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The new Bank of America Premium Rewards credit card offers some potentially enticing earnings, especially in the travel and dining categories. Just by using the card without any other bells and whistles, you’ll get 2x on all purchases in those two categories. But with a little maneuvering, those travel and dining multipliers can get as high as 3.5x in each category with no annual cap.
In order to get the higher bonus multipliers on the Premium Rewards card, you need to become a member of Bank of America’s Preferred Rewards banking program (yes, those names are annoyingly similar, but they’re two different things). The Preferred Rewards program gives customers who concentrate their assets at Bank of America and Merrill Lynch extra perks, including higher-category multipliers on the credit card.
So if you want to max out the card’s category multipliers and get 3.5x on travel and dining, you’ll need to follow these steps…
Step 1: Establish a eligible Bank of America personal checking account and a qualifying Bank of America deposit account and/or Merrill Edge and Merrill Lynch investment account
If you want to keep all your money in a personal checking account, then you only need to establish that one account. However, most folks won’t want to leave a large sum of money in a simple checking account, so you’ll likely need to also set up an investment account or other type of account as well.
Step 2: Deposit between $20,000 and $100,000
Obviously this is a significant amount for many people, as most of us don’t have $20,000 to $100,000 just sitting around. But it’s important to note that many types of investments will qualify, such as an IRA retirement account. You might not have $100,000 in cash, but you could have $100,000 in a 401(k) that can be rolled over from your current bank into an IRA at Merrill Lynch.
Even just $20,000 will get you into a Preferred Rewards tier, though the more money you deposit, the higher your category multipliers will be. Here’s a breakdown of the Preferred Rewards tiers and how they relate to the Premium Rewards Card:
|Spend Categories||Regular Cardholder||Tier 1 – Gold ($20,000 – $50,000)||Tier 2 – Platinum ($50,000 – $100,000)||Tier 3 – Platinum Honors ($100,000+)|
|Travel/Dining Earnings||2x points||2.5x points||3x points||3.5x points|
|Other Earnings||1.5x points||1.875x points||2.25x points||2.625x points|
Step 3: Wait three months
Once you’ve deposited your funds, you need to wait three calendar months and maintain your balance during that time. Note that the first partial month doesn’t count, so if you deposit your funds on the 15th of the month, you’ll need to wait for the rest of that month plus three additional calendar months to qualify.
Step 4: Know what qualifies as travel and dining purchases
The Bank of America Premium Rewards Credit Card has a fairly generous definition of travel purchases. According to the terms and conditions, travel includes the following:
Travel includes: airlines, hotels, motels, timeshares, trailer parks, motor home and recreational vehicle rentals, campgrounds, car rental agencies, cruise lines, travel agencies, tour operators and real estate agents, operators of passenger trains, buses, taxis, limousines, ferries, boat rentals, parking lots and garages, tolls and bridge fees, tourist attractions and exhibits like art galleries, amusement parks, carnivals, circuses, aquariums, zoos and the like. Purchases from some merchants that provide travel-related goods and services will not be eligible, like in-flight goods and services, duty-free airport Purchases, rentals of trailers, trucks, and other vehicles for the purpose of hauling.
On this card, “travel” includes purchases made at travel agencies, so transactions at OTAs such as Orbitz or Expedia should count. Also included under the definition of travel are taxis, buses and trains, so the costs of your daily commute should (in most cases) also qualify for the category bonus.
The definition of “dining” on the Premium Rewards Card is also relatively broad:
Dining includes Restaurants, including Fast Food, and Drinking Establishments, such as Bars or Taverns.
That means almost any purchases involving an eating or drinking establishment should count, whether its sit-down or take out service.
Step 5: Use the Bank of America Premium Rewards card
If you made it all the way to the Platinum Honors tier with $100,000 or more in deposits, congratulations! You’re now earning 3.5 points per dollar spent with the Premium Rewards card on all your travel and dining purchases. In fact, if you’re in that top tier, it’s potentially worth using the card everywhere since you’ll also get 2.625x on all other purchases. That’s tough to beat, especially when the points can be applied as a statement credit at 1 cent each, effectively getting you 2.625% cash back on all purchases.
Even at the lower Preferred Rewards levels, you may very well want to keep the card in your wallet. If you managed to deposit and maintain $50,000 in your accounts and got to the Platinum tier, you’l be getting 3x on travel and dining and 2.25x on everything else. That’s still a relatively compelling return, especially if you value the ease of simple points without a lot of bells and whistles.
Finally, remember that once you’ve achieved your banking tier — Gold, Platinum or Platinum Honors, you’ll be able to maintain that tier for twelve full months regardless of whether your balances drop in your deposit accounts. And if the balances go up, you can qualify for a higher tier any time your average daily balance for the three previous months reaches the next threshold. So if you think you might be able to make the $100,000 deposit minimum for just three months, it’s worth taking a look at the Premium Rewards card to determine if the 3.5x on travel and dining makes sense for you.
Featured image of sebastian-julien/Getty Images.
This post has been amended to indicate that 401(k)s are not included in the Preferred Rewards calculations, as a previous version incorrectly stated.
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This card from Bank of America gets really interesting if you have a BofA checking, savings or investment account. Depending on the value of your combined accounts you can potentially get as much as 3.5x points on travel/dining and 2.625x points on other purchases making it the richest consumer banking bonus out there.
- Receive 50,000 bonus points – a $500 value – after you make at least $3,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening.
- Earn unlimited 2 points for every $1 spent on travel and dining purchases and unlimited 1.5 points per $1 spent on all other purchases
- If you're a Bank of America Preferred Rewards client, you can get a 25%-75% rewards bonus on every purchase.
- No limit to the points you can earn and your points don't expire
- Redeem for cash back as a statement credit, deposit into eligible Bank of America® accounts, credit to eligible Merrill Edge® and Merrill Lynch® accounts, or gift cards or purchases at the Bank of America Travel Center
- Get up to $200 in combined airline incidental and airport expedited screening statement credits + valuable travel insurance protections
- No Foreign Transaction Fees
- Low $95 annual fee