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How I Use the Bank of America Travel Rewards Card: When ‘No’ Is Good to Hear

Aug. 16, 2018
Credit Cards, Travel Credit Cards
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The Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card has a lot of “no” features that appeal to frequent travelers: no annual fee, no foreign transaction fee, no limit on the points you can earn, no expiration date on the points. All of that “no” added up to a yes for Evan Covington, who works in NerdWallet’s human resources department.

Like every good Nerd, Covington did his research before settling on the Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card. “I’ve normally been a person who wants as few credit cards as possible, so I knew that the next credit card I applied for would be an important decision for me,” he says.

Why did you choose this card?

“I decided to apply for this card because I have always been an avid international traveler, and I was tired of racking up the foreign transaction fees as I traveled. I was about to travel to Mexico for a birthday trip with my family and decided I needed to be smarter about how I could save money while abroad.”

The Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card doesn’t impose those fees, which Covington says gives him “more peace of mind.”

What do you like about the rewards program?

“There’s an enormous amount of flexibility in using the points, and this was a key factor driving me to sign up for the card,” Covington says.

Evan Covington

Evan Covington

The Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card lets you redeem points for a statement credit for travel expenses like flights, hotels, cruises, rental cars and baggage fees. Plus, you can book any airline at any time because there are no blackout dates. You earn 1.5 points per dollar spent on everything you charge on the card, period.

“The simplicity of the card doesn’t give you the fancy perks that other cards give you, like airport lounge access,” he says. “That’s one thing I definitely think is missing with this card.”

Did you get a sign-up bonus?

One of the attractions of a new credit card is the sign-up bonus, and the one offered on theBank of America® Travel Rewards credit card is fairly easy to earn: 25,000 online bonus points if you make at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening - that can be a $250 statement credit toward travel purchases.

“I actually didn’t end up receiving a sign-up bonus for this card as expected, despite spending over the $1,000 threshold within the first 90 days,” Covington explains. “I believe it is due to the fact that I ended up applying for the card over the phone rather than online. The sign-up bonus is listed as an ‘online’ sign-up bonus, and I didn’t know this was a differentiating factor.”

That’s a bummer, and something everyone should remember when they’re applying for a new card.

Have you booked travel through the Bank of America Travel Center?

Covington has taken advantage of booking travel through the Bank of America® Travel Center, where you earn 3 points per dollar on all travel. But using the Travel Center has some drawbacks.

“A downside to the Travel Center is that they charge you a flat fee to make any changes to your reservation.” The fee is $30, plus the airline’s change fee, for an airline reservation change and $10 to change a hotel or car rental reservation.

“Also, if I wanted to use a travel voucher for an airline, I wouldn’t be able to redeem it through the Travel Center to get a cheaper ticket price. I’d have to go directly to book on the airline’s website, and I wouldn’t get the 3 points per dollar spent on travel.”

Do you have other accounts with Bank of America?

Another feature that swayed Covington was the points bonus Bank of America® customers can receive. Cardholders who have a checking or savings account with Bank of America® get a 10% points dividend on Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card purchases.

“I have a checking account with BofA so that I can enroll in the Preferred Rewards program. This was a central reason I decided to go with the Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card, since I knew this would be another advantage to me.”

If you have additional accounts with Merrill Edge® or Merrill Lynch®, you can earn higher points dividends, depending on the total balance in the accounts, but the combined account balances require a lot of money: $20,000 to $49,999 for a 25% points bonus, $50,000 to $99,999 for 50%, and $100,000 or more for 75%.

Have you redeemed points yet?

Covington is taking advantage of most of the card’s features, but he hasn’t redeemed his points for travel yet. “Just like airline miles, I generally save up a ton of the rewards and then spend them on bigger purchases,” he says. “Once I gather enough points, I’m looking to head back to Europe and visit a couple of friends out there.”

Have you participated in any Visa Signature events?

The Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card is in the Visa Signature program, so cardholders have access to a 24/7 concierge, events such as the Sonoma Wine Country Weekend, preferred seating at Cirque du Soleil, or museum admission discounts.

“I haven’t used any of the Visa Signature benefits yet, but I’ll definitely make an effort to take a look at this when the right event or opportunity arises,” Covington says. “Sometimes it’s easy to forget the extra benefits a card like this can offer. It’d be great to get more proactive reminders from Bank of America® about the benefits and how my points could be used.”

Have you used the card to splurge on anything?

Covington says he hasn’t used his card for any outlandish spending yet. “I tend to surprise myself with some crazy purchases when I’m ready to make them,” he says.

“Last year, I spontaneously purchased tickets to Sydney, Australia, 10 days before departure, so I know I have it in me to do something crazy with this card. Just wait until the holiday shopping season!”

Interview by Ellen Cannon. Cannon is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: ecannon@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @ellencannon.