The Best Hotel Value in the World

Posted By Trav

park inn bratislava

A perfect location, directly on the main square of the the gorgeous Old City and steps from one of Europe’s mightiest rivers.

A view of a medieval castle out the window.

Complimentary access to a huge fitness center, pool, spa, and a sauna (no bathing suits allowed)!

Large, clean, and modern rooms.

A panorama lounge on the top floor for even more viewing pleasure.

Fast, free internet.

And an incredibly helpful and friendly staff.

What could make this hotel even better?

How about an incredible price?

When I wrote that the US Bank Club Carlson Visa was the best hotel card out there, I knew I’d get good value out of the 85,000 point sign up bonus by using them in Europe.

Not just because 85,000 is a huge chunk of points (which it is) but especially because every time you stay more than 2 nights on points, you get the last night free.

Stay 3 nights, pay for 2.

Or, your best value, stay 2 nights, pay for 1.  Buy one, get one free!

But even knowing this, I never imagined the value would be this great.

So, Where Am I?

As I’m sitting here writing this post, I’m gazing out of my 4th floor window at the Bratislava Castle.  Earlier today, I took an hour long swim, followed by a nice relaxing session in the hot tub.

And for this pleasure, I’ve spent 9,000 points for two nights!

That’s right, the amazing Park Inn Bratislava is listed as a Category 1 Club Carlson hotel, which costs 9,000 per night.

But since I have the US Bank Club Carlson visa, I get buy one, get one free nights.

This is not just a steal…it’s highway robbery!

Since I signed up for both the personal and business version of the Club Carlson Visa card (85k sign up each), I’ve got a total of 170k points.

This means I could theoretically stay here for 36 nights for free!

US Bank Club Carlson Visa personal card <—— Click here to apply

But What If I Don’t Want to go to Bratislava?


I’ve been in Bratislava for all of 20 hours, and I’m already absolutely in love with the city.  I’d tell anyone and everyone to head here.

Beautiful medieval old town that’s easily walkable, excellent weather, great food, and cheap beer.  Plus, it’s only an hour and a half train ride from Vienna.

But, if you don’t want to go to Bratislava, no problem.  There are tons of other intriguing options.

Looking at Club Carlson’s award chart, here are some of the most interesting places that are mind-boggingly listed as a category 1 hotel:

  • Radisson Blu Alexandria, Egypt
  • Park Inn Budapest, Hungary
  • Park Inn Reykjavik, Iceland
  • Park Inn Vilnius, Lithuania
  • Park Inn Cardiff, Wales
  • Park Inn Jaipur, India

(here’s the entire list)

I’ve never personally been to any of these hotels, but after staying at this Park Inn, I’ve a huge fan.  And Radisson Blu hotels are a step up from the Park Inn, so I’m sure the one in Alexandria is quite nice.

To put it into perspective how amazing it is that these hotels are Category 1, here are the Category 1 hotels in the US:

  • Country Inn & Suites Saraland, Alabama
  • Park Inn Fresno
  • Country Inn & Suites Atlanta Airport
  • Country Inn & Suites Greenfield, Indiana
  • Country Inn & Suites Tulsa
  • Country Inn & Suites Cookeville, Tennessee

No offense to the good people of Saraland or Cookeville, but I’m guessing their hotels don’t have a view of a castle.

You’re definitely going to get the best value by using these points abroad.

How To Get The Free Bonus Night

Be aware that you’ll only get the free bonus night if you are a Club Carlson Visa cardholder.  If you just use points for your stay, and don’t have the card, you can’t get this bonus.

The “Bonus Night” when using points is THE reason that the Club Carlson Visa is the best hotel card out there. 

And getting the free night is simple.

Each time you book a stay with just points (not points+cash), you’re last night is always free.

All you have to do is book your hotel stay for however many nights you want, and you’ll automatically get the last night free.

Remember, you get the last night free even if you only stay 2 nights (buy one, get one free)!

It really is that simple.

Save Even More Points By Switching Between Accounts

If you get both the personal version of the Club Carlson card and the business version, you’ll be given two separate Club Carlson accounts.

This is a good thing.

By having two accounts, you can switch back and forth and get the free nights.

For example, I’m staying at the Park Inn Bratislava for 4 nights.  If I booked this all with one account, I’d pay for the first 3 nights and get the 4th night free.

Total, I’d pay 27k points (3 x 9k)

But I booked the first 2 nights with my personal account, which means I’ll pay 9k for the first night and get the 2nd night free.

Then, I booked the second 2 nights with my business account, which means I’m paying 9k for the 3rd night and getting the 4th free.

By switching between accounts, I’m paying 18k for 4 nights instead of 27k.

If the person you are staying with also has a Club Carlson account, you can do the same thing.  Just book the 1st two nights under their name, and then the next 2 nights under your name.

Final Word(s)

I knew that Club Carlson points were going to be valuable when I headed to Europe, but even I couldn’t have imagined that the Park Inn Bratislava would be this nice and this cheap.

I’ve always said that the Club Carlson Visa was the best hotel credit card out there, but now I’m even more convinced.

I highly, highly recommend it to anyone who is looking to rack up a slew of free nights at some nice hotels.

I know of a great hotel in Bratislava…you may just see me moved in by the time you get here!

Caution:  US Bank is known to be stingy with applicants who have applied for multiple other credit cards recently. Also, they may approve you for the lower version, which is only 65k.  I still consider the rewards worth the risk, but just be aware.

US Bank Club Carlson Visa personal card <—— Click here to apply

US Bank Club Carlson Visa business card <—— Click here to apply

I’ll receive a small commission if you apply for the personal card through my link but not the business card.  If you do choose to help support the site, I truly appreciate it!

Have you used Club Carlson points before?  What are some of your favorite Club Carlson hotels?


  1. BFD says:

    Can you book two nights in hubbies name, two nights in wife name, and then two more nights in hubbies name again . . . Not consecutive stays? And thus get 6 nights?!?!

    1. Trav says:

      @BFD- Yep, as long as there is one night in between where it isn’t the same account, you are fine. So in your case, that’d totally work.

      If you don’t have two people to do it with, what you can do is book 2 nights, then spend 1 night somewhere else, and then come back for 2 nights. That’s another way to maximize value, just a touch inconvenient.

  2. Lee says:

    Great idea about having two Club Carlson accounts. I messed up and have all my points consolidated into one account. Good thing I’m married! Now, we can do the same thing, but will bounce between her account and mine… I guess this means I have to take her with me. LOL

    1. Trav says:

      @Lee- I almost consolidated until I realized the loophole, and then decided against it. Taking the wifey with you…Small price to pay for free nights, right?

  3. cj says:

    great minds think alike lol – im staying there in may for 2 nights (9,000 w/cc) then 1 night at Hilton doubletree 10,000 also great hotel – last time I stayed there ELO (electric light orchestra was having breakfast with me) then going back for another 2 nights at park inn -im glad to see a nice review on park inn and im looking forward to a great 3 months in Europe —love your blog

    1. Trav says:

      @cj- Awesome, sounds like a great 5 days. When was the last time you were here? This is a wonderful city, for sure. Can’t believe everything is so cheap!

  4. Mark D. says:

    I was just looking at these cards yesterday an here is another great thing to consider. Every anniversary you can get 8 free nights at one of these hotels on just one of your cards using the BOGO trick. That is a better anniversary bonus than any of the other cards out there IMO.

    1. Trav says:

      @Mark D.- Yeah, it’s amazing. The anniversary bonus, which I didn’t even mention, is huge, especially with the BOGO trick. I’m never getting rid of this card…another small perk- it gives you Silver status, so upgraded rooms!

      1. Ken says:

        You get Gold status with the Premier and Biz cards and Silver with the lower level card.

  5. Ken says:

    I’d love to go to eastern Europe. What made you checkout Bratislava? Was it the cheapo redemptions? Now that we’re canceling Ireland we’ll have more Carlson points to burn :)

    1. Trav says:

      @Ken- I’ve always wanted to go to Bratislava and Ljubljana. Not sure why, just sounded so exotic and foreign to me. And both are so beautiful. So when we were heading to Croatia, I figured, why not stop up here first? BA Avios points (4.5k only) from Paris to Vienna, then train to Bratislava, then train to Ljubljana, and then down to Croatia.

      Of course, being much cheaper than Western Europe certainly helps…and in my mind, just as beautiful, if not more so!

      1. Ken says:

        I’ve always wanted to go to Croatia. I just love saying Dubrovnik :D

        1. Trav says:

          @Ken- Yeah, half the fun of traveling to Eastern/Central Europe is the names! I forgot that it’s Gold status for Premier cardholders. My one is a Premier, the other isn’t.

        2. Ken says:

          I’m hoping after this summer’s RTW trip my wife will be open to going to less tourist traps and more places like eastern EU, South America, etc.

  6. Brea Heth says:

    Is this a good card to get if you don’t stay in Club Carlson hotels often? It seems like a great card to get based on the bonus miles for sign-up and renewal alone!

    1. Brea Heth says:

      Ah, kind of answering my own question.. I was looking at this as being connected with FlexPerks, but it’s not. The points are only for Club Carlson hotel stays, correct? Still seems like a great deal!

    2. Trav says:

      @Brea Heth- Yeah, they are only tied to Club Carlson hotels…but…I never stay at Club Carlson’s really (or many hotels for that matter). But there are so many Club Carlson’s around, that it is really nice to have that option. And the value of the amount of points to quality of hotel is waaaayyy better than most other hotel loyalty programs.

      Again, I’m not a huge hotel point guy, but this is one card that I think is a must-have!

  7. JustSaying says:

    If you like to swim for an hour at a time here is a great resource for you


  8. Bart says:

    “No offense to the good people of Saraland or Cookeville, but I’m guessing their hotels don’t have a view of a castle.”

    But you probably can’t get boiled peanuts in Bratislava.

    1. Trav says:

      @Bart- Haven’t seen any yet, that’s for sure. Every town has got it’s perks!

  9. Mark says:

    The current advertised offer is stay two consecutive nights get third free. Is the BOGO a limited-time promotion?

    1. Trav says:

      @Mark- No, the BOGO is always available. When I first say the “advertised offer” it sounded like a stay 2, get 3rd free. But what it really is a BOGO offer. It states “any time you stay 2 or more nights, get the last night free.” So, staying 2 nights counts, and the last night (the 2nd night) is free.

      I was just able to do this twice over the last 4 days, so the BOGO is definitely still is in play.

  10. thefitduck says:

    Hey Trav, good hotel hack! ;)
    I’ve just watched this movie http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Up_in_the_Air_(2009_film) and I thought it will be a good inspiration for everyone interested in FF points and ultra light travel!

    1. Trav says:

      @thefitduck- Yep, I love that movie!

  11. steven says:

    You didn’t get 85k on each. You were only approved for the lower tier personal card, as you mentioned in a prior post. But pointing that out would minimize the click-thrus since people won’t want to apply for a card which is very difficult to get approved for.

    1. Trav says:

      @steven- Did you have trouble getting the higher sign up bonus? I actually had forgotten the first one was the lower one, since when I checked my points, I had over 85k in each account (due to spending).

  12. Rick Jordan says:

    Both links took me to the personal card site.

    Thanks for the heads-up. We plan to get both cards and use them for our summer trip to Zambia. The Radisson Blu is in Lusaka – but it is not the deal you’re getting. It is 44K/pm. Still, the sign up bonus will give us two nights for one. Best available rate is $236/pm. We’ll go through your link to give you some more travel money!

    1. Trav says:

      @Rick Jordan- Yeah, still a good deal. I’ve considered staying at a “higher level” Club Carlson, but man, I’m now spoiled with this 9k per night rate at the Park Inn.

      Have you been to Lusaka before? My cousin did 2 years in the Peace Corps around there…but she was certainly not staying at the Radisson Blu!

      Thanks for the support, appreciate it!

    2. Trav says:

      @Rick- PS, I fixed the link. Thanks for the heads up!

  13. Kevin says:

    Thanks, this is awesome Travis! I got the personal card a few months back but hadn’t bothered to check out what hotels Club Carlson offered yet. I will definitely be putting these points to good use at some of these places – maybe even sign up for the business version too!

    1. Trav says:

      @Kevin- Yeah, you’ll be pleasantly surprised at the quality of hotels compared to their point values. I wrote about the category 1 hotels, but there are plenty of good ones right up the ladder. And with buy 1 get 1, you definitely can’t go wrong!

  14. Yuhao says:

    Amazing value. But this is probably THE hardest personal card to get. I’m afraid to even try again. Though this post is encouraging me to…

    1. Ken says:

      Wife and I both were instantly approved for the Club Carlson cards. Hers is personal and mine is Biz, both the 85k cards. Now, Arrival it took me several tries and she still hasn’t been able to get it. Barclays is pretty tight right now, it’s very hard to get more than 1 approval in a year with them.

      1. Trav says:

        @Ken- Agreed that it seems like Barclays, unfortunately, is tightening up dramatically as well. If you are thinking of getting another Barclays card, I recommend spending on the ones you have before applying. Barclays kept denying me cards, for 2 straight app-o-ramas. Then, before I applied again, I spent on the Barclays cards I had, and got instantly approved. That probably helped!

      2. Yuhao says:

        Hmm, when did the Barclay tightening occur? I got 3 cards from them last year, in march, aug and dec.

        1. Trav says:

          @Yuhao- Seems like it’s tightening for some, and not for others. I had some problems getting a few Barclays cards last year, then got instantly approved last time I tried, so I’m not sure where I stand with them. If you were able to get 3, great job!

    2. Trav says:

      @Yuhao- US Bank can definitely be stingy, for sure. If you’ve applied for a lot of cards recently, I’d hold off until you have a lull in the action. They also approve people for a lower version of the card which only gives 65k…still not a bad deal though.

  15. Drew says:

    So did you hop over to Budapest or Vienna?

    1. Trav says:

      @Drew- We flew in to Vienna from Paris using BA Avios (4.5k each). Then spent 3 days in Vienna, 4 days here in Bratislava. Tomorrow, headed down to Ljubljana for 2 days, then down to Split for 3 weeks. After that, flying back up to Prague for 3-4 days, then on to Berlin for 4 days, Amsterdam probably for 4, and then London to see friends before coming back.

      Any recommendations on the areas we are heading? I’m hoping to do a few 2-3 day trips from Split. Possibly one out to the islands and then one to Sarajevo. Suggestions are welcome!

      1. Ken says:

        Three WEEKS? Hostels I assume?

        1. Trav says:

          @Ken- We rented an apartment on AirBnB. Total cost was $500 for 3 weeks, and it’s in a perfect location. Just got here today, and already, the hostess is one of the nicest ladies I’ve met. I’ll definitely be reviewing it on the site when my stay is complete.

          1. Ken says:

            Man that is a great price! Take lots of pics for us.

      2. Kevin says:

        Travis, my Croatian friends have recommended Dubrovnik to me in the past. It’s on my list once I get to Croatia.

        Do you know where you are staying in Berlin?

        1. Trav says:

          @Kevin- Yeah, we were looking at Dubrovnik but ended up deciding to stay in Split just because it was closer to other day trips we may want to take. Not sure where we are staying in Berlin, do you have recommendations?

          1. Kevin says:

            I stayed at the EastSeven hostel last year in Berlin. It was very nice there. Relaxed, good atmosphere and location. Looks like the rates have gone up a bit since last April but still a good value.

            There was a good free walking tour of the city that I went on too. Forget the name of it but they picked up folks from a few hostels in the area. Very informative and also good to go on the first day to get a better idea of places and museums to visit later.

          2. Trav says:

            @Kevin- Awesome. Yeah, I did a free walking tour in Bratislava, and it was excellent. They seem to be popping up in almost every city, which is great. Here’s a pretty good list of all the cities I’ve seen with free walking tours:


      3. Drew says:

        Sounds like an epic trip. I hear Krawkow, Poland is the best ever, which isn’t far from Prague. I didn’t much enjoy Berlin much. But I’m not a night life junkie. I mean, to each his own. This is no doubt an awesome trip. Let us/me know how Croatia is. Never been.

        1. Trav says:

          @Drew- Yeah, I’m not a nightlife junkie either, so I think some of Berlin’s appeal may be lost on me, but we’ll see. And like you, I have friends who have RAVED about Krakow. The fact that it’s like Prague 10 years ago in terms of price doesn’t hurt much either. I wish I had time to get up there, but don’t think we’ll make it.

  16. choi says:

    Look I m not going to dink you for pitching a credit card sign-up, but you also need to add a few lines of caution about US Bank in general. for most folks who are not into this CC game, its actually easier to qualify if the credits are good. but for regular card churners, the added inquiries are a sure deny.

    1. Trav says:

      @Choi- I don’t disagree, but that is becoming the case of all banks. For example, I was able to get both US Bank cards, and yet, Barclays had been denying me over and over. Then last time, I got instantly approved for Barclays, and Chase, for the first time, denied me. I’m guessing I have as many inquiries as almost everyone else, so I’m not sure there is really a method to the madness. US Bank may be thought of as harder to get in the past, but I’m not sure that’s the case anymore. Looks like a lot of lenders are tightening their belt.

      That being said, I’m definitely adding a statement that you may get approved for a lower level version of the card.

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