Club Carlson is running several special promotions that go live on May 15. Basically, you have to be one of the first several thousand people to register, and if you do you will receive a very large number of bonus points after staying a single night at certain hotel brands. Because there are multiple promotions available, the number of bonus points you can earn is potentially huge. See the rundown by Mommy Points on how these three different promotions work.
There was another “Big Night Giveaway” last year, but although I had an easy time registering (I’m not sure they ever hit the cap) I passed on actually completing the hotel stays to receive the bonus points. I’m just not a very big fan of their hotels, and I have enough to worry about qualifying for Hyatt Diamond status.
But still, sometimes you don’t have a Hyatt or Starwood property nearby. Sure, there’s always a Hilton, but if it’s going to be a small number of points for a cheap hotel anyway, maybe the Club Carlson thing will work out. I’ll be heading to Oregon in a few weeks to visit family near Medford, and if necessary I can always do a cheap mattress run in the Seattle area. There are lots of cheap Radisson and Country Inn & Suites hotels for me to choose from.
So first, let’s consider the obvious award opportunities, free nights:
- Award nights starting at 9,000 Gold Points
- Points + Cash nights starting at 5,000 Gold Points
Nothing to see here. These hotels are generally on the less expensive side to begin with. I save my miles and points for aspirational awards, although this could still be worthwhile if you have a trip coming up and normally stay at Radisson hotels anyway. Mommy Points found a few good redemption opportunities. There are also some Radisson Blu hotels, which I’m told are quite good, but they tend to be in major cities where I already know there are Grand Hyatts or W Hotels that I really want to try out.
But wait! Club Carlson also has several less conventional redemption opportunities. You’ll need to be logged in to see them, but I’ve listed all of them here including the value of each option in terms of implied value per Gold point (cpp = cents per point). If you see a higher number, you are getting a greater value for your Gold points. Notice that all are a fraction of a cent, meaning these points aren’t worth much individually and explains why the bonuses are so large.
Gift Cards (Various Retailers)
- $10 for 6,500 Gold Points (0.154 cpp)
- $15 for 9,000 Gold Points (0.167 cpp)
- $25 for 16,000 Gold Points (0.156 cpp)
- $50 for 29,000 Gold Points (0.172 cpp)
- $100 for 58,000 Gold Points (0.172 cpp)
Prepaid Visa Card
- $25 for 20,000 Gold Points (0.125 cpp)
- $50 for 35,000 Gold Points (0.143 cpp)
- $100 for 67,000 Gold Points (0.149 cpp)
- $15 for 11,000 Gold Points (0.136 cpp)
- $25 for 18,000 Gold Points (0.138 cpp)
- $50 for 34,000 Gold Points (0.147 cpp)
- $100 for 66,000 Gold Points (0.152 cpp)
- 250 miles for 2,000 Gold Points (0.25 cpp)
- 8,000 miles for 50,000 Gold Points (0.32 cpp)
- 18,000 miles for 100,000 Gold Points (0.36 cpp)
You could easily get $200 back by redeeming 134,000 points for two $100 prepaid Visa cards, although if you happen to like the merchants on Club Carlson’s list, any combination of gift cards at low or high denominations will earn you a better return. You could even get a vacation credit at Club Med!
Clearly the best return is airline miles, assuming you value them at 2 cents each as I do. In the Frequent Miler’s post, he outlines a plan to spend approximately $270 to earn 160,500 Gold points. However, he relied on a 4,500 Gold point sign-up bonus that is no longer active. I mentioned yesterday a new sign-up bonus of only 2,000 Gold points, which brings this total down to 158,000 Gold points, still an increase of 20,000 over the promotions alone.
If it costs you $270 to earn these 158,000 Gold Points as Frequent Miler suggests is possible, and as I agree, then the fractional cost of 18,000 miles (meaning only the portion of the amount spent to earn 100,000 of those Gold Points, about $171) would be only 0.95 cents per mile. This is generally considered a very good value.
In fact, you could redeem 150,000 Gold points to earn 26,000 miles—just over the amount needed for a domestic ticket with most programs—and still have 8,000 Gold points left that you could use for some kind of transfer promotion like US Airways’ Grand Slam later this year. However, you would be paying about half-price for this ticket, since I try to only redeem miles for domestic tickets that cost $500 or more. The nights you paid for to earn the bonus points and redeem for miles would become essentially “free.”
Sound good? Airline miles are the best deal for alternative redemptions and make this a promotion on which you can turn a supposed profit. But even if you don’t want to go with the hassle of finding award space on a plane, there are still plenty of gift card and cash-like redemption opportunities available that provide essentially a full rebate for those hotel nights.