Category

Club Carlson

Most Recent Round Of Credit Card Applications

Inventory

Last week (pre SEZ-DUB mistake fare), I began thinking about my future travel plans for Fall and Winter 2013 / 2014.

While I have a pretty decent stockpile of miles / points, the one thing I always try to stress is the value of long term planning.

Much like retiring where you don’t just wake up and decide you are ready to retire, you need to slowly save money in your earlier years, the same thing applies to traveling on miles / points.

In order to use miles / points to take a free trip, you need to start earning and saving in advance!

Currently I have the following balances:

Airlines

  • United – 108,000 miles
  • AA – 50,000 miles
  • British Airways – 170,000 miles (family account)
  • US Air – 55,000 miles
  • Delta – 16,500 miles
  • Southwest – 46,000 miles
  • Hawaiian Airlines – 72,000 miles

Hotel Points

  • Hyatt – 7,000 points + 2 free nights in a Suite certificate
  • Club Carlson – 17,000 points + 1 free night certificate
  • Starwood – 18,000 points
  • Hilton – 2,000 points
  • Priority Club – 7,000 points
  • Marriott – 600 points

Although it is a very diverse collection of various miles and points, one big trip could deplete my balances (little did I know how big of a trip it would be…). Therefore I figured last week, it would be a good time to start build a reserve for future travel.

My two big trips planned (prior to SEZ-DUB) for Fall 2013 & Winter 2014 were going to Asia to visit my Brother while he studies abroad in Singapore and going skiing in either Colorado or Canada.

Those trips are still on but now Africa / Europe is included.

Asia

While for most flights to Europe, I will suck it up and fly in Coach.

I have also done Australia and India in Coach and it was not fun. Therefore my rule is anything above 12 hours, I try to do Business Class if possible. I don’t really care about the food, service, or alcohol, I really only care about the seat and if it is a lie-flat.

Typically the difference between Coach (80,000 miles) and Business (120,000 miles) to Asia is only 40,000 miles (or 20,000 each way), so in my opinion it is well worth it to be able to sleep in a lie-flat seat.

I currently have 108,000 United miles, so to fly to Asia in Business Class, I will need another 12,000 United miles.

Depending on availability, I could also do a one way using United miles and come back on Cathay Pacific using British Airways Avios.

As for Hotels, I currently have 3 free night certificates which will be useful in expensive cities like Tokyo.

Skiing

I talked about going skiing last year and all the different options available. Unfortunately those plans fell through, so I will try again this year.

Since the distance to ski resorts isn’t that far, depending on where I am going, I will either use Southwest Points (in the US) or British Airways to Canada.

Given how expensive ski resorts in Colorado and Canada can be during the peak winter season, this also would be a great use of hotel points or free night certificates!

Africa / Middle East / Europe

Given that the SEZ – DUB fare just happened, I haven’t really begun researching much for it. Given we will probably be gone for close to two weeks, hotel points and free night certificates are going to be a necessity to minimize our out of pocket expenses.

To fly Business Class to Africa will take 60,000 United miles (One Way) and coming back from Dublin should be around 25,000 – 35,000 Avios in Business Class on Aer Lingus. Just finding availability will be tricky!

Credit Card Applications

I actually applied for all the Cards below last week with the belief I was going to use them for Asia and skiing.

Plans obviously changed but because I am always working towards to collecting miles and points even if i don’t have a destination in mind, I should still be fine.

Chase

Chase INK Plus – 50,000 points after $5,000 minimum spend requirement in 3 months

Link To Application

Since I currently only have 108,000 United miles, I know I will need another 12,000 United miles to redeem for a Business Class ticket to Asia.

I picked up this Chase INK card because it earns Ultimate Rewards Points that can be transferred to United. As for the leftover 38,000 Ultimate Rewards Points, I might transfer them to Hyatt for a 2 free night hotel nights.

To complete the $5,000 minimum spend requirement, I plan on buying Chase giftcards for free and then loading them onto Bluebird.

Fairmont – 2 free nights after $1,000 minimum spend requirement in 3 months

Link To Application

While this Fairmont Card is not heavily advertised on travel blogs (primarily because there is no affiliate link…), in my opinion the Fairmont Card is as good as the Hyatt Card.

There certainly aren’t as many Fairmont properties (map) in the world compared to Hyatt, but what Fairmont lacks in quantity they make up in quality.

There is a really nice Fairmont property in Whistler that I have visited (not stayed at unfortunately), which could be a good use of the 2 free nights.

Also Fairmont has these cool Safari Resorts in Africa that look pretty amazing. I am not sure if you can use the 2 free nights at those properties because the safari in included in the price, but if you could that would be unreal!

American Express

Delta Gold AMEX – 30,000 miles after $500 minimum spend in 3 months

Link To Application (if you aren’t seeing the offer, try clearing your cookies or using a new browser. I was having problems earlier)

To be honest, I have never gotten a Delta credit card before.

This is because it is fairly common knowledge that Delta SkyMiles are called SkyPesos for a reason.

That being said, there weren’t really any great AMEX offers available that I hadn’t already applied for. Also given that the minimum spend was only $500, it was a hard offer to pass up.

Since I currently have 16,500 SkyMiles, might as well add another 30,000 and hopefully be able to use them for something in the future.

Bank of America

Alaska Airlines – 25,000 miles after 1st purchase

Link To Application

Alaska Airlines is probably one of the strangest frequent flyer programs out there, in that they aren’t part of an alliance but seem to be partners with every airline.

This Card was also like the Delta AMEX in that I don’t really have a need for Alaska miles but I figure they are good to have since they can be redeemed on Delta and American Airlines.

In addition, the card comes with a $99 companion certificate that could be useful.

Since there wasn’t any minimum spend requirement and the Card is issued by Bank of America, there wasn’t any really downsize to getting this card.

US Bank

Club Carlson – 85,000 points after $2,500 minimum spend in 3 months

Link To Application

US Bank just recently got into the hotel credit card business with their Club Carlson card.

While Club Carlson’s brand of hotels isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, their card is fairly lucrative in that 85,000 points can get you 2 – 4 free nights at some of their Radisson Blu properties.

In addition, with the card if you redeem points for 2 nights or more, you get the last night free! So if you only stay for 2 nights, then the 2nd night is free!

Not to mention that every year you renew the card, you get 40,000 additional points!

While the card is great, unfortunately US Bank is EXTREMELY STRICT and won’t approve you if you have too many credit card applications, regardless of your credit score.

Unfortunately I fell into that category and was denied for this card which stinks because I could really use the points in Europe and Middle East!

I am guessing this credit vigilance by US Bank is to stop people who just sign up for credit cards for the sign up bonus and then cancel them later.

However the irony is that this card is so lucrative with the 40,000 point annual renewal bonus and “Stay 2, Get 1” perk, that most people (including myself) would probably pay the annual fee and keep that card.

Barclays

US Airways – 30,000 miles after 1st purchase

Link To Application

For those of you paying attention, this is the same exact US Airways card I got back in November during my last round of apps.

From what I have heard, Barclays will approve you for the same US Airways card again if you tell them you need the new card to keep your “expenses separate”.

For me, I didn’t even have to call in and was approved online!

The best part is that there is no minimum spend on the card!

I already have 55,000 US Airway miles so another 35,000 will be nice.

Worst case is that my 90,000 US Airway miles turn into AA miles after the merger, which wouldn’t be the worst thing.

Citibank

Hilton Reserve – 2 free weekend nights after $2,500 minimum spend in 4 months

Link To Application

While Hilton has severely devalued their hotel points program, this Hilton Card comes with 2 free weekend night certificates.

There are some limitations on where you can’t use the weekend night certificates (full list here), but it actually is a fairly small list and mostly covers Hilton Vacation Club properties and all inclusive properties.

That being said, from my understanding you can use the free weekend night certificates at any of the non-excluded properties like the Conrad Maldives, which is famous for its underwater restaurant, not to mention the ridiculous scenery.

Recap

All in all, I was approved for 6 out of 7 applications.

Besides for the Fairmont card, all the other cards were approved without having to call the reconsideration line!

In total, I will receive around 135,000 miles / points and 4 free night certificates after completing $9,000 in minimum spend requirement in 3 months.

While this round of applications wasn’t as lucrative as last time (due to the 85,000 point Club Carlson denial), the 4 free hotel nights will be useful for my future trips and it will be good to diversify some of my other accounts like Delta, US Airways, and Alaska.

Thankfully, the minimum spend requirement isn’t as steep as last time. I should be able to do almost all of it with Chase giftcards / Bluebird, Amazon Payments, and the new Google Wallet service. If I am a little short, I can always hit up CVS and buy some Vanilla Reloads.

All in all, although it wasn’t the best round of credit card applications, I am glad I did it because I am going to need more miles and hotel points for the new Africa / Europe trip.

Although I applied for these cards without knowing of the upcoming trip, it just goes to show you the importance of long term planning.

You never know what deal could be coming down the pipeline, so it is best to be prepared!

-Parag

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Club Carlson Friends & Family Rate

Take Another Look At Club Carlson

With all this chatter about Hotel Points devaluation, I thought I would talk about one of the Hotel Programs that many people overlook and has not done any devaluation, Club Carlson!

Although Club Carlson (Radisson, Country Inn & Suites, Radisson Blu, etc) may not have the swankiest properties, they do offer a great value and pretty good Loyalty Program.

Club Carlson also has a pretty great Credit Card that is offered from US Bank, but I will cover that in another post.

I have a few Free Night Certificates from all the promotions that Club Carlson runs, but in the event that you do not have any of those, there are a few other ways to save money while staying at Club Carlson.

Club Carlson Friends & Family Rate

Club Carlson is great in that they offer a “Friends & Family” Rate without any questions asked.

At a minimum, if there is availability, you can knock 25% off the rate with the Friends & Family discount.

However as you will see below, you can far exceed the 25% discount at a majority of their properties.

Full Terms & Conditions can be found here, but basically this offer is open to anyone.

I am going to Austin this weekend, and our original lodging plans fell through, so today was spent scrambling trying to find accommodations.

You would think Austin would be fairly cheap, BUT apparently SxSW (South By Southwest) starts next week so that has caused Hotel prices to skyrocket. 

I checked Starwood, Marriott, Hilton, etc and they were all outrageous.

Even the Austin Radisson for a Sunday – Monday night stay was a whopping $274!

Although I have some Free Night Certificates, I need them for New York later in the month, so I decided to try out Club Carlson’s Friends & Family Rate.

I have heard great things about using this rate. During the Chicago Seminars last October, people used this rate to get the Radisson Blu in Chicago down from $300 to only $80 a night!

How To Get The Friends & Family Rate

1) Go To ClubCarlson.com & Search

To search for a Friends & Family Rate, simply go to ClubCarlson.com and search for your location.

I searched for Austin, TX and got a normal rate of $239 before tax.

2) Enter “CARLSONF” In Promotional Code Area & Hit Update

To get the Friends & Family Rate, simple enter CARLSONF in the promo box and hit update. If there is Friends & Family availability, then the price will update.

In this case, the Friends & Family Rate caused the price to drop from $239 to $80 before tax.

3) If There Is No Availability, Then Use Calendar To Search

There are only a set amount of Rooms reserved for the Friends & Family Rate, so in the event that there is no availability, click on the Calendar (where the Red Arrow is below), and it will show you which days do have availability.

Results

In my case, instead of spending $275 for 1 night, with Club Carlson Friends & Family Rate I was able to knock down the rate to $92 after tax! That is a 67% DISCOUNT!

After having such success finding a Friends & Family Rate in Austin, I tried it for New York.

There was Friends & Family availability and the price got knocked down from $195 pre-tax to $146.25.

While it is only a 25% discount, $146 a night in NYC is still a great deal.

Note When Using Friends & Family Rate

The Terms & Conditions make it pretty clear that this rate is open to everyone, but sometimes Hotel Front Desk Employees let the little power they have, go to their heads and may ask to ask you who your Friend or Family member is.

If you want to be a smart-ass, feel free to use the name Hubert Joly, who also happens to be the CEO of Club Carlson.

Another option is to just go on LinkedIn and find someone who works for Radisson or Club Carlson and use their name. It is highly unlikely that you will get asked to verify your Friend or Family, and honestly you can just say that it isn’t part of the terms, but in my opinion it is better to be safe than sorry.

One final thing is that Friends & Family Rates DO NOT earn Points or Stay Credit, although YMMV.

Club Carlson Gold Member Benefits

Since Club Carlson will Status Match just about anything or anyone, I have Club Carlson Gold Status by matching from SPG Gold.

If you don’t have Club Carlson Gold, I’d suggest using any of the free Hotel Credit Card Statuses (like Hyatt Platinum, Hilton Gold, etc) and Status Match to Club Carlson solely for the benefits below. More information can be found here.

I have stayed 2 times at Radisson Blus in Europe and the Gold Status didn’t really do much in terms of upgrades. It just helped me earn more Points.

That being said, there are some other fairly lucrative Gold Member Benefits that I wasn’t even aware of, for stays in Europe, Middle East, and Africa. Unfortunately these offers below aren’t valid for the U.S!

I wish I would have known about these a few weeks ago when I did my Spain Hotel Bookings because there was a Radisson Blu in Madrid that would have been eligible for the offer below.

2 Nights For The Price Of 1

Give how expensive some Hotels are in Europe, this offer is really a steal. Basically it is a Buy 1, Get 1 Free Offer, which in Europe can save you some serious Euros.

  • Stay Thursday night, get Friday night FREE!
  • Stay Friday night, get Saturday night FREE!

Link To Offer

4 Nights For The Price Of 2

This offer is better for extended stays, but again can cut the amount you spend on a Hotel in half!

  • Stay Wednesday and Thursday night, get Friday and Saturday night FREE!
  • Stay Thursday and Friday night, get Saturday and Sunday night FREE!

Link To Offer

Recap

Although not everyone loves Club Carlson, I have never had a bad experience with them.

While their Hotels may not be the best or most luxurious, as we have seen with their new Credit Card, they are really trying to break into the Big 4 (Starwood, Hilton, Hyatt, and Marriott).

All these crazy 50,000 Points Promotions last year and even this ridiculous Friends & Family Rate, all serve one purpose…….to get people in the door and give Club Carlson a shot.

I did their 50,000 Point Promotion last year and was extremely satisfied with the experience.

While in the past I never would have considered staying at a Radisson, after that experience, they are now on my radar and always on my list of Hotels that I search for.

After seeing the Radisson Blu in Chicago, I strongly believe that Radisson is on the right path and in the next 5 years, Club Carlson will be a major player in the Hotel Loyalty Program game.

-Parag

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Reminder: Radisson Stay 1, Get 1 Promo Ends Oct 31st

Reminder

Just a friendly reminder, the Radisson Stay 1 Night, Get 1 Night Free promotion ends on October 31st.

The promotion is good for stays through December 31st, you just have to make your reservations by October 31st.

I talked about the promotion in detail and how to stack it to get an even bigger discount, so if you are planning on taking part in this promotion, please read that post here.

I already did 1 stay at the Radisson O’Hare for $77 during the Chicago Seminars, earning 1 Free Night Certificate.

The Free Night has already posted, so I am going to use it at the Radisson Martinique – New York when I fly out of JFK in February for the Alitalia mistake fare to Madrid.

I was actually walking to Dinner last night in Korea Town and accidentally walked passed the Radisson Martinique. Looks pretty nice and is in a pretty decent location within walking distance to Penn Station and Times Square.

As for the price, the going rate was $242.10 ($281 after tax). I paid around $77 for my O’Hare stay which earned me the Free Night Certificate, so all in all I saved $204. I will probably split the $77 with my friend, so it should only cost us $38.50 each! We are staying here in February, so not really peak tourist time, but normally this Hotel goes for around $400+ a night. If you have an upcoming stay in NYC, I’d recommend doing this promotion.

Scaling The Promotion

Although 1 free night is great and is saving me around $204, I have a lot of Family and Friends in NYC, so I am here often and rarely here just for 1 night.

Club Carlson’s loyalty program rules are really lenient, that you can just go online and change the name on the account for free. This is something that no other Airline or Hotel loyalty programs ever allow.

So in an attempt to stock up on these Free Night Certificates, I simply used a few different email addresses, and booked two 1 night reservations at Radisson LAX. One for was my upcoming LA trip in a week, and then the other is for Frequent Traveler University at the end of November. Both of these stays are actually legitimate stays and not just Mattress Runs, so I figure I might as well get 2 Free Night Certificates from my stays. Each night is going to cost me around $100, but again as you saw above, by redeeming it in NYC, it automatically pays for itself many times over.

Once the Free Night Certificates post to each account, I will simply just go to ClubCarlson.com and merge them with my main Club Carlson Account in which I have Elite Status.

If you are married or are seeing someone, you don’t even need to make multiple accounts because Club Carlson allows mergers and point transfers of accounts that don’t have the same name or address. Really it is the Wild West with Club Carlson and anything goes!

As I talked about in my previous post on the topic, if you have any holiday plans like going to see Grandma for Thanksgiving or flying to visit your Family, try and squeeze in a Radisson stay if you can. Almost all major Airports have a Radisson and it will probably be only around $100 a night. The Free Night Certificate that you earn is good until December 2013, so you have a full year to use it! Also most of the rates for Radisson are fully refundable, so you can book it now as part of this promotion and then go cancel it for free if needed.

A lot of people at first are confused about the idea of Mattress Run, in which you pay for a Room solely for the purpose of earning Points or a Free Night Certificate, but in reality it is that you are paying up front for a service down the line. Even if you pay $77 and don’t stay at the first hotel, once you have your Free Night Award, you will use it and actually stay at the hotel. As I always say, you can pay a few bucks now (in my case $77), or you decide not to do it and then scramble at the last moment to find a cheap hotel and pay $281 down the line. At the end of the day, it is all about long term planning.

Bottom line is that this promotion is awesome, so I suggest everyone take advantage of it. I suspect Club Carlson will again bring back their 50,000 Point Free Big Night promotion again in the Spring of 2013, so doing both of these promotions could net 2 free nights for around $200ish. Not a bad deal!

-Parag