Citi Double Cash Comes Out Ahead vs. Bank of America Cash Rewards

For most, Citi's industry-leading cash-back card is the clear winner over Bank of America®'s offering, even with relationship bonuses factored in.

Claire TsosieJuly 27, 2020
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Citi Double Cash vs BankAmericard Cash Rewards

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For almost any cardholder, the Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer will deliver significantly more cash back than the Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card. Even if you have a Bank of America® account, and you're deciding between rewards and convenience, the Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer will probably still come out ahead.

Both cash-back cards are designed to reward you for everyday spending. But the Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer outperforms the Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card in just about every way. It offers the most rewards for the least cost and hassle, making it a true top-of-wallet card. But you'll need excellent credit to qualify.

Why the Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer is better

The Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer features one of the highest cash-back rates you'll find on a flat-rate card. You'll earn an unlimited 2% cash back on your purchases: 1% back when you buy, and 1% back when you pay it off. And you don't need to have a certain investment account — as you do with a competing 2% card like the Fidelity® Rewards Visa Signature® Card — to get these big rewards. You just need excellent credit.

The Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card, by contrast, is more complicated and earns fewer rewards.

Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer

Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card

Annual fee

$0

$0

APR

0% intro APR on Balance Transfers for 18 months, and then the ongoing APR of 13.99% - 23.99% Variable APR

0% APR for 15 billing cycles on purchases and balance transfers, and then the ongoing APR of 15.49% - 25.49% Variable APR

Sign-up bonus

None

$200 online cash rewards bonus after you make at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening

Rewards

1% cash back on all purchases + 1% back on every dollar paid off

3% on the category of your choice 2% at grocery stores and wholesale clubs 1% everywhere else

Spending caps

None

$2,500 in combined choice category, wholesale club and grocery purchases each quarter

Loyalty bonus

None

If you're a Preferred Rewards member, you can earn a 25% - 75% rewards bonus on every purchase

Here's why the Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer is the better choice:

You'll likely earn more rewards in the first year

With the Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card, you get a bonus on every purchase — 25%, 50% or 75% more — if you have combined balances of over $20,000 in affiliated accounts and enroll in the Preferred Rewards program.

In other words, instead of getting 3% back on gas, you could effectively be earning 3.75%, 4.5% or 5.25% back on gas, depending on your balances. (For more on how that works, see our Preferred Rewards page.)

But even if you were to qualify for that loyalty bonus and earn the sign-up bonus on the Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card, you'd still be better off with the Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer. NerdWallet calculated the cash back that a typical family could expect to earn on each card based on average household spending data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, with the assumption that cardholders would use wholesale clubs primarily for grocery purchases. The Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer comes out slightly ahead in the first year, even though it doesn't have a sign-up bonus.

You'll earn more rewards in following years, too — in most cases

When you take the long view, the chasm in earnings between the two cards only deepens. Sign-up bonus aside, the Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card trails the Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer in rewards by more than $100 annually, assuming average household spending.

In fact, the Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card gains a substantial rewards lead of nearly $100 on the Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer only for people who have $100,000 in combined balances in their eligible Bank of America® accounts and can qualify for the 75% bonus. With the 50% bonus, the rewards are roughly equal to those you'd get from the Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer.

Most people can't qualify for these larger bonuses, though. Consider that the median value of a household's interest-earning assets — including savings accounts, money market deposit accounts, certificate of deposits, and interest-earning checking accounts — at financial institutions was $2,450 in 2011, according to the most recent U.S. Census Bureau data available.

The median value of an IRA or Keogh account in the same year — which only about 29% of households reported having in the first place — was $34,000.

It's simpler

Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card rewards are more complicated because of its spending caps and loyalty bonuses. It caps bonus rewards on combined gas and grocery purchases at just $2,500 per quarter. You also need to maintain certain balances in your accounts to qualify for the Preferred Rewards bonuses. It comes with a better 0% purchase APR offer, but the improved introductory period might not be worth the cost in rewards.

The Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer is less of a hassle. It offers an unlimited 1% + 1% rewards rate on all categories, and you'll get those larger rewards regardless of how you spend your money or whether you bank with Citi.

The cost of convenience

The Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card has one big thing going for it: convenience. If you bank with Bank of America® and have the card, you'd have the advantage of seeing all your accounts and credit card in one online portal, and that's useful, without a doubt. But it's probably not $100-a-year useful.

Going with the Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer is a better choice in almost every case, even if it means keeping your accounts in different places. Follow the best rewards, rather than staying loyal to a single bank, and you'll save a lot more in the long run.

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