Justifying the Hyatt Globalist mattress run: is it worth using points for a “cash” stay?

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The year 2020 has finally pushed me to the absolute brink of sanity, as clearly evidenced by the fact that I’ve booked a 30-night Hyatt Globalist mattress run. I used Greg’s handy spreadsheet and determined that it made more sense to use cash than points to book the stay. The only problem? There was no way my wife was going to let me take two grand in cash out of the bank for a mattress run, so I really needed to use points. I decided to combine forces for the best of both worlds by using points to cover the stay — and here’s how I sold my wife on letting me do it.

Hyatt Globalist mattress run
Globalist status scored me this awesome suite at the Park Hyatt New York a couple of years ago, so the prospect of getting that status again is attractive.

First up: check Greg’s spreadsheet

Greg has written pretty extensively about this Hyatt Globalist mattress run opportunity and we’ve discussed it on Frequent Miler on the Air. For those who have missed previous discussion and are unfamiliar, a mattress run is when you book a hotel that you don’t really need for the sole purpose of earning points / elite credit / some promotional outcome that is worth more to you than the cost of the room. We don’t often see promotions so good to make it worth throwing money away on a hotel stay you don’t need, but it happens from time to time. Because of overlapping promos, there is currently the chance to earn 2 years of Hyatt Globalist status with a mattress run (See: Rocking Hyatt’s overlapping promos: How to claim 2 years of top tier status.)

In this case, if you’re interested in pursuing status through a Hyatt Globalist mattress run, you’ll want to consider whether to use cash, Hyatt points, or cash & points. Greg has analyzed this and created a spreadsheet where you can determine which makes the most sense for you, so check out that spreadsheet. The sheet told me that paying cash came out to be “cheaper” than using points because of my valuations of the points involved. But it was a lot of cash, so I spent some time considering how to make it work with less sticker shock.

Using points to cover the “cash” stay

As noted above, I booked a 30-night stay that spans from December 2020 into January 2021, which should get me double elite night credits in 2021. In other words, I should earn 60 elite nights (and therefore Globalist status and all of the 2021 Milestone Rewards that come with it) in 2021. The cash cost in total for my stay will be $2,081 and some change (I’ll stick with the whole-dollar figure for this post). While much less than what it would typically cost to get 60 elite qualifying nights and Globalist status, that’s not a small amount of money. I knew it was an amount that wouldn’t go over well on the home front when I tried to explain the need for us to book a hotel stay that we mostly didn’t need.

However, when my wife and I initially talked about this short-term opportunity (before Greg had published his spreadsheet), we discussed the possibility of using points and thus had entertained the idea of transferring 150K Ultimate Rewards points to Hyatt to book a 30-night stay at a Category 1 hotel. Despite the fact that I have argued that we should all be redeeming Ultimate Rewards points at the grocery store right now, I hadn’t personally done so specifically because I value the ability to get far out-sized value from points and the associated “Joy of Free” in redeeming them for luxury travel.

And so it seemed silly to redeem 150K points for something I could buy for even less than the “grocery value” of those points. Since we have a Chase Sapphire Reserve in my household, we could redeem 150K points for $2,250 in grocery purchases. It didn’t make sense to redeem so much value in points for a hotel stay that would only cost $2,081. And Greg’s spreadsheet confirmed the same: all things considered, including potential earnings from the paid stay and more, paying for the cash stay made more sense.

And that’s when it hit me that I could kind of have my cake and eat it, too.

I realized that I needed $2,081 and I had points that could be redeemed for a cent and a half each at the grocery store. In other words, 139K points would buy me $2,081 in groceries. I could simply redeem points for my grocery purchases and put the money that I would have spent on groceries into a separate savings pile to use on the Hyatt stay. Alternatively, I could pick up some gift cards at the grocery store and use manufactured spending techniques to turn those into money. Considering my total cost in activation fees and liquidation, I would really need to redeem 141K Ultimate Rewards points at a value of 1.5c each in order to generate a net $2,081 in cash after those fees.

That was 9K fewer points than booking my Hyatt Globalist mattress run as an award stay — and in this case, I’d earn points. That seemed like it could be a significantly better deal. Stephen has noted in a previous post that taxes may not apply to a long-term stay and my booking is one where I expect that situation will apply. In other words, I expect to earn Hyatt points based on the $2,081 rate. Given the triple points promotion combined with 1 extra point per dollar for being an Explorist currently, I expect to earn 33,296 points for the paid stay. Assuming I value Hyatt points and Chase Ultimate Rewards points equally, that’s a net cost of about 108K points (141K – 33K = 108K). To be clear, we shouldn’t value Hyatt points and Chase points equally since flexible points are always worth more than a fixed currency (Chase Ultimate Rewards points can be turned into cash or transferred to miles in many different programs, whereas Hyatt points can practically only be used for Hyatt stays). At the same time, I know I transfer more than 33K points to Hyatt every year that isn’t 2020, so I’ll keep 33K Ultimate Rewards points down the line that I’d have otherwise transferred to Hyatt. In other words, I know they logically aren’t equal, but they feel “equal enough” to me to consider my net cost in points to be 108K.

Is Hyatt Globalist status worth 108K? How I figured that was how I’d sell my wife on doing this if I was going to be successful in that realm.

Is Hyatt Globalist status worth 108K points?

Some will read the question above and say “Absolutely!”. Others won’t be sure. I came to my answer my valuing the things I would get for 108K points.

First of all, as Greg has noted, Hyatt awards milestone benefits beginning with 20 nights stayed. Here are the Milestone benefits and what value I assigned for each (my rationale for valuations will follow):

  • 20 nights = 2 club lounge access awards.
  • 30 nights = 1 Category 1-4 free night award and 2 club lounge access awards.
  • 40 nights = 5K points or $100 Hyatt gift card or 10K off a FIND experience
  • 50 nights = 2 suite upgrade awards
  • 60 nights = Category 1-7 free night award, 2 suite upgrade awards, access to a Hyatt concierge

I don’t value the club lounge access awards at all since I’ll have Globalist status and therefore automatic club lounge access, so those awards will go unused. For me, the value of Hyatt Globalist really boiled down to valuing these Milestone Rewards:

  • Cat 1-4 free night certificate
  • Cat 1-7 free night certificate
  • 5K points (40-night milestone)
  • 4 suite upgrade awards

Greg has previously done the math and determined that he’d rather have the $100 Hyatt certificate than 5K points, but I’ll take the points here to defray my net cost further. Remember that I said above my costs would be:

  • 141K points – 33K points earned for stay = 108K net points
  • 108K – 5K (Milestone Reward) = 103K net points

With my net cost down to 103K points, how much do I value the free night certificates and suite upgrades? The free night certificates were easier for me to value, but I wanted to remain conservative. The Category 1-4 certificate could buy a night worth up to 15K points and the Category 1-7 certificate could buy a night worth up to 30K points, but in neither case would I pay 15K points or 30K points for a certificate that expires in a year without knowing when and where I’ll use that certificate.

I thus wanted to estimate the value of those certificates somewhat conservatively. I decided that I would be willing to pay 8K points for a Cat 1-4 certificate. Sure, the certificate expires in a year, but I’d come out ahead if I used it at any Category 3 (normally 12K points per night) or Category 4 (normally 15K points per night) property. I figured that at worst I’d use that certificate at a Category 2 property that would ordinarily cost 8K points per night and “break even”. Valuing that cert at 8K points, I could look at my “net” cost (now the word net needs to be in quotes since I’m figuring net cost not by actual net number of points spent but with an imaginary value for a free night certificate) is:

  • 103K – 8K (value of Cat 1-4 cert) = 95K

Next, I decided to value the Cat 1-7 certificate at 20K points. This one was a bit harder to determine than the Cat 1-4 certificate because on the surface there feels like a slimmer chance that I’ll find a good use for a 30K cert. That said, I have a trip booked to Hawaii next year (fingers crossed) and in ordinary times I spend a few nights a year in New York City and would be happy to stay at the Park Hyatt (and I usually stay at the Andaz 5th Ave for a weekend in December every year). For any of those uses, I would ordinarily use either 25K or 30K Hyatt points per night. I’d come out ahead of what I’ll otherwise spend if I could buy a Category 1-7 certificate for 20K points. It would be somewhat of a gamble since I don’t know whether the trip to Hawaii will really happen nor whether I’ll want to spend a night in New York City next year, but I’m hopeful that by the end of 2021 I’ll have had a chance for a fancy Hyatt night. I wouldn’t pay 30K points for a certificate with a 1-year expiration that can only save me a max of 30K points, but I’d be willing to spend 20K on the gamble that it will most likely save me 5K-10K Hyatt points, so I valued this certificate at 20K points. My new “net” cost:

  • 95K – 20K (value of Cat 1-7 cert) = 75K

One thing I left out so far in my calculations is the fact that I will pay the cash rate for my Hyatt stay ($2,081) on a credit card. Since I’ll be looking to replace some Ultimate Rewards points, let’s assume I paid for the stay on our Chase Sapphire Reserve card for 3x (a World of Hyatt credit card would earn 4x Hyatt points, but I don’t have the card and I’m happy to keep my estimates on the conservative end with 3x earnings). That means that I’ll earn more than 6K points by paying for the stay on the CSR. My new “net” cost:

  • 75K – 6K (earned from CC for paid stay) = 69K

So assuming that all of the above is true for me (and I think that I truly would spend the number of points noted on those free night certs, etc), my net cost for 4 suite upgrades (and all of the other benefits of Globalist status) is 69K points. Are four suite upgrades worth 69K points?

Dividing this out, each suite upgrade award is costing me 17,250 points.

  • 69K / 4 = 17,250 points per suite upgrade award

Would I pay 17,250 points for a Hyatt Suite Upgrade award?

In the past, I probably wouldn’t have. However, now that I have two kids (one young toddler who is almost 3 years old and one newborn who just recently turned a month old), I value the extra space of a suite infinitely more than I once did.

Hyatt suite night awards can be applied to a stay of up to 7 nights. The chance to confirm a suite in advance for four stays of up to 7 nights each is huge to me. I rarely stay in a hotel for 7 nights, but even if I only assume that I’ll use each of those suite upgrades on 3-night stays, that’s like paying less than 6K points per night for an upgrade to a suite. At a Category 4 or higher property, that’s a great deal. If I’m able to use a couple of those for stays of 4 or 5 nights, my net cost per night drops. The chance to confirm a suite in advance four times over the next couple of years is definitely worth 69K points. And that’s to say nothing of my value of other Hyatt Globalist benefits like guaranteed 4pm checkout at most properties, free breakfast / lounge access, no resort fees on paid or award stays, free parking on award stays and the ability to hook up others with Guest of Honor bookings.

For those questioning my valuations of the certificates and suite upgrades given the current travel environment, keep in mind that status is good for the rest of the year in which it is earned plus the entire following year until the end of February the year after that. In other words, if I earn Globalist status any time in 2021, my status will be good for the rest of 2021, all of 2022, and the first couple of months of 2023. The suite upgrades expire on the same time frame. I’m not sure what 2021 travel will look like, but I have to expect that 2022 and early 2023 will be more normal than 2020. I feel good about my prospects to maximize status at least at the tail end of that window.

In the end, I realized that the chance to run at Hyatt Globalist status for what will be an initial layout of 141K of my Ultimate Rewards points is well worth it to me. While my wife was hesitant as soon as she heard two thousand dollars, she agreed that it made sense all things considered.

But Stephen thinks my Hyatt Globalist mattress run plan is nuts

Excited about this way of thinking about it, I shared the thoughts above with Greg and Stephen. Stephen poured cold water on my enthusiasm by reminding me that I can already get most benefits of Hyatt Globalist status any time by transferring my Hyatt points to a Globalist and having them book me a Guest of Honor stay. He notes that in the short term, my chances for a free upgrade at check-in may be higher due to fewer business travelers (who would be more likely to have status and compete for upgrades), further diminishing the value of the suite upgrades. However, I disagree with him on that point: even if there’s a good chance that I’d get upgraded to a suite at check-in, I value the chance to confirm that upgrade at the time of bookinglot more. I value a suite with a separate room where a baby can sleep more soundly (and therefore everyone sleeps more soundly) quite highly these days. Particularly on a long stay, I’d love to lock that in when I make my travel plans rather than hope for the best at check-in.

Hyatt Globalist mattress run
I got an awesome suite at the Grand Hyatt Kauai on a Guest of Honor stay last year, but confirming an upgrade like this in advance would be very valuable to me.

Still, Stephen points out that my cashout plans above aren’t really that much better a deal than what I could potentially get with a 30-night Category 1 award stay given the right circumstances. Hyatt credit card holders will receive 25% rebate on the points used for award stays consumed by January 4th. I don’t have that credit card, but if I knew a friendly Globalist who was also a credit card holder who would be willing to pass that rebate back to me, my net cost for an award stay would be almost the same:

  • 150K points for 30 nights at Category 1 – 37,500 points (25% rebate) = 112.5K net points for 30 nights at Category 1

Taking my previous valuations into consideration:

  • 112.5K – 20K (Cat 1-7 cert) – 8K (cat 1-4 cert) – 5K (Milestone Reward) = 79.5K “net” cost for Globalist + 4 suite upgrades

Update: As noted in the comments, it is possible that a Guest of Honor stay may not count for any points rebate. The terms aren’t explicitly clear, but I think this wouldn’t work out.

The net result is almost the same. If I were spending any time at my Category 1 mattress run hotel and it was at a Hyatt where breakfast and/or parking isn’t free, I would have to consider whether that award stay angle made more sense.

Still, Stephen’s point about being able to get most of the benefits of Globalist status without being a Globalist member stands. That’s why my analysis above boils down to just the suite upgrade awards: I could already get free breakfast / lounge access, 4pm checkout, and free parking on award stays through the Guest of Honor program as long as I know a Globalist willing to help me book. In the past, I’ve gotten some amazing free suite upgrades during Guest of Honor bookings, so it’s possible that I could get all of the Globalist benefits and even a great suite without having Globalist status myself.

However, again, I value the chance to guarantee those suite upgrades. Globalist members are not technically able to attach one of those upgrades to a Guest of Honor stay, so the only way for me to confirm suite upgrades is with Globalist status myself. A nice side benefit is that I will then also be able to help friends of mine when they need a Guest of Honor stay, and I do value the ability to do someone a meaningful favor in the right circumtances.

Other currencies offer similar opportunities

Keep in mind that in my case I’m really just using points at their cash value to pay for my stay and as such, cardholders in other programs can achieve a similar result to mine by cashing out points to pay for this Hyatt Globalist mattress run:

  • US Bank Altitude Reserve cardholders can use points for travel at a value of 1.5c per point. By paying for and redeeming for the Hyatt stay using Real Time Mobile Rewards, the net result for an Altitude Reserve cardholder would be the same (and given the fact that US Bank has no transfer partners, I’d be more likely to cash out these points than Chase points if I had them)
  • Schwab Platinum cardholders: Cash out Amex Membership Rewards points at a value of 1.25c per point. Since there wouldn’t be any need to cash out MS costs here since you can straight trade the points for cash, the $2,081 stay would require 166,480 Membership Rewards points.
  • Capital One Venture cardholders: Since Capital One cardholders can redeem their Capital One miles at a value of 1c each to pay for travel they book for themselves, it would require 208,100 Capital One “miles” to pay for the $2,081 Hyatt stay.

Of course, it’s also worth noting that my booked stay isn’t the cheapest Hyatt in the world for a mattress run. I picked the property I did because I will pass the property at least one time when I’ll need a room for a night and perhaps twice in the span of my stay, so it will likely save me some points / cash for those couple of nights (something I left out of the analysis above though it is relevant that I’ll probably save 10K points that I’d have otherwise used on booking those two one-night stays). I decided to opt for a property where I could actually use a couple of nights over the absolute cheapest property I could reach.

Hyatt Globalist Mattress Run: Bottom line

I know this is a crazy endeavor and that I could otherwise use the associated cash in a multitude of ways. Still, this game has gotten me into chasing crazy opportunities now and then and the truth is that I doubt I’ll ever hit 60 Hyatt nights in a calendar year otherwise, so this seemed like the year to get crazy. The truth is that while 2020 and 2021 aren’t shaping up to resemble “normal” travel years for me, I’m willing to get a little crazy banking on 2022 looking more normal and I imagine that if I am not able to take big advantage of Globalist status next year I will more than make up for it in 2022. Maybe that’s a bit too far of a stretch, but it’s a gamble I’m willing to wager on given what I expect to be the one-time nature of this opportunity. What do you think — is it worth the Hyatt Globalist mattress run?

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