Travel may be the credit card rewards of choice for many, but if you prefer cold, hard cash to airline tickets, there are plenty of other credit card rewards programs out there for you. Some of them, like the Bank of America® Cash Rewards Credit Card, even come with a $0 annual fee.
To help you decide if this is the right option for you, we’ll cover:
- The basics of the Bank of America® Cash Rewards Credit Card
- The fine print
- The pros and cons
- How to get the most value
All You Need to Know About the Bank of America® Cash Rewards Credit Card
Bank of America uses a tiered rewards structure, meaning that you earn more cash back for certain types of spending and less for other spending.
With the Bank of America® Cash Rewards Credit Card, you earn 3% and 2% cash back on the first $2,500 in combined choice category/grocery store/wholesale club purchases each quarter, 1% on all other purchases. So, on every single purchase you make, you’ll earn at least 1% back. That means for every dollar you spend, you’ll earn a penny. These aren’t rotating bonuses similar to other cashback card reward programs. There is no opt-in registration required.
The 3% choice category allows you to tailor the rewards to fit your spending, which is a nice feature that gives the card some flexibility. The choices include: gas, dining, drug stores, home improvement/furnishings, online shopping and travel. You can change your category of choice once a month for future purchases through the Bank of America mobile app. So, if you’re remodeling your home next month and going on a big trip the following month, the ability to change categories could put more cash in your pocket if you think ahead and change your category strategically.
However, these programs are limited to the first $2,500 you spend per quarter on both gas and groceries combined. After that, your purchases at gas stations, grocery stores and wholesalers will earn only 1% until the next quarter when the higher bonuses will automatically resume until you again hit that $2,500 quarterly limit.
Right now, you can earn a sign-up bonus of $200 online cash rewards bonus after you make at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening. For comparison, that spending requirement to get the sign-up bonus falls in line with the requirements for many other cash back cards currently on the market. Most cards require you to spend $1,000 to get a bonus of $150 or $200 bonus while some allow you to spend just $500 to get a $150 bonus.
How Cash Back Works
You can redeem your cash rewards in any amount at any time you wish as a statement credit or as a direct deposit into to your Bank of America checking or savings account, or as a contribution to an eligible account with Merrill.
You can also redeem your cash rewards by requesting a check. For checks, or for credit to an eligible 529 account with Merrill, the minimum amount you need to cash out is $25.
You can earn even more cash back if you are a Preferred Rewards member. This rewards program comes with three tiers.
If you keep a total three-month average combined balance of $20,000 in your eligible Bank of America personal checking or Bank of America Advantage Banking, and eligible Merrill investment accounts, you qualify for Gold status. At this level, you earn 25% more cash back on every purchase.
The next level is Platinum. It requires your three-month average combined balance to total $50,000. At this level, the bonus is 50%, which turns $100 into $150.
The highest level is Platinum Honors. To qualify, your assets must average at least $100,000 per month. The bonus at this level is 75%, so your $100 turns into $175.
The Fine Print
Every card comes with some fine print. First, let’s take a look at the fees associated with the Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card:
- $0 annual fee.
- Enjoy a 0% Intro APR for 15 billing cycles for any balance transfers made in the first 60 days, and 15.49% - 25.49% Variable APR afterward.
- A balance transfer fee of Either $10 or 3% of the amount of each transaction, whichever is greater..
- You’ll need at least a credit score of 700 to qualify.
- Late payment fee is up to $39.
- There is a returned payment fee of up to $28.
- 3% foreign transaction fee.
You’ll also want to know what qualifies as a grocery store. The overarching theme is that if the store primarily sells food, it qualifies. However, if the store sells other goods along with food, like drug stores and superstores, your purchases will only earn 1%. Here are some places that will earn you the full 2%:
- Wholesale clubs
- Meat lockers
- Candy stores
- Nut stores
- Confection stores
- Dairy product stores
In the gas category, you’ll only earn 1% at truck stops, superstores and supermarkets, but you can earn the full 3% by shopping at merchants whose primary business is the sale of:
- Automotive gasoline
- Heating oil
One other place that qualifies is boat marinas.
How to Get the Most Value from the Cash Back Program
If you have a Bank of America checking or savings account, it’s wise to redeem your rewards via direct deposit for any amount at any time while avoiding the risk of a paper check getting lost in the mail. If you meet the asset requirements, it’s worth applying for the Preferred Rewards programs so you can reap the significant the bonuses.
Use the Bank of America calculator to see how much cash back you can earn based on your rewards choice category and your spending. It’s worth looking back over your bank or credit card statements from the past year to make sure you choose the category that will earn you the most cash back based on your actual spending habits.
However, there are other, possibly more lucrative cash back card offers available. For rewards on everything, the Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer allows you to Earn 2% on every purchase with unlimited 1% cash back when you buy, plus an additional 1% as you pay for those purchases.. It also carries a $0 annual fee.
There are also other options on the market that allow you to earn more cash back for gas purchases. The PenFed Platinum Rewards Visa Signature® Card gives you 5x points on gas at the pump, 3x points on groceries, and 1x points on all other purchases. You can qualify for this card by opening an additional financial account with PenFed Credit Union.
In summary, the Bank of America® Cash Rewards Credit Card is a good choice if you prefer cash back over travel rewards and spend a lot on gas and groceries. But you may want to shop around and crunch numbers based on your actual spending to see if another cash back card is a better fit.
Benefits and Protections
The Bank of America® Cash Rewards Credit Card does come with some benefits. The most powerful is perhaps $0 liability guarantee. You will not be held liable for any fraudulent charges as long as you can support the fact that they were, indeed, fraudulent. This may also kick in if Bank of America notices suspicious activity on your account.
The final benefit worth noting is the ability for Bank of America customers to enact Overdraft Protection. If you have a checking account with Bank of America, you can link it to your card to prevent any instances of declined purchases.
Pros and Cons
Pro: Bank of America and Merrill customers can enhance their cash back with bonuses.
Con: Even with these bonuses, you can find another card with higher cash back rewards.
Pro: No rotating categories to keep up with.
Con: There is a $2,500 cap per quarter for gas and grocery rewards.
Pro: The $200 online cash rewards bonus after you make at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening is a decent reward for a low minimum spend.
Con: It does have a foreign transaction fee of 3%. There are other cards on the market that would be better to use outside the country.
Pro: $0 annual fee.
Who Will Benefit Most from the Bank of America® Cash Rewards Credit Card?
The biggest winners are those who have a checking or savings account with Bank of America and spend about $2,500 per quarter on groceries and gas combined. That comes out to about $833.33 per month, so if you commute a long distance or travel a lot for work, this may be a good option for you. If you’re feeding a family, this may also be a good option as the caps on other cards can be more restrictive.
The information related to Bank of America® Cash Rewards Credit Card and the Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer has been independently collected by MagnifyMoney and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card prior to publication.