Earning & Redeeming SPG, IHG and Marriott Points In Las Vegas

Earning & Redeeming SPG, IHG and Marriott Points In Las Vegas
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Image courtesy: Starwood Preferred Group
 

We recently looked at how the partnership between Hyatt and MGM Resorts makes the Las Vegas Strip more open to miles and points collectors than ever before. What if you are loyal to one of the other major hotel programs out there? This feature will help to fill in the gaps:

SPG & Caesars Entertainment

Starwood and Caesars share the second closest partnership on the Las Vegas Strip, offering some great opportunities to earn points in particular when staying at one of the many Caesars properties in Vegas. These include Bally’s, Caesars Palace, The Cromwell, The Flamingo, Harrah’s, The LINQ, Nobu Hotel at Caesar Palace, Paris, Planet Hollywood, The Quad and Rio.

The partnership also extends to Caesars-operated properties in Atlantic City, Lake Tahoe and New Orleans. By comparison, Hyatt and MGM’s partnership is valid only in Las Vegas, and not at MGM properties elsewhere.

Caesars’ loyalty program is called Total Rewards and is based on a combination of Tier Credits and Reward Credits. These are typically earned at identical rates, based on resort spending and casino play. Tier Credits determine your elite status with Caesars, while Reward Credits can be used toward free slot play or to offset resort charges.

Seven Stars, Diamond and Platinum elites in Total Rewards may earn 1 Reward Credit per $1 on room and incidental charges at SPG properties worldwide. That’s in addition to Starpoints earned for the stay. The same status levels also yield 100 Tier Credits per stay at SPG properties, up to 2,500 per year. In addition, Seven Stars elites are granted SPG Gold status, which comes with a higher earnings level, room upgrades when available and other benefits.

Most benefits flow in the other direction, though, helping out SPG customers staying in Las Vegas.

In addition to Reward Credits and Tier Credits with Total Rewards, SPG members who link their accounts to Total Rewards can earn 2 Starpoints per $1 on all “qualifying hospitality spend” up to a maximum of 100,000 Starpoints per calendar year.

All spend charged to your room and not paid for using Total Rewards comps at checkout is considered qualifying, with the exception of casino spend. If you spend any time at the spa or dining at Caesars-operated restaurants, bill those charges back to your room to maximize your earning potential! Be warned that if your room is comped, you book your stay through an airline or online travel agency like Expedia, or benefit from an employee or group tour rate, you won’t earn Starpoints on your stay. You may still be eligible to earn points on incidental spending in these cases, however.

As is true with Hyatt and MGM, it’s possible to earn Starpoints on up to three rooms attached to the same reservation, great for larger parties and getaways. You may also earn credit towards SPG elite status for up to 10 nights spent at Caesars properties per year.

Image courtesy: Marc Majcher
 

You can earn these nightly credits whether your room is booked with cash or as an award stay. That’s clearly better than Hyatt/MGM possibilities, which only grant elite-earning night credits for paid stays. However, these nights will not count toward the lifetime status benefits described in the SPG Chapter of the PointsAway Book. As might be expected, you can only earn these stay credits for the room you’re actually in, even if there are several rooms on your reservation.

Unfortunately, SPG Gold and Platinum members do not earn any bonus points for stays at Caesars properties. They earn 2 Starpoints per $1, just like non-elites, up to 100,000 points per year. SPG Gold and Platinum also does not convey any benefits at Caesars Properties, so don’t expect to be granted room upgrades or free breakfasts. Resort fees ranging from $15-$25 per night must also be paid, even on award redemption stays. By comparison, resort fees are waived by Hyatt and MGM for stays booked using Hyatt points.

You may use Starpoints to book nights at Caesars properties, at varying rates. Typically, a value of $8-$12 per 1,000 points can be expected for these redemptions. That’s well below what’s possible when redeeming Starpoints for rooms at SPG properties, since the price for those stays is tied to hotel category, rather than the cash price of the room. As such, I’d consider this partnership as a fine way to earn Starpoints when staying at Caesars properties, but would hold onto them for redemptions elsewhere. The other big winners in this partnership are high rollers with Seven Stars status, given the SPG Gold status they net by pairing their SPG and Total Rewards accounts.

This page will help you link your SPG and Total Rewards accounts. If you have one and not the other, don’t worry! It’s easy to create an account quickly online in advance of your next trip to the Strip.

IHG & The Venetian

IHG loyalists can use their points toward stays at The Venetian and its sister resort, Palazzo. Nights can be booked for a rate of 50,000 points each, typically, though cash and points nights are also offered from time to time.

Image courtesy: David Stanley
 

If you’re transferring Ultimate Rewards points to IHG, this is not a great redemption option at all. However, IHG points are relatively easy to earn for those who stay regularly at their properties, which include InterContinental, Crowne Plaza, Hotel Indigo, Holiday Inn, Staybridge, Candlewood and more.

There’s no tie between IHG Rewards and Venetian’s loyalty program, Grazie, so there’s no opportunity to double-dip on rewards here. However, you can still earn additional IHG points for charges billed to your room, and signing up for Grazie will allow the casino marketing team to determine whether they may want to issue any special offers to you in the future, especially if you spend some time in the casino itself.

Marriott & The Cosmopolitan

Marriott includes Cosmopolitan in their Autograph Collection of partner hotels, so it’s long been possible to redeem Marriott points for stays at this new resort in the center of the Strip. Marriott considers the Cosmopolitan a top-tier, Category 9 property, meaning reward nights will set you back 45,000 points each. However, when redeeming four nights, you’ll still receive a fifth night for free, just as you would at other Marriott properties.

Image courtesy: Allen McGregor
 

Relatively new is the ability to convert points earned in The Cosmopolitan’s loyalty program, Identity, to Marriott Rewards, and vice versa. You can earn 5 Identity Points per $1 spent on property at The Cosmpolitan, and every 500 points is good for $5 of resort credit toward your stay. You can also earn Identity credit at varying rates based on your casino play.

Rates to transfer Identity Points to Marriott Rewards aren’t posted, but Marriott publishes rates to send Marriott Rewards points to the Identity program. These transfers value Marriott points at a static rate of 0.4¢ each. For example, 5,000 Marriott points can be converted to 2,000 Identity points, worth $20 in resort credit on property. Typically, there are better values out there when using Marriott points, so I wouldn’t recommend this option for most people.

As is the case elsewhere on the Strip, the best opportunity here is to earn Marriott points on your stay at The Cosmopolitan. You can earn a base rate of 10 points per $1 on all room charges (remember – bill dining and other incidentals to your room when possible!), plus a bonus of 20%, 25% or 50% if you hold Marriott Silver, Gold or Platinum status, respectively.

Marriott Platinum members also receive special treatment at The Cosmopolitan, just as they would at other Autograph Collection hotels. This includes access to a VIP check-in desk, reservation guarantees, late check-out and 500 bonus Marriott points or a $10 dining credit for each stay. Platinum members will also receive a complimentary room upgrade when available.

If you’re looking for a great option in Las Vegas to use or earn Marriott points, you should also consider the JW Marriott Las Vegas Resort and Spa. Located a few miles from the Strip, this property features an outstanding golf course and other resort amenities, and is listed as just a Category 6 property, costing 30,000 points per night.

Image courtesy: Marriott
 

Basic Courtyard and Residence Inn properties closer to the airport and in nearby Henderson can be had for as few as 10,000 points per night if you don’t mind the inconvenience and want to stretch your points for as long a stay as possible.

Hilton & Tropicana

Similar to the partnership between IHG and The Venetian, Hilton and Tropicana’s relationship goes only as deep as the opportunity to earn and use HHonors points for stays. As a Category 6 property in Hilton’s HHonors system, The Tropicana will command at least 50,000 points per night for much of the year. That’s a poor redemption option, given room rates are often well below $100 per night.

The Hilton Grand Vacations Hotel, located near Planet Hollywood just behind the Strip, might be a better option for redemptions at 35,000 points per night.

Image courtesy: Michael Dorausch
 

There are more than a dozen other Hilton properties in the Las Vegas area in total, but nothing sets them apart from stays at other Hilton properties, from an earnings or redemption perspective.

Who’s The Best?

There’s a reason we gave Hyatt and MGM their own feature: the two-way status matching, ability to double-dip on earnings and wide array of redemption options for free nights makes their partnership the most full-featured in Las Vegas today. Whether you pay for stays and earn a pile of Hyatt points and Mlife credit or use your Hyatt points for free nights, there’s an option that will work well for you here.

The runner-up would clearly be the partnership between Caesars and SPG. Though most true benefits in Las Vegas remain tied directly to your spending and casino play, it would be nice for SPG elites to enjoy at least some of the benefits Total Rewards affords its upper-level members.

Redemption rates are also much less appetizing than they might be if Caesars properties were placed in SPG award categories, rather than commanding rates tied to the cash price of a room.

In general, I look at this partnership as a great way to earn bonus Starpoints. Given how valuable they can be on other redemptions, that’s still a great value.

The ability to convert Marriott and Identity points adds a compelling new wrinkle to Marriott’s partnership with The Cosmopolitan, but as much as I like the property, the fact that it stands alone on the Strip is a huge downside.

With MGM or Caesars, it’s possible to earn points on dining and entertainment at a wide variety of resorts, billing them all back to your room at any partnering property. With The Cosmopolitan, as soon as you leave the building, your earnings potential largely disappears.

The same is true for IHG’s partnership with The Venetian and Hilton’s with The Tropicana. If those are your favorite resorts on the Strip or you’re attending an event at one of them, these are great ways to earn some extra points, but lack the broader appeal of the Hyatt/MGM and SPG/Caesars deals.

The good news for Vegas fans is that these partnerships have almost all sprouted in just the past two years. There’s been an arms race by hotel loyalty programs to create great value for their customers in Las Vegas, and that means I expect we’ll see programs continue to up the ante, offering better benefits, higher earning rates and juicier promotions in the future. In fact, I’d bet on it!

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Casey Ayers is a consultant and entrepreneur with a passion for travel. After amassing enough miles and points to travel anywhere in the world for almost free in less than six months, he developed PointsAway as a way to help others make travel dreams big and small come true.
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