Editorial Review

Bank of America Cash Rewards Review: Choose Your Own Bonus Category

Cardholders get bonus rewards at grocery stores, wholesale clubs and a category of their choice. But to unlock maximum rewards, you must be a Bank of America® banking customer.

Claire TsosieSeptember 3, 2019

At NerdWallet, we strive to help you make financial decisions with confidence. To do this, many or all of the products featured here are from our partners. However, this doesn’t influence our evaluations. Our opinions are our own.

Our Take

3.6

NerdWallet rating 

The Bottom Line: The option to choose your own 3% cash-back category makes this card appealing for frugal spenders, despite its complicated rewards program and spending caps. If you qualify for the Preferred Rewards program, it can be even more valuable.

Bank of America® Cash Rewards Credit Card

on Bank of America's website, or call (877) 754-6706

Annual Fee

$0

Regular APR

15.99% - 25.99% Variable APR

Intro APR

0% Introductory APR for 15 billing cycles for purchases, and for any balance transfers made in the first 60 days

Recommended Credit Score

Quick Facts

Annual Fee
$0
Annual Fee
$0
Intro APR
0% Introductory APR for 15 billing cycles for purchases, and for any balance transfers made in the first 60 days

Pros & Cons

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

Alternate Pick: Big rewards for families

Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express

Bigger and simpler rewards — for a fee

This card pays 6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets, on up to $6,000 a year in spending (then 1%); 6% cash back on select U.S. streaming subscriptions; 3% cash back at U.S. gas stations and on transit (including such things as taxis, rideshares, parking, tolls, trains and buses); and 1% cash back on all other purchases. Terms Apply. The high reward rates make the $95 annual fee worth it for many families.

Read our review

Compare to Other Cards

Annual Fee

$0

Annual Fee

$0

Annual Fee

$0

Regular APR

15.99% - 25.99% Variable APR

Regular APR

15.99% - 25.99% Variable APR

Regular APR

15.99% - 27.99% Variable APR

Rates & Fees

Intro APR

0% Introductory APR for 15 billing cycles for purchases, and for any balance transfers made in the first 60 days

Intro APR

0% on Balance Transfers for 18 months

Intro APR

0% APR for 15 months on purchases and qualifying balance transfers

Recommended Credit Score
Recommended Credit Score
Recommended Credit Score

Full Review

With the Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card, you get a say in how you earn bonus cash back. The $0-annual-fee card, retooled in January 2019, lets you choose your own 3% bonus category from a list of options and change that selection up to once a month.

Because of this card's bonus category spending caps, it's not a good pick for big spenders. But its flexibility makes it a strong choice for frugal cardholders, despite its complicated terms. And for those who can boost their rewards rates further by keeping large balances with Bank of America® or Merrill, it's an even better deal.

Key features of the Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card

Card type: Cash back.

Annual fee: $0.

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

Ongoing rewards:

While the Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card offers potentially valuable rewards for those who spend modestly, its rewards structure is fairly involved.

  • 3% back on a category of your choice (options listed below) and 2% back on grocery stores and wholesale clubs for the first $2,500 of combined bonus category/ grocery store/ wholesale club spending per quarter; after hitting that threshold, you’ll earn 1% back on these purchases.

  • 1% back on all other purchases.

When selecting a 3% back bonus category, you can choose one of the following six options:

  1. Gas.

  2. Online shopping.

  3. Dining.

  4. Travel.

  5. Drugstores.

  6. Home improvement and furnishings.

You can change this category up to once a month. If you don't select a category, the default 3% cash-back category will be set to gas, according to the issuer. Your selected category will remain the same from month to month, unless you change it.

APR: 0% on Purchases and Balance Transfers for 15 billing cycles, and then the ongoing APR of 15.99% - 25.99% Variable APR.

Other benefits:

With this card, there’s no minimum redemption requirement when doing a one-time redemption of cash rewards into your Bank of America® account or statement credit, but there’s still a $25 minimum redemption requirement for other redemption options. Cash back can be redeemed for statement credit, a check, a direct deposit into a Bank of America® checking or savings account, an eligible 529 account or a contribution to an eligible Merrill account. You can also opt to register for automatic redemption.

Before pouncing on this offer, pay close attention to the spending caps on the bonus categories. If you spend far more than $2,500 per quarter on this card's 3% and 2% categories, you might earn more rewards with a different card that doesn't impose such caps.

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

YOU WANT TO CHOOSE YOUR OWN 3% CATEGORY

There aren’t many rewards credit cards that allow you to choose your own bonus categories. And of those that exist, none of them lets you change your selection up to once a month, as the Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card does. That makes the card valuable for cardholders who want choice — especially because the card defines its rewards categories quite generously.

Consider the online shopping category, for example. The issuer says that this category could include purchases made with the following retailers, among others:

  • Amazon.com.

  • Bestbuy.com.

  • Groupon.com.

  • Ticketmaster.com.

  • Apple.com.

  • Macys.com.

  • Walmart.com.

The dining category is similarly wide-ranging. This bonus category isn't just limited to sit-down restaurants; it also includes other eating places, fast food restaurants, bars, cocktail lounges, nightclubs, taverns and drinking places. That would include, for example, Starbucks, GrubHub and McDonald's, among many other merchants, the issuer confirms.

Remember, though, you'll only earn bonus rewards on the first combined $2,500 in purchases on the card's 3% and 2% categories each quarter. After that, you'll earn only 1% on those purchases.

YOU KEEP LARGE BALANCES WITH BANK OF AMERICA® OR MERRILL

While the Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card promises plenty of choices, its rewards rates are unremarkable compared with other no-annual-fee cards — that is, unless you qualify for the Bank of America® Preferred Rewards program.

Under this program, you can earn 25% to 75% more on your eligible Bank of America® credit card rewards, among other benefits. You can qualify for the Preferred Rewards program when your combined balances in Bank of America® or Merrill accounts surpass certain thresholds. For example, say you kept more than a combined $100,000 in Bank of America® and Merrill accounts, and qualified for the 75% rewards boost. Instead of the usual 3% cash back on the category of your choice, you'd effectively be earning 5.25% back on purchases in that category. That's more than you'd generally earn on other no-annual-fee cards.

YOU WANT An Introductory 0% APR PEriod and no annual fee

With the Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card, you can come out ahead on rewards no matter how little you spend. That's because the annual fee is $0. The card also comes with an introductory 0% APR offer: 0% on Purchases and Balance Transfers for 15 billing cycles, and then the ongoing APR of 15.99% - 25.99% Variable APR. That gives you plenty of breathing room to pay down a large purchase.

Why you should go with another card

YOU’RE A BIG SPENDER

The quarterly spending caps on the Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card make it a less valuable choice for those who spend thousands of dollars each month. If this is you, a flat-rate rewards card that doesn't impose such restrictions could be a smarter choice.

Try the $0-annual-fee Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer instead. It offers 2% cash back on all purchases: You’ll get 1% back when you make purchases, and another 1% back when you pay them off. That rewards rate alone is enough to put it in direct competition with rewards credit card heavyweights — even those that charge annual fees. Aside from its simple and generous ongoing rewards, the Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer also comes with an introductory APR offer: 0% on Balance Transfers for 18 months, and then the ongoing APR of 15.99% - 25.99% Variable APR.

YOU WANT A BIGGER BONUS

The Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card offers plenty of bonus category choices, but its sign-up bonus isn't the most generous available, even among no-annual-fee cards. The current offer: $200 online cash rewards bonus after you make at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening.

If you’re looking for bigger upfront value and no annual fee, the Discover it® Cash Back could fit the bill. The $0-annual-fee card features a bigger bonus: Discover will match ALL the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year, automatically. There's no signing up. And no limit to how much is matched.. It lets you earn 5% cash back at different places each quarter up to the quarterly maximum of $1,500 each time you activate. All other purchases get 1% cash back. Depending on how you spend, that could mean more rewards overall.

For more information on how these cards stack up with each other, see our roundup of best credit cards.

Should you get the Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card?

The bonus-category spending caps on the Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card can make it a less-valuable deal, especially if you spend thousands each month. But if you’re a frugal shopper and want to choose your own 3% cash-back bonus category — especially if you keep a lot of money with Bank of America® or Merrill — this card is an excellent pick.