Ah yes, Vegas. Sin City.

What happens there, stays there.

America’s Playground.

The snowiest place on Earth.

My parents used to take a (mostly) annual trip to Las Vegas. They used to stay at the Bellagio, which sounds lovely, but I would prefer not to pay $270 per night in March.

This will be my first trip to Vegas, making me the last USC alum to ever visit the fair city. And even though more experienced Vegas-goers will have plenty of money-saving tips, I am trying out a few of my own.

1. Using the Southwest Companion Pass

Southwest Airlines 737
The Southwest Airlines Companion Pass will be a close friend in the coming months. (Eric Salard/Creative Commons)

Altruism, engage!

Yes, it’s here!

I previously preached from the pulpit of the Southwest Companion Pass. Now I have one myself, just in time to fly myself and my girlfriend from PIT to LAS.

And I was delighted to find out just how easy it was to add a companion to booked flights. It was, as follows:

  1. See in my account that I had 110,000 points toward the Companion Pass
  2. Call a listed number and give them my girlfriend’s name
  3. Go back into my account and hit ‘Add Companion’ for each flight

Southwest is going through significant troubles right now, but their customer service is as strong as ever.

2. Buying Southwest gift cards on the American Express platinum card

High-fee AMEX cards come with a nice perk: credit that can be used to pay fees on one U.S. airline that you select ($200 per year on platinum cards, $100 per year on gold).

Previously I would be the only AMEX customer using the credit towards Spirit. It was all so I wouldn’t have to pay out of pocket for seats and bags when I flew on cheap fares from PIT to LAX.

This year, I chose Southwest, because I learned you can apply the fee toward Southwest gift cards. I bought four e-gift cards at $50 each, got the fee refunded. Bingo bango, $200 to use on Southwest.

3. Using a Hyatt free night award for Saturday night

The New York-New York Hotel in Las Vegas
A Saturday night at the New York-New York would have cost me more than $300. But not with the Chase Hyatt card! (Flicka/Creative Commons)

Another credit card perk! I get an annual free night on Hyatt Category 1-4 hotels with the Chase Hyatt card. There are hundreds of Hyatt hotels out there to choose, including some MGM properties.

Now, I’m a Moneyball (Moneycard?) kind of guy, and using the free night at a Vegas hotel may not be the best value in the world.

However, since we fly in on a Saturday night, and Saturday nights are usually the most expensive in Vegas…

You get the picture. A Saturday night at the New York-New York hotel would have cost $301. Instead, the Hyatt perk pays for it all: room and resort fee.

((rubs hands)) More money for me to lose at the blackjack table.

4. Using an AMEX offer of $60 off $300 or more at MGM Resorts

Let’s get perky once more. One other way American Express tries to get people to keep paying a BANANAS annual fee is with AMEX Offers.

It’s a strange amalgamation of discount offers, as you can see below:

How It Works!

How Do-Goodery Works

I don’t plan on using any of these. But there is often a useful offer: $60 off an MGM Resorts stay of $300 or more. If you’re not aware (and I certainly wasn’t), MGM dominates the Las Vegas Strip.

  • ARIA
  • Bellagio
  • Circus Circus
  • Delano
  • Excalibur
  • Luxor
  • MGM Grand
  • Mandalay Bay
  • New York-New York
  • NoMad
  • Park MGM
  • The Mirage
  • The Signature at MGM Grand
  • Vdara

Again, I’ve never been to Vegas, but I liked what I saw out of the renovation that turned the old Monte Carlo into Park MGM.

As it turns out, a Monday night-Tuesday night stay was $302, just putting us over the mark for $60 off with the AMEX Offer. All we have to do is take our bags from New York-New York to the next hotel over.

5. Enjoying all the (less-expensive) things Vegas has to offer

Las Vegas strip
Walking along the Strip doesn’t cost anything (I hope)! (Supercarwaar/Creative Commons)

And that’s right around where my expertise ends. Do I know how to get deals on meals in Vegas? Not really. How about discount show tickets? If you know, send me a tweet.

My plan for saving money once we get to Vegas: focus on the fun things that are free or inexpensive.

The Fremont Street Experience? Hell yeah. Watching the Bellagio fountains? Like they did at the end of Ocean’s Eleven! People-watching? ((Bart Scott voice)) Can’t wait.

The casinos will no doubt separate this fool from his cash at the sports book. Cleveland Indians at 12-to-1 to win the World Series? Shut up and take my money.

I’ll see you, dear readers, on the other side. You’ll recognize me flying home to Pittsburgh International… I’ll be the one wearing the barrell.