Posted by sirtheta on January 27, 2017
Credit Cards Merrill+ Visa Signature

Published on January 27th, 2017 | by sirtheta

98

Redeeming Merrill Points: A Guide

In the comments of our posts about the Merrill+ Visa Signature card, and elsewhere on the interwebs, there’s a lot of confusion about how the card works & how you redeem for airfare. To top that off, there is an abundance of incorrect information out there (including my original post on Reddit and here on DOC) because the way rewards work changed in 2016. (I believe—as I recall, the benefits guide I referred to when writing my post was from 2015, and DOC has covered Merrill Points for a while). Rather a rarity, the changes made to the Merrill Points program were extremely good.

This is a guide to help people understand how redeeming Merrill Points works, as well as the current state of the program. For the sake of completion, it is rather long & can be skimmed.

You can read our review of the Merrill+ here.

Redemption Routes

You redeem points via the Merrill+ portal, which can be accessed in two ways: (a) signing in to Bank of America online banking, selecting your Merrill+, going to the rewards tab, and selecting “Redeem Points”, or (b) going to the website and signing in to your Bank of America account by selecting “Merrill+” from the “Sign in to your account” dropdown menu.

There are three categories of redemptions: (a) Travel, through the Merrill Lynch Travel Center, whose backend is Orbitz – “redeem for air travel, hotel stays, car rentals, and more”, (b) Cash, through calling 1 (800) 419-0000 – “Redeem points for cash back into a Merrill Lynch CMA, Bank of America checking or savings account, or statement credit”, (c) Gift cards, through the Merrill Lynch Gift Card Center – “Redeem for gift cards from your favorite merchants”. In all but one case, these options convert your points to cash at a rate of 1 ¢ (or worse, in the case of $25 gift cards – 0.91 ¢). For example, it is possible to redeem points through the Travel Center at a rate of 1 ¢ for anything, including airfare. I will forego discussion of these options so that we can get into the redemption option that everyone actually cares about.

Anytime, Anywhere™ Air Rewards

The exception to this rule, and the major draw of the Merrill+, is Anytime, Anywhere Air Rewards, with which you can redeem 25,000 points for a ticket that is up to $500 in value (inclusive of taxes & fees). Prior to 2016, these rewards were limited to major carriers (American Airlines, Delta Airlines, United Airlines, and British Airways) and other carriers started at 30,000 points, which is why you may see that stated by as august a source as Bank of America’s website. A quick reference of the 2016 Benefits Guide, however, shows that Anytime, Anywhere Air Rewards on all available carriers start at 25,000 points.

Depending on where you are flying to & from, available carriers may include Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, British Airways, Delta Airlines, JetBlue Airways, Sun Country Airlines, United Airlines, Virgin Atlantic, and Virgin America. Domestic & international redemptions are possible, making a complete listing of available carriers infeasible—I see 15 unmentioned available carriers for a JFK-CDG route. All of them are 25,000 points for up to a $500 ticket. (I have no points left, so the Travel Center only shows me the cash price – thanks to u/mat_red for confirming this for me). Reader Noah was told that all but four (4) airlines are available: Southwest, Frontier, Allegiant, and Spirit.

How Does “25,000 points for up to a $500 ticket” Work?

Some examples to make this clear are in order. I selected weekdays in mid-March to come up with prices.

  • Round-Trip Tickets
    • You can redeem 25,000 points for a $244.90 economy class ticket from BWI–CLT–BWI on American.
    • You can redeem 25,000 points for a $270.40 business class from DCA–JFK–DCA on Delta.
    • You can redeem 25,000 points for a $378.40 economy class ticket from IAD–LAX–IAD on United.
    • You can redeem 25,000 points for a $466.40 economy class ticket from IAD–CUN–IAD on United.
  • One-Way Tickets
    • You can redeem 25,000 points for a $294.94 business class ticket from BWI–ATL–MEX on Delta.
    • You can redeem 25,000 points for a $420.44 business class ticket from BWI–CLT–DFW–MEX on American.

Hopefully these examples are sufficient demonstration: a ticket is a ticket, whether it be round-trip, one-way, multi-city, or even one leg of a longer trip that you are booking part of elsewhere. Two tickets is not a ticket, so two one-way tickets eat up 25,000 points each.

What About Tickets Over $500?

Prior to 2016, the way tickets over $500 worked was stupidly complex. You can read one of the links in the introduction if you want to figure out how they worked. The new way this works is very simple: if you want to book a ticket over $500 with points, any amount over $500 must be paid for with points at a rate of 1 ¢. $600 ticket? 25,000 points covers the first $500, leaving $100, which adds 10,000 points for a total of 35,000 points.

The best part about tickets slightly or greatly over $500 is that you may not have enough points to cover them, but that’s okay! You can pay the remainder in cash. Want to book a $600 flight, but only have 26,000 points? That covers $510 and you can put the remaining $90 on any damn credit card you like—including the Chase Sapphire Reserve, where it codes as travel.

nota bene: I have noticed a discrepancy in the way this is supposed to work. From all the fares I have been able to check via other screenshots, you actually get up to a $510 ticket for 25,500 points—if the ticket is over $500. You can run your own calculation on the second screenshot below. I do not know whether this is intentional, nor whether this carries through when proceeding to the review & booking screen. If I recall correctly, no point or cash amounts changed for me when booking two over-$500 flights, which would mean that it does carry through to the review & booking screen.

How is the Merrill Lynch Travel Center?

There are two reasons you might ask this question: (a) does it have the same prices as elsewhere? or (b) is it easy to use? I would give a resounding yes to both questions. It uses Orbitz for its backend and is no different from any other flight aggregator in that regard. And the user interface is very well done; I like it better than Google Flights because all of the parameters are exposed instead of hidden in drop-downs.

Merrill Lynch Travel Center

note: the top left says “economy” but is incorrect; this was a business class search

Especially useful is the grid of airlines & stops at top. You can click on “Delta Air Lines” to filter the results to just Delta. You can click on “Non-Stop” to filter the results to just non-stop flights. And you can click “$1,041.44” at the intersection of “Delta Air Lines” and “Non-Stop” to filter the results to just non-stop Delta flights. Primo.

Merrill Lynch Travel Center with Points

courtesy of u/mat_red, since I don’t have any points. apologies for the compression!

Concluding Thoughts

The Merrill+ is a fantastic card, and once you understand how redemption works, it’s a no-brainer. If you have any further questions about redemption, drop them below!

FAQs

Q. JP: So I  can’t have two tickets whether one way or RT in one booking? This is good for only “one, uno, single” ticket each time you want to use 25k points?

A. You can book multiple tickets in a single booking, but they will cost 25,000 points each (for up to a $500 ticket). I booked two round-trip tickets that cost $522.21 each using my signup bonus, spending points, and a $2.43 charge to my CSR.

Q. Alejandro: If I wanted to get two tickets (one for me and one for someone else), am I able to do that? Or can I only get tickets in my name?

A. You can buy tickets for anyone you please; as with any travel portal or airline website, you can enter their information on the booking screen. I do not know if you can complete a booking using points for some tickets and cash for others (i.e. 4x $400 tickets, using 2x 25,000 points and 2x $400 for booking).



98 Responses to Redeeming Merrill Points: A Guide

  1. Sam says:

    i was on the site, and i couldnt figure out how to select business/first class instead of economy. can anyone point me in the right direction

  2. Justin says:

    Cool thanks!

  3. Mark O says:

    Perfect timing – was just approved yesterday!!!

  4. Mjs says:

    Can you please at least mention some of the GC redemption options??

    Basically, is it for “solid” locations like Target or places like Brooks Brothers or Subway which are more boutique or where you could buy discount gift cards fairly cheap.

    Yes, I know it’s a bad option compared to flights, but I’ve got over 10m miles banked, and their website doesn’t show how good th merchants are for gust cards unless you already have the card.

    • Cpt Obvious says:

      Cash is usually pretty solid. It’s no ‘target’ but it’s got decently wide acceptance.

    • sirtheta says:

      There are 85 brands available via the filter, ranging from Amazon to Kohl’s to Target to Wal-Mart, etc. Many big chains are represented and I don’t think you’d have a problem finding any of the offerings at a discount elsewhere.

      From the few I’ve perused, there are 3 options: 2,750 points for a $25 GC; 5,000 points for a $50 GC; 10,000 points for a $100 GC.

      Unless they periodically run sales, I don’t see the utility of buying a gift card when you could call in and get straight cash (or a statement credit).

      I understand having a lot of miles banked, but I think the beauty of the signup bonus on this card is that there’s a very obvious sweet spot (cash fares around $500, two of them to be exact). Because of this, I think there’s room to use your Merrill Points on flights even if you have an obscene amount of miles banked.

    • Just redeem for cash, it’s better than the GC rates

  5. P says:

    This is perfect. My questions from the previous article are answered. Not planning to apply because I’m pretty sure BofA will reject me but this is still great.

  6. JP says:

    So I can’t have two tickets whether one way or RT in one booking? This is good for only “one, uno, single” ticket each time you want to use 25k points?

  7. Noah says:

    Rep at Merrill rewards told me any airline is bookable using Merrill points except 4 airlines: Southwest, Frontier, Allegiant and Spirit

  8. Alejandro says:

    If I wanted to get two tickets (one for me and one for someone else), am I able to do that? Or can I only get tickets in my name?

  9. Erik says:

    We live in a Southwest hub so I was disappointed to see that they are not longer an option. Obviously still a great card especially for no annual fee.

  10. tim says:

    Good post…thanks for covering this little talked about card!

  11. nonimmigranth1b says:

    A week back I tried booking via Merrill Card but was not offered $500 ticket for 25000 points.
    My ticket total for one way ticket for 6 ppl was $499.60 (LGA->ORD)
    and Anytime, Anywhere™ Air Rewards option was disabled for me.

    I am not sure if I was doing something wrong but as I was in hurry I booked the tickets with CSR.

    • Mahi says:

      i think its one ticket per person per booking… someone plz confirm…

    • sirtheta says:

      I am confused as to what you were trying to do. Did you buy 6 $83.26 one-way tickets from LGA to ORD, for a total of $499.60? If you could explain in more detail (especially if my supposition is not the case), it would help me answer your question.

      • nonimmigranth1b says:

        yes, i was trying exactly that.

        • sirtheta says:

          So the problem is that the points are per ticket. So to book 6 up-to-$500 value tickets, you would need 150,000 Merrill Points.

          Now, there are other options — tickets under $100 can be had for 10,000 points per ticket and tickets under $200 can be had for 20,000 points for ticket. But you would’ve needed 60,000 points to do what you wanted to do, so you probably weren’t shown that option because you didn’t have enough points (and you wouldn’t gotten 0.83 cpp, so it would’ve been better to cash them out at 1 cpp and then book with cash).

  12. kt says:

    this is good stuff. thanks

  13. Walter T. says:

    Excellent guide. I will certainly use it in the future.

    Beyond the sign-up bonus, IS this a great card? I have one and earned the bonus and it’s sitting waiting for me to use. But… I’ve stopped using the card. 2% reward is now fairly common. My Discover IT doubles to 3% as this is the 1st year. They don’t take Discover, no problemo, My B of A Travel Rewards Visa + Preferred Rewards Bonus yields 2.625% back towards travel.

    For this card to equal 2% you’d HAVE to redeem for an exactly $500 ticket every time. Anything less or more and the rewards is below 2%, right?

    So for the bonus, great. But beyond, is it a winner?

    • Kumar says:

      You are correct Walter, I wouldn’t use this card much beyond the sign up bonus. Also travel insurance and other perks might be better (I am not sure about this) with other cards say CSR or citi prestige, so if a ticket cost more than $ 500, I would use one of those cards to pay for the difference so that I can use travel insurance on these cards.

    • Mark O says:

      Not really unless you value Delta Lounge membership and put 50K on it and then you can get that free (essentially 3% return). I would just go with a flat 2% card since this one is up to 2% and only 1 pt per dollar. Flexperks would be a better card long term honestly.

    • sirtheta says:

      While I absolutely love the card and the benefits (unbelievably good for no annual fee), I must unfortunately say it is not a good daily driver. This stems less from the rate of redemption because I think there are people that travel enough that they could manage to consistently get nearly 2cpp. Rather, what kills it is that to get 2cpp requires multiples of $25,000 in spending. That’s a steep price to pay when you can redeem rewards on most other cards starting at $25 ($1,250 in spending).

      Ultimately, I’m not sure you can ask more of this card given that it has no annual fee and so many really good travel benefits.

    • Kevin says:

      There’s no point in using this card for long term spending. At absolute best you will be getting a 2 percent value which you can get with far less spend/hassle elsewhere.

  14. Jasper says:

    I just received the card. I may need to buy an international flight ticket with cost over $1,000. Let’s say $1,200 for United airline. How will the points work? I should have 50,000 points after completing the spending requirement. Does the $1,200 air ticket ticket cost

    (1). 50,000 points plus $200?
    Or (2). 25,000 points ( for the 1st $500) + 25,000 ( for $250, as 1 point for 1 cent)+ $450

    Thanks for your help!

  15. Kumar says:

    Thanks for excellent post. Is it possible to book international flight say Etihad to Asia? Is the redemption rate different than say Delta, AA, United etc. for these airlines?

  16. jason says:

    Any way to cash out at 2c redemption instead of 1c? thanks

  17. Ben says:

    Just to clarify, if a ticket costs $550 and I have 31,000 points in my account, do I HAVE to use all my points (25,000 for $500 plus 5,000 for $50), or is it possible to only use 25,000 points plus pay $50 cash?

    If I just need 1 ticket that costs $600 (and I have 53,000 in my account), then I would much rather only use 25,000 + $100 cash (b/c this leaves me with another 25,000->$500 ticket w/out add’l spend) instead of 25,000 ($500) + 10,000 ($100) because then I’ll have 18,000 left and need to spend another $7,000 dollars on the card to get to another good redemption level.

  18. R Johnson says:

    Picked up the card and was able to get the 53K points in a couple months. Used 25K for a trip to Ft. Myers and the other 25K for a trip to Albany, NY next month. Easy to use site.

  19. Irshad says:

    It seems like the card is no longer available for new customers? I tried several links and all seem to be dead. Can anybody please confirm? Thank you in advance.

  20. frank says:

    So, if I have a ticket that is $1100. What is the points plus cash breakdown that I will need to use?

    • sirtheta says:

      Due to the discrepancy, 25,500 points for the first $510. Then the rest of your points up to 50,900 points. If you have enough points available it would be 76,400; otherwise you will make up the rest of the cost with cash.

  21. irshad says:

    Is the card no longer available?

  22. irshad says:

    I just realized it is my vpn blocking the application page. Sorry for the multiple requests.

  23. Betty says:

    With Southwest, one can book a $500 fare, then cancel it, and receive a $500 (non-expiring) SW airline credit to be used at one’s future convenience. Are there other airlines that do the same? This would be my preferred method of using my Merrill+ points. Thanks.

  24. JASON says:

    I thought I could buy a ticket at Cathy Pacific say $800, then use some of the points to pay off the charges. So I misunderstood how it works completely at the first place …

  25. frank says:

    DP: I was able to get 2 tickets for $503 each to price out 50,000 points in total.

  26. zach says:

    An FYI for anyone hoping to book flights on Air Tahiti (the airline that serves French Polynesia intra-island flights) using points and the Merrill Lynch Travel Center. It seems like it cannot be done via the website or by calling in. Both result in “No flights were found that match your search” error message. I found this to be odd since Air Tahiti is available from the preferred airline drop down menu.

    Air Tahiti flights are bookable with Citi TY and Chase UR. I havent tried any other bank point travel sites.

  27. Ben says:

    Let’s say I want to book a ticket that costs $600, and that I have 35,000 points, which could cover the ticket price (25,000 pts for $500 + 10,000 pts for remaining $100). Can I use only 25,000 pts, and pay $100 using my car instead of using the 10,000 extra pts, or will I be forced to use all my points before I pay for the difference? Thank you.

  28. eva says:

    Can I get approved for the card, buy air ticket, after spending $3000, get points and reimburse for the cost of ticket? Or do I have to spend $3000 first and purchase ticket using points?

    Thanks DOC

  29. GLT says:

    Picked up two r/t tickets from Seattle to Tokyo on ANA for 50k total points! What a sweet sign up bonus!

  30. Hannah says:

    Is there a telephone number to call to help out with the booking?

  31. Nick says:

    Just saved $1,000+ – thank you so much for touting this card when others weren’t!

  32. Bob says:

    For the portion paid with a credit card, how is it coded? I noticed that the article said for CSR, it coded as travel. So will it work for other cards that are can redeem points/miles through travel purchases? (Such as arrival+ and BoA travel)
    I’m trying to use the points for BoA travel rewards and wondering if it will be coded as travel. Thanks!

  33. John says:

    To get the maximum value of 50k points, can I
    a. book any unwanted flights (possibly just $500) to make remaining points 25k,
    b. book the flight I need, then cancel the unwanted flight in 24 hours and have points back,
    c. use remaining 25k for future ticket.
    I see the question is what will happen if cancel a ticket paid by points? Will they refund the points or is it final?

  34. P says:

    Is it just me or is it really hard to redeem these for maximum value? Not a lot of flights available close to $500 on the website. I’m seeing so many flights from $390-$587 for YYZ-SFO business on google flights for 10/4 but the cheapest I can find on the Merrill booking site is $570. It seems better to just apply it as a statement credit.

    This is the same with premium economy. Not all the flights showing on google flights are available on the Merrill booking site.

    And with economy roundtrip KOA-SFO, I’m seeing a bunch of $600+ on google flights, but they’re all $700+ on the Merrill site.

    Did Merrill change their prices because of so many new accounts and redemption?

  35. Superchurn says:

    Just sucked down my first redemption, PDX->DTW round trip non stop, for 1.95cpp, close to the 2cpp max.

    And the points are only 1/2 gone!

    Another excellent bonus, thanks to the good people at DoC

  36. Jonathan says:

    I could use some help with this question–I want to buy a ticket LAX-MIA-MSY. If the 2 legs one way fares are under $500, can I book it using only 25,000 points? Thank you in advance for help.

  37. Mel says:

    Will I earn frequent flyer miles on tickets purchased with Merrill points? I am looking to maintain my Platinum level with KLM/Air France and need the miles credit.

  38. Sabata says:

    What if a person has enough airline program miles to book a flight (whether Avios or KrisFlyer, etc) but faces only a hefty surcharge? Can the ML card be used to pay those charges up to $500 and then 25k pts will be applied from ML?

    Or does any flight for ML rewards have to be be booked from ML’s travel center, thereby negating the use of the airline points?

    I have more than 50k pts, and don’t want to mess it up. Thanks for clarificaitons ..

  39. Sarah N says:

    Just to clarify, the 25,000 for $500 is only for flights, yes? And for hotels, it would be the 1 cent per point rate? This card would be even more amazing the anytime, anywhere rate applied to hotels.

  40. Ana F says:

    Thank you for all of this information. I was wondering, however, if I want to purchase two tickets at $750 each and I have 50,000 points, will the points be applied:

    (a) in their entirety to the first ticket, which will require me to pay $750 for the second ticket? or

    (b) 25,000 points to the first ticket and 25,000 to the second ticket, which will require me to pay $250 for each ticket for a total cost of $500 to me?

    • sirtheta says:

      If you are purchasing them separately, (a).

      If you are purchasing them together, it *should* be (b) based on my presumptions about my experience. But, I’m not 100% sure. You can go through all but the final submission of check out to be sure of how it works — and I’d love to have a confirmation, so let me know if you wind up booking those tickets!

  41. Adam D says:

    Booked a dummy ticket for under $500, costing 25k points. Next flight I booked was $715 so it charged me the remaining 28k (3k actual spend) and $173 cash at 1c/1pt. I then cancelled the dummy booking and have 25k points back in my account. If you went the route merill wants you to go the $715 flight would have cost me 46k points. No fees, have to cancel by 11 EST by the next day.

  42. Adam D says:

    Data Point:
    Xiamen airlines isnt not an airline redemption option also. I was trying to book a flight for $445 from LAX-Manila that showed on google flights and flexperks as $445 one way but results for 2 weeks shows none in merill’s point site, which I think is powered by orbitz. Would of made a great sub $500 redemption and easy hub for many cities in thoughout sea, northern asia and mainland china. Xiamen flys to LAX starting jun 27 and already flys to jfk and seattle, too bad. There flights are usually $250 cheaper than major carriers and $100-$200 cheaper than china southern/eastern.

  43. hermitw says:

    will the receipt show original money price (for reimbursement)?

  44. Victor says:

    Anyone else having this issue? I keep trying to select flights being advertised as 25,000 points, then when I click continue, the price goes up by roughly 9,000 points, and it shows this message: Sorry, fares change quickly. The price has increased by: $90.00. No matter which flight I click on, it keeps showing the same message.

    • Victor says:

      Nevermind, I see it only showed that error for a few flights. I ended up using the trick suggested here of first making a dummy booking for 25k. So I was able to get the flight for 28k points plus $60 cash, rather than 34k points. Then I cancelled the dummy booking and got my 25k points back. Nice!

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