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Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available. View the current offers here – Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite MasterCard
TPG reader Raji sent me a tweet to ask about a credit card loyalty program that doesn’t get a lot of ink:
@ThePointsGuy — “How do you rate the Bank of America Travel Rewards card for traveling and earning points?”
Cash-back and fixed-value rewards aren’t a focus of my personal award travel strategy, because I generally get better value out of airline and hotel loyalty programs, or transferable points programs like Chase Ultimate Rewards. However, it’s important to diversify your points and miles, and programs like Bank of America Travel Rewards can definitely come in handy.
One of the main attractions of fixed-value rewards is that they’re easy to use. You simply pay for travel expenses normally and then use your points to wipe those charges from your statement. You’re not limited by award availability, so you can pay for whichever flight or hotel room you want and then redeem points to cover the expense later. Also, you’re still eligible to earn points/miles and elite credits like you would if you paid cash, so your overall return is a little higher.
The BankAmericard Travel Rewards® Credit Card has a standard earning rate of 1.5 points per dollar spent. Points are worth 1 cent apiece toward eligible travel purchases, so you’re basically getting a return of 1.5%. However, Bank of America offers bonuses to banking customers ranging from 10% (for regular checking and savings accounts) to as high as 75% for members with combined balances over $100,000. That equals an overall return of 2.625%, which is pretty impressive, though it requires a sizable investment.
This card has some things going for it, but I feel like it’s mediocre overall unless you’re earning a banking bonus. On one hand, Bank of America is currently offering a sign-up bonus of 20,000 points (worth $200 in travel) when you spend $1,000 on the card in the first 90 days. That’s not bad for a card with no annual fee, but it’s only half of what you get from the Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite MasterCard and Capital One Venture Rewards Card, each of which offers 40,000 miles (worth at least $400 in travel) when you spend $3,000 in the first three months.
Furthermore, those cards earn 2 miles per dollar spent, so they offer a better return for cardholders who don’t also have a substantial banking relationship. The same goes for several no-fee cash-back options, like the Fidelity Investment Rewards Card from Amex and the Citi Double Cash Card. While those cards don’t come with a sign-up bonus, they come out ahead in the long run.
If you do have accounts with Bank of America and can take advantage of the banking bonuses, then I think this card is a no-brainer, especially since there’s no annual fee. I might still prefer to earn Starpoints for my non-bonus spending, but the return at the upper tiers is pretty respectable. If only Bank of America would start adding transfer partners, this program would become a lot more interesting!