Bank of America® Customized Cash Rewards credit card review: Unique rewards flexibility, but watch your spending
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Bank of America® Customized Cash Rewards credit card overview
The Bank of America Customized Cash Rewards credit card is one of the few cash back cards on the market that allows you to not only pick one of six 3 percent cash back bonus categories, but also swap out your choice once per month. This can be incredibly helpful for both big purchases on the horizon and a range of everyday expenses—especially once you consider the card’s ongoing 2 percent cash back rate at grocery stores and wholesale clubs.
However, there’s a catch that could be a deal-breaker for big spenders. Your 3 percent and 2 percent categories share a $2,500 spending limit on combined purchases per quarter, after which your rewards rate drops to just to 1 percent cash back. Read on to see if the Bank of America Customized Cash Rewards card’s benefits outweigh this drawback.
What are the advantages and disadvantages?
- The 3 percent and 2 percent categories share a combined $2,500 spending limit per quarter
- Sign-up bonus spending requirement is double that of rival cards
- Few major perks outside the rewards program
A deeper look into the current card offer
- Rewards rate: 3 percent cash back on category purchases of choice, including gas, online shopping, dining, travel, drugstore or home improvement; 2 percent cash back at grocery stores and wholesale clubs (up to $2,500 of combined 3 and 2 percent category purchases each quarter, then 1 percent), plus 1 percent on all other purchases
- Welcome offer: $200 online cash rewards after spending $1,000 within the first 90 days of account opening
- Annual fee: $0
- Purchase intro APR: 0 percent for 15 billing cycles
- Balance transfer intro APR: 0 percent for 15 billing cycles for any balance transfers (if made within the first 60 days, a 3 percent fee [minimum $10] applies)
- Regular APR: 14.24% – 24.24% (variable)
Current welcome offer
You can earn $200 online bonus cash back by spending at least $1,000 in combined purchases during your first 90 days.
That’s a solid payday and the spending requirement should be easy to meet for most cardholders. That said, several other competing cards award the same $200 sign-up bonus in the same timeframe for half the spending requirement.
But if you’re looking to transfer your balance to a new card, the Bank of America Customized Cash Rewards takes a huge lead thanks to its 15-billing cycle 0% intro APR on any balance transfers made within the first 60 days and on purchases (14.24% – 24.24%) variable APR after the introductory period ends).
Although bonus category cash back cards are a dime a dozen, the Bank of America Customized Cash Rewards card has the distinct advantage of allowing you to change your 3 percent category each month. That makes it more flexible than rewards cards with quarterly rotating categories that you must activate every three months. If you’re a Preferred Rewards member, you can earn 25 percent to 75 percent more cash back on every purchase. That means you could earn up to 5.25 percent cash back on purchases in your choice category.
How you earn
You can choose to earn 3 percent cash back on gas, online shopping, dining, travel, drugstore or home improvement and furnishing purchases. You’ll also earn 2 percent back at eligible grocery stores and at wholesale clubs—which can be a hard-to-come-by category for ongoing rewards (up to $2,500 in combined choice category, grocery store and wholesale club quarterly purchases). Naturally, you’ll net 1 percent cash back on all other purchases, too.
Bank of America also defines its bonus categories much more broadly than many other issuers. The Bank of America Customized Cash Rewards has established itself as one of the best cards for online shopping because its bonus category encompasses a variety of retailers in addition to staples like Amazon.com, Walmart.com and Target.com, including specialty merchants like Etsy and Ticketmaster.com.
If you want to make the most of your Customized Cash Rewards card and you have an eligible Bank of America, Merrill or Merrill Edge account, aim for a Bank of America Preferred Rewards membership. On top of a pile of other benefits, you can earn up to 25 percent to 75 percent more cash back on all purchases depending on your membership tier.
How you redeem
True to its name, the Bank of America Customized Cash Rewards card only allows you to redeem for cash rewards. You can redeem your rewards at any time or amount for statement credits, direct deposits to a Bank of America checking or savings account or for credit to an eligible Merrill account.
How much are the rewards worth?
Like other cash back programs, your Bank of America cash back rewards are worth 1 cent per 1 percent earned. For example, your 3 percent category purchases will earn 3 cents per dollar.
You’ll need a minimum of $25 to redeem for automatic Bank of America account direct deposits or a qualifying Merrill 529 account, however.
Other cardholder perks
The Bank of America Customized Cash Rewards card’s main focus is cash back, so it’s a bit light on the extra perks outside its intro APR offers and typical features as a Visa card.
Bank of America Preferred Rewards
Bank of America’s most valuable perk unique to their rewards cards is the Preferred Rewards program. By maintaining a specific three-month average balance across your Bank of America deposit and Merrill® investment accounts, you may qualify for one of three Preferred Rewards status tiers that come with a variety of perks, including a 25 to 75 percent rewards rate bonus:
- Preferred Rewards Gold (at least a $20,000 balance): 25 percent boost for 3.75 percent on choice category purchases, 2.5 percent on grocery store and wholesale club purchases along with 1.25 percent on all other purchases (2.06 percent average rewards rate)
- Preferred Rewards Platinum (at least a $50,000 balance): 50 percent boost for 4.5 percent on choice category purchases, 3 percent on grocery store and wholesale club purchases along with 1.5 percent on all other purchases (2.47 percent average rewards rate)
- Preferred Rewards Platinum Honors (at least a $100,000 balance): 75 percent boost for 5.25 percent on choice category purchases, 3.5 percent on grocery store and wholesale club purchases along with 1.75 percent on all other purchases (2.88 percent average rewards rate)
BankAmeriDeals is Bank of America’s version of a card-linked limited-time offer program like Amex Offers or Chase Offers. By logging into your account and activating certain promotional offers, you can typically earn 5 to 15 percent extra cash back at select restaurants and other participating merchants. BankAmeriDeals also grants you “coins” for using the program, which allow you to access even better deals.
Although you won’t make stacks of cash back with BankAmeriDeals, it can provide an extra sprinkle of rewards.
Visa Signature Benefits
Since the Bank of America Customized Cash Rewards is a Visa Signature credit card, you have access to a roster of Visa perks based on your credit limit, annual fee and other factors. Contact your issuer to be certain of which features your card carries.
Stepping up to the Visa Signature level grants you perks like extended warranty coverage Visa Signature® Concierge, roadside dispatch and travel and emergency assistance.
Museums On Us
This benefit is a bit on the obscure side, but frequent museum visitors will be sure to love it. For over 20 years, all Bank of America credit cards and debit cards have provided free general admission to 225-plus “cultural institutions” during the first weekend of every month. All you have to do is present your Bank of America card and a valid photo ID.
Rates and fees
The Bank of America Customized Cash Rewards card is a relatively low-cost card—there is no annual fee, a 15-billing-cycles 0% intro APR on purchases and any balance transfers (made within the first 60 days) and a reasonably low-interest 14.24% – 24.24% variable ongoing APR.
Its intro APR periods provide enough wiggle room to make the Customized Cash Rewards card a viable balance transfer card, and the minimum interest rate that follows is a good bit below the current average credit card interest rate. There’s a standard 3 percent ($10 minimum, whichever is greater) balance transfer fee to watch out for, as well as a 3 percent foreign transaction fee.
Bankrate staff experience
Flexible cash back that you can adapt to your upcoming expenses is reason enough to love the Customized Cash card, and Bankrate editor Mariah Ackary has found that its choice categories are a rewarding match for her budget.
The ability to customize my 3 percent category is super valuable. I usually keep my choice rewards category set on dining. I know that’s where I consistently spend the most because the app shows my average spending in each of the rewards categories. However, when I’m about to book a flight that costs a few hundred dollars, I’ll change the rewards category to travel to get an easy lump of cash back. Then I’ll revert back to dining the next month.
For me, the $1,500 quarterly limit on the 2 and 3 percent categories isn’t restrictive. I try to budget about $70 per week for groceries ($840 per quarter) and $30 per week for dining ($360 per quarter). That leaves me $300 short of the quarterly limit. But if you’re feeding a family, you might surpass this limit pretty quickly.
— Mariah Ackary, Editor at Bankrate
How the Bank of America Customized Cash Rewards card compares to other cash back cards
The Bank of America Customized Cash Rewards card stands out among no annual fee credit cards for its versatile rewards program. Perhaps the closest in cash back structure is the U.S. Bank Cash+® Visa Signature® Card with its 5 percent back on two choice categories (up to $2,000 in purchases per quarter) that can be swapped once per quarter and 2 percent on either gas station, grocery store or restaurant purchases. However, new approaches to flexible categories and more comprehensive flat-rate cards are gaining traction, which may provide other versatile alternatives to the Customized Cash card.
Bank of America Customized Cash Rewards credit card vs. Chase Freedom Unlimited
If you’re a big spender, the Bank of America Customized Cash card’s $2,500 quarterly spending cap in 2 and 3 percent rewards categories and sparse benefits may curtail the potential value you’d get from the card.
A solid flat-rate cash back card will help you avoid these limitations you typically find with bonus category cards. The Chase Freedom Unlimited card is a prime choice for its unlimited cash back in several categories on top of its 1.5 percent base cash back rate for all purchases and platter of valuable perks. For starters, you’ll rake in an extra 5 percent cash back on Chase Ultimate Rewards travel and Lyft rides (Lyft offer through March 2022), plus 3 percent on dining and drugstore purchases. These rewards can then be redeemed for up to 50 percent more value toward travel when paired with an eligible Ultimate Rewards credit card.
The Customized Cash card does have notable a leg up over the Freedom Unlimited if you spend a good deal of your budget at wholesale clubs, online retailers and gas stations, and our formula for calculating each card’s average ongoing rewards value (based on Bureau of Labor Statistics spending data and an assumed $15,900 yearly spend) shows that the Customized Cash card could be slightly more valuable on average if you routinely maximize your bonus categories’ quarterly spending limit. However, that would only earn you $6 more in cash back per year on average ($359 versus $353) when the Freedom Unlimited would take much less effort for a similar rewards yield.
In fact, unless you’re a Bank of America Preferred Rewards Platinum member, our formula shows that the Freedom Unlimited card would have a higher average rewards rate (2.22 percent) than the Customized Cash card (1.65 percent base rate, 2.47 percent with Platinum status). Unless the Customized Cash card’s rewards structure resonates more with your spending habits, the Chase Freedom Unlimited tends to offer more potential across the board.
Bank of America Customized Cash Rewards credit card vs. Citi Custom Cash℠ Card
Rather than asking you to swap your categories each month, the Citi Custom Cash Card automatically adapts to your spending by earning 5 percent cash back on your top spending category each billing cycle out of 10 possible bonus categories—which includes all of the Bank of America Customized Cash card’s categories except online shopping and wholesale clubs. However, the drawback is that it only earns 5 percent on the first $500 in the category you spend the most in each month and all other spending only earns 1 percent back.
The Citi Custom Cash could seem like a more rewarding card all around considering it carries a sign-up bonus worth $200 (20,000 ThankYou points after spending only $750 on purchases within the first three months), World Elite Mastercard benefits and a comparable 15-month 0 intro percent purchase and balance transfer APR (then 14.74 percent to 24.74 percent variable)—and it may be, depending on your spending.
Choosing between the Customized Cash card and Citi’s Custom Cash card comes down to how much you spend each month and how much control you want over your categories. Based on our average yearly rewards model, consistently maximizing your bonus categories will earn you an average of $399 with the Citi Custom Cash and $359 with Bank of America’s Customized Cash card. On the other hand, bigger spenders, Bank of America Preferred Rewards members and cardholders who want to choose their monthly categories will likely find more value with the Customized Cash Rewards card.
Best cards to pair the with the Bank of America Customized Cash Rewards card
A one-size-fits-all card like the Bank of America® Premium Rewards® credit card is great for picking up purchases that aren’t covered by the Customized Cash Rewards card’s categories or when its categories are maxed out. Similarly, the Bank of America® Unlimited Cash Rewards credit card is an excellent choice for raking in boosted rewards beyond the Customized Cash card’s spending limits and any retailers that aren’t covered by typical bonus categories—like Walmart, Target and other grocery-carrying superstores, for example. Plus, both cards’ reward rates can be boosted if you’re a Preferred Rewards member.
Otherwise, a flat-rate cash back card or a rewards card from another issuer that covers any of your major spending categories that the Customized Cash Rewards card misses could be a solid play.
Bank of America® Unlimited Cash Rewards credit card last updated on May, 4, 2022.
Bankrate’s Take: Is the Bank of America Customized Cash Rewards card worth it?
The Bank of America Customized Cash Rewards credit card is an excellent no-annual-fee card if you wouldn’t spend enough with a 1.5 percent flat-rate cash back card to outpace the total rewards you’d earn by maximizing this card’s higher bonus categories.
If you’re not concerned with the quarterly spending limit, the Customized Cash Rewards card should be a winning choice thanks to its intro APR offers, broadly defined bonus categories, Bank of America Preferred Rewards member bonus cash back and ability to swap bonus categories each month.