Bank of America cards: awesome if you’ve got $100K lying around

Bank of America issues a number of cards with co-brands such as Alaska, Air France, Amtrak, Asiana, etc.  Clearly they started at the beginning of the alphabet when looking for partners (Spirit and Virgin Atlantic notwithstanding).  But this post is not about those cards. This post is about Bank of America’s own rewards cards: Cash Rewards, Travel Rewards, and Premium Rewards.

None of Bank of America’s own cards would be interesting except for one key thing: Bank of America has an elite program for their banking customers.  The higher your tier, the more rewards these cards earn.  As a result, at the top “Platinum Honors” tier, these cards become very interesting.

Bank of America’s line-up

Here’s the basic info about each card for those without Bank of America elite status. As you’ll see, none are particularly interesting on their own.  In each case, you can do much better with other cards on the market.

Cash Rewards Cards

Bank of America offers both a consumer and business version of the Cash Rewards card, each with no annual fee. Each offers a fixed 2% category and your choice of a 3% category, and 1% elsewhere.  The consumer card limits 2% and 3% rewards to $2500 combined spend per quarter.  The business card limits 2% and 3% rewards to $50K combined spend per calendar year.

Bank of America Cash Rewards
Base
1%
Travel
3%
Dine
3%
Gas
3%
Grocery
2%
Shop
3%
Other
3%
Earning rate: 3% back on your choice of the following: gas, online shopping, dining, travel, drugstores, home improvement & furnings (can choose a new category monthly). ⚬ 2% back at grocery stores & wholesale clubs ⚬ 1% back everywhere else. 2% and 3% rewards are capped at $2500 in combined purchases per quarter
Bank of America Business Advantage Cash Rewards Mastercard
Base
1%
Travel
3%
Dine
2%
Gas
3%
Phone
3%
Office
3%
Biz
3%
Earning rate: 2% on dining plus 3% on 1 choice from: gas stations (default), office supply stores, travel, TV/telecom & wireless, computer services or business consulting services (for the first $50,000 in combined choice/dining purchases each calendar year, 1% thereafter) and 1% everywhere else.

Travel Rewards Cards

Bank of America offers both a consumer and business version of the Travel Rewards card, each with no annual fee. Each offers 3X points for travel booked through their portal and 1.5X points everywhere else. Points can be used like Capital One Miles to erase travel purchases at a value of 1 cent per point.

Bank of America Travel Rewards
Base
1.5X
(1.5%)
Travel
Earning rate: 1.5X everywhere; 3X for travel booked through BOA's travel center
BOA Business Advantage Travel Rewards World Mastercard
Base
1.5X
(1.5%)
Travel
Earning rate: 1.5X everywhere; 3X for travel booked through BOA's travel center

Premium Rewards Card

Bank of America offers only a consumer version of the Premium Rewards card.  This card has a $95 annual fee, but also includes $100 annual airline incidentals fee reimbursement.  This card offers 2X for travel & dining purchases, and 1.5X everywhere else.  Points can be redeemed for cash back at 1 cent per point.

Bank of America Premium Rewards
Base
1.5X
(1.5%)
Travel
Dine
Earning rate: ⚬ 2X travel and dining ⚬ 1.5X everywhere else

Bank of America’s elite program

Bank of America offers separate banking relationship elite programs for consumer and business customers.  Both require $100K in deposits to earn top tier Platinum Preferred status.

Preferred Rewards (consumer elite program)

Here’s a selection of just a few of the perks of the Preferred Rewards program.  The important thing to remember is that you need $100K in combined balances to get a 75% rewards bonus on your Bank of America consumer credit cards.

Shortcut to consumer Platinum Honors status

If you have a retirement account that is managed by a different institution, you can move control of the funds to Merrill Edge.  In many cases you can even earn a cash reward when doing so!  Merrill’s usual bonus is $250 for $100K invested or $600 for $200K invested.  Sometimes they run promotions that are even better.  You can find more information here.

Business Advantage Relationship Rewards (business elite program)

Here’s a selection of just a few of the perks of the Business Advantage Relationship Rewards program.  The important thing to remember is that you need $100K in combined business balances to get a 75% rewards bonus on your Bank of America business credit cards.

Shortcut to business Platinum Honors status

Unfortunately, I don’t know of any tricks to make this easy.  For those with small businesses I think it’s necessary to open a business checking or savings account with Bank of America and add $100K in funds in order to reach top status.  The good news is that once you reach that status level, you can withdraw funds and your status won’t drop for 12 months (at least, that’s how I think it works — I have yet to test this theory).

If you do open a business checking account, search for promotions first.  One that recently expired (but the landing page is still live at the time of this writing) is for up to $500.

Consumer & Business programs are separate

You need to earn Platinum Honors status in the consumer program in order to get a 75% bonus on eligible consumer cards.  And you need to get to Platinum Honors status on the business side in order to get a 75% bonus on eligible business cards.

The Platinum Honors credit card line-up

This is where things get interesting.  Here’s the info about each card for those with Platinum Honors status

Cash Rewards Cards with Platinum Honors

Now we’re talking!  Each card’s 2% category is now worth 3.5%, and the 3% category now earns 5.25% cash back!  If it wasn’t for the category bonus caps ($2500 per quarter with the consumer card, $50K per year with the business card), this combination would be unbeatable.

Bank of America Cash Rewards (with Platinum Honors Preferred Rewards)
Base
1.75%
Travel
5.25%
Dine
5.25%
Gas
5.25%
Grocery
3.5%
Shop
5.25%
Other
5.25%
Earning rate: With Platinum Honors status with Bank of America's Preferred Rewards program, earn: 3.5% at grocery stores and wholesale clubs and 5.25% on gas up to the first $2,500 in combined purchases each quarter
Bank of America Business Advantage Cash Rewards Mastercard (with Platinum Honors Business Advantage Relationship Rewards)
Base
1.75%
Travel
5.25%
Dine
3.5%
Gas
5.25%
Phone
5.25%
Office
5.25%
Biz
5.25%
Earning rate: With Platinum Honors status with Bank of America's Business Advantage Relationship Rewards program, this card earns: 3.5% on dining plus 5.25% on 1 choice from: gas stations (default), office supply stores, travel, TV/telecom & wireless, computer services or business consulting services (for the first $50,000 in combined choice/dining purchases each calendar year, 1.75% thereafter) and 1.75% everywhere else.

Travel Rewards Cards with Platinum Honors

Once you sprinkle in the 75% bonus to these cards, they offer an amazing return on all spend: 2.62%.  No other card offers that much value uncapped.  It’s especially amazing when you consider that these cards have no annual fee. The only downside is that points must be redeemed against travel purchases to get full value.

Bank of America Travel Rewards (with Platinum Honors Preferred Rewards)
Base
2.625X
(2.63%)
Travel
5.25X
(5.25%)
Earning rate: With Platinum Honors status with Bank of America's Preferred Rewards program, this card earns: 2.625X points for all spend (and 5.25X for travel purchased through BOA's travel center)
BOA Business Advantage Travel Rewards World Mastercard (with Platinum Honors Business Advantage Relationship Rewards)
Base
2.625X
(2.63%)
Travel
5.25X
(5.25%)
Earning rate: With Platinum Honors status with Bank of America's Business Advantage Relationship Rewards program, this card earns: 2.625X points for all spend (and 5.25X for travel purchased through BOA's travel center)

Premium Rewards Card with Platinum Honors

I think this one hits the sweet spot.  Yes it has a $95 annual fee, but its annual $100 airline incidentals fee reimbursement makes up for it.  Plus, with Platinum Honors status, this card offers 3.5% for travel and dining and 2.62% everywhere else.  And, unlike the Travel Rewards cards, Premium Rewards points can be redeemed for cash back at full value.  The only thing missing here is the ability to transfer points to airline miles. If they ever add that feature (like I predicted they would), this card and Platinum Honors combination would be unbeatable.  For those who prefer cash back, it’s already the card to beat.

Bank of America Premium Rewards (with Platinum Honors Preferred Rewards)
Base
2.625X
(2.63%)
Travel
3.5X
(3.5%)
Dine
3.5X
(3.5%)
Earning rate: With Platinum Honors status with Bank of America's Preferred Rewards program, earn: 3.5X travel and dining ⚬ 2.625X everywhere else

About Greg The Frequent Miler

Greg is the owner, founder, and primary author of the Frequent Miler. He earns millions of points and miles each year, mostly without flying, and dedicates this blog to teaching others how to do the same.

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Patrick
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Patrick

Do you think Bank or America will ever develop a program where points can be transferred to transfer partners, like AMEX, Chase and Citi has?

Mike H
Guest
Mike H

I have their cash back card, MLB branding. I have the highest tier thanks for Merrill Edge + savings/checking. I still value Chase URs more. I went down this alley and couldn’t make cash back make more sense to me than using URs.l from a value perspective. Cold hard math would say the top tier % back from BOA make marginally more sense. I do like a fat UR balance though. Ease of use is a factor as well. Maybe I’m missing something?

Billy Bob
Guest
Billy Bob

If you do have the cash, simply by sticking it in All America’s versions of Money Markets at 2.5%, they’ll give you approx. $205 a month, with nothing required of you. That $205 is every month. Seems easier.

Scott
Guest
Scott

Greg,

Can you please clarify / confirm any restrictions on use of these cards? The ATM fees terms that you quote specify US ATMs only, so this isn’t going to replace the Schwab card for international travelers. You mention, “everywhere” frequently in the article, and don’t mention international restrictions on category purchases. Does that mean world-wide earnings or ???

Sam
Guest
Sam

To quote Shania: “That don’t impress me much!” Citi prestige 5% earn in dining. Ink Cash 5% office supply. And I don’t have to move money to BofA to get that.

I. B.
Guest
I. B.

The AAA visa, issued in some regions by BofA, (3% Travel, 2% Grocery, 1% Other, no AF, no FTF) is also eligible for Preferred Rewards, but only on the base point. (becomes 3.75%, 2.75%, 1.75%). It can also be used to pool points from the other BofA cards to make cash redemptions easy. You don’t have to be a member of AAA to apply.

Brutus
Guest
Brutus

The Premium Rewards rate (with Preferred Honors) can essentially be duplicated with USAA Limitless (no longer available) and an Uber card. The Alliant card could work instead of the USAA card.

Bond
Guest
Bond

Note that for the enhanced 5.25% travel categories for the Cash Back and Travel Rewards cards, you travel without insurance. No trip cancellation. No trip delay. No lost/delayed luggage.

You get all those protections with the enhanced 3.5% travel category on the Premium Rewards card.

So for every $1,000 you spend on travel during the year, all the protection only costs you $17.50. Well worth it IMO.

Travel is defined very broadly for the Premium Rewards card. It includes tourist attractions such as art exhibits, zoos, parking garages, toll bridges, etc. I don’t know how travel is defined for the Cash Rewards card.

I believe BOA has a 4/3/2 rule. Two BOA cards on rolling two-month basis. Three BOA cards on a rolling 12-month basis. Four BOA cards on a rolling 24-month basis.

I think they also limit you to one Cash Rewards card (or maybe sign up bonus).

Finally, I believe the enhanced rewards for the Cash Rewards categories are applied when you redeem into a BOA checking account, whereas the Premium Rewards enhancements occur at purchase.

Treesha
Guest
Treesha

With BoA Cash Rewards card, the bonus points show up at purchase, not on redemption into a BoA checking account. I picked online shopping as my 3% category and the bonus points are showing up online…and I don’t have a BoA checking account.

Bond
Guest
Bond

Thanks for the clarification. I believe if you have a multiplier, the extra 2.25% is awarded on redemption to a BOA account.

Mr G
Guest
Mr G

Yes, the travel insurance provided by the Premium Rewards card is great. Saves me from purchasing separate insurance for each trip or hotel I book now.

Blue
Guest
Blue

BOA is even OK in the mid tier at 50K.

ABC
Guest
ABC

How sensitive is BoA to CL cycling? How many x CL is “safe” on the Premium Rewards Card?

Treesha
Guest
Treesha

I’ve been at Platinum Honors level for years, but recently pulled all my funds out of Merrill Lynch. I plan to open a Merrill Edge account to continue being Plat Honors level and get the $375 bonus, but based on chat with BoA I’m being told I have to have a BoA checking account in order for my ME balance to count towards their Preferred Rewards tiers. Is that true? Or did the rep really have no idea of what they were talking about?

Bond
Guest
Bond

I believe that’s true. The ME links to the checking, and BOA gives you credit for the ME account in tiers.

Also, I believe you need BOA checking to redeem the Cash Rewards at the enhanced rates.

Blue
Guest
Blue

Yes, you must have a checking account.

Lrdx
Guest
Lrdx

It’s true, but if you got to even just Gold, the checking account is free.

SounderTID
Guest
SounderTID

Yeah, I have a checking account with $100 in it just to keep the status.

Utahshane
Guest
Utahshane

Up until few months ago, the beauty of all of this was was earning 3.62% on all purchases with BoA TR + PPBDMC 1%. RIP…

Max
Guest
Max

Is the $2500/qt spending cap for each card or per person?

Blue
Guest
Blue

Per Card

Rob
Guest
Rob

Net positive using Plastiq (2.5% fee) with Platinum Honors Premium Rewards (PR) card (2.625% multiplier) FTW. Too bad PR card is a Visa; would love to use it for mortgage.

Ben
Guest
Ben

If you’re paying a 2.5% Plastiq fee and getting 2.625% cash back, that means $1.25 profit for every $1,000 worth of mortgage you pay.

Honest question – I’m trying to understand if I’m missing something, not to flame you – is that worth the effort?

Rob
Guest
Rob

Absolutely; I don’t see the effort being hard/time consuming. I will be doing it if that option (pay mortgage with Visa) was available;. “A penny saved is a penny earned”

Fay
Guest
Fay

I got Senior adult P2 the Premium card; she’s very happy to see the monthly statement credits – and not keep track of which card to use anymore.

Pam
Guest
Pam

I don’t see the marginal difference between this strategy & a 2% cash back card on non-bonus spend worth going thru all necessary hoops & new account openings/maintenance for $155 extra, say, on $25k annual spend.

Ben
Guest
Ben

Agreed. And if you put that $25K towards min spend on another signup bonus or two, you’re much better off.

CaveDweller
Guest
CaveDweller

Yes Flip the cards.

CHEERS

Pam
Guest
Pam

I think there’s only so much flipping someone can/should do while still staying in a premier cc issuer’s good graces (i.e. staying eligible for best offers). To have had, for example, the opportunity for an entire year of 3x non-bonus spend by staying within Chase’s 5/24 rule holds so much more value for my family than a steady stream of crap Comerica & BBVA bonuses or slightly better United & Delta.

How to earn on my spend, on the other hand, is always on my radar because the more effort you put into finding a better % equates to more money in your pocket. I think Greg’s post proved a better rate – I just don’t think by the time you pay termination fees & potential liquidation fees (if BOA doesn’t allow a particular holding) to transfer positions to a new custodian (along with all related new costs) there is much value in that extra .0062 except perhaps at an enormous rate of non-bonus spend that most people simply aren’t doing.

I like articles like this, though, that dive into potential opportunities maybe not previously considered & gives us something to think about to maybe apply. This is one of those good ideas clearly just not good for my situation.

Pam
Guest
Pam

also, & though not all cash-back (on non-bonus spend), I am super happy with earning either 3x (up to $20k) on the CFU til 4.20; 3.5x on the Bonvoy Biz (up to $30k) thru 11.30; & 3x on the Bonvoy Brilliant (up to $100k) on residual til 12.31. No potential opportunity cost in tying up $100k with BOA, either.

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