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Personal plastic: BofA shifts toward consumer choice

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Bank of America recently made some significant changes to their Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card, offering more value and flexibility for families.

In addition to eliminating their minimum redemption requirements, Bank of America now allows cardholders to choose their 3% cash back category each month from the following categories: gas, online shopping, travel, dining, drugstores, home improvement, or furnishings. They’ll also receive 2% cash back at grocery stores and wholesale clubs. Even though there is a $2,500 quarterly spending cap for combined 3% and 2% rewards, this feature adds a lot of value for families wanting to adjust their rewards based on their spending habits.

The card competes with some of the top cash back credit cards on the market, most of which are focused on everyday value over luxury perks.

Family-friendly categories

You’ll notice that the bonus categories available choose from are all family-friendly, especially “home improvement and furniture.” It’s an unusual bonus category, but a great way to make the most out of that guest bathroom renovation you’ve been dreaming of for years. Other options to choose from include everyday spending groups such as dining, gas and drugstores.

Families haven’t always been top of mind when it comes to credit card marketing, but this is a subtle shift we’ve been seeing across the board as new cards launch and existing card offers are updated.

Long-term value over flashy sign-up bonuses

With the Bank of America Cash Rewards credit card, cardholders can earn a $200 bonus after spending $1,000 within the first 90 days. It’s not a lucrative sign-up bonus, but it is easy to hit with day-to-day spending habits. Other cards have recently made the switch and are deemphasizing sign-up bonuses, especially in the cash back and rewards credit card categories.

There will always be luxury cards like the Chase Sapphire Reserve and The Platinum Card® from American Express that offer massive introductory bonuses to attract high-spenders and frequent travelers, but these cards aren’t always practical for the majority of cardholders. Flashy bonuses typically mean high annual fees and travel-focused redemptions, and Bank of America’s target audience may find more value in a modest sign-up bonus and pragmatic rewards rates.

Personalization, personalization, personalization

Bank of America is breaking the mold with it’s new earning structure on the Bank of America Cash Rewards credit card. The ability to choose which category earns 3% cash back each month allows cardholders to customize their rewards to fit their spending habits. This puts Bank of America a large step ahead in the race for personalization in the credit card industry.

While a choose-your-bonus-category rewards structure is not a new concept for business cardholders, only one other consumer credit card offers this feature. Bank of America’s changes to their Cash Rewards card shows that they recognize what consumers really want: something made specifically for them.

This rewards structure is flexible, so families can mold the card to fit their specific needs throughout the year. During allergy season, you might choose drugstores to earn 3% cash back. Then during summer, you could change that category to travel or dining to maximize your vacation expenses. When the holidays come around, online shopping might be where you want a little more cash back bang for your buck.

Hopefully, this marks a shift towards other issuers adding personalization options to top cards, giving consumers more of what they want.

The bottom line

Bank of America is only one of many issuers shifting their focus toward offering what is most important to the majority of cardholders today: practicality for the everyday spender.

Stay up-to-date with the industry’s top news and strategies for earning cash back. Check out Bankrate’s cash back catalog for everything you need to know to earn the most out of every swipe.

Editorial disclosure: All reviews are prepared by staff. Opinions expressed therein are solely those of the reviewer and have not been reviewed or approved by any advertiser. The information, including card rates and fees, presented in the review is accurate as of the date of the review. Check the data at the top of this page and the bank’s website for the most current information.