Author Topic: How I got a nearly free vacation  (Read 16126 times)

MoneyCat

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How I got a nearly free vacation
« on: May 29, 2014, 03:33:53 PM »
     Atlantic City is within a short drive of where we live, but we never really went there because it's a gambling resort town and there's nothing more anti-Mustachian than gambling (or what I call mindlessly flushing money down the toilet.)  However, I realized after talking to some friends who went there regularly that it was actually possible to go on vacation to Atlantic City without spending money on anything except gas to get there.

     Here's how it worked:

1.)  I signed up online for a free Total Rewards membership from Caesars Entertainment.  Caesars runs four of the eleven casinos in Atlantic City and Total Rewards is their players club which typically is used by gamblers to save up reward points from playing which they can then use on "comps" (or free rooms and meals).  They start you off at "Gold" level which gets you basic discounts on meals (like $1-$2).

2.)  Then, I signed up for Social Rewards which Caesars has contracted with to get everyday people to promote their resorts.  Basically, you sign up with your social media accounts (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google account, etc.) and you tweet or post ads for them.  To avoid annoying my friends with spam, I set the SR app on Facebook so posts could only be seen by me and I retweeted stuff on Twitter with ridiculous answers to Caesars' questions to entertain everybody.  The Social Rewards stuff is geared towards Caesars' Las Vegas resorts, but you earn points that can be redeemed for Total Rewards credits that can be used at any of their resorts (including the ones near me in Atlantic City.)  Every 1000 points can be redeemed to $10 in Total Rewards credits.  You can only share three things per day, unless you are watching their YouTube videos which they do not limit.  I spend maybe five minutes a day using Social Rewards and I typically rack up 1000 points every week or so.

3.)  The next thing I did was sign up for the Total Rewards Visa.  You need to have at least a 720 credit score to qualify for it, but once you are accepted they give you a bonus of $100 in Total Rewards credits if you spend $750 in the first three months.  They typically give 1 reward credit per dollar spent, but they also give 2 credits per dollar for any grocery or gas purchase.  I discovered that the TR Visa considered my warehouse store purchases to be "grocery" purchases, so I have used that very effectively to rack up points.  I didn't change any of my household spending, so this was literally free money. 
     One of the best features of the Total Rewards Visa is that it instantly gives you Platinum Total Rewards status for about two years.  Typically, Platinum status requires $12,500 worth of gameplay on the slot machines or a lot higher on table games, but they gave it to me for free just for having their credit card.  Platinum status lets you waive the "resort fees" they typically tack onto their hotel stays.  It also allows you to skip the line at restaurants (including the buffets).  It also gives you free parking in Atlantic City, which will save you about $5/day.  You also get a 15% discount on anything in the gift shop if you want to buy souvenirs for some reason.  (I prefer just taking photographs on my phone instead of spending money like that.)  If you live near Las Vegas, the TR Visa will also give you a free "Buffet of Buffets" pass for two people, which gives you unlimited free buffets for 24 hours, and you can get buy one, get one free show tickets (which you can also "comp" with reward credits).

     So, I put all of that together and easily racked up several hundred dollars worth of reward credits.  Then, I booked a cheap mid-week  hotel room during the off-season at the beginning of Summer before school was out at one of their resorts and paid for it with reward credits.  We brought our own beer in a cooler and our own breakfast supplies (and they provided free coffee in the room).  We used reward credits at the resort for lunch and dinner (and combined that with two for one coupons from an Entertainment book a friend gave us to make it even cheaper).  We spent the day enjoying the beach with the beach chairs, umbrella, and beach towels we brought from home.  We walked the famous Boardwalk and did some sightseeing of all the "Boardwalk Empire"-era buildings in the area.  We enjoyed relaxing at the hotel pool.
     Total cost out-of-pocket for our vacation: $7.75 for gas and $3.75 for tolls = $11.50.  Best of all, Caesars Entertainment sent me an offer in the mail for two free nights to come back and I didn't even gamble at all.  How is that for badass?
« Last Edit: September 07, 2014, 01:27:42 PM by MoneyCat »

socaso

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Re: How I got a nearly free vacation
« Reply #1 on: May 29, 2014, 04:15:35 PM »
That's pretty cool. I never have the patience to work the rewards that hard but good for you!

shadowmoss

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Re: How I got a nearly free vacation
« Reply #2 on: May 30, 2014, 07:51:27 AM »
I go to Las Vegas (live in Phoenix) every couple of months on my Total Rewards credits and offers.  I do gamble, but I count that  as my entertainment budget as I don't do much else like go to movies or drink alcohol or anything like that.

I'm waiting to get the credit card until I have more debt paid off, and thanks for letting me know the score necessary.  I'm there, but barely.  My two goals, less debt and better score, should come together by the end of the year.  I'm already Platinum (2nd level).  It can also get you comped rooms if you travel where Harrah's casinos are.  I used to stay in the one in St. Louis on my way though a couple of times a year when I drove from Nashville to Kansas City (no longer a Harrah's, unfortunately) and they would put me and my Mom up for free and even feed us a buffet.  I've stayed at the one in Cherokee, NC free when I was in the area hiking and wanted a break and a shower. 

The buffet of buffets is great!  I get it every time I'm in Las Vegas.

I know I'm not totally mustacian. 

shotgunwilly

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Re: How I got a nearly free vacation
« Reply #3 on: May 30, 2014, 07:52:08 AM »
Cool! I'm flying to Vegas this summer on airline miles from a CC and my spending money (I like to gamble.) is almost all from CC cash back rewards.  I also have the Total Rewards and got a discount on my hotel stay. 

MoneyCat

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Re: How I got a nearly free vacation
« Reply #4 on: May 30, 2014, 02:27:33 PM »
Another way to get free comps if you like to go on vacation in Vegas is to play MGM Resorts' Facebook slot machine game My Vegas.  It costs nothing to play (although they try to sell you gameplay "chips") and you earn "loyalty points" that can be cashed in for real free hotel rooms, show tickets, buffets, and more.  It does take a lot of gameplay to get a useful number of loyalty points, but it's a fun way to scratch the "gambling itch" without spending any money.

We've actually saved up enough loyalty points to get tickets to two Cirque du Soleil shows for our next vacation to Vegas and we'll probably have enough airline miles and Total Reward credits saved up from our credit cards by then to do almost everything for free again.  I love free vacations.

Pylortes

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Re: How I got a nearly free vacation
« Reply #5 on: May 30, 2014, 08:27:50 PM »
This is awesome,  thanks for sharing MoneyCat!  I don't live close enough to make a trip there worthwhile, but I'm sure there are other places you could do something similar at,  I appreciate hearing the good ideas.  Sounds like a really fun trip.

MoneyCat

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Re: How I got a nearly free vacation
« Reply #6 on: May 30, 2014, 09:53:38 PM »
This is awesome,  thanks for sharing MoneyCat!  I don't live close enough to make a trip there worthwhile, but I'm sure there are other places you could do something similar at,  I appreciate hearing the good ideas.  Sounds like a really fun trip.

Caesars owns resorts in a lot of different places around the USA, which actually makes it a pretty good "free vacation club" if you game the rewards system.  They own over forty resorts, which includes Vegas, Atlantic City, Tunica (just outside Memphis), Lake Tahoe, New Orleans, Biloxi, Chicago area, Indiana, North Carolina, Kansas City, Reno, Cleveland, Cincinnati, and other cities.  They are also opening a new resort in Baltimore this year.

JoshRiverson

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Re: How I got a nearly free vacation
« Reply #7 on: June 01, 2014, 01:50:37 PM »
This sounds really good, Caesars is awesome!

lv211

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Re: How I got a nearly free vacation
« Reply #8 on: June 09, 2014, 09:04:24 PM »
@MoneyCat - Great story. Thank you for sharing. Do you think that it would be possible to automate posting on social media?

MoneyCat

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Re: How I got a nearly free vacation
« Reply #9 on: June 10, 2014, 07:18:56 AM »
@MoneyCat - Great story. Thank you for sharing. Do you think that it would be possible to automate posting on social media?

     Social Rewards has a website that you go through to post ads to your social media.  I'm not sure if that's something you could automate.  Maybe some savvy programmers out there would be able to do it.  You can post from Social Rewards using multiple platforms, but the YouTube videos are Flash, so you cannot watch them on iOS devices to get credits for them.  Typically, I either do Social Rewards from home while I am doing chores (and share my three items and run the YouTube videos on Mute while I am busy) or I do it on my Android smartphone while out-and-about (like while I am waiting in line at the grocery store).  It only takes a few minutes per day.

     One change has taken place with the Total Rewards Visa since I posted:  Total Rewards has changed one of the special card rewards from a free Buffet of Buffets pass for two to your choice of either 1.) Free Admission for Two to the new High Roller (which is the World's Tallest Observation Wheel) in Las Vegas, or 2.) A free night's stay in Atlantic City.  Either one is potentially useful to use during a free vacation.

lv211

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Re: How I got a nearly free vacation
« Reply #10 on: June 10, 2014, 09:36:14 PM »
It sounds like it's not worth your time to automate.

Do you ever visit the Churning subreddit? http://www.reddit.com/r/churning

There are a lot of people who are doing similar things with other hotel and airline loyalty points. They strategically use credit card incentives to rack up thousands of miles and loyalty points.

Thought you might be interested if you weren't already aware.

Hey It's Me

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Re: How I got a nearly free vacation
« Reply #11 on: December 23, 2014, 11:13:09 AM »
This is probably the best thing I've read all week. Congratulations on your badassity!

MoneyCat

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Re: How I got a nearly free vacation
« Reply #12 on: January 12, 2015, 03:21:14 PM »
An Update:  Just took my second nearly free vacation to Atlantic City.

     After saving up reward credits for months, we just took our second nearly free vacation by gaming the Total Rewards program.  This time, we stayed at Caesars Atlantic City, which is a really nice hotel at the center of the Boardwalk.  This is the cheapest time of year to go to Atlantic City, because it's pretty cold in New Jersey right now, so people can't really enjoy the Boardwalk as much (unless you are tough and Mustachian and the cold doesn't bother you.)  We booked a deluxe room using our reward credits and they upgraded us to a Premium room in the Centurion Tower for free.  The Premium rooms are pretty neat with marble flooring in the foyer and bathroom and a TV built into the bathroom mirror.  Our room had a partial view of the beach too.
     We used our reward credits for all our meals this time around because I had saved up a ton of them.  We ate breakfast at Cafe Roma downstairs in the Centurion Tower and had a huge dinner at the Palace Buffet which had a ton of different international foods and a massive dessert selection.  For entertainment, we did some sightseeing around the hotel.  They have some nice artwork and the hotel lobby is set up like a Roman temple with a 20-foot statue of Caesar Augustus.  There is also the Caesars Pier Shops which are connected to the hotel but built onto a pier sticking out into the Atlantic Ocean.  All the stores in the Pier Shops are massively anti-Mustachian, but there was a lot of pretty stuff to look at.  And we got some really nice photos of the ocean and the AC Boardwalk from the Observation Deck.
     One of the nice things about staying at Caesars AC or Bally's AC is that those two resorts are only about a block or so from several blocks of factory outlet shopping.  We bought some nice new designer clothes for work for dirt cheap prices.
     There have been a couple of changes to the Total Rewards program since I made my initial post.  For one thing, Platinum status no longer allows you to waive the resort fees at Caesars Entertainment hotels.  You can pay those fees using reward credits and it wasn't that bad in Atlantic City because the resort fee is only $5 a night.  In Vegas, however, they charge anywhere from $25-30 a night in fees.  Another change is that Platinum status doesn't allow you to skip the buffet line at the higher-status Caesars resorts anymore.  We had to wait in line like the lowly Gold members on our trip, but we handled that by going to the buffet much later in the evening.  Also, there is some speculation that Caesars Entertainment has made holders of the Total Rewards Visa permanent Platinum members, but I haven't been able to verify that yet.
     I promised Pete that I wouldn't spam everyone on here with referral links, but if anyone is interested in joining the program and gaming the system like I did, send me a PM and I can give you some links to sign up.  Full disclosure:  I get some reward points for referrals.

Bob W

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Re: How I got a nearly free vacation
« Reply #13 on: March 03, 2015, 08:46:31 PM »
I'm going to Vegas.  Wish there was an easier hack?     I'm hacking the flight.

MoneyCat

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Re: How I got a nearly free vacation
« Reply #14 on: March 05, 2015, 09:04:08 AM »
I'm going to Vegas.  Wish there was an easier hack?     I'm hacking the flight.

Social Rewards and the TR Visa just let you hack meals, rooms, and shows.  You'd probably be best off getting a bonus for a Miles credit card to get free flights.  Southwest has a pretty good sign-on bonus if they are available in your area.  Also, My Vegas just added Allegiant Air as a partner, so they are offering a free round trip air ticket with the purchase of any air + hotel package for 400,000 loyalty points.  I have about 500,000 loyalty points right now, but I'm saving them to get two free tickets to two Cirque du Soleil shows for my Vegas vacation this summer.

TreeTired

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Re: How I got a nearly free vacation
« Reply #15 on: March 05, 2015, 09:13:47 AM »
I love the irony of getting all of these "baller" type perks that are supposed to go to high rollers, when in fact you are the complete opposite!!! ie,  a total freaking cheapskate... oops, i mean Mustachian..  LOL!

MoneyCat

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Re: How I got a nearly free vacation
« Reply #16 on: May 05, 2015, 06:22:25 PM »
Mission "Free Vegas Vacation" is now accomplished.  After saving up Total Rewards credits for months and My Vegas loyalty points for a year and a half, we will now be staying at Caesars Palace for free for three nights (due to cheap summer rates at the end of July) with all our meals comped and we have free tickets to Cirque du Soleil's KA at the MGM Grand and Cirque du Soleil's Zarkana at the Aria.  We also have free admission to Siegfried and Roy's Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat at the Mirage and four free single ride monorail passes per person to use for traveling up and down The Strip.  I also managed to save enough AMEX points to get a free MGM resorts gift card, which we'll be using for entrance to CSI: The Experience.  We even managed to save up enough reward miles to get free airline tickets for our flight out there.

I feel like such a frugal baller right now. :-)

Pooperman

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Re: How I got a nearly free vacation
« Reply #17 on: May 07, 2015, 05:28:37 AM »
Moneycat, you know what else is awesome about living in NJ with the stupid amounts of casinos? Online casinos pay you! Seriously. I think you can make like $200+ on the bonuses from signing up alone. And it's no risk (or at least I don't do any risky ones). Here are the ones you can do: Caesars, virgin, tropicana, borgata, poker stars (run by borgata, but separate), 888, and I may be missing one or two. The best ones are virgin and tropicana (they use the same system but are separate). Their deals include: $10 in free money you have to gamble once to withdraw, plus get your deposit back in real money if you lose 90% or more. So 10% (more if you win, but always positive) + $10 to mess with that ain't yours.

Borgata and poker stars give you $25 in free money to mess with, but the doubling of your deposit requires like 30x play through and is bad value. Same is true of the other casinos, but the signup free cash is there.

Finally, if you do churning, most, if not all, of the casinos allow you to use your CC to buy money to play with. So not only do you get these bonuses, but you get somewhere around 15-25%  when churning too... On top of the free money. Total for me doing all of this over about 3-4 hours is $250. That doesn't count the CC stuff since I just figured that by out haha. Hope you can take advantage me moneycat!

FrugalKube

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Re: How I got a nearly free vacation
« Reply #18 on: May 07, 2015, 11:41:22 PM »
Im headed to Vegas in Oct. Allegiant flies out from my town. My wife and I have My Vegas. I'll have to see if we can get a few nights for free. Last year we used it on Monrail passes and food.

sallyanne

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Re: How I got a nearly free vacation
« Reply #19 on: May 07, 2015, 11:56:13 PM »

Finally, if you do churning, most, if not all, of the casinos allow you to use your CC to buy money to play with. So not only do you get these bonuses, but you get somewhere around 15-25%  when churning too... On top of the free money. Total for me doing all of this over about 3-4 hours is $250. That doesn't count the CC stuff since I just figured that by out haha. Hope you can take advantage me moneycat!

Can you tell me more about how you use this for churning? That's my favorite hobby :). They let you load money to your account with a CC for free and then withdraw to your bank account without ever using it?

Pooperman

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Re: How I got a nearly free vacation
« Reply #20 on: May 08, 2015, 10:04:19 AM »

Finally, if you do churning, most, if not all, of the casinos allow you to use your CC to buy money to play with. So not only do you get these bonuses, but you get somewhere around 15-25%  when churning too... On top of the free money. Total for me doing all of this over about 3-4 hours is $250. That doesn't count the CC stuff since I just figured that by out haha. Hope you can take advantage me moneycat!

Can you tell me more about how you use this for churning? That's my favorite hobby :). They let you load money to your account with a CC for free and then withdraw to your bank account without ever using it?

I have since learned it's not possible. The cardholder agreement prevents you from using it on gambling so it's a cash advance :/.

MoneyCat

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Re: How I got a nearly free vacation
« Reply #21 on: May 08, 2015, 10:46:54 AM »
Im headed to Vegas in Oct. Allegiant flies out from my town. My wife and I have My Vegas. I'll have to see if we can get a few nights for free. Last year we used it on Monrail passes and food.

If you are using My Vegas for free hotel nights, you should be aware of the changes they have made to the program.  MGM Resorts will now only allow you to comp one day of your trip through My Vegas.  Station casinos, though, will let you comp three days (and possibly more according to some people I have spoken with about it.)  The only real downside of that is that the Station casinos are either in downtown Vegas or the outskirts of town as opposed to MGM Resorts which are on the Strip.