Customize your rewards structure: Bank of America Customized Cash Rewards credit card review
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Bank of America Customized Cash Rewards credit card overview
The Bank of America® Customized Cash Rewards credit card is a solid cash-back credit card, offering a customizable rewards structure that is great for anyone whose spending habits change throughout the year. The card can become especially lucrative for anyone with significant banking or investing relationships with Bank of America. Card Rating*: ⭐⭐⭐½
*Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG’s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
Although Bank of America’s credit card lineup may not be as flashy as the travel cards offered by issuers like Chase or Amex, that doesn’t mean you should count them out when considering your rewards strategy.
Some of these cards have a lot to offer — especially if you’re an existing Bank of America customer. The Bank of America Customized Cash Rewards credit card, for example, offers a unique choose-your-bonus-spending-category rewards structure and an easy-to-hit sign-up bonus that might earn it a place in your wallet.
Who is this card for?
Bank of America’s cash-back credit card is perfect for existing Bank of America customers who want to dip their toes into the credit card rewards game. The card has no annual fee and high earning potential for cardholders who qualify for Bank of America Preferred Rewards. Busy families or those whose spending habits fluctuate throughout the year can also get value from the card’s choose-your-category rewards structure, which you can adjust as often as every month to fit your spending habits.
Keep in mind that the card limits its bonus categories to $2,500 in combined spending each quarter, so those who spend more than that might find more value with another card. Furthermore, the redemption options are best suited for those with existing Bank of America accounts.
The card earns cash back, which can be redeemed in the form of a statement credit or deposited into eligible Bank of America or Merrill accounts. You don’t have to worry about point valuations or a wide range of potential redemption options – something that might not appeal to frequent travelers who can often get more value by taking the time to strategize redemptions. Beginners, however, might enjoy the simplicity of the redemption process.
Solid $200 welcome bonus
The Bank of America Customized Cash Rewards credit card offers a modest $200 cash-back bonus after spending $1,000 on purchases within the first 90 days of account opening. It’s certainly not the most competitive bonus out there, but it’s easy to earn and on par with other no-annual-fee credit card bonuses.
If you’re interested in travel, specifically, $200 bonus isn’t going to get you a round-trip ticket internationally, but you can find some domestic fares for under $200, depending on where you live. Plus, $200 is a nice discount on a more expensive plane ticket. You can also use the bonus cash back to cover general expenses, which may be preferable for those who aren’t traveling anytime soon.
Main perks and benefits
This is a cash-back credit card that charges no annual fee, so don’t expect any premium benefits like lounge access or travel credits. The card’s main asset is its rewards structure, which we’ll dig into later. Otherwise, the card offers standard credit card protections and benefits, including account alerts, a way to check your FICO score for free and fraud protection.
Cardholders earn 3% cash back on one of the following categories of their choosing: gas, online shopping, dining, travel, drug stores or home improvement/furnishings. You’ll also earn 2% cash back at grocery stores and wholesale clubs. Note that there’s a $2,500 cap on combined 3% and 2% cash-back purchases each quarter. Beyond that, you’ll earn 1% cash back.
Dining includes both dine-in and takeout. The drug store category includes anything bought at a drug store, from prescription purchases to gift cards to batteries. The home improvement category counts hardware store purchases and services like landscaping, plumbing, electrical and more.
Gas includes gas stations and marinas, so you can earn money filling up your car or your boat (perfect for anyone planning a domestic lake getaway as opposed to an international trip this year). Online shopping is also a broad category that’s easy to use.
Bank of America allows you to change your selected 3% cash-back category each month, so you can easily customize this rewards structure to fit your needs. Going on a trip next winter? Select travel as your bonus category for the month you book your trip. Plan on replacing some of the plumbing in your bathroom this fall? Pick home services that month to earn bonus rewards on the service.
Maximizing cash back with Preferred Rewards
If you are eligible to enroll in Bank of America Preferred Rewards, this card could earn even more cash back. You’ll need an eligible Bank of America personal checking account and a three-month average combined balance of $20,000 or more in a Bank of America account and/or Merrill investment accounts to enroll. There are three tiers you can fall into based on your three-month average account balance, and you earn a cash-back bonus of between 25%-75% depending on your tier. Here’s how it all adds up.
|Spending categories||Regular cardholder||Tier 1 – Gold ($20,000 – $49,999)
|Tier 2 – Platinum ($50,000 – $99,999)
|Tier 3 – Platinum Honors ($100,000+)
|3% bonus category||3% cash back||3.75% cash back||4.5% cash back||5.25% cash back|
|2% bonus categories||2% cash back||2.5% cash back||3% cash back||3.5% cash back|
|Other spending||1% cash back||1.25% cash back||1.5% cash back||1.75% cash back|
The Preferred Rewards program also offers an interest-rate booster for eligible savings accounts among other banking and investment perks.
If you qualify for Platinum Honors, you can earn up to $131.25 in bonus cash back each quarter. That’s $525 every year for only $10,000 in annual bonus-category spending. Keep in mind, this card doesn’t charge an annual fee, so for those who already qualify for the Preferred Rewards program, you’re essentially getting up to $525 in free bonus cash back annually.
Unfortunately, the redemption options for the Bank of America Customized Cash Rewards credit card are limited. You currently have four options:
- Redeem your cash back as a statement credit
- Deposit your cash back into an eligible Bank of America checking or savings account or an eligible Merrill account
- Redeem as a contribution to a qualifying 529 plan with Merrill
- Redeem for a check starting at $25
If you are an existing Bank of America or Merrill customer, you can easily use your cash back to contribute to your accounts. However, if you’re hoping to find added value by redeeming for travel, this card isn’t the best fit.
Cash back has a fixed-rate value (1% is worth 1 cent per dollar). Although savvy travelers might find cash back lackluster as a rewards option, beginner travelers or those just looking for a way to save on everyday expenses will enjoy the simplicity of the rewards program. You don’t have to worry about rewards valuations shifting or subpar redemption options. No matter how you plan on redeeming, you’re getting the same value out of cash back.
Which cards compete with the Bank of America Customized Cash Rewards?
For example, the Bank of America®️ Premium Rewards®️ credit card offers unlimited 2x points on travel and dining, 2x points on grocery store purchases (now through Dec. 31, 2021) and 1.5x points on everyday purchases, plus a higher sign-up bonus and perks, like up to $100 in annual airline incidental statement credits, a Global Entry/TSA PreCheck application fee credit (up to $100) and travel protections. It also charges a $95 annual fee.
The Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card offers unlimited 1.5x points on all purchases and a higher sign-up bonus of 25,000 bonus points (worth $250 in statement credits toward dining and travel) after spending $1,000 on purchases in the first 90 days of account opening, and does not charge an annual fee.
If you’re looking for a card with a bigger welcome bonus or simpler earning structure, either of these two might be a better fit.
Upon first glance, the Bank of America Cash Rewards card gets a higher potential return (up to 5.25% cash back with Cash Rewards versus up to 3.5% return with the Premium Rewards, or 2.625% with the Travel Rewards), but remember that the Cash Rewards has a $2,500 quarterly cap on bonus category earnings.
While someone who’s only spending around $800 a month will still benefit more from the rewards structure of the Cash Rewards, larger budgets will likely earn more with the Premium or Travel Rewards cards.
For example, if you’re spending $20,000 each year (around $1,667 a month) on travel and/or dining, you’ll end up earning more with the Premium Rewards credit card. That level of spending with the Cash Rewards will earn up to $625 for Platinum Honors members, while Premium Rewards cardholders can earn up to $700 as Platinum Honors members. That’s also not considering the additional statement credits and perks you get with the Premium Rewards card.
For non-Bank of America customers, the U.S. Bank Cash+™ Visa Signature® Card is another major competitor. You’ll earn 5% cash back on the first $2,000 you spend on your choice of two categories each quarter, plus unlimited 2% cash back on your choice of grocery store, gas station or restaurant purchases. The potential bonus categories aren’t quite as broad as with the Bank of America Customized Cash Rewards card, but include a larger variety (such as streaming services and gyms/fitness memberships). If you aren’t eligible for Bank of America Preferred Rewards, this could be a better option for you long-term.
The information for the U.S. Bank Cash+ card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
If you qualify for Preferred Rewards through Bank of America, the Bank of America Customized Cash Rewards card has the potential to offer lucrative rewards for smaller budgets. Frequent travelers and those with larger budgets will probably get more out of one of Bank of America’s more premium cards.
Also, keep in mind that Bank of America cards are best suited for those who use other Bank of America products like their savings and investment accounts. Those who bank elsewhere can find a higher cash-back rate with cards offered by other issuers.
Additional reporting by Chris Dong.
Featured image by John Gribben for The Points Guy.
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