Skip to Main Content

How the Bank of America Customized Cash Rewards card’s category selection works

Man paying for lunch at restaurant table with waiter and friend
10'000 Hours/DigitalVision/Getty Images
Man paying for lunch at restaurant table with waiter and friend
10'000 Hours/DigitalVision/Getty Images
Bankrate Logo

Why you can trust Bankrate

At Bankrate we strive to help you make smarter financial decisions. While we adhere to strict , this post may contain references to products from our partners. Here's an explanation for . The content on this page is accurate as of the posting date; however, some of the offers mentioned may have expired. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any card issuer.

ON THIS PAGE Jump to Open page navigation

The Bank of America® Customized Cash Rewards credit card allows you to choose a 3 percent cash back category each month that matches your spending patterns so you can maximize rewards earnings. Categories include gas, dining, travel, online shopping, drug stores and home improvement.

Below, we’ll cover the various ways you can earn with the Bank of America Cash Rewards card, how you can choose a 3 percent category, what type of purchases the categories cover and how you can utilize these categories to earn more rewards.

What is the Bank of America Cash Reward’s cash back structure?

With the Bank of America Cash Rewards, you can choose which category to earn 3 percent cash back on—gas, online shopping, dining, travel, drug stores or home improvement and furnishings. In addition to this, you’ll also earn 2 percent cash back at grocery stores and wholesale clubs and 1 percent back on all other purchases.

However, it’s important to note that there’s a $2,500 limit on combined 2 and 3 percent category purchases each quarter, then the rewards rate falls to 1 percent. If you’re able to reach this limit on 3 percent category purchases alone, you’ll earn $75 in cash back per quarter, for a total of $300 in cash back per year. Plus, you’ll earn 1 percent back on all spending after you reach the limit, meaning you could earn even more in rewards.

The Bank of America Cash Rewards also includes no annual fee and a welcome bonus of $200 cash back after spending $1,000 within the first 90 days after account opening, among other benefits.

Can you choose your 3% cash back category?

When you first get your Bank of America Cash Rewards, your 3 percent category is set to gas by default. If you don’t want to earn 3 percent cash back on gas purchases, you can choose which category you’d rather earn 3 percent back in, such as online shopping, dining, travel, drug stores or home improvement/furnishings.

Additionally, you can choose to change your category once per month. So, if you anticipate that you’ll be spending a lot on dining or travel purchases during a particular month, you can change your category to accommodate your spending habits and earn more rewards.

Which purchases qualify for cash back?

Whenever you make a purchase with a particular merchant, your purchase is assigned a Merchant Category Code (MCC). The type of MCC that a merchant receives is dependent on the type of products or services that they offer. Whether or not a purchase you make will qualify for the category you choose depends on the MCC, Bank of America has no control over how a merchant classifies itself.

That said, Bank of America does group similar types of merchants together. This means there is a greater chance that your purchases will qualify for the 3 percent cash back categories—gas, dining, travel, online shopping, drug stores and home improvement—and be classified as intended.

For example, the dining category includes purchases made at restaurants, fast-food chains, bars, cocktail lounges, discotheques, nightclubs and more. Some merchant examples include Chipotle, Olive Garden, Starbucks and Grubhub.

How to choose your Bank of America Cash Rewards category

Here are the steps you should follow to choose or change the 3 percent category for your Bank of America Cash Rewards card:

  • Step 1: Analyze your spending habits. Before choosing a category, you should first review your spending patterns. For example, if you eat out frequently, you might want to choose the dining category, and if you make a lot of online purchases, you might want to choose the online shopping category.
  • Step 2: Log in to your account and select your card. After logging in to your Bank of America account through online banking or the mobile app, select your Bank of America Cash Rewards card.
  • Step 3: Manage your rewards. Next, select your card’s rewards tab. You should see a list of your 3 percent category choices. Choose “Get Started” to change your category.
  • Step 4: Choose your category. If this is the first time you’re changing your category, you’ll see that your 3 percent category is set to gas. If you already know which category you want to earn cash back in, select “Change Category” and choose from the list of options. If you want to learn more about your options before choosing a category, you can select “Category Details.” This will provide you with examples of qualifying merchants and purchases. Once you change your category, your choice will go into effect for all future purchases.

Do you have to change your 3% category?

You don’t have to change your 3 percent category. If you spend a lot of money at gas stations each month, it may make sense for you to keep that as your 3 percent category. Or, if you spend a lot at online retailers—like Amazon, Etsy or Target.com—you may choose to keep your 3 percent category as online shopping. If you don’t change your category, your 3 percent category will remain the same until you change it.

However, changing your category can be helpful if you have a month or two with a lot of spending in one particular area. For example, if you’re completing a home renovation, you might want to temporarily switch your category to home improvement in order to maximize your earnings. Some of the qualifying merchants for home improvement include Ace Hardware, IKEA, The Home Depot and Lowes, among many others.

Or, if you’re going on vacation soon, you might want to change your category to travel for the next month. The travel category is broad and includes purchases made with merchants like Airbnb, Uber and select airlines and hotels.

Plus, as outlined above, it’s quick and easy to change categories online or through the Bank of America app. Just keep in mind that you can only change categories once per calendar month, and you’ll only earn 3 percent cash back on up to $2,500 worth of purchases each quarter. After that, you’ll earn 1 percent back on purchases in your selected category until the next quarter.

How to maximize Bank of America cash back categories

There are a few things you can do to maximize your earnings with the Bank of America Cash Rewards card. These include:

  • Choosing the best 3 percent category for your lifestyle. You should choose the category that works best for you. It should be a category that you’ll have high spending in during a particular month or quarter.
  • Switching 3 percent categories when necessary. If you need to, switch categories up to once per month. This can come in handy if you have a large expense coming up in a particular category.
  • See if you’re eligible for Preferred Rewards. Bank of America Preferred Rewards members can earn 25 to 75 percent more rewards on their purchases. This means you could earn at least 25 percent more on 3, 2 and 1 percent category purchases. To qualify for Preferred Rewards, you must have a qualifying Bank of America or Merrill account and meet minimum balance requirements.
  • Pairing your card with a flat-rate cash back option. To earn more rewards on all non-category spending, consider pairing the Customized Cash Rewards card with a flat-rate card like the Citi® Double Cash Card or Wells Fargo Active Cash® Card (which earns cash rewards). That way, you can earn at least 2 percent back on all purchases instead of 1 percent. (For the Citi Double Cash, that’s 1 percent as you buy and 1 percent as you pay for purchases.)

The bottom line

The Bank of America Customized Cash Rewards card’s 3 percent categories are fairly broad, which works to cardholders’ benefit. That way, cardholders can choose the categories they spend the most money in to maximize cash back earnings.

The key is to plan out big purchases ahead of time and choose 3 percent categories according to category seasons, such as choosing the online shopping category for the holiday season or the travel category for a big summer vacation.

The Bank of America® Customized Cash Rewards credit card information was last updated on May 2, 2022.

Written by
Margaret Wack
Personal Finance Expert Contributor
Margaret has written for Money Under 30, MoneyGeek, The Simple Dollar, CreditCards.com, Interest.com and Fiscal Tiger, among other publications. She writes about subjects including saving, credit, insurance, investing and other financial topics.
Edited by
Editor, Product