“If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.”
I don’t think there’s a subject where that phrase applies more than in our hobby. In this game we always uncover amazing values and sweet spots, and over time things always “normalize.”
The Club Carlson devaluation we’ve seen
We saw something along these lines recently with the Club Carlson Premier Rewards Visa Signature® Card. It was unsustainably rewarding. The most compelling benefit was that as long as you had the credit card the second night of every award redemption was free. That meant if you were maximizing your points, you were essentially getting a 50% rebate on award redemptions.
Unfortunately that perk is being discontinued as of June 1, 2015. On top of that, Club Carlson is adjusting their award chart as of June 1, 2015, which is also a big hit for those that were maximizing their points primarily for stays in Europe.
Nonetheless, I do still firmly believe that the Club Carlson Premier Rewards Visa Signature® Card is worth holding onto. It has a $75 annual fee and you get 40,000 points upon your account anniversary each year, plus Gold status for as long as you have the card, which more than justifies the annual fee, in my opinion.
So the Club Carlson Card has literally gone from being the single most rewarding hotel credit card to being much more average.
Which raises the next logical question — which hotel credit card will get a cut in benefits next?
What’s the most rewarding hotel credit card now?
At the moment I’d argue the single most compelling hotel credit card is the IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card. Not only only are you able to earn 80,000 point welcome bonus after you spend $2,000 on purchases in the first 3 months of account opening, but it can actually be valuable long term thanks to the recurring benefits it offers just for holding onto the card.
What makes this card so lucrative?
- The annual fee on the card is only $89 (waived for the first year),
- The card offers an annual anniversary free night certificate, valid at virtually any hotel worldwide
- You get Platinum status for as long as you have the card, which as of now is top tier status in the IHG Rewards Club program (though they’re introducing a new elite tier later this year)
- Just for having the card you get 10% off IHG Rewards Club award redemptions, up to 100,000 points back each year
Are the benefits at risk of changing?
I do think the IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card is by far the most rewarding hotel card out there. Not for actual everyday spend, but rather just to pay the annual fee on for the recurring benefits. That being said, I don’t necessarily see the benefits changing. Why?
- There’s no cap on the annual free night certificate, though in practice I’m guessing that’s not really necessary, given that a vast majority of IHG properties are limited service; the number of people redeeming at “premium” InterContinental properties is minimal
- Platinum status will soon be mid-tier status, and ultimately there’s not much marginal cost to having more Platinum guests
- The 10% rebate on redemptions actually incentivizes people to earn more IHG Rewards Club points, so I don’t see them eliminating it; it encourages spend on the card
That being said, the one change I could potentially see them making long term (and this is me speculating) is putting the annual fee more in line with Chase’s other hotel credit cards out there, closer to ~$100. I think the card would still totally be worth it, though not quite as much of a no brainer as it is now.
I do think the IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card is the most rewarding hotel credit card out there, though not in an unsustainable way, unlike the Club Carlson Premier Rewards Visa Signature® Card. Of course I could be wrong, but if I had to speculate I’d say the only major thing that is likely to change at some point is the annual fee.
Do you agree that IHG Rewards Club has the most lucrative hotel credit card to hold onto long term, and if so, do you think the benefits are too good to last at the current price point?