Posted by Chuck on August 17, 2017
Credit Cards

Published on August 17th, 2017 | by Chuck

165

Bank of America Travel Rewards Card Review: 2.6x Everywhere with Relationship, No Annual Fee, and No Foreign Transaction Fee

We asked on Twitter which cards readers want to see a review on, and a lot of people were interested in seeing more on the Bank of America Travel Rewards card, so here goes.

Card Overview

Link to Bank of America Travel Rewards

  • No annual fee
  • No foreign transaction fee (Bank of America cards are chip-and-pin enabled)
  • Card earns 1.5x everywhere with no maximum earnings
  • Earn a bonus if you are a Bank of America relationship customer (more on that below)
  • Runs on the Visa network and will/can be a Visa Signature card

Like all Bank of America cards, this will come with a free Transunion FICO score and free virtual account numbers for online shopping. The card will also give you access to Bank Amerideals (this is only important if you don’t already have a BofA credit or debit card).

Signup Bonus

  • Get 20,000 points after spending $1,000 within 90 days
  • The 20,000 points can be redeemed for a $200 statement credit to offset a travel purchase, see Using Points (below)

The signup bonus has been 20,000 for a while and was never higher.

Note, the Preferred customer bonus (see below) does not apply to the signup bonus on the Travel Rewards card, only on ordinary rewards from purchases. (Cash Rewards cards do get the Preferred customer bonus, but not the travel points card.)

Preferred Rewards

To understand the value proposition of this card, it’s important to examine the Bank of America Preferred Rewards program. We’ve reviewed it at length before, and we’ll recap the main points here.

If you have assets held in Bank of America accounts, you are eligible for a bonus as a Preferred Rewards relationship client. Here are the various tiers, along with their earning on this Travel Rewards card:

  • Bank of America checking account holders with between $.01 – $19,999: gets a 10% bonus on rewards bringing the 1.5x  to 1.65x everywhere
  • Preferred Rewards Gold $20,000 – $50,000: gets a 25% bonus on rewards bringing the 1.5x  to 1.875x everywhere
  • Preferred Rewards Platinum $50,000-$100,000: gets 50% bonus on rewards bringing the 1.5x  to 2.25x everywhere
  • Preferred Rewards Platinum Honors $100,000+: gets 75% bonus on rewards bringing the 1.5x  to 2.625x everywhere

Aside from the credit card bonuses, you also get other benefits by being a relationship client of BofA, such as free trades and discounted fees.

$100,000 is certainly a hurdle, the good news is that the assets don’t need to be held in a checking account to give status; even stock holdings count. Merrill Edge is owned by Bank of America, and any assets held there count toward your Preferred Rewards status. You can have no money in your BofA checking account and still get Preferred Rewards status.

Even those who engage is ‘passive investing’ can use Merrill Edge. For example, you can buy shares on VTI in your Merrill account. Many people can make themselves eligible for the relationship bonus by moving over their retirement account or other brokerage holdings to Merrill Edge.

There’s a good FQF post about the nitty-gritty details of how the $100k requirement works and plays out. It’s based on a three month average; you won’t get status immediately.

Earning Points

Card earns 1.5x everywhere with no cap. Where it gets interesting is if you have Preferred Rewards status. As explained above, you’ll earn 1.65x – 2.625x everywhere depending on your relationship status. 2.6x everywhere is an excellent earning rate for regular, non-bonused spend.

Other Ways to Earn

You can also book travel through their portal and an extra 1.5x per dollar (3x total). This is similar to many online booking agency (e.g. Orbitz or booking.com) which are available on shopping portals to earn extra rewards. Note, you won’t get the relationship bonus on the travel bonus, only on the base earnings. (page 3)

They used to have a shopping portal as well, but that was discontinued a couple of years ago.

Using Points

On a basic level, points are worth 1¢ per point when redeemed against travel charges of $25 or more. For example, if you spent $26.87 on Uber, you should be able to redeem 2,687 points toward that charge and get a $26.87 statement credit.

You might be familiar with the Barclay Arrival which uses a similar system. From what I’ve heard, the Travel Rewards has an even broader definition of travel than most other cards, and considers a wide variety of travel purchases as eligible for redemption.

Now, let’s dive a little deeper.

Redeeming Points

Points can be redeemed as a travel credit, cash, or gift card. All redemptions have a minimum of $25.

The easiest would be cash, but that only gets you .6 cents per point. You can do a little better by redeeming for gift cards at .8 cents per point. The recommended redemption is to redeem for travel purchases which gets you a full one cent-per-point.

Some details on how travel redemptions work:

  • Points don’t expire, but you can only redeem against travel charges from the past 12 months.
  • Total redemption must be more than $25. You can redeem against charges under $25 so long as the total redemption is $25. For example, if you have a $3 bus fare and a $22 Uber, you can redeem them since the total is $25.
  • You can redeem part of a large charge. For example, if you have 2,500 point, you can redeem for a $25 credit to offset part of a $$128 airfare charge. And you won’t lose the unredeemed part of that travel charge: you’ll still be able to create another redemption against the remaining $103 from that airfare charge.

A few things to keep in mind as a backup in case you find it difficult to redeem points for travel (e.g. if you don’t travel):

  • Things like bus passes, Uber, and tolls (e.g. EZ-Pass) might count as travel and can be redeemed if you have a charge of $25 or more. See list of eligible Merchant Category Codes here on page 6.
  • If you have a friend who travels a lot, see if you can transfer your points over to them to redeem and have them reimburse you.
  • At the time of this writing, I noticed that numerous gift cards are on sale and can be redeemed at 1 cent per point. Check your account to see if there’s anything you find useful.
  • If you are into gift card reselling, you should be able to use the Travel Rewards card to buy travel gift cards (e.g. Southwest or Delta) to trigger the travel credit at 1 cent per point. Then sell those, hopefully without losing too much in the process. This method obviously takes away from getting the full 1% value, but should be better than the .6% cash redemption value and could be better than the .8% gift card redemption value.

Transferring Points

The Travel Rewards card earns points which are part of the WorldPoints program (they seem to have rebranded and don’t call it WorldPoints anymore). Points earned on the card can either be redeemed directly for a travel credit or transferred to another World Points card and redeemed there.

History: Transferring used to be useful when WorldPoints were able to be redeemed for travel at a higher rate, something no longer available. The 2% Fidelity card used to earn WorldPoints back when it was administered by Bank of America, but that’s no longer the case now that it’s a U.S. Bank card. 

Going forward: The only useful part of transferring points that comes to mind would be if you have a travel charge on one card and points on another card. Transferring will enable you to redeem the points. You can even transfer them to a friend.

What Counts as Travel

If anyone has specific data points on which charges do and don’t work for travel redemptions, please let us know in the comments.

Codes as Travel to be redeemed:

  • Metro card and bus passes in NYC (1)
  • Some data points from a reader: gym membership worked for them, entry fees for 5k races, some museum and historic homes code as Travel while others code as gift shops. And car rentals, motels, cruises, etc. have always coded as travel without any problems.

Does not code as Travel to be redeemed:

  • E-Z Pass in Maryland (1)

Final Thoughts

The most interesting part of the card is undoubtedly the 2.625x everywhere without any limits which is really best-in-class. Obviously, it requires having a huge $100,000 relationship with Bank of America, but that’s within reach of a lot of people whether it’s from an IRA account or other stock holdings. Even with the $50k tier, the card earns 2.25x everywhere which is very good.

Another perk of the card is no foreign transaction fees which is uncommon among no-annual-fee cards.

Overall, it’s a card worth considering if you have relationship status with Bank of America. If you are holding funds elsewhere, it can make sense to move funds over to Merrill Edge to qualify, just please consider two things first:

  • Ensure that you aren’t losing under Merrill Edge compared to your previous brokerage institution
  • Keep in mind that some people can get similar value from other cards. For example, there are a couple of 2.5% cards out there now which is close to the 2.6x that BofA gets. Also, some people value the 1.5x that Freedom Unlimited gives them or the 2x that Blue for Business Plus gives them as being worth that amount.

Also worth noting that BofA will soon release a similar card in a more premium version. We’ll review that card in full when it comes.



165 Responses to Bank of America Travel Rewards Card Review: 2.6x Everywhere with Relationship, No Annual Fee, and No Foreign Transaction Fee

  1. Tom says:

    E-ZPass MD does not code as travel for me (although different states and agencies may code differently).

    • Chuck says:

      Thanks Tom.

      If anyone else has specific data points on which charges do and don’t work, please let us know here in the comments. There’ll be more and more people interested in this as the new premium card comes out with (presumably) similar redemption rules.

  2. Ferris says:

    Looks like it may be useful if you have an investment account over 100K. Otherwise in a savings/MM, you are getting a 0% ROA and maybe netting an extra $1K in extra rewards, which raises your ROA to 1%. I prefer to make at least 5% ROA + rewards.

    • Tom says:

      Nobody is suggesting to keep 100k in a 0.01% savings account. Everyone always recommends opening a Merrill Edge account, and considering it is 100% free to do so (and sometimes you get a new account bonus), there is no reason not to. Additionally, with 50k in the account you will get 30 free trades per month, and with 100k you will get 100 free trades per month. It’s a no brainer for long-term buy and hold investments. The account is not ideal for day trading, for many reasons which have been discussed in the past, but for long-term buy and hold investments, it cannot be beat.

      • Kevin says:

        Agreed.

      • Justin says:

        Why is it bad for day trading given that you get 100 free trades?

        • Tom says:

          It’s fine for casual day trading, but not for serious or professional day trading…

          In summary, awful margin rates compared to IB, slow/clunky web-based java interface, no level 2 order entry, etc. But for simple, long-term strategies it can work quite well, depends on your specific needs and the sophistication of your overall strategy.

          More than anything, I get frustrated by the slow web-based java interface… it’s soooo damn slowwwwwwww. Trying to jump in and out of trades quickly is very difficult. It’s fine for swing trading though.

          • Justin says:

            Got it. Thanks for the reply.

          • calwatch says:

            If you were a serious day or swing trader I don’t see why you wouldn’t hold an IB account. But for buy and hold strategies and IRAs, like what I hold mines as, it works fine. Dividend reinvestment works and they buy partial shares.

      • TomTX says:

        Remember that Merrill will pay you to transfer your account. Up to $600 for $250k in accounts, including retirement accounts.

  3. madage says:

    You have to have 2,500 points to redeem for travel credits, but you can redeem against individual charges that are less than $25.

    Say you have five $5 travel charges and 2,500 points to redeem. You can make this redemption.

    Now say you have 2,500 points to redeem, but only $20 total in travel charges available. You can’t make this redemption until you have another $5 in travel charges to redeem.

    • Tom says:

      … an extremely minor inconvenience… the redemption thresholds and rules are exponentially easier than the Arrival+, for example.

    • ZinCO says:

      Should also mention that you can do partial redemptions. So if you have a $100 charge but only $50 credit, you can get $50 reimbursed now, and the other $50 any time up to a year after the original charge.

  4. Ja says:

    So would the 20k signup bonus be worth 75% more for platinum honors members (so $350 instead of $200)?

    • Kevin says:

      No. DoC mentions this in the “Signup Bonus” section of the article. It stacks on the Cash Rewards card but not the Travel Rewards card (or the upcoming Premium Rewards card).

  5. Mark O says:

    I would suggest people wait until the new card drops in Septemberish before signing up for this right now.

    • Kevin says:

      It doesn’t make sense to sign up for this right now, even with that new card coming up. It takes at least 2-3 months just to get Preferred Rewards eligible. Remember, the Travel Rewards card Preferred Rewards bonus applies at time of purchase, not redemption. You only want to use this card once you’re in the middle or upper tier of Preferred Rewards to get the reward bonus.

      The Cash Rewards card, however, is different. The bonus for that card applies on redemption, not at time of purchase. I got the Cash Rewards card as soon as I decided to enroll in this program and started using it immediately for category spend but waited to redeem (3 months later) until I was at the highest tier in Preferred Rewards to get the bonus.

      But yeah, I agree to wait for the new card.

    • Jim says:

      Are you referring to the new BofA Premium Rewards card, 50k for $3k MSR?

      Might be better off applying for the biz Travel Rewards card instead, $25k for $1k spend. Most importantly, no 5/24 hit as a biz card

  6. madage says:

    In the Preferred Rewards section of the post, it states: “You can have no bank account with Bank of America at all and still get Preferred Rewards status.” This is not correct. A Bank of America checking account is required to qualify for Preferred Rewards status.

    • Jay says:

      Yep, came here to point that out. I had this card without any bank if America account and had to sign up for a checking account to start earning preferred rewards status.
      Luckily almost all of the fees are removed from their checking accounts if your in the preferred program, so you don’t actually need to leave money in your checking account earning .01 % apr.

    • Treesha says:

      Hasn’t been true IME. Spouse has this card, and gets the Preferred Rewards status (has a linked ML investment account) and NO checking acct with BoA.

    • Dave P says:

      Do you absolutely need a checking account, or can you have just a basic savings account? I believe the savings account can be kept fee-free by simply maintaining a $500 balance, while their checking accounts have slightly higher hurdles.

      • Tom says:

        Not sure about the savings account, but you’d be better off just getting a checking account anyway. As long as you can hit the lowest tier ($20k) then “Monthly maintenance fees waived on up to 4 eligible checking and 4 savings accounts from Bank of America”

        • Kevin says:

          I can’t recall why or how but in my first 3 months before being enrolled in Preferred Rewards, I still had no checking account fees.

      • Kevin says:

        Yes, you need a personal checking account according to this: https://www.bankofamerica.com/deposits/manage/understanding-preferred-rewards-requirements.go

        It says, “You maintain your Preferred Rewards status if you have an active, eligible Bank of America® personal checking account and maintain a three-month average combined balance in your qualifying Bank of America deposit accounts and/or your qualifying Merrill Edge® and Merrill Lynch® investment accounts of at least $20,000 for the Gold tier, $50,000 for the Platinum tier, or $100,000 for the Platinum Honors tier.”

        So it specifically states a personal checking account, with no mention of a savings account.

        As far as fees, the checking account has no fees with the Preferred Rewards program. I keep $100 in my BofA checking account and don’t use it at all (no ACH transfers, DD, bill pay, etc.) and I don’t have any fees. I’ve read many people just have the checking account with a $0 balance and stays fee free due to the Preferred Rewards program.

        Go to the following site for details on the benefits of the Preferred Rewards program at each tier: https://info.bankofamerica.com/preferred-rewards/

    • Chuck says:

      Thanks all, I’ll update the post

  7. Dean says:

    “A good idea is to first buy VTSAX with Vanguard and then transfer it over to Merrill Edge and then you won’t lose anything.”

    Brokerages charge a couple of hundred bucks to transfer out an account.

    • Richard says:

      Vanguard does not charge an ACAT transfer out or account closing fee.

    • Kevin says:

      Vanguard doesn’t charge a fee. If your brokerage account is with another firm, yeah, it’s likely they charge a fee. However, there are MANY DPs of people asking ME to reimburse them for this charge and they do it. I’ve never read a DP for a denial on this.

      Also consider, ME always has a signup bonus for transferring money to them. https://www.merrilledge.com/cmaoffer

      They currently have an up to $600 bonus and 300 free trades for 90 days. If you transfer just the $100k needed for the highest tier in the Preferred Rewards program, you’ll get a $250 bonus. A couple of times per year, this bonus offer goes up to $1000 for the same dollar amount of assets transferred.

      • Justin says:

        Can someone explain why it is cheaper to buy VTSAX directly into a Vanguard account?

        • Chuck says:

          You can’t buy VTSAX from Merrill Edge. You can buy the ETF-equivalent which is VTI.
          I thought VTI has higher fees, but other commenters here note that while VTSMX has higher fees, VTI does not. So assuming you are okay with ETFs, it won’t cost more to buy a total-index investment directly from Merrill.

  8. Kevin says:

    Cool! Thanks for the review! A couple of things:

    1. “You can have no bank account with Bank of America at all and still get Preferred Rewards status”…not true. You must have a checking account with BofA to complete the package. The checking account can have just a few dollars in it (maybe even nothing), you just have to have a checking account open. Of course, it’s fee free with the relationship. At the bottom of this page has the info: https://www.bankofamerica.com/deposits/manage/understanding-preferred-rewards-requirements.go

    It says, “You maintain your Preferred Rewards status if you have an active, eligible Bank of America® personal checking account and maintain a three-month average combined balance in your qualifying Bank of America deposit accounts and/or your qualifying Merrill Edge® and Merrill Lynch® investment accounts of at least $20,000 for the Gold tier, $50,000 for the Platinum tier, or $100,000 for the Platinum Honors tier.”

    2. “Just a quick thought of my own: If you have money in the VTI index, it looks to me that you’ll lose .11% on the $100k (or $110 per year) by purchasing these funds via Merrill Edge instead of purchasing Admiral Shares with Vanguard.”…VTI is the ETF. ETFs have the same ER (expense ratio) as the Admiral Share version of the Index Fund. So the cost is the same buying a Vanguard ETF at Merrill Edge or either the ETF or Admiral share fund at Vanguard (ignoring bid/ask spread). If you already have admiral shares at Vanguard, I believe they get converted to investor shares when transferred out (or at least, you can’t buy MORE admiral shares at ME). What I did personally was converted all my admiral shares at Vanguard to ETFs before transferring out my Vanguard assets to ME. The assets were transferred in-kind and cost basis was all transferred over accurately.

    3. “Ensure that you aren’t losing under Merrill Edge compared to your previous brokerage institution”…it might be worth considering to go over the benefits of each tier of Preferred Rewards with having money at ME. For instance, at $100k+ level, you get 100 free trades per month. I say that because as I mentioned above, if you get the ETF version at ME instead of the admiral share version at Vanguard, it’s the same cost (minus bid/ask spread which you’ll get with Vanguard buying ETFs too). Only difference would be commission to buy/sell ETFs. But you get free trades with ME so that’s moot.

    Nice to finally see a positive review of this card and program. Hopefully too many people joining it with the positive reviews doesn’t jeopardize the longevity of it though! 🙂

    • Chuck says:

      1) Updated, thanks
      2) Right, you can’t buy more Admiral Shares, but as I understand the existing one’s transferred over remain VTSAX (in my account it shows as ‘VTSAX’).
      I was comparing VTSAX to VTMSX which is where I got the .11% difference, but it seems that was wrong. I’ll update.
      3) I’ll add a note about the free trades.

  9. Frito Pendejo says:

    So the only difference between this and the Cash card is this earns 1.5% base, but can only be redeemed for travel or gift cards at 1cpp, while the Cash card earns 1% base, but gives straight cashback.

    So, I guess the Cash card is useless given that even with 75% bonus you are getting 1.75%, less than a 2% card.

    I keep thinking about transferring my IRA to BoA to do the 2.6% TravelRewards, but the things stopping me are…
    1) Almost nothing actually goes onto a 2% card, always meeting min spend or using 3%+ category cards
    2) I don’t actually have any travel expenses, because of all the accumulated points from churning!

    • Kevin says:

      The Cash Rewards card isn’t useless at all (but might be for your personal situation). With the Platinum Honors tier ($100k+ in assets), you get 5.25% back on gas, 3.5% back at grocery stores and wholesle clubs (both categories up to $2500 per quarter), and 1.75% back on everything else. So the Cash Rewards card pairs up pretty nicely with the Travel Rewards card. Use the Cash Rewards for the category spending, then the Travel Rewards for everything else.

      I hear you on the bonus spend though. You get way more value doing that all the time than this program, of course. But when you’re not meeting minimum spends for bonuses, this program/card combo is pretty tough to beat with $100k+ in assets with BofA/ME…

  10. Victor says:

    Just to clarify, you’re not limited to buying Merrill’s own funds. For those comfortable with buying stocks themselves, you can transfer your IRA/401k assets to Merrill Edge (get a transfer bonus) and then select a “self directed” account. The interface is quite user friendly, and you can just buy index ETFs like Vanguard total stock market (VTI) which has very low fees (0.05%). If you are preferred rewards status, you get 30 free trades per month, so there is no commission charge on buying the ETFs either.

    • Kevin says:

      .04% actually for VTI now (cost went down this year), same as the admiral share of this fund (VTSAX). You get 100 free trades at the highest tier ($100k+).

      This program IMO is an excellent deal. A lot of people don’t know/understand all the details on it, it seems to me, and talk bad about it when not knowing all the details. The biggest misconception/argument I hear against it is the $100k in assets needing to be in a BofA checking/savings earning .01%. At least that mistake is finally being expressed more often now as false.

    • Chuck says:

      Thanks Victor, I’ll add a note to make that clearer.

  11. Jamie says:

    People should evaluate the incremental “earn” vs. a 2% cash-back card. How much un-bonused spend do you have that isn’t being used to meet min-spending requirements for other cards? $2k per month = $144 per year (.006 X $24k). The $100k balance requirement is a significant hurdle / pain point for many and the requirement to redeem points for travel to maximize value can be challenging too (if you already have points and miles accumulated from your other cards). If you have the Freedom Unlimited and one of the “premium” Sapphire (or Ink) cards, this probably isn’t worth while.

    • Tom says:

      For people who MS for cash, the 2.63% cash back is incredible (and probably still very, very slightly below the interchange rates, so BOA might still be able to squeeze out an extremely small profit on your MS’ing, so they probably won’t care that much… they don’t care when I do it…)

    • Chuck says:

      Valid point, Jamie. I noted something similar at the end of the post.

  12. Treesha says:

    DH can only handle carrying a card or two at a time in his wallet. This card lives in there unless there’s some minimum spending bonus that’s targeted with another card.

    I find the travel category quite broad. Things that I’ve redeemed the points on:
    – Groupon Getaway
    – Purchases at Universal Studios Hollywood (hat, candy)
    – Day tour companies
    – Go Boston Card

    I would never put flight or hotel purchases on this card because the travel insurance is practically nonexistent. But for everyday spending it is fantastic, and beats the CFU+CSR combo.

    • Tom says:

      Agree 100%. I don’t know why people are hating on this card so much, it’s not as if it has an annual fee… it literally has the best sustainable cash back rate on unbonused spend out of any other credit card to my knowledge (excluding first year promotions, such as Discover IT Miles or Alliant)… Obviously some people prefer to earn points, and we get that, but for the people that prefer cash back, this card literally cannot be beat.

  13. Chucks says:

    “If you have money in the VTI index, it looks to me that you’ll lose .11% on the $100k (or $110 per year) by purchasing these funds via Merrill Edge instead of purchasing Admiral Shares with Vanguard. ”

    Help me understand your reasoning on this. I plugged in the two funds into this fee calculator from Vanguard: https://personal.vanguard.com/us/faces/JSP/Funds/Tools/FundsToolsEtfCostResultsContent.jsp

    I assumed $100,000 was invested with expected returns of 10% and no commission fees. I think the only difference between the two funds was the fact that there’s a bid-ask spread for VTI of $0.01. The total difference over ten years was just $8.68- which seemed to occur just when buying and selling. Considering VTI hasn’t identically tracked VTSAX (looks like it’s outperformed it by 0.01%) it seems like any difference in fees is pretty negligible.

    • Kevin says:

      I pointed this out above (but nice to have backup 🙂 ). He seemed to be comparing VTI and VTSMX (the ETF vs investor share of Vanguard’s Total Stock Market fund) instead of comparing VTI and VTSAX (admiral shares), or comparing VTSMX and VTSAX. VTI and VTSAX both have an ER of .04%, while VTSMX has an ER of .15%, which makes the .11% difference he described in the post.

  14. Shane says:

    Does anyone know how qualification works with joint accounts? That is, how does the mix of joint accounts and individual IRA accounts qualify one or the other person for preferred status?

    • madage says:

      BoA does not household for PR status. I have PR status with ME balances. The joint checking account holder does not have PR status because the balance there is minimal and has no ME accounts.

    • Bo says:

      Joint accounts count towards the balance of both account holders. E.g.
      His IRA $X
      Her IRA $Y
      Joint account $Z

      His qualifying balance $(X+Z)
      Her qualifying balance $(Y+Z)

      (Note it’s a 3 month running average updated monthly.)

    • Lrdx says:

      Joint accounts do work – not just BofA deposits (why would you even use those..), but joint taxable investment account at ME as well. Individual investment accts, IRAs only get applied to the owner; you can have player 1 and 2 in different PR tiers.

  15. Bo says:

    Fwiw I have transferred Vanguard Admiral class shares into MEdge. There’s no cost to transfer, no cost to hold them there, I can reinvest dividends, and can sell shares (but mutual fund trades are $20, versus $0 FOR ETFS), but I cannot buy more Admiral shares. You can buy Vanguard Investor class shares, but then the extra ~0.1% expense ratio is an extra cost that may make it not worth it. If, like me, you strongly prefer to use Vanguard Admiral shares over ETFs, then you can still make ME/PR work if you are basically just parking your $100k holdings at ME, but you lose the ability to transact for free (or at all) compared to holding at Vanguard. So there is some opportunity cost, while the marginal cash back is not large as others noted above. I still do it though, since you also get brokerage bonus, and better shot at their credit card bonuses.

    • Chuck says:

      Right, I noticed the same: VTSAX are fine, but can’t buy more. Have to buy VTI ETF or buy VTSAX with Vanguard and transfer over afterward.

  16. Lrdx says:

    Vanguard ETFs and Admiral funds almost always have the same expense ratios. VTI and VTSAX both have 0.04% now. The only thing you need to be aware is ETF bid/ask spreads, but if you are a buy-and-hold investor, that is microscopic.

    If you are a bit more active trader, the 100 free trade per month (~4.5 per day; the exchanges are not open on weekends.) is hard to beat. Sure, it’s not for daytraders. I use it to daily rebalance a geared portfolio (that would require a long long post to explain).

    The card’s travel categories are also include museums, zoos, amusement parks and a like, what are non-bonused elsewhere (maybe Citi entertainment?) -> use your generic card = this one -> the travel credit is easy to use.

    You get a max of 4.125% through the travel portal. Through Chase’s portal with CSR, you get 4.3% (as you don’t get cashback on the portal spend). You need to spend $82773 to break even with it’s net $150 AF. So this BofA card is pretty unbeatable for people going for cash rewards.

    That said, Discover It Miles and Alliant Signature steals the show from this card. You can constantly (or at least until they shut the door) get a 3% card by applying-product changing. If you have a spouse it’s even easier.

    • Tom says:

      Not sure about Alliant… but with Discover, the risk of canceling/PC’ing and then reapplying seems pretty high. If they catch on and ban/blacklist you, you will lose the bonus 1.5% on all of your purchases for the entire year, since you only get 1.5% back up front and 1.5% back at the end of the promotional period (one year). Very risky… stay tuned to Vinh’s blog over the course of the next year to see how long it takes for him to get banned with his new Discover card…

      • Lrdx says:

        Not cancelling and re-applying immediately. I highly doubt they shut down if you re-apply to the same card after 4 years:

        Y0: Apply for Miles
        Y1: Spouse to apply for Miles, PC yours to It
        Y2: Apply for Alliant, PC spouse’s Miles to It
        Y3: Spouse to apply for Alliant, PC your Alliant to 2%
        Y4: Apply for Miles 2, PC spouse’s Alliant
        Y5: Spouse to apply for Miles 2

        If the whole credit card market looks the same as now in 6 years, then you can start using TR as your main card. Or cancel something after 3 years to reapply in year 7.

        But that timeframe is so long, I’m quite sure this whole plan will be dead halfway.

        • Tom says:

          True, that’s a viable strategy for 2 player mode, but not everyone has an SO that is 100% on board with these types of things, lol. If you do, more power to you.

          Do you know how sensitive Discover and Alliant are to MS?

    • Chuck says:

      Thanks Lrdx, updated the post.

    • Robert says:

      Can I ask how CSR only gets 4.3%? I get that the Travel Rewards card gets you the extra bump by giving points on the purchase and redeeming afterwards but I don’t understand how the 4.3 is calculated for CSR. Sorry if it’s a dumb question but I’ve seen this posted somewhere else as well. Also for your break even calculation, is this purely based on the travel bonus category or are you factoring in the 3X dining as well? I have CSR currently and have until January to decide if I want to keep it or move my spend elsewhere. A significant portion of my spend on CSR is dining.

      • Lrdx says:

        You can get $150 of travel through spending $150 and receiving 450 UR, or spending 10000 UR points through the portal. So $150 = 10450 UR => 1 UR = $0.014354067 => reward after $1 = 3 UR = $0.043062201.

        Again, you might get better deals outside the portal of both banks. You might get better deals with transferring points to Chase’s partners (but you don’t need CSR for that, CSP and CIP are cheaper).

        If you want to include dining, you probably want to compare to using a no-fee 3% dining card (Chase AARP, Cap 1 Premier, etc). The difference is 1.3%. If only using dining to offset the net $150 CSR fee (note, you need to spend $300 travel for that), the breakeven is $11538.46. Or in other terms, rewards after every $1000 of dining worth 8.66% (=100% / 11.53846) of the annual fee. The travel difference above works as 1.208% / $1000.

        Remember that usually Freedom and Discover It has 5% dining in a quarter, so discount your dining spend if you have those, also discount your travel spending if you use a hotel’s / airline’s own CC.

  17. Leona says:

    BOA credit card is trash, 100k money can earn 1k interest elsewhere. So you have to spend 1000/0.00625 = 160k to break even..

    • Kevin says:

      You might want to read the whole article? And even the comments? It’s clear you don’t know/understand the program in its entirety…

      • Tom says:

        Kevin, I think we are trying way too hard… some people just don’t want to take the time to read or listen to anyone… besides, the fewer people take advantage of this program, the longer the gravy train will last for us.

    • Tom says:

      Very insightful comment. I guess I never bothered to do the calculations and break it down the way you did, I didn’t realize my $100k on deposit was making 0% interest and that I needed to spend 160k just to break even… damn. Shame on me. I’m going to call them up and cancel all of my accounts right now. Thanks for the heads up.

    • JB says:

      As has been pointed out several times above, money in a Merrill Edge IRA or taxable account also qualifies for the Preferred Rewards benefits, and is quite competitive with other self-directed accounts. BoA credit card is certainly *not* trash.

  18. Fiby says:

    Page 5 of that PDF you keep citing DoC
    “The minimum redemption value for a Travel Credit is $25 or multiple individual credits that total at least $25 redeemed in 1 event”

    Emphasis on that last clause. You do NOT have to have travel charges of at least $25. You can redeem against multiple charges which are not at least $25 each, but total to $25

    • Kevin says:

      Another thing to add to this is that you can have multiple redemptions against a single travel charge. So if you have a travel expense of say $100 but you only have $25 worth of points to redeem against that expense, BofA keeps track of that partial redemption and you can later do another redemption against that charge until it’s fully redeemed. You can only redeem points against travel expenses that have been charged in the last year though. I didn’t see that mentioned in the article either (unless I missed it). Points don’t expire but you can only redeem points against travel expenses from the last 12 months.

      • Fiby says:

        Nice. I knew about the 12 month rule but not the partial redemption rule.

        Man this card’s points are so much easier to redeem than those of the Arrival+.

        • boomX says:

          Best about this card is the 12 month rule, varied options in travel category, partial redemptions.

          Arrival+ is minimum $100 and Barclays decides how much you can redeem for a particular transaction, which is not useful.

      • Chuck says:

        Thanks for all the details, Kevin. I’ll add them to the post.

  19. Tom says:

    Just a random thought… does anyone know if Plastiq mortgage payments code as travel on this card? I assume that if that was ever the case, it was probably fixed when VISA fixed the travel coding on the CSR, but who knows… BOA isn’t exactly the best bank at closing loopholes. At 2.63%, this card would offer a slight cash back profit on Plastiq mortgage payments, and being able to redeem the earned points against those charges would be convenient. I assume this is not the case, but figured I’d ask, I can’t possibly be the first person to ever think of or try this…

    • Kevin says:

      Well, this card/program doesn’t seem to be too popular among the community who would use Plastiq so I wouldn’t be too too surprised if no one has does this with this card and knows the answer but I could be wrong. I don’t have an answer to your question but my Property Management company (I rent) only charges 2.2% for using Visa CCs. So nice little profit there (not a lot…about $120 per year, but better than nothing).

    • Chuck says:

      Tom, there was a DP that it worked, but I tried it out since the coding change and it did not work. It might depend on who you pay, but I think it won’t work ever.

      • Tom says:

        Thanks… maybe I’ll try a $100 principal payment just to see what happens, I’ll let you know if it actually works.

    • calwatch says:

      Yes, they have. I made a Plastiq payment when it was mortgage several months ago and just credit my monthly BOA travel rewards “dividend” to Plastiq. I don’t MS much on it due to lack of time to liquidate (I focus on cards that have 5% bonus categories and pay taxes or Kiva). I had transferred most of my other Bank of America CLs to Travel Rewards and thought about making a huge mortgage payment to get the 2.625% and take advantage of the 0% 12 month period. Unfortunately while I was thinking Plastiq cancelled mortgage payments on Visas, and my bank does not participate with Tio.

  20. Bill M says:

    ME free trades are nearly useless to me because they do not apply to options trades. (ME charges $15.40 for a roundtrip in a onelot options trade while I currently pay $1.20) Over 95% of my trades are options. I would not consider buying stocks or EFTs without selling options against them, but most of the time I just sell naked options or spreads without owning the underlying. So for me, there is little reason to put $100k+ in a ME account. I would consider it, however, if they offer $1,000 again for opening a new account, but even then I would likely just park the money in an EFT and sell covered calls or strangles around it until the bonus posts (looks like 90 days to qualify + however long it takes them to pay up). Then I would close it out in a heartbeat.

    • Tom says:

      Yeah, and they suck for day trading too… awful margin rates compared to IB, slow/clunky web-based java interface, no level 2 order entry, etc. But for simple, long-term strategies it can work quite well, depends on your specific needs and the sophistication of your overall strategy.

      Which broker charges $1.20 for round trip options?

  21. JasonP says:

    I still don’t understand why ppl fancy this card. There are a lot of good cards for category-specific spend. Regarding MS and general categories, 2.625 is good. However considering the hassle of redeeming, why not Alliant Signature (2.5 cb with $59 fee starting from next year, not to mention a full 3 cb the 1st year). This card is good, but not that good.

    • Kevin says:

      It’s a good point but a couple of things that helps this card/program is you get a $100 signup bonus for opening the BofA checking, a 20k point bonus (worth $200) for opening the Travel Rewards card, and a $250 bonus (higher than that a couple of times per year) for transferring $100k to ME. That more than makes up the extra .5% cashback for the first year with the Alliant card (unless you’re spending a TON on non category spend – someone want to do the math on the breakeven point?). Then it’s worse the 2nd year onward with the .125% lower cashback amount and $59 AF. Also, this card effectively gets you 4.125% back if you book travel through BofA’s Travel Center run by Orbitz.

      A “hassle” is relative.

      • Kevin says:

        Whoops, .375% difference the first year, not .5%.

      • Yu says:

        Kevin,
        When you say ‘a $250 bonus (higher than that a couple of times per year) for transferring $100k to ME. ‘, can I know when was the last time they offered higher bonus and how much was it? I am thinking to open an ML account, and was wondering if I should wait a little bit.

        Thanks.

        • Kevin says:

          After doing a quick search, it appears the last one may have been the end of last year. Here’s a link. The page still works but the code is expired: https://www.merrilledge.com/offers/1000offer

          Before this year, they were doing this exact offer seemingly in the beginning and end of each year. You might want to hold off till the fall to see if they bring it back.

          For full disclosure, those bonuses are per account. For instance, if you transfer $100k from an IRA, a single account, you’ll receive the $250 or $500 bonus. You can also qualify for the highest tier Preferred Rewards by transferring say $50k from a regular brokerage account and $50k from an IRA, for those who may not have $100k in a single account. However, this would only qualify for 2 $50k bonuses (so 2 bonuses at $150 or $250 each, instead of 1 at $250 or $500). This is how I qualified. I transferred my Roth IRA and Taxable Brokerage accounts to ME for a total of over $100k but each account had between $50k and $100k balances, so I received 2 bonuses at $150 each (I didn’t bother waiting for a promo). Hope that’s clear.

    • Chuck says:

      I agree Alliant is also a good option, but:
      1) it has an annual fee
      2) this card is slightly better at 2.6x (assuming the $100k is easy for you)
      3) I got rejected from Alliant
      4) some people need more than one non-category card

      • Kevin says:

        Plus the at least $550 in signup bonuses you get from opening the checking account, the Travel Rewards card, and transferring $100k to ME…more than makes up the difference in the first year for probably practically everyone.

  22. JASON says:

    In NYC, metro card purchase and bus tickets purchase coded as travel.

  23. Mr G says:

    I’m not sure why certain people have a problem or consider redeeming the points for this card to be a hassle. It’s really quite simple. For example I bought a $670 round trip ticket from Washington Dulles to Krakow for November at the end of June. I will use 20,000 points to offset $200 from this cost which effectively makes the airfare $470. Can’t beat that. The B of A online portal makes redeeming the points so easy. And they typically credit within two days. Fine I’m losing interest by keeping my money with B of A but you know what, people fail to realize the tax they need to pay on interest earned. I remember when we were making 6% interest 10 years ago. I was paying a lot of tax back then on that interest. For the credit card rewards I pay zero tax.

  24. Jeremy says:

    I have some questions for Will, Chuck, and the community. Do you think it’s worth applying for the new “premium” one if you are Platinum Honors and cancelling or converting this to a 123 card? Will BoA ever improve their shopping and travel insurance to be similar to Chase & Citi? I feel that keeps me from using this card more.

    • Tom says:

      At the very least, apply for the new card for the 50,000 point bonus…

      With this card, either cancel it if you don’t really like it and need to free up some BOA slots, or keep it forever since there is no annual fee…

    • Kevin says:

      I have no idea on the shopping and travel insurance but I would get the new card for at least the 50k point bonus, as well as the 3.5% back on travel and dining (unless you’re getting more than that elsewhere and if you are, please tell me where). After the first year, then it may become more of a decision on whether to keep it or not.

      Maybe you can PC the Travel Rewards card to the Cash Rewards card, get the new Premium Rewards card, then after a year, downgrade the Premium to the Travel Rewards card? I have no idea though.

    • Chuck says:

      I don’t know. Which benefits, specifically, did you see with Chase that BofA doesn’t have?

      • Jeremy says:

        Trip Interruption/Cancellation, Price Protection, Extended Warranty, Return Protection, Product Protection, and Primary Auto Collision are the ones I really value.

    • boomX says:

      I commented prior on the article on BofA Premium card:

      https://www.doctorofcredit.com/bank-america-confirms-key-details-upcoming-premium-card-100-incidental-credit-95-af/

      BofA cards come with “standard”/”basic” benefits that Visa or Mastercard provide.

      Visa signature benefits:
      https://usa.visa.com/pay-with-visa/cards/signature.html#3

      World Mastercard benefits:
      https://www.mastercard.us/en-us/consumers/find-card-products/credit-cards/world.html

      Mastercard provides exhaustive list on its website but BofA doesn’t provide all of them on its Mastercards

      Citi has all Mastercards except Costco. Most of benefits Citi provides are a combination Citi + Mastercard benefits. World Mastercards from Citi Doublecash & TY Preferred have far better benefits compared to BofA cards.

      And TY Premier, Prestige are WorldElite Mastercards which have superior benefits like trip delay, lost baggage etc

      Same goes with Chase Sapphire Preferred..comparable with Citi TY Premier.

      Even Capital One Quicksilver Mastercard has similar benefits like Citi World Mastercard does but Capital One provides all of its benefits from Mastercard directly.

      If one doesnt travel a lot and uses it for regular spending combined with Preferred Rewards Platinum Honors status, BofA Travel Rewards 2.625% cashback is very good redeeming for non-air travel/rental cars.

      I value the shopping benefits from Citi & Discover & Travel benefits from Citi WorldElite Mastercard or Chase Sapphire Preferred superior to the no AF cards.

      • calwatch says:

        I rarely use the other benefits so, with the Global Entry credit, I would probably jump on Platinum Rewards as my mid-tier card to complement my Ink Plus (for office supplies and utilities). If the Bank of America Platinum Honors travel credit only worked for fees I may ditch my American Airlines card which I use for the free bag privilege, since I normally only fly with a bag on American a couple times a year – just enough to get the benefit of the annual fee.

  25. Fred says:

    I do not have this card (I only have CashRewards), but I wanted to offer my comments on ME.

    I transferred two IRA accounts and a non-retirement account (all mutual funds) from Scottrade to meet the $100K threshold (I did partial transfers on all to avoid a fee from Scottrade).

    A few unexpected issues:
    Some of the funds I held at Scottrade could not be held at ME. I found out when filling out the online form to transfer, but I don’t think this information is available without an account unless you call ME on the phone and ask them about each fund. If you plan on doing multiple transfers with a timeline in mind, check all the funds you want to transfer before starting.

    ME’s interface does not allow you to select lots when selling mutual funds (it does with stocks/ETFs), so I had to email lists to my rep.

    I never did link any bank accounts to ME, as Yodlee wouldn’t do it automatically and I didn’t feel like mailing voided checks. If I had done so, my understanding is that I would’ve had to set up separate links for each of the three accounts.

    I could not view a daily balance other than the current day, and customer service told me they could not either. This was a great annoyance to me, because I could not determine how close I was to the $100K mark. The only information you can see is the three-month average, which of course does not tell you what your two month average is, or the daily average for the current month.

    The only major broker I had dealt with prior to this was Scottrade, and I was very disappointed in the functionality issues. However, now that I have met the $100K threshold, I mostly leave the ME accounts alone and invest in the Scottrade accounts. I do use the ME accounts for occasional short-term ETF trades, and I do like the fact that I can do an immediate transfer on margin to my local brick-and-mortar bank (but the rates are higher than Scottrade’s).

  26. Andrew Gruber says:

    I’m surprised that no has mentioned pairing this card with the AAA visa card:

    https://northeast.aaa.com/financial/more-products/aaa-visa-credit-card.html?zip=02476&devicecd=PC&referer=www.aaa.com

    The AAA card is issued by BofA and qualifies for an extra .75% when you have 100K in Merrill Lynch.

    This means 3.75% back on all Travel expenses.

    So why pair it with the BofA travel card — if you’ll be putting travel on the AAA card? Because you can transfer points from the BofA travel card to the AAA card and redeem for cash. No worries about matching points to charges. The combination allows 2.65% back on all non-travel expenses and 3.75% back on travel.

    • Tom says:

      I think most people frown upon the AAA card because there appear to be “better” competing cards and because you only get an extra 0.75% for the the extra “hassle” of having 100k on deposit, but when paired together with the TR card, it appears useful. I wasn’t aware of this trick… the only downside is that this would take up 2 of the 4 slots for BOA personal cards (obviously this isn’t a formal rule, but 4 seems to be the emerging consensus for most users these days).

    • Kevin says:

      The AAA card is no longer issued by BofA.

      • Tom says:

        Doesn’t this vary by region? On the AAA mid-Atlantic site, I still found a link to the application on BOA’s site…

        • Kevin says:

          I have no idea. I just thought the AAA card with BofA was no longer available, from what I remember reading/hearing. I’m not a AAA member so I don’t think I can get to it anyway, right?

          • Tom says:

            You might be right, I remember reading something about it earlier this year, but I can’t seem to find it now, nor can I find much of any information on the new issuer… it’s a ghost card I guess, haha…

          • Kevin says:

            Tom, it’s USBank now. DOC covered the change here: https://www.doctorofcredit.com/us-bank-takes-over-the-aaa-card-portfolio-from-bank-of-america/

            I know (or am pretty sure) that the AAA card was stilll available for a while on the BofA site but I think it was just taken down earlier this year. The above article was from Oct 2015.

          • Tom says:

            Hmmm… interesting… I still can’t find it on US Bank’s website or on AAA’s web site though… not that it matters though, since it’s irrelevant to the Travel Rewards card now… oh well.

          • Chuck says:

            Kevin, that’s not what I’m seeing on AAA. It’s still showing as being issued by BofA.
            https://midatlantic.aaa.com/member-rewards-visa
            Those cards that you linked seem to be different AAA cards.

            Pretty interesting if that card offers 3.75% on travel, though the new premium card coming it will get close to that with 3.5% on Travel. The other angle is certainly interesting that you can transfer the points to cash them out, if true.

          • BlueEyes_Austin says:

            AAA Texas still shows a link to a BOA AAA card.

    • Chuck says:

      If my math stands up, it should be 5.25% on all travel (3% X 1.75). But something tells me it won’t stack. Are you saying from personal experience that it stacks and that it pairs to be able to cash out Travel Rewards points?

      • Tom says:

        In this particular case, the 1.75 multiplier only counts on the base 1x point, not the 2x bonus point… it is explicitly mentioned in the terms somewhere. This has been confirmed. Sad 🙁

      • Andrew Gruber says:

        As reported above, the 75% bonus only applies to the ‘base’ 1x point — so 3.75% total back on travel. I can confirm through personal experience that any points earned on the BofA Travel card can be transferred to the BofA AAA card at 1c/point and then transferred to your BofA bank account.

    • Bo says:

      The signup bonus for the BoA AAA card is now a $50 Walmart Gift Card. Also it’s hard to get approved IME. I believe it is still covered by PR (according to BoA phone call). The multiplier applies just to the base point (e.g. (1%+2%)–>(1%*1.75+2%)=3.75%
      This card seems to be fading away though.

      • Tom says:

        LOL… at least the signup bonus is higher than the bonus that Walmart routinely offers for their own credit card (Free 2 liter bottle of soda).

    • I_Keep_My_Cards_In_A_Safe says:

      Nice! So basically this new rumored premium card is worse than the combination of the BofA travel and AAA (except for the restaurants perhaps).

  27. Mike says:

    I’m in love with this card. I only travel once a year so I redeem my points through my BofA business card at 1%. I earn 2.625 Cash back on everything this way. I use this card for personal and business expenses. I average 100k in purchases a month with this card. 🙂

  28. Tom says:

    Which BOA business card?

  29. Sam says:

    Here is something you should know about this card – I have it for some time now and I am preferred platinum, so eligible for the full 2.625%.

    It has no foreign transaction charge – BUT charges made on foreign currency DO NOT earn anything, not even the 1.5%.

    When this happened to me I called them and was told that there is no earning on such charges.

    If anyone has a different experience – I would like to know.

  30. Julien says:

    A travel card that doesn’t offer any travel insurance isn’t worth keeping.

    I am prone to getting sick frequently and would never book travel on a card that doesn’t have trip cancellation or interruption insurance. That means I could never get the 2.6% rewards rate.

    I use the Chase Sapphire Reserve which meets my needs much better.

  31. Jordan says:

    Another thing that you should add to the post if no one pointed it out yet – YOU CAN TRANSFER YOUR POINTS TO ANYONE! WOO HOO.

  32. I_Keep_My_Cards_In_A_Safe says:

    Also there are data points that you can convert the Merrill+ to this card. Seems like a nice way of getting a better sign up bonus.

  33. NinjaX says:

    i am absolutely impressed by the level of discussion for a no AF 20k bonus CC that doesnt really do anything unless youre plat honors. this is niche use and only for certain people.

    so many other CC news happening recently. so seriously. wat is all this discussion about? if you understand it, get it. if not, move along.

    • calwatch says:

      Despite DOC advertising “your prescription for healthy credit” and their Twitter as a place for tips “like how to get your credit score for free” this blog has always catered to a higher net worth, more sophisticated crowd than the kind that troll Creditboards or need circles and arrows. $100,000 with Merrill Edge is a good amount of money, but not unreasonable for someone with 10 years or more in the workforce.

      • NinjaX says:

        exactly. and thats why i value bofa while others think its trash. their loss. n00bs should just move on. other posts deserve more discussion.

  34. stampman79 says:

    I’ve had this card since April 2015, and I mainly use it for travel and non-bonused spending such as taxes, utilities, car repairs, etc. I have seen some odd things that have unexpected coded as travel purchases. These include:

    Gym Membership
    Entry fees for a couple of 5K races
    Fudge shop next to Newport, KY Aquarium

    Museums and historic homes may code as travel, but often code as gift shops. For example, the Rosedale House in Charlotte, NC coded as travel while the NC Transportation Museum in Spencer, NC did not. Obvious travel expense such as car rentals, motels, cruises, etc. have always coded as travel without any problems.

    Since I prefer cashback to points and am eligible for platinum rewards, this card has been a good value for me. It’s not for everybody though.

  35. Somebody says:

    I used to pay rent with this card directly to the apartment complex. They didn’t charge me a % fee but a $30 transaction fee surcharge instead up to $2000 and it counted as travel credit.

  36. Bub says:

    This card works well in Djibouti, where they only take Visa and from where some issuers auto block transactions due to fraud risk.

    I add that as new info, as the main post mostly repeats what is on other blogs.

  37. Jason says:

    Is this a churnable card?

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