Bank of America® Cash Rewards Review: One of the Best Cash Bonuses On the Market

Lyle is a writer specializing in credit cards, travel rewards programs, and banking. His work has also appeared on MSN Money, USA Today, and Yahoo! Finance.

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Bonuses have become an increasingly important feature on cash-back cards as the competition between card issuers has grown. The Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card is no slouch in that department, featuring high cash-back rates in several spending categories and a great sign-up bonus. If you have any banking or investment accounts with Bank of America, you can raise those cash-back rates even higher.

Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card

Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card

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On Bank of America's Secure Website.

Our Bottom Line

The bonus leads the pack in the no-annual fee category, plus you earn premium cash back in a category of your choice and now have access to a long 0% intro APR offer.

What we Like:
  • Big bonus offer
  • 3% back on gas or a category of your choice
  • No annual fee
Key Scores:
5.0 5 Perks
4.0 5 Fees
4.5 5 APR
Perks 5.0/5
Fees 4.0/5
APR 4.5/5
  • Annual Fee: $0
  • Regular APR: 15.74% - 25.74% Variable
  • Intro APR: Purchases: 0%, 15 billing cycles Balance Transfers: 0% Intro APR for 15 billing cycles for any balance transfers made in the first 60 days
  • No annual fee
  • $200 online cash rewards bonus after you make at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening
  • 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
  • 0% Introductory APR for 15 billing cycles for purchases, and for any balance transfers made in the first 60 days. After the intro APR offer ends, 15.74% - 25.74% Variable APR will apply. A 3% fee (min $10) applies to all balance transfers
  • No expiration on rewards
  • If you're a Preferred Rewards member, you can earn 25% - 75% more points on every purchase
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What I like

Up to 3% cash back -- You’ll earn the following cash-back rates with the card:

  • 3% on gas or your choice of one of five other popular categories
  • 2% at grocery stores and wholesale clubs
  • 1% on all other spending

The 2% and 3% cash-back rates are for your first $2,500 in spending combined at grocery stores, wholesale clubs, and on gas or your choice category each quarter.

$200 intro bonus -- To get this bonus, you must spend $1,000 within the first 90 days. Considering how much you’ll make for a very small minimum spending requirement, this card has one of the best sign-up bonuses among best-in-class cash-back cards.

No annual fee -- Like quite a few other cash-back cards, this card doesn’t charge an annual fee.

0% intro APR -- The 0% intro APR lasts for 15 billing cycles and applies to purchases and balance transfers, although balance transfers must be made within 60 days of your account opening to qualify. That’s not a big deal, because if you’re planning to transfer credit card debt, you’d want to do that as soon as possible, anyway.

Bonus cash back for Bank of America customers -- What makes Bank of America different from other card issuers is the special bonuses it offers for clients who also have banking or investment accounts.

Here’s how it works: If you meet combined balance minimums in any bank accounts with Bank of America and investment accounts with Merrill, you’ll qualify for even larger bonuses through the Preferred Rewards program. The tiers to that program are:

  • Gold -- $20,000 combined balance minimum, 25% bonus
  • Platinum -- $50,000 combined balance minimum, 50% bonus
  • Platinum honors -- $100,000 combined balance minimum, 75% bonus

You can see how each bonus would affect your cash-back rates in the table below.

Spending Standard Cash-back Rate Preferred Rewards Gold Preferred Rewards Platinum Preferred Rewards Platinum honors
Gas or Your Choice 3% 3.75% 4.5% 5.25%
Grocery Stores and Wholesale Clubs 2% 2.5% 3% 3.5%
All Other Spending 1% 1.25% 1.5% 1.75%

What could be improved

Caps on bonus categories -- If you spend a lot at gas stations, grocery stores, and wholesale clubs, you could hit the $2,500 quarterly spending cap. At that point, you’ll only earn an unspectacular 1% back.

3% foreign transaction fee -- While foreign transaction fees are commonplace among cash-back cards, that doesn’t mean we have to like them.

Why you can trust me

I’m both a personal finance writer specializing in credit cards and a credit card enthusiast, which means I spend a lot of my time browsing card pages. This doesn’t just mean the main card page that everyone looks at, either; I check the terms and conditions, the fees, and all that fine print. On The Ascent, I’ve written reviews and comparisons for dozens of credit cards. By analyzing so many different cards, I have a good idea of how their features compare and which cards live up to the hype.

What to look for in a cash-back card

The most important numbers to look at with a cash-back card are the cash-back rates and the annual fee. By comparing the cash-back rates to your typical spending and subtracting the annual fee, you can estimate how much the card will earn you per year.

Suggested credit score

Good to excellent credit (generally 670-plus FICO® Score) is suggested for the Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card. Note, people with higher scores can be declined and people with lower score may be approved. Credit scores are just one factor used to make a credit decision.

Case in point, Bank of America credit cards are unique in that on some denied applications, it has given “lack of deposits or investments” as a denial reason, and applicants have reported being offered the opportunity to get a credit card if they open a certificate of deposit with the bank first. Based on that evidence, it appears having a banking or investment account with Bank of America could help you get a card with them.

This card is right for you if...

If either of the following are true, then applying for the Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card is a no-brainer:

  • You have banking or investment accounts with Bank of America or Merrill.
  • You spend a lot of money on gas.
  • You’re looking for a lucrative sign-up bonus without having to spend a bunch to qualify.

The sign-up bonus is both easy to qualify for and best-in-class, 3% back on gas is an excellent rate, and Bank of America’s customer bonuses can boost your cash back quite a bit.

Since the Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card has no annual fee, it may be worth getting regardless as a card you use at the pump. But if you’re not a Bank of America customer (or aren’t planning to become one), don’t spend heavily on gas or groceries, or are looking for more than just a sign-up bonus, I’d advise looking at the other top cash-back cards for your primary cash-back card.

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