Nutmeg Avios

How to do a hotel mattress run – and what can go wrong

This is another of our ‘introductory’ articles which we have been running throughout August.

With the new round of hotel promotions about to kick off, and with IHG Rewards Club running another generous version of Accelerate which may reward you for making unnecessary hotel stays, I thought I would take a look at the concept of ‘mattress runs’.

A ‘mattress run’ involves booking a hotel room without the intention of spending the night, purely for the purpose of triggering a promotional bonus.

Why would you do a mattress run?

Hotel company promotions often incentivise you to make stays which are unnecessary.  If you take IHG’s Accelerate as the best example, it is perfectly possible that you might – with the right personal targets – be able to earn 40,000 points from just 2 x one-night stays.

40,000 points, even at my conservative 0.4p valuation, would be worth £160.  If you have a Holiday Inn Express near you which sells for £39 on quiet Friday or Sunday nights, you could make a ‘profit’ of £80 by making two bookings even if you don’t need a hotel.

Similarly, the current Hilton ‘status match’ promotion will give you Gold status until March 2019 for just four stays within 90 days.  Diamond requires just eight stays in 90 days.  If you can get close to this target, it might be worth doing a couple of mattress run nights to make up the difference.  I did.

Holiday Inn Wembley bedroom

Do you physically have to check in at the hotel?

YES.  It is very clear in the rules of all hotel loyalty schemes that you must turn up and check-in for your stay to be treated as ‘qualifying’.

Some people fail to see the logic here.  If this rule was not in place, however, it would simply lead to super-cheap hotels in Asia being block booked by people who never arrived.  As hotels generally rely on additional spending in the bars and restaurants to make money, even the hotel owners who got the bookings would not be happy.

What about chains like Hilton which offer online check-in?

It doesn’t matter.  In most cases you still need to pick up a key at reception to be considered as checked in.

In the UK, you are legally obliged under the Innkeepers Act of 1978 to sign a document when you check in.  Even if you use ‘keyless’ entry (using your mobile phone to open a Bluetooth lock) a signature at the front desk is still required – although I accept that not every hotel seems to enforce this.

Innside bedroom

How do you deal with check out?

I just leave the key on the bed or desk and leave.  This is surprisingly common behaviour even among guests who do stay the night.  I have never had a problem with this.

Do you mess up the bed?

This is a controversial one!  Yes, I admit that I do like to pretend that I stayed the night by messing up the bedding and sometimes even running the shower and wetting a towel.

Would the hotel care otherwise?  Probably not, but I don’t want to find that the police have been notified because the hotel thinks something bad may have happened to me the night before!

I also steal the shower gel like any normal hotel guest 🙂

What about the bill?

It is never an issue.  You can usually get a copy of your bill online if necessary.  By definition, you are likely to be doing mattress runs at very cheap hotels – the sort which are prepaid anyway.  There is unlikely to be a mini bar so you are unlikely to face mistaken mini bar charges.

Hilton Munich City Centre bedroom

Can someone else check in for me?

In theory, yes.  But this can go wrong, as I found out a couple of years ago.

I have, many times, booked a room in the name of someone else for a mattress run.  Many hotel booking systems let you add multiple names to a booking so you can add yourself as ‘second guest’ and put in the notes that you will check in first.

Once, however, I booked a room for a friend at a Holiday Inn Express hotel.  I had a friend who needed a room in a cheap regional city.  I needed an extra night to hit my IHG Accelerate target.  I offered to pay for a room for him, because it was cheaper than any London hotel I could visit for a mattress run and I saved a few hours of my time.

I booked and prepaid the room, and he and his wife made the stay.  I honestly can’t remember if I added him or his wife name as the 2nd guest or not.  However, IHG refused to give me points for the stay on the grounds that I did not stay there myself.

The bill for the room had my name on it.  However, the credit card handed over at check in for incidentals which were never used was obviously not mine.  If his wife had handed over her card it would presumably have been OK.  However, as it was clear that the male guest was not me from his credit card, IHG’s system seems to have automatically flagged up that I was not there.  This was the first time that this ever happened to me.

There is another issue with this approach.

A couple of years ago I did a mattress run on my wife’s IHG account at a Holiday Inn Express in Spain.  I was named on the reservations as 2nd guest.

However, it seems – under Spanish law, or at least the law in some cities – that the first named guest MUST turn up for the reservation to be valid.  Even though I was named as 2nd guest and the notes to the booking said that I would arrive first, I had major issues.  Luckily I had a credit card in her name on me.  The hotel agreed to swipe this for incidentals which would make it appear as if she had checked in.  I could easily have come unstuck with that one.


In general, a mattress run should be relatively straightforward and I even find them fun.  You can get to see, as I did last year, exciting places like the Holiday Inn Brent Cross!  Don’t think that they are always trouble free, however, because they are not.

(Want to earn more hotel points?  Click here to see our complete list of promotions from the major hotel chains or use the ‘Hotel Promos’ link in the menu bar at the top of the page.)

Bits: bizarre new easyJet service, hidden IHG Accelerate goals, airberlin cancellations
What BA economy tickets can be upgraded using Avios?
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  1. Slightly OT, are there any other countries with stringent laws like Spain? What about Japan?

    My friend booked a hotel in Japan with a hilton free certificate and named as second guest. He won’t be there. Will this cause a problem?


  2. I fully understood the concept of the mattress run but a previous partner didn’t. She became somewhat concerned when she discovered that I wanted to travel around the midlands with my railway staff pass to check into hotels , as she thought that I was having an affair.

  3. Russell says:

    Has anyone produced a tool which helps to locate the cheapest night available for a whole hotel group, across all hotels and across a given date range? This would be ideal for locating mattress run targets. For example, “find me the cheapest night at an IHG property in the UK in September”

  4. OTT: question for the flight experts – would you consider £2050 a good price to pay for Stockhom to Auckland and return Sydney to Stockholm? Mid january flights on Qatar? Thanks

    • Yes. Generally I say £2000 is what you should expect to pay for Sydney in a business class sale. Stockholm is a bit of a pain but the upside is all those Avios and tier points. You won’t get a lot better in my view.

      Garuda Indonesia was advertising £1999 from London recently BUT the loss of Avios and tier points, and the fact that Qatar is far superior, would still see me recommending them.

      One tip – try pricing a multicity Stockholm to Sydney to London / Manchester / Edinburgh. The difference is often small and worth paying to avoid the last leg back from Stockholm.

      • garuda business seems like a great product. and if you are london based… better than positioning in stockholm…

  5. Optimus Prime says:

    OT – my upcoming points redemption at Reinassance Times Square NYC is showing a $25/day ‘Destination Amenity Fee”. This fee wasn’t in the original booking confirmation email.

    Should I wait and dispute it upon check-in?

      • Genghis says:

        Keep rebooking. I recheck flexible bookings right until the last min

        • Optimus Prime says:

          I have sent an email to the hotel and they’ve amended my rate! 🙂

      • I rebooked my IC stay in Tokyo twice in 2016 to get a better price (rate change + exchange rate fluctuations) and earlier this year I emailed a HI resort in Malaysia complaining about a price drop (for non-ref booking) and they just offered me an upgrade to a better room with a balcony

    • You don’t always get charged these resort fees when it is a redemption. I didn’t just last week as a Waldorf Resort in Florida that would be $30 a day. I have seen reviews for IHG properties in FL where there didn’t get charged for redemptions either. I am not sure what Marriotts policy is.

  6. Michael Jennings says:

    “Your honour, the defendant has committed the heinous crime of paying for a hotel room without staying in it, and must face the consequences…”
    “Er, surely you mean he has stayed in a hotel room without paying for it?”

  7. Hi

    Can someone explain what an MC Discount is, and how does one obtain use. Thanks

  8. I can’t remember the last time I formally checked out of a hotel. I just pack and go. I even take the keys with me (mainly because my five year old collects them! but also insurance in case I realise I left something important).

    • Scottnothing says:

      I used to be the same, until I was charged for 4 bottles of champagne after checking out at a leading hotel in Lisbon and I only noticed when it showed up on my credit card statement 6 weeks later. It’s easier to argue such things off the bill at the reception desk than over the telephone, particularly if you’re not a native speaker.

      (For the record only two of the bottles of champagne were ordered/consumed).

  9. Michael Jennings says:

    I normally do check out, mainly as a courtesy to let the staff know that the room is clear and they can make it up for the next guest. (The flipside is that hotels occasionally let me check in early, and doing this makes it easier for them to do that.

    On the other hand, I recently checked back into a hotel I had checked out of an hour earlier. (The HI Berlin Schoenfeld Airport – I checked out, went to the airport terminal, discovered my flight was six hours late, and then went back to the hotel). They were very nice about it and gave me my room back, but possibly they didn’t have to be. Having not checked out at all might have been better in this case.

  10. Scottnothing says:

    Couple of observations from my recent “mattress-run” to qualify for the Hilton Diamond status match:

    1. Always check your credit card statement to ensure the charges billed align with the receipt they issue or email to you. On more than one occasion a hotel has tried to bill me on check-out for a pre-paid rate.

    2. Checking-in and selecting an upgraded room in a category higher than the one you paid for isn’t always a guarantee that they will hold that room for you, particularly if you check-in after midnight.

    3. If you are really (really, really) lucky (like I was) if you check-in online with Hilton and then subsequently fail to present to the hotel, they may still credit you with the stay. I wouldn’t rely on this strategy for the reasons noted in the article above. That said, on one occasion I was unable to travel due to work and didn’t bother to cancel as the rate was pre-paid and non-refundable but still received points/stay credit. So miracles (or human error) do happen.

    • Don’t think I’ve ever been able to check in to an upgraded room? Since having status I rarely check in online as I thought it might decrease my chances of an upgrade.

      • Scottnothing says:

        For almost of my Hilton and DoubleTree stays over the past 12 months, I found that if I started the online check-in process 24 hours out from arrival, I would only be able to select from the room category that I booked and paid for. If I waited until around 9 or 10am the morning of check-in, I found I had almost always been bumped into a higher room category. This includes at Hilton Paris Opera, Hilton Sydney, Hilton Tallinn, Hilton Syon Park and various DoubleTree properties in London.

    • I have also done point 3 with Hilton four times in the past. 3 times I got stay and points credit, only once was I not given anything. The one time it didn’t credit was when I set the check in time to 6pm, other 3 times I’m quite sure I ‘checked in’ at 11pm.

  11. Hi. I’d like to close my Amex Gold preferred account and transfer my Membership reward points out of my account so that I don’t lose them. Are there any articles on the best use of MR points – is transferring them to BA Exec Club a good transfer option or is there better value to be gained elsewhere? I found Rob’s May 2016 article on MR transfers, has this article been updated more recently?

  12. Are there ever any bonus offers on transferring MR points to airline or hotel partners?

  13. Optimus Prime says:

    OT – Have received my Ambassador Pack but doesn’t come with the 5000 points coupon. Is it no longer included?

    • Genghis says:

      Mine came with the 5k coupon as opposed to the 20k coupon for the option i had ordered. Email the AMB email address and they’ll sort it out for you v quickly. It’s what I did.

      • Optimus Prime says:

        Yes, have emailed them.

        A quick google search shows this is a common ‘mistake’.

    • It’s no longer mentioned on the Ambassador page, so it looks like it’s not!

  14. Going to stay with my partner at HIX Chingford-Nth Circular over the weekend (great area for nature walks in S-East London, btw), but – hark! – the warning for mattress runners:

    “Hotel Information:
    Early Departure Fee: £50.00 (GBP)”

    Not sure though if they actively enforce that