Not to be underestimated: Bank of America Premium Rewards credit card review

Oct 17, 2019

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If you qualify for Bank of America Preferred Rewards, the Bank of America®️ Premium Rewards®️ Visa®️ credit card has the potential to be quite a lucrative card to use on everyday spending. For those who prefer other banks, there are better earning travel cards available. Card Rating*: ⭐⭐⭐½

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

I’ll be honest. I haven’t always been a fan of Bank of America credit cards. Though affordable with low or nonexistent annual fees, most lacked the perks that I’ve always associated with my favorite cards. However, the more familiar I get with the Preferred Banking Rewards program (and the more useful fixed-value points currencies become), the more I see the benefits of having a Bank of America card.

This card isn’t like other products that have $450 annual fees and a ton of perks; this card has a modest $95 annual fee and a more modest selection of benefits. Still, it offers great flexibility in redeeming points and yields extraordinary earn rates if you can maximize BofA’s Preferred Banking Rewards program.

In This Post

Who is this card for?

The Premium Rewards credit card has wide appeal to both points fans and credit card novices. It might not have the most lucrative points or numerous transfer partners, but what it does offer is flexibility.

I think of it as a stress-free travel card, since points are worth 1 cent apiece no matter what you redeem them for — you don’t have to worry about getting the maximum value out of every point, which can sometimes be time-consuming and frustrating.

If you like the idea of redeeming your points as a statement credit against big purchases that aren’t covered by points — such as new luggage or a TV — then this would be the card to get. You can redeem points for any purchase, whether it’s a flight, a new car or an over-the-top dinner. The points function essentially like cash.

The Premium Rewards card is also a strong option for those who tend to spend in broad bonus categories like travel and dining (2x and up with this card), but who also want solid rewards (1.5x and up) for non-category bonus spend.

The earning rate is even better if you’re already a Bank of America customer and can maximize the Preferred Rewards Program (more on that later).

It’s also a great choice for semi-frequent travelers since it comes with valuable perks like an up to $100 Global Entry/TSA PreCheck credit, an up to $100 airline credit, trip delay/cancellation insurance, baggage loss/delay insurance and no foreign transaction fees, so you won’t be hit with any surprise charges when using your card abroad.

Further reading: Is the Bank of America Premium Rewards card worth the $95 annual fee? 

Modest but valuable welcome bonus

With the Premium Rewards card, you’ll receive 50,000 bonus points after spending $3,000 on purchases in the first 90 days of account opening. These points have a fixed value of 1 cent each, meaning that 50,000 points are worth $500. This far from the most lucrative bonus out there, but $500 can go a long way towards airfare, hotel costs or anything in between. 

When you consider that BofA is essentially paying you $5 every year (after you redeem the up to $100 airline credit) to have this card, you’re basically getting $500 for free just for signing up and meeting the minimum spend. Use the sign-up bonus to treat yourself to something extravagant, like a helicopter or private jet ride on Blade.

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The sign-up bonus alone is worth enough to get me 2.5 trips on Blade Bounce in NYC. (Photo by Blade)

While Bank of America doesn’t have any published restrictions that apply specifically to earning welcome bonuses, remember that it does have a 2/3/4 rule when it comes to card applications. You can only get approved for two Bank of America cards in a two-month period, three cards in a 12-month period and four cards in a 24-month period.

There have also been recent reports of a threshold similar to Chase’s 5/24 rule that limits how many cards across issuers you can get within a year in order to be approved for a new BoA card, though the exact threshold is uncertain and Bank of America has not confirmed the existence of a set policy.

Perks and benefits

While the Premium Rewards card doesn’t hold a candle to top-tier cards like The Platinum Card® from American Express, it does come with a nice set of perks for the low annual fee — a lot more than basically any other mid-tier card out there. Here are my favorite perks and their value:

$100 airline incidental credit. This credit works like the Amex airline fee credit in that you can only use it for purchases such as seat upgrades, baggage fees, in-flight services and lounge fees (though not airfare). You receive the credit every year and if you’re able to use the full amount, you’re essentially getting paid $5 a year to be a cardholder. Unfortunately, it’s not as flexible as the Chase Sapphire Reserve’s travel credit or the Citi Prestige’s air travel credit, but it’s still a great benefit for someone who travels a few times a year. It only works on certain domestic airlines but it’s processed automatically, so you don’t have to call in and apply it to a certain purchase.

Global Entry. I love having Global Entry — it’s saved me from standing in countless hours of security and customs lines. Premium Rewards cardmembers get an up to $100 credit (every four years) that can be applied toward purchasing Global Entry or TSA PreCheck. It’s surprising that this card offers a Global Entry credit, as that’s usually only offered by top-tier rewards cards with higher annual fees (although the Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card is another mid-tier card that offers this benefit). And if you’re already part of the program, you can still use the credit for a friend or family member’s application.

Trip insurance. It’s always important to have trip insurance since you never know when your travel plans will go awry. This card provides reimbursement of up to $5,000 per person, per trip, for any unused, prepaid, non-refundable travel expenses including passenger fares, tours and hotels if you have to cancel due to a covered reason. And if your flight is delayed for more than 12 hours, you’re eligible for reimbursement of $500 in expenses per ticket. With many issuers ditching trip insurance, this benefit continues to be a compelling reason to use this card to book travel.

Baggage delay/loss insurance: Similar to trip insurance, you’ll be eligible for protection if your baggage is lost, stolen or damaged. This provides up to $100 per day (up to five days) when your bag is delayed for more than six hours. If your luggage is stolen or lost by a travel provider, you’ll be eligible for reimbursement for the contents of the bag.

IMG-Away-Luggage
If your bag is lost, stolen or damaged, the card’s protection plan will help pay to replace all of your items. (Photo courtesy of Away)

Purchase protection. I’ve used purchased protection many times and it’s saved me thousands of dollars over the last year — Amex paid me $1,400 for a broken watch and my Sapphire Reserve reimbursed me $2,600 for a painting that was damaged in transit. You’ll get similar protection with the Premium Rewards card, which will repair, replace or reimburse you up to $10,000 for lost or damaged items purchased on the card. If you want to return an item within 90 days of purchase but the retailer won’t accept the return, you can submit your receipt and be reimbursed up to $250 (up to $1,000 annually).

Rental car insurance. Last, this card will give you secondary coverage when renting a car — meaning it will kick in only after you’ve filed a claim with your personal insurance. While not as good as many of Chase’s cards that offer primary coverage, it’s pretty good for a no-annual fee card (after maximizing the airline credit).

Further reading: Reasons to get the Bank of America Premium Rewards card

Earn points

With this card, you’re earning 2x points on travel and dining and 1.5x point on everything else. Travel and dining are defined broadly, meaning there are a lot of expenses that can qualify for double points. The real value for me personally is the 1.5x on everyday spending. As a member of the Preferred Rewards program, you can earn up an impressive 2.625x on non-bonus spending. That’s higher than any flat-rate card out there.

The Premium Rewards card doesn’t earn traditional points or miles that can be transferred and redeemed with travel partners but rather acts more like a cash-back card with huge earning potential. I honestly never thought I’d be thinking about cash back, but as airlines have devalued frequent flyer programs, the idea seems more appealing.

Although we value most airline miles at more than 1 cent each, that’s mainly based on being able to find premium cabin saver seats. With it becoming harder and harder to get good value out of points and miles, that’s where this card can come in handy.

As I mentioned earlier, points are flexible with the Premium Rewards card; you can use them on anything — airlines, the gym, etc. — essentially anywhere that accepts Visa. Your points can go toward paying for those purchases (as a statement credit) and the credit posts automatically.

(Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)
With the Premium Rewards card, you can earn up to 3.5x on hotel stays — including getaways to the W Aspen Hotel pictured here. (Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

Further reading: How I earned and redeemed with BoA Premium Rewards 

Redeem points

Another thing I like about this card is that it’s zero stress and consumes very little time. You don’t need to jump through hoops to find award availability and you don’t have to go to a specific portal if you want to use your points to pay for your gym. Since points are worth the same no matter what you redeem for, you’re not penalized for redeeming for cash back. You just redeem for whatever you want.

There a few ways to redeem points:

  • Cash back — You can receive cash back as a statement credit or deposit it into an eligible BofA checking or savings, Merrill or 529 college savings account
  • Travel purchases — You can book flights directly through the BofA travel portal. This is a good way to redeem points because you’ll still be eligible to earn award miles and elite credits by flying on a paid ticket (although personally I’d recommend buying directly from the carrier because sometimes when buying through a travel portal you’ll get a lower fare class).
  • Gift cards — A final option allows for converting points into gift cards at popular merchants such as Amazon, Whole Foods and Starbucks. I wouldn’t plan on going this route since it’d be smarter to just purchase the items and redeem your points as a statement credit in case you have to return the item.

I especially love that you can convert points directly into cash that can go straight into a 529 college savings account. Last year, I converted the points from my sign-up bonus and deposited them directly into 529 accounts for my nieces and nephews. From there, I used my points as statement credits against BLADE trips to my office, which saved me hours of time.

And if you’re solely focused on travel rewards, this card can cover travel expenses that you can’t redeem miles for, like offsetting surcharges on an award ticket or amazing experiences on the ground.

Jack Skellington from Tim Burton’s “The Nightmare Before Christmas” hosts the new “Disney’s Not So Spooky Spectacular” fireworks show at Magic Kingdom Park. This spellbinding display of state-of-the-art projection effects, lasers, lighting and dazzling fireworks will delight guests during Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party, a separately ticketed event held on select nights Aug. 16-Nov. 1, 2019, at Walt Disney World Resort in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (David Roark, photographer)
Because points are always worth one cent each, you can use points to pay for travel experiences like your tickets to Disney World for Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party. (Photo by David Roark)

Originally when I heard that points were worth only 1 cent each, I was a bit disappointed. But it’s honestly nice that I don’t have to jump through hoops to find award availability and I don’t have to feel bad about redeeming these points for maximum value. I can use them whenever and for whatever I want.

Further reading: How to redeem points using the BoA Premium Rewards card 

Using the Preferred Rewards program to your advantage

To get the best value out of your Bank of America cards, you need to understand Bank of America’s Preferred Rewards program. Those who hold considerable assets in eligible BofA or Merrill accounts — including retirement or investment accounts — are eligible for increased rewards when spending on the Premium Rewards card. To enroll in BofA Preferred Rewards 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.

There are three tiers in Preferred Rewards, and your tier is based on how much money you have in your accounts. This will determine your earning with the Premium Rewards 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+)
Travel/Dining Earnings 2x points 2.5x points 3x points 3.5x points
Other Earnings 1.5x points 1.875x points 2.25x points  2.625x points

At the base level of 2x points on travel and dining and 1.5x points on everything else, the card is pretty standard. It’s good, but the Citi® Double Cash Card and Fidelity Rewards Visa Signature Card are cash-back cards with higher earning rates on everyday spend and no annual fees (though those cards don’t come with any perks).

But the numbers get pretty spectacular when you’re able to get 2.625x points on everyday spend and 3.5x points if you meet the highest banking threshold. That said, I’ll still probably put most of my travel and dining spend on my Sapphire Reserve because I value Ultimate Rewards points at 2 cents each — meaning I get 6x points (toward travel per dollar spent). But 3.5x points back on travel and dining and 2.625x points on everything else for those who don’t value travel as much as I do — and want flexibility when redeeming points — is quite strong.

The way I see it is that if you can maximize Preferred Rewards, you’re essentially getting a no-annual-fee card (after using the airline credit) that gives you 3.5x on travel and dining and 2.625x on everything else. If you’re looking for a straight cash-back card, no other card comes close to that.

The moment I heard of this card, I immediately moved $100,000 into a Merrill investment account so I could start qualifying for Platinum Honors. BofA also allows the option to roll over an existing 401(k) account into a Merrill retirement account, so that this could be an easy way to qualify for Preferred Rewards.

Further reading: Stop ignoring the Bank of America Preferred Rewards program 

Bottom line

In general, this card is about diversifying your stock of points and using them for the purchases that normal airline miles or credit card points can’t cover. It’s great if you want to use your points to splurge on a crazy watch or piece of jewelry. Or you can be generous and use the points to better your family.

It’s also an interesting option for small business owners — I know a lot of doctors and executives, and at a certain point there is mileage overload where they have too many Amex points and physically can’t redeem all of them for travel (because that is the best way to redeem MR points). So if you own your own business, this card can offer 2.625x points on all of your spend and 3.5x points on all travel and dining, which you can easily redeem for cold hard cash.

For those who have been eyeing a straight-up cash-back card, this could be your best option. Simply put, it’ll be improving your bottom line — either for you personally or for your business. You don’t have to waste time figuring out how to get the most value out of your points, as the stress-free redemptions make this an easy card to manage.

BofA is obviously telling customers that they will be rewarded with its Preferred Rewards program if they move their assets to BofA. On top of the earning and redeeming possibilities, it comes with a solid sign-up bonus and some pretty nice perks, which are worth far more than the card’s annual fee. For these reasons, I continue to be excited to have status with Preferred Rewards banking and the Bank of America®️ Premium Rewards®️ Visa®️ credit card in my wallet.

Official Application Link: Apply for the Bank of America Premium Rewards Visa Credit Card 

Additional reporting by Madison Blancaflor.

Featured photo by Isabelle Raphael/The Points Guy.

Bank of America® Premium Rewards® Visa® 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.

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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
17.74% - 24.74% 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.