Even if you’re new to the points and miles game, you’ve probably heard the term “mileage run” before. In essence, a mileage run is when a traveler takes a flight (or series of flights) for the sole purpose of earning miles. This technique is slowly becoming irrelevant though still very relevant for people who are currently on Jetprivilege program as it is still tier based system vs revenue based. You can become a Platinum member based on flights you take per year vs distance flown.
Now, metric with hotels are similar. A number of nights spent at the hotel chain. There are many programs that have multi-tier earning. There are multi-reward system that is used by different chains on basis of which they promote you to next tier (We are not taking credit cards into account for now.)
Night based Tier achievement
This is the most difficult patronage where different hotels peg their yearly stay requirement which makes top tier achievement. Different brands have different names for their top tier. Platinum, Diamond, Platinum Ambassador etc.
Most of them have stay requirement of 50 nights plus.
World of Hyatt made their requirement stringent 60 nights a year with them to achieve their top tier Globalist. This really irked me as there is no way I am spending that much money at Hyatt. Hyatt has given away globalist status to many members by running multiple giveaways but the overall it is a very stringent problem.
I don’t follow Taj Inner Circle or Club ITC reward system for one of many reasons.
Points or Night based achievement
Hilton, IHG and few other program reward amount of money you spend with them and not just amount of night you stay with them. Hence, they know that if you stayed at few expensive properties, they would provide you points per dollar spent based on the tier you are present.
So some properties like Holiday Inn express or Kimpton would earn you fewer points compared to Intercontinental, Conrad etc. So the criteria is either spend 50 nights/60 nights at the hotel or earn x amount of points to qualify for the tier. In hotel world, it is much easier to earn tier based on points because the rates are always variable. It also ends up making sense that you are spending more on certain nights to get qualify on points based system.
Stay or Nights
This is the current system the most rewarding program as you can qualify your top tier based on a number of stays. A stay is a number of nights you spent at a hotel for one duration. So if I stay at the hotel for 1 night, it counts as 1 stay. If I spend 10 nights at a hotel. It still counts as 1 stay. Of course, yours truly keeps changing hotels every 2 nights to qualify for minimum stay requirement. I don’t spend more than 2 nights at a hotel.
This is the reason I love SPG as I can qualify on basis of just 25 nights for their top tier.
What exactly is a mattress run?
Let’s start with a quick overview of a mattress run. In its simplest form, a mattress run is when you book and pay for a hotel room (that you otherwise wouldn’t need) in order to earn rewards or elite status. The idea is that by completing your stay, you receive greater value than what you spent on the stay.
What is wrong with people? Why would you just waste money like this?
There might be many reason for this and I am listing few of them here.
1. To earn (or requalify for) elite status.
If you’re just a few stays or nights short of a given status level, it may make sense to find an inexpensive room (or two) at the end of the year approaches and your window to qualify for elite status closes. Each of my valuations saw a huge jump between tiers, so even if you spend a few hundred dollars to earn a higher status, you may get more than that in return as you reap the higher benefits for the entire next year.
2. To earn points toward a specific redemption.
When you have a specific (and lucrative) award redemption in mind, but you’re just short of the required number points, a mattress run to earn the remaining balance could make sense. For example, if the extra points would unlock an award night that saves you $500, then spending $100 for an unnecessary stay might be a relative bargain. This is especially true if you’re afraid that standard award inventory will disappear before you can earn the extra points through traditional methods. However, keep in mind that you may have better options:
- Marriott Rewards allows you to book an award stay when you’re short on points; you just need to earn the rest prior to check-in. This removes the urgency to earn extra points to cover a specific redemption since you can lock in the award and then worry about earning the points.
3. To take advantage of a bonus.
Another time when a mattress run may make sense is when a program offers a one-time bonus for hotel stays.
- IHG award runs accelerate a program that can make tier run worthwhile especially some members get 40,000 points for 5 nights of stay in 3 months. Most hotels in IHG can be redeemed for that many points. Plus IHG has industry leading PointsBreak offer.
I managed to stay net negative when I stayed at Holiday Inn Express for Rs 2200 but got points worth Rs 8000.
- Many chains run tier match programs if you qualify minimum stay in certain period. I had SPG and Hilton mattress run in last 1 year to qualify for top tier based on 1/10 amount of nights to get the top tier with them.
This analysis only captures part of the decision-making process when it comes to mattress runs. There are a few other things that you should consider:
- There is always extra cost involved when you stay at the hotel like taxes, taxi, fuel or extra meal.
- Turning a mattress run into a vacation — My analysis above assumes that the stay is a true mattress run, taken solely for the purpose of earning points or elite status credit. However, things change a bit if you can turn a mattress run into an actual vacation for you, family and/or friends. It’s a lot easier to justify a superfluous hotel stay if you can get some additional value out of it (beyond loyalty program benefits).
Mattress running isn’t for everyone, but it can be a viable strategy to take advantage of a promotion or earn additional credits toward elite status. A pure mattress run means you don’t even enjoy any of the hotel’s amenities, but if you can convert a mattress run into an actual vacation, it can be a far rewarding experience. If I am traveling with my family, I put them in 2 different hotels to maximize the earning whereas all of us get suite room instead one of us have to spend a night in a deluxe room. Of course family stays together through the day and only has breakfast and sleep in a different hotel.