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Credit Cards, Earning Cashback

Bank of America® Cash Rewards Card Review: Solid Card for Spending on Groceries and Gas

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BankAmericard Cash Rewards Review

The information related to Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card and the Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer has been collected by MagnifyMoney and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card prior to publication.

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
  • Benefits
  • 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% cash back in your choice category, 2% cash back at grocery stores and wholesale clubs for the first $2,500 in combined choice category/grocery store/wholesale club quarterly purchases & 1% cash back on every purchase. 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 $1000 on 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 Lynch® or Merrill Edge®.

You can also redeem your cash rewards by requesting a check. For checks, or for credit to an eligible 529 account with Merrill Lynch® or Merrill Edge®, 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 Lynch® or Merrill Edge® investment accounts, you qualify for Gold status. At this level, you earn a 25% bonus on your cash rewards effectively turning your $100 into $125.

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 12 billing cycles for any balance transfers made in the first 60 days, and 16.24% - 26.24% 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%:

  • Supermarkets
  • Wholesale clubs
  • Meat lockers
  • Candy stores
  • Nut stores
  • Confection stores
  • Dairy product stores
  • Bakeries

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
  • Propane
  • Kerosene

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% cash back on purchases 1% when you buy and 1% as you make payments 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.

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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.

Another unique benefit is the ability to access ShopSafe. This is a program that assigns you a temporary card number when you shop online. It’s linked to your real card number, but allows you to shop without entering your sensitive information over the internet.

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 Lynch 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 $1000 on 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.

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

Allie Johnson
Allie Johnson |

Allie Johnson is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Allie here

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News

Here’s Why Single Women Are Buying More Homes Than Single Men

Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided or commissioned by any financial institution. Any opinions, analyses, reviews, statements or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and may not have been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities prior to publication.

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Right after she turned 30, public relations pro Wendy Hsiao put in an offer on a cute brick townhouse in Atlanta. “For a lot of my friends, being an adult started either when you got married or had a baby,” she said. “I chose to buy a house.”

Why did she buy? She felt ready for a major life change, considered buying to be a smart financial decision and wanted a yard for her Pomeranian named Georgia. “I felt like it was time to make a place my home,” Hsiao said.

Her story is one example of a growing trend: the rise of single female homeownership. Single women are far more likely to become homeowners than single men, according to a study on singles owning homes by LendingTree, which owns MagnifyMoney. In fact, single women own 22% of homes on average, while single men own less than 13%.

This “gender gap” stems partly from the fact that single women prioritize homeownership when setting life goals. In fact, 73% of single women list owning a home as a top priority compared with 65% of single men, according to the 2018 Homebuyer Insights Report from Bank of America.

Single women are “skipping the spouse and buying the house,” according to the Bank of America report, which found that single women rank homeownership as a goal above getting married (41%) and having children (31%).

From homemaker to homeowner

While there’s still work to be done, women have taken huge steps toward professional and financial independence. Homeownership in particular contributes to economic stability, so it’s great that more single women are buying homes. There’s no doubt the increase in the number of women in the U.S. workforce, a figure that has more than doubled since 1975, has contributed to the trend. Here are some other driving forces behind the rise of single female homeownership:

Homeownership empowers women. Homeownership offers a place to live, stability and a way to build wealth, so it’s no surprise women view owning a home as empowering. In fact, 31% of single women (vs. 23% of single men) feel empowered when thinking about buying their first home. A licensed real estate agent in Chicago, Martina Smith bought a condo in her dream neighborhood of Streeterville after she broke off an engagement a few years ago. Her budget only allowed her to buy a “fixer-upper,” but she got a great deal and renovated her place. “It’s been very rewarding and empowering,” she said. And she thinks it reflects a bigger national trend. “We’re seeing more women taking charge,” Smith said.

Women are becoming more educated. Over the past few decades, women have become more educated than men. In 2017, 38% of women and 33% of men ages 25 to 64 had a bachelor’s degree. In that age group, 14% of women and 12% of men had an advanced degree. And women are putting off marriage to pursue that education, according to the 2018 Women in the Housing & Real Estate Ecosystem report. Educational attainment has a positive impact on homeownership rates.

Women are done waiting to marry. There’s been a cultural shift where women no longer feel they need to wait until they pair up to embark on certain aspects of “adulting,” said Kelley Long, a CPA and certified financial planner with Financial Finesse. “I will never forget a friend’s dad chastising me for doing ‘nesting’ things like buying nice furniture before I was married because of his perception that you just don’t do things like that until you’re married,” Long said, adding that women are “rejecting that idea because it’s not true.” If you want to marry in the future, the right partner will likely be impressed that you were financially secure enough to buy a home on your own, she said.

Single moms want a home base to raise kids. “Oftentimes, when people buy homes it’s for lifestyles reasons,” said Tendayi Kapfidze, chief economist for LendingTree. Getting married is one big reason, but having children is the other, he said. About 21% of U.S. kids live with single moms, a number that has almost doubled since 1968. In contrast, just 4% of kids live with single dads. “Children prompt people to buy homes,” he said. “So that might be one of the factors at play.” And it’s not just kids. As many as eight in 10 caregivers for elderly parents are women. The median age of a single female buyer is mid-50s, points out Jessica Lautz, vice president of demographics and behavioral insights for the National Association of REALTORS. A single female homebuyer “may be coming from a past relationship and purchasing a new home for herself, her children and her parents,” Lautz said, adding that single females are “willing to make sacrifices” to purchase a home.

So what does the future hold for single women owning homes? If marriage rates among all U.S. adults continue to drop, it’s likely the number of single women purchasing homes will rise even more, Lautz said.

Turn your homeownership dreams into reality

Strict lending standards can make it more difficult to qualify for a mortgage on a single income. Considering women also only make 80% of what their male colleagues earn, getting to a financially secure enough position to afford homeownership may feel daunting. Here are three tips for single women looking to buy a home of their own:

  1. Prep your finances for homebuying. It’s important to check your credit and your debt-to-income ratio before you start the homebuying process. If you spot problems, work on increasing your credit score and paying down your debt before you try to get preapproved for a mortgage. Getting the best possible rate can save you money over the life of the loan, which is especially important when your household depends on a single income. The upside is that single women have complete control and don’t need to worry about anyone else’s shaky credit or loads of debt. “If you’re in a couple, somebody is going to be dragging the other person down,” Kapfidze said.
  2. Build your nest egg before you buy. Forty-eight percent of women say they haven’t purchased a home yet because they haven’t saved enough for a down payment. But that’s not the only savings barrier to breach before taking the leap into homeownership. “Make sure you have a robust emergency fund,” Kapfidze said. Because single homeowners are on their own, they should set aside at least three months of mortgage payments as part of their emergency fund, Kapfidze suggested. “If you’re single, you’re the only one with income coming in to pay the mortgage,” he said.
  3. Pick a home that comes in under budget. Single women have lower household incomes than single men, so they may need to consider buying a smaller home, taking on a house that needs some work or settling in a lower priced neighborhood. The good news is that single women may be doing exactly that. In fact, the average home purchased by a single woman cost $173,000 compared with over $190,000 for a single man. Single women “may need to make price concessions when purchasing to find a home for themselves and their families,” Lautz said. And buying less house than you can afford can help you make your mortgage payment more easily if you hit financial hard times in the future.

Finally, it’s normal to feel stressed when you think of buying a home. In fact, more women (40%) than men (30%) feel overwhelmed by the idea of homeownership. But even though the homebuying process was scary, Hsiao said she has zero regret about buying a home of her own: “If you love the house, it’s 100% worth it.”

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

Allie Johnson
Allie Johnson |

Allie Johnson is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Allie here

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Mortgage

2019 FHA Loan Limits in South Carolina

Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided or commissioned by any financial institution. Any opinions, analyses, reviews, statements or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and may not have been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities prior to publication.

If you want to buy a home in South Carolina, from the stately streets of Charleston to the sunny shores of Myrtle Beach, you may find that some parts of the Palmetto State are bucking national home sales trends.

Home prices across the country will continue to rise steadily along with increasing mortgage rates. This double whammy may make it tougher for some buyers to afford a home, leading to less competition and an average 2% drop in home sales nationally, according to Realtor.com’s 2019 national housing forecast.

But in South Carolina, home sales this year are actually expected to go up by 1.5% in Charleston, a city that dominates the South Carolina housing market, while home prices are predicted to rise at half the expected national average (1.1% in Charleston versus 2.2% nationally).

In the Greenville-Anderson-Mauldin area in the northern part of the state, sales are forecast to rise by 0.6%, even though home prices are expected to increase by 4.6%. And in the Augusta-Richmond County area, in central South Carolina on the border with Georgia, prices are expected to drop by 1.1% while sales could shoot up by 8.8%, the opposite of the national trend.

A Federal Housing Administration (FHA) loan offers one way to offset rising home prices and make homebuying more affordable, if you qualify. The 2019 FHA loan limits for a single-family home in South Carolina range from $314,827 to $388,700.

The FHA sets loan limits each year based on the nationwide conforming loan limit for mortgages to be acquired by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which is adjusted annually by the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) based on the average U.S. home price. The baseline national conforming loan limit in 2019 for a single-family home is $484,350.

In 2016, the most recent year for which this data is available, 20,122 FHA loans were made in South Carolina for a total of $3.1 billion. In fiscal 2018, 1.82% of FHA loans were issued in South Carolina.

South Carolina FHA Loan Limits by County

County NameOne-FamilyTwo-FamilyThree-FamilyFour-FamilyMedian Sale Price
ABBEVILLE$314,827$403,125$487,250$605,525$106,000
AIKEN$314,827$403,125$487,250$605,525$192,000
ALLENDALE$314,827$403,125$487,250$605,525$19,000
ANDERSON$314,827$403,125$487,250$605,525$200,000
BAMBERG$314,827$403,125$487,250$605,525$37,000
BARNWELL$314,827$403,125$487,250$605,525$30,000
BEAUFORT$350,750$449,000$542,750$674,500$287,000
BERKELEY$388,700$497,600$601,500$747,500$338,000
CALHOUN$314,827$403,125$487,250$605,525$160,000
CHARLESTON$388,700$497,600$601,500$747,500$338,000
CHEROKEE$314,827$403,125$487,250$605,525$70,000
CHESTER$317,400$406,300$491,150$610,400$276,000
CHESTERFIELD$314,827$403,125$487,250$605,525$68,000
CLARENDON$314,827$403,125$487,250$605,525$70,000
COLLETON$314,827$403,125$487,250$605,525$115,000
DARLINGTON$314,827$403,125$487,250$605,525$130,000
DILLON$314,827$403,125$487,250$605,525$24,000
DORCHESTER$388,700$497,600$601,500$747,500$338,000
EDGEFIELD$314,827$403,125$487,250$605,525$192,000
FAIRFIELD$314,827$403,125$487,250$605,525$160,000
FLORENCE$314,827$403,125$487,250$605,525$130,000
GEORGETOWN$327,750$419,550$507,150$630,300$230,000
GREENVILLE$314,827$403,125$487,250$605,525$200,000
GREENWOOD$314,827$403,125$487,250$605,525$106,000
HAMPTON$314,827$403,125$487,250$605,525$42,000
HORRY$314,827$403,125$487,250$605,525$206,000
JASPER$350,750$449,000$542,750$674,500$287,000
KERSHAW$314,827$403,125$487,250$605,525$160,000
LANCASTER$317,400$406,300$491,150$610,400$276,000
LAURENS$314,827$403,125$487,250$605,525$200,000
LEE$314,827$403,125$487,250$605,525$29,000
LEXINGTON$314,827$403,125$487,250$605,525$160,000
MARION$314,827$403,125$487,250$605,525$80,000
MARLBORO$314,827$403,125$487,250$605,525$69,000
MCCORMICK$314,827$403,125$487,250$605,525$131,000
NEWBERRY$314,827$403,125$487,250$605,525$109,000
OCONEE$314,827$403,125$487,250$605,525$150,000
ORANGEBURG$314,827$403,125$487,250$605,525$71,000
PICKENS$314,827$403,125$487,250$605,525$200,000
RICHLAND$314,827$403,125$487,250$605,525$160,000
SALUDA$314,827$403,125$487,250$605,525$160,000
SPARTANBURG$314,827$403,125$487,250$605,525$150,000
SUMTER$314,827$403,125$487,250$605,525$125,000
UNION$314,827$403,125$487,250$605,525$150,000
WILLIAMSBURG$314,827$403,125$487,250$605,525$30,000
YORK$317,400$406,300$491,150$610,400$276,000

How are FHA loan limits determined?

The Federal Housing Administration sets FHA mortgage loan limits annually based on conforming loan limits for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac mortgages. Loan limits vary based on the cost of homes in the area and the number of units in the home.

The 2019 FHA loan limit “floor” is $314,827 for one-family homes in low-cost areas. The FHA sets this lower limit in low-cost areas as well as a “ceiling,” which is the loan limit in high-cost areas. The 2019 FHA loan limit is $726,525 for one-family homes in high-cost areas.

The 2019 FHA loan limits for properties with more than one unit in low-cost areas:

  • $403,125 (two units)
  • $487,250 (three units)
  • $605,525 (four units)

The 2019 FHA loan limits for properties with more than one unit in high-cost areas:

  • $930,300 (two units)
  • $1,124,475 (three units)
  • $1,397,400 (four units)

Do you qualify for an FHA loan in South Carolina?

An FHA loan can offer a way to buy a home when you haven’t been able to save a large amount of money for a down payment. In order to qualify for an FHA loan with a low 3.5% down payment, you must have a credit score of at least 580. However, homebuyers with scores between 500 and 579 may still qualify if they can put down 10%. To learn more and see if an FHA loan might be right for you, check out our guide to FHA loans, which offers detailed information on the credit score, income and other requirements.

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

Allie Johnson
Allie Johnson |

Allie Johnson is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Allie here

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