|Cash Back Rating:||3.3 / 5|
|Issuer Customer Experience:||5.0|
In a Nutshell:
If you’re a Bank of America Preferred Rewards program member at the Platinum tier or higher, the Unlimited Cash Rewards card is hands-down one of your best flat-rate cash back options. If not, you can probably do better.
1.5% cash back on all purchases
$200 online cash rewards if you spend $1,000 in first 90 days
Average Yearly Rewards Value ($1,325 monthly spend, 3 year average)
13.99%- 23.99% (variable)
Bank of America Customer Service Ratings
Other notable features: Fraud protection, overdraft protection, paperless statements, account alerts, mobile banking, text banking
The newest cash back credit card from Bank of America is a bit of a mixed bag. On the one hand, the card’s flat 1.5% cash back rate – once considered the best you could hope for with a flat-rate card – fall shorts when you consider the growing number of cards that offer up to 2% back on all purchases.
On the other hand, if you’re a Bank of America customer with sizable checking, savings or investment account balances, the card will prove hugely valuable thanks to the Preferred Rewards program, which can boost your flat rate as high as 2.62%. That would make the Unlimited Cash Rewards card not just one of the best flat-rate cash back cards, but possibly the highest-earning flat-rate card on the market today.
Read on to learn more about how the Unlimited Cash Rewards card stands out, how it falls short of competing cards and whether it’s a good fit for your wallet.
Earning cash back
Depending on the other cards in your wallet and your relationship with Bank of America, the Unlimited Cash Rewards card’s cash back program could either be shrug-worthy or highly lucrative.
You’ll earn a minimum flat rate of 1.5% cash back on all purchases with the Unlimited Cash Rewards card, which is about average for a cash back card and on par with popular cards like the Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card and the American Express Cash Magnet® Card*. And since you won’t need to track spending or enroll in bonus categories, it’s a good option if you’re looking for a simple way to earn consistent rewards that add up over time.
On its own, though, the card isn’t the most rewarding flat-rate option.
While 1.5% cash back was once considered the high-water mark for flat-rate cards, more and more cards now offer 2% back on all eligible purchases, including the new Wells Fargo Active Cash℠ Card and the Citi® Double Cash Card (which offers 1% when you buy and 1% when you pay off your purchases). Even the Chase Freedom Unlimited®, once a flat-rate card, now supplements its 1.5% cash back rate on general purchases with 3% to 5% back in other popular categories.
Stacked against these competitors, it’s tough for the Unlimited Cash Rewards card to stand out.
However, the card could prove very valuable for loyal Bank of America customers. Depending on how much money you have in your Bank of America checking and savings accounts, as well as eligible Merrill investment accounts, you may be able to take advantage of Bank of America’s Preferred Rewards program to get a 25% to 75% boost to your Unlimited Cash Rewards card’s 1.5% cash back rate.
Here’s a quick breakdown of the Preferred Rewards program tiers and how much of a boost you can get based on the three-month average total balance across your accounts:
- Gold tier ($20,000 minimum balance): 25% boost (1.87% cash back rate)
- Platinum tier ($50,000 minimum balance): 50% boost (2.25% cash back rate)
- Platinum Honors tier ($100,000 minimum balance): 75% boost (2.62% cash back rate)
As you can see, if you have a Bank of America account balance of $50,000 or more, the Unlimited Cash Rewards card’s cash back rate will beat out the rate offered by nearly all of the top flat-rate cards.
See related: How cash back cards work
Unlimited Cash Rewards card spending example
If you stuck with the Unlimited Cash Rewards card’s base 1.5% cash back rate and charged $15,900 per year with the card (our estimate of the average person’s annual spending), you’d earn about $238 in cash back per year.
While that’s a nice chunk of extra cash just for using the card on everyday purchases, compare this with the amount you’d earn on a 2% flat-rate cash back card like the Active Cash card and you’ll see just how much of a difference an extra half-percent of cash back can make.
|Wells Fargo Active Cash Card||$15,900 x 2% back =||$318|
|Unlimited Cash Rewards card||$15,900 x 1.5% back =||$238|
Comparing these two cards, which are available at similar credit levels and offer virtually identical sign-up bonuses, there’s not much of an argument to be made in favor of the Unlimited Cash Rewards card.
However, things can go the other way if you’re a Preferred Rewards member. While the Unlimited Cash Rewards card’s earnings still fall short of the Active Cash card’s at the Gold tier (an average account balance of $20,000 to $49,999 with Bank of America), it’s the better choice at the Platinum level or above.
|Wells Fargo Active Cash Card||$15,900 x 2% back =||$318|
|Unlimited Cash Rewards card|
(Preferred Rewards Gold tier)
|$15,900 x 1.87% back =||$297|
|Unlimited Cash Rewards card|
(Preferred Rewards Platinum tier)
|$15,900 x 2.25% back =||$357|
|Unlimited Cash Rewards card|
(Preferred Rewards Platinum Honors tier)
|$15,900 x 2.62% back =||$416|
Redeeming cash back
You’ll have a decent mix of cash back redemption options with the Unlimited Cash Rewards card, including direct deposit to a Bank of America checking or savings account, a check, a credit to an eligible Merrill investment account or a statement credit.
There are also relatively few restrictions on when and in what amount you can redeem your cash rewards. Your rewards never expire and there’s no minimum threshold for manually redeeming as a direct deposit or statement credit. If you opt for an automatic checking or savings account electronic deposit, check redemption or contribution to a qualifying Merrill 529 account, though, you’ll need to meet a $25 cash back minimum.
Additionally, unlike some rewards cards, which offer more flexible redemption by allowing you to redeem for cash back as well as merchandise, gift cards, travel and more, Unlimited Cash Rewards card earnings can only be used for cash back.
This may not be a deal-breaker if cash back is your focus, but it’s worth keeping in mind if you aren’t sure how you want to use your credit card rewards. Some other cash back cards, like the Chase Freedom Unlimited, also hold extra value for aspiring travelers, since you can boost the value of your points when you redeem for travel by pooling them with a higher-tier card or transferring them to travel partners.
See related: Cash back vs. points
Current sign-up bonus
Along with its ongoing cash back, the Unlimited Cash Rewards card carries a solid sign-up bonus for a no annual fee card: You’ll earn a $200 online cash rewards bonus after you spend $1,000 with the card in your first 90 days.
While this matches the bonus value you’ll find on many popular rewards cards, the $1,000 spending requirement is on the high side. Several competing cards offer the same $200 bonus while requiring just $500 in spending in the first three months.
Even so, the presence of a sign-up bonus gives the Unlimited Cash Rewards card a short-term advantage over the many flat-rate cash back cards that carry no sign-up bonus, including the Citi Double Cash Card.
While a one-time $200 cash rewards bonus shouldn’t necessarily be your deciding factor when choosing a cash back card, consider that you’d need to charge and pay off $10,000 with the Double Cash card to earn $200 in cash back. Indeed, assuming a $15,900 annual spend, the Unlimited Cash Rewards card’s sign-up bonus helps it beat out the Citi Double Cash in first-year earnings by over $100, despite the latter’s higher cash back rate.
|Citi Double Cash Card||$15,900 x up to 2% back =||$318|
|Unlimited Cash Rewards card||$15,900 x 1.5% back + $200 sign-up bonus =||$438|
Card rates and fees
The Unlimited Cash Rewards card carries no annual fee, so you won’t have to worry about your rewards covering the card’s cost of membership each year. While annual fees can be worth it if a card’s rewards rate and other perks outweigh its cost, having no annual fee is always the safer choice, so the Unlimited Cash Rewards card earns extra points in our cash back card scoring system.
The card’s variable APR is also reasonable, ranging from 13.99% to 23.99% depending on your credit history. If you have excellent credit and qualify for the card’s low-end APR, you’ll enjoy a rate below the national average credit card APR. Even at that rate, though, carrying a balance is very expensive. That’s where the Unlimited Cash Rewards card’s introductory APR offer will be a big help.
You can enjoy 15 billing cycles of 0% APR on new purchases and on balance transfers made within the first 60 days, after which the card’s ongoing 13.99% to 23.99% variable APR applies. While several cash back cards offer a 0% intro APR on new purchases or balance transfers, it’s harder to find cards that carry a promotional rate on both. This gives the Unlimited Cash Rewards card an advantage over some arguably more lucrative cash back cards like the Citi Double Cash, which only carries an intro APR on balance transfers, and other popular picks like the Capital One Quicksilver, which only carries an intro APR on new purchases.
On the downside, the card carries a 3% fee for purchases made abroad – that’s up to double the cash back you’d earn on those purchases. If you need a cash back card with no foreign transaction fee, the Capital One Quicksilver card may be your best option. It carries no foreign transaction fee, features the same 1.5% cash back rate as the Unlimited Cash Rewards card, offers a $200 sign-up bonus after spending $500 in the first three months and comes with an intro APR on new purchases.
Aside from a terrific opportunity to boost your cash back rate as an eligible Preferred Rewards member, the Unlimited Cash Rewards card is thin on cardholder perks.
You’ll get some standard Visa benefits like travel and emergency assistance services and extended warranty coverage, as well as the chance to earn more rewards via the BankAmeriDeals card-linked offer program, but the card is missing favorites like cellphone protection, ride-share credits and discounted food delivery service subscriptions. While you can’t expect a ton of fancy perks on a no annual fee card, the Unlimited Cash Rewards card’s set is still disappointing, especially compared to a number of Mastercard World and World Elite cards.
Tip: One of the lesser-known perks you’ll find on Bank of America debit and credit cards is Museums on Us, which gets you free admission to over 225 cultural institutions – including history and art museums – on the first weekend of every month when you show you card and a valid photo ID.
The Unlimited Cash Rewards card is designed for cardholders with good to excellent credit (a FICO score of 670 or higher). Luckily, Bank of America offers preapproval for this and other rewards cards on its website, so you should be able to get a sense of your chances at approval before you submit a formal application and face a hard pull of your credit.
You can also try out the CreditCards.com CardMatch tool to see if your credit profile matches you with the Unlimited Cash Rewards card. This only requires a soft pull of your credit report and won’t have any negative impact on your score.
How does the Unlimited Cash Rewards card compare to other cash back cards?
If you’re a Preferred Rewards member at the Platinum tier or higher, it will be tough to find a cash back card that can match the Unlimited Cash Rewards card’s flat rate on general purchases. But if you only qualify for the Preferred Rewards Gold tier or have no banking relationship with Bank of America, you may be better off with a flat-rate card that offers a higher rewards rate, longer intro APR or more cash back in specific spending categories.
Here are a few alternatives to the Unlimited Cash Rewards card worth considering:
Chase Freedom Unlimited®
|Rewards rate||Rewards rate||Rewards rate|
$200 cash rewards after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months
$200 cash back after you spend $750 on purchases in the first 3 months of account opening (fulfilled as 20,000 ThankYou® Points, which can be redeemed for $200 cash back)
|Other things to know||Other things to know||Other things to know|
Unless you’re a Preferred Rewards member at the Platinum tier or above, the Wells Fargo Active Cash Card will almost certainly be a more rewarding long-term choice than the Unlimited Cash Rewards card. Along with offering the same sign-up bonus and a comparable intro APR period, the Active Cash it also carries a 2% cash back rate on all purchases (versus just 1.5% on the Unlimited Cash Rewards card), which could add up to hundreds more cash back each year.
If you’re willing to put a little bit more effort into maximizing your rewards, the Citi Custom Cash could be a great alternative to the Unlimited Cash Rewards card. In fact, depending on your spending habits and ability to maximize one of the Custom Cash card’s bonus spending categories each billing cycle, it could prove more lucrative than the Unlimited Cash Rewards card. If you spend modestly overall but find that restaurants, gas stations, grocery stores or one of the card’s other eligible categories makes up a big portion of your budget, the Custom Cash card could offer a rewarding balance of consistency and flexibility.
Not only does the Freedom Unlimited card’s cash back rate on general purchases (1.5%) match that of the Unlimited Cash Rewards card, but it also offers bonus cash back year-round on travel booked with Chase, dining and drugstore purchases. It also comes with more flexibility and value for frequent travelers, since your points can be redeemed for cash back, travel and more. You can even transfer your points to a higher-tier Chase card and redeem for travel at an up to 50% higher value.
Who should get the Bank of America Unlimited Cash Rewards card?
- People who have at least $50,000 in a Bank of America or Merrill investment accounts and can take advantage of a boosted cash back rate as a Premium Rewards member.
- People who need to transfer a balance or finance new purchases while minimizing interest charges.
How to use the Bank of America Unlimited Cash Rewards card
- Spend at least $1,000 in the first 90 days to secure the $200 sign-up bonus.
- Consider pairing the card with another that earns even more cash back in your top spending categories to ensure you’re earning maximum rewards on all of your spending.
- If you plan to transfer a balance to the card, be sure to do so within the first 60 days to take advantage of the intro APR offer.
Is the Bank of America Unlimited Cash Rewards card worth it?
The Unlimited Cash Rewards card costs nothing to keep in your wallet, so there’s little risk in applying. But unless you’re a Bank of America Preferred Rewards member with a large balance across your checking, savings and eligible investment accounts, the card will likely fall short of other flat-rate cash back options. If you keep an average of at least $50,000 in your Bank of America or eligible Merrill accounts, however, the Unlimited Cash Rewards card should be at the top of your list.
* All information about the American Express Cash Magnet Card has been collected independently by CreditCards.com. The issuer did not provide the content, nor is it responsible for its accuracy. The American Express Cash Magnet Card is no longer available through CreditCards.com.
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