Marriott Still Assigns Categories To Their Hotels: How To Find Out
Even after Marriott moved to dynamic pricing model for points redemptions, they still secretly assign categories to their hotels even though they removed their Category award chart. Knowing how to figure out a hotel’s category allow you to plan your points redemptions easier and see what redemptions are possible for Free Night Certificates since Marriott only allows you to top up to 15k Marriott points on your FNC’s.
Brief Rundown of Marriott’s Legacy Award Chart
In the past, Marriott has categorized their hotels by 8 levels (Category 1-8). Now, there’s the introduction of Category 9 on top of Category 8. Both Category 8 & 9 have their nuances as well, which I’ll cover soon.
How to Find Out a Marriott Hotel’s Category
Figuring out a hotel’s Category level is pretty straightforward. Simply look at any hotel you want on Marriott’s site, but I’ll use Mesm Tokyo as an example, which is an Autograph Collection hotel in Japan. When searching a hotel, you’d want to go to their rooms’ rates listing page like shown below.
Once you’re in the rooms’ rate page like shown above, right click on any blank space of the page and click View Page Source.
After clicking on View Page Source, you’ll see a bunch of code lines. You don’t need to understand any of them, but you should then Find on Page (Ctrl+F):
Above is the result of my findings on the Mesm Tokyo’s Category level, which is set as 7. Result may differ on other hotels, so you can play around with other hotels of your choice. That’s all there is to it. We now know that the Mesm Tokyo is a Category 7 hotel, which has been true even before the legacy Category chart went away.
If you’re searching multiple hotels in one session (not closing Marriott tab/window), then you’d want to refresh every time you’re in a new rooms rate listing page so the Page Source will update.
Marriott’s Secret Category Levels in 2023
Below are my findings on what a hotel can charge depending on their set Category. Each Categories have max allowable amount of Marriott points they charge for standard rooms. Category 8 & 9 have their own “subcategories” which I’ll elaborate down in the post.
|RC Reserve Zadun||131,000||212,000|
|RC Reserve Dorado Beach||173,500||254,000|
As a disclaimer, I might be off on the minimum amount each categories could charge by few thousands of points since they’re trickier to figure out. But, the maximum tend to be easier to figure out since rack rates are shown on the dates around 1 year in advance. Also, just because a hotel can charge the allowable max amount per their set category, that doesn’t mean the hotel will.
PointSaver is not considered on my minimum listing.
Hotels with assigned Category 1-7 are similar to the legacy award pricing, but they do come with inflated numbers. Unlike Cat 8 and 9, they don’t seem to have subcategories, making them the most straightforward bunch.
While viewing a Page Source of a Category 8 hotel, there are two different pricing even though they’ll both show the number 8. I’ll categorize them as 8A and 8B, with 8A being the original Category 8, while 8B being former Cat 7 being bumped into Cat 8.
- Cat 8A: Original Cat 8 hotels. Max charged per night is 130k pts.
- Cat 8B: Legacy Cat 7 hotels that are now bumped to Cat 8. Max charged per night is 106k.
The “B” variant has favorable pricing when it comes to Cat 8.
Cat 9 is the “new” category introduced after the legacy award chart is taken away. I’ll separate Cat 9 into 3 sub-categories:
- Cat 9A: Select new luxury hotels that opened after legacy award chart is gone. Ritz-Carlton Reserve properties also belong in this category except for Zadun and Dorado Beach. Max charge per night is 132k pts.
- Cat 9B: Legacy Cat 8 hotels that are bumped to Cat 9. Max charge per night is 126k pts.
- Cat 9C: Unique to St. Regis and Ritz-Carlton in Maldives. Both properties can potentially charge 150k points max per night for their standard overwater villas.
Just like Cat 8, the “B” variant of Cat 9 has the most favorable pricing when it comes to the max amount they’d charge per night.
Ritz-Carlton Reserve Zadun/Dorado Beach
Ritz-Carlton Reserve Zadun and Dorado Beach are on their leagues of their own with even higher points pricing than the St. Regis and Ritz-Carlton in Maldives. Both properties can potentially charge over 210k points per night! But, I figure that either properties are too niche of redemptions that they won’t bother most Marriott Bonvoy members. Funnily enough, when viewing from the Page Source, they’re both listed as Category 1.
Free Night Certificates Viability
The current dynamic pricing model can make redeeming Free Night Certificates from Marriott Bonvoy credit cards frustrating because they can only be topped up to 15k extra points, which can lead to falling short of just few thousands of points before you can successfully redeem your FNC.
Knowing a hotel’s Category will let you know the potential use and limitations of your FNC’s depending on their value.
- 35k FNC can potentially be used up to a Cat 7 property (if lucky) with topups during slower times.
- It will be out of the question using it on Cat 5 during busy times.
- Cat 4 hotel booking is a guarantee with topups regardless of seasonality.
40k FNC can be earned after selecting it on the second Annual Choice Benefit that’s unlocked after reaching 75 elite nights and renewing Titanium Elite.
- 40k FNC can potentially be used up to a Cat 7 property with topups during slower times.
- It’s still out the question using it on Cat 5 during busy times, just like the 35k FNC.
- Cat 4 hotel booking is a guarantee with topups regardless of seasonality, but with less points topup required than 35k FNC.
50k FNC can be earned after spending $15k on the Marriott Bonvoy Bevy/Bountiful in a single calendar year. Occasionally, they may come from time-limited signup bonuses. 3x or 5x FNC worth 50k is historically a repeated signup bonus for the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless.
- 50k FNC can potentially be used up to a Cat 7 property with topups during slower times. Less points required for topups compared to 35k &40k FNC
- It’s still out the question using it on Cat 5 during busy times.
- Cat 4 hotel booking is a guarantee without topups. However, it’s pretty disappointing that the 50k FNC still could not guarantee a Cat 5 booking, even with topups, regardless of seasonality.
85k FNC can be earned through holding the Amex Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant and/or The Ritz-Carlton Card from Chase.
- 85k FNC can potentially be used up to Cat 9C during slower times.
- Cat 8B may be the easiest category to use it on since its max is 106k points. Topups only allow 85k FNC to be redeemable when a hotel is priced at 100k pts/night.
- Cat 7 hotel booking is a guarantee with topups regardless of seasonality.
Overall, the 50k FNC is possibly the most disappointing FNC of the bunch since it only manages to guarantee a Cat 4 booking without worrying about dynamic pricing, which the 35k & 40k FNC’s can already do (with topups).
This alone could make me hesitate in taking advantage of a signup bonus containing 50k FNC’s since they’re the trickiest to utilize out of all the other options. Not to mention that they’re the hardest FNC’s to get and you’d typically have to signup for the worst cards from the Marriott lineup (Bevy/Bountiful).
85k FNC’s could still be worth getting since the cost of acquisition from the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant is quite decent. But, if it comes from the Ritz-Carlton Card, the value is very good. Even though redeeming them on Cat 8’s and 9’s is not guaranteed, there are plenty Cat 7 hotels that would cost more per night compared to the effective annual fees from either cards.
Marriott Stealth Devaluation
Unfortunately, Marriott has done stealth devaluations twice so far after they’ve removed the legacy award chart. The most recent one was some time around August 2023 where I suddenly noticed higher numbers than expected while trying to redeem my 85k FNC last minute in Tokyo. Before August, the max a Cat 8A would charge was 110.5k pts per night before they ramped up to 130k.
While it sucks that Marriott is quiet about the changes, and they’re to be expected down the line, we can at least easily track changes after knowing a hotel’s Category level and adapt from there.
Even though Marriott has moved into a dynamic pricing model, it’s important to still know that they still set Category levels to their hotels. The predictability can help you plan towards your future redemptions. As always, you can periodically check your bookings to see if the points requirement have come down and modify them to save more points.