Bank of America Cash Rewards Card Review: Choose Your 3%-5.25% Cash Back Category

Updated. Bank of America announced some new changes that will take effect January 14th, 2019. Cardholders will be able to choose their 3% cash back category from one of these 6 options: gas, online shopping, dining, travel, drug stores, or home improvement and furnishings. Before it was only gas. You can change your category once each calendar month in-app or online. Do nothing and it will stay the same. Stays the same: The fixed 2% cash back on grocery and wholesale clubs and the limit to $2,500 in combined choice category/grocery store/wholesale club purchases each quarter.

The full review:

The Bank of America Cash Rewards Credit Card is the no-annual-fee “cash back” credit card in the Bank of America line-up. In this review, I’ll cover the basic card features but also focus on a lesser-known opportunity – if you’re a Preferred Rewards client, you can increase that bonus to 25% – 75%. For such “relationship” customers, the bonus can change this card from good to great. Here are the highlights:

  • $200 cash rewards bonus after $500 in purchases in the first 90 days.
  • Earn 1% cash back on every purchase, 2% at grocery stores and wholesale clubs, and 3% on gas (choice category after 1/14/19) up to the first $2,500 in combined grocery/wholesale club/gas purchases each quarter
  • 0% Introductory APR offer. See link for details.
  • Get a 10% customer bonus every time you redeem your cash back into a Bank of America® checking or savings account
  • If you’re a Preferred Rewards client, you can increase that bonus to 25% – 75%. See details below.
  • No annual fee.

Preferred Rewards bonus. The Preferred Rewards program is designed to rewards clients with multiple account and higher assets located at Bank of America banking, Merrill Edge online brokerage, and Merrill Lynch investment accounts. Here is a partial table taken from their comparison chart (click to enlarge):

bofa_pref1

Let’s consider the options. Bank of America’s interest rates on cash accounts tend to be lower than highest-available outside banks, so moving cash over to qualify may result in earning less interest on your cash deposits. Merrill Lynch advisory accounts also usually come with management fees. The sweet spot is if you have brokerage assets like stocks, mutual funds, and ETFs. In this case, moving them over to Merrill Edge may actually reduce your costs because at the Platinum and Platinum Plus levels they will actually give you 30 to 100 free online stock trades every month.

I recently moved a little over $100k of brokerage assets (Vanguard funds) over to Merrill Edge to qualify for Platinum Honors. I realize not everyone will have this level of assets to move around, but if you do then it is worth considering. Keep in mind that it will take a while for your “3-month average combined balance” to actually reach the $100k level and officially qualify for Platinum Honors. After that, the 25%-75% rewards bonus on credit card rewards kick in.

If you are opening a new Merrill Edge account, check out the current Merrill Edge brokerage sign-up bonus. As of this writing, it is up to $1,000.

Cash Back Rewards after Preferred Rewards bonus:

Recall that the basic structure is “1/2/3”; you get 1% cash back on every purchase, 2% at grocery stores and wholesale clubs and 3% on gas (choice category after 1/14/19) for the first $2,500 in combined grocery/wholesale club/gas purchases each quarter (1/2/3). Here’s how the bonuses work out:

  • Platinum Honors: 1.75% cash back on every purchase, 3.5% at grocery stores and wholesale clubs, and 5.25% on gas (choice category after 1/14/19) for the first $2,500 in combined grocery/wholesale club/gas purchases each quarter.
  • Platinum: 1.5% cash back on every purchase, 3% at grocery stores and wholesale clubs, and 4.5% on gas (choice category after 1/14/19) for the first $2,500 in combined grocery/wholesale club/gas purchases each quarter.
  • Gold: 1.25% cash back on every purchase, 2.5% at grocery stores and wholesale clubs, and 3.75% on gas (choice category after 1/14/19) for the first $2,500 in combined grocery/wholesale club/gas purchases each quarter.

Note that the terms state “The Preferred Rewards bonus will replace the customer bonus you may already receive with the card.”, which means that you will lose the 10% bonus for redeeming your cash back into a Bank of America® checking or savings account.

For my personal spending, I like the idea of getting up to 3.5% cash back at Costco, Sam’s Club, and BJs wholesale clubs. Costco only takes Visa while the current application picture indicates a Mastercard (past versions have been Visa). If you have a Mastercard, you could try and call them and request to switch to a Visa version of the card instead of a Mastercard. If the customer service rep says they don’t do that, hang up and call again. Alternatively, you could apply for the Susan G Komen or World Wildlife Fund versions of this card, which do show a Visa.

I also like the idea of getting up to 5.25% cash back on “online shopping” assuming that includes Amazon, although Amazon’s own card already offers 5% back.

This is finally a case where bundling services actually worked out for me. Bank of America has managed to convince me to go from only having a checking account with them to now also having a Merrill Edge brokerage account with 100 free trades per month and a Bank of America credit card.

Not all Bank of America consumer credit cards qualify for Preferred Rewards. Another card that does qualify is the Bank of America Travel Rewards card. The Travel Rewards credit card is actually a better everyday card in my opinion (assuming you have at least some travel purchases to offset), but this card exceeds that card in the special categories.

Bottom line. The Bank of America Cash Rewards Credit Card is an “okay” cash back rewards card with a 1/2/3 structure, but turns into an “excellent” rewards card if you can take full advantage of their Preferred Rewards program. If you transfer $100,000 of existing brokerage assets over to Merrill Edge, you can qualify for the highest Platinum Honors tier. This won’t be a good option for everyone, but something to be aware of if you can swing it.


“The editorial content here is not provided by any of the companies mentioned, and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities. Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone.”

Bank of America Cash Rewards Card Review: Choose Your 3%-5.25% Cash Back Category from My Money Blog.


Copyright © 2018 MyMoneyBlog.com. All Rights Reserved. Do not re-syndicate without permission.


Read More: Bank of America Cash Rewards Card Review: Choose Your 3%-5.25% Cash Back Category

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *