I’ve long been a fan of Hyatt hotels (as my reviews will show) and have held Diamond status for the last three years. When my good friend Matthew broke the news that Hyatt was changing their program from Gold Passport to World of Hyatt – it sent me into a bit of a panic.
Previously, top-tier status (Diamond) could be achieved by either 25 stays or 50 nights or an absurd amount of spend with the company. The new program would offer a similar status level (Globalist) but only after 60 nights and for renewing Globalists 55 nights.
This poses a problem for me and lots of other travelers. While there is a suspicion that those who were achieving just 25 stays every year were “gaming the system” there was good reason that the stay requirement was in place. Hyatt simply has a smaller footprint than competing brands.
When comparing to other large hotel chains, Hyatt is easily dwarfed (though they’ve grown from just 240 properties a few years ago to now nearly 700). Starwood, now part of Marriott had a similar footprint size but after the merger is part of more than 4,000 hotels. IHG has nearly 6,000, Hilton nearly 5,000 – even Club Carlson cracked the top 10 largest hotel chains in the world with more than 1,000 properties with another 300 in development. To say that it is hard to find Hyatt hotels in many markets is an understatement.
Why is this an issue?
While many business travelers will find a Hyatt in their destination city, there is lots of business conducted in between those large metro areas. Hyatt is growing their footprint in smaller markets through Hyatt Place and Hyatt House brands but the challenge is high to compete with the sheer volume of competitors already in the space. Holiday Inns and Hamptons seem to line the highway and may be the only property in a smaller market. Courtyard and Fairfield also dot the landscape across America.
But it’s not just the small markets that Hyatt has neglected. Lima, Peru is a city roughly the size of Chicago with zero Hyatt hotels. Singapore, Bangkok and Buenos Aires each have a single property. And it’s not just business destinations, Italy has the Park Hyatt Milan but nothing else in the country and just the Park Hyatt Palma Majorca in all of Spain.
It’s awfully difficult to achieve any amount of Hyatt stays if you operate in those cities due to costs and capacity, or any of the other many markets where the chain doesn’t have a presence. Switching away from stays to nights to achieve status requirements now means two months worth of hotel nights for top-tier status is untenable not just for “hackers”. Non-hacker, regular business people and casual travelers that find themselves in markets with a single property like Bangkok (until the Park Hyatt opens up this year) have to either choose a 25 year-old Grand Hyatt Erawan Bangkok for $180/nt over the modern Le Meridien at $110/nt or the very refined Sofitel Bangkok for about $125/nt. Even though we love the Grand Hyatt Erawn, it’s hard to justify the extra cost. Some corporate travel programs wouldn’t even allow a traveler to choose such a large deviation when other similar hotels are available at rates far lower in the same market.
What is a Mattress Run? And Why Did I Do It?
Much like mileage runs for airlines, mattress runs are unnecessary hotel stays where the cost of the stay is outweighed by the amount of points received in return. In this case it’s really a form of a status run (price of nights/flights outweighed by status benefits gained) and instead of points or miles gained, it is status that holds more value than the cost of the stay.
The Gold Passport program will cease on February 28th, 2017 and World of Hyatt will begin on March 1st. As such, there was a two-month window to start the year where we could mattress run at the old requirements (25 stays or 50 nights) whereby a guest could qualify for top-tier Diamond status for the following year (which would be transitioned to Globalist automatically). This is of course crazy as it would require 25 nights minimum in Hyatt hotels during a 59 night period. However, we still chose to pursue it.
The benefits of Globalist are similar to Diamond but Hyatt removed 1,000 point checkin bonus at full service properties but added some additional benefits. One of the added benefits is that Globalists will pay no parking charges on full points redemption stays (we would rarely use this), nor would they pay resort fees (this was one reason we chose not to stay at a Hyatt earlier this year so there is a material value).
The benefit that has the most chance to make Globalist one of the best top-tier statuses to have is upgrades available at checkin up to an entry level suite. That benefit also has the greatest chance to disappoint. SPG has long had this benefit for their top-tier (Platinum) but it was enforced at the discretion of the hotel. SPG’s benefit allowed their 75 night elites to have the “best available room” which caused issues at checkin where hotels did not want to give those upgrades even though they were still bookable through the website. I fear the same at Hyatt properties but want to see how it works in practice. An upgrade loses its luster if you have to argue for it at checkin.
The biggest reason that I did this mattress run was to ensure I would have top-tier status with the chain through February of 2019 locking in (4) confirmed Suite upgrades, each of which is good for up to (7) nights. It was a simple math equation. My wife and I value Hyatt upgrades at $100/nt. How did we come up with that number? Because all values are relative to the traveler, and we would pay $100/nt any time a suite would be offered for our longer holidays where we typically use the benefit. Some could argue that if you are booking a $150/nt room and you use your upgrade to move to a suite selling for $600/nt then your upgrade is really worth $450. However, we wouldn’t pay the $600/nt rate so the retail price of the upgrade is irrelevant to us, it’s based on a personal metric for how much it is worth to us.
- We would pay up to $100/nt if offered an option to move to a suite.
- Last year we stayed in suites 17 nights ($1700 in value to us)
- The cost of mattress running should not exceed $1700, any amount less is a tangible savings
Luckily for my wife and I, we have a Hyatt in our home city that is a level one redemption for cash and points (2,500 points + $50/nt). If we did the whole run from 0 to 25 nights checking in and out from a level one property every other night we would hit the goal with a little to spare. We also lucked out in that we were able to secure a couple of those stays as we came back from a long trip in Asia that overlapped into January and featured stays at a few different properties.
I also had two work trips that totaled 6 stays (which involved me switching hotels every night on three separate two-night stays). In all, out of 25 stays and 29 nights I needed 17 (plus one two-night stay) to complete the mattress run. I paid $850 and used 46,500 (at a value of $.015/point or $697.50) to offset costs. Of those 46,500 points, many were earned at the properties in connection with the stays (13,000 or $195) without including the earning off of spending.
Net cost to my family = $1,352.50, however, since we already had some points to use, true out-of-pocket cost was just $850.
We certainly became memorable faces at the Hyatt Place near closest to us for better or worse (Mitchell, I’m looking at you). We tried to utilize the stays as much as possible by hosting a swimming/birthday party for our daughter, using an airport Hyatt for early morning flights, and on one occasion I used a hotel stay purely for the wifi and a quiet place to hold a detailed conference call. In previous challenges, other bloggers have discussed having such a good relationship with the front desk that they wouldn’t even need to physically appear to checkin for their night but rather just call in. That was not our experience. I discussed this with the front desk (we were completely transparent about what we were doing and why) and despite their sympathy would not allow a phone in checkin.
Was It Worth It?
Simply yes. It was most certainly a hassle to go out of our way, find a time to checkin to a hotel and leave, but we use the upgrades and they are worth almost twice that amount to us. This mattress/status run will also lock us in to a renewal rate of only 55 nights in 2018 required to maintain the status as opposed to the 60 nights we would have needed otherwise. In 2016 I accrued 48 nights in Hyatts (when including personal and business stays) so it is reasonable to expect that the suite upgrade at checkin where we are not required to burn a full upgrade will benefit us on shorter stays. However, there is no way we could reasonably hit 60 in a year without going out of our way and sacrificing cost savings and some experience loss due to most of Hyatt’s current expansion being in the limited service range.
That being said, we are in no rush to do it again.