FUD-busting in Las Vegas this week

There are a couple of news items that have come out of Las Vegas in the last week (and one that’s floating around from a couple of weeks ago) that have inspired a lot of misinformation on travel forums. Since we’re here to provide valid information and guidance, we figured we’d give you a quick rundown on four such sources of dismay.

  1. Eldorado Resorts hasn’t bought Caesars Entertainment yet; that transaction won’t close until next year.
  2. The Rio All-Suites Hotel and Casino has been sold through a lease-back deal, and nothing will change for patrons for at least two years as a result of this transaction. 
  3. The Hard Rock Hotel in Las Vegas is still open and operating; the closure to convert to a Virgin Hotels venue won’t be until early 2020
  4. The Hooters Hotel and Casino has already cut over to its new branding under the India-based On Your Own (OYO) brand. 

Now for some details.

Eldorado Resorts Acquiring Caesars Entertainment

Eldorado Resorts has announced that they plan to acquire Caesars Entertainment for over $17 billion, with the deal closing in early 2020 (closer to January 1 than June 30 according to Eldorado’s CEO in the August earnings call).

What this means is that, for now, Caesars remains Caesars. Anything you like or don’t like about the property, the casinos, the brand, the Caesars Rewards loyalty program, or anything of the sort has absolutely nothing to do with this future transaction.

It’s expected that the combined company will operate under the Caesars name next year after the transaction closes. This means we expect Caesars Rewards to continue, most of the Strip hotels currently operated by Caesars to continue to do so, but other changes are likely to happen.

There are a lot of rumors about Caesars selling off properties on the Strip or elsewhere. Aside from the next story, which is almost under that category, there’s nothing firm and lots of speculation.

Rio Sale to Imperial Companies with Leaseback Deal

Caesars Entertainment is selling the Rio All Suites Hotel to Imperial Companies for $516 million. They will rent the property back and continue to operate it for two years, with the developers having an option to extend the agreement for a year beyond that.

Based on this and related news (like the World Series Of Poker returning to Rio in 2020), we don’t expect it to be torn down or turned into a sports stadium, as had been rumored. It also means that your Caesars Rewards program will still apply there for at least another two years.

Hopefully the cash infusion from Imperial will give Caesars some money to refresh the Rio, but for now you should be able to expect at least what you’ve experienced there. That means 2-3 more years of the Penn & Teller Theatre (and “Fool Us”) as well as other regular attractions including comedy, World Series of Poker, and more.

Hard Rock Hotel Converting To Virgin

Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Hotels brand has purchased the Hard Rock Hotel in Las Vegas. Renovation and rebranding will begin in February 2020, with the hotel closing for about 8 months to complete the changes.

Until February, though, the Hard Rock Hotel remains open as it has been for years. A new exhibition of memorabilia is opening tomorrow (September 27) even, so they’re not fading away, and you still have four months or so to make a final visit before the metamorphosis.

And the Hard Rock Cafe and Hard Rock Live on the Strip should be unaffected by this transition, other than fewer tourists showing up at the restaurant hoping to get a room.

Hooters Hotel Converted To OYO

India’s On Your Own hotel company recently acquired the Las Vegas Hooters Hotel and Casino, as predicted by Vital Vegas a couple of months ago.

They showed the signage changes on September 16th on Twitter, and word is that Hooters Restaurant will move to the Strip, probably with a branded section of an existing casino.

Wrapping it up

Remember that, as Abraham Lincoln said, you can’t believe everything you see on the Internet. Before taking anyone’s word on changes in Vegas (including ours), put 30 seconds into Google and make sure what you’re hearing is correct.

Quick take: Priority Pass changes and confusion cleared up for you

Welcome to rsts11travel. Today we’re looking briefly at an underrated benefit on several premium charge and credit cards, and a recent change that has been causing confusion and misplaced expertise on travel forums this week.

tl;dr: American Express announced in May that they would no longer offer the restaurant benefit on Priority Pass memberships through their cards. Priority Pass reminded customers of this earlier this week. US Bank, Citi, and Chase benefits are unchanged. 

We’ve also looked at Priority Pass in the following posts:

Priority Pass is a company that provides a subscription service of sorts for airport lounges around the world. They began offering this “club” program in 1992.

You can subscribe through their website for an annual plan that gives you access to over 1000 lounges and airport facilities around the world; depending on your needs, you can choose to pay as little as $99 up front for a year’s membership (with a $32 per person visit fee) or select their Prestige membership at $429/year which provides you unlimited free visits and a $32/person guest visit fee. 

Most people using their service, however, do not pay them directly. Several premium credit and charge cards from American Express, US Bank, Chase, and Citi offer a version of Priority Pass (usually Priority Pass Select) which gives you either an “unlimited” number of visits with a specified number of guests included, or a fixed number of visits included.

In addition to over a thousand lounges in the program, Priority Pass also offers access to Minute Suites relaxation bays at certain airports, as well as a generous restaurant credit at about 30 airport restaurants in the US. These options have different values than a regular lounge access benefit, but many travelers (your hosts included) have found them to be good options when available.

So what’s changed?

In late May, American Express announced that they would discontinue the restaurant benefit on Priority Pass memberships granted through an American Express charge or credit card. This caused some ire, but very few cardmembers chose the premium cards from Amex because of the $28 restaurant credit.

Earlier this week, Priority Pass themselves sent out a notice (right), co-branded with the American Express Global Lounge Collection, specifying that the membership noted in the email would no longer offer the “non-lounge airport experiences” and offering a link to the frequently asked questions (FAQ) for this change.

Both the email and the FAQ state that this change only applies to the membership account specified in the email. And as confirmed by numerous travel bloggers, there has been no announcement by Chase, Citi, or US Bank that they are changing this benefit (in fact, at least The Points Guy has actively confirmed with each that they are not changing at this time).

But still, the link to the FAQ spread like wildfire, without the “qualification” of the email source, and mild panic ensued.

Should I panic and spread rumors on the Internet?

In a word, no.

The change to Amex benefits has been known for a while, and the email sent this week clearly applies to the American Express provided Priority Pass membership whose number is in your email.

No changes have been announced or even credibly intimated regarding changes to the other cards offering Priority Pass. All three banks issuing the cards have publicly confirmed that they are not changing the non-lounge benefit.

Does this mean they will never change anything until the inevitable heat death of the universe? Of course not. But it’s obvious to recognize that the Priority Pass benefit from Citi, Chase, and US Bank premium cards is still valid and will continue to be so for the foreseeable future.

What should I do?

If you don’t use Priority Pass at all, or if you only use it for airport lounges, nothing changes for you.

If you have your Priority Pass through a card not issued by American Express, nothing changes for you.

If you have your Priority Pass through a card that is issued by American Express and you want to use the restaurant benefits after July 31, 2019, you will want to check to see if any of your non-Amex cards offer the benefit.

The US Bank Altitude Reserve and Chase Sapphire Reserve (not Preferred) are popular choices still available for application. If you have the Citi Prestige card (no longer offered to new cardmembers), your benefit remains available and unchanged as well.

You can usually activate your Priority Pass benefit through your card issuer’s website/account portal, or by calling their customer service phone number. When we activated the Chase Sapphire Reserve Priority Pass, it took about two weeks to get the card and member number, but others have reported getting it sooner.

Once you get your card, activate your online account at the Priority Pass website or in their mobile app. Most participating locations will accept the “digital card” in the app, so you don’t need to carry the plastic version, but if you have room in your wallet or purse, you may want to do so anyway.

Wrapping it up

We hope the details in this post will help you quash any confusion about the changes and notifications around Priority Pass benefits for American Express and other cards.

The Priority Pass app, available for IOS and Android, is going to be useful going forward if you do have an Amex-offered Priority Pass benefit. It was already good for tracking down details of available lounges, as well as offering the digital membership card, but as of August 1, 2019, it will also help you avoid Priority Pass properties that are not included in your benefit.

We also expect that the “Find an Airport Lounge” feature of the Amex mobile app will be updated as well; it’s a good resource for finding eligible lounges across several networks offered by Amex (including Centurion Lounge, Delta SkyClub, and others).

We recommend checking the respective apps or websites before traveling, so that you are not disappointed upon arrival to find certain properties have left the program (as we saw with Campanile at LAX last fall). Also check participating lounge hours and availability to Priority Pass members, and remember that they are subject to capacity limits even during available hours (laws of physics and all).

rsts11travel quick take: Waldorf Astoria Las Vegas and Amex Fine Hotels & Resorts Program

This post is the companion to a quick video blog we recorded on the topic. The video will appear here:

Welcome back to rsts11travel.

We were out traveling (surprising, huh?) and missed the live June 23, 2019, Ace of Vegas #VEGAS podcast a week or so ago. Catching up on the recording, the crew mentioned Waldorf Astoria Las Vegas, a property we’re familiar with and had some thoughts on. 

Waldorf Astoria in Las Vegas started its life as the Mandarin Oriental, a part of City Center (along with Aria, Vdara, Crystals, and Veer). It was one of the least expensive MO properties, and remains quite affordable for its class, especially if you take advantage of American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts. 

You’ll get most of this content if you watch the video, but for folks using translators or just wanting to read rather than watch or listen, we got you covered. 

A Hilton Hotel on the Las Vegas Strip? 

Well, it wasn’t always that way. The Mandarin Oriental Las Vegas opened in City Center in 2009. It was LEED Gold Certified, sort of an oddball in that it was a premium worldwide brand known for expensive rooms, the perhaps-obvious Asian theming, and a luxury experience that could easily go unnoticed on the strip (we didn’t know it was there until we were booked there in 2014 by corporate travel). 

Mandarin Oriental Las Vegas was a non-casino, non-smoking resort with 392 hotel rooms (and about 225 condo-type residential units selling for about $2 million). This is a familiar model, as Vdara and Signature at MGM started with similar split models. It was not an MGM Resorts property, although guests of MGM resorts could charge restaurant and bar tabs at MO back to their MGM property room folio. You could not do the other direction (charge MGM venues back to MO). 

The dining options were luxurious as well, from MOzen on the third floor providing American and European breakfast and lunch, to the tea lounge and Sky Bar on the 23rd floor (next to the main lobby), to Twist by Pierre Gagnaire.

Yes, you read right, the lobby is on the 23rd floor. You’d drop your car with the included valet service on the ground level (behind Bobby Flay’s “Bobby’s Burger Palace” and the CVS drugstore), head up to the 23rd floor, check in, and then head up or down in separate elevator banks to your guest room. 

But something changed

That’s right. In 2018, the property changed owners and management. The co-founders of Panda Express bought the property, and it was converted to a Waldorf Astoria. The MO era ended at the end of August, 2018, and $50 million or so later, it reopened as Waldorf Astoria. 

MOzen was renamed to Zen Kitchen (the MO for Mandarin Oriental no longer making sense). Twist, the Tea Lounge, and Sky Bar all remained intact. 

We haven’t been back since the transition, but we’re hoping to do so soon. 

This isn’t going to be cheap, is it? 

We mentioned that Mandarin Oriental properties can be expensive. A room at the Mandarin Oriental Boston, for example, starts at $595/night or so. But by 2014 at least, rooms could readily be found at the MO Las Vegas for around $200-300/night. Sure, Excalibur is cheaper, but they’re not comparable. And for an upscale room and experience, $200 is quite reasonable (compare with Aria or Wynn for example). 

When we started working on this post and video, we looked at a couple of reservation choices, ranging from 1-2 weeks out to 6 months out. 

A room July 2-5 (about 8 days advance reservation) ran $287/night.

A month later for August 2-5, we found $225/night, and August 3-6 was $198/night. 

A December 6-9 stay showed up at $205/night. 

But what’s with the Hilton bit?

We’re glad you asked. Since you’re staying at a Hilton property, you can earn Hilton Honors points on your folio, or you can redeem them. Quick checks of the options above came to about 330-360 points per dollar, or 0.2-0.3 cents per point. Not a great redemption compared to TPG’s estimate of 0.6 cents per point, but if you have points to burn (or if you can get a points + cash redemption), it’s worth considering. 

You may do better to watch the promotions Hilton offers. Our last paid stay at a Hilton rewarded us with about 45 points per dollar spent, between a couple of promos, Hilton Honors Gold status, and the green housekeeping option. That’s between 9-27 cents on the dollar, and can be used toward future stays (maybe even a return to the Waldorf Astoria). Promos come and go, of course. 

There has to be an even better way

We mentioned the American Express Fine Hotels and Resorts program (FHR) in the intro. Platinum charge card members can take advantage of this program to add some extra benefits to a stay at some of the most impressive properties in the world. 

These benefits start with early check-in, late check-out, a room upgrade when available, daily breakfast or breakfast credit (usually $30/person/day for up to two people), free wifi access (usually about $5+tax/day), and a property amenity chosen by the hotel. Most of the time we’ve seen the property amenity be a $100 spa credit to be used during your stay, but a stay at Delano Las Vegas at Mandalay Bay had a dining credit to be used at almost any Mandalay Bay restaurant property. 

The rates for FHR reservations are not always the lowest available, but with up to $165/day plus the chance of an upgrade, they are often still a good deal. 

Beyond that, though, you may find a free third, fourth, or fifth day for your stay. Our visit to the Aria Sky Suites had the third night free, and looking at the Waldorf Astoria, we found that the dates we chose effectively gave the fourth night free. 

On top of that, you can use your qualifying Amex card to earn 5x Membership Rewards (MR) points for prepaid stays, or you can use your MR points at 1 cent per point for a prepaid stay. 

It is worth noting that properties are not guaranteed to stay in the FHR program; we’ve seen Aria Sky Suites come in and out a few times over the years. If you have a qualifying Amex Platinum charge card (not the credit cards like Amex Delta Platinum Credit Card), it’s worth looking for any upscale stay in Las Vegas including the Waldorf Astoria.

So bring it home for us

You probably wouldn’t think of the Waldorf Astoria as an economy hotel. It’s not, but the Las Vegas location may be one of the most affordable ways to try the brand out, whether you’re paying “cash,” redeeming Hilton Honors points, or taking advantage of several American Express options with the property. 

Have you stayed at the Waldorf Astoria since Hilton took over management? Share your thoughts in the comments below, and we’ll see you in Vegas soon!

 

 

Nespresso coffee & espresso on the go with Wacaco and Barsetto

We had a Valentine’s Day date at the Ritz-Carlton San Francisco a couple years ago. In addition to the club level treatment, excellent housekeeping, wonderful bed, and courteous staff throughout the property, we were particularly impressed with the Nespresso coffeemaker in the room.

Seems like a small detail, but it’s a consistent luxury experience that was like a touch of home away from home. And we usually can’t fit a Nespresso brewer in our carryon suitcases and still have room for anything else.

Well, today we’ll look at two options that we’ve tried this year for brewing Nespresso Originaline capsules on the go.

In this post (it’s a lungo!):

  • Getting into hot water
  • Carrying your capsules
  • Wacaco Minipresso NS
  • Barsetto Tripresso ES
  • Barsetto brew experience review
  • Expanding the Brew-off to include the Minipresso
  • Bring it home for us?

Getting into hot water

Note that neither of these options heats water, and while both include a cup, you may still want a regular cup (or two, for a travel companion).

You can use an in-room hotel coffeemaker (or hot water at a conference or event), or you can bring along something like the Bodum Bistro 17oz (0.5l) kettle we use on trips. As for cups, any travel-friendly (i.e. relatively unbreakable) mug should work; you’ll brew into the included cup and then make your Americano or double shot by pouring the espresso into the cup of your choice.

One other caveat is that neither of these devices is licensed by, sold by, or authorized by Nespresso. In reality this doesn’t matter too much, but if you buy one and expect Nespresso to support it, you’ll be rightly disappointed.

I have used them with official Nespresso capsules as well as the recent Peets Coffee line of compatible capsules. Other third parties should work as well.

Carrying your capsules

As far as stocking and stashing your actual coffee, you have two options unless you want to buy the capsules upon arrival. Many major cities have a Nespresso boutique; the one in San Francisco was walking distance from our hotel, and for Silicon Valley visitors, there’s a convenient boutique in Macy’s Men’s Store at Valley Fair in Santa Clara/San Jose. Many other stores including Peets Coffee shops and many grocery-carrying stores (including Target) will sell compatible capsules as well. However, you might be too far from a convenient location.

One option is to buy the boxes or sleeves from your usual home source and toss them in your suitcase. If you have a subscription through Nespresso’s website, you can just grab a sleeve or five from your shelf at home. However, they may get damaged depending on handling (and your suitcase’s structure). Your suitcase will smell nice but it won’t help with making your morning cup.

Romaunt protective carrying case for Nespresso capsules, two sizes (4+packets and 8)

The other option (which I’ve chosen) is to get a specially-designed hard case to carry an assortment of capsules. For $20 at Amazon you can get a carrier for 8 capsules along with a carrier for 4 capsules plus sugar or tea bags. The foam inserts are removable, so you might be able to cram another 3 capsules in the larger one, or put more sugar or even mini-moo creamer in one.

But on with the brewers themselves.

Wacaco Minipresso NS

This device has been on Amazon for a while, and we found a deal through MassGenie to get a few bucks off. The Minipresso NS is currently about $41 at Amazon, and Wacaco sells travel cases for it for about $20.

The Minipresso is designed exclusively for Nespresso capsules, and uses a hand press on the front (that round disk pops out when you’re ready to brew). There’s a 70ml (2.35oz) water reservoir on one end, and the espresso cup on the other. A cleaning brush and travel pouch are included.

Barsetto Tripresso ES

The Barsetto Tripresso has been listed on Amazon for a while, but they did a crowdfunded “ES” revision of it earlier this year which allegedly improved the design. They’ve upgraded the base and pumping system, and while they say it now supports Nespresso capsules, a number of people report that (as advertised) the previous version does too. The previous version isavailable for $50-60 depending on color, and the manufacturer also sells a travel case for it for about $13.

Barsetto pumps from the top (like an Aeropress or MyJo device). This brewer includes both a Nespresso capsule adapter and a ground coffee “capsule,” so you can use fine ground coffee as well as the Nespresso capsules. The cup has a lid on the bottom, in case you’re drinking outside and don’t want leaves in your coffee. It also leaves room for sugar or milk. The brewer itself is designed to handle a regular espresso or a lungo (up to 80ml/2.7oz) with water reservoir marks for two cup sizes.

Note: The version reviewed in this post is allegedly different from the one available on Amazon. I’ve reached out to the manufacturer to see if the ES model is available for sale to the general public yet.

Barsetto brew experience review

Since I was in the backers group for the latest version of the Barsetto brewer, I wrote up a review for them based on my experience. I’ll put it here as originally posted.

WARNINGS: Remember that there are sharp blades inside the capsule container/brewer base (pictured above) to pierce the capsule. Don’t put your fingers in there. Also note that the metal brewer shaft that pushes the water through will get very hot (as you’d expect metal in contact with boiling water to do). Let it cool before cleaning.

I ran a tank of 212F water through the system to make sure it was clean and clear. Then I put a Nespresso Kazaar capsule into the brewer base, with 212F water midway between the first and second lines.

The instructions say to pump every 2-5 seconds. I went with 3 seconds, and the first drops came out after five pumps. Very nice and early crema. Kept pumping until I ran out of water. You’ll see the result in one of the photos, with AA batteries for scale.

I brewed a cup of Kazaar in my Kitchenaid Nespresso machine, fourth setting (pictured in the glass cappuccino mug above) which ended up being a bit more espresso than I got from the Tripresso). The strength was very similar and very strong as you would expect from a strength 12 Robusta coffee. The capsules were pierced and abraded in pretty much the same way between machines. The result was tasty espresso from both machines.

You will want to experiment with the amount of water and the strength of your coffee capsules. If I were doing this again with Kazaar, I’d almost certainly fill the water tank up, but with a lighter or flavored coffee (this past winter’s praline, or Cioccatino, or last winter’s orange or snowball), halfway between the level marks would be just about perfect.

One thing I discovered is that the “Cup lid” seemed to be missing, but it turned out it was on the bottom of the cup. The instructions were unclear to me (“The cup lid is placed at the back of the cup”). Note that it is not a spillproof lid; it’s more to keep bugs and leaves and stuff out of the cup, rather than to protect your espresso from spills.

Expanding the Brew-off to include the Minipresso

As the Wacaco purchase was more of a retail one rather than a social one, I did not document it quite as thoroughly, but I conducted a side-by-side comparison with the Kitchenaid Originaline and the same capsule in the Minipresso. However, I wasn’t sure that would be enough, so I got both devices out recently and did a brew-off between all three devices.

Above you’ll see comparison photos for the two devices. I don’t expect anyone will travel with the heavy metal Kitchenaid device.

For this test, I brewed a size “2” water (1.35oz espresso, about 40ml) from the Kitchenaid Nespresso brewer into a glass measure, right before testing each device, to get (presumably) the same volume and temperature of water to brew in all three devices. The capsule used was a Peets Espresso #9 “Scura,” purchased from Peets (although you can also find them on Amazon for about the same price).

With the Barsetto, I got crema at 5 pumps and it settled out and finished brewing after 20ish pumps.

With the Minipresso, the crema was thicker and lasted longer, but the first drops came through at about 10 pumps. The taste was very similar, and very strong.

Then I brewed the same capsule with the same water setting on the kitchenaid, and ended up with twice as much espresso. That was a bit of a surprise, and explains the strength of the other two.

My guess is that, while the hand-operated machines claim “up to” espresso pressure (15 bar for Barsetto, 8 bar for Minipresso NS), it’s not as consistent and depends on the amount of water and speed of pressing. The Kitchenaid, having a bit more machinery behind it, pushed the water through at higher pressure and less was absorbed by the grounds in the capsule.

Based on this, for travel use I would definitely use more water, but as with the original comparison test, I found the beverage to be predictable and consistent from both machines.

A word of warning for either machine: Be sure to rinse, cool, and dry all the parts before putting them away. Below is a photo of a full batch of 200F water run through the machine after brewing one capsule. I got the same sort of result from the Kitchenaid, but it’s not packed in a suitcase for several hours after use, so I’m not quite as worried.

Always rinse your espresso machines after use, whether on the road or at home.

Bring it home for us?

Both the Barsetto and the Minipresso NS espresso brewers will produce a drinkable, enjoyable espresso or lungo, and provide the basis for a respectable short Americano, when you’re on the road and don’t feel like venturing out of your hotel or conference for a real coffee shop. Neither is likely to replace an electric Nespresso brewer at home, but you could use it at home of course.

Your choice will likely be based on price (they’re close, and will vary over time, but the Minipresso is usually a few bucks cheaper), size (the Minipresso is a bit smaller, with a smaller built-in cup), and preference for pumping style (the Barsetto pumps vertically like an Aeropress, while the Minipresso pumps horizontally).

I’m inclined toward the Barsetto, partly because the cup has room for cream (or alcohol), and partly because I prefer the vertical pump style. Of course I don’t necessarily have to choose, and you could easily purchase and travel with both for about the cost of a dozen drinks at a hotel or airport coffee shop.

If you’ve used one of these devices, or found a convenient way to travel with an electric Nespresso machine, chime in on the comments below.

Quick take: Las Vegas Benefits for Military/Veterans? Yes!

A question came up last week on a travel forum we participate in–it started out as a general status question, but the poster dropped mention of being a military person. In digging for answers, we remembered seeing the Caesars Rewards “Salute” card offer, so we’re sharing a couple of options here.

Some of these offers may apply outside Las Vegas, and there may be others we don’t know about. You will likely need military or veteran ID or a DD214 as proof of military/veteran status, and as with the non-military programs, you will need to sign up in person at a loyalty desk at one of the properties in the program you are interested in.

Feel free to share in the comments if you know of any other veteran or military options in Vegas, and we’ll update the post. And of course, thank you for your service to the United States of America. Continue reading “Quick take: Las Vegas Benefits for Military/Veterans? Yes!”

Newsflash: Caesars Rewards adds extra tier credit benefit for direct bookings

Caesars Entertainment rebranded Total Rewards as Caesars Rewards as of February 1, 2019. They added free nights at their Dubai location and a free night in Las Vegas or Atlantic City for every 5000 tier credits (TC) earned.

Now, as of March 1, 2019, they’ve enhanced the program a little bit more. With any paid stay booked directly with Caesars (online at their website, through the app, or through their call center), visitors will earn 5 tier credits per dollar spent on room rate and resort fees. (Facebook, Twitter)

Based on the email they sent to members on February 27, this applies to any direct-booked stay with a check-out date of March 1, 2019, or later. This shouldn’t require rebooking, if you have an existing reservation booked directly with Caesars.

This is a good enhancement for Caesars Rewards members who pay for their rooms, and will help people attain higher status levels without (as much, if any) gambling spend. Specifically, you can now earn Platinum status with $1,000 in room rate and resort fees, or Diamond status with $3,000 in room rate and resort fees, in a given calendar year, not including any other spend that earns tier credits.

The emperor confirms, no rebooking needed.

You still earn 1 TC per dollar on eligible room charges as before (including dining and entertainment), and you still earn 1 reward credit (RC) per dollar on all of that spend.

And if you have the Caesars Rewards VISA credit card, you will still be earning a total of 5 RC per dollar on your charges at Caesars properties.

Obviously, if you get comps, you won’t really earn 5x TC on the $0 you spend on those, and if your resort fees are waived due to existing Caesars Rewards status, you won’t earn 5x TC on those. But you weren’t earning 1x TC on those $0 amounts before, so it’s not a loss. (Not that keeps people from whining on social media that they’re not getting bonuses on top of free rooms, of course.)

What do you think of this change to Caesars Rewards? Will it make you more likely to stay at Caesars Resorts?

How much do I have to spend to make a premium card break even?

A few months ago, we looked at up-front justification (or at least softening the blow) of the annual fees on some premium credit and charge cards. This was mainly intended to show that most of these cards have up-front benefits that compensate for the $450+ annual fees.

Several conversations on online travel and rewards forums have shown that the distinction between the annual fee and the potential value of the card are not as clear as they could be. And some people are looking solely at the sign-up bonus vs the annual fee.

So today we’ll take a deeper look at how to determine if one or more of these cards is for you.

Spoiler: If you don’t travel in a way that you can use your own cards, odds are none of these cards will be of much use to you beyond the first year, if that. 

Recap

We reviewed the American Express Platinum charge cards (both personal and business), the Chase Sapphire Reserve credit card, and the Citi AAdvantage Executive credit card.

Continue reading “How much do I have to spend to make a premium card break even?”

Newsflash: Updates to Caesars Rewards (formerly known as Total Rewards) effective TODAY

Welcome back to rsts11travel. Today we’re going to look at changes in the Caesars Entertainment rewards program, which many of you traveling to Las Vegas take advantage of.

The program, known for years as Total Rewards, is officially rebranded as Caesars Rewards as of today, February 1, 2019. No re-registration or member interaction is required for the change, and your number and point balances will remain intact. You can pick up a rebranded card at any Caesars Rewards desk in a Caesars property though. Mobile app, Comenity’s Total Rewards VISA, and other collateral will be updated in the coming months.

If you’re not a member of Total Rewards/Caesars Rewards yet, join through this link for 500 bonus Tier Credits to get you started (we also get 500 bonus TCs). You don’t get a card in the mail, but you can pick them up at any Caesars Rewards desk on property when you visit next.

Changes to Tier Benefits for 2019

What does this mean for you as a Caesars customer, other than one fewer word to name the program? Let’s take a quick look.

Continue reading “Newsflash: Updates to Caesars Rewards (formerly known as Total Rewards) effective TODAY”

Trip Report: The Ritz-Carlton Hotel at Marina Del Rey, Southern California

We recently had the opportunity to try a second Ritz-Carlton hotel during a visit to the Los Angeles area. The Ritz-Carlton Marina Del Rey is directly on the waterfront, with available rooms featuring a partial or full marina view.

This would not normally be a likely choice for a work trip, but redeeming Marriott Rewards points made the stay competitive with typical “moderate” hotels in the area.

See also:

Quick Take: Who needs a phone in a hotel bathroom?

Trip Report: Learning Experiences with LAX lounges and Southwest Airlines

A look at the redemption

The Ritz-Carlton is a part of the Marriott family. The Points Guy values Marriott Rewards points at 0.9 cents per point. Nightly rates for a basic room at this property come up in the $400-500/night range, with an option to apply 25,000 points per night to reduce the price by half. The redemption value is pretty close to TPG’s estimate (25,000 points being about $225). While it’s not necessarily the best case for using a redemption, we wanted the experience in between work activities.

We could have spent 50,000 points plus $400-500 a night to get a Club Level room. Having stayed on the Club Level at the Ritz-Carlton San Francisco, we can say that if you’re going to spend time around the hotel, this can be a very luxurious experience–we’re already looking for an excuse for a mid-week mini-vacation to try the Marina Del Rey Club Level. However, traveling solo for work didn’t justify the expense or the experience.

We were lucky to get a points + cash rate under $200/night, which falls within most corporate travel guidelines. With Marriott Platinum Elite status, we received a 50% Platinum bonus , plus 1,000 bonus points as a welcome gift. There may also be a 2,000 point bonus coming from the current Megabonus program.

Continue reading “Trip Report: The Ritz-Carlton Hotel at Marina Del Rey, Southern California”

Trip Report: Learning Experiences with LAX lounges and Southwest Airlines

Last week was a busy week for us at rsts11travel, with a few topics around a two day trip to Los Angeles, California.

This was going to be a “quick take” post, but like the trek to an available lounge, it ended up longer than expected. Here’s why.

For the last 8 years or so, we’ve had a pretty consistent airline plan for various reasons. For flights from the Bay Area to Southern California airports other than LAX, or to Las Vegas, we generally fly Southwest. Otherwise, we fly American.

And when flying American into or through LAX, the lounge choices are pretty obvious; with Admirals Club membership through the Citi AAdvantage Executive MasterCard, we visit one or more of the three Admirals Clubs here: Remote Terminal’s mini-lounge, or Terminal 4 or Terminal 5 full size lounges. They’re pretty good, with predictable offerings and reasonable space. Last year we started using Priority Pass for the restaurant credits at Campanile (which has since left the program).

The terminals that American Airlines flies to are all connected airside by walkways, tunnels, or the Remote Terminal shuttle. So we’ve never had to go through security more than once, even if visiting more than one lounge.

This trip was a bit different, in that we flew into LAX on Southwest, a barely-over-$100 round trip fare from SJC which left some budget space for other things. Arriving at Terminal 1 was a bit of a change.

Continue reading “Trip Report: Learning Experiences with LAX lounges and Southwest Airlines”