Bank of America Travel Rewards Credit Card Review
The Bank of America Travel Rewards Card is a travel credit card that generates rewards using a 1.5% flat rate on all purchases and provides an added bonus for those who have a Bank of America account.
The card differentiates itself from competing cards because Bank of America rewards its customers with the aforementioned bonus. Also, they provide higher rewards rates for those who have an average balance of at least $20,000 in their Bank of America accounts.
Because each consumer is different and each travel card is different, it’s important to understand how the Bank of America Travel Rewards works. In this review, we’ll talk about how the card’s rewards work, what its rates and fees are, how it compares to other travel cards and what our thoughts are about the card’s pros, cons and who it’s good for.
Pros: Bank of America account holders get a 10-percent points boost that can push the card’s yearly rewards near 50,000 points.
Cons: You can’t transfer your points to travel partners and the card’s penalty APR make it a bad choice if you often make late payments.
Estimated Yearly Travel Rewards: 45,000 points
|Sign-Up Bonus||Annual Fee||Regular APR|
|25,000 points||$0||17.24% to 25.24%|
|Rewards Rate: Unlimited 1.5x points on everything|
We pointed out earlier that this card has a 1.5% flat rewards rate, which is the main way you can earn travel points with this card. Anytime you make a purchase, Bank of America calculates 1.5% of the purchase amount and deposits it to a running balance you can see when you log into your Bank of America account.
So, if you make a $100 purchase, you’ll earn 150 rewards points. These points are worth one cent per point or $1.50 for 150 points. In a few seconds, we’ll talk about how you can redeem these points.
For now, we want to discuss the three other ways you can earn rewards. First, if you can spend $1,000 in the first 90 days of owning this card, Bank of America will give you 25,000 bonus points. According to the fine print, it will take between eight and 12 weeks for those points to show up in your rewards balance.
Also, any transactions that are credit-card fees or interest payments won’t count toward the $1,000 requirement, nor will any balance transfers you make.
Next, if you have any of the following accounts with Bank of America, the bank will give you a 10-percent bonus on all the points you earn:
- Checking account
- Savings account
- Cash Management Account
- Merrill Lynch Wealth Management account
- Merrill Edge account
We believe that the average household can earn around 45,000 points per year with this card, so the 10-percent bonus would add another 4,500 points to that balance over the course of one year.
The final way you can earn extra bonuses on your points is through the Bank of America Preferred Rewards program. If you have an average monthly balance in checking, savings or Merrill Edge accounts of at least $20,000 on average over the course of three months, you can earn at least a 25-percent bonus on your rewards.
Data from ValuePenguin suggests that the average American has far less than $20,000 in their checking account, which leads us to believe that very few cardholders will qualify for the Preferred Rewards program.
In our opinion, it’s much more likely that you’ll be a Bank of America customer who is eligible for the 10-percent rewards bonus.
As for redemptions, Bank of America’s fine print notes that you can redeem your points to offset travel purchases you make, as long as you redeem at least 2,500 points. For example, if you have a $50 travel charge, you can redeem 5,000 points that Bank of America adds as a credit to your statement.
Here’s a paragraph directly from the card’s fine print that indicates which types of purchases count as “travel”:
“A travel credit is applied as a statement credit to your account to offset travel purchases from qualifying merchants in these travel-related categories: Airlines, hotels, motels, timeshares, trailer parks, motor home and recreational vehicle rentals, campgrounds, car rental agencies, truck and trailer rental, cruise lines, travel agencies, tour operators and real estate agents, operators of passenger trains, buses, taxis, limousines, ferries, boat rentals, parking lots and garages, tolls and bridge fees, tourist attractions and exhibits like art galleries, amusement parks, carnivals, circuses, aquariums, zoos and the like.”
Pro tip: Booking travel through Bank of America’s travel portal will earn you three points for every dollar you spend instead of the standard 1.5 points per dollar.
If rewards are the standard by which you can judge how a card can help you, the rates and fees a card has is the standard by which you can judge how the card can hurt you:
- Interest rate for purchases and balance transfers: 17.24% to 25.24%
- Interest rate for cash advances: 27.24%
- Penalty interest rate: 29.99%
- Balance transfer fee: $10 or 3%, whichever is greater
- Cash advance fee: $10 or 5%, whichever is greater
- Foreign transaction fee: None
- Late payment fee: $39
- Returned payment fee: $28
- Annual fee: $0
As far as travel cards go, the Bank of America Travel Rewards’ interest rates hover around average.
However, just because the rates are average doesn’t mean they’re harmless. The following chart reveals how much the card’s low, middle and high interest rates will cost you over the course of the year with five different average daily balances.
Keep in mind that the middle APR is an estimation on our part, as the fine print doesn’t specify what the middle APR is:
|17.24% APR for one year||22.24% APR for one year||25.24% APR for one year|
|$1,000 daily balance||$172.40||$222.40||$252.40|
|$2,000 daily balance||$344.80||$444.80||$504.80|
|$3,000 daily balance||$517.20||$667.20||$757.20|
|$4,000 daily balance||$689.60||$889.60||$1,009.60|
|$5,000 daily balance||$862.00||$1,112.00||$1,262.00|
Aside from the card’s regular interest rates, it’s important to watch out for its penalty APR of 29.99%. Bank of America will apply this rate to your account whenever you make your first late payment. Any balances you add to your current balance will get the penalty APR.
The final thing that we want to point out is that the card has no annual fee, a feature that, as our next section points out, is pretty rare among the leading travel cards.
The following chart shows you how the Bank of America card’s rewards and other metrics compare to similar cards:
|Bank of America Travel Rewards Card||Capital One Venture Rewards||Discover it Miles||Chase Sapphire Preferred||U.S. Bank FlexpPerks Travel Rewards Visa Signature Card||Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite MasterCard||Citi Premier Card|
|Intro offer||25,000 points||50,000 miles||45,000 miles||60,000 points||25,000 points||70,000 miles||50,000 points|
|Rewards rates||1.5x on all purchases||2x on all purchases||1.5x on all purchases||2x on travel and dining, 1x on everything else||2x on cell phones, charitable donations and airlines, gas or groceries, 1x on everything else||2x on all purchase plus a 5% bonus on redeemed points||3x on travel and gas, 2x on restaurants and entertainment, 1x on everything else|
|Yearly miles/points on $30K spending||45,000 points||60,000 miles||45,000 miles||34,865 points||40,531 points||63,000 points||44,498 points|
|Travel portal booking bonus||None||None||None||1.25x||1.5x||None||1.25x|
|Number of transfer partners||None||15 (14 int’l airlines, 1 domestic airline)||None||9 (6 int’l airlines, 3 domestic airlines, 3 hotels)||None||None||15 (14 int’l airlines, 1 domestic airline)|
|APR||17.24% to 25.24% (29.99% penalty APR)||17.99%, 22.74% or 25.24%||14.24% to 25.24%||18.24% to 25.24%||16.24% to 26.24%||18.24%, 22.24% or 25.24%||16.74% to 25.74% (29.99% penalty APR)|
|Annual fee||None||$0 first year, $95 after||None||$95||$0 first year, $49 after||$0 first year, $89 after||$0 first year, $95 after|
The first three categories in our chart tend to be the ones that get the most attention. The Bank of America Travel Rewards Card has some clear strengths and weaknesses in these three areas.
The 1.5x rewards rate the card offers is identical to the Discover it Miles. The benefit here is that you don’t have to worry about which purchases you make will earn the most points. They both earn at the same rate.
However, if you’re someone who spends more than the average on groceries, for example, then the U.S. Bank FlexpPerks Travel Rewards Visa Signature Card could prove more profitable for you. If you spend a high amount of money each month on travel and gas, then the Citi Premier Card could be a better fit than the Bank of America Travel Rewards.
What the chart doesn’t show is the 10% bonus you’d get if you own a Bank of America account. However, that increase in points doesn’t change the card’s standing as the third-best card for yearly rewards.
As for the card’s rates and fees, the Bank of America card is somewhere in the middle, beating out the Capital One Venture Reward’s 17.99% APR but lagging behind the Discover it Miles, U.S. Bank FlexPerks Travel Rewards and the Citi Premier Card.
The card’s $0 annual fee joins the Discover it Miles as the only two cards on the chart that don’t charge you each year to use it. In our opinion, the lack of an annual fee boosts the card’s value.
Another thing that’s interesting to note is that the Capital One Venture Rewards provide reimbursements for the application fee you incur when you sign up for either the Global Entry or TSA PreCheck programs, which provide expedited security clearance at airports.
In this sense, the Travel Rewards card from Bank of America doesn’t offer nearly the amount of travel-related perks that you get with the Capital One Venture Rewards, especially considering the Capital One card has 15 travel partners, too.
Our research indicates that the Bank of America Travel Rewards Card’s greatest strengths are its lack of an annual fee, the 10-percent points bonus it gives to Bank of America account holders, as well as the yearly rewards total the card gives you.
We think that the card’s 1.5x rewards rate plus the 10-percent bonus can earn you around 49,500 points per year, which is good for $495 in travel redemptions.
If there’s one weakness to the card’s yearly rewards, it’s that you can’t transfer those points to travel partners like you can with the Chase Sapphire Preferred or Capital One Venture Rewards.
Other drawbacks include a small sign-up bonus, as well as the presence of a penalty APR.
Because of these strengths and weakness, we think there are certain types of people who should get this card and certain types of people who shouldn’t get the card.
We think consumers who are looking for a low-fee travel card and who are also Bank of American account holders will enjoy this card the most. The Bank of America Travel Rewards has no annual fee and provides Bank of America customers a 10-percent boost on their points.
However, if you’re someone who tends to make late payments, we think this card is a bad fit. The first time you make a late payment, Bank of America will apply a 29.99% penalty APR to your account. If you also happen to be someone who carries balances, this interest rate could cost you more than twice as much in interest payments as the card’s lowest APR.
If you want to learn more about travel rewards card, take a few minutes to read through our rankings of the best travel rewards cards of 2019. We do in-depth research of each card, provide an overall ranking of seven cards and let you know which cards are best for a variety of financial situations.