Old Apr 22, 04, 11:03 am
Join Date: Jan 2004
Location: Louisville, KY, USA
Programs: DL Platinum, Hilton Diamond, Hyatt Platinum, Starwood Gold
Posts: 2,559
Not so fast!!!

Originally Posted by Centurion
Amex your being attacked...What are you going to do? I think Merril Lynch has a little more clout than Stratus Rewards...Free Ritz hotel stays without using points
Cruise upgrades,Air travel using points...This sounds like a neat product and I am thinking of switching to this product.
Wall Street Journal said:

In an attempt to dislodge those cards, Merrill is offering its card with no annual fee, unlike most similar cards, plus an interest rate of 5.9%. (While interest rates are rarely fixed permanently, Merrill doesn't anticipate having to raise its own for at least 12 months.) Cardholders will earn one point per dollar charged and can then trade those points for free airplane flights.
Nice BUT...

Merrill's program allows cardholders to trade the points they earn for plane tickets on four major airlines, which will be announced in coming weeks. For 25,000 points (30,000 for non-partner airlines), they can book trips of up to $500 and go anywhere in or out of the USA, as long as they book at least 21 days in advance and stay over a Saturday night.
OOPS. 21 days in advance and a $500 limit. I never pay more than $250 to $300 that far in advance. In fact, I rarely use 25,000 points on other than an expensive last minute ticket or an overseas ticket.

These points cannot buy domestic upgrades or international flights. Do not know who the partners are yet so $500 in value could cost 30,000 points.

Doesn't seem a threat to AMEX yet. With Starwood card I can turn 20,000 points into 25,000 airmiles and a free ticket. Nice.

Let's see what else is offered.

The new Merrill card also borrows the airlines' idea of assigning elite status. Users who spend at least $20,000 in a calendar year graduate to the first level, and those who cross the $50,000 threshold land in the top rank. Merrill's elite cardholders are eligible for better cabins on Princess and Cunard cruise ships, upgrades on certain British Airways flights, and massages at Canyon Ranch and other fancy spas.

But the perk that's likely to resonate the most is the free nights at Ritz hotels. The $20,000 spenders get one per year, while the $50,000 chargers get a total of four. Without the card, four nights at the Ritz could easily run more than $1,000. The card also offers medical-evacuation insurance for people who hurt themselves in faraway places.
Nice. If you will use it. While I consider the point value suspect, these are real for users. Still I want my points where I can eventually get real air miles and AMEX Platinum offers that. I like access to DL, NW and CO clubs free when traveling on their flights. I like the upgrades I get with selected hotels. AMEX Platinum offers the medical-evacuation benefit BTW.

Bottom line from the Wall Street Journal is.

Big spenders who like fancy hotels and free domestic-coach travel may want to switch to the Merrill card, which offers lower fees and more benefits than Smith Barney's new card. (If you don't have a Merrill broker who can sign you up, you can apply at www.card.ml.com.) But people who value frequent-flier miles for their first-class upgrades and international travel opportunities may want to stick with an airline card. Or they could use American Express Co.'s Green, Gold or Platinum cards, which offer points that customers can trade for merchandise or frequent-flier miles. Because premium seats can cost thousands of dollars, it makes it hard to purchase them with Merrill points. People with lots of miles will usually get more value out of their rewards for this type of flight.
I agree. I'm staying put.
KyRoamer is offline