country Inn & Suites. For example, TopCashBack currently offers 9% cash back for those hotels. If you start your booking from a cash back portal and click through to one of those Club Carlson web sites, you will still be eligible for all point earnings and online booking bonuses. For a list of cash back portals to consider, please see my Sign-Up Links page.
Overall, rather than trying to estimate the effect of taxes and cash back portals, for the sake of this analysis let’s assume that they cancel each other out. In other words, I’ll calculate the value of mattress runs without factoring in taxes or cash back.
The point of pure mattress runs is to book a hotel stay just to earn points or elite status. In this case, we’re just talking about point earnings. If you really don’t value the stay at all and just want to get points, then the goal should be to get points at a cost lower than their redemption value and lower than they could be bought elsewhere.
Club Carlson outright sells points to consumers for just .7 cents per point. So, even if you value points higher than that, it wouldn’t make sense to do a mattress run if you end up paying .7 cents or more for your points.
Personally, I wouldn’t consider a Club Carlson mattress run unless the full cost was less than .4 cents per point. The idea, after all, is to get a bargain. However, if you are working on building up your points for a specific high value redemption (Radisson Blue Paris, for example), you might be willing to set a higher bar.
Here then are the calculations for the cost per point for mattress runs for Club Carlson hotels at various price points with the 10K promotion included:
Hotel cost per night
Cost per point
* Points earned: This column assumes that you achieve near optimal point earnings as described above (e.g. 50 points per dollar plus 2000 points per stay before including the 10K promotion).
As you can see in the table above, booking a $50 per night room just to get points would cost .59 cents per point. This is better than buying points outright at .7 cents per point, but not by a wide margin. And, it doesn’t come close to my “buy” target of .4 cents per point.
So, go ahead and book a two night stay if you value both the points and the stay, but don’t book it for the points alone.
Second night add-on
Suppose you have a planned one night stay at a Club Carlson property. Is it worth adding a second night to qualify for the 10K promotion? The second night would get you up to 50 points per dollar for the cost of the second night, and 10,000 bonus points thanks to the summer promotion. Here are the calculations for the cost per point for adding a second night to your stay:
Hotel cost per night
Extra points earned*
Cost per point
* Extra points earned: These are the points earned for the added-on second night. This column assumes that you achieve near optimal point earnings as described above (e.g. 50 points per dollar before including the 10K promotion).
As you can see in the table above, tacking on a second night to a $50 per night stay would result in “buying” points at only .4 cents each. As room prices go up, the cost to buy points this way increases as well. So, if you are planning a one night stay in an extremely cheap Club Carlson hotel, it may be worth it to extend your stay to two nights depending on how highly you value Club Carlson points.