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Is the Bank of America Premium Rewards Credit Card Worth Its Annual Fee?

Sept. 14, 2018
Reward Optimization, Travel, Travel Credit Cards
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Bank of America offers a good selection of credit cards with no annual fee. So it’s a safe bet that some careful consideration went into the $95 annual fee on the Bank of America® Premium Rewards® credit card. The bank’s gambit is that you’ll find the perks are worth the cost. Is it right? Here’s how to know if this card’s fee will be worth it to you.

The annual fee is worth it if you:

    • Spend a lot on travel and dining. The Bank of America® Premium Rewards® credit card pays 2 points per dollar spent on dining and travel and 1.5 points per dollar spent on everything else. Meanwhile, the bank’s $0-annual-fee Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card pays 1.5 points per dollar on all purchases. See where we’re going with this? Luckily, this card takes a very broad view of travel spending, going beyond the usual airfares, hotels and car rentals. The category includes museums, carnivals, amusement parks, passenger trains, buses, taxis, parking lots and even highway tolls.
    • Like simple redemptions. For some folks, it’s practically a sport to compare how much travel they can get when they book through the bank’s travel center versus what they can get through an airline or hotel partner, and then weigh the value of those options against cash back, statement credits and gift card options. Other people don’t like to play games with their rewards. The Bank of America® Premium Rewards® credit card points are worth a penny apiece and spent equally across the board: plane tickets, hotels, statement credits, cash back.
    • Have at least $20,000 in combined balances in Bank of America, Merrill Lynch or Merrill Edge accounts. A unique feature of this card is it bumps points payouts considerably for customers in the Bank of America Preferred Rewards program — meaning folks who have tens of thousands in qualifying Bank of America, Merrill Lynch and Merrill Edge accounts. If you have $20,000 to $49,999 combined in these institutions, your payouts are upped from 2 points per dollar on travel and dining to 2.5 points per dollar. For all other purchases, the 1.5-point-per-dollar payout rises to 1.875 points. Plus you earn a 25% rewards boost. At the $50,000 and $100,000 balance levels, your earnings go even higher — up to 3.5 points per dollar on travel and dining and 2.625 points per dollar on all other purchases, plus a 75% boost.

The annual fee is not worth it if you:

    • Can’t responsibly meet the $3,000 minimum spending requirement to receive the welcome bonus. The Bank of America® Premium Rewards® credit card’s welcome bonus isn’t anything to sneeze at: Receive 50,000 bonus points – a $500 value – after you make at least $3,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening. But if you can’t charge that much and then pay it back before interest begins to accrue, look for travel credit cards with lower bonus-spending thresholds.
    • Like the option of transferring points to travel partners. With the Bank of America® Premium Rewards® credit card, you spend the points you’ve earned directly through the Bank of America Travel Center. Book airfare, hotels or rental cars online, or choose cash back, statement credit or gift cards. But there’s no option to transfer points to partners such as airlines or hotel groups. That can make it harder to get the most out of your points.
    • Won’t spend $100 a year on qualifying air travel costs. You know all those annoying little costs that add up with air travel? Think baggage fees, seat upgrades and ticket changes? The Bank of America® Premium Rewards® credit card will reimburse up to $100 a year for many of those expenses. Plus, the card reimburses $100 every four years for expedited screening programs such as Global Entry or TSA Precheck. If you don’t buy those air travel incidentals, you’ll be leaving the equivalent of $125 a year on the table.

How to maximize your rewards

You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2018, including those best for:

Planning a trip? Check out these articles for more inspiration and advice:
5 top perks of the Bank of America Travel Rewards credit card
NerdWallet’s best Bank of America credit cards of 2018
How to get started with frequent flyer programs

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