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Bank of America Cash Rewards Review: A Cash-Back Contender

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BankAmericard Cash Rewards credit card review

Bank of America® Cash Rewards Credit Card Editor's Rating: 4.1 / 5

Loyalty pays, especially if you carry the Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card.

This $0-annual-fee cash-back card earns a dazzling rewards rate on gas, groceries and wholesale clubs, if — and this is a big if — you keep more than a combined $20,000 with Bank of America® and Merrill Lynch®. If that’s not the case, the card will fetch only so-so rewards. Another cash-back card might be a better fit.

Bank of America® Cash Rewards Credit Card

Bank of America® Cash Rewards Credit Card

Apply Now on Bank of America's secure site
  • Recommended Credit Score
  • 690
    850
    Good - Excellent
  • Card Details
  • Pros

    • No annual fee
    • Cash bonus offer
    • Cash rewards

    Cons

    • If you're a big spender with excellent credit and willing to pay an annual fee, there are cards with higher rewards

    Annual Fees

    $0

    APR

    • APR: 13.99% - 23.99% Variable APR
    • Penalty APR: up to 29.99% APR
    • Cash Advance APR: See Terms

    Bonus Offers

    $150 online cash rewards bonus after you spend at least $500 on purchases in the first 90 days of account opening.

    Intro APR

    • 0% on Purchases for 12 billing cycles and 0% on Balance Transfers for 12 billing cycles for balance transfers made in the first 60 days
  • Additional Information
    • No annual fee
    • $150 online cash rewards bonus after you spend at least $500 on purchases in the first 90 days of account opening
    • Earn 1% cash back on every purchase, 2% at grocery stores and wholesale clubs, and 3% on gas for the first $2,500 in combined grocery/wholesale club/gas purchases each quarter
    • No changing categories and no expiration on rewards
    • 0% Introductory APR for 12 billing cycles for purchases AND for any balance transfers made in the first 60 days, then, 13.99% - 23.99% Variable APR. 3% fee (min $10) applies to balance transfers
    • 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%

Why you should get the Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card

You’re a loyal Bank of America® or Merrill Lynch® customer 

The Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card’s regular rewards rate — that is, the rate earned without loyalty bonuses — isn’t all that compelling. It gets:

  • 3% on gas and 2% at grocery stores and wholesale clubs (up to the first $2,500 in combined grocery/wholesale club/gas purchases each quarter)
  • 1% cash back on everything else

The situation improves slightly when you have a bank or investment account with Bank of America® or Merrill Lynch®. With one of these, it’s possible to clinch a 10% bonus on these rewards upon redemption.

But the card really goes from pumpkin to sparkling carriage if you can qualify for the Bank of America® Preferred Rewards program. This means maintaining a combined balance of over $20,000 or more in Bank of America®, Merrill Edge® and/or Merrill Lynch® accounts. Above that threshold, effective rewards rates soar by 25% to 75%.

  Combined balance required to qualify Effective gas rewards rateEffective grocery store/ wholesale club rewards rateEffective rewards rate on everything else
Gold (25% boost)$20,000 to $49,9993.75%2.5%1.25%
Platinum (50% boost)$50,000 to $99,9994.5%3%1.5%
Platinum honors (75% boost)$100,000+5.25%3.5%1.75%

How good are these juiced-up rewards rates? Consider this: If you kept over $50,000 with Bank of America® and Merrill Lynch®, the rewards earned with the Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card at Costco and on gas would exceed those of Costco’s own co-branded card. That’s a fantastic deal.

You regularly shop for gas and groceries

With any tiered rewards card, the amount of cash back earned depends on the amount spent in bonus categories. The Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card is no different. It’s a strong choice if you frequently fill up at the pump and shop at grocery stores or wholesale clubs.

The card’s straightforward tiered rewards structure also puts it ahead of some of the competition. There’s no need to worry about “opting in” on quarterly rotating categories every three months, as some cash-back cards require.

You want to carry a balance interest-free for a time

The Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card’s 0% APR period offers plenty of time to pay down a major purchase interest-free, if needed. It boasts a decent offer: 0% on Purchases for 12 billing cycles and 0% on Balance Transfers for 12 billing cycles for balance transfers made in the first 60 days, and then the ongoing APR of 13.99% - 23.99% Variable APR.

Just be sure to make on-time payments. A single late payment could cut the card’s introductory period short.

Why you should consider another card

You want a bigger sign-up bonus

Chasing big sign-up rewards? The Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card isn’t the best option. It comes with a modest welcome bonus: $150 online cash rewards bonus after you spend at least $500 on purchases in the first 90 days of account opening..

Try the Discover it® - Cashback Match™ instead. This card offers a sign-up bonus that could be much larger: You could turn $150 into $300 with Cashback Match™. Get a dollar-for-dollar match of all the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year, automatically. It also offers 5% cash back on rotating categories and charges an annual fee of $0.

You want unlimited rewards

The spending caps on the Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card are a huge buzzkill if you spend more than a combined $2,500 on gas and at grocery stores and wholesale clubs each quarter. After exceeding those spending caps, the rewards rates on those categories drop to just 1% cash back for the rest of the quarter.

The Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer would be a better choice. It offers an unlimited 1% cash back on every dollar spent, and 1% back on every dollar paid and charges an annual fee of $0. A NerdWallet analysis also found that this card generally outperformed the Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card in earnings.

Is the Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card right for you?

If you don’t qualify for the Preferred Rewards program, the Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card is OK, but not the best. Better cash-back cards are out there, with no strings attached. But if you already socked away a tidy sum with Bank of America® or Merrill Lynch®, the card could offer outstanding value.

Claire Tsosie is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: claire@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @ideclaire7.

Updated Aug. 2, 2017.