Should you renew or cancel your Club Carlson Visa card

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Introduction

So my wife has 2 of the US Bank Club Carlson cards – 1 personal and 1 business.  I have none since they banned me a year ago (What?  You’re surprised?  C’mon, you should know me by now.)  We’re going to take advantage of both of her accounts to get a 4-for-2 when we stay at the Cape Town Radisson Blu later this month (I’ll write a bigger post later.)  Well, the personal card’s $75 annual fee just came up, and if I paid it, she’d get 40,000 Club Carlson points.  Remember, she has a business card version already.  So let’s see if the math works out here.

Manufacturing 40,000 Club Carlson points

Let’s assume I actually wanted 40,000 Club Carlson points, how much would this cost me?  Since the card gives you 5X on every purchase, I’d need to make $8,000 in purchases to get 40K points.  That means I’d need to buy $8,000 in VGC, and since each $500 VGC costs $4.95 (I know Simon’s and AAA are $3.95, but let’s just average this at $4.95), that means, I’d need to buy 16 VGC cards x $5 = $80.  Wow, look at that, it’s practically a wash compared to the $75 annual fee. Since it’s so close, let’s work the exact math.  If I bought 16 VGC at $4.95, that total cost would be $8,079.20 x 5 = 40,396.  $79.25 / 40,396 = $.196 per point.  $75 / 40,000 = $.1875 per point.  Slight edge goes to the credit card.

Bringing AGC into the mix

If you add a step and buy AGC with the CC Visa, then it’ll be cheaper.  If you buy 4 x $2,003.95 = $8,015.80 = 40,079 CC points.  If you went through a 2% portal, you’d get back $160.  Subtract out your $79.25 in VGC fees and now you are MAKING $80.75 for 40K CC points.  Well, that made my decision a lot easier.  If you have 2 CC cards, you should cancel one of them and go down to just one since the 2-for-1 benefit is now gone and you can MS the 40K points for better ROI than paying the $75 annual fee.  PLEASE NOTE TO GO SLOW ON BUYING AGC WITH USB CARDS.  They are not a very MS tolerant bank!

What if you only have 1 Club Carlson Visa card

Well this depends on your travel pattern.  How many Club Carlson properties have you stayed at in the past 2 years?  How many Club Carlson properties will you be staying at in the next year?  If you have a huge stash of Hilton, Hyatt, or SPG points, then it’s a no-brainer, cancel the card.  Then if you realize you’re going to Europe or any other place with a lot of Club Carlson hotels, then get the card again.  Also, think about the opportunity cost of your other hotel options.

Worth it to MS Club Carlson points?

For my Cape Town stay, I had 4 choices:

  • Radisson – $250 or 50K (0.5c or 1c for 2 nts)
  • SPG – $194 or 10K (1.9c)
  • Hilton – $176 or 40K (.44c)
  • Hilton Doubletree – $72 or 20K (.36c) or cash+ 8K + $34 (.475)

Here are the MS costs for each option:

  • Radisson – 50K points – $10K AGC 2% / 5X card = you would MAKE ~$100
  • SPG – 10K points – $10K AGC 2% / 1X card = you would MAKE ~$100 if you use your SPG card to buy $10K of AGC
  • Hilton – 40K points – Groc 6X = 13 x $505.95 VGC = it would cost you $78.40 to MS 40K pts at grocery store.  I’m not even going to waste my time to calculate return if you bought AGC even at 3X HH

Conclusion

In this example, the Radisson Cape Town is better because a) the rack rate is higher and b) it has a better location than the Westin.  However, I can assure you that at least in the other 80% of cases, the SPG property will be better than the Radisson.  This post has also helped me realize I’m going to cancel the business card version too when it’s annual fee is due.  But that’s based on MY travel plans and needs.  If you spend a lot of time at CC hotels, then keeping the card may be worth it TO YOU.  Don’t let a blogger tell you what credit cards to get, keep, or use!

  • Al

    Aren’t you neglecting the cost of liquidating the VGCs? Sure you can use Redbird for some, but that just eats up other spend.

    • Miles per Day

      $.70 per $1000 at a Kroger store. The only opp cost is instead of using your SPG or Arrival to buy the AGC, you are using CC. At that point, the question is – should you MS CC points or SPG points (and if you answer SPG, then why even hoard CC points in the first place?