MERRILL+® Visa Signature® Card from Bank of America Review

The Merrill Lynch Bank of America Credit Card is definitely one of the often overlooked travel credit cards. It’s got a ton of value to offer considering that it’s a no annual fee credit card but it does come with some limitations. While it was released last fall, I realized I didn’t have a write-up on this card so here it is.

The offer

  • No annual fee
  • 50,000 sign-up bonus after $3,000 spend (25,000 standard public offer)
  • 50,000 points worth up to $1,000 in airfare
  • Spend $50,000 in a year and choose either: Delta SkyClub membership or $200 travel credit for incidentals
  • 1X earned on all purchases
  • Gift card/cash back redemptions at one cent per point

No annual fee

This is a big selling point for this card. It’s very rare that you see a card offer such a high sign-up bonus (and strong benefits with spend) while at the same requiring no annual fee.

Sign-up bonus

The sign-up bonus of 50,000 points (worth up to $1,000 in value) is fantastic but there are some things you must know about how it works.

First, this offer is not currently available online. As US Credit Card Guide writes, it can still be applied for via phone by calling 866-751-1257. They also recommend trying the promo code: BAABZX, just in case you’re given any trouble about the bonus.

You also need to understand the redemption structure.

The standard redemption rate for these points is one cent per point. This applies for getting cash deposited into your bank account, gift cards, and all standard hotel, and rental car redemptions in the Merrill Lynch Travel Center. This one cent per point redemption rate is nothing special. But things are different for airfare.

With this card you can book Anywhere Air Rewards. These redemptions were once limited to American Airlines, Delta Airlines, United Airlines, and British Airways but now it’s known that redemption possibilities have opened up to more airlines. It looks like some other popular airlines like Alaska, JetBlue, and Virgin Atlantic can be redeemed but some others like Southwest, Spirit, etc. cannot.

For airfare, you must redeem your points with a minimum threshold of 25,000 points. With those 25,000 points you can book any flight that shows up in theMerrill Lynch Travel Center up to $500. So for example, you’ll spend 25,000 points whether your flight costs $300 or $500. For any cost of that ticket above $500, the redemption value of the points goes down to 1 cent per point.

I’ll illustrate. If you booked a $600 roundtrip ticket, you’d spend 25,000 points to cover $500 and then you’d still have to cover $100. Since the redemption value drops to 1 cent per point, you’d be spending an additional 10,000 points to cover that so that $600 ticket would cost your 35,000 points. So sometimes it might make sense to break up your flights into one ways, depending on the costs.

This is the big limitation to the redeeming points for the MERRILL+® Visa Signature® Card. In order to get maximum value for your points (2 cents per point), you need to spend exactly $500 on your airfare. That restricts your options if you’re going for maximum value, although I don’t see it as a huge negative.

One great feature of this card is that you can cover the cost of your ticket beyond $500 with cash if you don’t have enough points for it. And you can cover that cost with any credit card. This is contrast to cards like the US Bank Altitude Reserve which require you to cover the whole cost of your flight.

$50,000 spend bonus

  • Spend $50,000 in a year and choose either: Delta SkyClub membership or $200 travel credit for incidentals

This type of perk is unique given that this card comes with no annual fee but the opportunity costs of putting $50,000 on this card is a lot. To me the $200 travel credit is not worth it but I guess I could see the Delta SkyClub membership being worth it to some. But for me, the use in this card is with the redeeming the sign-up bonus at 2 cents per point.

1X on all purchases

1X on all purchases isn’t very inspiring. Sure, you can get up to two cents per point (and thus 2% back) on flights of $500. But that requires $25,000 worth of spend and the value that I’d earn by putting $25,000 worth of spend on other cards like my Sapphire Reserve/Freedom/Ink combinations would be far more valuable to me. Also, if you just wanted 2% cash back you could look into cards like the Citi® Double Cash Card and simplify your 2% earnings.

Final word

The MERRILL+® Visa Signature® Card is a solid travel card give its potential for up to $1,000 in value and no annual fee. Given its limitations for redemptions, I don’t think I’d ever used this card on a regular basis to earn points but with no annual fee, there’s not many reasons to cancel the card after you get it so you can always use it to help further build up your credit if nothing else.

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