You never forget your first credit card. I got the Bank of America® Customized Cash Rewards credit card while I was in college after my financial guru (aka Mom) taught me about the importance of building credit.

At that time, I didn’t know much about credit cards, so I went with one of Bank of America’s cards simply because I had a checking account with them. A decade later, I make a living advising others on credit cards and I still have the Customized Cash Rewards card in my wallet. And you know what? It’s still one of the cards I reach for most often. Here’s why.

Pros and cons of the Bank of America Customized Cash Rewards card

Pro: Flexible cash back categories

The Customized Cash Rewards card’s main draw is its flexible cash back categories. You can receive 3 percent cash back on category purchases of your choice, including gas, online shopping, dining, travel, drugstores or home improvement. You also get 2 percent back at grocery stores and wholesale clubs (on up to $2,500 of combined 3 percent and 2 percent category purchases each quarter, then 1 percent) and 1 percent back on all other purchases.

For my lifestyle, I’ve only ever selected online shopping or travel. But for 2020 and 2021, I’ve kept it at online shopping because that category has come in handy during the pandemic.

Unlike some cash back cards that offer high cash back percentages only for specific rotating categories every quarter, the Customized Cash Rewards card doesn’t come with gimmicks. I’m always rewarded for purchases that I make, rather than for very specific spending categories that are useless to me.

I love that this card gives me the freedom to change my cash back categories once per calendar month. When I booked a trip to Mexico City at the end of June several years ago, I switched my rewards category from online shopping to travel minutes before booking my flight, and I was able to switch it back on July 1.

My cash back hack

I’m a sucker for a discount and never make a purchase without looking for coupons. I like to think of my 3 percent cash back as a further discount on top of whatever I’m already saving. Sometimes I’ll even buy things online instead of in the store so that the transaction counts as online shopping.

For example, when I had to buy a new MacBook last year, I went to my local Apple Store to compare my options. After I had chosen a laptop, I purchased it online with my Customized Cash Rewards card set to the online shopping rewards category and received 3 percent back, which I wouldn’t have been able to get had I made the purchase in the store. With the cash back I received from the purchase, I essentially got a $30 discount on my new laptop.

Con: Quarterly spending cap

A downside to this card is the $2,500 quarterly spending cap for 3 percent and 2 percent rewards categories, which means there’s a $300 maximum you can earn each year for the higher rewards categories. On the very rare occasions that I reach that limit, however, I still earn 1 percent for my purchases and I can always refer to the cheat sheet I have in my wallet to find the next best credit card for my purchase.

Pro: No annual fee and generous intro APR periods

I also like that the Customized Cash Rewards card has no annual fee. The card also includes a 0 percent intro APR for purchases for 18 billing cycles and a 0 percent intro APR for balance transfers for 18 billing cycles (if made within the first 60 days, a 3 percent fee [minimum $10] applies). After that, a regular variable APR of 16.24 percent to 26.24 percent applies.

Con: 3% foreign transaction fee

Unfortunately, the card comes with foreign transaction fees. This means I’d be charged a 3 percent fee if I were to use it to make purchases abroad. That’s why I use my Capital One SavorOne Cash Rewards Credit Card on purchases while traveling or when buying from overseas merchants since there are no foreign transaction fees.

Pro: Fuss-free travel card for U.S. travel

I usually have a travel-specific credit card in my wallet, but I canceled it because I’ve been staying put due to the pandemic. I didn’t want to pay my travel card’s annual fee if I wasn’t getting my money’s worth in perks.

When I resume traveling within the U.S., I probably won’t open another travel-specific credit card and will just use my Customized Cash Rewards card—set to earn 3 percent cash back in the travel category—instead. Why? Most travel cards have annual fees and the Customized Cash Rewards card does not. That’ll save me about $100 that I can put towards a vacation.

In addition, most travel cards give you points, which can be confusing to understand and complicated to redeem. Cash back is simple and doesn’t lock me into using my rewards on a specific airline or hotel chain.

For traveling abroad, however, my strategy is to use my Customized Cash Rewards card to book flights and accommodations, and then use my SavorOne card for on-the-ground purchases to avoid Bank of America’s 3 percent foreign transaction fee.

The bottom line

The Bank of America Customized Cash Rewards credit card has been my go-to for a decade and it will remain a favorite for years to come.

Bank of America® Customized Cash Rewards credit card information was last updated on August 23, 2022.