There seems to be a real disconnect between the marketing people who push the VISA card and rewards program and the people who run the hotels and hate to give up a good room to a reward. In my experience, Marriott is by far the worst and not generous with points. After many, many letters and emails we tried the Marriott VISA card. It promises up to 5 reward nights, but you'd have to stay in the middle of nowhere to get that many. We could only have three, but figured it would be a nice hotel. The hotel was so-so and a fair location at best. Although we made the reservation three months in advance, they stuck right next to the elevator and ice machine. We refused the room and had to settle for two queens instead of the King we reserved.
My advice to anyone would be try another hotel chain's credit card. As for reward stays, beware where they put you and know Marriott is by far the stingiest with points.
I have a Marriott Platinum Premier VISA card and have never gotten 5 free nights. I get one free per year at a Cat 1-5. Are you sure you aren't talking about the 5 points per dollar spent during a Marriott stay (with 2 pts for any restaurant and a pt for everything else)? I find that really does add up quickly, plus for every $3000 you spend you get a qualifying night.
The advertisement for the basic Marriott Visa says "up to 6 free nights". You get 30,000 bonus points after your first use and 2 free nights at a category 1-4 hotel when you are approved. "Now, that's enough for 6 free nights at a category 1 hotel" according to the website.
When I sign in to my account the advertisement for the Premier Marriott Visa comes up. You get 50,000 bonus points after your first use and 1 free night at a category 1-4 hotel when you are approved.
We use our premier card for everything we can and all those points have allowed us to stay in some incredible hotels.