Why Club Carlson is the First Program I Check When Planning a Family Vacation

It wasn’t until my last trip that I realized how often I’ve been searching hotel availability with Club Carlson.


The Club Carlson Visa has distinguished itself as a truly valuable hotel credit card.

I guess it all depends on the nature of the trip which credit card I’m most thankful to have in my wallet.

When you’re looking for a nice relaxing hotel stay, then the Citi Hilton Reserve card gets the nod.  This card gives Gold Hilton status for the $75 annual fee.  I love the free morning breakfast that comes with this card.  It makes for a very relaxing vacation because usually in our family if we don’t have free breakfast, it means driving around somewhere to find food to bring back to the hotel or paying more than I like to eat breakfast at the hotel.

However, when it’s value and a place to lay my head, Club Carlson has been winning my heart lately.

We earned most of our Club Carlson points last year during their promotion where you could get 50,000 points after a one night stay at certain hotels.  With a little creativity and $220 out of pocket, we were able to get about 300,000 Club Carlson points.

In March, my family went down to Tulsa, Oklahoma for a conference.  Staying with my wife and three kids isn’t very fun in a regular hotel room.  However, Country Inn and Suites is part of the Club Carlson brand.  We were able to get a king bed suite, and the kids slept on a pull out couch in the living room.  There’s a ton of space, free internet, and free breakfast at Country Inn and Suite hotels.  It’s a brand that is perfect for our family when traveling.

Best of all, as a Club Calrson Visa card holder you get one free night with every stay.

It’s a blessing and a curse because that means I absolutely don’t want to use my Club Carlson points for one night stays or stays longer than two nights because I know we’re missing out on a lot of the value.

Some of you might think this is crazy, but here’s what we did in Tulsa.  First two nights at the Country Inn and Suites.  Total points 15,000 (because 2nd night was free).  Then we went to a Sleep Inn for a night and used our points for a night there.  For the 4th and 5th nights, we were back at the Country Inn and Suites for two more nights (at the cost of one).

The end result is that we got four nights in Tulsa for a total of 30,000 Club Carlson points.

We just finished up a trip to Seattle where we stayed two nights at a Country Inn and Suites.  The total cost for both nights was 38,000 Club Carlson points.

Probably the best value you can get out of Club Carlson points is at Raddison Blu properties which cost 50,000 points per night.  Remember, if you have the Club Carlson Visa you get one night free every time you book.

The Ideal Strategy

In a perfect world, my wife and I would both have the card, but I haven’t been able to get approved.  If I was able to get the card, we could stagger our stays for nearly unlimited stays at the same hotel.

Here’s what we’d do:

  • Me:  Book nights 1 and 2 at the hotel (2nd night would be free)
  • Wife: Book nights 3 and 4 at the hotel (4th night would be free)
  • Me: Book nights 5 and 6 at the hotel (6th night would be free)
By the way, Club Carlson allows you to share points with a spouse (at the same address) without any fees.


If my wife booked all six nights, we’d pay for 5 and get the 6th free. (You get one free night per stay – minimum two night stay).  However, by getting back to back reservations in separate names, you’ll be checking out and checking back in with the end result of a free night every second stay.

If you don’t currently have the Club Carlson Visa, I think it’s worth your consideration.

  • Get 50,000 bonus points after first purchase.
  • Get 35,000 additional bonus points after spending $2,500 in the first 90 days.
  • Get Club Carlson Gold Status (means they give you a bag of chips and a candy bar when you check in, so it’s not a big deal).
  • 40,000 bonus points when you renew your card each year ($75 annual fee not waived the first year).

Of course, it wouldn’t seem fair if I didn’t mention that for single one night stays I still find the most value using my Starwood points earned from my Starwood American Express credit card.


  1. Kirk says

    I’m a little confused about your Tulsa example. How did you get a suite for 15K? Were you upgraded once you arrived? When I check the website (for Tulsa and many other locations) I see standard rooms available for full points redemption and 1 bedroom suites only available by points + cash redemption. The club carlson visa terms state that the bonus award night is not eligible with a points + cash redemption.

    • says

      I honestly don’t know, but think all of Country Inn and Suites rooms are suites. Either way, if we did get an upgrade it’s because you get Gold membership as a card holder. We booked a standard room. We’ve had a suite on three separate stays so I guess I just figured that’s what they had.

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