A question came up at the Boarding Area mini-BAcon blogger conference when a young, new blogger just getting into the hotel points game asked what is a ‘mattress run’?
Most bloggers who have been around following points and miles travel loyalty programs since 2011 are familiar with the term ‘mattress run’.
Mattress Run – Booking and paying for hotel nights you do not actually need solely for the purpose of earning points, free nights and/or elite status.
Hotel Loyalty Program History Lesson
Before Hyatt Hotels became a credit card focused elite traveler loyalty program in 2012, Hyatt Gold Passport regularly offered a promotion called Faster Free Nights. Loyalty members could earn one free night at any Hyatt brand hotel worldwide after two stays.
Gaming the promotion allowed members the opportunity to earn valuable free hotel nights, while paying for cheap Hyatt brand hotels, for example $59 for a weekend night; $65 after tax.
Two hotel stays for $130 allowed the Hyatt Gold Passport member to earn regular Hyatt hotel points associated with $118 in hotel spend and a free night credit.
The free night credit could be used for a luxury hotel in London, New York, Paris, Sydney, Tokyo or wherever. Even if you did not stay at the hotel, after check in to register your stay credit at two hotels, your $130 in hotel spend might put you into a $300+ luxury hotel room you really wanted to spend the night.
The Recession Years 2009-2011 and free night hotel promotions
After the financial crisis of 2008-09, the hotel industry was on its knees with barely sustainable hotel occupancy 2009-2011. Many hotels went bankrupt and changed ownership.
Starwood Preferred Guest rolled out one of the first hotel industry distress promotions. I posted my response and action plan April 14, 2009.
Many of us working loyalty programs to our advantage were f-ing hotel loyalty programs like crazy when all the major chains offered some version of stay 2, earn a free night and rates were rock bottom.
In retrospect, I achieved my hotel travel goals with multiple stays at St. Regis hotels in San Francisco, Dana Point Monarch Beach and Aspen, Colorado through the SPG promotions.
Generally speaking, those type of hotel free night high value promotions are long gone now.
Sure, Marriott Rewards currently has MegaBonus for one free night at a category 5 hotel after two stays, but there are not many high end hotels in Category 5 any more, now that Marriott runs a system with 9 hotel categories.
Mattress Run for Points
Mattress run worthy promotions for free nights are few and far between. The reasons these days for mattress runs are points (less common) and elite status.
Wyndham Rewards Masterpass promotion for 15,000 points after two stays is one of the few points promotions I considered mattress run worthy. That promotion ends today, Oct. 31.
Even better than booking hotels you don’t need is when you can capitalize on earning good value bonus points with hotel stays you do need.
I completed my two Wyndham Rewards hotel stays in Nice, France and Plovdiv, Bulgaria on my trip this month. I earned 17,000 Wyndham Rewards points for $160 in spend at two hotels in cities where I needed a hotel stay while traveling around Europe.
15,000 Wyndham Rewards points can buy me 5 nights at Ramada Apollo Amsterdam Centre with a nightly copay of 62 EUR.
My 4-night stay at Ramada Amsterdam in July 2017 on Wyndham Rewards GoFast rates saved $588 by redeeming 12,000 points.
Why does Stockholm, Sweden and Scandinavia matter?
Airfare between Northern California and Europe has dropped steadily ever since Norwegian Airlines launched nonstop flights from Oakland to Stockholm and Oslo in May 2014.
Today you can buy a round trip ticket from Oakland to Stockholm with Norwegian Airlines for $328. Even more amazing, Lufthansa from Stockholm to San Francisco round trip is $288.
I made my first trip to Norway flying United Airlines to Oslo in September 2014.
Oslo ranked as the world’s most expensive tourist destination in 2014.
In 2011, I purchased 216,000 Choice Privileges points for $821.
Buy Choice Privileges points at DiscoverAmerica.com today (April 19, 2011).
I stayed 13 nights in Norway hotels redeeming 216,000 Choice Privileges points on a two week trip to Norway in 2014. The room rates for those 13 nights was over $6,000. I paid around $850 for 216,000 Choice Privileges points during the 2011 Daily Getaways.
Norway September 3-17, 2014 Trip Posts
Norway for two weeks on a budget with a $541 United Airlines round trip ticket SFO-OSL and $300 spending cash for the trip.
Climbing hills for a few days in Bergen was the highlight of my trip. While Norway is expensive, in top three countries worldwide for cost of living, the hotels I picked for stays provided most of the food I wanted to eat. I only needed $25 or about 150NOK for food and I spent about $275 for train and bus tickets and a plane ticket to travel OSL (airport) – Oslo Central-Larvik (southeast Norway)-Sandefjord TORP Airport – BGO Bergen (Norwegian Air) – Express Bus Bergen Center – Bergen Line to Oslo (bus/train) – OSL (airport).
There was no corporate or tourist board sponsorship for this trip. My objective was to find out what value Choice Privileges have in Norway. Answer: Terrific value.
Sweden and Norway have about 170 Nordic Choice Hotels. The focus of my trip was checking out Nordic Choice Hotels with stays at six hotels and site visits at four other hotels in Oslo, Bergen and Larvik and also a visit to Clarion Collection Hotel Atlantic, a unique hotel/whaling museum in Sandefjord, the whaling capital of the world a century ago on the southeast coast of Norway, 75 miles south from Oslo.
I redeemed 216,000 Choice Privileges points for 13 nights with $6,000+ in hotel stay value. Most of the points were purchased at a rate around $4.00 per 1,000 points through U.S. Travel Association annual Daily Getaways promotion, generally held between April and June each spring and limited to U.S. residents. Loyalty Traveler – Daily Getaways Choice points are good deal for Europe Hotels (May 14, 2014).
Choice Privileges points and elite status
Over the past three years I have found myself transiting through Stockholm, Oslo, Bergen, Stavanger and Copenhagen more than a dozen times. I have never paid for a hotel night in any of these cities. I have stayed in hotels using Choice Privileges points or Club Carlson points. In general, Choice Privileges points offer better value. Some of the Nordic Choice Hotels, like The Thief Oslo and Farris Bad, Larvik Norway are as luxury as most any Park Hyatt or St. Regis.
As a result of my frequent transits through Scandinavia each year since 2014, I have burned through hundreds of thousands of Choice Privileges points. I never have as many Choice Privileges points as I need for hotel stays in Scandinavia and Europe.
Mattress Run for Choice Privileges Platinum elite and points
I find myself in need of Choice Privileges points with only 17,000 currently in my account. I have burned through 150,000 Choice Privileges points in 2017 on 15 reward nights. I have one more reward night booked for 2017.
Choice Privileges Platinum elite status is earned with 20 nights, paid with cash or points. I need to book 4 additional nights in 2017 to requalify for Choice Platinum elite.
Choice Privileges currently has a promotion for 8,000 points after two stays through November 11, 2017.
The primary benefit for me of Choice Privileges Platinum elite is a 75 day booking window for reward nights worldwide. Choice Privileges is unique among hotel loyalty programs in only allowing a member to book a reward night within 30 days of arrival for their home region (North America) and 60 days in advance of stay date for other regions.
With 11 nights left to book hotel stays for the current 8,000 points promotion, I am looking to mattress run at the cheapest Choice brand hotel in Monterey.
Rodeway Inn Monterey $40.50/night ($45.95 after tax).
Four non-consecutive nights at Rodeway Inn will cost $183.80 and earn 4 stays for 16,000 points. More importantly, 4 nights requalifies me for 2018 Choice Privileges Platinum elite.
These four stays earn 16,000 Choice Privileges points and an additional 2,000 points for booking weekday Sun-Thu nights with 500 points per stay Your Extras bonus points. Monterey is a weekend vacation town and hotel rates double on Friday and Saturday.
As a Platinum elite, I earn 25% bonus points on $162 room rate ($162 x 10 points/$1 x .25 = 405 bonus points).
For $183.80 I can requalify for Choice Privileges Platinum elite and earn 18,405 Choice Privileges points.
Through the current Choice Privileges 50% bonus points through November 5, I could simply buy 18,000 points for $134.00 without staying at any hotels.
Instead of spending $134 to buy Choice Privileges points I will definitely need in 2018, I can spend $184 on 4 hotel nights in Monterey I do not need, requalify for Choice Privileges Platinum elite with 20 hotel nights in 2017 and earn 18,405 points.
Spending $184 on 4 mattress run hotel nights over the next 12 nights requalifies me for 2018 Platinum elite + 18,405 Choice Privileges points instead of spending $134 to buy 18,000 points.
That extra $50 in spend allows me to book a Choice Privileges reward stay in North America 75 days in advance rather than 50 days in advance if I only qualify for 2018 Choice Privileges Gold elite. I rarely use Choice Privileges points for North America hotels.
The real value for me is I increase my booking window for Choice Hotel stays in Europe from 60 days as a North America member to 75 days.
If I only benefit from the ability to book a single reward night in Scandinavia in 2018 with those additional 15 days before the reward stay booking window opens for all other North American Choice Privileges member at Gold or no elite status, then that is $50 well spent on a mattress run.
This is a true ‘mattress run’ strategy for Choice Privileges elite status. I have no intention of staying the night in a Monterey Rodeway Inn. I can leave my house, check-in at the Rodeway hotel and be back home, all in less than 20 minutes for a night in a bed I truly love to sleep in.
Earning Choice Privileges Platinum elite status for 2018 is the real bonus.