If you’re looking for a cash-back credit card, the options may seem endless. But by focusing on your spending habits, lifestyle and preferences, it’s easy to narrow down the list to a select few.
The Bank of America® Customized Cash Rewards Credit Card is one of the top cash-back credit cards on the market because it provides flexibility with its top rewards bonus category. The card also offers an easy $200 bonus after you spend just $1,000 in your first 90 days from account opening.
If you’re hoping to get a cash rewards credit card that you can hold onto for years to come, the Bank of America Customized Cash Rewards credit card could be the right choice. Here’s everything you need to know about this popular cash rewards credit card.
Bank of America Customized Cash Rewards Credit Card Review
The Bank of America Customized Cash Rewards card is an excellent choice for just about anyone, but it’s especially worth considering for loyal Bank of America and Merrill Lynch customers. Here’s why the credit card may deserve a spot in your wallet.
The card offers a one-time $200 cash rewards bonus to new account holders. All you have to do to earn this sign-up bonus is to spend $1,000 on the card in the first 90 days from account opening. That’s roughly $333 per month, and you’re effectively getting a 20% return on that spending.
One thing to keep in mind is that there are competing cash-back credit cards that offer a similar bonus for half the spend — the Chase Freedom Unlimited® is just one example. So if you don’t spend much at all on credit cards, make sure you shop around.
That said, if you’re confident you can spend enough to meet the bonus requirement, it’s not as important as the card’s other features.
One of this cash rewards credit card’s main value propositions is its rewards program. It’s not a flat-rate cash-back card like the Citi® Double Cash Card. But depending on how much you spend in certain areas, you could still earn significant value.
For starters, the card offers 3% cash back rewards on the category of your choice from the following list: gas, online shopping, dining, travel, drugstores or home improvement/furnishings. The default when you first get the card is gas, but you can change your category once per month.
The card also offers 2% cash back at grocery stores and wholesale clubs, as well as 1% cash back on other purchases.
The card’s 3% bonus tier is the biggest selling point. With so many common spending categories and the chance to change it every month, it should be easy for many people to rack up rewards. Also, the 2% back at grocery stores and wholesale clubs make the card extremely relevant for most U.S. households.
The only drawback is that the card issuer caps how much you can earn on the 3% and 2% categories to $2,500 in spending each quarter. So once you hit that limit with your combined purchases in both tiers, you’ll earn just 1% back on everything for the rest of the quarter.
However, if you’re not that big of a spender and don’t anticipate going over that limit on a regular basis, it shouldn’t matter as much.
As you compare cards, try to think about the type of cash rewards program you want. A tiered program like this can be a great option for someone who spends a lot in the card’s bonus categories. But earning just 1% back on other purchases may be unappealing.
In contrast, a flat-rate card like the American Express Cash Magnet® Card, which offers 1.5% back on everything, may be good if you prefer simplicity. But it limits how much you can earn if you spend a lot on, say, online shopping or grocery stores.
Bank of America Preferred Rewards Program
On its own, the Customized Cash Rewards credit card offers some solid rewards rates. But if you’re a Preferred Rewards member, you can earn up to 75% more.
To qualify for Preferred Rewards, you need to have an active, eligible Bank of America checking account and at least $20,000 in combined balances between Bank of America and Merrill Lynch accounts. Here’s how to tiers work for bonus rewards:
- Gold: Earn 25% more cash back when you have at least $20,000 in combined balances.
- Platinum: Earn 50% more cash back when you have at least $50,000 in combined balances.
- Platinum Honors: Earn 75% more cash back when you have at least $100,000 in combined balances.
In other words, you could earn up to 5.25% on the category of your choice, 3.5% at grocery stores and wholesale clubs and 1.75% on everything else.
Preferred Rewards also offers other benefits, including discounts on guided investing through Merrill Lynch, waived banking fees and discounts on auto loans, home equity loans and mortgage loans. Read our full Preferred Rewards review.
The Bank of America Customized Cash Rewards credit card doesn’t charge an annual fee. This is pretty common among cash-back credit cards, but that doesn’t negate the value you get from not having to worry about making up for a yearly cost.
Of course, that’s not to say that annual fees are bad. With the right card, it’s possible to get as much or even more value from a card’s rewards and benefits than what it costs each year.
Before you settle on the right card for you, consider the value you’re getting from a no-annual-fee card compared to a card with an annual fee.
For example, if you travel a lot, the Customized Cash Rewards credit card may not be the best choice because it charges a foreign transaction fee. Most travel credit cards don’t charge foreign transaction fees, so those may be a better choice.
Your credit score is an important factor in the credit card application process. Most of the best rewards credit cards require good or excellent credit, and the Bank of America Customized Cash Rewards card is no different. You need a good credit score to get approved.
According to FICO, good credit starts at a 670 score. Check your credit score before you apply to see where you stand. If it’s below that threshold or just above it, consider working on improving your credit score before you apply.
Also, note that Bank of America offers free FICO score access to cardholders. The score is updated on a monthly basis.
While rewards generally get the most fanfare, many cash rewards credit cards also offer cardholders a lot of value with their benefits. Here’s what you can expect from this cash rewards credit card.
0% Introductory APR
As a new cardholder, you’ll get an introductory 0% APR on purchases and balance transfers, and that’s in addition to the card’s cashback sign-up bonus.
To be more specific, you’ll get a 0% introductory APR for 15 billing cycles on purchases, and on any balance transfer you make within 60 days of opening your account. Billing cycles are basically the same as months. Keep in mind that there is a balance transfer fee of 3% ($10 minimum) per transaction.
After the intro 0% APR offer concludes, a variable APR that’s currently 13.99% to 23.99% will apply. It’s a variable APR, too, which means that the rate can fluctuate over time.
Museums on Us
Bank of America offers eligible cardholders the chance to get into scores of museums around the U.S. for free on the first weekend of each month. You can check the card issuer’s website to get a full list of museums in your area.
Contactless payments use the same technology as the EMV chip in your credit card, which makes transactions far more secure than what you get when you swipe your card.
Where contactless has improved on EMV chip technology, though, is in speed. Simply tap your card to a contactless-enabled card reader and be on your way.
If you prefer simplicity, you’ll love the Bank of America Customized Cash Rewards card’s redemption program. There are three ways you can redeem your cash back rewards:
- Get a statement credit on your account.
- Deposit the cash back into an eligible Bank of America deposit account or Merrill Lynch investment account.
- Request a paper check.
In most cases, there’s no minimum amount when redeeming rewards. But if you’re requesting a paper check or a deposit into a 529 plan with Merrill Lynch, you need at least $25 in cash rewards to redeem.
Note that you can also set up automatic redemptions into a qualifying Bank of America or Merrill Lynch account starting at $25.
No credit card is perfect, and even some of the best cash rewards credit cards aren’t the right fit for everyone. The biggest flaw this card has is its rewards earning cap on 3% and 2% categories. Anyone who spends more than $2,500 in those areas over a three-month period will likely want to pick a credit card that doesn’t limit how much they can earn.
Also, while cash back rewards are excellent for many people, it’s not great for travel enthusiasts. If you want to earn points or miles toward travel, consider an airline or hotel credit card or a general travel credit card.
Again, a lot of travel credit cards charge annual fees. But if you can get that value back and more each year, it may be worth it.
It can be tough to pick the right cash rewards credit card. But in some cases, it may make sense to apply for more than one credit card. For example, you can use the Bank of America Customized Cash Rewards credit card for its 3% bonus category, then use the Citi Double Cash Card for other purchases. This ensures that you’re getting at least 2% back on every purchase.
Think carefully before you go that route, though. The more credit cards you have, the harder it will be to manage them. Make sure you have processes in place to avoid missing payments and overspending.
The Bottom Line
The Bank of America Customized Cash Rewards card is a solid choice for many people who want to maximize their everyday spending. It’s especially worth considering if you’re a Preferred Rewards member with the card issuer.
But this cash rewards credit card has some downsides that may be deal-breakers for some people. Carefully consider all of its features before deciding whether it’s right for you.
And if you have any questions about the card, you can contact Bank of America’s customer service line and speak with an agent to get answers.
Finally, if you want the card’s high-end rewards rates but not the mediocre 1% back on everything else, consider pairing the card with another one that offers a higher flat rate on everything. There are plenty of cards that can be a good complement.