Best Card for Online Shopping in 2019 -- 3% Back With Bank of America Cash Rewards credit card
Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available. View the current offers here.
When is the last time you went to a physical store to buy something? If you are like my parents, maybe that's still a daily occurrence. But if you are anything like me, it's probably been a while. Our clothes, soap, dog food, paper towels, toys and even groceries are ordered online more often than not. With two little kids, two working parents and an over-packed schedule, it's just easier to press a few buttons on the computer and have what we need appear at the door than to haul everyone into the store.
That's why I got really excited when the no annual fee Bank of America Cash Rewards credit card announced that one of its bonus category options was online shopping. Sure some of the card's other 3% bonus category options like travel or dining are also useful, but my family has those categories well covered on other cards. What I don't have is a card that gives us a bonus on online shopping across a wide variety of retailers. To make things even sweeter, depending on your banking relationship with Bank of America, that 3% back on online shopping can go as high as 5.25% back.
Quick Basics on the Bank of America Cash Rewards
If you aren't yet familiar with the new Bank of America Cash Rewards credit card, we have a whole article dedicated to the basics, but here's a quick review. The award earning structure of the new Cash Rewards credit card is now a 3-2-1 cash back arrangement with the card holder controlling what category falls into the 3% bonus each month.
Your 3% bonus options include gas, online shopping, dining, travel, drugstores, home improvement and furnishing. You have the ability to change your 3% category once every calendar month, so you could change it on March 31 and then again on April 1. It is initially set to gas and then stays on your selected category until you change it.
The 2% cash back categories of grocery stores and wholesale clubs are fixed, but the 3% and 2% cash back awards are capped at the first cumulative $2,500 spent in those categories per quarter. As an example, if you spend $2,500 at a wholesale club, which earns 2% cash back in a quarter, all additional purchases with your credit card will receive 1% cash back. If you spend all $2,500 in your 3% category for a quarter, the maximum cash back you could earn is $75 before all your purchases revert to 1% cash back.
Ramp Up Cash Back With Preferred Rewards
If you do your banking with Bank of America, you can ramp up the cash back earned with the Cash Rewards credit card by 25% to 75% across all categories, depending on the amount you have in eligible deposits with the bank via its Preferred Rewards program. This cash back number goes as high as 5.25% back in your chosen 3% bonus category if you have $100k in eligible deposits with the bank. Even $20k in eligible deposits can nudge the 3% number upward to 3.75%.
|Preferred Rewards Tier||3% Choice Category||Grocery Stores/Wholesale Clubs||Everyday Purchases|
|Platinum Honors ($100,000)||5.25%||3.5%||1.75%|
Most Rewarding Card for Online Shopping
With the basics out of the way, let's get back to online shopping. The Bank of America site gives lots of examples of eligible 3% back online retailers including:
- Apple.com (includes iTunes & store)
That is not an exhaustive list, but it is an interesting one that seems to indicate that not only should many retailer purchases qualify for the bonus cash back, but even some travel booking sites! Anecdotally, I've also heard successful reports from some online food ordering sites, eBay and more.
However, not every single thing you pay for online will qualify for 3% back. There are specific exclusions outlined by Bank of America such as: doctors and hospitals, government services and taxes, insurance, membership organizations, schools, utilities and other non-retail services. In other words, just paying a bill online doesn't make it eligible; the bonus cash back is intended for online shopping.
(Photo by Sara Wass/The Points Guy)
Other Built-In Shopping Protections
It's not all about the rewards when it comes to online shopping, I like my card of choice to offer some purchase protections, too. The Bank of America Cash Rewards credit card offers an extended protection/extended warranty perk that doubles the time period of the manufacturer's warranty, up to one additional year, for items purchased with the card.
If you are concerned about online fraud, the card can also generate a temporary credit card number that links directly to your real credit card account number for your online purchases. This allows an extra layer of security when shopping online.
I'd love to see the card offer something akin to Citi's Price Rewind to monitor for (and refund) you in case something you purchase goes on sale in 60 days, but otherwise, the Cash Rewards card is hard to beat for your family's everyday online shopping needs.
Getting 3% back (or more) for your online purchases from a card with no annual fee is a very nice offering not easily duplicated elsewhere. You can stack those earnings with some other steps to ramp up the rewards on your online purchases even further.
Of course, since you can choose your own 3% bonus category on the Bank of America Cash Rewards credit card each month, you can change it away from online shopping if you hit a month where you don't plan to make many online purchases.
However, in my family, recurring Amazon orders, growing into new shoe sizes and more happen on a pretty regular basis, so the odds are very high we would set our Cash Rewards card 3% bonus category to online shopping and then keep it there for all of those online purchases. While there are retailer specific exceptions and strong competition from other cards that have strength in everyday spending categories, you'll be hard pressed to find a more rewarding all-around card for online shopping than the Bank of America Cash Rewards card, especially if you qualify for Bank of America's Preferred Rewards program.