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Bank of America® is ringing in the new year with a card launch, debuting a fresh version of the Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card in early 2019. And for cardholders who already carry the old version, the news could make it easier to max out bonus categories each quarter.
Starting the week of Jan. 14, cardholders will be able to choose which category they earn 3% cash back rewards in, from a list of six categories:
Home improvement and furnishings
You’ll be able to change your choice of category up to once a month, according to the issuer; if you don’t change it, it will remain the same. In addition, cardholders will continue to earn 2% back on grocery store and wholesale club purchases. Both the 3% and 2% rewards only apply to the first $2,500 in combined quarterly category/ grocery store/ wholesale club purchases; after that, you’ll earn only 1% back on those purchases.
Currently, the card doesn't give you the option of selecting your own categories. Instead, it offers 3% back on gas and 2% back on grocery stores and wholesale clubs on up to $2,500 in combined quarterly gas/ grocery store/ wholesale club spending.
The card will continue to have an annual fee of $0, Bank of America® confirms. Although the issuer is characterizing this change as a new card launch, the card's design isn't changing. It's unclear whether other parts of the card will remain the same, such as the sign-up bonus and the 10% bonus on rewards you can earn when redeeming cash back into a Bank of America® checking or savings account.
What does the online shopping category include?
Of all the upcoming new categories on the Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card, "online shopping" sounds the most mysterious — and also, potentially, the most lucrative. So, what does it include, exactly?
Bank of America® says that when the new card launches in mid-January, cardholders will be able to access an online list with examples of merchants covered in this category, as well as other categories. In the meantime, the issuer confirms that online shopping will include (but won't be limited to) purchases made with the following merchants:
What about existing cardholders?
Cardholders who already have the Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card will continue with the same account number, Bank of America® confirms. They will automatically receive the option to select 3% cash back categories starting in mid-January.
For cardholders, more choices is a plus
The Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card has long offered middling benefits in the cash-back world. It didn't lag far behind the competition, but it wasn't particularly exceptional. This change could put it closer to other more generous cash-back cards.
For starters, it will get far easier to maximize the card's bonus categories. In 2017, U.S. households spent only $1,968 a year on “gasoline, other fuels and motor oil,” according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That’s not enough to max out one quarter’s worth of bonus spending categories on the Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card. With the upcoming change, you'll have more opportunities to earn bonus rewards.
For example, if you’re about to drop $2,000 on plane tickets, this card would allow you to change the 3% bonus category to "travel" before that purchase, helping you take home at least $60 in cash back. And if you keep a lot of money with the bank, you might qualify for larger bonuses through the Preferred Rewards program.
The quarterly spending caps can still make it less rewarding than other options if you’re a big spender. But if you tend to spend modestly and are looking for ways to earn more rewards, it could be a good fit.