Choosing the Best Casino Rewards Program for You

May 19, 2017

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We’ve all heard the cliché before: Las Vegas will find a way to take your money. The casino games, luxury malls and clubs form something of a Bermuda Triangle for your pocketbook. It’s nearly impossible for vacationers to leave the desert with an increased net worth. But, of course, here at The Points Guy we can help you earn a little of it back.

As long as hotel and airline loyalty programs have been around, the resorts in Las Vegas have rewarded their best customers — not only in comps but also in points. Even if you’re not a high roller, there are ways to take advantage of casino rewards programs.

The key: Choose one that best suits you and remain loyal to it. Selecting the right program is not only a matter of assessing the earning potential within each program, but also understanding which best fits your profile as a visitor in Vegas.

M Life

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M Life stands out for offering more properties in Vegas than any other program.

This program encompasses every property under MGM Resorts International’s umbrella. Meaning: It offers rewards at more properties than any other program in Las Vegas. There are many different hotels available in Vegas, and each provides a unique experience. So for those who frequently travel to Sin City, this program offers you the opportunity to mix up your stays and experiences.

The program allows two people living at the same address to link accounts and share benefits. So both you and your spouse, for example, can essentially earn double the points while gambling at the same casino table.

Be sure to present your card at any M Life Property — including, as listed on the website, T-Mobile Arena — as you can earn rewards on purchases, though it varies from resort to resort. The program also offers its own credit card. The M Life Rewards MasterCard offers 10,000 bonus points when you spend $1,000 in the first three billing cycles. The card also offers 3 points for every dollar spent at M Life resorts and 2 points for every dollar spent at gas stations and supermarkets. You’ll get automatic Pearl status as a cardholder, which gets you complimentary self-parking, a buffet line pass and more.

If you’re a Hyatt Gold Passport member, you can link your account to M Life (similar to the way Marriott and Starwood members can link to the other account) and get an equivalent status level. You can also earn Hyatt points for M Life stays as well as credit toward status in the World of Hyatt program.

There are five different tiers in the M Life program, with “Noir” being the highest and invite-only. As status elevates, your ability to accrue M Life’s “tier credits” multiplies. Varying benefits include bonus earnings on slots, priority access to valets and taxi services and VIP line access to select nightclubs.

MLife gives its members something called “express comps,” which are redeemable for hotel stays, spa services, restaurants and many of Vegas’ other accoutrements. As with all other programs, there is an opportunity to redeem rewards for “FREEPLAY” in MLife’s casinos. The program, however, has a unique aspect to it: Members automatically earn “Holiday Gift Shoppe Points” in addition to other rewards. These points are redeemed during a designated time at the end of the year and can be used to purchase various goods.

Total Rewards

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Total Rewards will be your program of choice if you frequent Caesars or a handful of other properties.

Though this program doesn’t encompass as big a portfolio of hotels — with Caesars Palace as its flagship — Total Rewards’ offerings are ideally located. The aforementioned Caesars Palace, Harrah’s and Paris are all centrally located on the Las Vegas Strip.

In the mood for a change in scenery? Or, more likely, your luck? In some cases, you can walk next door and still earn rewards. The portfolio of properties also offers a number of low-cost options for those who may want to stretch their vacation budget over several trips to Vegas.

But what might be most attractive is the Total Rewards Visa Card that’s associated with the program. It offers more earnings potential than that of the M Life Rewards MasterCard: 5 points on every dollar spent at Total Rewards resorts and casinos in addition to tickets through TR Live Events, 2 points per dollar spent airlines, gas and groceries and a point for every dollar spent anywhere else. Also, earn 10,000 points after you spend $750 in the first three months.

Room upgrades, Diamond Lounge access and credit toward a “celebration dinner” are some of the benefits of this rewards program, which has five levels of loyalty. And Diamond status is available free of charge to FoundersCard members. For Platinum members, which is only the second level of loyalty, a complimentary stay at Atlantis, Paradise Island in the Bahamas is included.

You’ll get all of the standard redemption options here — free plays at any of the chain’s casinos, hotel stays, shopping and dining. For the golfer, though, there is no better redemption opportunity. Points can be redeemed for instruction from famed swing coach Butch Harmon. Poker player? Earn enough rewards and you can buy a seat at the World Series of Poker.

Identity

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Identity Rewards might be the best bet for you if you like to play slots.

Cosmopolitan’s rewards program differs from many others in that its relationship with Marriott allows for flexibility when spending your points. All Identity points — earned at different rates based on your loyalty — can be converted to Marriott points.

You can also earn Marriott points on your room rate and Identity points on gaming and other purchases (be sure to let them know how you would like to earn upon check-in). So this program allows the frequent business traveler some flexibility.

If slots are your game, this is the program for you. The Identity program advertises that it pays more rewards on slots than any of the other major rewards programs in Las Vegas: a minimum of 1 point for every $2.50 wagered on reel slots.

The downside to this program is that it’s exclusive to the Cosmopolitan and does not offer other properties within its purview. But the Cosmopolitan is popular among millennials, many of whom remain loyal to the brand. Add in one of the best restaurant collections on the Strip, and remaining loyal to the property doesn’t necessarily feel too restrictive.

The brand also provides benefits to the frequent traveler: Because it’s part of Marriott’s Autograph Collection, the property will match status. So, for example, Platinum members are entitled to room upgrades and can skip the line at the property’s buffet, Wicked Spoon. But certain benefits only apply to those who have earned strictly through the resort’s program.

The Cosmopolitan’s website instructs members to say “I want to pay with Identity Points,” meaning they can be spend anywhere in the hotel on anything.

Bottom Line

Aim to select a program that allows you the opportunity to earn the highest status and offers the benefits that matter most to you. Additionally, the business traveler may want to remain loyal to the program that’s aligned with his/her preferred brand given the status match opportunity. But the leisurely Vegas traveler should default to the program that owns the properties he or she frequents the most.

Be conscious of where you’re gambling — it’s important to play at casinos where you can earn rewards. And if you don’t want to be restricted on where you can gamble, well, join every program. Remember: It’s free.

What’s your favorite casino rewards program?

Featured image courtesy of RebeccaAng/Getty Images.

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