Merrill Lynch Credit Card Review – Visa Signature Rewards

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merrilllynchsignaturerewardsMerrill Lynch has got a few credit cards in their offering. But their Visa Signature Rewards has been considered by some as their “elite credit card”. With an annual fee of only $95, it certainly has a lower annual fee than many high end credit cards. But does it have what it takes to compete with the true elites like the Amex Platinum Card? Let’s find out.

Rewards – Like I have always said in my review of high end cards, travel rewards are what really set apart is its’ travel rewards. The Merrill Lynch reward program is a traditional program where you redeem a set number of points for airline tickets. Redemption starts at 25,000 points for a domestic airline coach class ticket.

But aside from the usual airline ticket redemption, this card has got a couple of other interesting perks.

British Airways Companion Ticket – Cardholders can get a transatlantic companion tickets on British Airways with purchase of full-fare tickets in FIRST, Club WorldSM or World Traveler PlusSM. You could also get a British Airways Complimentary Business to First Class upgrade to London. For folks who fly a lot to London on BA, this could potentially be a good deal though you may get cheaper discounted tickets and BA is known for their hefty surcharges on things like fuel tax!

Private Jet – Marquis Upgrade – Card members get additional flight hour on one-way upgrade on Marquis Jet Card purchase.

Hotel Perks – Merrill Lynch has partnered with a couple of hotels and offer the following deal. You can get a three nights for the price of two at participating Relais and Chateaux properties.

Car Rental Discounts – Cardholders get discounts and free car class upgrades at Hertz.

Double Points for Merrill Cruise Purchases – You can also earn double points for purchases made under the Merrill Cruise Program.

Concierge Service – Like all other high end cards, this one comes with a concierge service.

Other Basic Features

* Zero Liability Fraud Protection
* Early Fraud Warning
* Verified by Visa®
* Extended Warranty Protection
* Purchase Security up to $10,000
* Medical Evacuation Coverage
* $1 Million Worldwide Automatic Travel Accident Insurance
* $3,000 Lost Luggage Reimbursement
* Hotel/Motel Burglary Insurance
* Auto Collision Damage Waiver

Level 1, Level 2 and Level 3 Tier Rewards

The rewards I have just described are just some of the main rewards that you will get. Merrill Lynch offers a higher level of rewards depending on your spending limit. Below is a screen shot of the additional rewards that you will get depending on your spending level.

merrillynchcardtierrewards

Verdict and Opinon – I actually have the Merrill Lynch Plus Card, which is considered one notch below this card though there are some features that I would think should have been on the card. Regular readers of this blog will also know that I am a Amex Platinum Card holder.

Overall, I think that the Merrill Lynch Signature Rewards Card has some very interesting features which other cards do not have. Firstly, they have different level of perks for different levels of spending (some might argue that the level of spending is “low” for an elite card). And some of their rewards are quite unique. For example, you get discounts on Delta tickets, Hyatt stays, British Airways tickets, hertz, and even get a Herts Gold Membership. You also get Priority Pass Membership if you are a +3 level.

For those who will use these features, then I would say that this is a card worth considering.

Having said that, I still think that the Merrill Cards fall short of the Amex Platinum Card. I think that is a problem with banks who have a private wealth management unit and try to come up with something to compete with Amex or a Diners Club.

Firstly, the BA companion ticket feature may be of interest to folks who fly to London often. But Amex Platinum has 17 partners (at this time) for their international airline partner program (though they do not give discounts for business class tickets).

For me, the inability to transfer points to miles is a big hindrance for anyone who wants to be considered an “elite” credit card. You also have to use Merrill’s system to redeem points for flights. Even cards like the Citi Chairman Card or the Carte Blanche allow you to book your own travel and redeem it with points later on. Also, they do not offer perks like elite status hotel memberships (gold level for starwood in the case of Amex Platinum and gold level for Hilton HHonors in the case of Citi Chairman Card).

The annual fee is low for a so-called elite credit card. The “usual elite card” features are lacking, though they make it up very nicely with their discounts at places like Hyatt Hotels, on Delta Airlines and British Airways. For those looking for a high end card, I still consider my Amex Platinum to be a benchmark (the Centurion Card is obviously a different story). But as I have a Merrill Lynch Card (the Plus Card with no annual fee), I can see how this card can be a great supplement to my Amex Platinum. For example, if I book a Hyatt Hotel, I would definitely use this card over the Amex Platinum Card. Or if I want a business class Delta ticket, then the Merrill Card will be the one that I use.

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7 Responses to “Merrill Lynch Credit Card Review – Visa Signature Rewards”

  1. Eric Says:

    Yeah I think there are much better cards than Merrill Lynch cards if you’re in the market for an elite card.

  2. Susan Leigh Says:

    Be careful when using your Merrill Lynch signature points. We took a vacation this summer, with airline tickets and hotel rooms that were supposedly paid for by our points Not only did we we receive nada (as in nothing, not one red cent)in the way of payment for our hotels, we received NOTHING towards our business class plane tickets to Europe or through Europe. The trip cost nearly 100,000 and they made us sell some of our stock immediately to reimburse them.

    Beware of Merrill Lynch!

  3. Anita Schafer Says:

    We are in the level two Signature Rewards program. The only rewards that are useful to us are the airline points. Other than that, their offerings are useless because they are designed for people who like to spend a lot of money on frivolous things.

  4. Morrison Says:

    Their travel redemption process is a nightmare. They do it using points being worth “x” amount of dollars and then they go and buy the most expensive tickets they can find in the class when there are cheaper ones on the same flights. This obviously burns up points. We 6 used 400,000 to fly from Cleveland to Eagle Vail Colorado. Tickets we normally buy for under $400.

    God help you if you need to make even a simple flight change. I am a gold level flyer with United. We wanted to delay departure from Eagle Vail to Denver to a flight 3 hours later to get us all on the same flight out. They quoted over $600 per person before the airline even added their change fee.

    The airline wouldn’t touch the reservation and referred me to the award program to get changes. A vicious cycle. The airline said if they had been able to do it they would have charged $50 per person.

  5. Robert Woody Says:

    Since Bank of America took over Merrill Lynch it has become America’s number one nightmare. The yearly charge is now $125. Service is HORRIBLE! Customer service is surly, rude, unhelpful. I dumped the card today. I feel they robbed $125 from my account.

  6. Ballard Smith Says:

    I have had a Merrill Lynch Visa card since 2005. I had over 100,000 unused points. I called to get a replacement card. After the person pulled p my account, she said my account was being suspended and my points forfeited. On three separate occasions, I talked to supervisors who told me I would be sent a check for $1500 for the value of the points. Needless to say, the check never arrived. Read the website. It says you EARN a point for each dollar spent. Merrill Lynch expects me to pay the balance on my card but will not give me what I earned. Next step is Small Claims Court. My guess is that I am not the first person this has happened to. Most people probably give up. Stay tuned

  7. Robin Says:

    I have carried Merrill’s Signature card or it’s equal for 37yrs, I was a very young client, and I must say my service has and is superb I have a great relationship with my broker and his assistants call to alert me of changes to the point program and adjusts the account always with my interest at heart. With the point program they will cash your points out and add to any bag of products available. Our last family vacation home rental was handled and paid through the program with out a hitch. Any negative issue should be brought up to your brokers attention they do not want their portfolio value affected, good luck to all!

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