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Much of the time when I write about hotel points I am writing about Hyatt, Starwood, and to a lesser extent IHG. For various reasons Hilton and Marriott don’t get as much coverage as the others, despite them actually having a much larger footprint around the world than a program like Hyatt. I think to some degree the skewed coverage is justified for a variety of reasons, but in other ways it probably isn’t really justified and is just more a matter of habit than anything else.
However, since there is a bonus point sign-up bonus available via co-branded credit card, I think it makes sense to delve a bit deeper into what is possible via the Marriott Rewards program.
For the heck of it, I’m going to start at the lower end of the spectrum and talk about how to get up to 12 Marriott award nights from this one sign-up bonus. Yes, that is one dozen award hotel nights from getting just one credit card sign-up bonus. Sound amazing? It kind of is.
Over 185 Category 1 Marriott Hotels Just in the United States:
Many hotel chains are a little weak when it comes to hotel options in the lowest tier category, however Marriott has over 185 hotels in that category just in the United States, and over well over 200 Category 1 properties when you look worldwide. Category 1 Marriott properties are routinely just 7,500 points per night, though when you redeem for five nights the 5th night is free, so they can effectively be just 6,000 points per night on a five night reservati
80,000 Points Can Equal $2,000 in Award Nights:
To see how far 80,000 points can take you I randomly looked for five nights later this month at the first Category 1 hotel that popped out at me – the TownePlace Suites Houston Clear Lake. This location is likely not at the top of many tourist’s wish list, but it is pretty close to NASA, Galveston, Kemah Boardwalk, has free breakfast, suites, and a pool. So, it looks like the type of property that would be preferable to crashing on a relative’s couch for a week, and could be a good home base for many attractions in and around South Houston or Galveston if you desired.
The hotel had award availability on the 7/24 – 7/29 dates I picked, and as expected the five nights rang up to just 30,000 points since the 5th night was free.
Cash rates for the very same room for the very same nights rang in at $865. That averages out to $173/night after taxes, which means that 12 nights at that average rate would over $2,000 in hotel award nights from one 80,000 point sign-up bonus. This hotel and those dates were picked arbitrarily, so other hotels/nights I’m sure would give you different values, some lower, some higher.
While your results may vary, I bet this is a relatively common average nightly rate at many Category 1 hotels. That means there are probably lots of Category 1 properties you could stay at with 80,000 points and end up with the equivalent of what would have been around $2,000 in hotel room expenses if you paid the going rate.
Where Can You Stay for 7,500 Marriott Points?
Now, if you hadn’t already figured this out, know that the Category 1 Marriott properties aren’t going to be the fancy resorts on the beach in Maui. If that is what you are after, you can totally do that with Marriott points, but not at the Category 1 level. It’s going to cost you more points.
The Category 1 properties are going to be your Fairfield Inn, Courtyard, Residence Inn, and TownePlace Suites type properties that are typically located a bit off the beaten path. However, if you don’t need to stay in the very center of the action, you can still find Category 1 properties in cities like Tuscon, Little Rock, Tampa, Atlanta, Fort Wayne, Baton Rouge, Albuquerque, Memphis, Dallas, Houston, and many more. Some of them actually look pretty nice with good ratings!
Outside the US, there are Category 1 properties in Shanghai, Cabo San Lucas, Spain, India, and more.
Luckily for families, these types of Marriott properties can actually be ideal with some extra space and sometimes complimentary breakfasts. If you are road tripping across the US, visiting relatives, or otherwise find yourself in a location with a Category 1 property you can get huge value from your 80,000 Marriott Rewards® Premier Credit Card sign-up bonus points!
I know that Category 1 properties won’t be how everyone wants to spend their points, but it is a fun thing to consider, and stay tuned for more options using Marriott Reward points.
Have you used points at any Category 1 Marriott properties?
Editorial Note: The opinions expressed here are mine and not provided, reviewed, by any bank, card issuer, or other company unless otherwise stated.