Credit Cards Credit Card Reviews

Bank of America Cash Rewards Credit Card Review

overall rating
4.0

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The Bank of America Cash Rewards credit card offers flexible and generous cash back rewards, albeit with bonuses and perks that are tailored to the company's banking and investment customers. You pick one category among six for 3% cash back, and also earn an above-average 2% cash back at grocery stores and wholesale clubs, on the first $2,500 per quarter in combined bonused-category spending. There's no annual fee and Its attractive introductory offers are 0% APR financing for a decent period and a cash bonus that, while modest, is very easily and quickly earned.

Bank of America Cash Rewards Credit Card

Overall Rating
4.0
Bank of America Cash Rewards Credit Card
On Bank of America's Secured Site.
Current Offer

Online $200 cash rewards bonus after making at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of your account opening.

Recommended Credit Score Our recommended ranges are based off of the FICO® Score 8 credit-scoring model. Credit score is one of the many factors lenders review in considering your application.
350 579
580 669
670 739
740 799
800 850
Good - Excellent
Regular APR (%) 13.99% - 23.99% variable
Annual Fee $0
Rewards Earning Rate Earn 3% cash back in the category of your choice, 2% at grocery stores and wholesale clubs (up to $2,500 in combined choice category/grocery store/wholesale club quarterly purchases) and unlimited 1% on all other purchases.
INTRO PURCHASE APR 0% for 12 Billing Cycles
INTRO BALANCE TRANSFER APR 0% for 12 Billing Cycles
Balance Transfer Fee Either $10 or 3% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
Foreign transaction fee (%) 3%
how this card stacks up
When compared among all rewards cards in our database:
Rewards
Benefits
Low Fees
Security/Customer Experience
Low Interest
worst best

Full Review of Bank of America Cash Rewards Credit Card

Pros
  • Generous cash-back rewards

  • Easily earned bonus offer for new cardholders

  • No annual fee

  • Fairly generous introductory 0% APR offer

  • Substantial bank or investment-account balances allow for extra cash-back bonuses

Cons
  • Spending caps on premium rewards earnings

  • Complicated redemption options

  • Purchases at multiple-category stores do not qualify for grocery rewards

Pros Explained

  • Generous Cash-Back Rewards: This card offers 3% cash-back on a bonus category of your choice; the options are gas (a category that includes heating oil and marine fuel), online shopping, dining, travel, drug stores, or home improvement/furnishings. The category can be changed if you wish, although you must stay with each one for at least a month. The card pays 2% cash back at grocery stores and wholesale clubs and 1% cash back on all other purchases. 
  • Easily Earned Bonus Offer for New Cardholders: The bonus is among the easiest introductory cash offers to earn. Charging just $1,000 in your first 90 days with the card brings a $200 reward. And that’s in addition to what you’d earn in cash back on those purchases.
  • No Annual Fee: The Bank of America Rewards offers above-average rewards for a card that has no annual fee. Unlike cards that merely waive the fee for the first year, then, you won’t face a decision on whether to pay a fee to renew the card in subsequent years.
  • Fairly Generous Introductory 0% APR Offer: This card has attractive terms if you're seeking to carry debt transferred from another card interest-free or to make major purchases without incurring interest charges. There’s a 0% introductory period for the first 12 billing cycles on new purchases and on balances transferred within the first 60 days of account opening. There is, however, a balance-transfer fee of 3% of the sum transferred or $10, whichever is greater. After the introductory period, the APR varies within a range of 13.99% to 23.99% variable.
  • Substantial Bank- or Investment-Account Balances Allow for Extra Cash-Back Bonuses: The card's cash-back bonuses become more generous still if you have at least $20,000 in a Bank of America bank account or Merrill investment account. Under the bank's Preferred Rewards program, a three-month average balance of $20,000 will earn you an additional 25% in cash back. The bonus rises to 50% if you maintain a $50,000 balance, and to 75% if you have $100,000-plus in an account. B of A customers with substantial holdings will be hard-pressed to earn better rewards with any other card.

Cons Explained

  • Spending Caps on Premium Rewards: Cardholders earn 3% on categories and 2% on grocery stores and wholesale clubs on the first $2,500 in combined purchases per quarter. That’s a higher figure than with most cards that have caps, and should suffice for a typical household. However, if you’re an especially big spender in categories featured by the card, you may want to consider a card that has both high rewards and no caps. There's no cap on the rewards you can earn at the standard 1% cash back rate.
  • Limited Redemption Options: As with almost all cards, rewards can simply be redeemed for a statement credit at any time for any amount. But where most cards allow a range of other ways for any customer to redeem cash back, including as gift cards that sometimes come with bonuses, this card's other options cater exclusively to Bank of America and Merrill customers. Rewards can be deposited directly into a Bank of America checking or savings account or be credited to a Merrill Lynch or Merrill Edge account, including being automatically invested in a 529 educational plan. 
  • Purchases at Multiple-Category Stores do not Qualify for Grocery Rewards: As with many cards, the definition of grocery stores used by Bank of America exempts superstores that sell groceries, such as Walmart and Target, as well as convenience stores. That means you’ll earn only the regular 1% cash-back rate on groceries bought at those stores, not the 2% one. However, you can earn the 2% rate on purchases from wholesale clubs, a retail type that many cards exempt from premium rewards.

This Card is Best For

  • Avatar for Cash Back Strategist Persona
    Seeks to maximize cash back earnings across spending categories
    Cash Back Strategist
  • Avatar for Annual Fee Averse Persona
    Resists or refuses an annual fee on principle or due to cost
    Annual Fee Averse
  • Avatar for Head of Household Persona
    Primarily responsible for household grocery and other major purchases
    Head of Household
  • Avatar for Driver/Commuter Persona
    Incurs gasoline or other commuting expenses each month
    Driver/Commuter

The Bank of America Cash Rewards card is most rewarding to those who have a sizable balance in a Bank of America or Merrill account. If you hold between $20,000 and $100,000 in such an account, you’ll supercharge your cash back rates by 25% to 75%. With the bonuses, you’ll earn between 3.75% and 5.25% on your selected category, 2.5% to 3.5% on grocery stores and wholesale clubs, and 1.25% to 1.75% on all other purchases. 

The card has appeal, however, even to those who lack an account with a hefty balance. Its generous 3% cash back on a select category of your choice makes the Bank of America Cash Rewards card ideal for shoppers who are well-organized and willing to plan their purchases around that top rate, including changing the bonus category when necessary. 

It's also well-suited to those who shop a lot at regular supermarkets, or at warehouse clubs such as Sam’s Club and Costco; where many cards (except the clubs' own branded cards) exempt these retailers from premium rewards rates, the Bank of America Cash Rewards pays 2% cash back on purchases there. 

Bank of America Cash Rewards Credit Card Bonus

New cardholders can earn $200 cash back after making $1,000 or more in purchases on their card within the first 90 days of opening an account. The bonus posts to the rewards balance in your account eight to 12 weeks after you qualify to receive it. 

That's one of the higher bonus offers among cash-back rewards cards with no annual fee. Other cards in this category, such as the Capital One Quicksilver card, offer bonuses of $150, albeit with a lower spending requirement of just $500 during the first 3 months. 

Rewards Earning Details

Cardholders can earn 3% cash back on a category of their choice: gas (a category that also includes heating oil and marine fuel), online shopping, dining, travel, drug stores, or home improvement/furnishings. Categories can be changed up to once per month.

Bank of America is fairly liberal when it comes to how it defines its retail categories. For instance, you’ll earn premium rewards for dining not only at restaurants and fast food vendors but potentially at establishments that primarily sell drinks, including bars, cocktail lounges, discotheques, nightclubs, and taverns.

As with many cards, though, superstores that sell groceries, such as Walmart and Target, as well as convenience stores, aren’t eligible for the 2% cash back at grocery stores. You can, however, earn the higher rate on purchases from wholesale clubs, which many cards exempt from their premium rewards category.  

There's a combined cap of $2,500 per quarter at the 3% and 2% earning tiers. You earn 1% cash back on all other purchases.

Those who qualify and sign up for Bank of America's Preferred Rewards program have the opportunity to increase their rate. Customers in the Gold tier, which requires a Bank of America personal checking account or Merrill account with a three-month average balance of $20,000 to $49,999, get a 25% rewards bonus. Those in the Platinum tier, with an average balance of $50,000 to $99,999, get a 50% rewards bonus. And those in the Platinum Honors tier, with an average balance of $100,000 or more, get a 75% rewards bonus.

Rewards Redemption Details

Cardholders have fewer redemption options than with most other cards, especially if they aren't a Bank of America banking or investment customer. Cash back rewards can be redeemed for a statement credit at any time for any amount. Rewards can also be deposited into a Bank of America checking or savings account or redeemed for a credit to an eligible Merrill Lynch or Merrill Edge account.

Cardholders can also opt to redeem cash back in the form of contributions to a 529 account with Merrill Lynch or Merrill Edge. It's even possible to set up automatic redemptions starting at $25 to an eligible Bank of America, Merrill Lynch, or Merrill Edge account.

How to Maximize Your Rewards

To make the most of this card, try to get as close as possible to the $2,500 spending cap in every quarter. Since that figure represents a relatively high amount for most households, you may want to shop strategically to maximize your cash back. If you’re especially patient and organized, for example, you might frequently change the premium rewards category to suit seasonal spending. For example, you might switch to making the richest rewards on apparel during the holiday season, to buy clothing gifts and take advantage of sales. You might then switch the category to furnishings when you plan major purchases of furniture and home goods, and to gasoline when you’re embarking on an extended summer road trip. 

With those highest rewards optimized, you should then focus as much of your remaining spending as possible in grocery stores and warehouse clubs, where you’ll earn a still-respectable 2% cash back. True, warehouse clubs such as Costco and Sam’s Club impose fees of between $45 and $60 a year for a standard annual membership. You should, however, readily justify that expense through higher cash back earnings and the club’s customary low prices.

If you're prepared to take ultimate measures to maximize this card's benefits, you might consider shifting some assets to Bank of America or Merrill, in order to earn the higher Preferred Rewards bonuses of 25% to 75% on cash back earnings. However, given the sums you'd need to transfer ($20,000 to $100,000), be cautious about making a change with so many implications simply to earn additional rewards.

Average Case

It would be easy, we calculate, for an average household to net at least $300 or so in rewards with this card. Here's how our math breaks down.

Let's assume a (simple, and thus likely) scenario of selecting the category eligible for the 3% cash back rewards in which the typical U.S. household spends the most, that of dining out. The average household spends $288 per month on food outside the home, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Charged to the card at a 3% cash back rate, the average quarterly spending on eating out of $864 would yield about $25 a quarter, or $100 a year, in rewards. Typical household spending on groceries would add another $1,116 per quarter; at the 2% cash back rate for such purchases, that spending would yield rewards of another $22 or so a quarter, or $136 a year.

That combined spending, of $1,980, is still more than $500 short of the combined quarterly cap for 3% and 2% categories. So let's assume our household spends the remainder of each quarter’s limit on common buying categories at a warehouse club, where purchases earn a 2% rate. For example, they might buy a combination of gas, which some clubs offer (average household spending per quarter: $527), apparel ($466), and personal-care products ($192). 

Spending the remaining $520 a quarter, to get up to the $2,500 quarterly limit, at a warehouse club would yield about $10.40 a quarter, or $42 or so a year, in 2% cash back rewards. That's nearly enough to equal the club’s $50 annual fee. 

You'd then be free to continue enjoying the club's low prices for further purchases, and to earn 1% cash back on them. Even after accounting for warehouse-club spending that earns a 2% rate, you might easily spend—and charge to the card—a further $9,000 a year on apparel, personal care, and entertainment alone, based on Bureau of Labor Statistics on spending. Those charges, wherever they're made, would yield a further $90 a year in 1% cash back benefits.

This spending scenario, then, could yield about $315 a year in net rewards, not accounting for the $50 cost of the warehouse club membership, and earning an additional $100 a year from dining rewards, $136 from those for groceries, and at least $90 from other spending.    

Aspirational Case

You'll get the most cash back out of this card if you can hit the $2,500 spending cap each quarter with spending at the 3% rate alone. 

To do that, you'd have to be a big, diverse spender who tactically switches categories to make the most of where you're spending.

For example, let's say you spend $1,500 on travel one month out of the quarter, then switch to home improvement for the next month, spending $500; and then spend a further $500 on online shopping the final month of the quarter. Your basic cash back for the quarter from purchases at the 3% cash back rate would be the maximum allowed, $75. Then, as with the typical case above, you'd add to the total by charging to the card the national average $1,116 a quarter on groceries, which would yield rewards at the 1% rate of another $17. Plus further rewards of another $9 or so a quarter for further 1% rewards on a typical spend of $864 a quarter on dining out. 

That would yield a grand total of $101 in rewards for the quarter. But let's further assume the cardholder qualifies for the highest tier of Bank of America's Preferred Rewards program by holding a combined account balance of $100,000 or more in B of A and Merrill accounts. That would earn a 75% boost on the rewards earnings, to yield an additional $76 in cash back for the quarter. Grand total for the quarter: an impressive $177. 

Those earnings probably aren't sustainable. Given the restrictions of the 3% cash back categories, even a wealthy spender probably couldn’t easily hit the limit on spending within them for four quarters in a row. But let's assume they did so for two quarters, which would earn $354 in rewards, including the Preferred Spending boost. 

For the other half of the year, they might pursue the same $2,000/$500 split between 3% and 2% rewards spending we set out for the average case above, and would charge to the card a further $9,000 a year on apparel, personal care, and entertainment alone, earning 1% on those. That spending would yield a total of $157 in cash back benefits for the other six months of the year, before the Preferred Rewards boost. With the $101 bonus at the highest (75%) rate, as for the other two quarters, the rewards haul for these other two quarters would be $275. 

Putting together the year, then, the earnings for the two quarters would be $354 and $275 respectively, for a grand total of $629—an enormous sum as cash back earnings go.

Standard Benefits

  • Trip interruption insurance
  •  Extended warranty and purchase protection
  • Overdraft protection
  • Online and mobile banking
  • Paperless statements
  • Chip-enabled card
  • Free monthly FICO score free

Cardholder Experience

Bank of America received a rating of 791, and a ranking of eighth place, in J.D. Power's 2018 customer satisfaction survey, behind Citi with a rating of 797.

Credit card customer service is available 24/7 at 800-732-9194. 

Security Features

Bank of America provides standard security features, including automatically receipt of fraud monitoring and freedom from liability for fraudulent purchases.

This card also comes with chip technology, overdraft protection, online and mobile banking and account alerts. You can add this card to your digital wallet, sign up for account alerts to get reminders about balances and due dates, and get a free FICO score update each month. 

Our Verdict

This no-annual-fee card is a strong option for households whose spending varies a lot by category throughout the year, and so value the flexibility to choose (every month if they wish) the purchase category on which they earn the highest cash back rate, of a generous 3%. That's a unique feature. And even if you leave the card at the default category of gasoline, that 3% rate competes well with the best rates for gas purchases on other cash back cards.

In addition, the card offers a healthy 2% rate on purchases at supermarkets and warehouse clubs. The ability to charge food, and anything else, to purchases at the clubs—including Costco, BJ's, and Sam's Club—is unusual in no-fee card, and could allow you to receive a comparable 2% cash back those clubs offer on their own premium memberships without paying the extra membership fee of between $50 and $60 a year to do so. However, bear in mind that you would be missing out on the additional 2% that a premium warehouse membership would provide along with any perks tied to the membership.

The Preferred Rewards bonuses this card awards to those with large ($20,000 and up) account balances at Bank of America or Merrill is a unique feature that makes the Bank of America Cash Rewards an unbeatable cash back options for such customers, who can add 25% to 75% to their total rewards.

Such account holders aside, this card isn't necessarily an optimal choice for everyone. Very big spenders who may charge more than the hefty $2,500 spending cap to their preferred category within a quarter might be better off with a card that pays a lower rate, but on unlimited spending and in all categories, such as the Citi Double cash card and Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards. The Citi Double cash card, for example, offers 1% cash back when you purchase and an additional 1% cash back when you pay off your balance—essentially 2% cash back. If you spend $4,000 per month, the most you could earn with the Bank of America Cash Rewards card is $170 per quarter. The Citi Double cash card would earn you $240 in cash back.

Since some cards offer better introductory 0% APR offers on balance transfers and new purchases, the Bank of America Cash Rewards isn't ideal if these perks are your top priority in a card. That said, this card's offer is generous enough, although there's a fee for balance transfers, which some cards do not impose.

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For Bank of America Cash Rewards Credit Card
on Bank of America's Secured Site.
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CURRENT CARD
Bank of America Cash Rewards Credit Card
overall rating
4.0
Recommended Credit Score Our recommended ranges are based off of the FICO® Score 8 credit-scoring model. Credit score is one of the many factors lenders review in considering your application.
350 579
580 669
670 739
740 799
800 850
Good - Excellent
Regular APR (%) 13.99% - 23.99% variable
Annual Fee $0
Rewards Earning Rate Earn 3% cash back in the category of your choice, 2% at grocery stores and wholesale clubs (up to $2,500 in combined choice category/grocery store/wholesale club quarterly purchases) and unlimited 1% on all other purchases.
Investopedia Credit Card Rating Methodology
Investopedia is committed to delivering the best credit card recommendations in the industry. We’ll tell you when a card is good, we’ll tell you when a card is bad, and we’ll only call a card the best if we would recommend it to our friends or family members.
Overall Star Rating Explained
To rate credit cards we objectively assess, score and weight nearly 100 individual card features which roll up into five major feature sets: fees, interest, rewards, benefits and security/customer service. Here’s how we weighted those feature sets for the overall star rating of a card:
We have applied our proprietary rating methodology to every generally-accepted credit card in the U.S. domestic market to allow consumers to make fully informed choices. It’s important to note that for our overall score that we make a number of assumptions about how you would be using your credit card:
  1. While we make no assumption as to whether balances are carried on a given card we do assign varying weights to all credit cards’ introductory APR (if present) in addition to the regular, long term purchase and balance transfer interest rates.
  2. We utilize BLS (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics) income and average category spending data to calculate annual earnings rates for rewards cards that offer cash back, points or miles rewards at a set rate on all spending or in consideration of bonus rewards for certain spending categories, like gasoline, groceries, restaurants or travel.
  3. We determine the maximum points value of rewards cards by dividing the points, cash back or miles required to exchange for the retail price of the most valuable redemption option (for example, in the case of a card that offers a domestic roundtrip airline ticket as a redemption option vs. another redemption option of lesser value that requires the same amount of points or miles to acquire, we would base the rewards value on the airline ticket).
  • Cards that are selected best overall in their respective categories generally feature most if not all of the following attributes:
  • Low or Reasonable Fees Credit card fees come in many forms but the primary ones involve those for annual card membership and balance transfer. There are a myriad of reward and non-reward card options that charge no annual fee but for the many that do assess an annual fee the cost is often justified by their lucrative ongoing rewards and initial signup bonuses. Balance transfer fees are occasionally waived during introductory periods with certain cards, a factor which is heavily and positively weighted in our scoring model for cards offering this benefit. When charged, balance transfer fees range between 3% - 5%, which we grade accordingly. Other standard fees can generally be avoided, such as those for paying late or taking cash advances but we rate those relative to other cards in the market for reference, though with less weight assigned
  • Competitive Interest Many cards offer 0% introductory APR on purchases and balance transfers for varying lengths and then revert to a permanent or regular APR (based on a variable rate tied to the prime rate) that applies to any balances not paid in full. We rate both introductory APR percentage and length (in months) along with the midpoint of the variable regular APR interest rate range.
  • Valuable Rewards Credit card reward programs can be based on cash back, points or travel rewards (which can be generic or travel partner-specific, as with airline and hotel co-brand card programs). For cards that offer rewards we determine the value per dollar spent along with average redemption values and assign more favorable ratings to cards that offer superior consumer value. We also assign value to sign-up bonus offers and their initial spending requirements, when present.
  • Excellent Benefits Credit card benefits cover a range of offerings like concierge service, TSA Pre-check, auto rental coverage, travel accident insurance, lost luggage assistance and free credit scores. We rate cards on the number and level of over a dozen standard and upscale benefits and provide extra weighting emphasis for those travel-related perks that apply to premium travel cards when present.
  • Solid Security/Customer Service Security and customer service features like lost or stolen card replacement, being able to lock one’s card from an issuer app and 24 hour customer support are becoming more standard across the card market and we provide a significant amount of weighting to features in this area.
  • You can also read the full version of our methodology for a more in-depth look at how we assess cards and award them the best in various categories.