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
- 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.”