Club Carlson is dead, long live Radisson Rewards

Radisson Hotel Group has announced that Club Carlson will become Radisson Rewards. In the process, they are making it easier to earn elite levels, harder to earn points and made some slight improvements to the affiliated credit card. Most of the changes are cosmetic, but it’s a start in resurrecting a loyalty program that went from darling to widely ignored in the last few years. Find out, what changes to expect and how they might impact you!

Yesterday, I reviewed the changes to Radisson Hotel Group (RHG) (formerly Carlson Rezidor) and the news was mostly good, making a number of positive changes that frankly needed to be made. It makes perfect sense to also change the loyalty program name to the best known brand, so thumbs up for Radisson Rewards!

The first change in the new program, highlighted in the press release is the change of the elite levels in name and also in the number of nights you need to stay to earn them:

The old base level “Red” becomes club and is assigned when joining.
Silver now only requires 9 nights or 6 stays, instead of 15n/10s. Gold now requires 30 nights or 20 stays and Platinum (the former “Concierge” level) now requires 60 nights instead of 75!
These are good changes of course, although they only remove the ridiculously high requirements for levels that don’t offer as much as competing programs. Also, considering that you can achieve Gold status by acquiring the Radisson Rewards card in the US, this is of limited value for US travelers.

More importantly, but conveniently left out of the press release and disguised as “easy math”, the number of points you earn per USD spent is going down for Silver and Gold elite members:

Granted, a reduction of 7.4% isn’t earth-shattering, but it’s certainly not good news for mid-tier members and probably not the best idea for the relaunch of a struggling rewards program and I generally dislike the idea of loyalty program spinning clearly negative changes as “enhancements”  this is not “easy math”, it’s fewer points, plain and simple!

The program changes extend to the affiliated Club Carlson Credit Card, issued by US Bank. It will be now called Radisson Rewards Card. Probably the best news of the announcement is the opportunity to earn additional free nights through annual spend. Previously, you could earn one free night at any US hotel with a spend of $10,000 per year. Now, you will be able to earn up to three free nights at US hotels, one each at $10,000. The certificates expire after one year.
To me, this is of limited value. For starters, the best RHG properties are in Europe and Asia, with few attractive properties in the US I’d want to use a certificate of points at, so having the certificates as US-only is a severe limitation for me.
And the Club Carlson card carries a foreign exchange fee – an unforgivable sin for a travel credit card in my eyes that wipes out your rewards when used abroad and has condemned my card to a spot in the sock drawer! There is no detail on whether the new card will have the FX fee removed or not.

Bottomline: Radisson Hotel Group is making mostly cosmetic changes to the Radisson Rewards loyalty program, with little benefit to most members and downsides for some. If they want to revive the struggling program, they’ll need to make some deeper changes to bring members back! 
I will wait for the changes to finalize as well as for full details on the updated credit card and will than revise my review of the Club Carlson Rewards Program and the Club Carlson Visa Card accordingly. Stay tuned!

You can find the RHG Press Release here and the (easier to read) customer facing website here! If you’d like to get more travel related news or deals like this from around the world, please follow me on Twitter – I’m posting news daily, so you can stay up to date on the world of travel with my Twitter updates! Or, for a weekly update, sign up for my newsletter for a Sunday Summary!


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