Bank of America Travel and Premium Rewards Cards
$3,000 initial spend
($460 net value, .15/$)Signup Bonus Chart
2-3.5% Travel (Premium card)
2-3.5% Restaurants (Premium card)
1.5-2.65% Everything Else
No Foreign Transaction Fee
For anyone who can move $100,000 in investment or retirement assets to Merrill Lynch, this card, and its Premium Rewards sibling, earns 2.625% cash back on all purchases and may be the best option for your general-purpose reward card.
If you can't qualify for the higher reward rates, you'll probably want to use a different card for your everyday spending. But it is still worthwhile to get the Premium Rewards version of this card for its valuable signup bonus and first-year travel credits.
Bank of America Travel Reward Card Options
There are three Bank of America Travel and Premium Rewards credit cards, plus a student version of the Travel Reward card.
Travel Rewards. This main version has no annual fee. If this is the card you want, sign up for the Premium Rewards card instead, collect its much larger signup bonus, and then downgrade to the Travel Rewards card at the end of the first year. Bank of America Webpage. Signup Bonus Chart.
Premium Rewards. While it has a $95 annual fee, it has a much higher signup bonus, a higher reward rate on travel and restaurant spending, a $100 annual airline incidental credit, and the ability of redeem points directly for cash (as opposed to offsetting travel purchases). If you can take full advantage of the airline incidental credit, you get the extra benefits for free. But if you don't want to bother with the credit and already have a card that offers good travel and restaurants rewards, start with the Premium Rewards card and then downgrade it to the Travel Rewards card at the end of the first year. Bank of America Webpage. Signup Bonus Chart.
Business Advantage Travel Rewards. On the surface, this card looks better than the personal version, as it normally has a higher signup bonus and offers the added benefit of 3x points on travel purchases made through Bank of America. However, Bank of America's business cards are not eligible for the Preferred Rewards point bonus (based on your personal accounts), which is the primary reason most people would be interested in any version of this card. Bank of America Webpage. Signup Bonus Chart.
Bank of America Preferred Rewards Program
Bank of America's "Preferred Reward" program provides extra benefits based on the total amount of assets you have at Bank of America and Merrill Edge. Among the most valuable benefits is a boost to the rewards earned from many of Bank of America's credit cards. Preferred Reward Program.
If you have over $100,000 in assets, you'll achieve Platinum Honors status and get a 75% reward bonus. If you have between $50-100,000 in assets, you'll get Platinum status and a 50% reward bonus. And if you have at least $25,000 in assets, you'll get Gold status and a 25% reward bonus.
This can make a big difference in your Bank of America rewards rates, compared to the competition. For example, the Bank of America Travel Rewards card earns 1.5% on your purchases, which is less attractive than the best no-annual-fee cashback cards. However, if you have $100,000 in combined assets at BOA and Merrill, you'll receive a 75% reward bonus, and the card will earn 2.625%, which is the best rate of any no-annual-fee card. With a 50% reward bonus, the rate would still be 2.25%.
Even if you have that much money available, you probably don't want to keep it in a low-interest checking account. But you don't have to. If you have an existing retirement account or other investment assets that you can transfer over to Merrill Lynch, you can qualify for the extra rewards without any substantial additional expense. Your existing mutual funds, ETFs, bonds, stocks, and other investments should transfer over, without having to sell them, you won't incur any fees, except potentially a small account transfer or closing fee at your existing broker, and there is no tax implication. Rates for any future sales or purchases are comparable to what is available elsewhere. And you don't need to move over all your assets, just enough to qualify.
Unfortunately, Bank of America doesn't count personal assets towards qualifying for Preferred Rewards status for business credit cards (or vice versa). If you want higher rewards from this card (and the business Cash Rewards Card), the assets will need to be associated with your business. But depending on the type of business you have, you may be able to transfer personal assets to a business-titled account in order to qualify for status for your Bank of America business credit cards and accounts.
Points from the Travel Rewards card can be used to offset grocery, dining, and travel purchases. Points from the Premium Rewards card can be directly credited to your statement without needing to offset specific transactions. If you have both cards, you can transfer points from the Travel Rewards Card to the Premium Rewards Card for the slightly easier redemption option.
Collecting the Signup Bonus
- It is worth signing up for Premium Rewards version, just to collect the signup bonus. The typical signup bonus is $500. In addition, the card comes with a $100 airline incidental credit, and because the credit is available every calendar year, you can earn it twice during your initial year. But since it can be hard to get full value from this credit, we only value it at 50% of its face value.
- The signup bonus on the regular Travel Rewards Card is a lot less interesting. The normal 20,000 point bonus is worth $200. Because you can only sign up for a total of four Bank of America credit cards every two years, you are usually better off focusing on cards that have more valuable signup offers. However, if you are interested in using this card as your general-purpose reward card, the signup bonus provides a nice additional bonus, especially considering the card has no annual fee.
- You may be able to earn the signup bonus on both the personal and business Travel Rewards Card. If you have any kind of business, you can get either or both of the personal or business cards. Unlock Extra Reward Points with Business Credit Cards.
- There are restrictions to earning the signup bonuses multiple times. You aren't eligible for the Premium Rewards card if you've had the card in the last 24 months, and you aren't eligible for the Travel Rewards card if you already have the card, unless you've had it for at least 24 months. In other words, for the Premium Rewards card, you'll need to wait to reapply until 24 months after you cancel the card. For the Travel Rewards card you have two options. You can cancel and reapply for a new bonus or you can hold onto the card and get a new card every two years.
After subtracting the annual fee and the opportunity cost of using the card for $3,000 of spending, the calculated net value for the initial year is $460 (15 cents per dollar spent). Your value may be higher or lower, depending on how much you value airline incidental credit.
If there are other attractive Bank of America signup bonuses, you are better off applying for the Premium Rewards version. Even if you prefer the Travel Rewards version, you can collect the higher bonus from the Premium version and then convert it to the no-annual-fee Travel Rewards card, while preserving your other BOA slots for other cards. If you aren't interested in many other BOA bonuses, you should sign up for both the Premium and Travel versions and then cancel whichever one you don't want to hold onto.
The Business Travel Rewards Card isn't subject to any of the normal Bank of America restrictions.
Airline Incidental Credit (Premium Rewards Card)
- The Premium Rewards card includes an annual $100 airline incidental credit. Unlike the incidental credits from the American Express cards, it is not limited to a single airline that you select at the beginning of the year. You can use it for across different airlines.
- Credits only apply to incidental expenses like baggage fees, food and beverage purchases, and airport lounge access fees, not on actual ticket purchases. The credit for this card explicitly includes ticket change and cancellation fees and preferred seating upgrades, which are often excluded from similar credits on other cards. However, it only includes flights that start in the United States, and that are operated by the major US airlines (Alaska, American, Delta, Frontier, Hawaiian, JetBlue, Southwest, US Airways, and United, but not Spirit).
- The credit is automatically applied to any applicable charges. You simply use the card to pay the fee and it will be automatically offset on your credit card statement. If necessary, the credit will be spread across multiple charges.
- Because the credit is issued on a calendar-year basis, you can qualify for two credits the first year you have the card. For example, if you sign up for the card in August, you can get up to $100 credit for purchases made between August and December and you can take advantage of another $100 credit between the following January and August.
- You are not supposed to receive the credit when you purchase a gift card from an airline. However, in practice, you are reimbursed with some airlines. If you don't have an opportunity to use the credit naturally, you can typically purchase $100 in gift cards, get reimbursed for your purchase, and then use the gift cards to eventually purchase actual airplane tickets. This works on some airlines and not others and you need to keep each purchase under an airline-specific maximum, so you'll need to search online or experiment. Get Full Value from Your Airline Incidental Credits.
- If you can get full value from the credit, it offsets the Premium Card's annual fee. You get the travel bonus category reward rates and the ability to directly cash out your points at no additional effective cost over the Travel version of the card.
Using the Card for your Everyday Spending
- If you can move $100,000 in investment or retirement assets to Merrill Lynch, Bank of America Travel and or Premier Rewards Card offer the highest cashback rate of any card. With the 75% bonus from Platinum Honors Status, the base reward rate is boosted to 2.625%.
- Otherwise, there are better cashback options. At the $50,000 level, the reward rate is only boosted to 2.25%, and at the $20,000 level, the reward rate is only boosted to 1.8%. You can earn more from other cards. Get a Great General Purpose Reward Card and Use It for All of Your Spending
- If you are willing to use your points for award travel, you can earn more valuable rewards from other cards. For example, Using 1.5x Ultimate Rewards points for Hyatt award nights is generally more valuable than 2.5% cashback, as is using 1.5-2x Membership Rewards points for frequent flyer tickets. As a result, the Alliant card is primarily for people who put a premium on actual cashback or who otherwise can't get enough value out of these other points currencies. Get a Great General Purpose Reward Card and Use It for All of Your Spending.
- The Discover Card earns 3% back in the first year and can be easier to get than the Alliant Card. It is often possible to cycle through Discover Cards every year to sustain this 3% rate.
- The Bank of America cards come with return protection, extended warranty coverage, and protection for lost and stolen items, but don't include price protection (which rebates the difference if something you buy is available cheaper elsewhere during the first 60-90 days). Automatic Protection for the Things You Buy with Your Credit Card.
- If you want to use one of these cards as your general-purpose reward card, you need to decide whether you also want to use it for your travel and restaurant purchases. This Premium Rewards version gives you a 2% base rate on travel and restaurant purchases, which turns into 3.5% with the Platinum-level bonus. That's not bad, but you there are several other cards that provide higher rewards. Best Credit Cards for Travel Spending. Best Credit Cards for Restaurant Spending.
- Even if you aren't interested in the travel and restaurant bonus reward rates, you might still consider getting the Premium version of the card. With the standard signup bonuses, you'll earn $300 more than the Travel version. You also get the ability to simply cash out your points directly to your credit card statement rather than using them to offset travel purchases. And if you take the steps to make sure you always use the airline incidental credit, you can offset the annual fee each year.
Other Notable Benefits
- Access to the Visa Signature Luxury Hotel Collection. As with all Visa Signature cards, you'll get access to Visa's luxury hotel program. Whenever you book one of the 900+ participating hotels, you'll receive a set of valuable benefits, including free breakfast, late check-out, and a $25 food and beverage credit. The Visa program has slightly weaker benefits than the other luxury hotel programs, but includes a larger number of more affordable hotel options and a best price guarantee. Take Advantage of Luxury Hotel Programs for Valuable Extra Perks.
- Access to Visa Signature Offers. Your card entitles you to a set of special offers available from Visa.
- Free museum entry. As with all Bank of America credit cards, you'll get free admission to hundreds of museums on the first weekend of every month. Admission is for the cardholder only. Guests are not included, nor are any special exhibitions and other ticketed shows. Museums on Us.
- BankAmeriDeals. Bank of America has a shopping discount program that works like Amex Offers. To get each discount, you'll need to "activate" it through their website. Once activated, discounts are automatically applied when you use your card for the corresponding purchase. Most deals are cash-back based (typically 10%). BankAmeriDeals.
- $100 TSA Credit (Premium version). You get up to a $100 rebate of your your application fees for Global Entry or TSA Precheck. You can take advantage of the credit once every four years and even spread it across multiple charges.
- Extensive travel protections (Premium version). Like the true premium credit cards, you'll get a full set of travel protections, whenever you use the card to purchase travel—including trip cancellation, trip delay, baggage delay, and lost baggage coverage.
Getting Rid of the Card
- Make sure to cash out your rewards balance before you cancel your card.
- Try to use your airline incidental credit before you cancel your Premium Rewards Card. Since the credit is based on the calendar year, you normally have plenty of time to use it before you need to cancel your card.
- If you cancel your card, you may not be able to easily get it back. Bank of America limits your ability to get more than 4 cards every 24 months and 3 cards every 12 months. And you can't get one of their cards if you've gotten more than 3 personal credit cards from any bank in the last 12 months (7 cards for BOA banking customers). If you are signing up for bunch of new credit cards, you won't be able to get new Bank of America cards. Furthermore, you explicitly can't sign up for the Premium Rewards Card if you've had it during the past 24 months. If you aren't taking advantage of the enhanced rewards on travel purchases (because you have an even better option) or the annual airline incidental credit, you can convert your Premium Rewards card to the no-annual-fee Travel Rewards version and retain the same rewards rate on everyday purchase.
- Rather than cancelling your card, you may want to change it to the Cash Rewards Card. The Cash Rewards Card earns a base rate of 3% on your choice of categories, including online shopping. With Platinum Honors status, the reward rate is boosted to 5.25%. Since bonus rewards are capped for each quarter, it can be helpful to have multiple copies of the card. But the only way to currently get multiple copies is to convert from other Bank of America cards.
- If you want to cancel your Premium Rewards Card, it is best to do so before you are charged your annual fee. Bank of America may refund the fee if you cancel shortly afterwards, but they may not.
- You might be able to receive a retention offer to keep your card. It could be enough to make it worthwhile to keep the card.
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