I Need Your Help. Should I Mattress Run?

a staircase with red carpet and stairs in a building

Elite status is something most road warriors appreciate, even if the benefits have been watered down over the past few years.  Airlines have done more damage to their elite status levels than hotels have.  But, even hotels have seen some erosion of benefits.  Marriott’s new combined loyalty program is generally not as rewarding as Starwood Preferred Guest was for elite members.

On top of that, Marriott had a couple of false starts when it came to improving benefits for members.  They started out with a better lifetime status program for Marriott members than SPG.  After a bit of fits and starts they eased the path to lifetime status for all members.  They had the same sort of self-induced blunder with travel packages during the merger.  It’s one thing to listen to your customers and make positive changes.  In these situations, they really didn’t seem to the underlying issue until customers pushed back.

Ambassador Status

Every cloud has a silver lining.  The massive amount of business travel I’ve had over the past decade puts me in a pretty good position as far as hotel status goes.  Back in 2016 I finished off lifetime SPG Platinum status.  The merger with Marriott was still on the horizon, but I was hopeful.  In 2017, I finished off lifetime Hyatt Diamond (now Globalist) status.  I’ve never really pursued elite status with Hilton or IHG, which means this is likely the last hotel loyalty decision I’ll ever end up making.

In the past, SPG had an elite level for those members staying 100 nights per year or more.  Amongst other benefits, they enjoyed access to a dedicated concierge to help with reservations.  Referred to as Ambassadors, they perform simple tasks like making reservations.  But, they can also advocate on your behalf with properties in reference to suite upgrades or other special requests.  When traveling with family, I’ve found them very helpful in securing connecting rooms.

Starting in 2019, Marriott has added a spending requirement.  To earn an Ambassador, you’ll need to stay 100 nights and spend at least $20,000 over the course of a year.  That works out to $200 per night, which doesn’t sound like a lot.  Except, an award night is free, so you need to spend $200 more on a paid night for each night of award stays you have in the year just to keep pace.  Additionally, SPG used to count multiple rooms per night towards elite status, up to a maximum of 3 per night.  As a family traveler, we would sometimes get two rooms to have more space.  I usually exceeded 100 nights easily, but that would be harder in 2019.  Even then, there’s no way I’ll spend $20,000 per year on hotels.

One More Year?

I’m trying to figure out if I should shoot for one more year of Ambassador status.  As it stands, I’ll have 91 nights at SPG hotels 2018.  I need 100 in SPG hotels to score an Ambassador.  I *think* I should have 98 nights right now.  I’m fairly certain I’m missing 7 nights from the merger mess.  However, I didn’t practice what I preach, as I failed to take screenshots of my account pre-merger.  Multiple requests of Marriott on my perceived missing nights have resulted in some healthy shrugs of shoulders and not much else.

As the year comes to an end, I’m wondering if I should book 9 nights at a hotel that I don’t need (a mattress run, in case you’ve never heard the term)?  I’d be doing it with points.  Unfortunately, there are no SPG Category 1 hotels within an hour drive of my house.  That leaves me with 3 choices:

  1. Book 9 nights at a Category 2 SPG hotel for a total of 112,500 points.
  2. Find a way to get to a Category 1 SPG hotel and book it for 67,500 points.  This might require a long drive or flight.
  3. Skip it.  Save the points and lose the Ambassador.

The Final Two Pennies

I’m not sure how many family vacations we’re planning for 2019.  We already have a great trip to Australia that I’m looking forward to.  I haven’t booked any hotel rooms for that trip, something my Ambassador would surely come in handy for.  I do have enough points for the mattress run.  It likely wouldn’t keep us from booking any of the hotels we want in 2019.

I used to covet my SPG Starpoints.  I value Marriott a lot lower.  Starpoints were valuable to me not only because they were tougher to acquire but also because of the great airline transfer ratio from the SPG program to so many airlines.  The airline transfers still exist.  However, there are now a slew of credit cards that generate bonus Marriott Rewards points, and I can transfer from Chase Ultimate Rewards in a pinch.

What would you do?

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  1. Hi EP ! I would go with option 3 and don’t mattress-run for the Ambassador thing.. it can be a hit or miss and it should be interesting to see how other groups react to Marriott “difficulties” next year (if only Hyatt could do something memorable ahah…) 🙂
    PS :i love your podcast ! just listened to one two hours ago walking in Paris

    1. Sophie, I just got back from Paris! Really glad you’re enjoying the podcast. I’m really enjoying recording it. Thanks for weighing in on my mattress run choice. Marriott difficulties is definitely a consideration I hadn’t weighed.

  2. I would say no. I am doing a mattress run for two nights to maintain Hyatt Globalist but we are planning to go to Tokyo next year and I want to go to the new Miraval in Austin. We also stay at Hyatt’s regularly in NYC. So I know I’ll use the status. Nine nights is a lot if you don’t really know if you will use it. It might come in handy. Might not. And you aren’t happy with the program so if you were a free agent you could use some of those vacations to try out other hotels and start deciding if it’s time to get top tier status someplace else.

      1. I understand you wouldn’t have status next year. But without status you might make more rational choices and find you really don’t want to stick with the Marriott/SPG monster for 2020, etc. and look at getting status elsewhere in the future. It gives you a year to play the field and see what might be good options instead of having that status always swaying your decisions and your experiences at those properties. Try independent living. They already screwed you out of seven nights.

    1. Sophie, in order to qualify the “old-fashioned” way, I need 100 nights at SPG properties. So, anything on the Marriott side doesn’t count. I’d be fine if my Marriott stays counted for this. But, they don’t.

  3. No way for Mariiott. If this were re Hyatt Globalist, I would say yes, but Mariiott/SPG is worthless. They over-promise and under-deliver and always have.

  4. Hey Ed, I think you’re forgetting you can do 5 nights at a Category 2 for 48000 points. If you do that twice you’re only out 96000 points and have an extra night just in case. Pick a hotel with Make a Green Choice and get some back, along with your elite bonus for check in you’d be closer to 92000~ points out. In your position I would definitely mattress run.

      1. Are you sure? I booked two Category 1 hotels in Spain for 5 nights and the charge for each award was 30,000 points, ie 7500×4. If I were you I would double check that. I do remember those were the old SPG rules but Marriott must have changed, or it’s a technical glitch that can be taken advantage of. In your case I would go thru the booking process to see what the charge is before confirming. I think you may be pleasantly surprised.

        1. Ok I am wrong, but only in my math. 12,500 times 4 is 50,000 not 48,000. I’m embarrassed considering I can still do calculus and trig in my head. Oops

          Ps I’m gonna share a screenshot to you on Twitter to show a Cat 2 is in fact 50,000 points for 5 nights

  5. Don’t you live out Dulles way?

    Surely there are weekend rates at some SPG property near IAD that would set you back very minor coin if it is indeed just 2 nights that you need.

    1. jfhscott, $70 a night plus tax is usually the going rate. Not sure I can bring myself to spend that money. The points come out to roughly the same value, maybe a touch more depending on how you value them.

  6. That is weird Ed, I’m not sure why I am able to book Cat 1 and 2 properties with 5th night free but you’re not. I believe you, but then there has to be some sort of IT glitch. Like when back in the day SPG would sometimes forget to charge you for a stay.

  7. BTW Ed I’m not trying to prove anything or anyone wrong I’m just trying to help you out and also make sense of what’s happening. I did check out DC Cat 2’s and they were also 50,000 points, but they were former Marriott brands, does it matter if they’re SPG or Marriott for requalifying?

    1. Christopher, no offense at all. I’m happy to be proven wrong! For this exercise it has to be an SPG hotel. Unfortunately, I’ve searched through all the Cat 2 within an hour drive and none seem to be pricing at 50K.

  8. I guess that a lot depends on not only what you think the status is worth now, but what it will likely be worth a year from now. If you had told me a year ago how much damage Marriott would be doing to the program in a short period, I would have been highly skeptical. Since their obvious goal is to further worsen the program, I think that investing more in it makes little sense. I’m putting my money where my mouth is on this, and will have 78 nights this year, and maybe a third of that next year.

  9. Ok good, I mean you’ve helped me save points and money, least I can do is try to do the same for you. That is just too weird. Last thing I have to add is that I was using the SPG app to find these rates. If you don’t mattress run and qualify for ambassador I’d be happy to help with any future SPG or Marriott hacking questions. I kind of lucked out with the merger and had almost everything fall perfect for me, as I was in to both heavily and have followed along closely with all the changes.

  10. What are the benefits of Marriott’s Platinum 100 Ambassador status?

    Are the Ambassador “benefits” that good to warrant spending an additional sum on 9 nights?

    “Ambassador Service” and “YOUR24” are worth $1000+ or ~112K points?

    You are the only one who can judge that for yourself!

  11. Not sure its worth it but you could book single nights and check in through the app. These usually post for me as stays. I do this as my travel changes at times and I can’t cancel for no fee close in due to my corporate rate.

  12. I would put more effort into showing that they have lost some of your nights in the move, threatening to leave if they do not put it right. You must have copy receipts somewhere as evidence or at worst dairy dates for them to audit. Do they know who you are?

  13. (I’m leaving for Paris tomorrow – The Paris Weekend Club (a long weekend) – a buddies trip)

    I also had a chance at 100 nights – could have made it by directing more of my late-year travel to Marriott. I would have done it if there were more benefits to Ambassador status. But no – it’ s just an Ambassador. That’s not enough to get me to focus exclusively on Marriott.

    My last mattress run was during the good old days of Hyatt – Faster Free nights. I would book $80 Hyatt Place near home – check in and then go home. Two $80 nights equaled one free night at the Park Hyatt Vendôme in Paris.
    Hou la la! Maybe I’m the reason they don’t run that program anymore.

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