I’ll talk about why the MGM Rewards Mastercard can be a fantastic option for casino regulars and occasional casino visitors.
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You’re listening to the Hurdy Gurdy Travel Podcast. I’m your host, Justin Vacula, here to help you travel the world at next to no cost with credit card points, miles, benefits, and rewards. Make money, save money, and take advantage of great deals!
Thanks for joining me for podcast episode 73: MGM Rewards Mastercard Deep Dive. I’ll talk about why the MGM Rewards Mastercard can be a fantastic option for casino regulars and occasional casino visitors.
Before today’s discussion, a quick show note. I host in-person monthly meetups in Willow Grove, Pennsylvania with the group Greater Philadelphia Travel: Credit, Miles, and Points. The next meetup is scheduled for March 19, 2023. I hope to see you there! Find more information at meetup.com/phillymilesandpoints. Find a link in the show notes.
The no annual fee MGM Rewards Mastercard is marketed as an easy way to earn casino comps and tier status with MGM. As a casino regular, I was intrigued to have ways to earn status and comps through credit card spend. I’ve had this credit card for about three years and regularly use it for purchases at grocery stores, gas stations, and MGM casinos. Although I originally matched Caesars Diamond status from a credit card benefit to get MGM Gold status, I recognize that this option may not last, and in 2023, it’s getting more and more challenging to keep statuses through status matching. Having a more reliable way to earn through credit card spend remains attractive.
At the time of recording, February of 2023, the MGM Rewards Mastercard has an increased signup bonus of 20,000 reward points or $200 in comps and 20,000 tier credits. This offer is much better than the usual offer of only 10,000 reward points and no tier credits. A signup bonus worth $200 is usually not appealing, but ongoing value from this card, mainly comp production and status generation, can make it worthwhile. Just by having this card, one earns and keeps Pearl status which mainly gives free parking at MGM properties, but with a good amount of spend, one can gain Gold status to waive resort fees, have priority line access at many casinos, and get a $100 meal credit once per year.
So how does one earn status? One needs 75,000 tier credits for Gold status and 200,000 tier credits for Platinum status. Credit card spend can accelerate tier earning in addition to or even in place of gambling. I’m primarily a Poker player, but I also play online Blackjack (more on that later), so I wouldn’t be able to earn Gold or Platinum status through my occasional play with MGM. With tier earning from credit card spend, Gold status is very easy for me to reach.
The MGM Rewards Mastercard gives 2x tier and 2x comps at grocery stores and gas stations. Optimally, you’ll buy prepaid gift cards or third-party gift cards like Amazon, Best Buy, and even fee-free Draftkings gift cards with the MGM Mastercard. Hopefully, you’ll also earn grocery rewards or fuel points at your local grocery store or gas station when you purchase gift cards. Rather than transferring money to an online casino site, you can use prepaid or gift cards to fund casino balances and use new money from new cards every time rather than using the same deposited money.
In Pennsylvania, most online Blackjack games have about a half percent house edge when playing proper basic strategy, so earning 2x comps and tier and grocery or fuel rewards easily offsets the house edge making online Blackjack play profitable on your quest to tier status. Online Blackjack play on its face also gives some tier and rewards, but not much, so most tier would be earned from the credit card spend.
My MGM Rewards Mastercard currently has a credit limit of about $11,000, so $10,000 spend each month at grocery stores spaced out across several visits, an easy task for me, will give me more than 20k tier credits atop $200 in comps, grocery points, and fuel rewards. The MGM Mastercard also earns 3x tier and comps on MGM spend inside casinos, but this doesn’t move the needle much compared to high grocery and gas spend.
Every four months with the credit card, one can call the issuing bank, the First National Bank of Omaha, to request a credit line increase. This increase is just a soft credit pull. During my last phone call with FNBO, the rep said I could have a guaranteed limit increase of $3000 or they could put in a request for more, but I might not get $3000 or more if declined. I took the guaranteed $3000. Ensure your credit scores are in good order, preferably in the high 700s, and your MGM Rewards Mastercard balance is zero because they probably won’t want to issue you more credit if you owe them money.
The MGM Rewards Mastercard earns 1x comps and tier on all other spend, but this probably isn’t worthwhile unless you’re struggling to get in grocery or gas spend because you lack good local options. One can also directly use the MGM Rewards Mastercard to fund BetMGM online gambling website, but this only earns 1x comps and tier. Funding directly is inferior to indirect funding using gift and prepaid cards through grocery store and gas station spend. In 2022, though, there was a promotional period giving, I believe 3x tier and comps on BetMGM funding, so stay tuned for possible increases in the future. Funding BetMGM does not code as a cash advance and this direct funding can be a good option if really needed incase you lack prepaid or gift cards to fund gambling websites.
Tier credits and comps post to your MGM account shortly after your FNBO statement period closes. For some reason, credit card earnings show on your MGM account as free Slot play, so you must convert free Slot play to comps at an MGM player’s club. In most cases, comps should be worth more than free play because the free play comes with a house edge. There are also situations in which comps are worth more than a dollar, particularly at Borgata in Atlantic City. If you have MGM Gold status, you can use $12.50 in comps for Borgata buffet entry that can cost more than $30. As I’ve mentioned in previous episodes, Borgata also has the wonderful Amphora Lounge, a higher-quality type of buffet with unlimited high-quality alcohol and other drinks. Amphora Lounge is such a great deal that I rarely eat elsewhere in Atlantic City. Why pay elsewhere if I can use $12.50 in MGM comps at Borgata?
One can also combine food comps earned from MyVegas games with MGM comps. For videos about MyVegas – free to play games that give you real-life casino rewards, see my YouTube channel by searching Hurdy Gurdy Travel Podcast. During my last trip in Las Vegas, I used $20 off $40 rewards from MyVegas. Rather than charging the $20ish to the MGM Rewards Mastercard, one can use comps earned from spend to pay. MyVegas rewards also include buy one get one buffets, free appetizer with entree purchase, buy one get one entrees, and more.
In previous years with the MGM Rewards Mastercard, I spent my way to MGM Gold status. In 2023, now with a higher credit card limit and excellent local grocery store options, I plan on spending my way to MGM Platinum status. I couldn’t gain Platinum status without the MGM Rewards Mastercard. $100,000 grocery and gas spend gets me there, but I won’t need to spend that much because I’ll also earn tier from some Poker play at Borgata, online Blackjack play, MGM spend, and maybe MGM promotions.
MGM Platinum status gives a $600 flight credit or rebate to Las Vegas. Simply show an MGM representative a receipt of your cash-fare flight and get back up to $600 in cash. This benefit is tremendous, especially when coupled with credit card side reimbursements. For example, my new United Quest card gives me a once per cardmember year $125 statement credit when using the United Quest card to book a flight. I can also use my Altitude Reserve card to book a flight and use my Altitude Reserve points to offset the cost of the flight – effectively, no cost to me or cashing out points then getting the cash rebate from MGM.
MGM Platinum status also gives a once-per-year $200 dining credit and a once-per-year complimentary cruise. Valuing the cruise at a conservative $700, dining credits at face value, and resort fees saved easily creates more than $1000 per year. Add in some benefits like room upgrades with MGM Gold and Platinum status, comp earning for discounted buffets or Amphora Lounge visits, and the MGM Mastercard really shines for high spenders. Even if you only spend your way to Gold status or some spending helps you get there, the card can still have a good deal to offer.
Critics of the MGM Mastercard may lament the low $200 welcome offer or usual $100 welcome offer. Indeed, these offers are low compared to other cards, but looking at this card later in your credit card journey can be better than getting it early. Surely, I wouldn’t recommend this card early on prioritizing it over personal cards with banks like Chase, US Bank, and Barclay’s that likely won’t approve people with lots of recent credit card applications. Chase can be especially tough because of what is known as their 5/24 rule. In short, you usually can’t get cards with Chase if you’ve opened five or more credit cards appearing on your personal credit report in the last 24 months. The $200 or $100 welcome offer is indeed low, but the value from this card should kick in with attaining a rewarding status every year.
Some lament the 2x earning at grocery and gas stations, identifying other cards like Amex Gold that gives 4x Membership Rewards at grocery stores and Amex Business Gold that earns 4x Mermbership Rewards at gas stations. The MGM Mastercard doesn’t only earn 2x comps, though, it’s also earning status that’s surely worthwhile for casino regulars or even occasional visitors. Ideally, people will also be high spenders and will not only be using the same card again and again at grocery stores or gas stations.
It’s good to de-risk by spreading spend across many cards and not cycling credit limits meaning charging up to or close to the limit, paying off the balance, and running the balance up again during the statement period. Cycling can get you shut down. Cards like Amex personal Gold also cap their 4x earnings at $25,000 in a calendar year, so lots and lots of 2x comp and tier earning every month is great for high spenders.
Value from this card may drop off at some point in the year when you reach your desired status goal. For example, if you reach MGM Gold status in September, you may consider stopping usage of this card until January or after your credit card statement closes in December or whenever the MGM tier earning period stops for the current earning year.
First National Bank of Omaha, the issuing bank for the MGM Rewards Mastercard, pulls from Experian. At the time of applying for this card, have no more than two accounts opened on Experian in the last six months or FNBO may deny you due to too many recently opened accounts. If you have other cards with FNBO, space out FNBO applications by six months and consider lowering the credit limits on your existing FNBO cards to increase approval chances for the MGM Rewards Mastercard.
In closing, the MGM Rewards Mastercard won’t be for everyone, but this can be a niche card for those who can use it well. High spenders will especially find value from this card through attaining status.
Thanks for listening, and stay tuned for future episodes.
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