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Hidden benefits of the Bank of America Travel Rewards card

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Let’s be honest. There are plenty of outstanding travel credit cards out there, from premium cards with points-boosting travel portals to cards with a variety of valuable statement credits. The Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card doesn’t really seem to fit into any of these categories—and quite honestly, is mostly regarded as a mediocre card.

However, the Bank of America Travel Rewards card actually has a few features that make it ideal for the right person—someone who wants simplicity, no annual fee, a decent flat-rate rewards structure and flexibility when it comes to redeeming.

Fortunately, this card offers all of that, plus a little more. Here’s a look into some of the “hidden” benefits the Bank of America Travel Rewards card has to offer.

What does the Bank of America Travel Rewards card offer?

Quick card details:

  • Welcome offer: 25,000 bonus points when you make $1,000 in purchases within 90 days of account opening (worth $250 toward travel)
  • Rewards rate: Unlimited 1.5X points on all purchases
  • Annual fee: $0
  • Intro APR: 0 percent intro APR for 15 billing cycles on purchases
  • Regular APR: 13.99 percent to 23.99 percent variable APR

For starters, this card offers 1.5X points on all your spending. Although this rate is nothing to write home about, the draw here is simplicity. Unlike many travel credit cards, there are no rotating bonus categories to keep track of or activate each quarter. You only need to swipe your card for all of your purchases and watch rewards accrue in your account.

As a starter travel card with no annual fee, you should also take note of the welcome bonus and introductory interest rate for purchases.

First, if you spend $1,000 within the first 90 days of opening your account, you’ll earn 25,000 bonus points—worth $250 when redeemed toward travel or dining. You can also enjoy an introductory 0 percent APR on new purchases for 15 billing cycles, allowing you to pay off large purchases over the course of a year and three months. After 15 billing cycles, your APR will be between 13.99 percent and 23.99 percent variable.

These features are pretty much par for the course for similar no-annual-fee travel credit cards. Now, let’s explore a few unique features that might make you take a second look at this Bank of America card.

Earning and redeeming rewards

As mentioned, you’ll earn a flat 1.5X points on all purchases. Unlike some rewards cards, there are no rotating bonus categories to track or activate, making it a good choice for simplicity.

The clincher here is that you can boost your earnings as a member of the Bank of America Preferred Rewards program. As part of this invite-only rewards program, you’ll earn up to 75 percent more in rewards for each dollar you spend on your Bank of America Travel Rewards card. However, to qualify, you’ve got to maintain a minimum balance in your eligible Bank of America or Merrill investing accounts. The minimum balance for each tier is as follows:

Tier Balance required Bonus
Gold $20,000 to $49,999 25%
Platinum $50,000 to $99,999 50%
Platinum Honors $100,000 to $999,999 75%
Diamond $1,000,000 to $9,999,999 75%
Diamond Honors $10 million or more 75%

As a member, you’ll find it can really boost your earnings beyond the 1.5X back you’d normally earn with the card. At the highest tier, you could earn up to 2.62X points for every dollar spent with your Travel Rewards card. Even making the first tier can get you 25 percent more rewards, which can be a substantial increase with a flat-rate card like this one.

Now, let’s talk about redeeming your rewards. This is where the simplicity is extended and flexibility becomes more apparent. The Bank of America Travel Rewards card allows you to redeem your rewards for a statement credit or cash as a deposit in an eligible Bank of America or Merrill account.  Further, you can redeem your rewards for travel and dining purchases up to 12 months after the transaction appears on your statement.

Unlike some rewards credit cards, your cash redemptions don’t lose value, so your points will be worth 1 cent apiece upon redemption. In other words, 5,000 points would be worth $50—whether it’s for cash or a credit statement to cover your travel or dining purchases.

If you decide to redeem your points for gift cards, the redemption value is substantially less at 0.6 cents apiece. Then, there’s a 3,125-point minimum for redemption.

Why the Bank of America Travel Rewards card should be recognized for its hidden benefits

If you keep your focus on the seemingly-meager 1.5X earnings, you could actually overlook the convenience of this card, along with the flexibility of the redemption options for dining and travel. The travel rewards statement credit for past purchases means you won’t have to deal with blackout dates or travel restrictions when redeeming.

Redeeming your rewards for travel in the form of a statement credit has another advantage: You’ll have the freedom to book through third-party sites for potentially better travel deals. If you aren’t keen on logging in to issuers’ travel portals and wading through all the information and an unfamiliar interface, then the simplicity of booking with your travel site of choice might be appealing.

Then, you should know your points cover a wide range of travel purchases that aren’t offered as redemption options from other issuers. For example, you can get statement credits for admission tickets to art galleries and aquariums, purchases at bars and nightclubs or even eligible purchases with real estate agents.

Here’s a list of travel and dining-related categories your points cover:

Eligible travel-related category examples Eligible dining-related category examples
  • Airlines
  • Hotels and motels
  • Timeshares
  • Trailer parks, motorhome and recreational vehicle rentals
  • Campgrounds
  • Car, truck, trailer and boat rentals
  • Cruise lines
  • Travel agencies, tour operators and real estate agents
  • Transit, including passenger trains, buses, taxis, limousines, ferries, parking lots and garages, tolls and bridge fees
  • Tourist attractions and exhibits, like art galleries, amusement parks, carnivals, circuses, aquariums and zoos
  • Restaurants and eating places
  • Fast food restaurants
  • Bars
  • Taverns
  • Cocktail lounges
  • Nightclubs

These travel categories are much broader than what many issuers offer as travel redemptions, and knowing how many categories your points could cover offers the potential to save a ton of money. Don’t forget, if you aren’t traveling or dining out as much, you can always redeem your points for cash back.

Why else should you get the Bank of America Travel Rewards card?

In addition to solid redemption values for travel and dining purchases, you might want this card for the extra perks, like access to the BankAmeriDeals program. With BankAmeriDeals, you can enjoy exclusive discounts by using your card at eligible retailers for a specific period of time. You can save anywhere from 5 percent to 15 percent on certain purchases by activating your offer and using your card according to the offer details.

If you’re a scholarly traveler, for example, there’s a high likelihood you also like cultural venues such as museums. If that’s the case, you can enjoy the Bank of America Museums On Us program. Simply present your Bank of America debit or credit card and a valid photo ID to get free admission to 225-plus “cultural institutions” during the first weekend of each month.

Lastly, since the Bank of America Travel Rewards card is a Visa Signature card, you’ll get access to additional benefits, including purchase protection, concierge services, extended warranty coverage, access to roadside dispatch services and select travel and emergency assistance services.

The bottom line

At first glance, the Bank of America Travel Rewards card may not seem very appealing. As a basic travel credit card, the features are pretty minimal. However, a closer look at this card’s convenience and flexibility make it a worthwhile option to consider.

And as a Bank of America Preferred Rewards member, this card is poised to provide even more value.

Written by
Aja McClanahan
Personal Finance Writer
Aja McClanahan is an author, blogger and speaker on personal finance and entrepreneurship. Aja is the author of "How a Mother Should Talk About Money with Her Daughter."
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