Bank of America® Unlimited Cash Rewards Secured review: A generous flat-rate cash back secured card
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Bank of America Unlimited Cash Rewards Secured Overview
The Bank of America Unlimited Cash Rewards Secured keeps things simple by offering a flat 1.5 percent cash back for each dollar you spend. While it’s a secured card that requires a cash deposit as collateral, you can start building credit with this card with as little as $300 down.
There’s no annual fee, and a free FICO score can help you track your progress toward better credit.
What are the advantages and disadvantages?
- Requires collateral like all secured credit cards, the Bank of America Unlimited Cash Rewards Secured requires you to put down cash to secure your own line of credit.
- No welcome offer.
- Charges foreign transaction fees on purchases you make overseas.
- High APR for spending.
A deeper look into the current card offer
- Rewards rate: Earn unlimited 1.5 percent cash back on all your purchases
- Welcome offer: None
- Annual fee: $0
- Purchase intro APR: None
- Balance transfer intro APR: None
- Regular APR: 23.99 percent variable APR
Current welcome offer
The Bank of America Unlimited Cash Rewards Secured doesn’t offer a sign-up bonus, which is relatively disappointing. However, this is pretty much par for the course among secured credit cards, many of which do not offer any rewards at all.
The fact cardholders can earn an unlimited 1.5 percent cash back with the Bank of America Unlimited Cash Rewards Secured is truly remarkable. Many secured cards don’t offer any rewards, and ones that do typically come with a maximum of 1 percent cash back on everyday spending.
How you earn
When you sign up for the Bank of America Unlimited Cash Rewards Secured, keeping track of your rewards is simple. You’ll earn a flat 1.5 percent cash back on everything you buy, which works out to $1.50 in rewards for every $100 in purchases you charge to your card.
How to redeem
When it comes time to redeem your rewards, Bank of America lets you use them for a few different redemption options. You can:
- Deposit your rewards in an eligible Bank of America or Merrill bank account
- Send credit to eligible Merrill accounts you have, including 529 accounts for college savings
- Use your rewards for a statement credit on your account
How much are the rewards worth?
Because the Bank of America Unlimited Cash Rewards Secured offers cash back instead of rewards points, figuring out how your rewards are worth is easy. You’ll earn a flat 1.5 percent cash back on everything you buy, which translates into a rewards rate of one cent per point.
Other cardholder perks
The Bank of America Unlimited Cash Rewards Secured is very light on cardholder benefits, but that’s to be expected when it comes to credit cards for bad credit. For the most part, you’ll need to have a good credit score or better if you hope to graduate to cards that offer meaningful benefits and features.
With that being said, the Bank of America Unlimited Cash Rewards Secured does come with the following:
Free FICO score
The Bank of America Unlimited Cash Rewards Secured comes with a free FICO credit score, which is the type of credit score used by 90 percent of top lenders, according to FICO. With a free credit score, you can monitor and track your score and progress over time.
Contactless payment options
This card also comes with contactless payment options, including contactless chip technology. You can also use the Bank of America Unlimited Cash Rewards Secured to make purchases using Apple Pay, Google Pay and Samsung Pay.
Finally, you can set up account alerts that can help prevent fraud and keep you on track with your monthly payments. Receive an alert when a purchase is made, a payment is due and more.
Rates and fees
The Bank of America Unlimited Cash Rewards Secured doesn’t charge an annual fee, which makes it a more affordable option than many other credit cards for bad credit. However, the high ongoing variable APR of 23.99 percent can make carrying a balance a costly experience.
Fees to watch out for include 3 percent in foreign transaction fees, a 3 percent balance transfer fee (minimum $10) and a 3 percent cash advance fee (minimum $10). You may also be charged a late fee of $40 if you pay your bill beyond its due date.
How the Bank of America Unlimited Cash Rewards Secured compares to other secured credit cards
If you have poor credit and you can only be approved for a secured credit card, there are other options to consider outside the Bank of America Unlimited Cash Rewards Secured. The cards we compare below also offer rewards on spending with no annual fee.
Bank of America Unlimited Cash Rewards Secured vs. Discover it® Secured Credit Card
The Discover it® Secured Credit Card lets you earn cash back with a minimum security deposit of $200 and no annual fee. However, this card offers a few bonus categories and a lower flat rate on all regular purchases. As a cardholder, you’ll earn 2 percent back on up to $1,000 in spending on gas stations and restaurants each quarter (then 1 percent back), plus 1 percent back on regular purchases.
Interestingly, the Discover it® Secured Credit Card offers a delayed sign-up bonus. After you have the card for a year, Discover will double all the rewards you have earned.
Bank of America Unlimited Cash Rewards Secured vs. Bank of America® Customized Cash Rewards Secured Credit Card
Also consider the Bank of America® Customized Cash Rewards Secured Credit Card, which is a similar secured credit card from the same card issuer. This secured credit card also comes with no annual fee, yet you earn 3 percent cash back in a category of your choosing (among gas, online shopping, dining, travel, drug stores and home improvement/furnishings), 2 percent cash back at grocery stores and wholesale clubs and 1 percent back on other purchases. The kicker is, you are limited to bonus rewards on up to $2,500 in combined spending within the 3 percent and 2 percent categories each quarter, after which you’ll earn 1 percent back.
The Bank of America® Customized Cash Rewards Secured Credit Card also comes with a free FICO credit score, and the same minimum security deposit of $300 applies.
Best cards to pair with this card
Because the Bank of America Unlimited Cash Rewards Secured is a secured credit card, you should probably steer clear of pairing it with other cards. After all, you probably can’t get approved for anything other than another secured credit card right now, which would require another security deposit. And if you could get approved for an unsecured credit card, you don’t need the Bank of America Unlimited Cash Rewards Secured anyway.
If you take the steps to get the Bank of America Unlimited Cash Rewards Secured, you should focus on using it to build credit until you can graduate to a better credit card. For the most part, that means using your card for small purchases you can afford to pay off, always paying your credit card bill on time and keeping revolving debt to a minimum.
Bankrate’s Take: Is the Bank of America Unlimited Cash Rewards Secured worth it?
If you need the chance to build credit and you can’t seem to get approved for an unsecured credit card, give the Bank of America Unlimited Cash Rewards Secured a try. You’ll have to put down some cash to get started, but Bank of America will report your payments to the three credit bureaus to help you build credit. You’ll earn rewards on all your spending, and you can improve your credit score over time with enough responsible use.