Documenting two mattress runs with IHG and Hyatt
I recently got into the world of travel hacking. One of the techniques these folks use is “mattress running,” where they spend nights at cheap hotels to earn points to spend at expensive hotels. Typically this doesn’t make any sense, but occasionally, hotel chains will offer seasonal promotions that starts to make some sense.
Essentially, you’re buying points with the hotel chain, but with a lot more rigamarole. The usual caveats with points currencies apply, in that you’re exchanging the flexibility of hard currency with hotel currency that they can re-value at any time they want.
In order to do this, you have to find a cheap hotel to stay at. I live in the DC area, where there are a lot of hotels in business areas that have cheap rates. The two areas I look at for this area are the Dulles and Gaithersburg areas for weekend nights. I haven’t yet found a good area for weeknights, so if you know of anything, please leave a comment or shoot me a DM on Twitter (@ENOTTY).
I try to make these mattress runs a sort-of “staycation” so I feel like I get a little more out of these stays. By staying in the Dulles area, I’ve been able to visit some sights that I’ve wanted to see, such as Udvar-Hazy (free + $15 for parking) and the NRA musuem (free). When I stayed in Gaithersburg, I had a great time learning about Civil War battle tactics at Monocacy National Battlefield (free).
This was an offer that IHG customized for each of their members. I got targeted with the base offer. Here’s a screenshot (from The Points Guy):
I stayed one Saturday night at the Chantilly-Dulles Expo Holiday Inn with a 5,000 bonus point package for $105.28 in taxes) earning 6,773 points (1,182 base points + 591 platinum status bonus points + 5,000 bonus point package). I also put that spend on my IHG credit card and got a 500 point welcome amenity for having platinum status through the credit card. There was some difficulty at check-in so I got another 500 points in compensation.
The next weekend, I stayed on Friday and Saturday night at the Gaithersburg Holiday Inn for $207 earning 2,700 points (1,800 base points + 900 platinum status bonus points). Again I put that spend on my IHG credit card and got a 1000 point welcome amenity.
I earned 1,683 points through the IHG credit card and completing the challenge got me 50,000 points.
In total, I spent $336.41 for 63,156 points, spending 0.55 cents per point. In the future, I would have looked to buy Holiday Inn gift cards at a discount to pay for the stays.
Most travel hackers value IHG points at 0.7 cents per point, while the average and median value for IHG points from Wandering Aramean’s Hotel Hustle tool is around 0.6 cents per point. It’s possible to get much greater value for these points. For example, I redeemed 44,500 points at about 1 cent per point for two nights at the Holiday Inn in Montreal, so that was a pretty nice win.
This promotion is still ongoing (through September). Basically, you just stay 10 nights and get 20,000 Hyatt points. There is also a challenge for earning Platinum after 6 nights and Diamond status after 12 nights. Hotel status is mostly worthless to me except for the earning bonus, but the challenge gave an extra 1,000 points per night for the first 6 nights. By stacking these two promotions, one could earn an extra 26,000 Hyatt points.
Unlike the IHG promotion, this promotion would have made no financial sense through paying for hotels myself. Luckily, I was traveling for work and they paid for most of the cost of 7 nights. I would only have to pay for 3 nights myself.
The first stay was 7 nights at the Hyatt Regency in Montreal. I was able to earn 7,177 points from that alone, along with 6,000 points from the status challenge. Work paid for most of that stay, but I had to pay for $159.52 of it.
For the next three nights, I stayed one night at the Hyatt Place in Chantilly and two nights at the Hyatt at Dulles. The Hyatt Place stay cost me $84.73 and each night at the Hyatt at Dulles cost me $75.60. I used Hyatt gift cards I bought at a 12.5% discount to pay for these stays, so the total cost to me for these hotels was $206.44 and I earned 1,213 points from this.
So in total, I spent $365.96 to get 34,390 Hyatt points, spending 1.06 cents per point. Most travel hackers value these points at about 1.5 cents per point, while the Hotel Hustle tool shows an average and median value of 1.9 cents per point.
So in hindsight, I think this was a pretty good win. We’ll see if I can spend these points in the future for some good redemptions.
Starwood has a promotion going on where if you stay five nights, you can get one free weekend night at any SPG property before the end of the year. Basically, this is buying a night at an expensive property by staying some nights at a cheap property. Generally, free nights are more valuable than points because the hotel chains can’t devalue free nights, but the redemption deadline of mid-December is just too early of an expiration date for me. You can stack these with at least two other SPG promotions (1, 2) to earn a couple thousand more SPG points.
IHG has a promotion called Share Forever which is a pretty simple stay x nights, get some bonus points promotion. The complication comes with the completion tiers, but none of the tiers provide enough points to make it worth paying for hotels for no reason.
While neither of these promotions make sense for me, if I travel for work again, these promotion will definitely make me think about staying IHG or Starwood. So in that sense, I guess their marketing works.