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All People > brightlybob > BrightlyBob's Blab > 2017 > June

Marriott, IHG, Hilton & SPG compared:


China, Florida, Europe and SoCal.


In 2015 I booked a month off work to take a redemption Fly-Drive with my four teenagers around Canada and NE USA. As my planning proceeded I realised there were quite startling differences in comparative redemption costs between my 2 favoured programs - Marriott and IHG - and posted a thread ranking those 2 and the other 2 of the big 4 hotel programs. This year I'm again on my travels redeeming Marriott Reward points in China during July and IHG in California during October and decided to compare again. The results of that comparison led me again down the rabbit hole of comparative redemptions and this blog is the outcome of that.


Before you spend the points, they first have to be earned and no comparison between the values offered by each scheme can ignore the earn rate, since only with this data can one truly assess the comparative value of each loyalty program. I'm assuming top tier is completed in 60 paid nights as all the chains have different ways to their top tiers on that number of paid nights. I assume each night costs $150 plus tax (total inc tax of $10,000pa) and that 30 of those are single night stays, 10 are 2-nighters and 2 are 5-night stays. I take into account HH Diamond & IHG Spire at 20 points per $, MR Plat at 15 and SPG Plat75 at 4 and add in the arrival amenity at 1000 per single night arrival at HH but choosing breakfast on all other stays and do the same with SPG. At Marriott I get 500 points and the free brekky, and IHG doesn't provide a free breakfast benefit at all, so it's just the points there. At SPG on the longer stays I'm allowing for the green choice.


30x1-nighters - Total 30 nights
HH 120k------IHG 105k------MR 83k------SPG 33k
10x2-nighters - Total 20 nights
HH 60k------IHG 65k-------MR 50k------SPG 17k
2x5-nighters - Total 10 nights
HH 30k------IHG 31k-------MR 24k------SPG 10k


HH 210k------IHG 201k------MR 157k------SPG 60k


Here I assume Hilton bonuses offer double points most of the year with some stay based and triple bonuses. At IHG I'm assuming the accelerate bonuses make 60k twice each year, with miscellaneous bonuses making another 20k. Marriott megabonuses make 25k twice each year and the summer promo makes 15k. Finally I've assumed SPG continued its double promo with some tripling, so:


HH 120k------IHG 140k------MR 65k------SPG 20k


Total PROGRAM points on a years hotel spend of $10,000

HH 330k, that's 33 points per hotel $ spent
IHG 341k, that's 34 points per hotel $ spent
MR 222k, that's 22 points per hotel $ spent
SPG  80k, that's  8 points per hotel $ spent






Now if you're going to be directing stays purposely to one hotel chain it makes sense to add the affiliated credit card to ramp up the earnings, so I'm going to add in credit card points for spending. Here I'm assuming $20,000 pa being spent on the cards, $10,000 on the hotels, $7,000 on restaurants, flights, gas and supermarkets and $3,000 on the other purchases. The Hilton Surpass gives 12 points per $ at Hilton, 6 on restaurants, gas and supermarkets and 3 on the rest. The IHG Select card pays 5 points per $ hotel spends, 2 points at restaurants, gas and supermarkets and 1 point on the rest, plus an annual free "any IHG hotel" certificate. Whilst it can be redeemed for up to 60,000 points, and I've redeemed my last 2 at that value, I nonetheless hold their value at half the face value due to expiry, so for this purpose, 30k points. Lastly it provides a 10% point rebate on redemptions. For this purpose I'm adding 10% to the points at final USA totalising which is an extra 44k. For Marriott the Chase card is a debatable choice. It does however offer 15 EQNs so I favour it here. The card pays 5 points per $ at Marriott's, 2 per $ on fuel, flights and restaurants with 1 on everything else. It also adds in an annual Cat1-5 cert which I value at half its possible 25k, namely 12k points. For SPG elites the SPG AMEX is the best option earning 2 points per $ on hotels and 1 on the rest and is overall a slightly higher earner for Marriott elites too, if you're not needing those 15EQNs.


US Credit card earnings on $20,000 spend:

HH 170k------IHG 140k------MR 79k------SPG 30k


So the GRAND total is
HH  500k, that's 50 points per hotel $ spent
IHG 481k, that's 48 points per hotel $ spent
MR  301k, that's 30 points per hotel $ spent

SPG 110k, that's 11  points per hotel $ spent




Now in the UK, the Hilton Barclaycard pays 3 points per £ on hotel spend and 2 points on everything else, the IHG Premium card pays 4 points per £ hotel spend and 2 on everything else and on £10,000 spend provides a free "any IHG hotel" certificate. Whilst it can be redeemed for up to 60,000 points, and I've redeemed the last 2 at that value, I nonetheless hold their value at half the face value due to expiry, so for this purpose, 30k points. Lastly, the SPG AMEX is the only option in the UK for both Marriott and SPG loyalists and pays very well with the 1:3 conversion SPG:MR and making 2SPG (6MR) per £ at hotels and 1 (3MR) on everything else.


Spending the same $20,000 (£15,000) garners:


UK Credit card earnings

HH: 40k------IHG 78k------MR 67k------SPG 22k


So in the UK the (not so) GRAND total is
HH   370k, that's 37 points per hotel $ spent
IHG  419k, that's 42 points per hotel $ spent
MR   289k, that's 29 points per hotel $ spent
SPG 102k, that's 10 points per hotel $ spent


Since I last calculated this relating to my Canada/NE USA trip in 2015 Hilton has done away with categories making its redemptions more dynamic and SPG categories have remained pretty static whilst both IHG and Marriott have continued their annual category creep, with IHG even adding two new categories at 55k and 60k points. All four of these stays represent this vacations taken, or planned, this year.


Last time Marriott and IHG tussled for best value earn and burn with Hilton and SPG way behind. How will the dominos fall this time?


This summary lists each hotel and the hotel spend needed in USD to earn the points necessary to buy the stay expressed as (P$xxxx : UK$xxxx : US$xxxx) where:

P.   - Points earning only, no credit card in USD
UK - Points and the affiliated UK card in USD
US - Points and the affiliated US card in USD


-----CHINA in July-----


Shanghai - 5 nights in the centre
Hilton: Hilton Shanghai -------------160,000 HH   (P$4900 : UK$4300 : US$3200)
IHG: Indigo Bund -------------------200,000 IHG  (P$5900 : UK$4800 : US$4200)
Marriott: Marriott Shanghai Centre  60,000 MR  (P$2700 : UK$2100 : US$2000)
SPG: Westin Bund ------------------ 40,000 SPG (P$5000 : UK$4000 : US$3600)


Beijing - 5 nights near Forbidden City
Hilton: Hilton Wangfujing ------------180,000 HH (P$5500 : UK$4900 : US$3600)
IHG: Crowne Plaza Wangfujing -----125,000 IHG (P$3700 : UK$3000 : US$2600)
Marriott: Renaissance Wangfujing -- 80,000 MR  (P$3600 : UK$2800 : US$2700)
SPG: Westin Beijing ------------------40,000 SPG (P$5000 : UK$4000 : US$3600)


Vacation requires spend of:
Pts:- Marriott $6,300; IHG    $9,600; SPG $10,000; Hilton $10,400
UK:- Marriott $4,900; IHG     $7,800; SPG   $8,000; Hilton  $9,200
US:- Marriott $4,700; Hilton $6,800; IHG    $6,800; SPG     $7,200


The total cost of the vacation if paid in cash would be roughly $2,000 at all the chains.
This is a very easy win for Marriott because both the very central full service hotels chosen are low categories. At only 140,000 Marriott points for both stays it's making 1.5UScents per point. Hilton finds itself beaten into last place here, saved only for US customers by its excellent Surpass card


-----FLORIDA in August----


2 nights Orlando offsite near Universal
Hilton: Doubletree ---------------40,000 HH  (P$1200 : UK$1100 : US$800)
IHG: Holiday Inn ---------------- 50,000 IHG (P$1500 : UK$1200 : US$1000)
Marriott: Fairfield Inn ------------50,000 MR (P$2300 : UK$1700 : US$1700)
SPG: Four-Points -----------------8,000 SPG (P$1000 : UK$800 : US$700)


5 nights offsite near Disney
Hilton: Hilton Garden Inn ------80,000 HH ($P$2400 : UK$2200 : US$1600)
IHG: Holiday Inn Express -----150,000 IHG (P$4400 : UK$3600 : US$3100)
Marriott: Courtyard ---------- 100,000 MR (P$4500 : UK$3400 : US$3300)
SPG: Sheraton -----------------16,000 SPG (P$2000 : UK$1600 : US$1500)


Vacation requires spend of:
Pts:- SPG $3,000; Hilton $3,600; IHG $5,900; Marriott $6,800
UK:- SPG $2,400; Hilton $3,300; IHG $4,800; Marriott $5,100
US:- SPG $2,200; Hilton $2,400; IHG  $4,100; Marriott $5,000


The total cost of the vacation if paid in cash would be roughly $1,000 at all the chains.
This is a cheap stay in a high demand tourist area. SPG performs surprisingly well here, as does Hilton, leaving IHG and Marriott scrapping out for last place. Here those 150,000 MR points redeemed at only 0.66UScents per point, well less than half of the values in China.


-----EUROPE in September-----


5 nights London in a 5* Hotel
Hilton: Waldorf Astoria ------------320,000 HH  (P$9700 :  UK$8600 :  US$6400)
IHG: Intercontinental Park Lane --300,000 IHG (P$8800 : UK$7100  :  US$6300)
Marriott: JW Grosvenor House ---180,000 MR   (P$8200 :  UK$6200 :  US$6000)
SPG: Sheraton Grand -------------100,000 SPG (P$12500 :UK$10000 : US$9000)


3 nights Paris, Opera
Hilton: Astor Opera ----------------210,000 HH (P$6400 : UK$5700 : US$4200)
IHG: Indigo Opera -----------------135,000 IHG (P$4000 : UK$3200 : US$2800)
Marriott: Marriott Opera -----------120,000 MR  (P$5400 : UK$4100 : US$4000)
SPG: W Opera -----------------------60,000 SPG (P$7500 : UK$6000 : US$5400)


Vacation requires spend of:
Pts:- IHG $12,800; Marriott $13,600; Hilton $16,100; SPG $20,000
UK:- IHG $10,300; Marriott $10,300; Hilton $14,300; SPG $16,000
US:- IHG   $9,100; Marriott $10,000; Hilton $10,600; SPG $14,400


The total cost of the vacation if paid in cash would be roughly $4,000 at all the chains.
Bucket-list destinations at near-top redemption cost. All the chains require big point totals to do this pair. It turns out a straight fight between IHG and Marriott for first place with Hilton and SPG duking it out for the wooden spoon. Marriott's value per point climbs back up to 1.2UScents here.


-----SoCAL in October-----


3 nights in LA
Hilton: Beverly Hilton ----------------180,000 HH (P$5400 : UK$4900 : US$3600)
IHG: Intercontinental Century City --180,000 IHG (P$5300 : UK$4300 : US$3800)
Marriott: Beverley Hills Marriott ---- 120,000 MR  (P$5400 : UK$4100 : US$4000)
SPG: W West Beverley ----------------60,000 SPG (P$7500 : UK$6000 : US$5400)


4 nights in Anaheim
Hilton: Doubletree ---------------------140,000 HH (P$4200 : UK$3800 : US$2800)
IHG: Indigo -----------------------------120,000 IHG (P$3500 : UK$2900 : US$2500)
Marriott: Marriott (also FFI & SHS) --- 140,000 MR (P$6400 : UK$4800 : US$4700)
SPG: Sheraton -------------------------- 40,000 SPG(P$5000 : UK$4000 : US$3600)


Vacation requires spend of:
Pts:- IHG $8,800; Hilton $9,600; Marriott $11,800; SPG $12,500
UK:- IHG $7,200; Hilton  $8,700; Marriott  $8,900; SPG $10,000
US:- IHG $6,300; Hilton $6,400; Marriott  $8,700;  SPG  $9,000


The value of all these is roughly the same for each hotel group at $1,500


Another popular redemption spot, where IHG again scores well and Marriott finds itself scrapping with its SPG stable-mate to avoid last place. Here the Marriott point redeems at only 0.6UScents, it's worst performance of the 4 vacations.




Together these 4 vacations are worth roughly $8,500 & require hotel spending of:


Non Credit-Card holders
1st IHG---------$37,100 hotel spends needed
2nd Marriott----$38,500 hotel spends needed
3rd Hilton------$39,700 hotel spends needed
4th SPG--------$45,500 hotel spends needed


UK Credit Card holders
1st Marriott------$29,200 hotel spends needed
2nd IHG---------$30,100 hotel spends needed
3rd Hilton-------$35,500 hotel spends needed
4th SPG---------$36,200 hotel spends needed


US Credit Card holders
1st Hilton--------$26,200 hotel spends needed
2nd IHG---------$26,300 hotel spends needed
3rd Marriott-----$28,400 hotel spends needed
4th SPG---------$32,800 hotel spends needed


Total value of the breaks amounts to roughly $8,500 the value of a point is:
Hilton: ----------cost 1,310,000 points = 0.6 UScents per point
IHG: ------------cost 1,260,000 points = 0.6 UScents per point
Marriott: --------cost   850,000 points = 1.0 UScents per point
SPG:  -----------cost   364,000 points = 2.3 UScents per point


This probably best represents those that carry airline affiliated cards and have neither the room in their lives, or their wallets, for another. And of course MOST OF THE WORLD where affiliation cards are a rarity. This category is very tightly fought out by IHG, Marriott and Hilton but won out by IHG with Marriott following closely behind and Hilton in hot pursuit. The IHG points represent a 23% rebate against stays, Marriott is 22% and Hilton is 21%. No stewards decision needed for last place where SPG trails in far behind the other three with its points representing a 19% rebate.


Here, Marriott leapfrogs over IHG to first place because using the SPG card with its 1:3 conversion ratio means 6MR points per £ at hotels, as against IHGs card awarding 4 of IHGs less valuable points at its hotels. This continues on all other spending too with 3MR points on other spending as opposed to IHGs 2, and although the IHG card does provide a free annual certificate it just can't catch up the value, in no small part because each IHG point is worth a third less than a Marriott point. It does however remain close between Marriott and IHG with Marriott just clinching that first place representing a 29% rebate against IHGs 28%. Although Hilton is third, it's insipid UK credit card offering means it's avoids last place only marginally at 24% with SPG, ably assisted by its excellent AMEX, chasing Hilton to the wire at 23%.


Here, it's definitely a battle of the 2 credit cards, IHG Select and Hilton Surpass. In fact Hiltons Surpass Credit card is the better of the two and does the heavy lifting taking Hiltons otherwise tepid scheme into its photo-finish victory with IHG, but IHGs head start from its better value scheme and the IHG cards ingenious 10% points rebate helped it run Surpass to the wire. Both schemes supported by their cards offer an excellent overall 32% return. Hilton Honors is however not so much a top-value scheme as a torpid program beefed up by a top-value card that raises Hiltons otherwise mediocre return to this win. Marriott members are beaten down here by the relatively insipid Chase offering, which needs a review. No doubt that will be considered when the new combined Marriott/SPG program is launched. Until that happens USA Marriott elites will have to satisfy themselves with a 30% return. SPG keeps up its losing streak at only a 26% return, picking up the wooden spoon, yet again. And it would have been worse but for the relatively simple, yet quite generous SPG AMEX.


Here your best credit card is Surpass adding 50% to Hilton points, followed by the SPG AMEX that eschews complex rules just to give a good 40% increase with SPGs valuable points. The IHG Select Visa manages the same 40% uplift as SPG but via certificates and redemption rebates that may not be as convenient as points simply dropped into your account each month. The Chase Marriott card is the laggard here hauling only 35% and showing signs of neglect.




Simply straight points only program-for-program comparison, there's not much between IHG, Marriott and Hilton. Although IHG wins this it's not convincing and the lack of benefits during stays means it all feels a bit utilitarian, unless you're staying at the Intercontinental, Indigo or a recently refurbed Crowne Plaza, AND pay your own freight to enter the lounge or take breakfast. Overall, penny for penny, with the free breakfast and lounge access provided by Marriott and Hilton they represent a better value choice bearing in mind the micro-difference in redemption percentages between these 3.


For UK and USA residents, the big take-away from this is to get the affiliated credit card if you are going to systematically collect hotel points since they provide a real boost to earnings.


In the US, the Hilton Surpass is undoubtably the best, providing 12HH points per $ at Hiltons, that's more than Hiltons base points! Amazing! The IHG Select cards innovative 10% redemption rebate can really add value, but only as long as you're redeeming. If you're saving over several years for a special redemption then the card becomes less interesting, though of course it beats all comers if you're making that once-in-a-Lifetime million-points redemption trip! And there's some very upmarket Intercontinental's to enjoy out there, backed up by some great refurbed Crowne Plazas and those new Indigos! Marriott's Chase card is looking distinctly flabby in the US market, indeed with the SPG AMEX paying double points at Marriott (2SPG=6MR) and 1SPG (3MR) on all other purchases Marriott members should be better off with that, assuming they don't need the EQNs provided by Chases offering. Even so, using SPGs card wouldn't have changed Marriott's 3rd placing here. SPGs AMEX doesn't bother with lots of bells and fancy whistles preferring a simple earn route in SPGs more valuable points. Longer term, Marriott needs to pay some attention to its affiliated card and a recent announcement indicating it's being considered clearly shows Marriott is alive to the issue.


In the UK Marriott elites will do well with the SPG AMEX. The IHG Premium MasterCard is a good choice for IHG regulars. Hiltons card is a fairly anaemic offering, somewhat like its full service hotels in the UK, but the recent crop of newer hotels are slick, albeit, limited service, outfits. It's difficult to see the point of Hilton in the UK though, Marriott full service hotels are far better maintained and more numerous, IHG covers the same ground offered by Hiltons limited service brands but has several times the number, they're everywhere! Hilton is squeezed out between these two, if you want full service, Marriott has more of them and in better condition, if you want limited service, IHG has hundreds more of them AND both these companies have better value loyalty schemes. Finally there's SPG. It's an odd UK player, with only a couple of hotels outside London and consequently I'd imagine very few UK elites, yet it's managed to snag a good, simple card with the AMEX. British SPGers should certainly be enjoying the enormous extra choice of presented by Marriott outside London to earn their points and I'm sure American Express has experienced a sizeable uptick in the SPG card from Marriotts British pointsluts, keen to ramp up their point totals.




Hilton Honors is a pretty unimpressive performer here with nothing that particularly stands out, but with the Surpass card it becomes a full throated US contender winning out against IHG in a photo-finish. Even so, it wins through on none of the vacations at all - indeed without the benefit of the Surpass card, Hilton finds it difficult to compete and in the UK it's insipid card leaves it well behind IHG and Marriott (supported by the SPG AMEX). In fact in the UK it came perilously close to taking the wooden spoon from SPG. A lot of work is needed here, especially with its UK Hilton full service inventory in a pretty dilapidated condition, its best UK hotels are now the newer Doubletree, Garden Inn and Hampton properties, all of which offer more restricted membership benefits. In the UK it's very difficult to make a case for Hilton. Add to that it's dynamic redemption pricing which means there's no longer any categories so it's vulnerable to unannounced and almost undetectable devaluations. The program is now in Hiltons trust, and I'm not sure it's trustworthy enough to be left with its hands on the levers of such an opaque scheme. If Hilton decides it's time to gut the scheme it can do so easily and no amount of points from the Surpass card could stop the slide. At the turn of the millennium Hilton was a leading scheme with hotels you really wanted to stay at but neglect of the full service UK properties and a slash and burn approach to its loyalty program has left it threadbare.


IHG Rewards Club wins the "points only" category, battles Hilton gamely in the US and runs a close second to Marriott in the UK, but being a largely benefits free zone it really should have romped all 3 races. IHG is a points-for-free-stays program goddamnit! I would have expected this to be right in its home game, after all, it offers little else for elites but oodles of points for free stays, yet although it wins on "points alone" its pipped at the post by Hilton in the US and Marriott in the UK. To some extent IHG was struggling with my predisposition for 5-night redemptions thus hitting Marriott's 5-for-4 sweet spot. What would allow IHG to compete more effectively would be a change in my redemption behaviour as the stay lengths here have worked against it with half the stays being 5-nights which is what I almost always reserve if I am considering redeeming 4 nights. This is because Marriott (and Hilton and SPG) operate a fifth night free on redemptions. This stay length causes problems for IHG as unlike the other 3 chains it doesn't offer that fifth free night. If all the 5-nighters were instead 4-nighters IHG would see its total spend requirement reduced by approx $4,000 enabling it to clean-sweep the world as number 1.


Marriott has lost its crown in the US and on "points only", reflecting its aggressive category creep and maybe also the fact that half of these 4 vacations play directly against its category placement policy where it fixes hotel categories on the basis of redemption demand, not brand. Hence there's eight of Marriott's luxury JW properties languishing in Category 2 at only 10,000 points per night and nine of the budget Fairfield Inns scaling the heights at Category 8 costing a breathtaking 40,000 points a pop. Now, leisure destinations in the USA - where the vast majority of Marriott points are both earned and redeemed -  suffer considerable redemption pressure with Florida and SoCal at the very eye of the leisure redemption storm. Marriott's policy means they react to that pressure bumping up the categories again, and again to try and ease the pressure in the pot. But this doesn't work so well in these hotspots as many members simply think "I've built up all these points - I AM HAVING A FREE STAY THERE,  however many points it costs!" However, Marriotts approach does mean it places even full service 5-star hotels into low categories where redemption demand is comparatively weak, such as China, where you'll find 3 of the Cat2 JWs and where both my Super-Central choices were 5-star full service, yet low category (Shanghai Cat3 & Bejing Cat4). The outcome of this policy is that Marriott offers poor value in both Florida and SoCal as they are classic USA redemption hotspots  but the scheme can offer amazing value where redemption pressure is lower, Shanghai, Beijing, Moscow, many ACs in Spain, those CYs, RIs and FFIs that are scattered around the American  'burbs. If I'd stuck to just these places Marriott would have romped home in all categories. Nonetheless, even though 2 of the 4 vacations played against Marriott it still won overall for those living in the UK with the able assistance of its high-value (for UK) SPG AMEX card and 1:3 transfer rate. Had the UK been stuck only with the lethargic UK MasterCard then IHG would have romped home here as well.


Starwood Preferred Guest doesn't seem to have improved its earn-and-burn much from my last outing, mostly bringing up the rear, but does manage a strange win in the offsite-Disney race. This is probably due to the fact it runs the on-site Swan and Dolphin hotels which means the nearby-but-offsite hotels have to be priced especially keenly to see redemption activity. It's certainly the stand out there. Elsewhere SPG struggles to come even close at last place and finishes some distance behind the rest. The programs bright spot is undoubtably the in-stay benefits. You may need to save longer for that vacation, but at least when you get to the hotel you'll be well treated by SPG. Many think that's worth the poorer earn to burn ratio.




The clearest takeaway here is if you're invested into a loyalty scheme, get the card. For most of the world that's not possible as indeed it isn't for many US residents who've decided to use credit cards to ramp up airline miles and don't have spend left to divert to a non-airline card. But for those of us that can get the hotel affiliated cards, and do use them, they do really juice-up the totals.


Another clear takeaway here with both Marriott and IHG can be found in their top categories which requiring a spend of $1,800 per night at IHG and $2,000 ($1,600 on 5-night stays) at Marriott compare very cheaply with Hiltons top category that requires $3,000 of spending and SPGs that requires an eye-watering $3,500! The effect of this is easily seen in London and Paris where all the chains post high redemption categories, but Marriott and IHGs comparatively low caps easily win out. What is also noticeable here is that the Waldorf at 80,000 points requiring $2,400 spending to get there is 15%  below the top of the Hilton table but SPGs London Sheraton Grand is 25,000 points requiring $2,500 spending yet is 30% lower than its top category! SPG points transfer to Marriott at 1:3 and this earn rate is pretty well reflected in my earning breakdown, yet SPGs earn and burn rate is dreadful. Thus, it's not the earn bit - it's the burn bit - Yep, those SPGers are feeling the burn! The London JW is a Cat9, the Marriott maximum, at 45,000 points. Similarly IHGs Intercontinental Park Lane is the maximum at 60,000 points. As IHG points are worth about 30% less than Marriotts points it's Intercontinental on Park Lane is, in Marriott money, about 40,000 points. SPGs Sheraton Grand is 25,000 SPG points which is equivalent to 75,000 Marriott points. And thats not SPGs top category either!


So, although Marriott's crown has slipped, it managed to keep the UK title and was a tight second on "points only" against the benefit-free IHG. For US elites Marriott made a close run against Hiltons all-conquering Surpass, but even so, 3rd is nothing to be proud of. For Marriotteers the best redemption value remains those destinations that take advantage of the route less travelled, as unlike the other chains that just won't place their full service brands in their lower redemption categories, Marriott does.
Time to explore India or China, mayhaps? The Shanghai City Centre Marriott is only a Cat3 despite costing $150/nt, as is the Beijing Central JW. In reality Florida and SoCal are both crowded Hotel markets running cheap rates as all the chains compete. Those are the places to pay money for your room and earn your Marriott points. The top location gateway cities where redemption pricing is artificially capped by the top category such as NYC, London and Paris or the low category roads less travelled are where the best Marriott redemption values lie so if you stick there then Marriott's value is unbeatable.