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Bank of America is often overshadowed by credit card issuers like Chase, Amex, Citi and Capital One because it doesn’t have a single cohesive points currency with transfer partners like the other major players do. However, that doesn’t mean that its cards should be overlooked.

The issuer offers an impressive lineup of more than 20 credit cards that run the gamut from cash-back cards to co-branded airline cards. It can be helpful to analyze these cards individually and see where they might fit in your wallet instead of trying to build out a grand strategy such as the Chase or Amex Trifecta. Today we’ll take a deep dive through the Bank of America portfolio to make sure you know everything you need to earn and burn (and get approved) like a pro.

The Best Bank of America Credit Cards of 2019:

Research Criteria

After looking at Bank of America’s credit card line-up, we studied their pros and cons. Card values were determined by the sign-up bonus, rewards, perks, redemption and annual fees.

Things to consider before applying for Bank of America credit cards:

As always, head to the TPG cards hub to see the best credit cards currently available. With that out of the way, here are more details about the best Bank of America credit card offers available right now.

Before You Apply

While not nearly as restrictive as Chase’s infamous “5/24” rule, Bank of America does have its own system in place to limit the number of new accounts you can get approved for, often referred to as the 2/3/4 rule. You can only get approved for:

  • 2 cards in a rolling 2-month period.
  • 3 cards in a rolling 12-month period.
  • 4 cards in a rolling 24-month period.

Note that this doesn’t apply to business cards issued by BofA, and also doesn’t count cards issued to you by another bank. If you max out all five of your slots with Chase, you shouldn’t have a problem turning around and applying for an offer like the 40,000-mile bonus after you spend $2,000 or more on purchases within the first 90 days of account opening on the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature credit card. You should also know that you can’t get approved for a second version of the same card within 90 days of your first application, which means you can’t double-dip this elevated Alaska bonus to try and score a Cathay Pacific first-class award solely through sign-up bonuses.

Another point to be aware of before applying for a BofA card is that reports indicate that the issuer has begun considering your banking relationship with it when evaluating your application. This is likely to help more than it hurts (TPG contributor Ethan Steinberg has been approved for three BofA cards without ever having a banking relationship with BofA), and might be something to mention if you’re denied and you need to speak to a representative about reconsideration.

Bank of America is also relatively unique in that it doesn’t limit the number of times you can get a bonus from a single credit card. In fact, the fine print on the 40,000-mile Alaska offer says “Limit 1 bonus miles and Companion Fare offer per new account.” With all of this information in mind, let’s take a look at some of the most compelling BofA card offers.

Fixed-Value Cards

BoA offers two excellent fixed-value cards with solid earning rates and bonuses for BoA banking customers. These are the Bank of America Travel Rewards credit card and the Bank of America Premium Rewards credit card. Here’s an overview:

Bank of America Travel Rewards Card Bank of America Premium Rewards Card
Annual Fee $0 $95
Sign-up Bonus 25,000 points (worth $250) after you spend $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days 50,000 points (worth $500) after you spend $3,000 in purchases in the first 90 days
Earning Rates  1.5x points on all purchases, up to a 75% bonus for Preferred Rewards members 2x points on travel and dining, 1.5x points on all other purchases, up to a 75% bonus for Preferred Rewards members
Redemption Options Redeem points as a statement credit to pay for eligible travel purchases (flights, hotels, cruises, rental cars, etc.) Redeem as cash back, purchase travel or gift cards, or cash out to a linked BoA or Merrill account.

 

The Bank of America Travel Rewards card is a great no-frills, no annual fee option, but don’t let the $95 fee on the Bank of America Premium Rewards card fool you, as you can actually end up $5 ahead just for keeping it open. How? It offers a $100 annual airline incidental credit (valid for charges like seat selection, lounge access and bag fees, but not actual fares), which will leave you with an extra $5 left over every year if you can max it out. Add in the 50,000-point bonus ($500 value), twice as large as the 25,000-point bonus ($250 value) on the Travel Rewards card, and the Premium Rewards card becomes a very easy choice.

It’s also worth highlighting one important difference here: While points from the Travel Rewards card can only be redeemed for statement credits to offset eligible travel purchases, points from the Premium Rewards card can be redeemed for travel, gift cards, cash back or cashed directly into a linked BofA or Merrill account. No matter how you plan on spending your rewards, I strongly suggest you choose the cash-back option. Even if you want to book travel or buy gift cards, you should put those charges on your credit card to earn even more rewards and use your cash back to pay the bill.

With both of these cards, the highlight isn’t just the published earning rates, it’s what they can become if you qualify for the Bank of America Preferred Rewards Program. You can read all about the program here, but to qualify you’ll need:

An eligible Bank of America personal checking account AND a 3-month average combined balance of $20,000 or more in a Bank of America account and/or Merrill investment accounts. 

If you meet these requirements, you’re earning rate on both the Travel Rewards and Premium Rewards card will jump to the following depending on your account balance:

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+)
Premium Rewards Travel/Dining Earnings 2x points 2.5x points 3x points 3.5x points
Both Other Earnings 1.5x points 1.875x points 2.25x points  2.62x points

A 2.62% return makes these some of the most rewarding options for non-bonus everyday spending, especially if you already bank with BoA. If not, it might be worth moving some money over, like TPG did when the Premium Rewards card launched. Fixed-value cards get a little more appealing every time an airline devalues its award chart or restricts premium cabin redemptions, and when you combine the above-average earning rates with the fact that you get “paid” $5 a year to keep the Premium Rewards card open, it begins to look very appealing.

BoA offers one other card worth mentioning here, although it doesn’t offer nearly the same value to travel junkies. This is the Bank of America Cash Rewards credit card. This no-annual-fee card offers 3% cash back in the category of your choice: gas, online shopping, dining, travel, drug stores or home improvement/furnishings. It also offers 2% cash back at grocery stores and wholesale clubs and 1% back on all other purchases. The 2% and 3% cash back is capped on your first combined $2,500 in quarterly spending at the category of your choice, along with grocery stores and wholesale clubs. New applicants will also earn a $200 bonus after spending $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days. This no-annual-fee/1-2-3 rewards structure is identical to some of BofA’s more unique card offerings, including the MLB card, Susan G. Komen card and the World Wildlife Fund card.

Cobranded Cards

Out of BoA’s collection of cobranded credit cards, many of them (like the Allegiant Mastercard) don’t warrant a mention here. There are a few that do, though, and can provide a ton of value if used well.

Alaska Airlines Visa Signature

The Alaska Airlines Visa Signature credit card is one of the only airline cards worth spending money on, since you can’t transfer points to Alaska from any of the major transferable points programs other than Marriott Bonvoy. BofA quietly discontinued the awful Alaska Airlines Platinum Plus card a while back, leaving only the personal Visa Signature and the business card. The Platinum Plus was a truly disappointing product, as it only came with a 5,000-point sign-up bonus, and BoA would sometimes give it to customers who had applied (but not qualified for) the Visa Signature. It really won’t be missed.

Alaska miles open up some very exciting redemption options. TPG values Alaska miles at 1.8 cents each thanks to an incredible partner award chart, making the 40,000-mile bonus worth $720. That’s enough for a round-trip domestic economy ticket and almost enough for a one-way Cathay Pacific business class award from the US to Asia with a free stopover in Hong Kong (HKG).

If you get both the personal and the Alaska Airlines Visa Business credit card, you’ll have 80,000 miles, enough for a one-way first class ticket on either Cathay Pacfiic or JAL between the US and Asia. Both cards carry a $75 annual fee ($50 for the company and $25 per card on the business) and come with a companion fare, which will give your companion traveling on the same itinerary as you a free coach ticket on Alaska-operated flights from $121 ($99 fare plus taxes from $22), among other perks like discounts on inflight purchases and lounge passes.

Air France KLM World Elite Mastercard

The Air France KLM World Elite Mastercard is a great reminder of why transferable points have an edge over cobranded airline and hotel cards. The sign-up bonus of 25,000 Flying Blue miles after you spend $1,000 or more in the first 90 days is worth a measly $300 based on TPG’s valuations.

While you’re earning Experience Points (XP) to help qualify for Flying Blue elite status, this card doesn’t offer much value in return for its $89 annual fee. You’ll earn 3x points on direct purchases from Air France, KLM and SkyTeam airlines, and 1.5x on everything else. Compare that to a card like the Blue Business®️ Plus Card from American Express (2x points on everyday spend, up to $50,000 a year; then 1x) or the Chase Freedom Unlimited (1.5% or 1.5x on everyday spend), both of which earn points that could transfer to Flying Blue, or to dozens of other airline and hotel partners.

Spirit Airlines World Mastercard 

(Photo by Javier Rodriguez / The Points Guy)
(Photo by Javier Rodriguez/The Points Guy)

You’d likely never expect a Spirit credit card to make it onto the TPG website (especially since there’s no way to use those points to fly first class) but it’s hard to ignore the potential value of the card’s elevated sign-up bonus. New applicants will earn 15,000 miles after their first purchase, and another 15,000 after they spend $500 in the first 90 days. The annual fee is waived for the first year. Those 30,000 miles can be worth up to a whopping 12 one-way flights (which start at 2,500 miles for off-peak awards).

Spirit gets a bad reputation, but if you come prepared with reasonable expectations (about all the ways the airline will try and upcharge you, among other things), it’s possible to have a pleasant time.

Honorable Mentions: Virgin Atlantic Mastercard & Asiana Visa Signature

Neither of these cards are especially desirable in their own right except for the fact that they give you quick access to some very valuable points. While you can earn Virgin Atlantic Flying Club miles by transferring points from Chase, Amex, Citi and Marriott, the 50,000-point sign-up bonus on this card might be worth going after if you’re trying to book an ANA sweet spot first-class award.

Similarly, the 30,000-mile welcome offer on the Asiana credit card isn’t especially exciting, but if you plan on transferring points over from Marriott to beef up that balance, Asiana is an incredibly underrated way to book Star Alliance awards. The carrier does pass on some pretty aggressive fuel surcharges, but they might be worth paying for deals like Lufthansa first class round-trip from the US to Europe for only 100,000 miles.

Bottom Line

The value of Bank of America’s credit cards takes a little more work to uncover than other issuers. But between high-value cash back on everyday spending and one of the only cobranded credit cards worth consistently spending on, there’s too much here to simply ignore. At the very least, everyone should take a hard look at the Premium Rewards card and Alaska Airlines Visa Signature card and see if they belong in your wallet.

Related Rewards Card Categories

Featured photo by Orli Friedman/The Points Guy.

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Bank of America® Premium Rewards® credit card

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.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • 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 member, you can earn 25%-75% more points 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 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
Intro APR on Purchases
N/A
Regular APR
18.24% - 25.24% Variable APR on purchases and balance transfers
Annual Fee
$95
Balance Transfer Fee
Either $10 or 3% of the amount of each transaction, whichever is greater.
Recommended Credit
Excellent/Good

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.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.