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Bank of America Travel Rewards card review: Simplicity for points beginners

March 24 2022
11 min read
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Editor’s note: This post has been updated with new information.

Bank of America Travel Rewards card overview

The no-annual-fee Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card has the potential to be a solid flat-rate card if you are a member of the Preferred Rewards program. However, without the Preferred Rewards earning bonus, the card falls short compared to other flat-rate cards on the market. Card Rating*: ⭐⭐⭐

*Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG’s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.

For beginners, points and miles can seem daunting. When I first started earning credit card rewards, the idea of transferring points and trying to find the absolute best redemptions was exciting but also nerve wracking — and I’m not alone. Many beginners give up on using credit card rewards to pay for travel because it seemed too complicated.

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That’s where an option like the Bank of America Travel Rewards credit card comes into play. Points and miles experts will likely not be amazed at the perks and redemption options, but the simplicity of this card’s earning rate and redemption process provides a nice starting point for beginners. Any existing Bank of America customer, especially those who qualify for the Preferred Rewards program, should strongly consider the Travel Rewards card as an introduction to the points and miles game.

Who is this card for?

Travelers looking for a no-frills way to earn and redeem rewards will benefit most from this card — especially existing Bank of America customers. Since the points and miles world is difficult to navigate, this card can be a great low-risk entry card for beginners, as there is no annual fee.

The tradeoff on a no-annual-fee card like the Bank of America Travel Rewards credit card is that it doesn’t offer the same perks that other beginner travel cards offer. For example, you won’t receive a TSA PreCheck/Global Entry application fee credit (up to $100) as you would with the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card or a 25% redemption bonus like you would with the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card.

However, it's important to note that both of those cards do carry $95 annual fees. While the Bank of America Travel card is simple, it can still have a place in your personal wallet, especially if you can take advantage of Bank of America’s Preferred Rewards program.

Related: The best starter travel rewards cards

Main perks and benefits

The real benefit of the Bank of America Travel card is its simplicity. There are no bonus categories, earning caps or transfer partners. But for beginners, that can be a great way to start their points and miles journey.

The card offers an unlimited 1.5 points for every $1 spent on all purchases everywhere. There is no expiration for your points (as long as you keep your account open). You'll also enjoy no booking restrictions when you redeem your points and will pay no foreign transaction fees when you swipe the card outside the U.S.

Earn unlimited points on everything from dining to hotel bookings. (Photo by Katie Genter/The Points Guy)

As expected with a no-annual-fee card, you don’t get luxury perks with this card. However, since it is a Visa Signature card, you will still have access to certain travel protections and benefits, including:

Related: Free admission to US museums for Bank of America cardholders

Welcome bonus

The Bank of America Travel Rewards credit card is currently offering 25,000 bonus points after you make at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening. These points are redeemable at a flat rate of 1 cent per point toward travel or dining purchases, so this bonus is worth $250.

It’s not a flashy bonus, but it is easy to hit, since the minimum spending requirement is essentially $11.11 per day. And since the card has no annual fee, you're essentially earning rewards on purchases you would have normally made without any up-front cost.

(Photo courtesy of Azamara Club Cruises)
You can use your welcome bonus as a statement credit for eligible travel purchases — including cruise packages. (Photo courtesy of Azamara Club Cruises)

Bank of America does have a 24-month restriction, though the details vary from card to card. The wording for the Travel Rewards card states:

“This card may not be available to you if you currently have or have had the card in the preceding 24 month period.”

This means that you can get a second Travel Rewards card if you held one before. However, you must wait 24 months after closing your old account before opening a new one.

Related: The ultimate guide to credit card application restrictions

How to earn points

The Bank of America Travel Rewards card has a simple earning structure — but there’s more than meets the eye. You’ll earn unlimited 1.5 points per dollar on every purchase. There’s no yearly cap on rewards earned, and your points won’t expire for as long as your account is open.

This is a fairly standard earning rate for a no-annual-fee card, though you can find cards with more competitive rewards structures.

However, if you qualify for the Bank of America Preferred Rewards program, the rewards structure becomes much more valuable.

Photo by John Gribben for The Points Guy

To enroll in Preferred Rewards, you’ll need an eligible Bank of America personal checking account and a three-month average balance of at least $20,000 across your Bank of America and Merrill accounts. There are four levels of Preferred Rewards, and each comes with an earning bonus on the Travel Rewards card.

Preferred Rewards tierRequired combined balances across accountsEarning bonusEarning rate
StandardN/A.N/A.1.5 points per dollar.
Gold$20,000.25%.1.875 points per dollar.
Platinum$50,000.50%.2.25 points per dollar.
Platinum Honors$100,000.75%.2.625 points per dollar.

As you can see, those with with Platinum Honors have the ability to earn 2.625 points per dollar on every purchase, which is a solid return for everyday purchases. Plus, you’ll get a savings account interest bonus, discounted banking and investing fees, and discounted rates on auto loans and mortgages.

Related: Stop ignoring Bank of America Preferred Rewards

How to redeem points

Bank of America points act more like cash-back rewards, with each point being worth a flat 1 cent each. You can redeem them as a statement credit for travel or dining purchases (starting at a minimum of 2,500 points). When you make a purchase, simply log in to your account and select any the qualifying transaction from the previous 12 months.

Although travel enthusiasts may see this as a disadvantage, beginners might rejoice at this no-stress process. You don’t have to think about maximizing reward redemptions or figure out the best transfer partner for booking your travel, which can be a headache for someone who is looking for a simple, no-frills way to earn and use their points.

Note that you also have the ability to use your points for a cash reward — either a check or a deposit into a qualifying Bank of America account. However, this happens at a value of just 0.6 cents per point (2,500 points = $15), so you're much better off using them for travel or dining purchases.

Finally, you can redeem your points for gift cards, though the exact value varies by merchant.

Related: The best Bank of America credit cards of 2022

Which cards compete with the Bank of America Travel Rewards card?

If you have access to Bank of America's Preferred Rewards and you value the issuer's simple earning model, there may be a better option for you. Bank of America offers a mid-tier card called the Bank of America® Premium Rewards® credit card, which comes with a $95 annual fee. It offers the same 1.5 points per dollar base earning rate as the Travel Rewards card, but you’ll also earn 2 points per dollar on travel and dining purchases. The card also comes with a much higher sign-up bonus, as you'll earn 50,000 points after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 90 days of account opening.

The card also includes up to $100 in annual statement credits for airline incidental fees, and you'll also enjoy a statement credit of up to $100 for TSA PreCheck or Global Entry application fees (every four years).

In addition to added perks, you also have added flexibility in how you can redeem your points. The Premium Rewards card allows you to redeem points as a statement credit or directly to your checking and savings account (whereas the Travel Rewards card only allows redemption for travel and dining statement credits). When equipped with the Preferred Rewards program, Premium cardholders can earn up to 3.5 points per dollar on travel and dining and up to 2.625 points per dollar on all other purchases.

If travel and dining are two common spending categories for you, the Premium Rewards card can be well worth the $95 annual fee.

If you still want to avoid an up-front cost, there are great alternatives for frequent flyers who want a little more flexibility in their redemption options. The Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card offers 1.25 miles per dollar spent on everyday purchases along with 5 miles per dollar on hotels and car rentals purchased through Capital One Travel. However, the card really shines by giving you access to the issuer's 15-plus transfer partners, including British Airways, Turkish Airlines and Wyndham. TPG pegs Capital One miles at 1.85 cents apiece when transferred to partners, giving you a return of roughly 2.3% on all purchases.

Related: The Capital One VentureOne Rewards card review

The Chase Freedom Unlimited is another great no-annual-fee card option and offers 5% cash back on travel purchases through the Ultimate Rewards portal, 3% back at restaurants and drugstores, and 1.5% back on all other purchases. And new cardholders can earn an additional 1.5% cash back on up to $20,000 spent in the first year, boosting your rate of return even further.

To fully take advantage of the card's earning potential, cardholders can opt for a more premium Chase card — such as the Chase Sapphire Preferred — that will allow them to turn their cash-back rewards from the Freedom Unlimited into full-fledged Ultimate Rewards points.

Bottom line

If you’re looking for simplicity in both how you earn and how you redeem points, the Bank of America Travel Rewards credit card could be a good option for you. The card is a decent no-annual-fee product if you want to use points to erase eligible travel and dining purchases, and it's particular appealing for existing Bank of America customers with large, existing account balances with the bank. While frequent flyers may want a card that offers transferable points to maximize redemptions, beginners might be more apt to use a card that doesn’t require as much effort to use their points.

That said, frequent travelers who enjoy Bank of America's simple earning model should consider choosing the Premium Rewards card for its higher earning rate, increased flexibility and added perks. Meanwhile, budding travel experts who don't want to carry an annual fee but still want the flexibility of transfer partners should consider the Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit card.

Official application link: Bank of America Travel Rewards credit card

Additional Reporting by Christina Ly.

Featured photo by John Gribben for The Points Guy
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.