Last year, Marriott abandoned award charts. Previously, if you knew a hotel’s category, you also knew how many points it would require for a free night, at least within a range from off-peak to peak pricing. That was very helpful for planning for future stays and it meant that when cash prices were unusually high, you knew you could get great value from your points since the point prices were capped. Amazingly, all of that is still true if you know where to look. Seal the Deal Travels has discovered how to find each hotel’s secret category and they’ve put together an accompanying award chart. With just a little effort you can discover each hotel’s award price range…
Seal the Deal Travels has discovered that Marriott still assigns a category to each hotel. Further, they’ve found that most categories have strict limits to how many points can be charged for a night. Seal the Deal Travels used this information to create an award chart that shows current Marriott award pricing. The emphasis on “current” is important: Over the summer, Marriott raised the top prices for some categories. It’s likely that changes like that will happen again and always without notice.
The basic approach to finding a hotel’s award price range is as follows:
- Identify the hotel’s secretly assigned category
- Check Seal the Deal Travels‘ award chart (also shown in this post) to see the award price range.
One of the reasons that this technique is useful, is that it can give you a good idea of what can be done with your Marriott Free Night Certificates. You can use the secret award chart to see which category hotels can always be booked, sometimes booked or never booked with your certs (keeping in mind that you can top-off each cert with up to 15,000 points).
How to find a hotel’s category
Within a browser, first find the hotels award pricing for any specific night. Make sure to click through to “View Rates” to see the specific pricing for each room type. Then, right-click on the page and click “view page source“.
Once you are viewing the HTLM page source, simply search (Ctrl-F) for “prop_rewards_category_level”. In this example, the hotel I was looking at is category 6:
Secret Award Chart
The following award price ranges were discovered and documented by Seal the Deal Travels. It is possible that some of the details aren’t 100% accurate since the values were based on what was available at the time that they searched. For example, the low-end award prices may be off because they may not have found a hotel priced at the lowest amount possible for every category that they searched. Additionally, it is very likely that Marriott will change these details in the future. For now, though, here’s what we have:
|• Ritz-Carlton Reserve Zadun||131,000||212,000|
|• Ritz-Carlton Reserve Dorado Beach||173,500||254,000|
|• North Island, Seychelles||?||385,000?|
- Categories 8 and 9 sub-categories: Categories 1-7 are straightforward. Categories 8 and 9, though, seem to encompass several ranges for different groups of hotels. Seal the Deal Travels found these sub-groupings by examining many properties. Unfortunately, the page source doesn't show which sub-grouping a given hotel is in.
- Exceptions: A small selection of properties are priced outside of the bands indicated by their categories. The Ritz-Carlton Reserve Zadun and the Ritz-Carlton Reserve Dorado Beach are listed as category 1 (probably meant to be category 10), but are priced higher than category 9 hotels. Similarly, North Island is priced higher than all other properties, but is listed as category 8.
The secret award chart can be used to evaluate the usefulness of Marriott’s various Free Night Certificates. Common certificate values are 35K, 40K, 50K, and 85K and each can be topped off with up to 15K points.
35K Certs: These can be used on properties costing up to 50,000 points per night. All category 1-4 hotels can be booked with these certs. Additionally, category 5-7 hotels can be booked with these certs when priced at the lower end of the range.
40K Certs: These can be used on properties costing up to 55,000 points per night. All category 1-4 hotels can be booked with these certs. Additionally, category 5-7 hotels can be booked with these certs when priced at the lower end of the range.
50K Certs: These can be used on properties costing up to 65,000 points per night. Like 35K certs, these can be used to book any category 1-4 hotel. Additionally, category 5-7 hotels can be booked with these certs when priced at the mid or lower end of the range.
85K Certs: These can be used on properties costing up to 100,000 points per night. All category 1-7 hotels can be booked with these certs. Additionally, category 8 and 9 hotels can be booked with these certs when priced at the lower end of the range.
None of the Exception hotels can be booked with any free night certificates.
An interesting finding, above, is that 40K and 50K certs do not guarantee access to any hotels that aren’t also bookable with 35K certs plus points. All three types of certs can always be used at category 1-4 hotels, and access to category 5-7 hotels is dependent upon award prices being lower than the top award price. That said, it is very likely that 50K certs will have access to many more nights at category 5-7 hotels since these certs can be used at properties that price up to 65K per night.
85K certs, meanwhile, give you the potential to book any Marriott hotel except the “exceptions” listed in the secrete award chart. Of course, you’ll have to be lucky to find category 8 and 9 hotels priced at or under 100K per night to use your 85K certificates at those properties.
Marriott still maintains an award chart but it’s now hidden from customers. The good news is that, at least for now, award prices aren’t fully dynamic. This means that even when a hotel’s cash rate is astronomically high, the point price (if available) won’t be more than the top price in the award chart. So, it’s still possible to get far outsized value from Marriott points under the right circumstances.
The hidden award chart also gives us a tool to evaluate the usefulness of free night certificates. 40K and 50K certs are only marginally more useful than 35K certs. If the hotels you are interested in are category 4 or lower, you will be able to use your 35K certs at these properties as long as you have enough points to top-off the certs at hotels that cost more than 35K points. And, with any of these 50K or lower value certs, you are at the whim of the variable award pricing to tell you whether you can book a category 5, 6, or 7 hotel. 85K certs, meanwhile, give you access to all hotels up through category 7 and can sometimes be used, with points, to book category 8 and 9 hotels.