Full Review of Bank of America Travel Rewards for Students
Decent travel-rewards earnings and no tiers to manage
Pay off purchases for 12 billing cycles with no interest
Friendly to foreign travel
Rewards aren't transferable
No 0% APR balance transfer offer
Minimum spending requirement is on the high side
- Decent Travel-Rewards Earnings and No Tiers to Manage: At 1.5 points earned for every dollar spent, this card is competitive in rewards with other no-fee travel cards. When redeemed for travel, each point is worth a cent, which is also fairly standard. Some student credit cards and regular travel rewards cards tier their rewards programs, meaning you earn more points or miles in one category versus another. The Bank of America Travel Rewards credit card for students makes earning travel rewards easy, with one flat rewards rate that applies to every dollar you spend.
- Pay Off New Purchases for 12 Billing Cycles with No Interest: This card could be a good choice for students who plan large purchases and could need time to pay them off without incurring interest charges. New members can take advantage of a 0% introductory APR on purchases for the first 12 billing cycles. After that, the rate reverts to a regular variable APR of 14.99% to 22.99%, based on creditworthiness.
- Friendly to Foreign Travel: This card also has potential for students who are planning a spring break trip overseas or want to spend a semester or two abroad. There is no foreign transaction fee, which is a money-saver considering that many cards charge between 1% and 3% to convert purchases made abroad to U.S. dollars.
- Reward Points Aren't Transferable: A travel rewards credit card that allows you to transfer its points or miles to your accounts with partner hotels and airlines allows the potential to get more for these assets in such loyalty programs. This card allows no such point transfers; rewards for travel can be redeemed only through Bank of America.
- No Balance-Transfer Offer: Many cards with 0% APR introductory offers extend those to both new purchases and balances that are transferred from other cards. The offer for the Bank of America Travel Rewards credit card for students isn't so broad. It only allows you 12 months from the time of account opening to pay off purchases with zero interest; balance transfers aren’t eligible. Any balance transfers you make will be subject to the regular variable APR, which is unlikely to be any lower than what you’re now paying. And the need to pay a 3% transfer fee on the transferred sum further reduces the likelihood of saving money by moving a balance to this card.
- Minimum Spending Requirement Is on the High Side: There's an introductory bonus offer available for new card members and like any bonus, there's also a minimum spending requirement. The minimum spending that's required, of $1,000 over the first three months, is hardly onerous. Still, it's higher than for some other cards and merits some caution from students on modest budgets who want to avoid racking up debt.
This Card is Best For
Resists or refuses an annual fee on principle or due to cost
Travels outside of U.S. on occasion or frequently
Currently enrolled in an accredited four year college or university
This card is a worthy pick for students who want to earn travel rewards on every purchase they make, everywhere they go, without paying an annual fee or foreign-transaction fees. Students can earn the same rewards rate whether they're booking a trip or picking up dorm snacks at the grocery store.
It might also appeal to students who already do their banking with Bank of America and want to start building credit while managing a checking and savings account. Such dual-service customers can also link their card account to their Bank of America account and use the card to cover overdrafts, which the bank then considers to be cash advances (and charges accordingly). 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.
Bank of America Travel Rewards Credit Card for Students One-Time Offer
The one-time offer available with this card is worth 25,000 points. To earn it, students must charge at least $1,000 in purchases to their card within the first 90 days after opening their account.
While that's double the required spending to earn the bonus for some other student cards, such as the Citi Rewards+ Student credit card, the bonus with this card is high—10 times greater than that of the Citi Rewards+ Student card, for example. As far as what the bonus is worth for redemptions, it's the equivalent of a $250 statement credit when used toward travel purchases.
Rewards Earning Details
Earning rewards with this card is straightforward, in that every purchase earns an unlimited 1.5 points per dollar. There are no blackout dates or restrictions on earning points and points never expire. That's good for students who want to accumulate a large pile of points they could apply to travel purchases.
Students can increase their travel rewards rate by booking travel through the Bank of America Travel Center. When you book travel purchases, excluding insurance, those purchases earn 1.5 base points and 1.5 bonus points, for a combined total of 3 points per dollar. Again, there's no limit on the number of points you can earn when booking through the Travel Center.
Rewards Redemption Details
Just as earning rewards with this card is simple, so is redeeming them. Points can be redeemed for statement credit against previous travel purchases, including hotels, airfare, rental cars, cruises and vacation packages. You'll need a minimum of 2,500 points to redeem for travel statement credit and redemptions are only good for purchases made at qualifying travel merchants. Each point is worth $0.01 each when you redeem for travel, so every 10,000 points earned is worth $100 in statement credit.
Besides travel statement credit, you can redeem your points for cash back and gift cards. Cash back is received as a check or a deposit into a Bank of America checking or savings account. Cash rewards start at 3,125 points for $18.75, making them worth $0.006 each. The redemption value for gift cards varies based on which merchant you're getting the gift cards from.
How to Maximize Your Rewards
Since this card has a flat rewards rate, the best ways to maximize rewards are qualifying for the initial bonus, then charging all purchases to the card going forward. To qualify for the 25,000 introductory bonus points, students would need to charge an average of $333 and change for the first three months. This could be fairly easy to do for a student who routinely pays for things like groceries, dining out, gas or entertainment.
Assuming a student spends that same amount, $333 per month, in an ongoing way they could annually accumulate 5,994 points in travel rewards. That would be the equivalent of $59.94 in travel statement credit.
Now, assume that same student instead charges $500 per month to their card on everyday purchases and travel. In that scenario, they'd earn 9,000 points per year or $90 in travel statement credit. This is based on the 1.5 points per dollar earnings rate. If a student were to charge $200 in travel purchases each month through the Bank of America Travel Center, they'd earn 7,200 points per year, which would be worth $72 in travel statement credits.
If you happen to already have a hefty amount in cash or investment earnings, you can also receive 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.
So, using the same $200 per month spending scenario mentioned earlier where you earn 3 points per dollar through the Travel Center, assume that you qualify for the 25% points bonus through having an account balance of $20,000 (which admittedly might be ambitious for most students). That would add another 9,000 points per year to the total, bringing your total travel credit value to $180 for the year. The great thing about the Preferred Rewards program is that you don't have to do anything extra to enjoy these benefits, other than have an eligible credit to make purchases with and an eligible Bank of America or Merrill account—albeit with a very large balance.
When it comes to redeeming points, do so to cover travel expenses. That way, you reap nearly twice the return of taking rewards in the form of cash, for which points are worth only $0.06 rather than a full cent you get for points you use for travel.
- Free FICO credit score access
- EMV chip protection
- Use your card as overdraft protection
- Mobile wallet technology
- Online and mobile banking
Bank of America earned a 798 rating in J.D. Power's 2019 Credit Card Satisfaction Survey, putting it just below the national average rating of 806. It was also deemed to the best bank for college students by Money magazine.
Students have the usual avenues to manage their accounts, including online and mobile banking. You can set up customized alerts to notify you of new account activity and if you need customer service, help is available via live chat or by phone at 1-800-732-9194.
This card comes with standard security features, including EMV chip technology, the capability to be loaded into a secure digital wallet app and continuous fraud monitoring. Your account is also protected by a $0 liability guarantee if your card is lost or stolen and used to make fraudulent purchases.
The Bank of America Travel Rewards credit card for students is a strong choice for students who want to earn unlimited points toward travel on every purchase. The introductory bonus is fairly solid, with a higher spending requirement than what other student travel cards offer but also a richer reward. For fairly high rollers, the opportunity to increase regular rewards earnings through the Preferred Rewards program is also a nice incentive to sign up for this card if you already have a Bank of America or Merrill account with a five-figure balance.
We'd hesitate, though, to recommend this card for a student who doesn’t want to redeem the points they earn for travel expenses, since you’ll earn less for such redemptions. If using your rewards for travel isn’t a priority, you might be better off with a cash-back card, something like the Deserve Pro Mastercard or Discover it Student Cash Back card.
This card also isn't ideal for students who think they may want to transfer a balance to it, since it offers no introductory APR offer for balance transfers.