Credit Card Credit Card Reviews

Bank of America Cash Rewards for Students Review

overall rating
4.3

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The Bank of America Cash Rewards credit card for students offers flexible rewards for students who want to earn cash back while building credit history. With no annual fee and a tiered rewards structure, this card caters most to spenders who primarily charge everyday purchases.

Bank of America® Cash Rewards for Students

overall rating
4.6
Bank of America® Cash Rewards for Students
On Bank of America's Secured Site.

Current Offer:

$200 online cash rewards bonus after you make at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of 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 (%) 15.49% - 25.49% variable
Annual Fee $0
Rewards Earning Rate Earn 3% cash back in the eligible category of your choice, 2% cash back at grocery stores and wholesale clubs, and 1% cash back on all other purchases. You’ll earn 3% and 2% cash back on the first $2,500 in combined categories each quarter, then 1%
INTRO PURCHASE APR 0% for 15 Billing Cycles
INTRO BALANCE TRANSFER APR 0% for 15 Billing Cycles
Balance Transfer Fee Either $10 or 3% of the amount of each transaction, whichever is greater.
Foreign transaction fee (%) 3%
how this card stacks up
When compared among all student cards in our database:
Low Interest
Security/Customer Experience
Low Fees
Rewards
Benefits
worst best

Full Review of Bank of America Cash Rewards for Students

Pros
  • Choice of the cash-back category that earns high rewards

  • 0% introductory APR offer on purchases and balance transfers

  • Overdraft protection and rewards bonuses for banking customers

Cons
  • Foreign transaction fee is less than ideal for those studying abroad

  • The highest rewards earnings are capped

  • Relatively high minimum spending required for introductory bonus

Pros Explained

  • Choice of the Cash-Back Category That Earns High Rewards: While some student cash rewards cards offer a single flat cash back rate, the Bank of America Cash Rewards credit cards for students tiers its rewards. We'll dig into how rewards work but in a nutshell, students have the option to choose an eligible category of purchases that earns the highest rewards rate, and can change the category if they wish. That's a nice perk you don't always find with a cash-back card.
  • 0% APR Offer on Purchases or Balance Transfers: This card offers an introductory 0% annual percentage rate for the first 15 billing cycles. That's good for students who have large purchases planned that they need time to pay off, or a balance to transfer from another card. There is a balance transfer fee of 3%, with a minimum fee of $10.
  • Overdraft Protection and Rewards Bonuses for Banking Customers: Students who also have a checking account at Bank of America can link their card to it to use as a line of credit for overdraft protection. While a $12 fee applies for each overdraft protection transaction charged to your card, that’s less than a typical overdraft fee for your bank account. Be aware, however, that the bank considers overdrafts it covers to be cash advances, and so begins charging an APR of 28.74 variable from the date of the transaction. Holding a Bank of America bank account or Merrill investment account with a high balance also sweetens the rewards with this card. A balance of at least $20,000 earns you a bonus of 25% and up on the card’s cash-back rewards.

Cons Explained

  • Foreign Transaction Fee is Less than Ideal for Those Studying Abroad: If you're seeking a card to use a lot outside the U.S., the Bank of America Cash Rewards credit card for students isn't a great choice. Like many cards—but unlike the best student cards for foreign study, which have no such fee—this card charges a 3% foreign transaction fee. That charge will really add up over the course of a semester or year, essentially canceling out the card's cash-back rewards.
  • Upper-Tier Rewards Earnings are Capped Each Quarter: Some cash back cards offer unlimited cash back earning potential at their higher earnings tiers. This one doesn't. The highest rewards tiers are subject to a quarterly spending threshold of $2,500. That limits the amount of cash back you can earn at those higher rates, at least in theory. In practice, the relatively high cap will not hamper many students, who likely wouldn’t charge more $800 or so a month to the card for groceries, gas, and the like.
  • Relatively High Minimum Spending Required for Introductory Bonus: A distinct perk to getting a new credit card is the ability to earn an introductory rewards bonus that puts some cash into your pocket right off the bat. The catch, of course, is that there is a minimum spending requirement to meet, and within a certain period. Requiring $1,000 in charges within the first 90 days, the offer with this card is more challenging to earn than those of some other student or regular cash back cards.

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 College Student Persona
    Currently enrolled in an accredited four year college or university
    College Student

This card could be a good fit for students who want to earn cash rewards on everyday purchases, and without paying an annual fee. The rewards categories cater primarily to the types of things students often spend money on, including groceries, dining, entertainment, and online shopping.

It could also make particular sense for students who already bank with Bank of America and or use their credit card as overdraft protection for a checking account, and perhaps want to stay loyal to that bank, as well. The introductory APR period makes it equally promising for students who have credit card debt that they want to make more manageable with a lower rate or want time to pay off purchases without interest.

Bank of America Cash Rewards Credit Card for Students One-Time Offer

As mentioned, this card does offer a one-time offer. The bonus is currently worth $200 in cash back rewards. To qualify for the bonus, students must make $1,000 in purchases within the first 90 days of opening their account. That breaks down to around $333 and change for each of the first three months. 

At a glance, $1,000 doesn't seem like a significant number to hit. But there are other student rewards cards that offer a comparable one-time offer, either in cash back or points, and only require a minimum of $500 in spending. Aside from that, charging $1,000 in purchases is something students should think through to make sure they can afford to pay it back, at least at the end of the introductory 0% APR period.

Rewards Earning Details

There are three rewards tiers for earning cash back with this card. First, is the 3% cash back rewards rate which applies one category of your choice from this list:

  • Gas
  • Online shopping
  • Dining
  • Travel
  • Drug stores
  • Home improvement stores
  • Furniture stores

You can choose which category you want to earn 3% cash back in each calendar month. If you don't make a selection, your default choice is automatically set to gas. You can make changes to your category through the Bank of America mobile app or online banking. 

In other words, you have the freedom to change things up, based on your spending patterns. So if you spend more on online shopping during the last three months of the year leading up to the holidays, you could choose that to be your 3% category from October to December. Or if you're planning to move into a new apartment over the summer, you could switch it to furniture stores for a month or two. 

While travel is on the list, keep in mind that you'll earn cash back on travel purchases. You won't get any points or miles, which might be a drawback to you if you're looking for a card that lets you transfer travel rewards to airline or hotel loyalty programs. 

At the next tier down, members earn 2% cash back at grocery stores and wholesale clubs. You don't need to choose this category or activate any bonuses; you'll earn this rewards rate on those purchases automatically. 

Be aware of some fine print, though. Members earn 3% and 2% cash back only the first $2,500 every quarter of combined spending in their category of choice and grocery store/wholesale club purchases. Once you reach that threshold, you continue earning cash back on those purchases at a rate of 1% until the next quarter begins. While that's a reasonably high quarterly cap—these can be as low as $1,500 with some cards—you should still be aware that your cash-back earning potential in those categories isn't unlimited. 

You can, however, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases outside the category of your choice or grocery store/wholesale club purchases.

Rewards Redemption Details

You have several ways to redeem cash rewards earned with this card. Those options include:

  • Redeeming cash rewards for a statement credit in any amount.
  • Depositing the money into a Bank of America checking or savings account.
  • Depositing the money into an eligible Merrill Lynch of Merrill Edge account. 
  • Redeeming for contributions to a qualifying 529 account to help pay college costs.

You just need a minimum of $25 in cash back rewards to redeem. You can log in to your Bank of America account to see how much you've accumulated in rewards.

How to Maximize Your Rewards

Maximizing rewards with this card begins with qualifying for the introductory bonus. Again, it takes an average of $333 and change in purchases for each of the first three months to meet the $1,000 minimum. Another option could be to charge a large one-time purchase, such as textbooks, school fees or some new furniture for your dorm room or apartment. 

The best way to maximize ongoing rewards is to be strategic with category choices, while keeping the $2,500 quarterly spending cap in mind. For example, say you're spending from October to December, earning 3% in cash back on online shopping during that quarter. If you charge $1,000 in groceries over that time period and $1,500 in online shopping, you'd earn $65 in cash back during that time period. 

An even better way to maximize rewards would be make sure that as many of the purchases made under the $2,500 quarterly threshold qualify for the 3% cash back rate. If you were to max out the spending threshold at that rate, you'd earn $75 back per quarter, or $300 cash back for the year. Those numbers don't include cash back you could earn on all other purchases at the 1% rate. 

If you happen to already have a hefty amount in cash or investment earnings, you can also earn further benefits through the Bank of America Preferred Rewards program. This program offers additional rewards bonuses for Bank of America checking and savings account owners as well as those with Merrill investment accounts. Students can receive a rewards bonus of 25% to 75% on top of their base rewards, but the program’s required balances are high, starting at $20,000. The higher the balance, the higher the bonus.

Bank of America Cash Rewards Credit Card for Students Standard Benefits

  • Free FICO credit score access
  • Overdraft protection
  • Digital wallet technology
  • Mobile and online banking access
  • Account alerts
  • Paperless statements

Cardholder Experience

Bank of America received a 798 rating in J.D. Power's 2019 Credit Card Satisfaction Survey. That ranking was just below the national average rating of 806. But Bank of America did win Money magazine's Best Bank for College Students award.

Students can manage their accounts online or through the Bank of America mobile banking app. Help is available through customer service live chat, at a Bank of America branch or by calling 1-800-732-9194. Customer service is available by phone 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Security Features

This card has the standard security features you'd expect in a student credit card. That includes EMV chip technology, the ability to set up account alerts to monitor activity, digital wallet capability, continuous fraud monitoring and a $0 liability guarantee if your card is lost or stolen and used to make fraudulent purchases.

Fees to Watch Out For

The fee that might be of most concern to students is the 3% foreign transaction fee. Using this card for a semester abroad or a vacation outside the U.S. could make those purchases more expensive. It's also worth mentioning the balance transfer fee again in case you're looking for a card with a low balance transfer fee.

Our Verdict

The Bank of America Cash Rewards credit card for students is a solid choice for a cash back rewards card with no annual fee. The introductory bonus is on par with what other regular cash back rewards cards offer, although the $1,000 minimum spending requirement might be a bit high for students who aren't heavy spenders. 

While it can also double as a travel rewards card, this card wouldn't be our first choice for earning rewards for hotel stays or flights. There are other cards that are better suited for earning and redeeming points and miles for free travel. The 3% foreign transaction fee isn't great either, since it can effectively cancel out the 3% cash back rewards you could earn by selecting travel as your chosen category when you spend outside the U.S.

Overall, this card may be preferable for students who will charge $2,500 or more to a card each quarter and tend to do most of their spending on typical college student expenses.

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For Bank of America® Cash Rewards for Students
on Bank of America's Secured Site.
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CURRENT CARD
Bank of America® Cash Rewards for Students
overall rating
4.3
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 (%) 15.49% - 25.49% variable
Annual Fee $0
INTRO PURCHASE APR 0% for 15 Billing Cycles
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.