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Bank of America has many top personal credit cards. However, you may not know that many of its popular rewards cards come in secured versions. Both the Bank of America® Customized Cash Rewards Secured Credit Card and the Bank of America® Unlimited Cash Rewards Secured credit card offer cardholders the opportunity to build or improve credit while earning rewards.
If you are considering a secured credit card, these cards should be on your list. Here’s how they compare to one another.
|Cards||Bank of America Customized Cash Rewards Secured Credit Card||Bank of America Unlimited Cash Rewards Secured credit card|
Bank of America Customized Cash Secured vs. Bank of America Unlimited Cash Secured highlights
Although both of these secured cards come from Bank of America, there are some similarities and differences you should be aware of. We’ll take a look at what they offer in different categories.
Welcome bonus winner: Tie
Unfortunately, neither of these cards offers a welcome bonus, but card issuers typically don’t offer welcome bonuses for secured cards. Instead, cardholders must put down a deposit for a secured card, which will typically serve as the credit line amount.
With either card, you’ll have to give Bank of America a refundable security deposit between $200 and $5,000. Once approved for either secured card, your deposit is used — in combination with your income and your ability to pay — to determine your credit limit.
Bank of America will periodically review your account to see if you are eligible to get your deposit back, receive a credit limit increase, convert your card to an unsecured card or all of the above. To be eligible, make your payments on time and as agreed, no matter which Bank of America secured credit card you choose.
Rewards rate winner: Customized Cash Secured
The Customized Cash Secured offers 3 percent cash back on a category of your choosing, 2 percent cash back at grocery stores and wholesale clubs and 1 percent cash back on all other purchases. Note that 2 percent and 3 percent categories are limited to a combined spending cap of $2,500. After you reach that limit, you’ll get 1 percent back.
The 3 percent choice categories include:
- Online shopping
- Home improvement and furnishings
When you open your account, the default choice category is gas. But you can change it if you want to get 3 percent cash back in another category.
The Unlimited Cash Secured offers an unlimited 1.5 percent cash back on all of your spending. With this flat cash back card, you won’t have to worry about choosing a category or keeping track of your spending at different retailers to earn bonus cash back. You’ll simply swipe your card and earn 1.5 percent back every time.
In the end, the rewards winner for you will depend on your spending habits. For example, if you get the Customized Cash Secured and you don’t use it in any of its elevated rewards categories, you’ll earn 1 percent back on most of your purchases. This means you’d earn less than the Unlimited Cash Secured’s 1.5 percent cash back.
Annual fee winner: Tie
Typically, secured cards come with various fees — the annual fee being one of the most common charges. Neither of these cards has an annual fee, but it’s worth noting that each card charges a late fee of up to $40.
Foreign transaction fee winner: Tie
Both cards charge a 3 percent foreign transaction fee. Even if you don’t travel much, be aware that, when you purchase items from merchants that are not based in the U.S., you could still pay a foreign transaction fee.
Which card earns the most?
If you spend a lot in the Customized Cash Secured’s bonus categories, you’ll earn more cash back. If not, you might be better off with a flat-rate cash back card like the Unlimited Cash Secured. Plus, the latter doesn’t have caps on cash back like the Customized Cash Secured.
The following spending example and related cash back amounts might seem small. After all, both cards are secured cards with potentially low credit limits. In any case, this example will demonstrate how your spending patterns will dictate the amount of cash back you’ll earn with either card.
For the Customized Cash Rewards, say you choose online shopping as your 3 percent category. Here’s what you can expect to earn on various types of monthly spending with these two cards:
|Category||Monthly spend||Bank of America Customized Cash Rewards Secured Credit Card||Bank of America Unlimited Cash Rewards Secured credit card|
|Home improvement and furnishings||$50||$0.50||$0.75|
|Other miscellaneous spending||$150||$1.50||$2.25|
Why should you get the Bank of America Customized Cash Secured?
If you want to build or improve your credit score while earning bonus cash back rewards, go for the Customized Cash Secured. Just make sure you’re comfortable updating your bonus category as frequently as you need to with this card or you won’t earn the boosted rewards rate.
As a secured card, you won’t get many benefits. The fact that you can earn rewards at all makes this card an outlier in the secured credit card space. However, there are a few benefits you should know about:
- $0 fraud liability
- Free access to your FICO credit score
- Overdraft protection when you link an eligible Bank of America checking account to your credit card
You can redeem cash rewards for statement credits, deposits to an eligible Bank of America account or credit to an eligible Merrill account. As long as your account remains open and in good standing, cash rewards will not expire.
Recommended credit score
No credit history is required for the Customized Cash Secured.
Why should you get the Bank of America Unlimited Cash Secured?
Like the Customized Cash Secured, the Unlimited Cash Secured offers the opportunity to build or improve your credit score. The Unlimited Cash Secured also shares similar features and benefits. The main difference with this card is that you’ll earn a flat 1.5 percent back on all of your purchases.
The Unlimited Cash Secured also offers free access to your FICO credit score, $0 fraud liability and overdraft protection, among other basic card benefits.
Cash back can be redeemed for statement credits, deposits to an eligible Bank of America account or credit to an eligible Merrill account.
Recommended credit score
No credit history is required for the Unlimited Cash Secured.
The bottom line
Because both the Bank of America Customized Cash Rewards Secured and the Bank of America Unlimited Cash Rewards Secured are from the same issuer, their features and benefits are almost identical. The main difference between these two cards is their respective rewards rates.
If you think you’ll eventually upgrade to either card’s unsecured counterpart — the Bank of America® Customized Cash Rewards credit card or the Bank of America® Unlimited Cash Rewards credit card — take a closer look at the rewards rates (which are the same as the secured cards). If your goal is to eventually get an unsecured card, start with the secured version that matches your spending habits the best.