This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.
Award travel enthusiasts often focus on redeeming for first-class flights and stays at five-star hotels, but sometimes the best value can be found further down the award chart. Today, TPG Senior Points & Miles Correspondent Nick Ewen shares his favorite redemptions for lower-tier properties in the Marriott Rewards program.
The top awards tend to be the most expensive, but that doesn’t mean they offer the best value. While premium flights and hotels are memorable, many travelers aren’t interested in these “aspirational” redemptions, and focus instead on keeping cash in their pockets. Over the past few weeks I’ve looked at SPG’s best Category 1-4 properties, Hyatt’s top Category 1-3 properties and Hilton’s top Category 1-2 properties. Today I’ll continue this series with a look at Marriott Rewards and its best Category 1-3 properties for award stays.
In compiling this list, I considered a number of factors to determine which lower-tier Marriott properties offer the “best” value:
- Typical revenue rates
- Uniqueness (amenities, location, etc.)
Remember that Marriott Rewards automatically gives you the fifth night free on all award stays, and you should also keep your eyes peeled for PointSavers awards, which can save you up to 33% when available (though I wasn’t able to find any of these discounted awards in June for the properties below). You can also make award reservations even if you don’t have enough points to cover the entire stay, giving you some great flexibility when it comes to redeeming your points.
Additionally, you can extend the value of your award stays even further simply by holding the Marriott Rewards Premier Credit Card, which offers you automatic Silver status (by giving you 15 elite credits each year). This gives you bonus points and other on-property benefits — see my post on the value of Marriott Rewards elite status for more information. Marriott Rewards was also one of the first programs to offer all its members free Wi-Fi when booking through an official channel, which includes award stays.
Note that the values below include room rates plus all taxes and fees that are covered on an award reservation. I chose to focus on the lowest flexible rates (rather than prepaid, nonrefundable rates) for an “apples-to-apples” comparison, as award nights can also be canceled without penalty. If you tend to book rooms with discounted advance purchase rates (or have access to other discounts such as AAA, AARP or government rates), the redemption value for each property may be slightly lower.
Of course, you likely have a different way of defining what makes a redemption valuable, so feel free to include your favorite low-tier Marriott properties in the comments below! These are my picks:
Orlando isn’t just the main gateway to Walt Disney World and a certain world-famous mouse; it also has an up-and-coming downtown with a variety of restaurants, activities and places to stay. One of those is my first pick: the Courtyard Orlando Downtown. Located just north of the main business district, the hotel is also close to attractions like the Bob Carr Theater and Amway Arena. The 200 guest rooms feature outdoor balconies, coffee-making facilities and LCD TVs, and you can stay busy by visiting the outdoor heated pool or grabbing a bite in The Bistro.
This is a Category 3 property, requiring just 15,000 points for a free night. Rates in June start at $180 a night, giving you a value of 1.2 cents per point.
As one of the few low-category JW Marriott properties in the program, the JW Marriott Shanghai Changfeng Park is situated in the fast-growing western part of the city near two large convention centers. The 501 guest rooms start at over 350 square feet and include amenities like mini-fridges and iPod docking stations. You can also choose from six different on-property restaurants or book a treatment at the award-winning Quan Spa. If you plan to stay active during your visit, be sure to check out the 25-meter indoor pool, or try a complimentary fitness class.
This is a Category 2 property, requiring just 10,000 points for a free night. Paid rates in June start at ¥931 ($150) per night, giving you a value of 1.5 cents per point.
Napa Valley may have the cache, but the Livermore Valley area of California boasts a vibrant winery scene as well. This Residence Inn gives you easy access to vineyards like Wente and Concannon, plus all the creature comforts of home. Every room is at least 500 square feet and includes a fully furnished kitchen and dining area, plus a sofabed, making it perfect for families. On the other hand, you may not need to do much cooking in the room, since the hotel provides a complimentary hot breakfast buffet every morning and evening hospitality Monday through Thursday. The property also provides a fitness center, outdoor heated pool and spa, as well as a sport court for guests to use.
This is a Category 3 property, requiring just 15,000 points for a free night. Paid rates in June start at $184 per night, giving you a value of 1.23 cents per point.
Marriott announced its new MOXY brand back in 2013 and plans to open its first US location in 2016. Until then, you can get terrific value for your Marriott Rewards points with a stay at the MOXY location at Milan’s Malpensa Airport (MXP). Situated within walking distance from Terminal 2, the contemporary property includes 162 guest rooms with natural decor and furnishings, plus modern amenities like USB ports and high thread-count linens. The open floor plan of the lobby makes it ideal for grabbing a quick bite or unwinding after a day of seeing the sites of the city (or visiting Expo Milano 2015), both of which are easily accessible from the airport.
This is a Category 1 property, requiring just 7,500 points for a free night. Rates in June start at €90 ($101), giving you a value of 1.35 cents per point.
Another great low-category Marriott property is the Courtyard Guayaquil, situated in the heart of the city and just five minutes from the airport (with complimentary shuttle service provided by the hotel). The 144 rooms feature amenities like complimentary bottled water and mini-fridges, and you can stay active with a fitness center and outdoor pool. The hotel’s on-site restaurant Vitro serves a variety of international fare for breakfast, lunch and dinner (though several other restaurants are located nearby).
This is a Category 1 property, requiring 7,500 points for a free night. Rates in June start at $92 per night, giving you a value of 1.23 cents per point.
The final property on this list is a bit out of the way, but still a great option for your Marriott Rewards points: the TownePlace Suites in Vernal, UT. This all-suites hotel boasts just 85 rooms with separate living areas and fully furnished kitchens. You can redeem points for either king or two queen accommodations, and enjoy amenities such as DirecTV and complimentary daily breakfast. The hotel is ideally situated for exploring Eastern Utah, with Dinosaur National Monument and Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area less than an hour away. You can then relax with a dip in the indoor pool or Jacuzzi after a day of outdoor activities.
This is a Category 1 property, requiring 7,500 points for a free night. Rates in June start at $109 per night, giving you a value of 1.46 cents per point.
Marriott Rewards isn’t generally viewed as the most generous hotel loyalty program out there, and the past few years have seen a few devaluations that haven’t helped (like the creation of a new Category 9 in 2013 and this year’s category changes that resulted in higher-priced awards at over a quarter of the program’s properties). However, there are still some values to be had on both the high end of the category spectrum and the low end, and I hope this post has given you some inspiration for how to make the most of your Marriott Rewards points.
What are your favorite lower-tier Marriott properties for award redemptions? The Points Guy Assessment: The Chase Sapphire Preferred is a great pick for the beginner and the frequent traveler. The CSP has superb travel benefits, double points on certain purchases, and a 50,000 point sign up bonus. The $95 annual fee is waived the first year so this puts it as one of the less expensive cards, while still allowing you to earn one of the most valuable point currencies.
The Points Guy Assessment:
The Chase Sapphire Preferred is a great pick for the beginner and the frequent traveler. The CSP has superb travel benefits, double points on certain purchases, and a 50,000 point sign up bonus. The $95 annual fee is waived the first year so this puts it as one of the less expensive cards, while still allowing you to earn one of the most valuable point currencies.