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

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What is a hotel mattress run, and how do you do one?

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.  

How to do a hotel mattress run

Last week, for example, we looked at a ‘new member’ offer from IHG. Do two stays, however cheap, by the end of the year and you get a voucher for a free night worth around £150 (ie 40,000 IHG Rewards points).

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 £70 by making two bookings even if you don’t need a hotel.

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.  To be honest, based on reader feedback, it is more like a fairly decent chance.

I had a non-refundable Marriott booking a couple of years ago 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.

what is a hotel mattress run

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.

what is a hotel mattress run

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 promotion 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 few 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.

It is also worth noting that UK hotels seem to have become much stricter in asking for ID. When Rhys reviewed the Courtyard hotel at Luton Airport last year, which I booked in my name via my Marriott Bonvoy account, he had substantial difficulties checking in. Unsurprisingly they thought that someone at an airport hotel should have some sort of ID to hand.


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

Hotel offers update – December 2022:

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

Want to buy hotel points?

  • IHG One Rewards is offering a 100% bonus when you buy points by 29th December 2022. Click here to buy.
  • Marriott Bonvoy is offering a 25% discount when you buy points by 20th December 2022. Click here to buy.

Comments (112)

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

  • riku says:

    “steal the shower gel” – this always comes up when this story is run.
    How is it stealing? If the bottles are small ones do you expect the hotel to leave them for the next guest half used?
    Taking things which are disposable and intended for the use of one guest only is not stealing.

    • Anna says:

      There’s an episode of Friends which references what you can and can’t take from a hotel, it always makes me smile!

    • Kevin says:

      Kimpton are big bottle and have been passed to the next guess if previous guess just stayed a night, based on my observation.

  • John says:

    Now you can just use a virtual credit card and there’s nothing to swipe

    Very rare for HIX to want a credit card anyway especially if prepaid

  • Fly1A says:

    “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…….”
    What if you were both LGBTQ+-%??
    Would be OK these days!!

    • Robert says:

      It’s because the Mrs was the second named guest who checked in and the Mr whose credit card was used did not match the name of the Mr (Rob) who booked. It’s not about appearances here, it’s about the data

      • Andrew says:

        The data is important.

        But those of us who work (or who have worked) with academics, celebrities and the trans community will be aware that it is a courtesy to offer them cards with both their their professional name as well as their family name.

        Rob could easily have an Amex with “Mr Robert Burgess” along with a separate card under his drag name, “Ms Matisse Runne”.

        • memesweeper says:


          that name is going on my sticker at the next HfP party

        • Lady London says:

          That’s bl**dy brilliant Andrew!

          I will start putting my stage name (come to think of it that’s Lady London) on my business cards.

          Errrr…perhaps not. I might accidentally hand it over to a BA rep at some time. 🙁

    • The Streets says:

      Knew there would be someone who would try and call this out

  • David says:

    I did one recently and was checked out of the hotel by the hotel on day 9 of a 15 night stay. Housekeeping had noticed I hadn’t slept in the room for a few nights. The hotel said it would have been ok if I had told them I wouldn’t be in the room for a few nights. I still got credited for the 15 nights – then yesterday Marriott made the whole excercise pointless,

    • Dominic says:

      Wait, housekeeping? In a hotel? Post-COVID?

      Blimey, teach me your ways!

  • Ed says:

    Might be strictly limited to Accor, but a mattress run at an ibis budget ends in tears, no points, no extension to points expiry.

    • Dubious says:

      Except for a few Ibis Budget’s in Poland.

      • Dubious says:

        My apologies to those offended by the stray apostrophe!

      • Ed says:

        Didn’t realise that. Could they make the scheme any more complicated. Different earning rates across different brands and different earning rates within a brand. I shouldn’t be surprised with Accor

        • Michael Jennings says:

          And don’t even start on the question as to whether Ibis Styles includes free breakfast…

          • Lady London says:

            not in Italy, for sure. But otherwise my experience is yes – if you like that level of breakfast

          • RussellH says:

            Indeed. I had always thought that Ibis Styles included breakfast – until I stayed at the Ibis S Haydock, which does not.

      • Lady London says:

        And some in Oz

    • David says:

      No one stays in a Ibis for more than one night and then usually on a Friday or Saturday with a stranger they would rather not take home.

      • Ian says:

        Sorry, David, I have to disagree on that point. A relatively cheap Ibis is my home from home for several nights a week and it’s not so bad. And the substandard pizza is curiously addictive.

        Also, and this might not be currently true, but Ibis in Australia and New Zealand is a completely different experience, with better rooms and a superb breakfast.

      • Lady London says:

        Ibis’s vary a lot.

        • David says:

          Some of them have a look of a Swedish women’s prison and apparently you get told off for congregating in the corridors. I went to one recently to update my Ibis Business card (it gets you Accor gold) and none of the people checking out together appeared to know each other !

  • Aaron C says:

    I’ve done a few of these over the years for people and likewise they for me. The ID issue has only ever happened at airport hotels. Thankfully the “runner” was named as a second guest on the booking.

    • Dominic says:

      You make it sound more like a county lines drug operation than a hotel status grab..!

  • Jeff Greene says:

    “ I even find them fun”

    I prefer to go to the pub when I’m looking for fun. Each to their own though.

    • John says:

      Do you go to, say, gardening forums and post “I’d rather go to the pub than do gardening” every few days as well?

      • Jeff Greene says:

        No. This isn’t specifically a mattress run website so that’s a pretty poor analogy.

    • Dominic says:

      You’ll be far better off now alcohol duty will be reduced!

    • patrick C says:

      Going alone to the pub is less fun that doing a mattress run 😉

  • Geoggy says:

    Slightly tangential question but any news on IHG credit card free nights being extended?

    I’ve got 2 due to expire in December and February.

    • Anna says:

      You’re lucky that Creation hasn’t tried to take them back!

      • Graeme says:

        Yes this Creation fiasco means I am not putting any effort into maintaining IHG status.. it’s burn points and goodbye from me.

        • Lady London says:

          I think IHG will be merged anyway as soon as they can sell it.

          I’ve said that three times nd every time someone (Rhys? or Rob with inside knowledge from contacts in PE?) has deleted it.

          • RussellH says:

            I have seen that comment from you before, but I do wonder who you think is going to buy?
            Marriott is 5x as big in terms of capitalisation, and Hilton 4x, so I cannot see either of them getting a takeover past the regulators.
            Accor is roughly the same size, though about 10% smaller.
            If they were taken over by someone from outside the hotel sector, then they would, effectively, remain as IHG.

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

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