Bank of America offers some of our top-rated credit cards for cash back and flexible travel rewards. But customers can get the most value out of Bank of America's credit cards by joining the Preferred Rewards program.

Qualifying banking customers can earn up to a 75% bonus on cash back and travel point redemptions on the BankAmericard Cash Rewards™ card and BankAmericard Travel Rewards® card. The bank throws in several other benefits as well.

Here's everything you need to know about the Bank of America Preferred Rewards program.

Woman logging into online banking with Bank of America

Image source: Bank of America

How to qualify

To qualify for Bank of America Preferred Rewards, you need a Bank of America checking account and a three-month average deposit balance of $20,000. There are three tiers based on your deposit level.

Gold

Platinum

Platinum Honors

$20,000-$49,999

$50,000-$99,999

$100,000+

The best part is that balances are combined across checking, savings, and Merrill Edge brokerage accounts. So if you have an investment account (including IRAs) of at least $20,000, you can qualify for Preferred Rewards through a Merrill Edge account. Note that you'll still have to open a checking account with Bank of America.

Maintaining status

Members will keep their status for as long as they maintain the minimum deposit balance threshold across their Bank of America and Merrill Edge accounts. If the balance falls below a threshold, members will maintain their status for 12 months. They will then have three months to bring their average balance back up to the threshold level to maintain status.

For example, if a customer has $50,000 in an IRA with Merrill Edge but the market takes a turn and the balance falls to $40,000, he or she will maintain Platinum Status for 12 months. If the market still hasn't recovered in a year, the customer can deposit some money in a Bank of America checking or savings account or a Merill Edge brokerage account to bring the combined balance back up to $50,000 on average over the next three months. Otherwise, the membership level will fall to Gold.

The benefits for BankAmericard Cash Rewards™ cardholders

The BankAmericard Cash Rewards™ card earns 1% cash back on everyday purchases, 2% at grocery stores and wholesale clubs, and 3% at gas stations. (Bonus category spend is capped at $2,500 per quarter.) But with Preferred Rewards, members can earn a lot more.

Gold members earn a 25% bonus on cash back, Platinum members a 50% bonus, and Platinum Honors members a 75% bonus. That makes the cash-back rates on the BankAmericard Cash Rewards™ card as follows:

Category/Status

Gold

Platinum

Platinum Honors

Everyday

1.25%

1.5%

1.75%

Grocery/Wholesale*

2.5%

3%

3.5%

Gas*

3.75%

4.5%

5.25%

*Bonus category spend is capped at $2,500 per quarter.

The benefits for BankAmericard Travel Rewards® cardholders

The BankAmericard Travel Rewards® credit card earns a flat 1.5 points per dollar on all purchases. Each point can be redeemed for $0.01 toward travel purchases. The same bonus rates (25%, 50%, 75%) apply for the BankAmericard Travel Rewards® card based on Preferred Rewards status.

Status

Gold

Platinum

Platinum Honors

Points per dollar

1.875

2.25

2.625

Preferred Rewards with Platinum or better status can earn over 2% back in travel rewards on every purchase with the BankAmericard Travel Rewards® card. That's better than any other travel rewards card we've reviewed.

Other banking benefits of Preferred Rewards

Preferred Rewards members get a whole host of other banking benefits based on their status. Here's a quick rundown of the various benefits.

Benefit/Status

Gold

Platinum

Platinum Honors

Banking service fees

$0

$0

$0

Savings account interest-rate boost*

5%

10%

20%

ATM transaction fee reimbursement

None

12/month

Unlimited

Free trades through Merrill Edge

None

30/month

100/month

Mortgage origination fee discount

$200

$400

$600

Auto loan interest-rate discount

0.25%

0.35%

0.5%

All Preferred Rewards members won't have to pay any standard service fees on their Bank of America checking and savings accounts, and they'll get a slight boost to the interest rates on their savings accounts. Customers with additional banking needs will receive a nice discount on loan services as well.

Overall, the Preferred Rewards program is a great option, especially for consumers that already have a relationship with Bank of America. The real value comes from the bonus on credit card spend, making the BankAmericard Travel Rewards® and BankAmericard Cash Rewards™ cards much more valuable for high-value banking customers. With the bonus of free trades on Merrill Edge accounts and no service fees on bank accounts, Preferred Rewards can help consumers save a lot of money.

Adam Levy has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.