HOFFMAN ESTATES, Ill. - Sears Roebuck & Co. has begun testing a multivendor loyalty program that lets holders of its general-purpose MasterCards choose where they want their reward points to go.

So far 30 U.S. travel and entertainment retailers - including Barnes & Noble, Denny's Restaurants, Borders Books & Music, and Courtyard by Marriott - are participating in the test.

The loyalty program should reflect the preferences of a clientele that is diverse financially as well as culturally, said Bill Masterson, spokesman for Sears' credit card division. "We have a broad customer base. Some may want smaller reward options like points toward books or gas. And others will want the airline miles and hotel points."

Though the program plugs in to the reward schemes of several other vendors, participants get more points for use toward Sears purchases than toward purchases at the other participating retailers, he said. "The points won't compete with Sears. The other programs will be largely travel and entertainment."

Sears mailed program information to a preselected group of cardholders last month. Mr. Masterson stressed that the program is only in the pilot stage. The company has yet to determine its final design, including whether membership fees will be charged.

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