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You’re probably familiar with frequent flyer and hotel loyalty programs, but you may not be aware that casinos are also in the rewards game. With the two biggest programs, Caesars Rewards and M life Rewards, you earn rewards based on how much you spend in casinos.
M life Rewards is the loyalty program for MGM Resorts, which has 30 properties spread out around the world and in six states, and owns casinos such as Bellagio, The Mirage and MGM Grand.
Caesars Rewards is the loyalty program of Caesars Entertainment, another giant in the industry, with 55 destinations in 17 states under Caesars, Harrahs, Horseshoe and other brands.
Compared head-to-head, it’s clear that both of these programs have a lot to offer. But one stands out as the better choice, according to the criteria we highlight below. Use this information to decide which is best for you.
» Learn more: Sin City on a budget: How to save on a Vegas trip
The most important feature of any loyalty program is the rate at which you earn rewards for spending. M life Rewards doesn’t publish its formula for calculating rewards, and you’ll find different M life earnings in different regions of the country.
For this comparison, we used our experience and crunched the numbers for Las Vegas: As an MGM M life member, every $3 bet at a regular slot machine earns 1 cent in free play plus 1 cent in Express Comps, which can be applied toward hotel stays, dining and more. That’s an earning rate of 0.67%. On video poker machines (where the player has the advantage), you need $10 in play to generate those 2 cents’ worth of rewards. That’s a payback of 0.2%.
In the Caesars Rewards program, a traditional slot machine earns 1 point for every $5 that you play. For most video poker machines, you need $10 in play to earn 1 point.
If you redeem points for free play or gift cards, 1,000 base points are worth $5. For other comps and hotel spending, those points get you $10 in value. So the payback at Caesars Rewards is 0.1% to 0.2%, depending on how you spend points.
Winner for earning rewards: M life Rewards.
Elite status perks
Both programs offer elite status, which comes with an array of perks like accelerated points earnings, discounts on rooms and dining, VIP lounge access and dedicated lines at buffets. For both M life and Caesars, elite status comes in multiple tiers, with increasingly better perks as you move up the ladder.
The value of elite status in each program varies, depending on what perks you value. But in our evaluation, Caesars is the winner, particularly once you hit Diamond status. Some of the goodies at the Diamond level include an annual $100 celebration dinner, a free stay at Atlantis, resort fee waivers and lounge access. They get even more interesting as you climb the elite ladder from there.
Elite status in Caesars is also slightly easier to earn through casino play while M life elite status is easier to obtain through hotel spending.
Winner for elite status perks: Caesars Rewards.
Both M life and Caesars offer co-branded credit cards that let you earn points for everyday shopping, as well as bonuses in certain categories. Those cards are the M life Rewards Mastercard and the Caesars Rewards Visa Credit Card. But there are plenty of cards that are superior to these.
Comparing the two, the edge goes to M life even though Caesars pays slightly better rewards. Caesars offers 5 points per dollar spent in-house, while the M life card is 3 points per dollar. But the deciding factor here is that M life counts everyday spending toward tier status in addition to offering rewards, while Caesars doesn’t.
Winner for credit card: M life Rewards.
» Learn more: NerdWallet’s best hotel credit cards
Other ways to earn and enjoy rewards
Both M life and Caesars have partners that give perks to elite members. Caesars partners with Norwegian Cruises and Atlantis Resorts, which offer either discounted or free trips, depending on your Caesars status. Caesars also offers reciprocal status matches with Wyndham Rewards.
MGM partnerships are slightly more upscale, with connections to Royal Caribbean/Celebrity Cruises and Hyatt. Depending on status, M life members get extra benefits on Royal Caribbean cruises and they can earn Hyatt points at M life properties and M life tier credits at participating Hyatt properties. Members also receive reciprocal status matches.
But MGM Resorts has an unusual advantage: The MyVegas rewards apps allows you to play proprietary slot games online for free and earn MyVegas loyalty points. These points are unrelated to M life points, but they make MGM property stays even more rewarding because you can use both MyVegas points and M life points for perks on the same stay. The MyVegas points can be traded in for hundreds of rewards, ranging from free buffets to free rooms to complimentary cruises, while, M life points can be used for free play and Express Comps. The combined programs make MGM loyalty a better bet overall.
Winner for other ways to earn and redeem rewards: M life Rewards.
Advantage Caesars, which has casinos in 17 states and various locations internationally. MGM properties are located in six states and it has limited international properties (Macau and Cotai).
Winner for geography: Caesars Rewards.
And the winner is …
Every customer will have different factors that are important to them but, we prefer MGM’s M life Rewards program over Caesars Rewards.
You’re ultimately in the game for the payout, and M life offers a point value that is multiples of what you get at Caesars. Throw in better partnerships, particularly with the chance to pile on perks with free MyVegas games and you have the makings of a more rewarding loyalty program.
But where you live and where you like to travel could make Caesars the better option. It has properties spread across the U.S., so if you don’t live near or travel to Las Vegas, chances are you’ll be closer to a property where you can enjoy the benefits of Caesars.
How to maximize your rewards
You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2021, including those best for:
Flexibility, point transfers and a large bonus: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
No annual fee: Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card
Flat-rate travel rewards: Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
Bonus travel rewards and high-end perks: Chase Sapphire Reserve®
Luxury perks: The Platinum Card® from American Express
Business travelers: Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card