Though Marriott Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) are still not slated for full integration until 2018, the two hotel giants took another small step towards opening up reciprocal benefits yesterday, when they allowed for loyalty program members using a co-branded credit card from one operator to earn bonus points when booking a hotel room on the other.

Ritz-Carlton Rewards, a separate program operated by Marriott, will also take part in the joint benefits scheme.

The move allows members from each respective program to receive a fuller spectrum of benefits when staying in the other brand’s hotels. Late in September, Marriott and Starwood allowed members to combine loyalty program balances almost immediately after receiving permission to merge. While this functionality helped some members hoard miles in one account or another, it’s still not possible to earn elite status nights on one operator while staying with the other. A Marriott Rewards member staying at the W Lakeshore in Chicago, for example, might earn 300 SPG points for staying in the hotel — which could easily be transferred to Marriott — however the night accrued towards earning elite status would still need to stay in the Starwood hopper.

Both Marriott and Starwood operate co-branded credit cards that are wildly popular among the business travel community for the perks that they provide. Among other benefits, they heap on lavish bonuses for booking a branded hotel with the card (Starwood, for example, gives consumers five points for every dollar spent at a Starwood property) while ancillary perks such as supplemental insurance and transfer partners help incentivize use outside of the travel space.

With this functionality in place, it should now be easier for members of each respective program to justify booking rooms on the other carrier — even if status nights can’t be earned. And though members of each respective loyalty program will still continue avoid booking nights on the other operator until the merger is complete, in situations where there are no other options the value proposition of at least staying within the Starwood-Marriott network may now be a bit more clear.

Photo Credit: Marriott Rewards, Starwood Preferred Guest, and even the Ritz-Carlton loyalty program will participate in a system for new bonuses among credit card holders. Marriott International