10/16/2012 07:08 am ET Updated Dec 16, 2012

Oyster Decodes Hotel Points Programs: Marriott Hotels

Oyster Decodes Hotel Points Programs is a new series where we break down hotel rewards programs and give you the inside scoop on how they can save you money.

Hotel point programs are not always easy to decipher, and sometimes even we (travel experts, after all) feel we need a guide to understand how they work. But it's worth the effort it takes to decode: All are free to join, and more often than not, end up saving travelers a significant amount of cash.

This week, we're biting the bullet and starting with cracking the Marriott rewards program, which is one of the most difficult to navigate as guests can redeem their points at over 3,600 locations worldwide across 12 distinctive brands.

Marriott properties are divided into eight categories -- depending on the hotel brand, location and type -- and five tiers. Members can earn up to 10 points for every dollar spent at Marriott hotels, as well as at Marriott's partner airlines and rental car companies, which include Hertz, Delta and Virgin Atlantic. They can then redeem the points earned on hotels, airlines and other services.

While advantages of joining the program are numerous, the system is not always straightforward, so we've selected some of our favorite hotels in each category and tier where, for a certain number of points (starting at 70,000), you can enjoy a one night stay in a standard room. Start redeeming those points!

--Carolina Pirola,

Oyster Decodes Hotel Points Programs Part 1: Marriott Hotels