Bank of America Travel Rewards card: Simplicity for points beginners

Oct 28, 2019

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The 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 a bit nerve wracking — and I’m not alone. Unfortunately, I’ve known too many friends and family members who have given up on using credit card rewards to pay for travel because it seemed too complicated.

That’s where a card like the Bank of America Travel Rewards card comes into play. Points and miles experts might scoff at its paltry 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, who qualifies for the Preferred Rewards program, should consider the Travel Rewards card as an introduction to the points and miles game.

In This Post

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.

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) like 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, you shouldn’t ignore this card if you can take advantage of Bank of America’s Preferred Rewards program.

Further reading: The best starter travel rewards cards

Main perks and benefits

The real benefit of this card is its simplicity. You aren’t juggling bonus categories or earning caps, and you don’t have to worry about maximizing redemption options. Although there are no transfer partners or luxury perks, which may turn some people off, beginners will appreciate how easy it is to earn and burn rewards.

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

Welcome bonus worth $250

The Bank of America Travel Rewards credit card is currently offering 25,000 bonus points after you spend $1,000 on purchases within the first 90 days. Bank of America points are redeemable at a flat 1 point:1 cent ratio, so this bonus is worth $250. It’s certainly not a flashy bonus, but it is easy to hit.

(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 Travel Rewards card will not be available to you if you currently have a Travel Rewards card unless you have had that Travel Rewards card for at least 24 months.”

This means that you can get a second Travel Rewards card — if you wait 24 months before opening a new card.

Further reading: 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 1.5x points on every purchase. There’s no yearly cap on rewards earned and your points won’t expire. It’s a standard earning rate for a no-annual-fee card, though you can find cards with more competitive rewards structures. If you qualify for the Bank of America Preferred Rewards program, the rewards structure becomes much more valuable.

With the BoA Travel Rewards card, you
With the Bank of America Travel Rewards credit card, you’re earning 1.5x on everything from that new fall cardigan to your daily Starbucks fix. (Photo by jacoblund/Getty Images.)

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

Required three-month combined balance across accounts Earning bonus Earning rate
Standard N/A N/A 1.5x
Gold $20,000 25% 1.875x
Platinum $50,000 50% 2.25x
Platinum Honors $100,000 75% 2.625x

 

You have the ability to earn up to 2.625x 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.

Further reading: Stop ignoring Bank of America Preferred Rewards

How to redeem points

Unlike some points currencies, Bank of America points act more like cash back, worth a flat 1 cent each. You can redeem them as a statement credit for travel purchases, similar to the Venture Rewards card. 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 burn their points.

Is the BoA Premium Rewards card a better choice?

Bank of America offers one mid-tier card called the Bank of America® Premium Rewards® credit card, which comes with a $95 annual fee. It offers the same 1.5x base earning rate as the Travel Rewards card, but you’ll also earn 2x on travel and dining purchases. The card comes with a  50,000 bonus (after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 90 days); up to $100 in credit for airline fees, and a statement credit of up to $100 for TSA PreCheck or Global Entry application fees.

(Photo by Isabelle Raphael/The Points Guy)
(Photo by Isabelle Raphael/The Points Guy.)

In addition to added perks, you also have added flexibility in how you can redeem your points. Although the points earned with your Travel Rewards card can only be redeemed as a statement credit, the Premium Rewards card has numerous options for redemptions. You can even cash out your rewards to a Bank of America checking or savings account or an eligible Merrill Lynch account.

The Premium Rewards card is also eligible for an earnings boost through the Preferred Rewards program, which means you can earn up to 3.5x on travel and dining and 2.625 on other purchases. If travel and dining are two common spending categories for you, the Premium Rewards card is well worth the $95 annual fee. The airline fee credit alone completely takes care of the annual fee.

Further reading: Bank of America Premium Rewards card review 

Bottom line

If you’re looking for simplicity in both how you earn and how you redeem points, this is a good option for you. The Bank of America Travel Rewards credit card is a decent no-annual-fee starter card for Bank of America customers who want to use points to erase eligible travel purchases. 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.

Whether you are a beginner or veteran in the points and miles game, you should seriously consider choosing the Premium Rewards card. You’re getting a higher earning rate and more flexibility without sacrificing the simplicity the Travel Rewards card offers.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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