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Is Sin City the next destination on your travel list? From wild parties to extravagant wave pools, we understand why you’re all about spending some time in the desert. However, you may also be looking to manage your time — and money — wisely. Happily, for travelers, there are plenty of ways to do both. So let’s take a look at how to plan a trip to Vegas, when to make major bookings and ways to maximize the experience.
Open a new credit card
As soon as you realize you’re heading to Vegas, you’ll want to open a new credit card. Why? Because these cards can offer significant, lump-sum welcome bonuses that shave some or all of your costs down to zero.
You’ll usually have up to three months or more to earn the welcome bonus on your new card, which will generally require meeting a minimum spend threshold.
While there are a variety of travel cards that would be great for Las Vegas, you’ll want to tailor your choice to your travel preferences. For example, are you OK with a large annual fee if it means you’ll get quite a few perks?
Take The Platinum Card® from American Express ($695 annual fee). This card comes with a $200 annual statement credit towards Fine Hotels & Resorts bookings made through AmEx Travel. In Vegas, this can stretch for up to two nights and gives you free breakfast, room upgrades, late check-out and a special amenity credit. Terms apply.
The card also comes with up to $200 in statement credit that will reimburse airline charges for things like checked baggage and seat selection. It also has a lucrative welcome bonus: Earn 80,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $6,000 on purchases on your new Card in your first 6 months of Card Membership. Terms Apply.
» Learn more: How to travel to Las Vegas on points and miles
5 months to 3 months
Once you’ve met the spend threshold for your welcome bonus, you’ll need to wait for those points to hit your account. The time it takes will vary by the card issuer but can be as quick as a couple of days.
Book your flights
After you’ve received the points, you’ll want to start looking at flights. Let’s say you’ve opted for The Platinum Card® from American Express and have earned its welcome bonus. You now have plenty of points in your account and numerous partner airlines from which to choose for your trip to Vegas.
The flights you book will depend on your dates and your departure airport. You’ll want to check with an aggregator, such as Google Flights, to find suitable options.
Let’s say you’re looking to fly from Chicago-O’Hare to Las Vegas in the fall. A quick check on Google shows that both United and American Airlines offer nonstop flights. The United option looks best, but you realize that American Express Membership Rewards don’t transfer to United.
Not to worry. Thanks to AmEx’s robust partnership network, you can transfer your points to airlines within all three major alliances. In this case, Avianca LifeMiles, a member of the Star Alliance, transfers from AmEx at a 1:1 ratio, which you can then use to book your United flight.
It’s often cheaper to book flights on U.S. airlines using partner miles.
Book your hotels
As soon as your dates are settled, and you’ve received your points, you’ll also want to start booking your hotels. Let’s continue with the AmEx card example from above.
If you do not want to spend your $200 hotel credit on your Las Vegas trip, you can instead choose to redeem points. AmEx points will transfer to Hilton, Marriott and Choice. For Marriott and Choice, AmEx points transfer at a 1:1 ratio, meaning one AmEx point becomes one hotel point. AmEx points will transfer to Hilton at a 1:2 ratio.
Marriott charges resort fees on its award stays, while Hilton doesn’t. Since Las Vegas is rife with resort fees, it might be beneficial to book with Hilton. There are more than 30 Hilton properties in Las Vegas, making it very simple to find somewhere to stay. Some are even right on the famous Las Vegas Strip.
The Tropicana Las Vegas, for example, can be had for 28,000 Hilton points per night. This equates to 14,000 AmEx points per night — and you won’t have to pay a dime out of pocket.
» Learn more: Best hotels in Las Vegas to book with points
3 months and fewer
Open another credit card
At this point, you’ve hopefully already got your flights and hotels booked. If you have any entertainment to book in advance, that may be done as well. So far, so good on your Vegas trip planning.
Now, with fewer than three months to go, you’ll want to open another credit card. Why? Because no trip to Vegas is without its costs. Whether enjoying a fancy meal or splashing out for some show tickets, opening a new credit card is an excellent way to earn more points while working on a welcome bonus.
If you’re a big fan of dining out, consider the American Express® Gold Card, which earns 4x points on all U.S. restaurants, including takeout and delivery.
If your tastes tend towards entertainment, the Citi Custom Cash℠ Card may be a better option for you. This card earns an automatic 5% cash back on a rotating selection of categories, based on your spending. Here are some relevant eligible categories:
Keep in mind that the 5% cash back is for one category per billing period and is only valid on the first $500 spent per month.
Set up airport perks
Depending on which credit cards you’ve signed up for, you may have one or more airport perks that you’ll need to set up.
Quite a few credit cards feature a Priority Pass Select membership, which provides airport lounge access in more than 1,300 locations worldwide.
If you’ve opted for The Platinum Card® from American Express, you’ll also want to select the airline for which you’d like to receive your fee credit. You can do this from within your AmEx account.
» Learn more: Best travel credit cards right now
Should you get travel insurance?
Did you know that many different travel credit cards offer travel insurance? This includes nearly every card that Chase offers and several other options from American Express.
This insurance will typically cover lost baggage, trip delays, trip cancellation and emergency medical. Different limits will apply depending on your card issuer.
You may also want to acquire additional travel insurance. For example, Cancel For Any Reason insurance allows you to call off your trip and recoup your costs, no matter the reason. However, remember that this insurance only covers what is not covered in your base plan.
If you’re looking to get additional insurance, you’ll want to check quotes sooner rather than later; there’s often a time limit after booking during which you can add this on. Example travel insurance companies include Allianz, World Nomads and AIG.
» Learn more: What to know before buying travel insurance
If you’re looking to plan a trip to Las Vegas
Trip planning involves many moving parts, so you should start sooner rather than later. Be sure you have everything prepared well in advance with this six-month timeline.
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 2023, 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