Getting paid $167 to stay 3 nights at Delano Las Vegas: Revisiting FHR and game rewards in December 2020

You read that right. With some creatively wasted time and a Fine Hotels & Resorts reservation, Three nights at Delano on our December visit to Las Vegas came to a negative $167 net cost, including the dreaded resort fees. The next three nights at Wynn Las Vegas were about $45 total. Let me tell you how.

Setting up the trip

We went 16 months without a visit to Las Vegas in 2019-2020, but with some vacation time to burn off, we made a return visit to the Strip in December 2020. While there were some pricey meals involved, the core six days of the trip were free thanks to the Wynn Slots mobile game, MyVEGAS games, and American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts (which we’ve written about a few times here on rsts11travel).

Earning the rewards

If you’re not the type to use Facebook at all, or to play mobile games, these options won’t apply. But for many of you, they’re worth considering. Fine Hotels and Resorts is worth a look either way.

MyVEGAS (MGM Resorts partnership)

There are now six (6) MyVEGAS games you can play to earn rewards from MGM Resorts properties and partners: MyVEGAS Slots on Facebook, MyVEGAS Slots on mobile, MyVEGAS Blackjack on mobile, MyKONAMI Slots (mobile and Facebook, same game), PopSlots, and MyVEGAS Bingo. Reward are based on Loyalty Points, which are earned by playing the free games or buying in-game currency.

At certain levels of spend, more reward slots are available, and higher level rewards open up, including longer and higher grade hotel comps and Free Play rewards. We’ve played the games for over 9 years, and spent around $600 over that time, so we get six reward slots and pretty much all of the non-host rewards (including occasional 3 night free stays, 2 night Aria and Bellagio stays, and the $100 freeplay reward). We’re not going into full details here; there are Facebook groups and forums about MyVEGAS games that will cover way more than you ever wanted to know.

We’ve ended up with over $1000 in value so far, including about $675 of freeplay, four show tickets including Blue Man Group and Cirque du Soleil, and two free nights at Mirage over the years. And the slots and reward levels are still valid indefinitely, as long as we earn Loyalty Points.

Wynn Slots (Wynn Las Vegas partnership)

For Wynn Slots, it’s a bit more limited and complicated. They have gems as the reward currency, and VIP level statuses that are required to redeem gems for rewards (a free room with no resort fee; they used to offer buffet rewards before the pandemic). In game purchases of at least $200 are required to redeem rewards, over a 91-180 day period. With comp stays at Wynn, the resort fee is not required, but you have to pay for wifi or gym access a la carte (about $20/day) if you don’t add the resort fee.

The game has VIP level periods of 90 days. You buy up to a VIP level, and get that status for the remainder of the current 90 day period and the entire following 90 day period. So if you buy up to VIP level 3 (VIP3), you can redeem for 2-night stays for at least 90 days (and up to 180 days). Buy up on the first day of your personal VIP status period and you get over 179 days to redeem at that level, with a one day gap required between reservations. At $400 and $750, you can earn VIP4 and VIP5 respectively, which entitles you to 3-night and 4-night stays respectively. Once you have the level, you’re only limited by your gems, which are earned with in game play.

As I said, it’s a bit more complicated, but if you can make more than one trip in six months, and if you play mobile games anyway, it’s worth it.

Fine Hotels and Rewards (American Express)

As we’ve explained before on rsts11travel, American Express offers the Fine Hotels and Rewards program to Platinum and Centurion charge card holders (not Platinum *credit* card holders, like the Delta Platinum charge card, and not the Gold or Green charge cards of course). They are not always the best base rates available, but the FHR benefits can definitely turn the balance in your favor.

Any FHR stay includes early check-in (Noon local time) when available, a room upgrade when available, guaranteed 4pm check-out, daily breakfast for two (usually a $30/person/day credit for our stays), an “experience credit” or “property amenity credit” of at least $100 (often a spa or dining credit), and complimentary wireless service (usually applied as a credit toward resort fees when those are applicable). You get Amex Membership Rewards points for paid stays, or can redeem MR points toward them. And you get all the usual property/chain loyalty rewards either way.

Lining out our stay

We booked our FHR stay at Delano through American Express Travel. By paying with the American Express Platinum card, we got 5 MR points per dollar (effectively a 5% value) on the room and tax charge. The resort fee wasn’t included as it was charged on-site.

The MyVEGAS FREEPLAY rewards were obtained in two batches, which is how we were able to get twice the usual amount. Prior to December 2020, rewards tended to have a batch period of about 90 days, after which they would expire if not used. We were lucky in that the expiration date for the first batch we used was after our check-out date, and we were able to book a second batch closer to check-in date. And with a three day paid stay, we were able to meet the more stringent requirements for the $100 FREEPLAY rewards as well as merging FREEPLAY rewards. This would not have been possible with a MyVEGAS room reward stay.

The Delano / Mandalay Bay stay had a room and fees/taxes cost of about $480. The FHR rewards (wifi credit, dining credit, and breakfast) came to about $297 in real value, bringing the stay to $183.

After the $350 of MyVEGAS FREEPLAY, we effectively got paid $167 for our visit. All of that and more went back to MGM Resorts in the form of other dining and a massage and pedicure visit to Spa Mandalay, but those would have happened anyway.

We also netted almost 40,000 Tier Credits toward MLife status, which would have kept us at Pearl or taken us more than halfway to renewing Gold status if MGM had not already extended status through 2021.

The view from Wynn’s 35th floor corner room.

The Wynn reward stay, like the game, was a bit more complicated. Due to the hotel closure in March-May 2020, certain rewards were extended and could be rebooked in August regardless of VIP level at the time. So since we had a three-night stay booked from before some VIP program changes, we were able to rebook that in late August for the December stay. We did pay the $20 for wifi for a day or two while there. So not including dining and gambling at Wynn, we had three nights in a corner room on the 35th floor facing the golf course, for under $50.

About the pandemic part

This was our first trip during the pandemic, and it was unlike any other visit before or since. The airports were almost bare, crowds were lighter than usual even for mid-week, and the casinos were not very crowded either.

McCarran ride share was empty.

Unlike our June 2021 visit, the staffing shortages were not as evident. Restaurants and shops seemed about 50% open, some with limited hours, but we were still able to find excellent food without too much advance planning (which was definitely not the case in June 2021). Casino cocktail service was actually better at almost every property we went to in December compared to just six months later.

We are definitely looking forward to the latest mask round to end, shows to open, and restaurant staffing to recover. We’ve come to expect reservations to be necessary for high end locations (Gordon Ramsay Steak, BLT Steak, and so forth), but we’re not sure which was less satisfying, half-open or half-staffed.

In any event, we’ll be back this December if not sooner, and we’ll see how things change between last month and then.

On the road again? Back to Vegas with rsts11travel

We’ve been pretty quiet on rsts11travel this year, as we haven’t gotten very far outside our own area code since mid-March. But with some things getting better and others not getting as much worse as they could, we’ll likely have some new posts coming including our first travel in 9 months.

As we start queueing up some new posts, here are a couple of things to think about as you reach the end of the year and maybe ponder some travel on your own.

Check your points and status expiration

With the pandemic, lockdowns, and decreased travel, many if not most travel networks are extending status, points expiration, and even status earning conditions into the next year.

Some examples (check the links or the provider’s website; we don’t guarantee that this list will be updated after publication):

MGM Resorts MLife:

  • Current earned status extended through 2021
  • Reduced tier credit requirements for upgraded levels (Pearl at 20k, Gold at 60k, Platinum at 160k) through December 31, 2020
  • Tier credits still expire December 31 (the tier year is now calendar year, rather than October-September)

Caesars Rewards:

  • Current earned status extended through January 31, 2022
  • Reduced tier credit requirements (Platinum at 4k, Diamond at 12k, Diamond Plus at 20k, Diamond Elite at 60k)
  • Reward credit expiration extended to September 30 (6 month expiration if no activity)

American:

  • Miles will not expire through June 30, 2021; current miles will expire in July 2021 if you don’t have activity before then
  • Elite status due to expire 1/31/2021 is good through 1/31/2022, with lower qualifying metric requirements
  • Award travel fees are gone effective November 11, 2020
  • Some elite benefits apply to Basic Economy

United:

  • Premier status extended through January 2022
  • Adjusted qualifying metric requirements to earn Premier status
  • (Miles already didn’t expire)

Southwest:

  • Bonus metrics “boost” (no cow require
  • d) for A-List and Companion Pass status if you were a Rapid Rewards member by April 1, 2020 (already applied and visible in your account).
  • Existing Companion Passes extended through June 30, 2021
  • A-List and A-List Preferred status extended through December 31, 2021
  • You can convert travel funds to Rapid Rewards points (which don’t expire)

Marriott:

  • Points expiration delayed until August 1, 2021.
  • Free nights from credit cards or other programs, with an expiration date between 1/1/2020 and 7/31/2021, are extended through August 1, 2021 (look for updated dates on December 11).
  • Earned 2019 status will be extended through 2/1/2022

Hilton:

  • Points expiration deferred until December 31, 2021
  • Status extended through March 31, 2022 if you had status in 2020 (even if you didn’t maintain)
  • All 2020 nights roll over to 2021 qualification, with half the qualifying metric requirement in 2021

Check your TSA PreCheck or Global Entry status for upcoming renewals

TSA PreCheck:

No special concessions. Expect modified hours and some closures, but delays should be minimal for the most part.

Global Entry:

In person interviews are available again as of September 8, 2020.

From the CBP FAQ: “You become eligible to renew your membership one year prior to program expiration. If you submit a renewal application before your membership expires, you will be able to continue to use benefits up to 6 months after your membership expiration date, if your renewal does not get processed in time.”

Remember that several premium credit and charge cards (including American Express Platinum and Citi AAdvantage Executive Mastercard) offer a credit for TSA PreCheck or Global Entry every 4-5 years. If you’re up for renewal, or need to sign up, check any card with a higher annual fee to see if you can use this benefit.

Check your premium credit and charge cards for special benefits

Several cards with heavy travel benefits added non-travel benefits this year to make up for not being able to use the regular travel offerings.

Some examples include American Express Platinum:

  • $100 Dell credit through 1/31/2021
  • $20 monthly streaming service credit through 12/31/2020
  • $20 monthly wireless phone service credit through 12/31/2020
  • Travel bonus: $100 additional travel credit (which is reported to not be instantly applied, unlike the regular airline fee credits, Dell credits, and so forth).

American Express Business Platinum:

  • Additional $100 Dell credit (you already got $100 for each half-calendar year, so this could add up to $400 this year)
  • $20 monthly wireless phone service credit through 12/31/2020
  • $20 monthly shipping service credit through 12/31/2020 (includes shipping supplies bought at UPS and Fedex stores, in our experience, as well as traditional shipping services)
  • Some members get a $200 statement credit after renewal, to offset reduced value of the annual fee

Marriott branded credit cards from American Express and Chase have expanded point earning in gas station and restaurant purchases, as well as Marriott purchases. And certain Chase and Amex cards have newish offers for dining delivery services and car services, which could be worth $120 a year.

Top-line travel cards like Chase Sapphire Reserve and Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant Amex have added categories to qualify for the $300 statement credit benefit. Check your card issuer site or portal to see if this applies to you.

Aside from these benefits, be sure to check your Amex Offers and Benefits on their website or mobile app to see if there are travel or other benefits that might add value (or at least reduce the annual fee pain). Since we’re very Vegas oriented, it’s worth noting that several Amex cards have current offers for MGM Resorts, Caesars Entertainment, and possibly even Wynn and Venetian resorts. Check the terms carefully, as the MGM offers are distinct but look similar (the lower value one is for the lower value resorts).

Have you found an interesting pandemic-era loyalty or card promotion you think our other readers would appreciate? Share it in the comments, or join the conversation on Twitter or Facebook.

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!”

Quick take: World of Hyatt (and MLife Rewards) promo opportunity

Update below (2017-05-05): Stays that crossed the April 1 boundary count!

Hyatt Gold Passport turned into World of Hyatt in March 2017. The first big promo for World of Hyatt launched recently, offering double base points for your *second* stay and beyond, through June 30, 2017.

Sign up for the “Double Points For Being You” promo here at hyatt.com. You need to be a World of Hyatt member of course (Hyatt Gold Passport members were cut over March 1st).

Continue reading “Quick take: World of Hyatt (and MLife Rewards) promo opportunity”

Travel tips for Cisco Live (and other summer Las Vegas conferences)

[See disclosure/disclaimer at the end if you’re into those things.]

Many of our readers will be headed to Las Vegas over the next couple of months. Whether it’s InteropITX, Cisco Live, VMworld, or something else, you may be curious about the quickest way to optimize your rewards and your stay while you’re there.

While reading all the other posts on rsts11travel would be the most thorough way to learn your way around Vegas, we figured we’d put together a unified list of things to do and think about as you head to what will be Tech City for much of the summer.

Continue reading “Travel tips for Cisco Live (and other summer Las Vegas conferences)”

A second look at Amex Fine Hotels and Resorts at Delano Las Vegas

It took a couple of weeks, but the rsts11travel review of Aria Las Vegas’s Aria Sky Suites property finally came out this week. One of the prods to stop editing and just post it was that we were booking another stay for this summer that was somewhat related. Not everyone will celebrate a birthday and aim for MLife Gold in one weekend, but about anyone with the right charge card can take advantage of these benefits.

Delano’s all-suite plan makes it a very comfortable place for longer-term stays on the Las Vegas strip

We’ve written briefly about Delano Las Vegas in our Hidden Gems piece earlier this year. It’s one of our favorite properties on the strip, especially when attending an event being held in Mandalay Bay Convention Center. With its small lounge and bar, coffee shop with pastries and snacks, and Della’s Kitchen breakfast/lunch venue, you can get a lot done without passing Michael Jackson, and with Delano itself being a non-smoking, non-casino hotel with a separate entrance, those with sensitivity to noise or smoke can escape those discomforts in their “home” hotel. But you’re a few hundred feet from Cirque du Soleil, the Mandalay Bay casino, their dining options from fast counter service to posh sit-down service, and of course the rest of the strip.

Continue reading “A second look at Amex Fine Hotels and Resorts at Delano Las Vegas”

Credit where credit is due – Vegas reward credit cards

In an earlier post, we talked about the Caesars Entertainment Total Rewards and MGM Resorts Mlife Rewards programs. Today we’re looking at the Total Rewards VISA and Mlife Rewards Mastercard credit card offerings, to see how they can help you increase status and/or rewards.

While each program has a branded credit card that may accelerate your benefits, you’ll definitely want to consider whether another travel or cashback card may give you better rewards. And of course, remember that carrying a balance on a rewards card can easily eradicate any net value of the rewards. Continue reading “Credit where credit is due – Vegas reward credit cards”

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. Continue reading “Taking the fast track to Las Vegas status”

Making your Las Vegas visit as rewarding as possible

[Editor’s note: This post is from early 2017, so some details may have changed since then. We may not always update posts after publication, so doublecheck the details before taking action.]

Welcome to rsts11 travel, my new effort to share discoveries and recommendations from my travels.

Be sure to visit our welcome post, and watch for more Las Vegas-themed posts in the next week to start things with a pop. On the board to round out January 2017 are a mobile power post and a mobile caffeine post.

Also, we’re on Twitter as @rsts11travel and Facebook as facebook.com/rsts11travel – feel free to join the conversation on those forums as well.

Livingston went to… Vegas?

Like many of my tech industry compatriots, I make it to Las Vegas for conventions a couple of times a year. Unlike many of them, I actually enjoy visiting Las Vegas, and end up there twice a year on average for a personal getaway, as well as extending conference/convention visits. There are definitely things you can do when traveling to Sin City to make your trip more enjoyable, rewarding, and even tolerable. Continue reading “Making your Las Vegas visit as rewarding as possible”