Marriott mattress running: Valuable elite status for nearly 2 years

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Marriott is offering several overlapping promotions which, when taken together, can make mattress running worthwhile.  A mattress run involves checking into a hotel for the purpose of earning elite status or other rewards even if you have no interest in actually staying overnight at the hotel.

Usually it only makes sense to consider mattress running for Marriott elite status when you near the end of the calendar year and find that you are within a few nights of earning Platinum or Titanium status.  Now, though, Marriott’s current and upcoming promotions make it reasonable to mattress run early in the year…

Overlapping Promos

As we’ve previously reported, Marriott it launching multiple overlapping promotions which can make mattress running more rewarding:

  1. 50% Elite Night Credit Rollover: Marriott will deposit 50% of the Elite Night Credits (ENCs) into members’ accounts based on their 2020 Elite status tier. The ENC’s will be deposited in February.  As a reminder, Marriott did the same last year.
  2. Double points and elite nights: From February 16 through April 27, 2021, members will earn double the number of points and elite night credits for stays of two nights or more.  I expect that this will require registration, but we don’t yet have registration links for this promo.  We have been informed by Marriott that award nights count in this promotion as long as there is one paid night within the minimum two-night requirement.  In other words, if your stay is 2 nights or longer, you can pay for all but one night with points or certificates and still earn double elite nights for the entire stay.  Once the promotion opens for registration, I’m hoping that the promotion’s terms & conditions will support Marriott’s assertion that award nights mixed with paid nights will count. Update: While the terms indicate that award stays do not earn double elite nights, we have once again confirmed with Marriott that a stay including at least one paid night mixed with award nights will count for double elite credit. See this post for more: Official word: Marriott mixed paid / award stays will earn double credit.
  3. Super off-peak promo: Marriott has also reduced off-peak redemption rates globally by 10% for all reservations through September 30, 2021 booked between January 11, 2021 and February 21, 2021.  More about this promo can be found here.

Thanks to the 50% Elite Night Credit Rollover, many will be close enough to meaningful elite status for it to be worth considering a mattress run.  Thanks to the double points & elite nights promo, anyone interested in a mattress run should consider booking qualifying stays between February 16th and Apr 27th.  And thanks to the “super off-peak” promo, award stays may be cheaper if booked before Feb 21 (therefore it may make sense to pay points rather than cash for your mattress run).

How to book a Marriott mixed paid / award stay

See this video tutorial:

7 Nights to Platinum Scenario

Elite Status Level Requirements Per Year Key Benefits
Silver Elite 10 Nights Late checkout, 10% point bonus
Gold Elite 25 Nights 2PM late checkout; 25% point bonus; welcome gift (points only); room upgrade; enhanced internet
Platinum Elite 50 Nights 4PM late checkout; 50% point bonus; welcome gift w/ breakfast option; room upgrade includes suites; lounge access; Choice benefit (such as 5 suite night awards) when you achieve 50 nights.
Titanium Elite 75 Nights All of the above, plus: 75% point bonus; United Silver Premier status via RewardsPlus; Ritz-Carlton suite upgrades; Additional Choice Benefit (such as 40K free night certificate) when you achieve 75 nights.
Ambassador Elite 100 Nights + $20K Spend All of the above, plus: Ambassador Service (dedicated Marriott agent); Your24 (Choose the 24 hours of your stay. For example, choose to check in at 9am after an overnight flight).
 

The table above summarizes Marriott’s elite requirements and benefits.  As you can see, the best benefits start with Platinum status.  Titanium status also has some great benefits.  In my opinion, Concierge status isn’t worth considering due to very high spend requirements (even those the spend requirement has dropped to $14K for 2021).

Anyone who had Gold Elite status last year will get 13 elite night credits this year thanks to the 50% Elite Night Credit Rollover promo.  Additionally, if you have a consumer Marriott card, you automatically get 15 more elite night credits.  And if you have a business Marriott card, you get 15 more.  That’s a total of 43 elite night credits before setting foot in a single hotel.  Those who don’t already have both a consumer and business Marriott card, can sign up for each in order to get those credits.  See the section titled “Marriott Credit Cards” near the bottom of this post for more details.

Once you have (or are on your way to securing) 43 nights without stepping foot in a hotel, the next step is to check your Marriott account (under Activity) to see how many free night certificates you have expiring this year.  When you use those free nights for actual stays, you’ll earn an elite night credit for each.  For the sake of this scenario, let’s assume you have a single free night certificate expiring this year.  Once you complete a stay using that certificate, you’ll earn an elite night credit.  That will leave you 6 elite nights short of Platinum status in this scenario.

Thanks to the double points and elite nights promo, it will be possible to earn 6 elite nights with a single 3 night stay between February 16 and April 27, 2021.  This should be enough in this scenario to top you off to 50 elite night credits in 2021.  With 50 elite night credits you’ll earn a Choice Benefit award and Platinum Elite status good for the rest of 2021, all of 2022, and through February of 2023.

Of course, each person’s situation is different with respect to the number of elite night credits earned from rollover, elite nights from credit cards, and number of available free night certificates.  I recommend going through the exercise described above to figure out how close you are to the next meaningful level of elite status (e.g. 50 nights or 75 nights).  If you are close to 75 nights, consider taking 5 elite night credits as your 50 night Choice Benefit.

Cash or Points Stays?

If you’re considering booking a Marriott mattress run, it can be tricky to decide whether to book with cash or points.  The double points promo makes cash stays more rewarding than usual, but the super off-peak promo makes many points stays cheaper than usual.  Which is best?

To help you pick whether to book cash or points, I created a Google Docs spreadsheet (found here)

The Solution: FM’s Marriott Cash or Points Tool

The tool is setup to let you figure out how much a points stay or a cash stay will cost you after accounting for all of the rewards & rebates earned from your stay.  To use the tool, do the following:

  1. Open the tool by clicking here: FM’s Marriott Cash or Points Tool.
  2. Copy the sheet so that you can make changes. Within Google Docs, go to the File menu and click File.. Make a Copy
  3. In your copy of the sheet, edit all of the cells in blue (column C under “Your Answer”)
  4. The spreadsheet will automatically show you the results at the bottom.

3 Night Mattress Run Example

Suppose you want to earn 6 elite night credits with a 3 night stay during the double points & elite nights promo.  Since that promo requires stays of 2 nights or longer and at least one night must be a paid night, you’re considering either a 3 night all-cash stay or a 3 night stay with 2 award nights and 1 cash night.

The double elite night promo runs until April 27th.  I recommend picking mattress run dates near the end of the promo (with check-out by April 27th).  The reason is that you might discover opportunities for real stays before then.  If so, you can always cancel your mattress run and save cash or points.  For the purpose of this example, I’ll look for a 3 night stay beginning April 18th.

Next, do the following:

1: Find the cheapest 3 night paid stay in your area

On Marriott’s website, enter in your city and dates of stay and press “find hotels.”  On the results screen, click “show rates with taxes and fees” and then select “sort by price” to see the cheapest options on top.  In the Ann Arbor Michigan area, it looks like the Courtyard Flint Grand Blanc is the cheapest “all-in” option for the selected dates.  That said, the TownePlace Suites Ann Arbor is a much shorter drive and only $7 more per night:

After identifying the ideal cash-stay hotel, it’s worth clicking “View Rates” and then editing search criteria to include special rates such as AAA (assuming you’re qualified for those rates).  For some reason, searching across properties for such rates often fails to find the best deals, so it’s better to do this once you’ve identified a few candidates to see if they have better special rates (AAA, Senior discount, Government & military).  Also note that AAA rates are often refundable whereas the best rates identified by Marriott without viewing special rates are often prepaid nonrefundable.

By selecting AAA rates, I find that I can book a refundable rate for the same $94 per night that would otherwise be nonrefundable.  That’s important since I wouldn’t want to book a mattress run this far in advance without being able to freely cancel it.

Next, go through the process of selecting a room as if you’re going to book the stay.  This way, you can get to the check-out screen to see a full summary of charges:

As you can see above, the TownePlace Suites Ann Arbor is available with a AAA base room rate of $85 per night with $28.05 in taxes and fees for the stay ($9.35 per night).  Parking is free.

2: Find the cheapest 2 night award + 1 night paid stay in your area

On Marriott’s website, enter in your city, dates of stay, and select “Use Points / Certificates.”  Press “find hotels.”  On the results screen, click “show rates with taxes and fees” and then select “sort by Rewards points” to see the best options near the top.  In the Ann Arbor Michigan area, the best option is the Couryard Flint Grand Blanc, which is the second result down at 27,000 points for the stay or $87 per night:

After clicking “View Rates,” I see that the point cost is slightly lower than was advertised on the previous screen (26K points rather than 27K):

I then click “Customize Payments.”  Remember that the goal is to have one paid night and two award nights.  So, I make sure to keep the lowest price award night selected and pick the cheapest remaining paid night.  In this case, the paid nights are all the same price ($97):

On the checkout screen I can click to see a summary of charges.  Here I can see that the cash portion has a $97 base rate plus $10.67 in taxes and fees.  I can also see that there’s a $10 parking fee:

Normally the existence of a parking fee would have me potentially looking elsewhere, but since this is for a mattress run where I would check-in without actually staying and paying for parking, it’s OK.

3: Plug results into spreadsheet

Open FM’s Marriott Cash or Points Tool and make a copy so that you can edit it.  Only edit cells in blue (column C) under the heading “Your Answer”.

For this example, I filled in the different sections of the spreadsheet as follows:

In this section, by selecting that I would have Gold status during my stay, the sheet automatically calculated that I would earn 125% points.  Another way to look at this is that Gold status gives me 25% more points that I would earn without any status.
In this section I entered the information about my potential all-cash stay. $255 base room rate, no resort fees, $283.05 total cost. Since this stay will be during the double points & nights promo, I entered “2” for the Point multiplier.
In this section I entered information about my potential award stay (2 nights booked with points and 1 with cash). I would spend 17,000 total points + $107.67 in cash.  Since this stay would also be during the double points & nights promo, I entered “2” for the Point multiplier.

Not shown here (but clearly viewable in the spreadsheet), the worksheet automatically calculates the number of points earned with each stay, the value of all rewards earned, and finally a “net cost” in which the value of points has been converted to the cash equivalent.

Finally, you get the bottom line results:

In this example, booking the points stay (2 points nights + 1 paid night) is cheaper than booking a 3-night paid stay.

With the above example, I now know that booking a 3 night stay with 2 award nights plus one paid night is a better deal than the 3 paid night option I had found.  The net cost, after rewards, for the former is $205.12.  That doesn’t answer the question of whether mattress running for Platinum status is worth that much, but it’s a great start.

A personal note about the above example: I don’t really intend to mattress run this year at all. The above was just an example. I have Titanium status already and both personal and business Marriott cards. As a result, I’ll start this year with 68 elite night credits and will need only 7 more to re-earn Titanium. In my case, I have so many free night certificates expiring August 1, that it would be crazy for me to mattress run. I’ll easily earn Titanium simply by using those certificates for stays that I really want.

Marriott Credit Cards

If you’re interested in getting 30 elite night credits every year automatically, then you’ll want to get both a consumer and business Marriott card.  In general, the card benefits (such as free night certificates) make the card’s worth the annual fee.  Elite night credits are icing on the cake.

As I write this, the welcome bonuses for Marriott cards aren’t particularly compelling. I’d recommend waiting until better promotional offers appear before signing up.  Below, you’ll find the best current offers for each card.  If you see welcome bonuses higher than 75,000 points, then they might be worth applying for.  Note too that there are weird rules about whether or not you can qualify for a new Marriott card bonus.  See: Are you eligible for a new Marriott card?  For most people, I think that the easiest path when starting from scratch is to get the consumer and business Marriott cards from American Express.

Consumer cards available for new signups

If you don’t already have a Marriott consumer card, you can sign up for any one of these to get 15 elite nights added to your account (note that signing up for more than one consumer card will not result in more than 15 elite nights):

Card Offer and Details
Marriott Bonvoy Bold Credit Card

FM Mini Review: The best use for this card is probably to downgrade from the Ritz or Boundless card to avoid the annual fee. That way, you can always upgrade again when you need the annual free night or other perks


Card Type: Visa Signature

Base
Travel
Brand

Earning rate: ⚬ 3X Marriott Bonvoy ⚬ 2X travel ⚬ 1X everywhere else

Noteworthy perks: Automatic Silver status ⚬ 15 nights of elite credit each year

See also: Marriott Bonvoy Complete Guide

Marriott Bonvoy Boundless™ Credit Card

Card Type: Visa Signature

Base
Brand

Earning rate: ⚬ 6X Marriott Bonvoy ⚬ 2X everywhere else

Big spend bonus: Earn Gold status when you spend $35K each year

Noteworthy perks: ⚬ Annual free night certificate for 1 night at a hotel redemption level up to 35K ⚬ Automatic Silver status ⚬ 15 nights of elite credit each year

See also: Marriott Bonvoy Complete Guide

Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card
75K points + up to $200 in statement credits
75K points after $3K spend in the first 3 months plus up to $200 in statement credits for US restaurant purchases in the first 6 months. Terms apply. (Rates & Fees)

$450 Annual Fee

Recent better offer: 125K points after $5K spend in the first 3 months plus up to $200 in statement credits for US restaurant purchases in the first 6 months. [Expired 5/12/21]

FM Mini Review: Decent ultra-premium option for Marriott fans, but Hilton fans may prefer the ultra-premium Hilton Aspire card.


Card Type: Amex Credit Card

Base
Travel
Dine
Brand

Earning rate: 3X airfare charged by airline; 3X US restaurants, 6X Marriott; 2X on all other eligible purchases

Big spend bonus: Platinum Elite status with $75K calendar year spend

Noteworthy perks: ⚬ 50K Free Night Award each year upon renewal ⚬ $300 Marriott statement credit per membership year ⚬ Gold Elite status ⚬ 15 elite nights credit ⚬ Priority Pass Select with 2 free guests ⚬ Global Entry fee credit ⚬ Free premium internet at Marriott properties

See also: Marriott Bonvoy Complete Guide

Business card available for new signups

If you don’t already have a Marriott business card, you can sign up for this card to get 15 elite nights added to your account:

Card Offer and Details
Marriott Bonvoy Business™ American Express® Card
75K Points + up to $150 in statement credits
75K points after $3K of eligible purchases in the first 3 months of card membership + up to $150 in statement credits for eligible purchases in the first 3 months. Terms apply. (Rates & Fees)

$125 Annual Fee

Recent better offer: 100K points after $5K in eligible purchases in the first 3 months plus up to $150 in statement credits for eligible purchases in the first 3 months [Expired 5/12/21]


Card Type: Amex Credit Card

Base
Dine
Gas
Phone
Biz
Brand

Earning rate: 6x at Marriott Bonvoy properties ⚬ 4x U.S. restaurants, U.S. gas stations, wireless telephone services purchased from U.S. suppliers and on U.S. purchases for shipping ⚬ 2x on all other eligible purchases. Terms Apply. (Rates & Fees)

Big spend bonus: Marriott Gold elite status with $35K annual spend ⚬ Earn an additional free night (good for one night at a redemption level at or under 35K points, subject to resort fees) after you spend $60K on purchases in a calendar year

Noteworthy perks: 1 Free Night Award every year after your Card account anniversary for a one-niight redemption level at or under 35K points (subject to resort fees) ⚬ Complimentary premium Internet access at Marriott properties ⚬ Terms Apply (Rates & Fees)

See also: Marriott Bonvoy Complete Guide

Applying for Business Credit Cards: You must have a business to apply, but even a simple sole proprietorship will work. It's likely that you have a business even if you don't realize it.
More:You must have a business (but you probably do): In order to sign up for a business credit card, you must have a business. That said, it's common for people to have businesses without realizing it. If you sell items at a yard sale or on eBay, for example, then you have a business. Similar examples include: consulting, writing (e.g. blog authorship, planning your first novel, etc.), handyman services, owning rental property, renting on airbnb, driving for Uber or Lyft, etc. In any of these cases, your business is considered a Sole Proprietorship unless you form a corporation of some sort.
When you apply for a business credit card as a sole proprietor, you can use your own name as your business name, use your own address and phone as the business' address and phone, and your social security number as the business' Tax ID / EIN. Alternatively, you can get a proper Tax ID / EIN from the IRS for free, in about a minute, through this website.
Is it OK to use business cards for personal expenses? Anecdotally, almost everyone I know uses business cards for personal expenses. That said, the terms in most business card applications state that you should use the card only for business use. Also, some consumer credit card protections do not apply to business cards. My advice: don't use the card for personal expenses if you're not comfortable doing so.

Bottom Line

For many, mattress running can make a lot of sense this year.  Many will be very close to meaningful elite status (Platinum or Titanium) without any stays at all.  Booking qualifying stays during the double points & elite nights promotion can make a lot of sense for bridging the gap.  FM’s Marriott Cash or Points Tool can be used to help decide how best to book your mattress run.  That said, we haven’t yet presented tools to help you decide if it is worth the cost and effort.  In a future post I’ll add a tool to help you decide how much elite status is worth to you.  If it is worth much more than the cost of a mattress run, then the mattress run is worth doing.

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