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AmEx joyrides with Mercedes

By Janna Herron · Bankrate.com
Monday, August 22, 2011
Posted: 3 pm ET

American Express and Mercedes-Benz, two names synonymous with luxury, are debuting a charge and credit card aimed at showcasing the well-heeled lifestyle.

The two companies announced Monday the launch of the Mercedes-Benz Credit Card from American Express and the Platinum Card from American Express exclusively for Mercedes-Benz.

The cards mark several firsts for American Express. It's the company's first co-branded card with an automaker in the U.S. It's also the first co-branded card to enjoy Membership Rewards. And it's the first credit and charge card with accelerated points, such as five times the points on Mercedes-Benz purchases.

Just think about that. A consumer could buy an SLK-Class Roadster for $55,000 and get 275,000 points (at the dealer's discretion). And if you buy with your Mercedes-Benz Credit Card, you have six months of no interest to pay it off.

The two cards are loaded with other upscale perks, a stark contrast to the co-branded credit card that Mercedes-Benz had with Bank of America a few years ago. That one was a "plain, more generic" card, says Geoff Robinson, vice president of marketing at Mercedes-Benz Financial Services.

The Mercedes-Benz Credit Card from American Express has a variable rate of prime rate plus 11.99 to 15.99 percentage points. It comes with 5,000 Membership Rewards points after the first purchase, three times the points on gas purchases, double the points on restaurants and one-for-one on everything else. Cardholders also receive $500 off a purchase or lease of a Mercedes-Benz vehicle after spending $5,000 along with 1,000 miles waived at lease-end. The annual fee: $95.

The charge card's annual fee is much pricier at $475. But cardholders receive a whopping 50,000 Membership Rewards after spending $1,000 in the first three months. Cardholders earn one point for each dollar aside from Mercedes-Benz purchases, which rack up five times the points.

The charge card benefits also include: $200 airline fee credits each year; $1,000 off the purchase or lease of a Mercedes-Benz after spending $5,000; 2,000 miles waived at lease-end; travel and retail protections; and other travel and hotel perks.

"This is not just about the car experience," says Gunther Bright, senior vice president and general manager of co-brand partnerships at American Express. "It's about the lifestyle experience."

American Express says current cardholders can either swap out their old card with the Mercedes-Benz card and migrate their points to the new card, or add another American Express card to their wallet.

Another key point: Cardholders don't have to own a Mercedes-Benz to hold the carmaker's card. So feel free to dream.

What kind of credit card perks do you like? Would this new card entice you?

Follow me on Twitter: @JannaHerron

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