For the Love of the Game: My 12-Hour Cross-Border Status Matching Trip

Most of the time, earning points doesn’t require too much effort. That’s the beauty of being able to do so many things online nowadays, from credit card and status match applications to checking in for mattress runs and using online shopping portals.

Sometimes, however, a little extra effort is needed – but the rewards can be well worth it.

Back in November, I found myself weighing the benefit vs. cost of making a 12-hour journey across the border to Detroit purely to complete some of our Miles & Points tasks.

In the end, we went, and it was a more of an adventure than we had bargained for, but still worth it. So let’s start at the beginning of how it all transpired. 

Atlantis Bahamas with Ceasars Diamond Status

As someone always looking for a deal, when there is an opportunity for an almost free vacation, you’ve got my attention.

One of these deals is the complimentary four-night stay at Atlantis Bahamas that comes annually with having Caesars Diamond status.

It’s not totally free, as you still need to pay resort fees (US$55.94 per night plus US$10 gratuity) and additional charges for guests over the age of 12 if above double occupancy.

Still, looking at the cost of Atlantis next spring, where rooms can go from US$210 to over US$500 per night, the savings can be quite substantial considering you would also be saving the 23.2% in taxes that are tacked onto the rack room rate. Even looking at the redemption rates, you would come out ahead.

My husband already has Caesars Diamond status since almost two years ago, obtained through status matching his Marriott Titanium Elite status to Wyndham Diamond status, which then matched to Caesars Diamond. 

We had the intent of going to the Bahamas, but, with so many other international destinations to choose from, Atlantis kept getting bumped from the top of our list. And then of course, the pandemic hit.

With the pandemic continuing to loom on, travelling within North America with the kids is in many ways simpler. Thus, the Bahamas has just become even more appealing.

I’ve heard good things and bad things about the Atlantis resort, but with the recent renovations, beautiful warm weather, and a massive waterpark, I’m sure my kids wouldn’t notice or be bothered by any deficiencies.

And if I’m only paying resort fees, then I’ll be happy to let some minor things slide. Food prices can be high as well, but you can eat cheaper off resort.

Why Go for Two Statuses?

Now comes the regret of not having done the same status match earlier for myself. 

The complimentary package gives you a standard room, which can typically fit up to four guests. At the time my husband obtained his Caesars Diamond, my third child was only a toddler, and most hotels are willing to accommodate an additional an infant or toddler into a standard room.

Now that she’s no longer a toddler and will require a wristband to enter the waterpark, it’ll be harder to sneak her in.

I had also been banking on the hope that since Atlantis is a Marriott property, we could take advantage of an elite room upgrade to something that could accommodate the five of us. Unfortunately, I recently found out that Bonvoy elite benefits often are not consistently honoured with these complimentary stays.

Atlantis Paradise Island, Bahamas

What can be done for bigger families is book two rooms and request for them to be interconnecting if possible. I always appreciate more space when travelling with my kids, so if I have Caesars Diamond too, both my husband and I could each book a room and comfortably fit the five of us.

Caesars Diamond also comes with other annual perks (see below), which are valuable if you have any trips to Vegas or Atlantic City coming up, and we possibly have two in the coming year.

  • Benefits at Caesars properties: No resort fees, complimentary parking, discounts on hotel rooms, and priority lines for casinos, hotels and restaurants
  • $100 Celebration Dinner dining credit (can be used at almost any Caesars dining venue)
  • Two complimentary tickets to select shows

Now to Get My Status…

In the past, obtaining Caesars Diamond was quite simple.

Caesars has a unique partnership with Wyndham Rewards, whereby they allow reciprocal tier matching between their two programs. Wyndham Rewards Diamond status would automatically grant you Caesars Diamond. 

Meanwhile, Wyndham Rewards Diamond could be easily obtained through status matching from other hotel programs, like Marriott Bonvoy Gold Elite and above.

However, during the pandemic, Wyndham decided to discontinue the status match program until further notice.

Another option is to sign up for the FoundersCard, which comes with complimentary Caesars Diamond status. Although the FoundersCard has many great travel benefits, the annual fee can be as high as $595 per year (although they commonly offer discounts on this) with a $95 initiation fee, which makes me not too keen on going this route. 

Then, through a conversation with a Prince of Travel member on Discord, I discovered yet another method of obtaining the Caesars Diamond – and that’s through casino status matching.

Caesars is currently running a casino status match promotion until the end of the year. They will match only to select casino competitors that vary by location.

The only Caesars property in Canada is in Windsor, Ontario. It happened to be allowing matches to MLife, MGM’s loyalty program, as their closest competitor is the MGM Grand in Detroit across the border from them. Gambling’s not really my thing, so normally, this promotion would have had no bearing on me.

However, MGM MLife has its own reciprocal tier-matching program with World of Hyatt, so that you would qualify for MLife Gold if you held Hyatt Explorist or Globalist status.

I had obtained Globalist status thanks to Hyatt reducing elite requirements and offering a lucrative year-end promotion last year, and so this would be my ticket to Caesars Diamond.

Now comes the fun part. To match my MLife Gold to Caesars Diamond would require a visit to the MGM Grand in Detroit to pick up my player’s card, and then cross back into Windsor to present it to the Caesars there in order to qualify for the status match.

Showing my MLife status on my iPhone app wouldn’t have sufficed. Doesn’t sound too bad since the casinos are across the border from each other, right? Well, except that I live a four-hour drive away.

Hiccups at the Border

Driving to Detroit in the late evening was a breeze, with little to no traffic. We had done a RT-PCR test in Canada before travelling, so that the 72-hour validity of the test would allow us entry into the United States and also to come back into Canada on the same test.

When we got to the border, the agent asked why we were entering the States, and my honest husband chose the worst answer out of all the things we had planned to do on this quick trip: that we were going to open a US bank account.

At that moment, the agent starting asking more questions and we were sent for secondary investigation, likely for money laundering concerns.

The inspection set us back an hour, but we made it across and headed to MGM Grand at the lovely hour of 1am. I got my MLife player’s card and checked into the Detroit Marriott at the Renaissance Center on a Free Night Award for the night.

Maximizing My 12-Hour Cross-Border Trip

Now, if I’m going to drive four hours across the border, I want to make it worthwhile. So I started making a list of things I wanted to accomplish while I was there:

  • Claim the US$50 Saks bi-annual credit on Jon’s Amex US Platinum Card
  • Claim the US$15 Uber monthly credit on Jon’s Amex US Platinum Card
  • Claim the US$15 Uber monthly credit on my Amex US Gold Card
  • Claim the “Spend US$200, Get US$50 on Marriott” statement credit on my Amex US Bonvoy Brilliant (I could do this in Canada, but buying the gift cards in USD makes for a better exchange rate when using the gift cards internationally)
  • Set up my Google-Fi account for international travel purposes
  • Set up another US bank account to hopefully simplify the application process for some American credit cards in the future

The difficulty is that we only had 12 hours. We found a sitter for the night for the kids. We left after dinner, hence crossing the border at midnight.

We needed to be home to pick up the kids from school the next day, which meant we had to leave by noon the following day. Such is the life of a Miles & Points enthusiast with kids. 😉

Now, partly due to time constraints and partly due to poor planning on my part, we were only able to hit 50% of that above list. Lesson learned.

  • ❌ Saks didn’t open until 10am the next day. I tried placing an online order two nights before, but nothing I wanted was showing up available in-store. An in-store visit would be much better, but we were short on time.
  • ✅ The Uber credits were easy to hit to cover our lunch.
  • ❌ I called three different Marriott hotels near the Detroit border, and none of them sold gift cards.
  • ✅ Google-Fi was successfully set-up.
  • ❌ We walked into a Chase branch, and unfortunately they had no appointments for the day. She called another nearby branch who could see us, but not until later that afternoon, which was too late for us. Next time, I’ll book an appointment beforehand.

As an added bonus, we were able to claim compensation for a Marriott Bonvoy elite guarantee not being fulfilled, giving us 15,000 Bonvoy points. 

But most importantly, what I did accomplish was match my MLife Gold to Caesars Diamond status! And now that I have, I can pretty much maintain it for life, as long as they maintain their partnership with Wyndham Rewards. 

Conclusion

With a bit of effort and planning, a short trip to the US can be quite fruitful when it comes to the status-matching or fast-track opportunities that come your way. It may be with a program that may not seem all too useful or interesting at first, but you never know what doors it may open later on. 

I hopped onto last year’s Hyatt Globalist fast-track promotion on a bit of impulse and also out of general curiosity about the program itself. Who would have known it would then also allow me match my way to Caesars Diamond, albeit with a little more effort. 

Now that my husband and I have our Caesars Diamond status, we’re ready to hit Vegas this year and plan our family trip to Atlantis. 

We also have US$300 worth of Caesars dining credit between the two of us that needs to be used before January 31, 2022… and I heard their Neros Steakhouse in Windsor isn’t too bad.

And while we’re at it, we may as well go back to Detroit to finish off what I had initially planned – and maybe even match Jon’s Caesars Diamond status to MLife Gold so he can get his Hyatt Explorist. 😉

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