London Valentine’s: The Club Carlson Visa 2nd day benefit takes down the crappy Hilton Reserve Card weekend certs

Don’t dive into miles and points things without understanding. Lesson learned (but will need to be relearned again and again).

I had little experience with Hilton HHonors prior to experimenting with a ‘2-browser trick’ app for the Citi® Hilton HHonors™ Reserve Card. I got the cards specifically for 2 weekend wife harmony trips. It was a massive battle to get the second set of certs.

Time to use them and I ran into the issue I had noticed on various blogs but never fully digested: Hilton certs require that Standard Room Awards be available. The most desirable hotels require more than the house detective to locate a Standard Room in the building.

Valentine’s weekend I am taking my wife to London because she loves the city and Delta low award availability is wide open, though the taxes are a pain.

I mistakenly encouraged her to pick from Hilton hotels in London saying to look for ones with available rooms. Oops. Every one she picked has no Standard Room Awards this weekend or many subsequent weekends. Instead I could have London Hilton on Park Lane for 203,436 points/night. “You will need to purchase 115,589 points for $2,667.67 ”

London Hilton Park Lane

The hotels with Standard Rooms look quite generic and often happen to be within earshot of an airport or train station. If I am going to burn the certs it is not going to be on a room that looks exactly like a small version of a US room.

View from the Wing recently argued against the Club CarlsonSM Premier Rewards Visa Signature® Card, despite the awesome benefit of the free last night on award redemptions of 2+ days, because he feels the footprint is limited and not so desirable (note: that post’s link is not working, it may have been deleted). My international experience has been quite the opposite of his primarily US view. I have had quite a few business stays the past year in Radisson properties, in Central America and the Middle East in particular, often finding them to be the best 4-star value with original design. When I stay in chain hotels, which is only on business trips and award redemptions, I want some local feeling, which is often lacking in other US-based chains.

I ditched Hilton and tried Club Carlson, with a wealth of Radisson Blu choices this weekend for 50,000 or 44,000 points/night, only a couple did not have award rooms available. I have not seen any of them yet, but from this list, many look really interesting. My wife’s top 2 choices were both available. I click, click, click to book and the 50,000 discount is immediately processed. 25,000 points for a weekend in London at a funky 4-star in the heart of the action. With the 85,000 sign-up bonus from the Visa card, that is 2 nights at its top properties with 35,000 to spare for a lower award weekend, or striking distance to another high-end stay. Works for me.

Club Carlson London

Now I’ve got to figure out how to use those Hilton certs before they expire.

Disclaimer: I receive a referral fee for the Citi card but not the Club Carlson card.

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  • Mike


  • Keep us updated. The Hilton Reserve card is on my “to apply” list, and if you can’t figure how to use the certs, I might skip the application. At least your readers will profit from your suffering.

    Hope you have a great Valentine’s Day!

  • Nice. Enjoy my old hometown. Which property did you choose in the end? Whichever it is, that is a great value

  • Dan

    I just got approved for the Club Carlson Visa for my upcoming trip to Europe. 50K points for two nights, in a 4 star property, in the heart of a city is a great deal. I prefer non-chain hotels too but to stay in the middle of most European cities is almost always 200 euros+


  • @MilesAbound – I choose? I book what I am told!

  • Frank C

    The May Fair is an amazing hotel. I stayed there last year in November and had a great time. The staff was really helpful and friendly from just pointing out features of the room to attractions both touristy and more of a local feel. The hotel has a very happening bar and casino attached, but also had so many peaceful places. It’s in the middle of the city, train station right around the corner, etc. Not sure if that’s what you picked but hope your stay was as great as mine!

  • Chase

    If you can make Club Carlson work for your travel habits, it is well, well worth it. I used my free Radisson stay and 50k points per stay gained from last years promo to stay at the Radisson in Aruba last week. It was fantastic, and well worth it for a hotel that charges ~$400/night during high season (and was upgraded to a suite as a SILVER!). The footprint is an issue though, so like I said, if you can make Club Carlson work, it is far far better than Hilton HHonors when it comes to actually utilizing promo benefits and points.

  • JBM

    Do NOT stay at any Radisson Blu hotels in London. They are all absolute dumps. Stay at the May Fair which is owned by Club Carlson. It’s a very posh hotel next to the best shopping. Excellent location and swanky hotel for 50k.

  • Andreas

    Good to know. I learned a lot from this post and I’m unlikely to apply for the Citi HH card now. I got the club carlson card as well and will be using my points in London this summer. Hoping to see trip reports on those hotels. Mommy points wrote nice things about the Mayfair Radisson.

  • Tom

    Glad to hear of your positive experience. I also got the Club Carlson card and the 85K points. I also think the 40K points for the $75 annual fee to renew every year is a great deal if you can get two weekend nights in a big city out of it or just have to throw in an additional 10K points for the 2 nights.

  • Acker

    I don’t get why the Citi HH Reserve 2 free wend nights is shown so little love while the Hyatt cc w/ certificate is considered so desirable.
    And I’m glad the CC credit card isn’t embraced, all the better for us that see the potential with that card.

  • @Acker – I haven’t even tried to use my Hyatt certs yet…setting aside the bonuses, I like the features of both cards, for sure will keep Hyatt indefinitely, and may keep one Hilton Reserve.

  • @JBM – thanks for the advice, unfortunately the Mayfair is sold out this weekend so I will have to look for something else.

  • @Frank C – unfortunately it is sold out, too bad.

  • PH

    @Acker: Why does the Hyatt C/C get more love? How about because I’ve had absolutely no problems — no fuss, no muss, reserving just works — using my original Hyatt C/C cert nights and the subsequent anniversary night?

  • JB

    airbnb time!

  • E

    So just to verify, it looks like you don’t need the full 100k in points in account to book the 2nd night free redemption for a 50k/per night stay?

  • Acker

    Maybe I’m out of the loop but I think the Citi certificates are easy enough to use – Yes, the best bang is using them overseas, but I think that’s the case for Hyatt too, no? Hyatt and SPG are v generous to their top elites and as a HH Diamond I agree I get almost nada beyond internet and the bfast. (I’m still looking for a decent lounge in the US, they are uniformly awful). All that said the Citi certificate can be awesome if used to it’s max.
    Hyatt credit card seems to be pushed a lot harder but again maybe I just think that.
    Hyatt will be in my Q4 ’13 churn.

  • @E – yes, correct, I just had a test with a different account that has the card and only 60k points balance and that worked fine to book the 50k x 2 night redemption, the first price quote page shows 100k but continuing to the final page it shows 50k and ok to book.

  • @Acker – my experience with the Citi certs is so far limited to London, yes, plenty of hotels are available, but all the top-end seem seldom to never have Standard Rooms Awards available, and the certs are already limited to weekend only. For people only focused on the bonus, meaning the card’s benefits are not valuable to them, paying a $95 annual fee up front, and needing to meet $2,500 in spend, to get 2 certs with so many restrictions, seems a fairly slim payback. The hotels available in London for test offseason weekends in Feb and Mar, a very expensive market, maxed out around US$235/night, so even if valuing that hotel experience at the full rate, that is a sub-$500 sign-up bonus for a credit pull and all that work. Again, that is excluding potential value of the card’s other benefits.

    Your thoughts? Is that a payout worth considering alone or is the card mainly justified by the benefits?

  • Adam

    I had no problems using the Citi certs. I have a 4 night stay booked at the WA Park City in 2 weeks.

    We’re staying 4 nights, and even though we’re paying with 2 of the nights with the certs, they still applied the GLON rate on the 2 nights with points. I was pleasantly surprised they allowed them to stack.

  • @Acker – regarding Hyatt, credit card and Hyatt generally, many of the miles and points bloggers are primarily occasional leisure travelers focused on major cities and tropical getaways, where Hyatt is strong. You are not going to see much Marriott, coverage, for instance, until there is a US domestic road warrior blogger like a regional salesperson going through small towns who are with Marriott by necessity. Other than stays, there are not many profitable ways to earn Marriott points, and their top-end properties are apparently not as sexy as other chains.

    For both my business and travel patterns, Hyatt is generally nowhere to be found or charges too much of a premium over similar competitors for me to justify, so I have the card and like it, but haven’t been at a Hyatt since a Priceline booking got the BOS Airport one a few years ago. I like Hyatts but they just don’t meet my needs.

  • @Adam – GLON stacking, brilliant! It would be fun to use an AXON rate, Citi wouldn’t find it so funny. 😉

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  • Marvin O’Grovel

    Of course you’ll find there’s no standard award availability when you try to book on such short notice.

    Also, I went to book free weekend certs at Park Lane for Easter weekend and it showed no availability, but then I checked the next day and standard awards were open again.

    Hilton award availability changes constantly, you should keep trying. And book at least 6 weeks in advance.

  • @Marvin O’Grovel – thanks, we did luck out, they opened up rooms the day before arrival and we got them!