Can someone explain how these are different than Equity Index Annuities?
The ones I have seen have a term of six months to 5 years and also have the ability to be sold in the market without a CDSC. Pitfall is that you would get what the market calls for and also if it is a "barrier note" you may not get access to that money if the barriers are breached until the term is up.
Ditto above...there are a NUMBER of different structures/terms. I generally think that simpler is better and obviously shorter is better. Ideally, you'd hold to maturity. However, I have been pleasantly surprised with the secondary market out there in a few cases where the client needed the money and a couple where we could get a better "deal" by selling old and buying new. I think they are probably MUCH easier to explain (and understand ourselves) than EIAs. For example, the principal protected longer term notes I see/use do not have annual caps...they are typically cumulative: say 5 years with max 50% gain and guarantee return of principal.
Taxes are treated differently (EIA is ordinary income usually and structured is cap gains unless they're principal-protected). I would look at the implied volatility you're buying with structured notes...it's, how shall I put this--expensive