In case you missed it, Bank of America recently unveiled a new flat-rate cash back rewards card. The Bank of America® Unlimited Cash Rewards credit card earns unlimited 1.5 percent cash back on all purchases and even offers a rewards boost for customers enrolled in Bank of America’s Preferred Rewards program.
If you already have the bank’s veteran cash back card, the Bank of America® Customized Cash Rewards credit card, you may be wondering if you should add the newcomer to your wallet.
How do these cash back cards stack up? Should you have one or both?
That all depends on where and how you spend your money, and how closely you want to keep an eye on your rewards accrual. Keep reading to find out how the new Unlimited Cash card compares to the Customized Cash Rewards card when it comes to rewards, bonuses, perks and more.
Comparison: Bank of America Unlimited Cash Rewards vs. Bank of America Customized Cash Rewards
Both of these cards offer identical welcome bonuses, 0 percent introductory APR for purchases and balance transfers, and no annual fee. Both cards are eligible for the Museums on Us program, which allows free access to more than 225 museums and cultural institutions across the country once a month. And both offer access to BankAmeriDeals, which offers additional cash back from featured merchants.
Despite so many similarities, it’s their rewards rates that set them apart from each other. While the Unlimited Cash card offers unlimited, modest, flat-rate cash back, the Customized Cash Rewards card gives you the opportunity to earn more for select spending categories, but with limitations.
|Bank of America Unlimited Cash Rewards credit card||Bank of America Customized Cash Rewards|
|Welcome bonus||$200 online bonus cash rewards after spending $1,000 in purchases within the first 90 days||$200 online cash rewards after spending $1,000 within the first 90 days of account opening|
|Intro APR for purchases||0% Intro APR for 15 billing cycles for purchases
(13.99% – 23.99% variable APR on purchases and balance transfers)
|0% Intro APR for 15 billing cycles for purchases
(13.99% – 23.99% variable APR on purchases and balance transfers)
|Intro APR for balance transfers||0% for 15 billing cycles for any balance transfers (if made within the first 60 days a 3% fee applies, minimum $10)||0% for 15 billing cycles for any balance transfers (if made within the first 60 days a 3% fee applies, minimum $10)|
Bank of America Unlimited Cash Rewards vs. Bank of America Customized Cash Rewards highlights
Let’s take a closer look at how these two cash back cards from Bank of America stack up in terms of welcome bonuses, rewards rates, annual fees and introductory APR.
Welcome bonus winner: Tie
Both cards currently offer the same $200 reward after spending $1,000 in the first 90 days after account opening. For planning purposes, this spending requirement translates to approximately $333 in monthly spending for the first three months.
Bank of America makes the same offer available to customers with either of these cards, but how does this welcome bonus compare to ones offered by other cash back cards? The $200 incentive is on par with what other cash back issuers are offering new cardholders. However, Bank of America’s spending threshold for earning this welcome bonus is higher than what some other card issuers require.
In fact, it’s nearly double what other cards require, in some cases. For example, to earn an equivalent welcome bonus after getting the Chase Freedom Unlimited® or Capital One SavorOne Cash Rewards Credit Card, you only have to spend $500 in the first three months. And to earn a welcome bonus worth $200 with the Citi Custom Cash℠ Card, you need to spend $750 threshold over that same time period.
So, while Bank of America’s Unlimited Cash Rewards card and Customized Cash Rewards card have the same welcome offer, it’s a little more difficult to attain than that of competing cash back cards.
Rewards rate winner: Bank of America Customized Cash Rewards
The Customized Cash Rewards card offers a more rewarding cash back rate than the Unlimited Cash card in two of its three rate categories.
The Customized Cash Rewards card gives you 3 percent cash back on purchases in the category of your choice, including gas, online shopping, dining, travel, drugstore or home improvement, and 2 percent back on grocery store and wholesale club purchases. These cash back rates are limited to the first $2,500 in quarterly spending in the 3 percent and 2 percent categories combined.
All other purchases, and any purchases made after the $2,500 combined limit has been reached, earn a flat rate of 1 percent cash back.
Customized Cash Rewards cardholders can change their rewards category once per calendar month, which means you have the flexibility to pivot how you’re rewarded depending on your needs. For example, you might have your 3 percent cash back category set to home improvement while you’re working on a renovation project, and then switch to travel just minutes before booking a vacation.
Bank of America gives you several ways to switch your 3 percent rewards category, including their online banking portal and mobile app. They even show you which category you’ve historically spent the most in, to help you choose the most rewarding category for your spending habits.
While the Unlimited Cash card offers a no-fuss, flat cash back rate of 1.5 percent, this rate is less than what you would get through the Customized Cash Reward card’s highest rewards tier and at grocery stores and wholesale clubs.
Preferred Rewards member bonus
Bank of America gives their Preferred Rewards members a sweet deal that can make both cards more rewarding. Depending on tier membership, Preferred Rewards cardholders can earn between a 25 and 75 percent cash back boost.
- For the Unlimited Cash card, that boosts your 1.5 percent cash back to between 1.87 percent and 2.62 percent cash back.
- With the Customized Cash card, your 3 percent category would earn 3.75-5.25 percent, the 2 percent category would earn 2.5-3.5 percent, and the 1 percent category would earn 1.25-1.75 percent
However, while these cash back rates are phenomenal, the boosted rewards rates may be out of reach for most savvy spenders. To unlock the 75 percent cash back boost, you need to reach the Platinum Honors tier of membership, which requires maintaining a cash balance of at least $100,000 in eligible Bank of America accounts. Even if this amount were attainable to you, Bank of America’s APY rates tend to be a fraction of the inflation rate, which is easily beaten by many high-yield savings accounts.
Annual fee winner: Tie
Both the Customized Cash Rewards card and Unlimited Cash card offer the same attractive $0 annual fee. If you’re a rewards maximizer, you won’t have to worry about making up for the cost of the annual fee in rewards earnings.
Intro APR winner: Tie
Both cards offer the same 0 percent introductory APR for the first 15 billing cycles for purchases. They also both offer a 0 percent intro APR for 15 billing cycles for any balance transfers. (If made within the first 60 days, a 3 percent fee applies, minimum $10.) After this introductory period has passed, APR ranges from 13.99 and 23.99 percent variable.
This regular APR rate is pretty competitive compared to other cash back cards. Competitors like Chase Freedom Unlimited and SavorOne from Capital One, for example, have higher ranges.
Which card earns the most?
Both of these cards offer attractive, complementary cash back programs. Depending on what’s already in your wallet, you may want to use these cards together, especially since they don’t impose an annual fee.
The best strategy is to use the Customized Cash Rewards card for the 3 percent category that you spend the most on, and at grocery stores and wholesale clubs. Use the Unlimited Cash card for all other purchases, and for purchases in your spending category of choice and grocery stores after you reach the $2,500 quarterly rewards limit.
Bank of America Unlimited Cash vs. Bank of America Customized Cash Rewards spending example
Let’s say you eat out frequently, so you select dining as your 3 percent rewards category on your Customized Cash Rewards card. In one quarter, you spend $1,500 at restaurants and $1,000 at grocery stores, maxing out your 3 percent and 2 percent rewards categories. You would earn $45 in cash back for your restaurant spending and $20 back for your grocery store spending, resulting in $65 total.
You also spend $1,500 during that quarter on miscellaneous purchases, which earns you 1 percent cash back, translating to $15. That brings your total cash back to $80 for $4,000 in spending.
With the Unlimited Cash card’s flat cash back rate of 1.5 percent, you’ll get $60 back after spending $4,000.
In this circumstance, you would earn a third more cash back with the Customized Cash Rewards card than with the Unlimited Cash card.
Why should you get the Bank of America Unlimited Cash?
In addition to its unlimited, straightforward cash back rate, there are a few other reasons why you might consider adding the Unlimited Cash card from Bank of America to your wallet.
No earning limit
Unlike the Customized Cash card, the Unlimited Cash card doesn’t restrict how much cash back you can earn, so you don’t have to worry about switching to a more rewarding card after hitting a certain spending threshold.
Bank of America provides several ways to redeem those hard-earned cash rewards, including a direct deposit to your Bank of America checking or savings account, credit to an eligible Merrill account or a statement credit to your card.
Recommended credit score
Applicants with credit scores of at least 670 may qualify for this card.
Why should you get the Bank of America Customized Cash Rewards?
Beyond its lucrative cash back rewards scheme, the Customized Cash Rewards card has a lot to offer.
Better rewards rates and flexible categories
The flexibility of this card’s cash back program is difficult to beat. Many competitors’ cards offer high cash back rates for one or two pre-selected categories, which can be useless if you don’t typically make those types of purchases. The Customized Cash Rewards card lets you choose your 3 percent category, and lets you change it once per month, so you’re not locked in for long.
Bank of America makes it easy to cash in on cash back. You can redeem cash back for a statement credit, as a direct deposit into a Bank of America account or as credit for an eligible Merrill account.
Recommended credit score
Applicants who are considering the Customized Cash Rewards card should have a credit score of at least 670.
The bottom line
Each of these cash back cards from Bank of America has its perks. The Unlimited Cash card is as simple as it gets for a rewards card but has a lower rewards rate than the Customized Cash Rewards card. The Customized Cash Rewards card is more rewarding, but has its limits.
Since neither card comes with an annual fee, why not add both to your wallet? You can earn the most bang for your buck with the following strategy. Use your Customized Cash Rewards card for purchases in the 3 percent category of your choice and at grocery stores and wholesale clubs, while using the Unlimited Cash card for all other purchases. Then, after you’ve hit the $2,500 quarterly maximum for the combined 3 and 2 percent rewards categories with the Customized Cash Rewards card, switch to only using the Unlimited Cash card.