How to Take Two Vacations From One Card Bonus

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Whenever there is an award given out for best hotel loyalty program it seems like Marriott Rewards often finds its way to the top of the pile.  This was true with the recent US News and World Report rankings, it’s often true with the annual Freddie Awards, and it’s also anecdotally true when I strike up conversations with people about what hotels and hotel program they use most frequently.  One big reason why this is the case is likely footprint.  Marriott is a huge hotel program with literally thousands of hotels around the world.  They are in cities big and small and almost everywhere in-between.

However, their popularity is likely not only because of their large footprint.  They clearly must be doing other things right as well.

When looking at the Marriott Rewards award chart what jumped out at me was that in the Category 1 – 9 award chart, it is Categories 2 and 3 that have the highest number of properties in those groupings.  Currently there are 739 Category 2 hotels and 948 Category 3 Marriott hotels around the world (contrast that with just 205 Category 8 properties and 55 Category 9 properties).  I love that they didn’t just load the award chart with high end properties, but instead the award chart is actually skewed toward the lower end of the spectrum in terms of numbers of available properties.

Focusing on the lower end of the spectrum means that you can stretch your points further since those Category 2 and 3 properties are just 10,000 – 15,000 points per night instead of the Category 8 and 9 properties that are 40,000 – 45,000 points per night. 

In the United States, there are Category 2 and 3 properties in Salt Lake City, Denver, Colorado Springs, Orange County, Cancun, Orlando, Houston, Dallas, Charlotte, and many, many more cities.  While many of these properties will be your functional but not necessarily luxury properties such as Fairfield Inns, Courtyard, SpringHill Suites, TownePlace Suites, etc, you may be surprised by some of the Category 2 and 3 properties out there around the world.

Here are a few examples of Marriott Category 2 and 3 properties that go well beyond your standard Courtyard type rooms – all of which are bookable for 10,000 to 15,000 points per night (or less on longer stays).

Here is the African Pride Irene County Lodge Resort in South Africa.

Exterior View of Hotel

African Pride Irene County Lodge – Category 3

Superior Room

African Pride Irene County Lodge – Category 3








This is the Category 2 Hurghada Marriott Beach Resort in Egypt.

The ViewStandard King Guest Room - Sea View

Here is the Category 3 JW Marriott Beijing Central.

JW Marriott Hotel Beijing Central Rooms

JW Marriott Hotel Beijing Central

JW Marriott Hotel Beijing Central

JW Marriott Hotel Beijing Central








This is the Category 2 Mulu Marriott Resort & Spa in Malaysia.

Premier Double/Double Guest RoomOutdoor Pool Mulu Marriott

This is the Category 3 JW Marriott Hanoi in Vietnam.

luxury accommodation in hanoi vietnam

new luxury hotel in hanoi







Let’s say you wanted to spend 5 nights vacationing at the Mulu Marriott Resort & Spa in Malaysia on points and then later on spend 5 nights at a Category 2 property somewhere in the US such as the Courtyard Salt Lake City Layton.  Since the 5th night is free on award reservations, each reservation would cost you just 40,000 points at 10,000 points per night with the 5th night free.

King Guest Room Sleeping Area

Courtyard Salt Lake City Layton

This means that from one 80,000 point credit card sign-up bonus you can have two different five night reservations at a Category 2 property ranging from a Courtyard property in the US to a nice resort property at some exotic locations around the world.  Alternatively, you could have 5 nights at a Category 3 property with 20,000 points left over!  That isn’t bad for a credit card with an $85 annual fe

Do you have any favorite Marriott Category 2 or 3 properties?

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  1. Summer, did you personally bite on this deal? The sign up bonus is good, but I can’t see using the card beyond that. I am on the fence.

    • Robert, no but honestly I’m not biting on anything right now. With a newborn we got a couple new cards before she was born to pay medical expenses (easy to hit minimum spending) and now are keeping things as simple as possible until things settle back down here.

  2. Marriott is a pure money machine – which unfortunately means they depreciate their rewards programs very fast. Just a few short years ago (less than 5?) when they introduced category 9, I recall there were only a very small handful in that group (like 3 or 5, something small)…. Basically, the premier card gives you one category 5 certificate annually – however, it became so difficult fining category 5 and below hotels that we finally dropped the card. Basically what I am saying is 80k Marriott Reward Points is not really that great of a deal – granted it is better than 50k, but when Marriott devalues hotels like there is no tomorrow…

    I dread when they will announce a category 10 : (

  3. Good lucky trying to use annual award certificate or points in general in Europe. All those locations u listed were in third world locations.. So yea Marriott is good for that. Otherwise go with Hyatt IHG Hilton etc

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