Best Marriotts in the US to spend your free nights


Marriott provides many opportunities to earn free category 1-5 nights.  Their credit cards each offer a free cat 1-5 night per year.  They frequently run “Megabonus” promotions in which two stays results in 1 free cat 1-5 night (make sure to register!).  And, the best value Marriott Travel Package results in a certificate for up to 7 nights in a category 1-5 hotel (see: 12 things you need to know about Marriott Travel Packages).

I previously posted the best places to use your 7 night travel package certificates: Top 5 Cat 5 Marriotts in the World (even if you read this before, check it out again since I’ve added a 6th property to the top 5 list).

The international top 5 (now 6) list is great, but what if you need to use up free night certificates closer to home?  Are there any category 5 Marriotts in the United States worth traveling to?  Personally, I don’t find any of them compelling enough to want to stay for 7 nights, but if you have one or more individual free nights from the Marriott credit cards or Megabonus promos, I found quite a few that could make for a nice weekend getaway.

I scoured through Marriott’s list of category 5 properties in the US (found here) to find the gems that were highly rated.  My goal was to find hotels that appear to well located for a weekend getaway.  My secondary goal was to find the properties that represented good value for your points or free night certificates, so I removed hotels that typically charge less than $150 per night.  Next, based on reviews, location, and appearance, I picked the ones I consider to be the best.  Note that I have yet to visit most of these, so this collection is based entirely on internet research…

Sorted by state, here we go…


Renaissance Mobile Riverview Plaza Hotel


Renaissance Montgomery Hotel & Spa at the Convention Center


Courtyard Scottsdale Salt River


Courtyard Hot Springs
This one gets excellent reviews and appears to be in a good location for exploring Hot Springs.


Residence Inn Long Beach Downtown There are slim pickings for desirable category 5 hotels in California. This one looks more appealing than most.


Residence Inn San Diego Oceanside. This one gets good reviews, but despite the name it is not near the ocean


AC Hotel Atlanta Downtown


Residence Inn West Palm Beach Downtown/CityPlace Area
This one doesn’t exactly offer a beach getaway, but if you want easy access to shopping and/or to Palm Beach, it might be right for you.


Residence Inn Idaho Falls


Ambassador Hotel Wichita, Autograph Collection


WATERMARK Baton Rouge, Autograph Collection


Fairfield Inn & Suites Baltimore Downtown/Inner Harbor


The Henry, Autograph Collection
The Dearborn Inn, A Marriott Hotel


AC Hotel Minneapolis Downtown
AC Hotel Bloomington Mall of America
Fairfield Inn & Suites Detroit Lakes

North Carolina

AC Hotel Chapel Hill Downtown This one isn’t open yet, but it looks like it will be a great place to stay when I visit my alma mater!
Residence Inn Raleigh Downtown
This one has all-suites and offers a rooftop bar in downtown Raleigh.  Yes please.


Residence Inn Austin-University Area
AC Hotel Dallas Downtown
JW Marriott Houston This is the only category 5 (or below) JW Marriott in the United States.


Courtyard Williamsburg Busch Gardens Area
Residence Inn Waynesboro
Residence Inn Richmond Downtown
Residence Inn Arlington Pentagon City
This could be a great home base for exploring the Washington DC area.


The Davenport Grand, Autograph Collection
Spokane Washington has three (three!) category 5 autograph collection hotels.  They all get great reviews.  I picked one somewhat randomly. You can find all three here.


AC Hotel Madison Downtown


Residence Inn Green Bay Downtown

Reader Input

If you have any experience with the category 5 hotels listed here or with any I missed, please comment below! Thank you!


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We used ours at the Renaissance in downtown Detroit. We were upgraded to an amazing room with lounge access where we enjoyed breakfast and snacks. It is a good location for nearly every sports venue in town. They also had a better military rate than what was published available for our other nights.

[…] a little more per mile and make use of the 7-night cert at one of the best places in the world or within the US. But it’s not for me. It’s fun to think about, but I’ll probably sit this one […]


The Marriott Cool Springs in Franklin TN is a nicely renovated brand new hotel. You should add this. We are going to stay there for New Year’s.


I used mine recently at the Courtyard Keeneland in Lexington KY. It’s nice for a courtyard and the best of the Cat 5s in Lexington/Louisville.

Also plan to use one soon at the SHS near the Newark Airport for a cruise. Pretty good exchange considering how expensive NYC area hotels are.

I think CY’s treatment of MR Plat is getting better. I’ve been upgraded twice now in Memphis at CY to a suite without asking. Used to be that never happened.


I just used mine at the Marriott St. Louis Grand. It’s a cat 5, full service Marriott right downtown St. Louis. The staff were fantastic, breakfast buffet well stocked, and in a good location to visit the Arch.


Off the top of my head:
-Renaissance Riverview Plaza Hotel  in Mobile, AL => not as lavish as the nearby Battle House (used to be cat5 also), but respectable.
-Renaissance St. Augustine Resort


I’ll second both of these choices. Stayed at both last year. Mobile was more enjoyable than I expected.


The Marriott Warsaw (Poland) downtown is quite delightful, especially if you have status there.


Go Heels! Heading to Chapel Hill this weekend to visit son, staying at the relatively new Hilton Curio. Posted rates $597, but using weekend certificate.


First, putting any Courtyard on that list is wrong. They do not treat Gold or Platinum well.


Madison, WI AC Hotel. 6 months old built from scratch. Fabulous location. Arguably the best hotel in the state.

Buddy M.

Has anyone had any luck in getting their annual free cat 1-5 night exchanged for points instead? Having a hard time using mine right now and it expires in March.


You might have luck asking for an extension but not points.


“Hotels I liked because of the pictures”. Greg, have you visited one these?


Residence Inn at Oceanside, CA is near the beach, close to LegoLand, good shopping and dining. Cannot beat the Southern California beach hotel


Courtyard downtown Memphis. It is fairly nice but the location is really good. It is right on the Main Street Trolley and across from Court Square Park. If you are in Memphis for the night life, it is located in the heart of it. I think it is 4 or 5 blocks to Beale Street. I don’t suggest drinks at The Bistro Bar, though. I about spit my wine out, when paying, as it was $17.50 for a glass of wine – I know a bottle of that wine costs about $11! The patio is really nice, right on Main Street. We used a free night certificate here, the rooms were running about $230 when we stayed.


How can you recommend a hotel that
1) opened like a week ago, and
2) sucks
specifically the AC Hotel Atlanta Buckhead at Phipps Plaza

technically i’m exaggerating since it’s been open around a year, but it shouldn’t have opened when it did. Elevators and escalators not working, staff completely untrained and “Green” (no experience), extremely high volume music everywhere, motion sensors for lights don’t function properly, only 5 or 6 story hotel on one of the noisiest/busy/traffic corners in Buckhead, no breakfast for elites (AC Hotel).

In short, it’s not a very good hotel, unless you love shopping at Phipps Mall (since you just have to walk across the parking lot). Of the 56 Category 4-5 hotels in GA, this is the best? There’s 4 others I’d prefer to stay at in the ATL area. Even the Atlanta Airport Marriott is better.

Steve (If I need a staycation, I typically stay here because it’s convenient, quiet, and near shopping/dining at perimeter mall)

if I wanted to stay in buckhead (I don’t since it’s mostly shopping and business – the era of Buckhead for social life is over), i’d pick this one
It’s more centrally located to restaurants and shopping. the AC hotel is on the Northside which is good for a mall and Target.

If you want nightlife (and better dining than Buckhead, or if you want to goto anything Downtown)

If you want to go downtown, this AC Hotel is great (I spent a night there after my wedding). Has a rooftop bar that overlooks Centennial Olympic park, short walk to everything downtown.

I’d pick all those over AC Buckhead


The two main reasons we dumped our Marriott VISAs years ago was the increasing devaluation of the Marriott reward program (like the increasing number of categories) and the inability to find value in our annual free night certificates (Yes, we live in California).


Renaissance Westchester is a cat 5 and right near White Plains. Might be one of the closest to NYC. Has an exec lounge and free parking. Decent choice if you have business or leisure plans in Westchester or Connecticut. Daughter goes to school there so it works for us every year.


You are right about California, I had been searching in the San Diego area and came up with nothing:(


Two main reasons I gave up on the Marriott VISA years ago was the increasing devaluation of the points (more and more reward categories) and the ability to find a decent hotel to use our annual cat 5 hotel certificates (unfortunately we are in California).


I stayed at the Residence Inn Sorrento Valley (San Diego) over the Spring. They had a pool the kids loved and everything was fairly close by car —


Yes, using the free night that comes with the Marriott VISA will never get you anything like what you can get with the IHG annual free night. I don’t know why Marriott and Chase can’t do better than a free night at a cat 5. It was a good offer when Marriott only had 6 categories but they are closing in on 10 categories now. You won’t get a huge return for your $85 annual fee, but you’ll do a little better than break even..


Would be nice if your could stay at ANY property or at least move it up a tier!


Woah, I’m surprised by what a great location the Residence Inn Arlington Pentagon City is! One could walk to the Pentagon City Metro Station and be at the White House in about 15 minutes. People always ask me where they should stay while visiting Washington DC and I’m going to start referring them to this location. As an aside, just for you guys, the Pentagon City Mall – A Simon Mall, is really close by. 😉


The Renaissance Tulsa, OK is great, and is only a category 4. Concierge lounge, pool, sauna, hot tub, big breakfast buffet when the lounge is closed. Love it there!


I think the Renaissance Concourse Atlanta Airport should get an honorable mention here, at least for the Av Geeks. It’s a Cat 5, old but well maintained hotel. It has an awesome atrium, and the view from a room facing the runways is AWESOME!

I stayed there earlier this year using my cat 5 certificate from my chase card, in lieu of spending $215+ that night. The money savings was great, the view of the airfield was like nothing I had ever seen before.


The Sortis Hotel in Panamá is a worthy choice