Maximise your Avios, air miles and hotel points

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

Links on Head for Points may pay us an affiliate commission. A list of partners is here.

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.

Conclusion

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 – November 2021:

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? There is currently a special offer running with Hilton Honors (100% bonus to 7th December), Marriott Bonvoy (45% bonus to 8th December) and World of Hyatt (30% discount, equivalent to a 43% bonus, to 30th December).

Comments (112)

  • mradey says:

    What’s this worry about checking out in person? I have not checked out in person in the last seven years or more. I don’t even leave the card keys (my young son collects them).

    • The Savage Squirrel says:

      The “surprisingly” referencing the common behaviour did puzzle me. I always do this unless there’s some issue that I need to see reception (almost never) and I thought almost everyone did. Room key “quick-drop” boxes encouraging exactly this behaviour have existed for decades – basically ever since hotel keys changed from , er, keys, to plastic cards; all long before app-based checkout….

      • Rob keane says:

        I always check out in person. The surprising thing for me is the number of times an hotel folio is incorrect. Breakfast charged that’s in the rate of free via status, minibar item that I never used etc. like any service if us far easier to check and query and resolve on-site than remotely

        • RussellH says:

          Exactly that.
          Once stayed two nights at a Hilton as Gold.
          Bill had free breakfast the first night, but charged the second!
          They did correct it, but it ended up as a refund as they only gave me the bill after I had paid. Fortunately I checked it before driving off.
          Always, always, ask to see the bill now.

      • Rui N. says:

        When I’ve told people that you can just leave the key in your room and leave the hotel, and there is no need to “check out” or even drop the key on the box downstairs, no one has ever believed me. I know someone that once checked out at the desk, but after being on the way to the airport realised they had a key with them and took a taxi back to the hotel to return it (spending quite a bit of money and almost missing their flight in the process). The world outside our points/travel bubble is a very different one.

        • Froggee says:

          I once realised I had the (physical) key to my room after I’d checked in at the airport but before I’d gone through security. Luckily it was at Easter Island so I had time to walk back to the guest house. The husband of the owner was french and he didn’t bat an eyelid. My wife was very pleased when I reappeared at the airport. I think she was worried the stray dogs might have got me.

      • BP says:

        I never check out when it’s a work related stay. I almost always check out when it’s a personal stay.

      • planeconcorde says:

        +1 Always check-out at reception to verify there are no unexpected charges. Much easier to resolve in person on the day than post stay.

    • John says:

      If you want to be sure you’re paying the correct amount it’s a lot easier to fix it at the hotel than later on. Depends if your bill is straightforward or complex

      • CH says:

        +1. The number of errors is surprising (breakfast charges when should have been included, mis-billed room service, phantom minibar charges, incorrect room rates, etc.), but they are much, much easier to resolve in person than after check out. Of course, if one’s travel is primarily prepaid rates at a Hampton Inn or HIX this may be much less likely!

        • riku says:

          I always check out in person too. Extra items on the bill, the hotel deciding to convert the currency to the currency of my card rather than charge me in the local currency. I’ve seen so many mistakes on the bill when I’m shown it and it’s much easier to sort out in person than later. And this includes work trips where I do somewhat care what my employer is paying for.

          • The Savage Squirrel says:

            I must live a charmed life. Never had a dodgy minibar charge (the vast majority of hotels don’t even have paid minibars any more?) or anything similar. I check the bill in app or on tv before leaving.

    • Matt says:

      Some hotels require you to check-out in person – I had an unpleasant experience at the Ritz Carlton Al Wadi desert where I checked-out through the mobile app and then was escorted from my car to the check-out desk to wait around for 20 minutes and check-out again. Put me off going back there in a hurry!

  • Red Flyer says:

    I did one at a local Hampton to get Diamond a few years ago. My only worry was someone spotting me then telling my wife I was there when should have been working from home. She has no interest in my points hobby but I’m sure this would have peaked her interest! 😂

  • Karl says:

    I used to think the ID at check-in was more of an overseas thing but have been asked a couple of times at UK hotels recently. On both occasions the rooms were booked in my other half’s name and she had her driving licence.
    Not sure what they’d have said if I was alone as I don’t drive and don’t really want to take my passport for a weekend away in Birmingham or York.

    • patrick C says:

      Quite common in Europe as well (Italy, Spain for example)

    • Rhys says:

      Having just done 4 nights in a broad range of hotels across the UK (primarily north & Scotland) I wasn’t asked for ID once!

  • Andrew says:

    Has anyone else changed mattress run hotels in the middle of the night?

    I’d booked an off-season Virgin Holiday in Orlando, then disovered an IHG Accelerate offer was running at the same time. So quickly booked 3 nights in the adjacent hotel at around $50 a night, intending to ruffle sheets and take the free breakfast.

    We had problem neighbours in the planned hotel, so at 2am, it was get dressed and walk to the mattress run hotel for a much better night’s sleep.

    • riku says:

      Isn’t the whole point of a “mattress run” that you do not stay the night (as mentioned a the top of the article).
      You basically did a mattress run and ended up spending the night there.

      • Rob says:

        Not necessarily – pretty sure in my single days I stayed unnecessarily in London hotels. Still counts as a run. I’ve also in the past gone home to sleep but returned for breakfast!

        • patrick C says:

          I’d agree with Rob. Especially if you live in a flatshare or so you might even enjoy the stay in the hotel where the room is potentially larger than yoir own (yes even in London)

  • Anna says:

    With the demise of IHG points collecting opportunities it looks as though Hilton will be our preference going forward. I am gold through the Visa (though in normal times we do a few stays!). How many nights would it take to get to diamond and would it be worth putting in the effort? There are a couple of new Hamptons which can be very cheap in our general area and I’d probably actually stay for the novelty of having my breakfast made for me and a bit of peace and quiet!

    • Crafty says:

      The app tells you how many nights you personally require.

      • Anna says:

        I’ve looked, but all I can see is that I need 0 nights to retain gold!

        • Anna says:

          Just found on computer, it says 29 nights, obviously that’s not going to happen this year but unless that’s a reduced rate due to covid that looks doable with 2 or 3 trips. A 2 week UK or US road trip would be a fun way of getting half the nights.

          • Anna says:

            We could actually just book a load of Sunday nights in our local Hampton Inn 15 mins away at under £60 pn!

          • den says:

            I ended up as Hilton Diamond this year with not much effort. Although the app says 29 nights what does the ‘Stay’ counter say? Mine said 15 to Diamond for 2021 so working in the local DT for £29/day in Feb when we had a new born and her parents were staying at ours meant the 15 stays were notched up easily. Note: consecutive day rooms count as a stay as you are checking out and coming back the next day, this doesn’t apply if you check out a hotel in the morning and check back in in the evening.

        • memesweeper says:

          tap on the gold circle

          tap on Hilton Honors Program Details

          in my case, 15 stays/30 nights for Diamond

        • Guernsey Globetrotter says:

          Anna, I am Gold too (via the usual Amex Plat) and looked into this a while ago – the cheapest way this year is actually to use the Hilton status match to Gold via a new account and then complete 9 nights (half the usual 18 requirement) to get Diamond. I think this status match offer only applies for 2021 and I can’t check now as my work security doesn’t like the Hilton site! I think you can then merge accounts and keep the higher status on your current account if it has a history you want to retain.

          • meta says:

            Apparently IHG is extending status till 2023.

          • John says:

            They’ve extended my status since 2017… never met the requirement since the first time and only bought ambassador for one year

    • Ed says:

      UK Hampton breakfasts aren’t great. I actively avoid Hamptons in UK due to the poor quality breakfast. Although the Hampton by Exeter airport is better than any other UK Hampton for breakfast. Generally breakfast at Hamptons overseas is better than UK.

      • JohnT says:

        Can’t you status match from another chain eg ihg platinum? Very low nights this year..

      • Gavin says:

        I’ve not been that impressed with the breakfast offering at the Exeter Hampton the past two Monday mornings

  • Phil W says:

    Living in Edinburgh my Mattress Run property of choice is the glamorous Holiday Inn Express Glenrothes. Used to be regularly £35 on a Friday night and it would often only take a 90 minute return journey.

    It wasn’t a bad little HIX tbh. Ended up staying the night once because I was exhausted and quite enjoyed the breakfast.

    • Wollhouse says:

      Ha ha- just looked. It’s closed for guest stays… So, I guess I won’t be using that one! Was thinking I could combine an actual stay with using the £200 food credit (well, probably more heavily weighted to alcohol based on the reviews!) at the only place in Edinburgh I can spend it:)

    • Peggerz says:

      Hampton at Fountainbridge fitted the bill for me earlier this year. Reached diamond for the first time thru status match. Well worth the minor hassle.

    • John says:

      HIX Dunfermline? Used to stay there for £50 ish when central Edinburgh hotels were £200+

    • BP says:

      HI Glasgow Airport and HIE Stirling can be good too. Not had any good offers for many years making a mattress run profitable.

  • Titus Adduxas says:

    As most people on here are using every opportunity to travel Business or First, are they all so desperate to do a two night ‘mattress run’ for the supposed gain of £70?! Even if the hotel is only 10 miles away there’s about an hour each time just wasted checking in and some petrol! I’m all for a bargain if it’s pushing a few buttons but I really couldn’t be bothered if it takes time, the same applies to travelling via Europe to save a few quid but taking several hours longer.

    • Tony says:

      Don’t underestimate the number of “mass affluent” people on here who can’t travel business or first every time because of income/spend levels or the frequency at which they actually travel. There are still benefits to be had for people using 2 for 1 vouchers in economy/economy plus and the occasional free night at an IC etc using tactics like mattress runs.

    • BlueHorizonUk says:

      But it’s not a few quid. Travelling in Club from London to New York can be anything like £2.7k per person. Starting in Amsterdam it’s £1.3k. For a family of 3 it’s a significant saving.

      I would guess nearly everyone who starts their trip ex-EU are saving significant cash and not doing it for a £100 here or there.

    • BlueHorizonUk says:

      Also you seem to have picked out a specific sentence from the article about how you could make a profit from this IHG promotion.

      Most people who chase status do so for the perks like free breakfast or upgrades that come with top status.

    • Red Flyer says:

      Don’t underestimate the number of tight ar$es on here too! £70 is a massive gain for some who think nothing of driving miles to save £5 on a tank of fuel then whinge about Amex shop small only giving them a £5 discount! 😂

    • Jeff Greene says:

      Depends on how much spare time you have on your hands/what else you could be doing.

      Some people having other things to do, some don’t.

      • Blenz101 says:

        Or as the article implies. Some people get other people to do it for them!

    • John says:

      No, I wouldn’t bother with this promo, but mattress runs are useful in other situations for much more worthwhile returns

      • Rob says:

        Yes, to be fair it was just a way of linking the article to something currently relevant – given that status extensions are making the usual end-of-year mattress run irrelevant this year.

        I did a lot of Hilton day rooms last year (ie 2020) during lockdown:

        *negotiated £30 per day rate at Hilton Olympia
        *got 2,000 bonus points via the regular promotion + 1,000 status points + base points per booking
        *got 2 elite status nights per day due to the promo running at the time
        *charged the £30 to HfP as I was using it for work

        It was, clearly, a great result and decent exercise given the 2 mile walk to the hotel 🙂

        • Mark Peterborough says:

          I did well out of that as well thanks Rob . Had a day room on a Sunday every couple of months when I was on weekend of night shifts . Sadly this is coming to an end for me soon as they aren’t offering any day rooms at the moment . The last time I was there I was given a free breakfast for my Gold status, which hadn’t been possible before as the restaurant had been closed due to covid .

        • e14 says:

          Do we know what the equivalent is called for hiring a car 🙂

          • Gavin says:

            There’s an epic story about someone from Scandinavia hiring 100s of cars on a Spanish island for one promotion

    • Anna says:

      Travelling business or first doesn’t get you any hotel perks, so I’m not sure what your point is?!

      • Jeff Greene says:

        I think he means if you can afford first etc then you probably don’t need to do stuff like this for the sake of a few quid here and there (I’m not passing judgement myself, different people entertain themselves in different ways)

    • Phil W says:

      I once did 2 seperate mattress runs to HIX Glenrothes. Room costs, £70. Total petrol cost, ~£20. Time cost 2.5 hours. This triggered enough points on an IHG Accelerate promotion to pay for a free night at the IC Le Grand Paris, which I tagged onto an Ambassador Weekend Voucher in a Club room with an Eiffle Tour view, selling price was c.€550 for the night.

      All in all, I was very satisified for the return on effort invested.

  • Sunguy says:

    Last time I did a mattress run was when I changed jobs from traveling frequently to not traveling much with work (actually, in 6 years its been 0 times – despite my boss promising me … often….then…Covid……) – anyways…..

    I realised that if I didn’t do a night on boxing day that year, I wasnt going to make Gold for Hilton – booked the cheapest hotel I could find locally (happened to be in Edinburgh – Grosvenor ) – it was fairly cheap on points.

    When I arrived at the hotel, found out that they had closed the half on the other side of the street for the Christmas period, and they had just had a HUGE coach party come in (I was tripping over bags) – there was only one lift working and despite my requests otherwise, I was put in probably the worst room in the hotel (1st floor, above the bar and physically in the lift lobby right next to the only working lift). As I *did* intend to stay the night, I complained at reception – it was the only room left in the entire hotel and the receptionist offered to “transfer my booking to any other Hilton in the city” – she then mentioned the next closest hotel, happened to be the Calley at the time (Waldorf Astoria) – she got me a black cab (though it was walkable – but I wasnt complaining!) – when I got there – they gave me drinks vouchers for the bar and an upgrade to one heck of a room with a view…..

    Long/short – they were also advertising their weddings on a table at the entrance to the bar – Id never really thought about there previously – and the view in my room – was of the church opposite – where the following August, my now wife and I got married…

    Moral of the story – a mattress run can be a bit more expensive than you first think!

The UK's biggest frequent flyer website uses cookies, which you can block via your browser settings. Continuing implies your consent to this policy. Our privacy policy is here.