MGM Resorts Adds Suite Upgrades, Airfare Credit And Celebration Dinners As Elite Benefits

MGM is changing the name of its loyalty program from M life Rewards to MGM Rewards effective February 1 and making elite status harder to earn, but also more valuable.

They’re introducing confirmed suite upgrades for top tier elites, formalizing early check-in and late check-out, and offering airfare credits and celebration meals upon earning elite tiers. These new benefits will be competitive, but there are going to be fewer elites – especially fewer elites among families and non-gambling leisure guests.

Nonetheless the program remains very interesting because of their partnership with Hyatt, where mid-tier and top-tier Hyatt members receive MGM’s Gold status and that waives resort fees and complimentary valet parking.

Earning Elite Status

There are many readers with Hyatt status, of course, and the easiest path to status remains a status match including via Hyatt’s MGM partnership but for those earning it organically,

  • It’s become a lot harder to earn status with spending other than from gambling (just 4 tier points per dollar, down from 25, an 84% reduction).

  • Stays at Hyatt now force a choice between earning Hyatt points or MGM tier credit, no more double dipping.

  • And the value of gambling spend for status is changing, too – getting easier at hotels outside of Las Vegas overall so that hotels and games are aligned across their properties, while also tracking more with the profitability of each game.

David Tsai, MGM’s President for Midwest Properties, explained to me,

We realized we had made it too easy to become premium tier in the program, and that didn’t allow us to offer meaningful benefits that some other [loyalty programs could].

A member only had to spend $1000 for Pearl status or $3000 for Gold status, they could load up charging friends and family spend, and it was easy to reach that. It was harder to achieve similar tiers in other programs

He further offered that there are tier credit earning changes on the gambling side too, and they haven’t figured out how to talk about those yet. In general non-Vegas properties should earn more, Vegas may earn less but it will depend on the game. They’ll be offering “consistent earn across the whole company” “Every slot machine is different, every table game different, .. A slot that holds less earns less.” This should basically approximate earning tier credits based on theoretical loss from a game and spend, rather than just tracking “coin-in” like Caesars. They don’t have an answer on the extent to which they’ll become more transparent on this.

These changes tilt the program much more heavily towards gamblers. Elite gamblers don’t have much non-gambling spend, since that gets comped anyway. Frequent flyers who don’t gamble, and don’t get their status via match, will find the program’s tiers less achievable. In fact the program intends to have fewer elites, based on a conversation I had with David Tsai. And, he says, this will allow them to deliver more benefits more consistently.

Revamped Elite Benefits

While status will be much harder to earn without significant gambling spend – it will take $5000 on property just to earn the first level of status which nets free self-parking – those who achieve or match to status will see better benefits.

Here are some key benefits at each level:

  • Pearl: (20,000 tier credits) Complimentary self-parking; $10 free birthday bet

  • Gold: (75,000 tier credits) Resort fee waived for up two rooms when booking direct; $100 tier achievement celebration dinner; upgrade at check-in if available (view, high floor); dedicated line at restaurants; complimentary valet parking; $25 free birthday bet

  • Platinum: (200,000 tier credits) $600 air travel credit to Las Vegas once per tier; $200 tier achievement celebration dining experience; annual complimentary cruise on Royal Caribbean or Celebrity (ocean view room, up to 5 nights); 4pm late checkout if available; 1pm late checkin if available and requested 24 hours in advance, one advance suite upgrade per year up to 3 nights; expedited valet and taxi service; $100 free birthday bet

  • Noir: (invitation only) $1200 air travel credit to Las Vegas once per tier; $500 tier achievement celebration dining experience; annual complimentary cruise on Royal Caribbean or Celebrity (balcony room, up to 7 nights); complimentary roundtrip airport transportation; access to VIP check-in lounge; guaranteed restaurant reservations with 24 hours notice; $250 free birthday bet

These benefits are additive, so Golds get Pearl benefits and Platinums receive Gold benefits etc.

The confirmed suite upgrade benefit for Platinums and Noirs can requested (immediately) after booking. In general if a standard suite is available it can be confirmed. They’re still working through some details on how the upgrade will work but David Tsai tells me they don’t plan to be restrictive on inventory. They started with once a year to make sure they could deliver it.

Late checkout is based on availability, but Tsai says “If we have availability, we’ll honor it.” And he notes that includes on sell-out nights. In the past “it wasn’t an explicit benefit [so] we didn’t have a way to prioritize best members.” he says that the general idea is to honor it as long as the hotel has enough people arriving later in the day so that they can turn the room. They’ll “honor it in the majority of cases” but “it is at hotel front desk discretion.”

The free cruise, celebration meal, and airfare credit are offered upon earning the relevant tier. Status matches or other comp status aren’t supposed to receive these (I’ve heard of matched status receiving the cruise successfully in the past). And current elites will not receive dining and airfare until they qualify in 2022 for 2023. That’s less generous than Caesars which has given $100 celebration dinners to those on the Wyndham – Caesars Diamond status match merry go round.

The elimination of resort fees for mid-tier elites is similarly welcome. In the case of a celebration dinner and resort fee waiver, they’re largely copying Caesars, but with their portfolio of nicer properties I prefer to stay at. Hyatt Discoverists get Pearl and Explorists and Globalists get Gold so mid-tier Hyatt status waiving resort fees is nice.

Noir is the invitation-only level and without a published earning criteria, though reportedly in the past it’s taken a six figure (e.g. $250,000) ‘theoretical loss’ to be invited, which is to say you gamble enough that on average you’d lose that much – your actual gambling performance (win or lose) isn’t a factor.

Noirs used to get guaranteed best available table at restaurants without advance notice, I imagine those that really do gamble enough can still get that but it’s no longer a published benefit and hasn’t been in recent times.

I’ve archived MGM’s new tier status brochure and benefits matrix on the site.

Ultimately this is an interesting strategic pivot, offering stronger benefits but focusing giving out those benefits to gamblers. In recent years they’ve focused on families and other leisure travelers, but this is a clear switch back to focus on gamblers because of the reduced ability to earn status for non-gambling spend. However David Tsai offered that he’s “hoping that customers view this as a positive, because it allows [our] most loyalty customers to be rewarded.”

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. I’m seeing Excalibur nights for as low as $18/night. This is a huge opportunity for Hyatt mattress runs if the resort fees are waived.

  2. I think it’s all a real positive for a program that previously sucked (MLife )
    My only complaint as a Gold is lack of a confirmed late check out
    Platinum will be 4 PM Gold should be 2 or 3 PM
    If they fixed that I would likely give them all my business

  3. Sounds suspiciously like a copy of Caesars Rewards. Even the airfare credits match Diamond Elite and Seven Stars. They clearly looked around and realized Caesars was doing it better. As for now, I’m staying with CR because they still have the best earning potential among all of the casino loyalty programs but I will keep an open mind and see what the earning rate is on gambling with MGM to see if it’s worthwhile

  4. And, don’t forget, one can earn MGM Platinum by spending $200k on the M Life credit card without any stays, dining, or gambling. Why does this sound familiar? To stay competitive with Caesars, MGM will need a shopping portal that earns points. Does this make me evil?

  5. How very disappointing that MLife has choose this avenue to take after years of loyalty from their customers! Many people can not go enough during the year to achieve high status! Such a shame but the strip is big and has a lot of gambling options that will give benefits!

  6. Eldorado has made such a mess with CET Rewards, MGM realizes that they have a real chance, to poach a lot of Eldorado’s gamblers. Notice, they have decided NOT to go after the non-gambling spenders. They are leaving these for CET, even encouraging their own to leave. MGM did this in the 90’s too, when they de-themed their resorts and closed their amusement park; building The mansion in its place.

  7. After coming to Vegas for 30+ years I can now see why MGM- M life , M-rewards has lost its luster.
    Most recent visit this past Jan. was only that my wife needed to go to the FURNITURE MARKET to see a couple of vendors. We stayed at the ARIA only because they had a shuttle bus to the market.
    Before our trip i had been receiving promotions from ALL M-REWARDS HOTELS due to my past gambling. 4 comp nights, free resort fees, $150 free play. Everything was fine until i had to change 1 night. The rudest people i have ever dealt with. The PROMOTION has EXPIRED ( ?? good until Dec) so we ended up paying for the 3 nights there. That was OK with me because then i wasn’t obligated to spend a penny on gambling. I went to other venues to spend my money (or give it away) In the past when i was given COMP rooms i usually on gabled at that hotel.

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