Getting to Las Vegas on points and miles

Jun 11, 2020

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Las Vegas is one of the few cities that has consistent, year-round demand from both leisure and business travelers alike. It’s also one of the first domestic destinations to reopen following COVID-19 shutdowns. With more and more companies and conventions choosing to set up shop in Vegas, there’s a chance you’ll be drawn to Sin City – even if you don’t plan to partake in any of its well-known vices. Today, we’re going to take a look at the top ways to get to Las Vegas on points and miles, and even discuss a few of the best hotels in the city where you can redeem points.

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Airlines that fly to Las Vegas

Las Vegas’ McCarran International Airport (LAS) is located just a few miles away from “The Strip” of iconic casinos that comprise the heart of the city. With just one major airport for the city, you’ll find that almost every major domestic airline serves Las Vegas in one way or another, though none claim it as a full-scale hub.

Southwest has a major presence at McCarran, flying longer flights to cities such as Fort Lauderdale (FLL), Atlanta (ATL) and Baltimore (BWI), as well as shorter hops around the West Coast and Midwest, to cities like Seattle (SEA), San Jose (SJC) and San Francisco (SFO).

The legacy carriers – American, Delta and United – primarily fly from Vegas to their hub cities, as well as a few secondary destinations. This means that American flies to Vegas from Dallas (DFW), Miami (MIA), Charlotte (CLT) and more; Delta flies from Detroit (DTW), Atlanta (ATL), Minneapolis (MSP) and some West Coast destinations; and United flies to a handful from Newark (EWR), Chicago (ORD), Houston (IAH) and Washington, D.C. (IAD). Obviously these are not complete lists but are rather intended to give you an idea of the routes you might find flying out of Vegas.

In addition to the four largest airlines in the U.S., you’ll also find plenty of service from smaller and midsize carriers as well. Alaska Airlines flies to a number of West Coast destinations, JetBlue flies a few transcontinental routes and low-cost carriers such as Spirit, Frontier, and Allegiant round out the equation.

Las Vegas also gets a number of international flights, including a few from Air Canada and WestJet, plus daily flights from London courtesy of British Airways and Virgin Atlantic. Unfortunately, non-hub cities are going to see the bulk of the route cuts as travel begins to resume and there’s a chance, especially given Virgin Atlantic’s precarious financial situation, that these London flights don’t resume.

Related: Battle of the airlines: Why I think American Airlines is the best

Best redemption options

Which miles you choose to redeem and how much your award flight costs will depend on where your trip originates and which airline you’re flying. Given how close Vegas is to a number of major West Coast cities, let’s start by looking at how to redeem miles for short flights.

American AAdvantage

There have been a lot of changes over at American Airlines AAdvantage lately, from the departure of the program’s longtime head to the removal of the legacy award search engine. American is clearly moving toward a more complete dynamic pricing model, like its rivals Delta and United have already adopted). But if you’re following the published award chart, flights under 500 miles in distance should be bookable for 7,500 AAdvantage miles each way in economy.

If we look at the award calendar for July from Los Angeles (LAX) to Las Vegas, we see that a majority of dates have flights available for 7,500 miles each way. You may be able to score a cheaper price through one of AA’s economy web specials deals.

If you’re short on AAdvantage miles, you can give your balance a boost by applying for the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite Mastercard®. The card currently earns 50,000 bonus miles after spending $2,500 on purchases in the first three months of account opening. That’s enough for up to four round-trip tickets between Las Angeles and Las Vegas, or three round-trip flights departing from New York (JFK). The information for the Citi / AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.     

Related: How to earn American Airlines miles

British Airways Avios

If you’re looking for a slightly longer flight, you might want to focus on American’s Oneworld partner British Airways. Even after a slight devaluation to its partner award chart, you can still book American Airlines flights up to 1,151 miles in distance for only 9,000 Avios. This is great for slightly longer trips, like Las Vegas to Dallas (DFW), a flight distance of 1,100 miles.

You can transfer British Airways Avios from your Chase Ultimate Rewards or Amex Membership Rewards account or apply for a British Airways Visa Signature Card. It currently offers 50,000 bonus Avios after you spend $3,000 on purchases within the first 3 months from account opening. Plus earn a Travel Together Ticket after you spend $20,000 total on purchases within your first year of account opening.

Avianca LifeMiles

Passengers looking to travel on United have a similar option, where they can book through a partner program (in this case Avianca LifeMiles) for consistently cheap redemption rates on short flights. You’ll find short hops like this LAS – SFO flight for only 6,500 LifeMiles.

As a transfer partner of Membership Rewards and the Citi ThankYou program, Avianca LifeMiles are fairly easy to earn. The airline even offers two cobranded credit cards for U.S.-based customers: The Avianca Vuela Visa® Card and Avianca Vida Visa Card.

United MileagePlus

United’s rates will vary depending on what the dynamic pricing calculator generates, but saver awards can price out higher than LifeMiles.

On longer flights, booking directly through United MileagePlus is likely to be the better deal. Avianca LifeMiles charges 13,500 miles for the transcontinental flight to Newark, while United usually only charges 12,500.

United is a transfer partner of the Chase Ultimate Rewards program and offers several cobranded credit cards with lucrative sign-up bonuses.

Delta SkyMiles

Delta was the first U.S. airline to adopt dynamic award pricing and has the most advanced system at this point, making it difficult (and, frankly, useless) to discuss award pricing in general terms. While pricing appears to be slightly more consistent on a weekly basis now, you’ll still see award rates from Atlanta (ATL) to Vegas ranging anywhere from 7,500 to 25,000 miles, depending on which month you choose to travel.

If one of these fares works for you, earning Delta SkyMiles is fairly easy. You can transfer rewards from Amex Membership Rewards at a 1:1 ratio. Another option is to apply for a cobranded Delta card like the Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card, which offers 50,000 bonus miles and 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $3,000 in purchases in the first three months. Plus, earn up to $100 back in statement credits for eligible purchases at U.S. restaurants with your card within the first three months of card membership.

Southwest Rapid Rewards

Southwest is different from the major carriers in that it uses a revenue-based award chart, meaning that the cost of a ticket in points will always be directly tied to its cash price. When you combine this with Southwest’s historically low fares and general lack of ancillary fees, this produces some really great deals, such as these nonstop flights from Chicago (MDW) to Las Vegas for only 6,933 points or $99.

Southwest points are fairly easy to come by, thanks to a partnership with Chase Ultimate Rewards and several cobranded credit cards.

Related: How to quickly earn the Southwest Companion Pass

Pay with points

Given how cheap cash fares can get to Las Vegas, you might want to consider taking advantage of a pay-with-points bonus on your favorite credit card instead of transferring your points to an airline partner. You’ll find these bonuses with cards like the Chase Sapphire Reserve, which offers a 50% bonus when redeeming points for flights through the Chase travel portal.

This means I can book a $108 fare for only 7,220 Ultimate Rewards points. Because these bookings are treated as revenue fares, I’d even earn redeemable and elite qualifying miles on this flight (assuming I was in an eligible fare class). Be sure to watch out for cheap basic economy fares, which do not earn miles or status.

Las Vegas points hotels

Some of the best-known names in Las Vegas casinos and hotels are bookable through popular hotel loyalty programs, but watch out for those pesky “resort fees” that get tacked on to many stays. Some hotel programs waive these on award stays, but unfortunately, Marriott requires guests to pay the full price.

Marriott hotels in Vegas

You might decide that 60,000 Marriott points (and $39) per night are worth it to stay at the iconic Cosmopolitan, an Autograph Collection property.

If you’re on a tighter budget, you might instead opt for the Courtyard Las Vegas Convention Center. It goes for 20,000 points per night and doesn’t charge any resort or destination fees.

With the welcome bonus from the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card, you can cover one night at the Cosmopolitan or up to three nights at the Courtyard. The card currently offers 100,000 bonus points after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months of account opening.

Hyatt hotels in Vegas

Hyatt loyalists have a plethora of good options to choose from, including The Mirage, Bellagio, and The Signature at MGM Grand. Hyatt waives resort fees on award stays for all members, regardless of elite status. Applying for a World of Hyatt Credit Card and meeting the spending requirement will get you enough Hyatt points to cover two nights in Vegas.

Hilton hotels in Vegas

Hilton has a large Vegas portfolio, including the high-end Waldorf Astoria Las Vegas. The property can be booked for around 55,000 points per night in July. If you want more budget-conscious options, there are a number of properties routinely available for 30,000 – 40,000 points per night. That’s an absolute steal in the world of Hilton.

If you’re in need of some Hilton points, the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card and Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card both offer pretty substantial welcome bonuses at the moment. The Surpass card offers 130,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points after you spend $2,000 in eligible purchases on the Card in the first 3 months of Card Membership. Plus, you earn an additional 50,000 points after spending a total of $10,000 in purchases on the card in the first six months. Meanwhile, the Aspire earns 150,000 points after you spend $4,000 in purchases in the first three months of account opening. The information for the Hilton Aspire Amex card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

Plus, with the elite status that comes with each card (Gold and Diamond, respectively), you can improve your stay with space-available room upgrades and meal credits.

Bottom line

Whether you’re going to Vegas to close a business deal or blow off some steam after a lengthy quarantine, you have plenty of flight and hotel options to consider. You’ll find nonstop flights to Las Vegas from nearly every major American airports, and points hotels that run the gamut from affordable and ideally located to downright luxurious.

Just be sure to watch out for those annoying resort fees, which can really eat away at the value of your redemption.

Featured image by Dennis Hohl / EyeEm / Getty Images

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