The idea of paying for a hotel room with no intention of staying in it will be, to most people, absurd. And, quite frankly, it is. So much so that I didn’t tell my wife that I had booked one for over two months until we were in the car driving north for Christmas. But it made good financial sense, as I will explain.
IHG, the chain behind Holiday Inn, Crowne Plaza and the InterContinentals amongst others run a series of promotions where you can earn bonus points if you compete a set number of stays or tasks. In the final quarter of 2015, this was called Accelerate. All members of the reward scheme are eligible, but the requirements for each participant and the rewards are different. In my case, I had to complete 6 out of 7 given tasks, each of which earned points, to receive additional bonus points. For me these ranged from booking a stay using the app, spending some money on food and beverage in the hotel, and staying at least four nights across the group.
Normally promotions like this are of little value to me because I don’t do a lot of business travel. Most of my hotel nights tend to be for holidays where we have pre-booked in advance and, if I can manage it, they are often paid for using points. However this time was a little different. Through work, I had three separate stays in October and November. I was able to book 2 of these using the app and managed to spread them across different brands within the chain to meet some of the requirements of the promotion. As I was away from home I was eating dinner in the hotel, so I made sure I spent enough to meet the target threshold.
Through work, I had easily met five of the seven criteria. The only remaining ones were for two nights in an Intercontinental hotel or for staying a fourth night in any hotel. Completing one of these two tasks would net me 22,000 points for achieving 6/7 of the criteria, and 7200 points for staying in hotel.
I did the maths, and then booked a room at the Holiday Inn Express in Inverness between Christmas and New Year. In advance, this cost me £42.
On the day we were driving up from Edinburgh to see my parents. I dropped my wife at home and went out to check-in. I spent about 30 minutes in the room, having a cup of tea and watching TV.
Then I left and didn’t return. There was no need to go back to check out and the points for staying the night posted a couple of days later. Yesterday the points for the bonus post into my account. In total I earned 30,452 points from doing this one night; 29,200 from information, 784 for staying in the room, 300 as the welcome gift for platinum members, and 168 for paying for the room on my IHG credit card. But was it worth it?
Most certainly it was! If I had bought 30,000 points from the IHG website, this would have cost me $345 or £239. It therefore makes it a very cheap way to buy points.
The other way to look at it is against how much value you can achieve for the points. I always say that points in your account are worthless until you are able to spend them. In the summer we are going to California and staying in the Intercontinental: The Clement Monterey. Rooms there start at $899 or 50,000 points. If I were to redeem the points I had acquired from spending the £40 on the mattress run for a night here, I would be getting value equivalent to $539 or £373.
As a final thought, the maths here only worked for me because I had the business travel already booked which was at no personal cost to me. It would not have been worth my time and money to meet all the criteria on my own.
If you are thinking of doing a mattress run, I would recommend making sure that you have a redemption in mind for those points, and that you do the maths to make sure that it makes financial sense.