Bank of America® Unlimited Cash Rewards credit card review: Impressive flat-rate rewards
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If you’re a Bank of America customer with significant checking, savings or investment account balances, the Bank of America Unlimited Cash Rewards card will prove quite valuable thanks to the Preferred Rewards program, which can boost your flat rate as high as 2.62%. This increased rate would make the Unlimited Cash Rewards card not just one of the best flat-rate cash back cards, but possibly the highest-earning flat-rate card on the market today.
Continue reading to learn more about the Unlimited Cash Rewards card’s best features, where it stands among competing cards and whether it’s a good fit for your wallet.
What are the advantages and disadvantages?
- This card doesn’t offer many unique benefits to distinguish itself from other 1.5 percent flat-rate cash back cards
- Carrying $25,000 to $100,000 across Bank of America accounts to qualify for Preferred Rewards status might not be attainable for many cardholders that need a no annual fee card
- 3 percent foreign transaction fee on purchases abroad
A deeper look into the current card offer
- Rewards rate: Unlimited 1.5 percent cash back on all purchases
- Welcome offer: $200 online bonus cash rewards after spending $1,000 in purchases within the first 90 days
- Annual fee: $0
- Purchase intro APR: (See Terms) for 18 billing cycles
- Balance transfer intro APR: (See Terms) for 18 billing cycles for any balance transfers made in the first 60 days. A 3 percent fee (min. $10) applies.
- Regular APR: (See Terms) Variable
By spending $1,000 on purchases within your first 90 days with the card, you’ll earn a $200 online cash rewards welcome bonus.
That’s a decent, standard sign-up bonus for a no annual fee cash back card, but you can get a slightly better value with a lower spending requirement. Some cards like the Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card offer the same $200 bonus for only spending $500 within the first three months. Still, $1,000 is an easy threshold to meet in three months, so the spending requirement isn’t a big deal in this case.
The Bank of America Unlimited Cash is a flat-rate cash back card, which is the perfect cash back style to choose if you prefer a no-hassle rewards program or your spending falls outside of typical bonus categories and their spending limits.
How you earn
Earning rewards with the Unlimited Cash card couldn’t be easier. You’ll collect 1.5 percent cash back on all purchases, no matter how much you spend or where you shop.
The only expenses that generally won’t earn rewards are account costs like balance transfers, cash advances, fees, interest charges and fraudulent charges (naturally). Gambling-related purchases — like lottery tickets — generally don’t earn rewards either. Check with Bank of America for the specific reward restrictions related to your card.
How to redeem
Bank of America provides a solid list of redemption options for your cash rewards:
- A direct deposit to your Bank of America checking or savings account
- A credit to an eligible Merrill account, including 529 accounts
- A statement credit to your card
Although you won’t be able to redeem for other cash back options like gift cards, merchandise or travel — as you can with issuers like Chase — don’t worry because these aren’t typically the most practical options for cash back anyway.
In order to redeem for a qualifying Merrill 529 account credit, you’ll need to have at least $25 in cash rewards. Automatic redemptions are also available starting at $25, but only for eligible Bank of America account direct deposits and contributions to non-529 Merrill accounts.
How much are the rewards worth?
As with most cash back cards, each percentage point of your cash back rate will earn you 1 cent per dollar of your purchase. That means you’ll earn 1.5 cents per dollar spent with the Unlimited Cash card.
Bank of America Preferred Rewards members will get extra value per dollar spent, either 1.87 cents, 2.25 cents or 2.62 cents depending on your checking, savings and investment account balances, instead of the base 1.5 cents.
Other cardholder perks
Bank of America cards typically don’t carry a heavy roster of benefits outside of Visa card features, but the Preferred Rewards and BankAmeriDeals programs can sprinkle a bit more cash back onto your spending.
Bank of America Preferred Rewards
Perhaps the most valuable benefit with Bank of America credit cards is the boosted rewards rate you’ll earn if you’re eligible to become a Preferred Rewards member. By keeping a certain minimum three-month average balance across your Bank of America accounts, you may automatically qualify for one of three status levels that award you a bevy of banking benefits, including a 25 percent to 75 percent rewards rate bonus:
- Preferred Rewards Gold (at least a $20,000 balance): 25 percent boost for 1.87 percent cash back on all purchases
- Preferred Rewards Platinum (at least a $50,000 balance): 50 percent boost for 2.25 percent cash back on all purchases
- Preferred Rewards Platinum Honors (at least a $100,000 balance): 75 percent boost for 2.62 percent cash back on all purchases
Visa Signature perks
The Unlimited Cash is branded as a Visa Signature card and comes with a few staple perks. Bank of America states you’ll receive extended warranty coverage, 24/7 pay-per-use Roadside Dispatch, travel and emergency assistance services along with ID Navigator credit monitoring via NortonLifeLock. The total list of Visa Signature benefits includes special privileges and discounts with a variety of select merchants, so be sure to contact Bank of America to confirm which benefits your card is eligible for.
BankAmeriDeals and Museums on Us
These two benefits come with all Bank of America credit cards and are exclusive to Bank of America. BankAmeriDeals is the issuer’s limited-time offer program, similar to Amex Offers or Chase Offers, which lets you activate promotional offers in your account to get an extra 5 to 15 percent cash back at participating merchants (like select restaurants). You’ll also be able to earn “coins” that unlock higher reward offers for regularly using the program.
Museums On Us is a bit more niche, but it’s also available for Bank of America debit cards and perfect for museum lovers. Simply presenting your Bank of America card and a valid photo ID during the first weekend of every month has provided cardholders free admission to over 225 “cultural institutions” for more than 20 years.
Rates and fees
The Unlimited Cash card doesn’t charge an annual fee, so you don’t have to worry about earning enough rewards to maintain your account each year. And if you’re considering transferring debt to a Bank of America credit card, the card is a worthwhile option since its (See Terms) intro APR for balance transfers (made within the first 60 days) and purchase is longer than the (See Terms) intro APR offers you’ll find on many competing cards. The (See Terms) variable APR afterward is also lower than some competitors’ — the low-end is even below the current average interest rate.
Just be aware of the 3 percent (or $10, whichever is greater) balance transfer fee. There’s also a 3 percent foreign transaction fee in case you decide to use your card while you travel, which would more than eat through any cash back you’d earn.
How the Unlimited Cash Rewards card compares to other cash back cards
The Bank of America Unlimited Cash Rewards credit card is a strong choice among flat-rate cash back card with no annual fee, especially due to its potential for boosted rewards through the Preferred Rewards program. However, individuals that are loyal to another bank or do not qualify for the higher tiers of this program may find more value from other cards in this category.
Bank of America Unlimited Cash Rewards vs. Capital One Quicksilver
The Capital One Quicksilver comes as close to a “standard” flat-rate cash back card as you could expect, offering unlimited 1.5 percent cash back, a solid $200 sign-up bonus (after spending $500 within the first three months) and a still-decent 15-month 0 percent intro purchase and balance transfer APR (then 17.99 percent to 27.99 percent variable APR; 3% fee on the amounts transferred within the first 15 months). Comparatively, the Bank of America Unlimited Cash is a stronger card thanks to its lower ongoing APR, decent benefits and potentially higher cash back potential with the Preferred Rewards program. The Quicksilver has a slight advantage in specific use cases, such as abroad and online, since it doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees and offers virtual credit card numbers.
The clincher for whether you should consider the Unlimited Cash card is whether you bank with Bank of America and would qualify for Preferred Rewards status. Unlimited 2.62 percent cash back would be the best flat-rate cash back rate on the market, but many cardholders may not qualify for Gold status, let alone Platinum Honors to reach that rate. If you don’t have the account balances needed to qualify for at least Platinum status, there are a few 2 percent flat-rate cash back cards that will earn you more cash back on all of your spending, such as the Wells Fargo Active Cash® Card (earns 2% cash rewards).
Bank of America Unlimited Cash Rewards vs. Chase Freedom Unlimited
Other credit cards that carry higher cash back rates with bonus categories, like the Chase Freedom Unlimited, may also be more valuable reward-wise depending on how much you spend. Based on the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ average yearly spending data and a $15,900 budget, we estimate that the Unlimited Cash card earns around $239 per year while the Freedom Unlimited rakes in $353 per year due to its additional unlimited 5 percent and 3 percent bonus categories.
Bank of America Unlimited Cash Rewards vs. Bank of America Customized Cash Rewards
Similarly, the Unlimited Cash card’s sibling, the Bank of America® Customized Cash Rewards credit card, may earn more cash back based on your spending habits and gives you more flexibility than the competition. It lets you choose from one of six 3 percent cash back categories that can be swapped each month, plus 2 percent back at grocery stores and wholesale clubs. The only drawback is that the 3 percent and 2 percent categories share a $2,500 quarterly spending limit, after which you’ll earn 1 percent back. Even so, maximizing these categories (with the remaining spend earning 1 percent) would net you $359 per year. You’d need to spend about $8,034 more per year to earn that much cash back with the Unlimited Cash card.
Best cards to pair with this card
In order to maximize your flat-rate cash back card, your best move would be to pair it with a credit card that earns higher cash back on your most popular bonus categories. If you bank with Bank of America or are a Preferred Rewards member, the Customized Cash Rewards card is a prime partner. Its choice category flexibility allows you to squeeze the most cash back from your biggest expenses, while the Unlimited Cash card can earn more cash back on purchases outside your categories or beyond the quarterly spending cap.
Bankrate’s Take: Is the Unlimited Cash Rewards card worth it?
The Bank of America Unlimited Cash card lands a notch above what’s considered a standard flat-rate cash back card, but the only unique advantages Bank of America offers to set itself apart from the crowd are its Preferred Rewards, BankAmeriDeals and Museums On Us programs.
The Unlimited Cash might be the best unlimited flat-rate cash back card available if you have at least $50,000 sitting in the bank to earn 2.25 percent cash back with Platinum Preferred Rewards status (up to 2.62 percent with $100,000 and Platinum Honors status). However, many cardholders looking for a no annual fee card may not have that much money in their accounts, so a cash back card with a 2 percent flat rate or higher bonus category rates is probably a more worthwhile option.