Bank of America® Unlimited Cash Rewards Credit Card for Students review

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Snapshot

3.4

Bankrate rating
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Bottom line

The Bank of America® Unlimited Cash Rewards Credit Card for Students is an excellent choice for students seeking to earn cash back, save on interest, and properly manage their money using the financial management resources offered.

Bank of America Image

Bank of America® Unlimited Cash Rewards Credit Card for Students

Rewards rate

1.5%

Annual fee

$0

Intro offer

$200

Regular APR

13.99% - 23.99% Variable APR on purchases and balance transfers

Recommended Credit Score

Good to Excellent  (670 - 850)

Bank of America® Unlimited Cash Rewards Credit Card for Students Overview

An excellent rewards rate and competitive introductory APR offer make the Bank of America® Unlimited Cash Rewards Credit Card for Students a standout choice for students looking for a straightforward, low-cost way to earn rewards, finance purchases and build credit. Along with charging no annual fee, the card features a generous cash rewards welcome bonus and access to financial education tools that can help students learn how to build their credit.

That said, while the Bank of America Unlimited Cash Rewards Student credit card is a smart choice if you are looking for a cash rewards card that is simple to use, its lack of student-centric benefits and limited cash back earning potential in specific spending categories are a slight drawback. Though the Bank of America Unlimited Cash Rewards student card is a solid option for students who more concerned with building their credit score than earning maximum rewards, it may not be the most lucrative cash rewards card for students on the market.

What are the pros and cons?

Pros

  • Offers unlimited 1.5 percent cash back on all purchases, which is a very generous rate for general purchases on a credit-building card.
  • Zero percent intro APR on purchases and balance transfers for 15 billing cycles can offer much-needed flexibility for college students looking to save money and build credit.
  • Unlike most student cash rewards cards, students can earn cash back from a high-reward category of their choice.
  • Students have free access to financial education tools and their FICO scores (which are updated monthly).

Cons

  • A 3 percent foreign transaction fee limits the cards appeal for students planning to travel or study abroad.
  • The $200 online cash rewards bonus offer (after spending $1,000 in the first 90 days) isn’t too competitive compared to most student cash rewards programs.

A deeper look into the current card offer

Quick highlights

  • Rewards rate: Unlimited 1.5 percent cash back on all purchases
  • Welcome offer: $200 cash rewards bonus after spending $1,000 within the first 90 days
  • Annual fee: $0
  • Purchase intro APR: 0 percent for 15 billing cycles
  • Balance transfer intro APR: N/A
  • Regular APR: 13.99 percent to 23.99 percent (variable)

Current welcome offer

The Unlimited Cash Rewards Student credit card comes with a one-time welcome bonus worth $200 in cash back rewards, but a student must spend $1,000 in purchases within 90 days of opening a new account to qualify. The anticipated cost of $1,000 for three months of purchases comes to roughly $333 per month, making it a very reasonable offer that is easily achievable for students via spending on everyday staples like groceries and dining.

Given that the Unlimited Cash Rewards Card for Students offers one of the highest cash back rates compared to other student cards such as the Chase Freedom® Student card and the Journey Student Rewards from Capital One card, both of which only offer 1 percent cash back on all purchases, it may not seem too difficult to spend $1,000 to earn $200 cash back. However, students should also consider if they can afford to repay $1,000 in purchases once the introductory 0 percent APR period has ended.

Rewards rate

The Bank of America Unlimited Cash Rewards Student credit card allows you to earn streamlined cash back without the headache of tracking spending or enrolling in bonus categories, making it a great introduction to the world of credit card rewards for students.

How you earn

The student version of the Bank of America® Unlimited Cash Rewards Visa earns unlimited cash back of 1.5 percent on all eligible purchases just like the non-student version of the card. In comparison with Chase Freedom Student Card, which earns 1 percent cash back on all purchases, this card’s 1.5 percent return rate is excellent for a student credit card.

How to redeem

This card offers several ways to redeem cash rewards. Among them are:

  • Redemption for a statement credit of any amount.
  • Placing the money into a Bank of America checking or savings account.
  • Placing the money into an eligible Merrill Lynch of Merrill Edge account.
  • Spending the redemption for contributions to a 529 college savings account.

A minimum of $25 in cash back rewards can be redeemed with the card as statement credits, deposits directly into Bank of America checking or savings accounts or credit to a Merrill account. The minimum contribution to a Merrill 529 college savings plan is $25 as well, but you can only choose to contribute to a Merrill 529 account if you qualify. You can set up automatic deposits of at least $25 to an eligible Bank of America or Merrill Lynch account, but there is no minimum for one-time redemptions.

The best way to redeem cash rewards is by converting them to statement credits or depositing into a Bank of America checking or savings account, as it can be used to reimburse yourself for everyday expenses, but it would be great if students had a greater range of ways to redeem their rewards. The Discover it® Student Cash Back Card, for example, lets students redeem cash rewards as gift cards, at Amazon.com and through PayPal.

The Unlimited Cash Rewards Credit Card for students doesn’t have the broadest range of redemption options and flexibility, but it offers a number of appealing features for students who are new to credit and wish to build credit and reduce the amount on their monthly statement.

Other cardholder perks

Generally, cash back cards with no annual fees don’t offer a lot of benefits—especially those designed specifically for students. Despite its excellent rewards program, Bank of America’s Unlimited Cash Rewards card boasts a less robust set of benefits than its competitors. There aren’t many extra perks, except for access to Better Money Habits, which offers students credit management tips. Besides the basic benefits like contactless chip technology and account monitoring, there just aren’t any notable benefits that aren’t common with every student credit card.

Better Money Habits

With Better Money Habits from Bank of America, you can access free educational content and tools that deliver financial education in an easy-to-understand manner. It provides information that is tailored to young college-aged adults, such as budgeting, credit building, investing, and other topics—and it connects students with relevant resources, tips and guides that can help them build the knowledge they need to achieve their financial goals.

How much are the rewards worth?

Your earnings for the card’s unlimited base cash back are equal to your cash back percentage for each dollar spent. For every dollar you spend, you will earn 1.5 cents back in cash rewards.

Rates and fees

As with most student cards, the Unlimited Cash Rewards Student credit card does not charge an annual fee, so earning rewards won’t be affected by interest or purchases made studying abroad. The foreign transaction fee and minimum balance transfer fee is 3 percent (minimum $10), but missed payments or carrying balances will result in having to pay higher fees.

With the card’s 0 percent intro APR, you won’t have to worry about interest charges for your first 15 billing cycles, but after that, you’ll face a variable APR of 13.99 percent to 23.99 percent. That’s still very low compared to the average credit card interest rate, making this an excellent low-interest card for students. It’s worth noting, however, that Bank of America doesn’t offer an intro APR for balance transfers, so you’ll have to pay the full APR once you switch to the issuer.

Defaulting on a payment won’t result in a penalty APR, but you’ll be charged for late payment. One of Bank of America’s unique features is a graduated fee structure, which minimizes interest payments for past-due amounts. If you pay late on a balance of $100 or less, you’ll only be charged around $20, and you may be charged up to $50 or more if the balance is higher.

How the Bank of America Unlimited Cash Rewards Student Card compares to other student credit cards

Bank of America Image

Bank of America® Unlimited Cash Rewards Credit Card for Students

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3.4

Annual fee

$0

Intro offer

$200

Rewards rate

1.5%

Recommended credit

Good to Excellent(670 - 850)
Discover Image

Discover it® Student Cash Back

Annual fee

$0

Intro offer

Cashback Match™

Rewards rate

1%–5%

Recommended credit

No Credit History
Capital One Image

Capital One Quicksilver Student Cash Rewards Credit Card

Annual fee

$0

Intro offer

$100

Rewards rate

1.5%–5%

Recommended credit

Fair to Good(580 - 740)

Bank of America Unlimited Cash Rewards Student Credit Card vs. Discover it Student Cash Back Credit Card

The Discover it Student Cash Back Credit Card only offers unlimited 1 percent cash back on all purchases, but you can earn up to 5 percent cash back by enrolling in a rotating category every quarter. Furthermore, if you’re a new cardholder, Discover it Student Cash Back will automatically match all cash back earned at the end of the first year, which could be more rewarding than Bank of America’s $200 cash rewards bonus (if you make at least $1,000 in purchases within the first 90 days).

Despite Discover’s big cash back earning potential, you are limited to $1,500 in spending every quarter. The Discover it Student Cash Back card could potentially provide you with a higher return on your cash rewards balance if you frequently shop on Amazon and eBay or at grocery stores, restaurants, or gas stations, but if the rotating categories don’t align with your typical daily spending patterns, the card may not be worth it.

Bank of America Unlimited Cash Rewards Student Credit Card vs. Capital One Quicksilver Student Cash Rewards Credit Card

The Capital One Quicksilver Student Cash Rewards Credit Card offers unlimited 1.5 percent cash back on purchases, but unlike the Bank of America Unlimited Cash Rewards Card for Students, there is no introductory APR or welcome bonus included. However, the Quicksilver Student Card outperforms the Unlimited Cash Rewards Student Credit Card in terms of benefits such as cell phone protection, collision waivers for car rentals and extended warranty protection. You can also redeem Quicksilver Student rewards for cash and gift cards, or use points to make purchases on Amazon.com or Paypal Pay, which might be more convenient than Bank of America’s redemption options.

Though the Quicksilver Student Cash Rewards Card offers more flexibility in cash rewards redemption and more protection benefits than the Unlimited Cash Rewards Card for Students, you should be aware that Capital One’s student cards have a high APR of 16.49 – 26.49 percent (variable). This high-interest rate is 12 percent higher than Bank of America’s maximum APR bracket of 23.99 percent, which may be exceedingly risky for students who have not yet completely grasped the ins and outs of credit cards. Whether you’re considering the Capital One Quicksilver Student card or the Unlimited Cash Rewards Card for Students, be sure you completely understand APR and what it implies before applying, as incurring substantial credit card debt as a new cardholder can quickly hinder your score.

Bankrate’s Take: Is the Bank of America Unlimited Cash Rewards Student Credit Card worth it?

The Bank of America® Unlimited Cash Rewards Credit Card for Students is an excellent option for students looking for a credit card that makes earning unlimited 1.5 percent cash back on all purchases simple to understand and easy to attain. However, there are many other student credit cards that offer 1.5 percent cash back earnings or a 1.5 point reward value per dollar, and the perks of those other cards may be more beneficial to some students depending on their circumstances and buying habits. This card may not yield as much cash back as other premium student cards, but we feel it’s still a great offering for college students and can serve its purpose for credit building.

Frequently Asked Questions