The Merrill Lynch Plus card is interesting because it doesn't have an annual fee, and it offers some great perks. Note that to apply for this card, you have to call in. Phone number: 866-751-1257. If the representative says the bonus is not 50k, try giving them offer code "BAABZX."
According to Frequent Miler, this card will be discontinued in Mid-September.
Important: Be sure to write down the representative you talk to, as well as the signup offer and any other information like transaction ID/confirmation. You need to confirm that you're getting the 50,000 point offer, and not the 25,000 point offer. Having all of this information means you can contest it in the future if somehow the wrong bonus is posted.
- Signup bonus: Earn 50,000 points after $3,000 in spend
- No annual fee
- Earn 1x on all purchases
- No foreign transaction fee
- Spend $50,000 or more per year, get a $200 travel credit to use towards incidentals OR complimentary year long membership to Delta Sky Lounge for you and two guests
The Merrill+ is a travel card, but a lot of the benefits overlap the Chase Sapphire Reserve and the Amex Platinum cards. For example, you get lost luggage reimbursement, trip delay insurance, primary rental insurance, and much more.
Moving on to the interesting part, how to redeem the points. If you want to redeem for travel, statement credit, and/or gift cards, you can redeem the points at 1 cents per point.
Anytime, Anywhere Air Rewards
To redeem the points for airfare, you can redeem 25,000 points for $500 in airfare, anything that exceeds $500 can be redeemed at 1 cents per point. You have to book travel through the Merrill Travel Portal.
Each ticket costs 25,000 points, up to $500. Whether you're booking a one-way flight, round trip, direct or layover, it counts as one ticket. If the ticket costs less than the $500 retail price, it will still cost 25,000 points. The redemption also works for business and first class tickets as well.
The optimal strategy is to try getting the ticket price as close to $500. If you're traveling with a companion, their ticket will cost another 25,000 points.
Given the constraints, it's hard to get the full $500 value, so points are valued a little less than 2 cents per points. The 50,000 point signup bonus is worth $500-$900 in airfare.
Return on spend
If we value the signup bonus at $900, the return on spending is 30%.
In the short term, the Merrill+ card has a good signup bonus if you have two flights coming up that cost $500 each.
Long term, this card is a good anchor card, but there are better cards out there to earn more than 1x on everyday spend. The Citi Double Cash card earns 2% back on all purchases.
One thing you can try to do is product change the Merrill+ card to the Bank of America Better Balance Rewards card, but YMMV since the BBR card is "discontinued."