Just as with investing, diversification can be a successful strategy in the miles an points world. I put this maxim into practice the other day when I applied for a new credit card based (almost) entirely on the fact that I wanted to stay at a particular hotel and didn't have any points in the hotel's program.
I needed to book a night at the Dublin Airport Radisson Blu (a member of the Club Carlson program) but the old points balance was a sad "0." This isn't entirely surprising, given that I have never stayed at a Club Carlson hotel (Radisson Blu, Radisson, Park Plaza, Park Inn, Country Inn & Suites) before. So, did I bite the bullet and pay cash? Hah! Silly rabbit, what else would I do but apply for a new credit card?
The card I chose, the Club Carlson Visa Signature from US Bank is discussed at length in this thread at Flyertalk. You can find a signup link there as well. I'd had my eye on it for a while, because it has some interesting features. The signup bonus is 50,000 points for the first use and an additional 35,000 points if you spend $2,500 on the card in 90 days. That's no problem with Amazon Payments and other "manufactured spend" tools.
So, what are those points worth? My redemption will net about .4 cpp, meaning that the 85,000 points are worth about $340. Not bad, but not astounding. Of course, you can do better with other redemptions. Club Carlson is pretty strong in Scandinavian countries, and I plan on using points there on a future trip. Here's an example of potential value:
The #3 hotel in Stockholm on Tripadvisor is the Radisson Blu Waterfront. On a random date in June, rooms are 1,745 Swedish Krona ($275) or 50,000 Club Carlson points. That's value of .55 cpp. Not bad, right?
But it gets better. The killer feature of this card is really innovative: the last night of every multi-night award stay is free. The benefit is illustrated on the information booklet for the card:
This is what makes the card a really outstanding value. If I stay for two nights in Stockholm, it will still cost me 50,000 points, taking the per night cost down to 25,000 points and raising the CPP value to 1.1. At that ratio, the signup bonus is worth over $900.
The card earns at 5 points per dollar spent, which puts it at around 2% conservatively. It also comes with some other features, including Gold status with Club Carlson. The annual fee is $75 and it is not waived the first year. Each subsequent year when you pay the annual fee, you'll earn an additional 40,000 points. All around, this is a great card and a way to build a balance with a niche program.