With flexible credit card rewards, you’re in charge


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As the credit card market becomes more and more crowded, issuers are striving to distinguish their card lineup from their competitors. While some issuers have adopted a “bigger is better” mindset, offering large sign-up bonuses and flashy limited time offers, others have turned to innovative rewards structures.

Two recent examples are the Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card update and the new Citi Rewards+SM Card. These two credit cards are making waves in the industry with unique features that offer cardholders a lot of everyday value.

Choose-your-category bonus rewards

Bank of America recently relaunched its cash back credit card with a surprising perk: cardholders can now choose one of six categories to assign their 3% cash back. You can change your category each month to adjust to your spending habits throughout the year, and categories include family-friendly options:

  • Gas stations
  • Online shopping
  • Drug stores
  • Home improvement and furnishings
  • Dining
  • Travel

Cardholders will also earn 2% cash back on grocery stores and wholesale clubs (on up to $2,500 in combined bonus category spending each quarter) and 1% cash back on all other purchases, rounding out the rewards structure.

The card now offers a level of personalization that no other competing consumer card can match.

Points round-up feature

In January, Citi announced the newest additions to its credit card lineup — the Citi Rewards+SM Card and Citi Rewards+SM Student Card. The new cards offer 2x ThankYou® Points at supermarkets and gas stations (on up to $6,000 in combined purchases annually; 1x Points after) and 1x Points on everything else, but what really piqued the interest of potential cardholders is the unique round-up feature.

Every time you earn ThankYou® Points with your card, Citi will round up your Points to the nearest 10 (even when you make a 2x Points purchase). That means your $4 latte is worth 10 points, the three boxes of $5 Thin Mints you buy from your local Girl Scout troop are worth 20 points and your weekly $32 fill-up at the gas station is worth 70 points.

This round-up feature allows cardholders to rack up a lot of perks on small, everyday purchases that other credit cards tend to ignore in their rewards structures.

Is this the future of credit cards?

These two no-annual-fee cards compete with longtime cash back favorites like the Discover it® Cash Back and Chase Freedom Flex℠, and the success of these two card launches begs the question: what does this mean for the credit card industry as a whole?


Consumers in virtually every industry have been asking for higher levels of personalization, but the credit card industry has lagged behind in providing it. Bank of America’s choose-your-category rewards structure is another step forward, and it’s possible that other issuers will follow suit in the future.

There is no one-size-fits-all credit card, and giving users the ability to customize their 3% cash back category schedule allows users to mold their card to their specific spending habits.

Everyday spending rewards

Both credit cards focus their rewards structures on everyday spending categories, which is a trend that is just starting to take shape within the credit card industry.

Many of the Bank of America Cash Rewards card’s 3% bonus category options are family-friendly and geared toward everyday spending. The round-up feature on Citi Rewards+ cards also offers a unique opportunity for cardholders to maximize rewards on smaller, everyday purchases. Plus, their 2x Points categories are gas stations and supermarkets, which are also practical categories for the everyday consumer.

In September 2018, CreditCards.com reported that “45 percent of consumers who own rewards credit cards say cash is still king for purchases under $10,” based on their recent poll. The Citi Rewards+ Card’s round-up feature offers an incentive for cardholders to start using their credit card rather than cash for those smaller purchases.

It’s possible that we’ll see a lower percentage of consumers reach for cash as credit card issuers make it more beneficial to swipe on even the smallest of purchases.

Rise of the cash back card

While consumers have always expressed an interest in strong cash back offers, credit card issuers have historically spent more time investing in incentives for their flashier rewards cards. If more issuers follow suit by revamping their cash back credit card options, we could see an overall shift in focus towards cash back rewards.

While travel rewards will always be a large part of the credit card rewards landscape, I predict we’ll start to see a more even playing field with flexible rewards. For example, the Citi Rewards+ Card gives you an easy way to rack up ThankYou® Points, and those can be redeemed for travel, gift cards or cash back rewards.

Historically, it’s been more beneficial for cardholders to redeem rewards for travel. However, this might start to change as issuers start to shift their focus toward practicality over luxury.

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.

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