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Marriott Adds New Loyalty-Program Benefits

SmarterTravel

Marriott this week announced four new (and not so new) Marriott Rewards features that make a good program even better:

  • Effective immediately, Marriott Rewards and Ritz-Carlton Rewards members can book an award stay before they’ve accumulated sufficient points to cover the cost of the award. (This has been a feature of the program for some time, so it’s not clear why Marriott is promoting it as a program change.)
  • Beginning on October 12, Rewards members will be able to share up to 50,000 points with other program members.
  • Beginning on November 1, Rewards members will earn elite-qualifying credit for award nights redeemed for points.
  • And beginning in “early 2016,” program members will have the option of combining points with cash to pay for award nights.

Points sharing is hardly a new concept, but in practice it’s typically limited to family members or burdened with onerous fees. Marriott hasn’t yet disclosed full details of its sharing plan, but based on what we know so far, it will allow sharing with anyone, for either no or low cost. Nice.

Counting award nights toward elite status is already a benefit of several other major hotel programs. So Marriott is playing catch-up here.

The option of combining points and cash for hotel stays is also already available elsewhere, including the programs of Hilton, Hyatt, InterContinental, and Starwood. The key, of course, will be the actual rates, which Marriott hasn’t yet revealed.

None of the new Marriott Rewards features is particularly innovative, much less a game-changer. But taken together, they at least keep the program competitive. And for a program that was already among the best, that’s enough. For now.

Reader Reality Check

Which of these new features are most meaningful to you?

This article originally appeared on FrequentFlier.com.

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