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

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This is one of a few ‘introductory’ articles we have been running during August on areas which we often mention in articles but never properly explain!

I thought I would take a look at the concept of ‘mattress runs’ today.  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 (the last version is described here) 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 2020 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 and Marriott 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.

There is an outside chance that mobile check-in may work.  I had a non-refundable Marriott booking earlier this year which I couldn’t make, but checked in via the app and got the stay credit for it.  Don’t rely on this though – you certainly can’t complain if the points don’t arrive.

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 two years ago, 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.)

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  1. There was a time when we lived next door to an HIX, very handy. Got to go back for the free breakfast.

  2. OT: Are the Amex referral links working for anyone this morning? Every time I try, the T&Cs page is down, and when I try to use the link generated, the website doesn’t load.

  3. RussellH says:

    Never done a mattress run, but there are two occasions that I recall when I failed to turn up for a pre-paid booking, and on both times got the points.
    1st at a Novotel in southern France, when I was in hospital instead. That one really surprised me, as it was a trade rate, which does not always get ponts, and was under €30.
    2nd last March when our flight MAD-LHR was delayed, causing us to miss our onward connection at an airport Hilton. I walked from the terminal to the reception desk – it was still before check-out time – and talked to reception. They dais that I could still use the room for a shower if I really wanted, but assured me that I would get the points, and printed off my invoice to show the points award – well worth having as there was a 2500 point promotion at the time.

    Also, each year my partner and her siblings get invited to a private box at a well known racecource. They all stay at the HIE – my partner books two rooms and I book the third. So far I have got the points, even though I do not go. But I like the idea of the person checking in using a card in my name – surely that is what supplementary cards are for, yes?

    • johnny_c-l says:

      Similarly I have had IHG stays count as qualifying/points earning when I have missed checking in. Was a nice surprise each time to see the points post.

  4. John Brett says:

    I’ve always wondered what would happen should there be a need to evacuate the building during the night, such as a fire. I was staying at a Hilton in Chester last summer and about 2am the fire alarms triggered and the whole hotel evacuated. Fire brigade attended and determined it was safe to return, but whilst that was going on hotel staff were checking that every guest was present, using room lists.
    If anyone had been on a mattress run, where it seems you check in and then leave without notifying anyone, they would have been searching for those guests.

    At the time this happened I’d been thinking about doing a mattress run and this put me off (although it was great to see they checked every guest was present from their records).

    • Maybe there’s something they can check to see if the room has been recently occupied by a guest. There’s many reasons why someone wouldn’t be in their room at any point of the night really not just someone doing a mattress run (work, nightclubbing, in hospital, arrested)

      • Really unsure, quite often when I stay at a hotel (especially weekends) I don’t get back in till early hours.

        Guess they expect everyone to get out of the floors not effected and they check the floor where the alarm has gone off.

        Checking anywhere where disabilities have been shared.

      • Also: I’m sure that the number of hookers in any hotel at any given point in time more than equals the number of ‘mattress runners’. Especially during the night.

        • Hahahaha this thread is killing me. The hookers vs mattress runners comment was just the icing on the cake.

    • We live in democracy.

      Since when, if a room is booked, do we need to be inside the room at some time or any time of the night?

      Then if the hotel want to charge for a no-show, or not to give points because I am not the guest who pays, this is another topic or the rule of the hotel.

      But freedom to move and go is part of our rights in a democracy without having to tell or inform other people whoever they are.

      Of course neoliberalism does not like that, but that’s real life to be where i want without telling someone else.

      In case of a fire, in the worst case, police is there to investigate if I was inside the room and I have been burned (some rest of my body may say it) or there was no one in the room and well that’s it for the result of the fire.

      It is easier to control the people, but is it the goal of our society?

  5. How do you add a second name at IHG, when I do it increases the number of adults to 3? Trying to book a hotel for a friend for the Singapore GP using my points.

    • There is a tiny button marked Extra Guest somewhere in the process which opens up a box if clicked. Only shows if you searched for 2 people originally.

  6. I take your point – I was having lunch at the Berners Tavern last year when there was a small fire and the whole hotel (London Edition) was evacuated. I ended up in the bar of the Sanderson Hotel opposite (all drinks comped by the Edition) chatting to a severely jet-lagged Israeli guy who had literally been pulled out of his bed!

  7. Not a mattress run as such but a lesson learned for me. I was booked into HGI glasgow and was planning to stay the night. Checked in, had dinner and charged to the room, had to leave at 11.30pm for family emergency. Thought I was doing the right thing by telling reception I was leaving and handed the key back in. Long and short, no points as I had checked in and out in same day. Should have just left the key in the room and walked out…..

    • Disaster.

      On that subject – don’t they offer points on a day rate?
      Any one know if you get a stay / night credit?

      • RussellH says:

        Did a day-rate stay at the CP LHR after an overnight in a very cramped 747 from MIA.. We booked in advance on the condition that it was a qualifying stay – essential to complete my partner’s accelerate target – and all points credited as promised. I still have the e-mail assuring me that it would be a qualifying stay!

  8. I did a 15 night mattress run @ Hampton corby when it was 5k points per night (4k when you take into account the 5th night free) when I was on a diamond challenge and it was 21 nights in 90D.

    Put a few drinks on my bar bill.

    Was on route to where I was going, so stayed one night, then was at football in Leicester on the 14d, so did a small trip, stopping there.

    Worked perfectly.

  9. Surely you don’t nick the regular Hiltons Rob…unless you want to smell like an orange!

  10. I think you really shouldn’t promote explicitly such things as ‘mattress runs’ for a number of reasons.

    1) it’s a lie in the first place driven by greed and tricking the system – not good for karma;

    2) you might be taking someone’s room who really needs that mattress on that particular night when you are running from it

    3) it’s contrary to ethical and sustainable travel as you make people clean your room and wash your laundry without the need for it

    4) it just shows that you are lazy and lacking imagination of just planning a mini break or a night out like a mini adventure for yourself. My partner and I often book hotel stays just to get bonus points or hit IHG Accelerate targets but we always do the stays and just get prepared for hidden gems and discoveries even in places which other consider superboring, such as Stevenage or Croydon. Maybe Rob you should let me write an article for you “How to avoid mattress runs and still get your points”?

    • you must be fun at parties.

    • Hi, I do think you make a decent point here. I guess on the other side of your argument you could say that the room Rob booked lead to the hotel plan in one more housekepper and a waiter as per occupancy need.That is another person able to earn money for their family….Spend from an individual means income for another person. I have stayed in hotels were all linnen was changed every day, used or not…. every system or mechanism put up by companies will be exploited….its how it goes!

      • Any room which selling cheaply enough for a mattress run is, de facto, 99.9% unlikely to be needed by another person which is why the room costs peanuts.

        Without getting into Keynesian economic theory too deeply, I am creating financial stimulus which benefits the entire country (versus keeping the money in the bank).

        • Not quite so sure Rotherham benefits so much though 🙂

        • Ok, let’s agree to disagree on this. Perhaps, I’m too much of an idealist against the sea of cynical pragmatic seasoned travellers.

          It would be useful then to see an article by Rob on how to do an airline run, i e check in, don’t show up for your flight and still get points. Guess it’s trickier than a simple hotel mattress run but could be useful in some situations. Agree?

    • Dullest comment ever !

      • Not you TT – sorry – I meant Alex SM. I thought the comment made by Alex was a wind up initially “ethical and sustainable travel”

    • What tosh. As for helping the poorest members of society: don’t take a shower and make minimal mess. The person paid per room to clean your room will thank you. So win win win all round. For those who work and don’t sit begging or blaming someone else for their problems.

    • guesswho2000 says:

      1) If it’s in line with the T&Cs of the programme and offer, it’s not tricking the system.
      2) Possibly, but unlikely that you’d be taking the absolute last room in an area, especially if you’re booking dirt cheap rooms, this indicates the hotels are expecting low occupancy %ages.
      3) They won’t clean it if you don’t make it dirty. They won’t do your laundry, as you presumably won’t bring it with you from home, and if you did you’re just creating more work for yourself, as you’d need to go back to collect it. I’d go to a launderette instead.
      4) This is specifically for times when you can’t achieve it around other means – nobody books these things if there’s a viable alternative, if you can fit in a mini break, or even a decent night away, then why not, but if it doesn’t work for you, and the benefits of making the mattress run are still worth more than the cost of the room, then why not?
      5) My response to 3 is obviously tongue in cheek.

      However, to elaborate on sustainability and all that jazz…
      If you’re concerned about mattress runs, just think what mileage runs do to the environment, people taking flights for no reason other than to earn status. It’s huge, and some people fly half way around the world to do it. You could argue that these flights would fly anyway, but if there wasn’t such demand, etc., etc…

      I do both where necessary. Unfortunately mattress runs just aren’t viable where I live, hotels are far too expensive (chain hotels anyway), but I will squeeze them in in Asia where necessary, or change hotels multiple times in a single trip to take advantage. Mileage runs I do get involved with, as my normal travel wouldn’t get me Oneworld Emerald – however the cost of five pointless segments on business class sale tickets bouncing around Australia, around $1,000 at the time, is worth the benefit to me.

      I cause more damage to the environment/world on my commute to work than a hotel mattress run.

      • Thanks for your detailed answer – at least it has its arguments which I respect, accept and can even partly agree with! A little bit of tongue and cheek is also great!

        I’m now waiting for an article from Rob on how to do a ‘mileage run’ – basically, how to check in, NOT to fly the flight and get your miles. This would be a high pilotage than a paltry ‘mattress run’. Maybe you also did this in your yield for miles/status? That would be REALLY interesting to know from the pure scientific point of view of course!

  11. Are you my boring neighbour?

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