The Bank of America Travel Rewards and Bank of America Cash Rewards cards are two extremely rewarding no-annual-fee cards – find out which is best for you.
The Bank of America content was last updated on January 12, 2021.
Bank of America takes customer loyalty to the next level with two credit cards that reward you for your spending habits and sprinkle in unique benefits you don’t often see elsewhere. Both the Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card and Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card come with better rewards rates than you might expect from no-annual-fee cards. Specifically:
- The Travel Rewards card earns 3 points on travel purchases booked through the Bank of America Travel Center (like flights, hotels and rental cars) and a flat 1.5 points per dollar on every purchase.
- The Cash Rewards card earns 3% cash back in the category of your choice (gas, online shopping, dining, travel, drugstores, home improvement/furnishings), 2% cash back at grocery stores and wholesale club purchases and 1% cash back on other purchases. Earnings in the 3% and 2% categories drop to 1% after $2,500 in combined spending each quarter.
Although both cards can be valuable for a variety of lifestyles, they’re particularly beneficial to those who have other Bank of America checking or savings accounts. Bank of America Preferred Rewards clients (those who meet certain account balance requirements) can get a rewards boost of up to 75%t with either card.
Bank of America Travel Rewards vs. Bank of America Cash Rewards
Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card
Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card
|Rewards rate||1.5 points per dollar on every purchase|
|Sign-up bonus||25,000 online points if you spend $1,000 in first 90 days|
$200 online cash rewards after spending $1,000 in first 90 days
|Estimated yearly rewards value ($15,900 spend)||$322||$325|
|Who should get this card?|| |
Bank of America Travel Rewards card
Bank of America’s signature no-annual-fee travel card is a bit different from what you’ll find with other issuers. Instead of earning points that transfer to frequent flyer programs or hotel loyalty programs, points can only be redeemed for a statement credit at a clip of 1 cent apiece.Like the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card (a staple in the travel community), the Bank of America Travel card defines “travel” broadly, meaning you can redeem your points on flights, hotels, vacation packages, cruises, rental cars or baggage fees. Since you aren’t limited by any number of travel partners, your rewards hold the same value no matter what airline you fly on or hotel you stay at. Although some may look at this card and initially think that their redemption options are limited due to the lack of transfer partners, the opposite is true.
Another perk to using the Travel Rewards card as your primary travel card is the fact that you’ll actually earn 3 points per dollar when you book through the Bank of America Travel Center. On top of that, if you spend $1,000 in the first 90 days, you’ll earn 25,000 bonus points.
Savvy credit card users are always looking for ways to bump up their rewards rates – this travel card certainly offers plenty of opportunities, without an annual fee to boot.
Best for people who like using one card for most purchases: Bank of America Travel Rewards credit card
Although the 1.5 miles per dollar spent is a decent rewards rate, it requires heavy spending for the rewards to add up. For example, it takes a whopping $10,000 to rack up $150 worth of travel points. On the flip side, its 25,000-point intro bonus offer (if you spend $1,000 in the first three months on purchases) can be redeemed for up to $250 toward travel purchases. That’s a pretty good value for such a small minimum spend considering several competing cards’ sign-up bonuses award less for a similar requirement.
If you’d like to simplify your credit card strategy, or you’re relatively new to the rewards game, this card is certainly a good option. Put most (if not all) of your credit card travel spending onto it, score a great intro bonus, and you’ll have enough points for a pretty good redemption.
Since there’s no annual fee, you’ll have very little work to do to enjoy the benefits. Pay your bills in full and on time and you’ll come out on top. Later on, if you’d like to upgrade your card to the Bank of America® Premium Rewards® credit card (which earns 2X points on travel and dining purchases), that would be a better fit for frequent traveling since it offers higher travel reward rates and travel perks its little sibling doesn’t.
Best for occasional travelers: Bank of America Travel Rewards credit card
If you’re a seasoned globe-trotter that has a stake in loads of travel loyalty programs, chances are you’re in the market for a premium travel card. However, budget travelers that mainly break out their luggage cases for weekend trips and a yearly vacation may get more mileage out of the Bank of America Travel Rewards card.
There are no travel miles for you to calculate or transfer and there is no annual fee to worry about recouping. Normally, needing to use the Bank of America’s Travel Center’s for your card’s 3X points rewards rate could be a major downside since you could be missing out on premium perks or loyalty rewards without booking directly with the travel partner. But if you’re looking for a one-size-fits-all travel card without the fuss of other rewards programs, you can unlock the true potential of the Travel Rewards card.
Bank of America Cash Rewards card
Going into a new year, you may not know which expenses linger around the corner, but the Bank of America Cash Rewards card offers the flexibility to maximize your future spending with up to six swappable 3% cash back categories. This rewards program is more consistent than many rotating category cards’ rewards, but your 3% choice category also has speed on its side since it can be swapped monthly. Out of all six choice categories – gas, online shopping, dining, travel, drugstores, or home improvement/furnishings – it’s worth noting that it can be difficult to find such high reward rates for online shopping, travel and home improvement all on one card. It’s also hard to beat a steadfast 2% cash back on grocery and wholesale club purchases, another sought-after bonus category.
But like most other cards with bonus categories, the rewards are capped after spending $2,500 on combined 3% and 2% category purchases each quarter (you then earn 1% back). Depending on your monthly spending, this limit could hobble your cash back income. A $2,500 quarterly cap on bonus spend roughly translates to $830 dollars per month, a figure many may feel comfortable spending under, but families and others may regularly spend well beyond that limit.
On a separate note, another solid benefit of the Cash Rewards card is the variety of redemption options it offers. Unlike some cash back cards that only allow you to redeem your rewards for a statement credit, Bank of America will allow you to deposit your cash back into another account, redeem for a credit or opt for a check in the mail.
Perhaps one of the most distinctive perks, like with the Travel Rewards card, is Bank of America’s Preferred Rewards program. Earning up to 75% more cash back in addition to these bonus categories can make this a much more competitive card for those that already have a banking account with Bank of America. Otherwise, the $200 sign-up bonus after spending $1,000 on your new card within the first 90 days is plenty competitive across the credit card landscape in terms of the spending requirement and time frame to meet it.
Best for families and credit card jugglers: Bank of America Cash Rewards credit card
The Cash Rewards card is really useful for families looking to save on some of the most common expenses like gas, dining and groceries. The above-average rewards rate and relatively high rewards cap make it a valuable tool that doesn’t come with an annual fee. Having such a versatile credit card in your wallet can help you save big on upcoming expenses too since you can just change your choice category to fit the season. Sure, drugstore cash back is great in flu season and online shopping rewards come in handy for the holidays, but collecting bulk cash back on wholesale club runs can be a tiebreaker for budget-minded families.
For those with multiple credit cards, this card could be great as your go-to for gas purchases only. Say you have other cards that earn better rewards on groceries, travel and other expenses. If you spend $200 per month on gas, you’ll earn $72 annually in cash back. So you’ll earn $72 plus the $200 sign-up bonus – all without meeting the spend cap. Plus, you can swap your 3% category to pick up the slack if you exceed your rewards spending limit for a certain category on another card.
Best for online shoppers: Bank of America Cash Rewards credit card
With 2021’s focus on online shopping and delivery services, having a flexible card for internet purchases is a must. One of the Cash Rewards card’s biggest strengths is the wide range of online merchants that can earn 3% cash back all year – not just around the holidays at a handful of retailers like with other rotating category cards. The Bank of America Cash Rewards card is one of the best credit cards for online shopping since it not only earns cash back for online purchases at the usual retailers like Amazon.com, Walmart.com and Target.com, but it also rakes in rewards on digital marketplaces and specialty merchant websites, including Etsy.com and Nike.com.
Which card should you choose?
Choosing between the Bank of America Cash Rewards or Travel Rewards cards comes down to what you’re looking for: an introduction to the world of travel rewards, or savings on everyday expenses. Both cards are fantastic options if you’re looking for a one-size-fits-all rewards card, but the appropriate choice depends on which categories these purchases will fall under. The Cash Rewards card is the best option if this is your first rewards credit card. It earns cash back on most everyday expenses, including a few less-common categories, and it can adapt to big purchases on the horizon. Meanwhile, the Travel Rewards card is a good choice if you want an introductory travel rewards card to offset some of the spending on your journey (or if you already have a primary card), but it isn’t the best primary credit card since it doesn’t reward all purchases.
Also consider what you’d like to redeem your rewards for. If you’re earning a bunch of cash back with the Cash Rewards card but you’d rather treat yourself with a nice trip instead of saving on another week of groceries, maybe you’d be better off applying for both. After all, money spent in the Bank of America Travel Center earns a solid 3 points per dollar. However, Bank of America’s Premium Rewards card is probably a better value if you plan to do lengthy traveling on account of its beefier rewards and travel benefits.
Bank of America’s flagship no-annual-fee credit cards, the Cash Rewards card and Travel Rewards card, deliver excellent value due to their remarkable versatility and reward value. But when it comes down to it, the Bank of America Cash Back card is the better card for all seasons. It carries eight bonus categories that earn either 3% or 2% on key everyday expenses, six of which can be swapped out monthly. The Cash Rewards card’s 3% and 2% categories’ $2,500 spending limit in combined quarterly purchases before reverting to 1% back is its major weakness.
If you planned to use the 3% travel category, then the Bank of America Travel Rewards card is worth considering as an additional card. It earns unlimited 3X points on Bank of America Travel Center bookings and 1.5X points on all purchases, but you’d likely need to book directly with the airline, hotel or etc. to use perks or earn additional rewards if you’re already a member of any travel loyalty programs. This is fine for occasional travel, but frequent travelers may benefit more from the Bank of America Premium Rewards card.