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Players Club Spotlight

A Nice Problem To Have

Smart ways to spend a surplus of points
By Jeffrey Compton

We’re a retired couple who have been steady customers of a (local) Las Vegas casino for several years. We are very happy there, and are not interested in playing anywhere else. The only downside is we have over 3,000,000 points in our players club account. Their slot club does not have cashback, and it would take us over three years to consume them all via the buffet. Should we be concerned about this? We can use our points to buy travel trips, movie tickets and other things that may interest us, but the “exchange rate” is not as good as if we use them for restaurant meals (especially buffets). Would the casino consider “buying us out” for a cash amount? Should we consider selling our points to another party? Or, should we do nothing and worry about a real problem? —Craig & Cindy, Las Vegas NV

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Many people will read this letter and ask, “Since when was having 3,000,000 points a problem?” While I agree that the issue is not a pressing concern, Craig and Cindy should come up with a plan of action to use up their points over the next one or two years. Unredeemed players club points are not bank account deposits. They do not earn interest, and more importantly, they are not your property. Under the rules of almost all clubs, a casino can wipe out your balance at any time.

Very few casinos would do such a nasty thing to their best customers, but a sale, Chapter 11 bankruptcy, or some other unforeseen event could force them to change or cut back on their program. More commonly, some clubs have introduced new rules that automatically wipe out points that are over a year or two years old. In every case that I know of, customers were given several months notice, but they were still forced to clear out their points in their hurry and not enjoy them the way they normally might have.

Even if the casino never reduces the value of your account, the facts of life (and death) can. I frequently get letters from relatives of players who passed away, asking how they can get control of the late player’s points. While most casinos will transfer points to a spouse (especially if the spouse also plays), they will not allow them to be transferred to a child, cousin or friend. So even if you have to use your points for something that costs 1,000 points per dollar as opposed to 300 points per dollar, it sure beats losing thousands of hard-earned points and having nothing to show for it.

Liquidating Your Points: A Battle Plan
So let’s come up with a plan for using all your points over the next one or two years. There is no need to rush or spend unwisely. You want to get the maximum value (and fun) out of them while you still can.

The first step is to check out your options. It often surprises me how many players, even long-term active players, are unaware of all the benefits their players club offers. They might not realize they could use their points to purchase gas, buy movie tickets, get their car washed, get their hair cut, or purchase items at nearby store. This is why you should visit the booth and ask for an updated redemption list, to see exactly what is available to you.

Next, place a call or email to the casino’s marketing director (or your host, if you have one). Tell them that you are concerned about your large point balance, and ask if they know of any options that may not be readily apparent. Casino management may be aware of something in the works (special trips, gift giveaways, point auctions) that has yet to be publicized—and even if they can’t give your any pertinent information, the very action of your asking tells them about a concern that may be shared by other substantial players.

Now that you know all of your options, figure out how many points you are planning to use for normal activities over the next 12-18 months, based upon your usage over the last 12-18 months. Most casinos can help you compute this. With 3,000,000 points to use, let’s say that your projected expenditure over this time period would normally be 750,000 points. That leaves 2,250,000 points to figure out what to do with.

Now, prioritize your choices—not based on the point-redemption rates, but on things that will save you real money. Can you use the points to cover any day-to-day expenses? Gas and car washes come to mind; so does playing golf or going to the movies, if those are activities you normally enjoy. Can they be used toward a major purchase (such as electronics or appliances) that you’ve been looking to make? Trips, especially cruises, may be a good option—assuming that you like to travel and have considered additional expenses that you will incur, not covered by the club (clothes, on-board drinking and gaming, airfare, etc). How about a local getaway weekend where you and yours can rediscover the joys of room service, while staying in a luxurious resort?

There’s no reason to make any point-redemption decisions immediately, but revisit the issue every month or so until you’re ready to start redeeming your points on items or activities that suit your lifestyle.

Selling Your Points, Or Spending Them On Others
I don’t know of any casino that allows you to sell your points or comps to a third party. Nonetheless, I do know several individuals who regularly sell comps. Most of these people, however, are willing to put up with innumerable risks and hassles to “complete the sale.” If you (like me) are not inclined that way, do not attempt to sell comps. (Also note that selling comps does create a Federal Income Tax liability, which could be discovered by either an audit of your bank account or by someone reporting you.)

However, there is nothing wrong with making a deal with other couples whereby you will pick up the tab when you all dine at the casino, and they cover when you go elsewhere.

I’ve used my points to put up family members in nearby casino hotels (I detest house guests). I told the casino exactly what I was doing, and they were extremely cooperative; I didn’t have to be present at registration or check-out. To them, it was a chance to gain a new customer. Everyone was happy.

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