Bank of America CMO, Meredith Verdone and travel expert, Lee Abbamonte, discuss how to turn travel benefits into financial rewards
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This story is part of a sponsorship paid for by Bank of America — one way that TPG continues to provide our readers with free news and advice about travel.
Choosing the right credit card to align with your spending habits falls under TPG’s Beginner’s Guide 101. Thankfully, our “Talking Points” podcast is here to help you find just that. On this episode, Bank of America CMO, Meredith Verdone, and Lee Abbamonte, the world’s youngest person to travel to every country (and pole), join Brian Kelly to discuss why the Bank of America® Premium Rewards® credit card and the Preferred Rewards Program, together, could be what help you reach your financial goals.
Verdone, who has worked with Bank of America for more than 20 years in various capacities, says her main goal is for the bank’s 66 million customers to understand what their company stands for.
“I can tell you our purpose, and something that we feel really strongly about … is to make financial lives better through the power of every connection, and we believe that is our job. That’s true north for us,” she explained.
“They always talk about layering your rewards, like layering your credit card with your banking rewards,” he said. “As a Preferred Rewards Platinum Honors Tier member, I can’t think of a better program, because I’m getting 3.5 points per dollar spent on travel and dining and 2.62 points on everything else. There’s nothing else that competes with that.”
Verdone details the different Preferred Rewards tiers Bank of America offers, which depend on the combined assets that you have at the bank. For example, to enroll in the program, an individual needs an eligible personal checking account with the bank, and a three-month average combined balance of $20,000 in a Bank of America account and/or Merrill investment accounts, to reach the first tier.
Preferred Rewards members also get access to additional benefits like no fee services, extra interest on savings accounts and interest rate discounts on auto loans or home equity lines of credit. One perk Abbamonte enjoys is receiving a 2% discount off the published exchange rate, as well as no fee on standard shipping when he orders foreign currency online or through the mobile app.
In addition to that benefit, Abbamonte prefers to use his Premium Rewards Visa card during his international travels because it comes with no foreign transaction fees. The card also provides a $100 airline incidental statement credit, which can be used toward expenses like baggage fees, inflight entertainment, seat upgrades, travel insurance and Global Entry.
The Points Guy himself, Brian Kelly, also makes note of a few unique ways customers can use their points, such as putting them toward a 529 savings account — and why there’s nothing wrong with redeeming them for cash back.
In her role as CMO, Verdone has made creating a diverse and inclusive work environment a top priority, and explains how that extends into the communities where Bank of America is present.
“We’ve got a very robust diversity and inclusion council … if you look at the demographics of what we’ve made up in our company, it’s so important that we reflect the communities in which we serve,” she said. “We’re in one in two U.S. households. So, we need to reflect the fabric in every community in which we serve.”
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Brian Kelly: Welcome to this episode of Talking Points. I’m your host, Brian Kelly, The Points Guy, and today, I’ve got something special for you. I have not one, but two, really interesting guests on the podcast today, one of whom has been with us before: Lee Abbamonte, intrepid world traveler, who’s been to every country and so much more, and the CMO of Bank of America, Meredith Verdone. Thank you both so much for joining me today.
Meredith Verdone: Great to be here, Brian.
Lee Abbamonte: Great to be back, man.
Brian Kelly: So today, I mean, we have a lot to talk about. We want to definitely dive deep. As The Points Guy and the Talking Points podcast, we want to talk about the Bank of America Premium Rewards Visa card and the Preferred Rewards Program. But first, let’s get to know each other. Meredith, when you were a child, did you want to be the CMO of a major bank?
Meredith Verdone: Well, I have to admit, I did not. In fact, I wasn’t even thinking about that. I was actually a huge sports fan, growing up, and I wanted to do color — so meaning radio or TV commentary. I was a huge Red Sox fan, probably watched every game that there was, and that was my desire, to be sitting in your seat with a big microphone in front of me.
Meredith Verdone: But, instead, I ended up going to Bowdoin College. I studied economics there, and when I graduated, I entered the world of advertising. And I fell in love with that as my career track and have been doing that for about 35 years. I’m thrilled to be at Bank of America and have the opportunity.
Brian Kelly: Lee, so you’re a sports fan as well. Haven’t you been to every park?
Lee Abbamonte: Yeah, I’ve been to every major stadium in America and most of them around the world, and I actually just got back from Japan for the Rugby World Cup.
Brian Kelly: Oh, wow.
Lee Abbamonte: Yeah, just a lifelong sports fan. My dream as a child, by the way, was to play shortstop for the Yankees. That guy Derek Jeter had that monopolized when I was growing up, so I didn’t really get that opportunity.
Brian Kelly: So wait. But I just want to make sure … You guys are sitting close together. So you’re Red Sox.
Meredith Verdone: I’m Red Sox. You’re Yankee.
Brian Kelly: He’s Yankees.
Meredith Verdone: This might be a problem.
Brian Kelly: So, Meredith, being the CMO of such a huge bank, what is a day like for you, in terms of your scope?
Meredith Verdone: Well, it is pretty broad. I mean, if you think about my responsibility, we have 66 million customers, and so our job, really, is to deeply understand them. So, as a marketer, that is job one, is to really understand what their needs are, ensuring we’ve got the right solutions and the right marketing to make sure we’re telling our stories so they understand what our brand is about, what our products and services are about across the spectrum.
Meredith Verdone: You think about it, we serve people who are college students to people who just got married to small business owners to CEOs of corporations. So we’ve got this expansive view, and, really, my job is that people understand what we stand for as a company.
Meredith Verdone: And today, what’s interesting, people do want to know what kind of a company you are, and I think that’s a really interesting dynamic. On one hand, I need people to understand our different products and services, like we’re going to talk about today what our credit card and our rewards program offers. But at the same time, they want to know, “Well, how do you think? What kind of a company you are you? What are your policies? How do you treat your employees?” So it’s a really dynamic role to make sure we’re telling that story in a really easy-to-understand way.
Brian Kelly: So how would you sum it up in a couple of sentences? What does Bank of America stand for?
Meredith Verdone: Well, I can tell you our purpose and something that we feel really strongly about, and everyone in the company could recite this. It is to make financial lives better through the power of every connection, and we believe that is our job. That’s true north for us. Are you making financial lives better?
Meredith Verdone: And we think about that. When you’re developing a product in our app design, everything we’re doing, if it doesn’t make financial lives better, we’re not going to do it. So it is really the filter by which we all think about how we serve our customers.
Brian Kelly: That’s really interesting, because at The Points Guy, I mean, obviously, we’re a tiny company compared to Bank of America, but our true north is just helping people travel better. A part of that is helping people navigate financial products, and it is very confusing. Even as The Points Guy, there’s still loyalty programs that are really confusing and to figure out the products that really actually reward you.
Brian Kelly: So I’m excited today to dive in a little bit, because I do think, in the travel rewards space, there are certain dominant players who have tons of different products and really drive deep in travel. But I think the Bank of America Premium Rewards Visa has a really unique spot.
Brian Kelly: Now, Lee, so you’ve traveled every pole, because now there’s so many people traveling to every country. But you have them beat by something, right?
Lee Abbamonte: Well, first of all, I’m kind of the OG with it. So I was the first one to kind of go public with the whole thing, and a lot of people blame me for the influx of how many there are now. But I’m still the youngest person to visit every country and then both poles, and I’ve been to so many more as well, like all the territories and everything that no one’s ever heard of or actually thought about going.
Brian Kelly: And we’re going to get into how you’ve used points to travel around the world similar to me, but in a lot more interesting ways. But, Meredith, let’s focus on the credit card division of Bank of America. The reward space is really competitive, and you know, it can be argued that there’s a race going on, where every bank and card offer is trying to one-up each other. What is Bank of America’s approach to winning in this highly competitive market?
Meredith Verdone: Yeah, I mean, first of all, everything we do starts with our customer and understanding what is it they want, and we hear a couple things across the board. One is know me, understand what I want, and reward me and recognize me and have my back. So those are sort of fundamentals as we think about anything.
Meredith Verdone: So we’ve got our products, but what’s also unique and I think is really different, even though we call it the credit card division, we don’t think like that. We think …
Brian Kelly: Correct me.
Meredith Verdone: No, meaning we think about our customers and what they need, and we’re a full-service financial company. So we think about the customer and their needs. We don’t think about, from a product standpoint, what product do they need? What does our customer need to live their life? We have our new campaign right now, where he says, “What would you like the power to do?”
Meredith Verdone: What we want to see is what do people want to accomplish? Then how do we build our capabilities around that? So, as an example, we have our Preferred Rewards Program. So we look at it across our different products and services. So you could have a checking account. Whether you have a Merrill investment account, a mortgage, how do we look at, cumulatively, what are you doing with us, the amount of business, and how do we reward you for the totality of your business?
Meredith Verdone: So it’s taking a little bit of a broader view of the customer and ensuring we’re creating the programs and the products based on the full relationship, instead of just … We’re not a monoline. I guess that’s the difference, that when you look at the category, there are monolines. We don’t view our credit card division as a mono. We say, “What do our customers need to love their financial life? Let’s make sure we’re rewarding them for their business.”
Brian Kelly: So that’s really interesting, because, as a Preferred Rewards Visa cardholder, we worked with Bank of America on the launch of that product, and it’s really interesting, because it’s kind of cool to see your banking and deposits actually give you more rewards. It’s really rich, you know, especially with the double points on travel and dining. With the top Preferred Rewards ratio, how do you afford to give out so much back per dollar spent? Are you losing money on certain areas, if you look at the big picture?
Meredith Verdone: Well, when you look at it, and there are thresholds, right? So we’ve got different tiers, depending on the combined assets that you have at the bank. So we have a Gold Tier, 20 to 50,000 in assets, and it goes all the way up to 100 and above.
Meredith Verdone: So we have got also incredible retention. We’ve got 99% retention of customers who are enrolled in our Preferred Rewards Program, because they see, just to your point, Brian, how rich it is, and they’re also more satisfied and more likely to recommend Bank of America.
Meredith Verdone: So out of the millions and millions of customers that we have enrolled, they’re great customers, they refer, and they’re continuing to do more business with us. So we look at it over the long term, too, I think, which is maybe different than other folks. We look at sort of the lifetime of our customer and how do we think about the future of our customer, doing more business with us over time?
Brian Kelly: I think that’s really interesting, because so many people say, “Why do the banks work with you? Why do they want people … The airlines must hate you, because people are redeeming their points, and they’re losing money.” But I think what you said is very true. Engaged customers truly do bring more value back over time. So you want people to use their points.
Meredith Verdone: We want people to use the points. We want people to engage. We want them to feel rewarded for doing business with us.
Lee Abbamonte: For me, as a Bank of America Preferred Rewards member and a Premium Rewards Visa cardholder, they always talk about layering your rewards, like layering your credit card with your banking rewards, and, as a Preferred Rewards Platinum Honors tier member, I can’t think of a better program, because I’m getting 3.5 points per dollar spent on travel and dining and 2.62 points on everything else. There’s nothing else that can piece with that.
Lee Abbamonte: And because I’m a Platinum Honors tier member, so I have a certain amount of assets with Bank of America, I’m not going anywhere …
Brian Kelly: Yeah.
Lee Abbamonte: … because I’m loving that. It’s a low annual fee on the card, and it’s very favorably comparable to any other card out there, in my opinion, especially if you combine it with the Preferred Rewards. There’s nothing better.
Brian Kelly: So, basically, with the points, they’re not at a certain airline. You don’t have to use them in only a certain category. It is basically cash back. Right?
Lee Abbamonte: That’s how I use it, actually.
Brian Kelly: You can use it for any purchase. So if you’ve got a helicopter that you need to pay for …
Lee Abbamonte: Right.
Brian Kelly: … which, actually, I do believe …
Lee Abbamonte: I mean, it happens.
Brian Kelly: It was funny. The first time that I was talking about how I use my points, with the BofA team … because I do. I use them for the helicopter to the Hamptons, because you can spend on it and just wipe those charges off at 1 cent each. They were like, “Yeah, Brian, we don’t think most people are going to use it for helicopters.” But even … We’re both dog owners. You can use it for the vet bills, which Lee and I both have French bulldogs, and they are …
Lee Abbamonte: They’re money pits, man.
Brian Kelly: … money pits.
Lee Abbamonte: But they’re amazing. We always talk about this.
Brian Kelly: Meredith, do you have a dog?
Meredith Verdone: I have two cats.
Brian Kelly: Two cats. Do they get along?
Meredith Verdone: Yeah, most of the time, they get along.
Brian Kelly: Do you have a favorite?
Meredith Verdone: I do have a favorite, Riley, though the fan favorite is Anthony. So a shout-out to Anthony.
Lee Abbamonte: I have a lot of bodega cats near me when I go for walks, and it’s like probably my most popular thing on Instagram stories. It’s kind of amazing.
Brian Kelly: So, Meredith, explain a little bit more about Preferred Rewards. What counts as a deposit, and then what are the bonus levels that a consumer can get by hitting those levels?
Meredith Verdone: Yeah, so, I mean, the way it works is there are different thresholds, depending on the amount of business you do with us, and it’s combined business. This is what’s really important. So it’s either having a deposit account or if you have a Merrill investment account. And it’s either or. So you don’t have to have both. It’s just doing business with us at the different thresholds. And you get different level of rewards, depending on it. It’s a multiplier effect, in terms of the amount of bonus that you get on your credit card, as well as we get interest rate boosters and other types of benefits.
Meredith Verdone: Really, it’s as the more business you do, the more the rewards grow. I’ll tell you, these folks who are enrolled in this loyalty program, we’ve got a very high retention rate, I mean a 99% retention rate, because the rewards are so rich, as well as they’re more likely to recommend Bank of America, as they are so satisfied with the program.
Brian Kelly: Because the top level is 75% bonus, right? So that 2x on travel becomes 3.5.
Lee Abbamonte: Right. As a Platinum Honors tier member, 2 points with the card becomes 3.5 on travel and dining with Preferred Rewards as a top tier member and 2.62 points on everything else, which is pretty awesome. Yeah.
Brian Kelly: You mean 2.62% on every purchase back?
Lee Abbamonte: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Brian Kelly: There is no other …
Lee Abbamonte: There is nothing comparable.
Brian Kelly: Yeah.
Lee Abbamonte: I mean, I know I’m the spokesman for Preferred Rewards for Bank of America, but even if I wasn’t, I’m still not leaving. Like she said, it’s too good to pass up, and I recommend it to everybody. There’s a lot of benefits, ancillary benefits as well. For instance, if you order foreign currency online before a trip, like I just did to Japan …
Brian Kelly: Yep.
Lee Abbamonte: … I ordered my yen online, you get a 2% discount off the published foreign currency exchange rate and free shipping …
Brian Kelly: Oh, wow.
Lee Abbamonte: … which is tough to beat, because, I mean, why not? You’re getting a better deal than you would at an ATM or surely at a foreign exchange desk.
Brian Kelly: I did not know that.
Lee Abbamonte: Yeah.
Brian Kelly: You learn something new every day.
Lee Abbamonte: It’s pretty awesome, and, of course, you get no fee ATM withdrawals anywhere in the U.S.
Brian Kelly: That’s awesome. Then, on the actual Premium Rewards Visa card, there are no foreign transaction fees when you use it abroad?
Lee Abbamonte: Correct, and then 2 points for every dollar spent on travel and dining and a point and a half for everything else. Of course, they give you a $100 annual airline incidental credit and a global entry credit, travel insurance, et cetera.
Brian Kelly: Yeah, I mean, the card only has a $95 annual fee, so the $100 airline credit makes … Basically, you’re getting remunerated.
Lee Abbamonte: You’re actually making money. Yeah.
Brian Kelly: I don’t want to say you’re getting paid, because that’s probably … But yeah, you can totally come out ahead, and especially … We haven’t even gotten to the best part, the signup bonus, which, if you’re not a customer, you can apply, and it’s 50,000 points after spending $3000 within 90 days, which is pretty much …
Lee Abbamonte: Which is very doable, and it’s very comparable, as you know, favorably to almost any other card out there, especially in this tier level. For me, it’s just been fantastic, combining it with everything else, and it’s easy when you use the app, because, like I said, you can do the foreign currency exchange. You can order it online, and they have a dashboard called My Rewards, where you can just basically see everything right there.
Lee Abbamonte: It’s a really easy-to-use app. You can get your cash back right there. If you go for redemption, you could actually book travel there, if you wanted to, or get gift cards or use BankAmeriDeals, which is … I actually love those, because then I get 10 to 15% cash back on a lot of restaurants and Starbucks, which I go to every single day.
Meredith Verdone: Yeah. So right when you log in, it’s right there, just right below your name. They say, “Welcome, Meredith.” Rewards right there. You hit on it, and you can redeem your points right there. Could not be easier.
Lee Abbamonte: I have apps for several financial institutions, and there’s none better than Bank of America, without question. It’s so easy to use.
Brian Kelly: Yeah, and let’s talk. Lee, I know some of your story. You’ve been every country in the world. Last time we talked, I hadn’t yet been to Liberia. I have since went, and there were … Now that a bunch of our employees just went, because we do charity work there, there are no working ATMs in the country. So not that most people listening at home will be going to places like Liberia, but having currency on you when you visit certain destinations is critical.
Lee Abbamonte: Real quick story. When I was in Liberia, must’ve been 10, 11 years ago, something like that, absolutely zero ATMs in the entire country. At that particular time, I was doing a three-month trip across West Africa, trying to visit all of West Africa. So I ran out of money. So I tried to find an ATM. There was no ATMS. So what I did was I went to the U.S. Embassy. The first time and only time since I’ve ever gone to a U.S. Embassy, because they have an ATM there.
Lee Abbamonte: So, basically, I just knock on the door when they open, and they wouldn’t let me in to use the ATM.
Brian Kelly: Doesn’t sound like a Bank of America branch.
Lee Abbamonte: I was like, “Really?” So what I ended up having to do, in lieu of going to Western Union and waking somebody up in the middle of the night to wire me money, I ended up going to Brussels Airlines and overpaying by $1000 for a random ticket that I didn’t even want to use, just because they would give me cash.
Brian Kelly: Did they take a cut of it?
Lee Abbamonte: Yeah, of course they did.
Brian Kelly: Of course.
Lee Abbamonte: But that was my big ATM Liberia story.
Brian Kelly: Meredith, you travel a lot for work? Do you like to use your points to travel, or do you get merchandise? What’s your favorite way to use your Bank of America?
Meredith Verdone: Cash back.
Brian Kelly: Cash back?
Lee Abbamonte: Absolutely, absolutely.
Meredith Verdone: I’m a cash back person, all day long.
Brian Kelly: It actually has to feel pretty good to be able to just get cold, hard cash.
Meredith Verdone: I feel like I’ve made money.
Brian Kelly: Yeah. Well, just by doing what you would do normally.
Meredith Verdone: Yeah,
Lee Abbamonte: Look at the rewards landscape, especially with airlines, how it’s changed over the past few years. I mean, we were just discussing this. So why not take the cash, and then you can use that cash to buy the ticket. Then you’re earning miles for what you’re … and spend toward requalification for next year. You know how important that is.
Brian Kelly: No, that’s really important, especially … We’re recording this at the end of the year. Elite travelers are always trying to use … to buy tickets to get them to the next elite tier, because, these days, you have to have elite status to really be treated well by airlines. The fact that you can use these points to pay for any ticket you want, not have to worry about availability, I think, especially if you have a family and you can only travel over a certain time during spring break … Look, I love all types of miles and credit card points, but the flexibility on this card is unparalleled, especially if you’re at the highest levels of Preferred Rewards.
Meredith Verdone: Yeah, and that’s what our customers tell us. I mean, really, so much of this was designed or everything is designed that we do is around the customer, and that’s what they want: high-earn rates and flexibility. So this card was designed exactly for the folks like Lee, who’ve said that this is the kind of card they want and the benefits.
Brian Kelly: So, Meredith, I know you do a lot of work shifting the culture of Bank of America. I know diversity and inclusion, every company says that they’re committed to it. But I know at Bank of America, it means something else. What does diversity and inclusion mean?
Meredith Verdone: Yeah, thanks for asking that, Brian. It is really important. We talk a lot about being a sustainable company. To be sustainable, you need to make it a great place to work for your employees, and there’s a lot of things around great place to work: how you treat your employees, how you pay your employees, and also how do you create a diverse and inclusive environment?
Meredith Verdone: An inclusive environment means everyone feels comfortable coming to work, to bring their full selves to work. So that’s something that comes from the top down of the company. We’ve got a very robust diversity and inclusion council. It’s part of, if you look at the demographics of what we’ve made up in our company, it’s so important that we reflect the communities in which we serve. We’re in one in two U.S. households. So we need to reflect the fabric in every community in which we serve.
Meredith Verdone: So that is so important that we look like the rest of the country, we reflect the rest of the country. In fact, we just launched, on Thanksgiving … Maybe you saw our new commercial where we feature our own employees. It’s really on their way to work in the morning, what it’s like for them to get up and just go to work, and we have a line, “We see you, because we are you.” The point is, this is who we are, and everyone is welcome at Bank of America.
Brian Kelly: I saw the spot with your CEO, which kind of almost gave me the chills. It was really authentic.
Meredith Verdone: That was last Thanksgiving, the one before. We like Thanksgiving at Bank of America. It’s because it’s actually a really nice time, where people are reflective and actually take a moment to chill and maybe be off their phones …
Brian Kelly: Yeah.
Meredith Verdone: … and just spend some time with family.
Brian Kelly: Lee, how was your worldview, if you can remember back to the Lee before you visited every country in the world? You were in finance … How has your worldview changed from getting to visit every country in the world?
Lee Abbamonte: I look at things in a pre- and post-9/11 way. Having worked in the World Trade Center and having dealt with the reality of that, that helped change me a lot and prioritize travel and seeing the world, and then actually deciding to and going to every country and now working in travel full-time for the last 13 years has just opened my eyes and my mind to everything.
Lee Abbamonte: There’s one of those famous quotes, “To travel is to realize that everyone else is wrong about other countries.” It’s funny. Some of those quotes that you always see are so true, and you see …
Brian Kelly: Not all who wander are lost.
Lee Abbamonte: Are lost. Yeah. I do love that people are getting out there more.
Brian Kelly: Meredith, what has been the most life-changing trip that you’ve ever taken?
Meredith Verdone: Well, actually, I’ve been to Kenya twice.
Brian Kelly: Yeah.
Meredith Verdone: So I went there when my older brother Michael was in the Peace Corps. I went when I was 15, and then I went about three years ago. We do a lot of work with “Red,” and so I had an opportunity to go to Kenya and visit some of the children who are the beneficiaries of all the work that “Red” is doing to create an AIDS-free generation. So it was just a remarkable opportunity to see the impact of the work, and the bank has been a very big supporter of that, and then to really see the impact.
Lee Abbamonte: That’s awesome, and Kenya’s one of my favorite countries. That’s great that you got to do that.
Brian Kelly: As an out entrepreneur, I know Bank of America has always had a … has consistently ranked at the top of HRC for great places to work for LGBTQ people. It’s always good to see companies actually put their money where their mouth is and really give back globally.
Meredith Verdone: We’ve done globally. We also do a lot with Love Has No Labels, which is the Ad Council’s campaign on just recognizing diversity. In our markets, when we have Pride events in all of our local markets, we use the Love Has No Labels material, and people are very, very proud.
Brian Kelly: Meredith, what do you see for Bank of America in 2020? What should we be looking out for? What are some of the exciting things that you’re most excited about?
Meredith Verdone: Yeah, I mean, I’m really excited about this question that we ask. We ask this simple question: What would you like the power to do? What people say are pretty big things, like, “I want to travel the world,” and then it helps us understand, “OK, let’s make sure, then, we’re understanding that, we have the right products, we have the right services, we’re helping people save for that, and creating the right tools to do so.”
Meredith Verdone: So I’m excited about continuing to ask that question, continuing to listen to people. That’s what my passion is, is getting those insights and listening, ensuring that we’re creating the right products and services that are meeting the needs of our customers.
Brian Kelly: Lee, what do you see coming? For someone who’s seen so much, what should people listening know about the travel space or maybe even some countries that you think people should visit, if they’re not some of the most popular countries, but offer amazing experiences?
Lee Abbamonte: I love the African continent. I always say that the most underrated country in the world is Namibia, and if you like desert scenery like I do, it’s one of the most beautiful places in the world.
Lee Abbamonte: Also, on the other side of the world, in South America, Bolivia, I think, is one of the best countries in the world to visit, just for nature scenery. I was actually in Peru about a month ago, and got to do some hikes in the Andes. Peru, for being a small country, really punches above its weight. It has so much to do. It really varies, from 6000-meter peaks of the Andes to rainforests in the Amazon to amazing beaches and some of the best cuisine in all the world.
Brian Kelly: Lima’s the capital of food in South America now, right?
Lee Abbamonte: The ceviche is no joke.
Brian Kelly: So, Lee, as a Premium Rewards Visa cardholder, I know it’s really flexible to use, but what are some of the ways that you use your points on your crazy travels?
Lee Abbamonte: Well, if I’m redeeming points, I usually do it as cash, because cash is king, and I find it’s the best value. With the Bank of America app, you can also book travel, which, for some people, might be a good value, but for me, somebody who travels as much as I do and has as many miles as I do, I find I get the best value for cash, and then I can use that and kind of double-dip.
Brian Kelly: For anything, yeah.
Lee Abbamonte: Right, for anything, and then double-dip, because I’m getting multiple points per dollar spent on anything travel-related, and then I’m also requalifying for the following year with the airlines.
Lee Abbamonte: But the other thing that’s great about Premium Rewards and, of course, Preferred Rewards is that you’re not beholden to an airline. You can use your points and rewards for whatever you want, whether it’s gift cards or cash back, or, of course, travel.
Brian Kelly: Even that $100 credit, some cards make you select an airline. Do you have to do that with the BofA …?
Lee Abbamonte: No. You have ultimate flexibility. You can do whatever you want, and Bank of America knows what you’re spending on. So if you’re spending on travel, you’re rewarded with the point multipliers.
Brian Kelly: Sounds like a no-brainer to me. Meredith, are there any other unique ways that members can use their points?
Meredith Verdone: Yeah. One thing that we started was you can redeem them by putting them in a 529 account, and what’s great is if you’ve got young families who are just starting out, just had a child, what a great way to start saving is by putting it in a 529 through our Merrill investment accounts. So we’re seeing people really, really like that and helping them save.
Brian Kelly: That makes a lot of sense, too. I have a 11 nieces and nephews, and now, each year, as I start to put away for their 529s, it adds up really quickly. I don’t have kids yet, but a lot of my friends who have kids are like, “Brian, loved The Points Guy, but we’re not traveling right now. We’ve got other expenses that are more important.” So it is pretty amazing. Whether you want cash or to put it directly into a 529, that’s pretty powerful.
Meredith Verdone: Yeah, that’s exactly the kind of feedback we got. We’ve got people who are like Lee, just crazy travelers or want to do the cash to then get ahead on the mileage, or just other ways they think about just managing their financial life.
Brian Kelly: One of the other things, if you’re not already a Global Entry member, there is a $100 rebate for that, as well. I can speak to that, that it has saved me. As a frequent traveler, not only do you get Global Entry, but you get PreCheck as well. So to save time in the airport when you’re going on flights and coming home from trips abroad, it can save you countless hours.
Brian Kelly: Meredith, Lee, thank you so much for joining us on this episode of Talking Points. Safe travels.
Meredith Verdone: Thanks, Brian.
Lee Abbamonte: Thank you, Brian.
Featured image by Wallace Cotton /TPG.
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