American Express Co. is pulling the plug early on a card deal that Smith Barney was phasing out.

The card issuer had previously said it would honor cards tied to Smith Barney's Financial Management Account until their expiration dates. But this week Amex said it will do so only through June 15.

Smith Barney, a unit of Travelers Group, announced in February 1996 that it would be phasing out the American Express card and offering a gold MasterCard instead.

American Express would not say how many cardholders would be affected, except to say the number was small. Hoping to retain those customers, American Express is offering a pre-approved gold card and 5,000 bonus points in its Membership Rewards program.

A 28-year American Express cardholder, however, expressed disappointment with American Express and said she was unimpressed with the incentive.

The cardholder, who is head of a financial services company, said she was incensed because the company told her she would have to reapply by phone or mail and pay a $75 fee to move into an Optima card.

Even though she likes the card features, after being told the product has a different data base and would require the application, she declined.

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