Taking the fast track to Las Vegas status

Welcome to rsts11 travel, my new effort to share discoveries and recommendations from my travels. This is another post on the Las Vegas topic; be sure to see the other posts regarding hotel chains and statuses as well as the strip branded credit card options (coming soon!).

What’s the deal with Total Rewards and Mlife Rewards?

Status at the two major Las Vegas strip hotel chains is easy to come by. Spend a lot of money, and you get status. Sounds pretty easy, doesn’t it? We’re going to talk about tiers and status here; reward credits are a different beast for another post.

Caesars Entertainment Total Rewards

For Total Rewards (TR), you earn one tier credit (TC) per dollar spent on hotel, dining, retail, and amenities (pools, spas, etc) at the Caesars properties. There are different earning rates for casino gaming.

Earning 5000 TC in a calendar year gets you to Platinum (the second level of Total Rewards). As a bonus, If you earn 2500 TC in a “promotional day” (generally a contiguous 24 hour period), TR gives you an extra 5000 TC and thus Platinum In A Day. Earn 5000 TC in a promotional day and a 10,000 TC bonus puts you at Diamond In A Day.

These promos lean toward gambling activity, so don’t assume that a $2,500 hotel room will get you that Platinum status. Check with Total Rewards to see before investing in that option.

MGM Resorts Mlife Rewards

For MGM Resorts Mlife Rewards (Mlife), you earn 25 tier credits (TC) per dollar spent on hotel, dining, retail, and amenities at the MGM properties. As with TR, gaming has different earning rates. At 25,000 TC you earn Pearl status, the second level of Mlife Rewards. At 75,000 TC you earn Gold, and 200,000 earns Platinum, each of which provides additional benefits and discounts.

This means that if you spend $3,000 during the year at Mlife properties, you will earn Gold status, and for $6,667 you earn Platinum. The status is good through the following September 30th–Mlife does not use a calendar year for their benefits qualification and status retention; it’s October 1 through the following year’s September 30. This option does work with non-gambling spend very easily; you could even earn Mlife Gold with a spa day alone (if you really overdo it, which I almost did last year).

Why do I care about status?

If you’re required to book your travel through a corporate service, you won’t see as much benefit on the room rates, but I’d say it’s still valuable (and you can earn TCs regardless of whose credit card pays for your stay). Some travel packages let you earn points at the Mlife and Total Rewards destinations as well. And for travel you’re arranging on your own, there’s a lot to be gained from either program, at no additional cost to you.

TR Gold and Mlife Sapphire are entry levels for the most part, but they do offer some benefits and basic discounts.

With Mlife Rewards, the most visible benefits at Pearl and above are the buffet express line, the percentage discount at MGM property retail locations, and regular tier promos for reservations. Higher levels give higher discounts, and additional bonuses on your points for gambling.

With Total Rewards, the Platinum status gives you comparable discounts to Mlife Pearl or Gold, but Diamond is where the fun begins. From a $100 “celebration dinner” per calendar year, waived resort fees at Caesars properties, and priority check-in, your experience at the hotel becomes a lot more comfortable. Add to that the Diamond Lounges, and you can definitely relax like a high roller.

Diamond Life

Diamond Lounges are available at most properties; if two properties are very close they may share a lounge (Ballys and Paris are connected, for example, so you’d go to the Paris lounge) and they’re not always easy to find (Planet Hollywood has their lounge upstairs and around a few corners, and Caesars Palace has theirs across from Guy Savoy on your way to the Laurel Collection).

Once you’re inside, you find a full bar, snacks, and a somewhat out of the way place to sit, recharge, watch television, chat with your companion, or just have a bottle of water and relax… we find these are great for taking breaks while walking the strip, getting to an event or meal reservation early, or just having a cocktail after a meal or show. They are capacity controlled, so you may have to wait in line for a bit (especially at Caesars Palace). It’s worth it if you’re not in a rush.

In addition, as Platinum or Diamond, you can get free vouchers from the Total Rewards desk for a selection of shows each month. Platinum members get a buy-one-get-one-free promo, whereas Diamond members get two free tickets per member, each month. Some of these are better than others, of course; Penn & Teller are almost always on the list, as is Mac King, and there are a few other shows and High Roller vouchers to be had if you lean that way. Availability varies, and the list is updated (and usually posted by third parties online) twice a month.

There’s gotta be an inside tip or two, right?

Right. There are ways to accelerate your status even without setting foot in Las Vegas, although it’s easier to take advantage of that status if you go there. (Each of the two major companies also has properties in other locations, like Atlantic City, Reno, and others, but those complicate some of the calculations.)

First, with the credit card options, you can accelerate your status. Get the Mlife Rewards Mastercard and you start off at Mlife Pearl status. Get and use the Total Rewards VISA card within 90 days of issuance, and you get Platinum for your first year, and can renew it if you spend $5000 per calendar year after that, even without spending a penny in Las Vegas.

If you have platinum or higher status with Hyatt, you can match and start off at Mlife Gold or higher. The Hyatt Credit Card from Chase includes Hyatt Platinum status, so this would let you match to Mlife Gold, giving you an instant advantage over the Mlife Mastercard’s Pearl status. You get the extra benefit of earning both Mlife Rewards and Hyatt rewards, although that will change when the World of Hyatt program debuts in March, 2017.

worldofhyatt-mgmLast minute update: It appears that the Mlife partnership will be mostly unimpacted by the changeover from Gold Passport to World of Hyatt. We’ll have to see if the credit card option changes though.

 

Founder, not flounder

If you’re an entrepreneur or founder, you should lookcard-2f40f0399a019a27a941a3d75d560ec6d50fef4d7733a56e660020c20831855d into the FoundersCard program. FoundersCard is a membership program that includes dozens of benefits of use to a startup, company founder, entrepreneur, consultant, or the like. These benefits include discounts and promotions on car services, air travel, hotels, business services, spiffs for busy people, and more.

FoundersCard is pertinent here because, for the last couple of years, one of the benefits included has been Total Rewards Diamond status. If you’re approved for membership, you go to the member site and initiate your status upgrade for each program you choose. It will take a couple of days for most programs, and sometimes a week or more; the FoundersCard team is very helpful if you run into questions or concerns about the benefits or your membership in general.

The annual fee for FoundersCard is $595, but with the code FCROBERT190 you can join at $395/year. After you enroll, you can add your spouse or significant other for a one-time fee (not an annual fee) and get that person the same benefits for as long as you renew your membership.

I found that in my first year of membership, I easily got 2-3x the membership cost in benefits, from certain discounts (Fivefour, Soma, Namecheap, Dell, etc) and the Total Rewards Platinum status.

I’ll have a review of FoundersCard down the road a bit. I joined because I do a bit of travel and goods-and-services shopping for my consultancy and the computer store I own, but some of the benefits apply even when traveling in my day job’s corporate hat.

Where do we go from here?

Have you found any tricks and tips on status and benefits in Las Vegas? Have I missed your favorite benefit of TR or Mlife status? Share them in the comments below, or join the conversation on Facebook.

 

[Photo credit: Credit card images from their respective loyalty program websites; Founderscard image from the Founderscard website.]

Disclosure: I do earn a referral bonus if you join Founderscard with my code, and I appreciate that if you choose to do so. I get absolutely nothing if you get one of the credit cards mentioned above.

Quick note: I was re-reading this post in April 2017 and realized I’d referred to MLife Diamond which doesn’t exist. The top earned status is Platinum, followed by the invite-only Noir. Caesars’ analogues are Diamond (top earned status) and Seven Stars (invite-only).

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