Bank of America Unlimited Cash Secured vs. Bank of America Customized Cash Secured

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Bank of America has many personal and business credit cards, but not many know about these cards’ secured counterparts. 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.

Card details:

Cards Bank of America® Customized Cash Rewards Secured Bank of America® Unlimited Cash Rewards Secured
Welcome bonus N/A N/A
Rewards rate
  • 3% cash back in the category of your choice
  • 2% cash back at grocery stores and wholesale clubs (on the first $2,500 in combined choice category/grocery store/wholesale club purchases each quarter)
  • 1% cash back on all other purchases
Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on all purchases
Intro APR N/A N/A
Annual fee None None

Bank of America Customized Cash Secured card vs. Bank of America Unlimited Cash Rewards Secured card highlights

Though 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: neither

Unfortunately, neither of these cards offers a welcome bonus. Card issuers typically don’t offer welcome bonuses for secured cards. Instead, cardholders must put down a deposit to collateralize their credit limit with a secured card.

With either card, you’ll have to give Bank of America a refundable security deposit between $300 and $4,900. Once approved for either secured card, your deposit is used in combination with your income and your ability to pay to establish your credit line.

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 line of credit or all of the above. To be eligible, make your payments on time as agreed, no matter which Bank of America secured credit card you choose.

Rewards rate winner: Customized Cash Secured card

The Customized Cash Secured card offers up to 3 percent cash back on a category of your choosing and 2 percent back at grocery stores and wholesale clubs. Note that there’s a spending cap of $2,500 for the bonus cash back on combined choice category, grocery store and wholesale club purchases each quarter. After that, you will get 1 percent back.

The 3 percent choice categories include:

  • Gas
  • Online shopping
  • Dining and travel
  • Drug stores
  • Home improvement and furnishings

When you open your account, the default choice category is gas. But you can change it in order to get 3 percent cash back in another category.

The new Unlimited Cash Secured card offers 1.5 percent unlimited cash back on all of your spending. You don’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.

It’s important to note that since both cards are secured, your credit limit might be pretty low to start. If you have a $300 credit limit, there’s little room to earn lots of cash back, depending on how frequently you pay off your card. However, if you are eligible to upgrade to the unsecured versions of these cards, you could get a higher credit limit and more flexibility to spend and earn more rewards.

In the end, the rewards winner for you will depend on your spending habits. If you don’t use the Customized Cash Secured card in any of the elevated rewards categories, you’ll earn 1 percent on most of your purchases. This means you’d earn less than the 1.5 percent cash back the Unlimited Cash Secured card offers.

Annual fee winner: both

Typically, secured cards come with various fees—the annual fee being one of the most common charges. Neither card of these cards has an annual fee, but each charges a late fee of up to $40 and up to $29 for returned payments.

Foreign transaction fee winner: neither

Both cards charge a 3 percent foreign transaction fee. Even if you don’t travel much, beware when you purchase items from merchants that are not U.S.-based. In this case, you could still end up paying the foreign transaction fee.

Which card earns the most?

Here’s what you can expect to earn on various types of spending with these two cards:

Category Spend Customized Cash Rewards Unlimited Cash Rewards
Dining and travel $50 $0.50 $0.75
Groceries $100 $2.00 $1.50
Gas $100 $2.00 $1.50
Online shopping* $150 $4.50 $2.25
Home improvement and furnishings $50 $1.00 $0.75
Drug stores $35 $0.70 $0.53
Other miscellaneous spending $150 $1.50 $2.25
Total $635 $12.20 $9.53

The spending examples and related cash back amounts might seem small. After all, both cards are secured cards with potentially low credit limits. In any case, the example demonstrates how your spending patterns dictate the amount of cash back you stand to earn with either card.

If you spend a lot in the Customized Cash Secured card’s bonus categories, you’ll earn more. If not, you might be better off with a flat-rate cash back card like the Unlimited Cash Secured card, which doesn’t have caps on cash back like the Customized Cash Secured card.

Why should you get the Customized Cash Rewards Secured card?

If you want to build or improve your credit score while earning rewards in the bonus cash back categories, go for the Customized Cash Rewards Secured card. If you spend more in the 3% choice categories and are comfortable updating your bonus category as frequently as you need to, this card is a reasonable option.

Additional benefits

As a secured card, you won’t get many benefits. The fact that you can earn rewards makes this card an outlier in the secured card space. There are a few added benefits you should know about:

  • Protection against fraudulent charges
  • Access to your FICO score
  • Overdraft protection kicks in when you connect an eligible Bank of America checking account to your credit card and opt into the service

Redemption options

You can redeem cash rewards for statement credits, deposits made directly into a Bank of America checking or savings account, credit to a qualifying cash management account with Merrill, credit to a qualifying 529 account with Merrill or checks. As long as your account remains open and in good standing, cash rewards do not expire.

Recommended credit score

Because this is a secured card, you are likely to be approved if you provide a deposit and show proof of income. Because of this, your approval odds are high, even if you’ve got good, poor or fair credit.

Why should you get the Unlimited Cash Secured card?

Like the Customized Cash Secured card, the Unlimited Cash Secured card offers the opportunity to improve or build your credit score. The cards’ additional benefits, features and recommended credit score basically mirror each other. The only difference with this card is that you’ll earn a flat 1.5 percent back on all of your purchases instead of the tiered cash back rate the Customized Cash Secured card offers.

The bottom line

Because both the Customized Cash Secured card and the Unlimited Cash Secured card are from the same issuer, their features and benefits are almost identical. The main difference between the cards is their respective rewards rates. But as mentioned, this might not be the best way to determine which card to choose since secured cards limit spending and cash back.

If you think you’ll eventually upgrade to the Bank of America® Customized Cash Rewards card or Bank of America® Unlimited Cash Rewards card, take a closer look at the rewards rates, which are the same for the secured cards. If you have faith in your ability to move on to the unsecured version of these cards, start with the secured version that matches your spending habits the best.

The information about the Bank of America Customized Cash Rewards Secured card and the Bank of America Unlimited Cash Secured card has been collected independently by Bankrate.com. The card details have not been reviewed or approved by the card issuer.

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."
Edited by
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