The best Bank of America credit cards of 2019

Oct 19, 2019

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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.

Best Bank of America credit cards:

Comparing the best Bank of America credit cards

Card:  Best for:  Welcome bonus:  Annual fee: 
Bank of America® Travel Rewards Visa® credit card Flat-rate travel rewards 50,000 points after you spend $3,000 in purchases in the first 90 days $0
Bank of America®️ Premium Rewards®️ Visa®️ credit card All-around travel card 25,000 points after you spend $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days $95
Bank of America Cash Rewards credit card Flexible earning structure $200 cash rewards bonus after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 90 days $0
Alaska Airlines Visa Signature credit card Earning Alaskan miles 40,000 miles and Alaska’s Famous Companion Fare from $121 ($99 plus taxes and fees from $22) after you spend $2,000 on purchases in the first 90 days. $75
Virgin Atlantic World Elite Mastercard Virgin Atlantic flyers 60,000 miles after you spend $2,000 or more in purchases within the first 90 days (offer ends 10/31/19) $90
Air France KLM World Elite Mastercard Flying Blue flyers 25,000 miles after you spend $1,000 on purchases within the first 90 days $89
Spirit Airlines World Mastercard Ultra-low-budget travelers 15,000 miles after your first purchase, plus an additional 15,000 miles after you spend $500 within 90 days $59, waived the first year
Bank of America® Business Advantage Cash Rewards Mastercard® credit card Flexible business bonus categories $300 statement credit after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 90 days $0
Bank of America® Business Advantage Travel Rewards World Mastercard® credit card Everyday business expenses 25,000 points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 90 days $0

Best Bank of America credit cards

Bank of America® Travel Rewards Visa® credit card

(Photo by Eric Helgas for The Points Guy)
(Photo by Eric Helgas/The Points Guy)

Annual fee: $0

Welcome bonus: 25,000 points after you spend $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening

Earning rate: 1.5x points on all purchases

Why you should apply: This card operates similarly to the Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card. You’re earning flat-rate rewards across all spending, and then you can use those rewards as a statement credit to erase eligible travel purchases. While this certainly isn’t the most lucrative or flexible rewards card, it is perfect for low-budget beginner travelers who want a simple way to earn and redeem points.

Bank of America®️ Premium Rewards®️ Visa®️ credit card

Annual fee: $95

Welcome bonus: 50,000 points after you spend $3,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening

Earning rate: 2x points on travel and dining, 1.5x points on all other purchases

Why you should apply: For such a low annual fee, this Bank of America card packs a punch. You’ll get $500 in value out of the sign-up bonus, and you’ll get perks such as a $100 annual airline incidental credit. The BoA Premium Rewards card is a bit more flexible than Bank of America’s other branded credit cards because you can redeem your rewards for travel, cash back or even deposit into a linked BoA or Merrill account. Plus, the fact that you earn 1.5x on non-bonus spending means this is a good card for everyday purchases.

Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card

 

Annual fee: $0

Welcome bonus: $200 after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 90 days of account opening

Earning rate: 3% cash back in the category of your choice each month (gas, online shopping, dining, travel, drug stores or home improvement/furnishings); 2% at grocery stores and wholesale clubs (up to $2,500 in combined choice category/grocery store/wholesale club purchases each quarter, then 1%); 1% on everything else.

Why you should apply: The Bank of America Cash Rewards card is one of the only credit cards that allows you to essentially customize your rewards structure to fit your changing spending habits throughout the year — with the chance to change categories every month. You have a solid lineup of bonus categories to choose from that will let you maximize the rewards earned each quarter. If you live a lifestyle where your spending shifts throughout the year, this card is tailor-made for you.

Best Bank of America airline credit cards

Alaska Airlines Visa Signature credit card

Annual fee: $75

Welcome bonus: 40,000 miles and Alaska’s Famous Companion Fare from $121 ($99, plus taxes and fees from $22) after you spend $2,000 on purchases in the first 90 days of account opening

Earning rate: 3x miles on Alaska Airlines purchases

Why you should apply: 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 U.S. to Asia with a free stopover in Hong Kong (HKG). The card also comes with a companion fare, which will give your companion traveling on the same itinerary 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.

Virgin Atlantic World Elite Mastercard

Annual fee: $90

Welcome bonus: 60,000 miles after you spend $2,000 or more on purchases within the first 90 days (offer ends 12/18/19).

Earning rate: 3x miles on Virgin Atlantic purchases and 1.5x miles on everything else

Why you should apply: If you fly on Virgin Atlantic or its partners, this card is a nice way to top off your miles balance when needed. Though the bonus is only 60,000 miles, you can actually boost that up to 80,000 — you’ll earn 15,000 every anniversary after qualifying purchases and 5,000 when you add authorized users to your account. Plus, the card comes with perks like a companion ticket after qualifying purchases, 25 tier points per $2,500 spent and an assortment of travel protections. 

Air France/KLM World Elite Mastercard

(Photo by Shutterstock.com)
(Photo by Shutterstock.com)

Annual fee: $89

Welcome bonus: 25,000 miles after you spend $1,000 within the first 90 days of account opening

Earning rate: 3x miles on Air France, KLM and SkyTeam member airline purchases

Why you should apply: Earning Flying Blue miles isn’t difficult due to multiple airlines being part of the program (plus credit cards and other airlines as transfer partners), but this card can help you top off your account. The bonus isn’t crazy, but it’s easy to hit and 25,000 miles is still $300 according to our valuations.  If you fly with airlines that earn Flying Blue miles frequently, it’s worth taking a look at this card to help you boost your miles balance.

Spirit Airlines World Mastercard

A Spirit Airlines Inc. plane sits on the tarmac at Fort Lauderdale International Airport (FLL) in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, U.S., on Friday, June 2, 2017. Revenue generated from the U.S. accounts for nearly 90 percent of Spirit
(Photo by Saul Martinez/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Annual fee: $59, waived the first year

Welcome bonus: 15,000 miles after your first purchase, plus an additional 15,000 miles after you spend $500 within 90 days of account opening

Earning rate: 2x miles on every purchase

Why you should apply: Spirit is an ultra-low-cost carrier with a no-frills approach to flying. While it won’t be winning any TPG awards for the best premium flight experiences, budget travelers can take advantage of its low prices on both cash and award flights (redemptions start at only 2,500 miles). This card offers a solid way to rack up miles for this airline and an easy-to-hit welcome bonus.

Best Bank of America business credit cards

Bank of America Business Advantage Cash Rewards Mastercard

Annual fee: $0

Welcome bonus: $300 statement credit after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 90 days of account opening

Earning rate: 3% cash back in the business category of your choice; 2% on dining (first $50,000 in combined choice category/dining purchases each calendar year, 1% thereafter)

Why you should apply: Just like the personal version of this card, the Bank of America Business Advantage Cash Rewards Mastercard lets you customize your rewards structure to fit your needs. Your 3% bonus categories to choose from include gas stations, office supply stores, travel, TV/telecom and wireless services, computer services and business consulting services. For any small business owner who needs the flexibility to switch up which category earns 3% back on each month, this is a one-of-a-kind option.

Bank of America Business Advantage Travel Rewards World Mastercard

Annual fee: $0

Welcome bonus: 25,000 points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 90 days of account opening.

Earning rate: 3x points on travel booked through Bank of America; 1.5x points on all purchases

Why you should apply:  For a no-annual-fee card, it has quite a lucrative earning potential — especially if you tend to book travel through a third-party platform like Expedia. If you also use Bank of America for your business banking needs, you could earn up to 4.12x on travel purchases. That earning rate beats out plenty of top business credit cards on the market, and you don’t even have to pay an annual fee to take advantage of it.

How we chose the best Bank of America credit cards

After looking at Bank of America’s credit card line-up, we studied each card’s pros and cons, looking at what type of card each is and the card details. Bank of America cards can be broken down into three main categories: Bank of America-branded cards, airline cards and business cards.

Bank of America’s branded cards are the issuer’s primary cards that can take advantage of the Preferred Rewards program. Airline cards are cobranded options for flyers loyal to certain airline programs. Business cards are similar to Bank of America’s consumer options, but utilize a separate Preferred Rewards program.

When looking at each card within their categories, we looked at the sign-up bonus, rewards, perks, redemption and annual fees before choosing which ones are worth looking at.

Bank of America application restrictions

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:

  • Two cards in a rolling two-month period.
  • Three cards in a rolling 12-month period.
  • Four 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.

However, there are recent reports of Bank of America adding new restrictions to card application approvals that do mirror Chase’s 5/24 rule. While the exact threshold is unconfirmed, opening too many cards over the course of a year (across all issuers) could mean your BoA application is denied. Of course, you’re less likely to be denied if you have an existing customer relationship with the bank.

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.

Maximizing Bank of America Preferred Rewards

It’s no secret that Bank of America favors cardholders with whom it has banking relationships. This is less than ideal for anyone who keeps their money with other banks, but you can take advantage of a number of perks and benefits if you are a Bank of America customer who qualifies for the 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, your earning rates become significantly higher.

Tier 1 – Gold ($20,000 – $50,000) Tier 2 – Platinum ($50,000 – $100,000) Tier 3 – Platinum Honors ($100,000+)
25% earning bonus  50% earning bonus 75% earning bonus

If you qualify for Platinum Honors, you’ll be earning 3.5x on dining and travel, plus 2.62x on all other purchases with the Bank of America Premium Rewards card. A 2.62% return makes that card one of the best options for non-bonus everyday spending.

If you aren’t currently banking with Bank of America, it might be worth moving some money over, like The Points Guy did when the Premium Rewards card launched. TPG’s Richard Kerr has also said for a long time that Bank of America Preferred Rewards is not a program to be ignored. 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.

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.

2018 TPG Award Winner: Mid-Tier Card of the Year
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

WELCOME OFFER: 60,000 Points

TPG'S BONUS VALUATION*: $1,200

CARD HIGHLIGHTS: 2X points on all travel and dining, points transferrable to over a dozen travel partners

*Bonus value is an estimated value calculated by TPG and not the card issuer. View our latest valuations here.

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More Things to Know
  • Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 60,000 points are worth $750 toward travel
Intro APR on Purchases
N/A
Regular APR
17.49% - 24.49% Variable
Annual Fee
$95
Balance Transfer Fee
Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, 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.