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The new version of the Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card is finally here, and it offers far more flexibility than its predecessor.
The $0-annual-fee cash-back card, launched on Jan. 14, 2019, now lets you choose your own 3% cash-back bonus category from a list of options. The change will affect both new and existing cardholders.
That's not the only thing about the card that changed, though. The card's redemption options, customer perks and sign-up bonus also changed. That raises the question: Is the new version actually an improvement over the old?
The short answer: Yes — but there are some catches.
Ability to choose your own 3% category
By far, the most valuable feature of the Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card is the option to choose your own 3% cash-back category. Both new and existing cardholders can make a selection from a list of six options, and change that selection up to once a month:
Home improvement and furnishings.
If you don’t select a category, it will automatically be set to 3% cash back on gas. Once you set a category, it stays the same, until you change it again.
The old version of this card offered 3% cash back on gas and 2% cash back at grocery stores and wholesale clubs, up to a combined $2,500 in gas / grocery store / wholesale club purchases. But gas is a tricky category to maximize, unless you happen to be a super-commuter with an SUV that gets terrible mileage. American households spent less than $2,000 each on gasoline, other fuels and motor oil in 2017 on average, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Now that you can choose your own 3% cash-back option, it’s easier to squeeze more value out of the card. You’ll still earn 2% cash back at grocery stores and wholesale clubs, and you’ll still get bonus rewards on the first $2,500 in quarterly combined purchases on category / grocery store / wholesale club spending. After that, you’ll earn 1% cash back on these purchases.
More redemption flexibility
With the old version of the Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card, you always needed to have at least $25 in cash back before redeeming, no matter how you redeemed rewards.
With the new version, that’s no longer the case. There’s no minimum redemption requirement when doing a one-time redemption of cash rewards into your Bank of America® account or statement credit. There's still a $25 minimum redemption requirement for other redemption options, however. This change makes it easier to access and use every penny of rewards you earn whenever you need it — even if you want to use it sooner than expected.
Lower sign-up bonus
Last year, Bank of America® hiked the sign-up bonus on the Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card to $200 from $150. With the changes, that bonus came back down. While a lower sign-up bonus is definitely a negative change, it’s also not exactly a deal-breaker. A $150 sign-up bonus is still a decent offer — especially if you’re mainly interested in this card for its ongoing rewards.
But sign-up bonuses can change often. The current bonus on the card: $200 online cash rewards bonus after you make at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening.
No more 10% customer bonus for new cardholders
The old version of the Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card offered a nice perk for Bank of America® account holders: When you deposited your rewards in an eligible checking or savings account, you’d get 10% more value. For example, if you deposited $30 of cash back into a Bank of America® checking account, you’d get an extra $3, for a total of $33.
That perk is still available for existing cardholders. But for new cardholders, it’s no longer offered. That’s a bummer, especially for those who are interested in the card specifically because they want to keep their credit card and bank accounts with the same bank.
However, cardholders who qualify for the Bank of America® Preferred Rewards program — that is, those who keep a lot of money with Bank of America® or Merrill — will still be able to earn bonuses of 25% to 75% on their rewards. That could make the card’s rewards much more appealing. On this version of the card, you'll also get those bonuses as soon as you earn the rewards; with the old version, you had to wait until redeeming the rewards to receive the bonuses.
Overall, good news for cardholders
Despite some negative tweaks, the new Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card is a big improvement over the old version. To be sure, the card's spending caps on the bonus categories still make it a lackluster choice for big spenders. But for frugal cardholders who value choice, the card offers excellent value.