Bank of America Travel Rewards Credit Card Review
If you're a casual, no-frills traveler, you should check out the Bank of America Travel Rewards card. With no annual fee and opportunities for cash bonuses, this card could very well provide the financial boost you've been searching for.
The Bank of America Travel Rewards credit card (also known as the Bank of America BankAmericard Travel card) may be an excellent option for existing Bank of America customers, particularly those who take advantage of its Preferred Rewards program.
However, it would take spending an extraordinary amount of money to earn enough points to make a dent on an expensive vacation, which means there are likely better options for people looking to head out sooner than later.
So, is the Bank of America Travel Rewards card worth it?
Strength: stellar sign-up bonuses and flexible rewards program
Do you hate being tied to a particular travel brand when trying to redeem points?
This rewards program gives you the freedom to travel with whichever company you like.
New Travel Rewards cardholders will benefit from an introductory 0% APR offer, as well as 20,000 bonus points (if you spend at least $1,000 in purchases within the first three months).
Those bonus points represent a free $200 worth of travel credits, which can be applied to any travel-related expense.
For Bank of America checking or savings account holders, the benefits can get even sweeter: A 10% points bonus.
And for Bank of America Preferred Rewards clients, those bonuses can range from 25-75% depending on which of the three tiers you find yourself in.
The tiers are calculated according to the number of Bank of America products and services you subscribe to and the value of those accounts.
Other benefits of the Bank of America Travel Rewards card include no annual fee and no foreign-transaction fees.
Weakness: points are low-value
The spend-to-points ratio for the BankAmericard Travel card is diluted.
For non-Bank of America banking clients, accruing points will definitely be a slow-moving process.
You'd have to spend $33,350 a year to get $500 worth of travel credits.
That same $33,350 would get you $871 in statement credits as a Platinum Honors Preferred Rewards customer, which is the highest rewards tier.
The card also doesn't provide trip-cancellation insurance, rental-car insurance (save for a collision damage waiver), airport lounge access or any of the other common perks associated with travel-rewards cards.
All told, after the sign-up bonus, the long-term benefits of the Travel Rewards card may appear weak compared to other rewards credit cards.
Good for you if: you're not in a hurry to travel
Do you have the itch to travel but no particular destination in mind?
If you don't have any specific travel goals and are instead looking for a way to passively collect credits for future use, then the BankAmericard Travel card may be up your alley.
If you have a specific vacation in your short-term plans, it may not be the fastest way to get to your destination — but it could be a good way to accrue credits to put toward future travel expenses.
1. The half-century history of the BankAmericard
As an institution, Bank of America's story began much earlier than 1958.
Before it was the Bank of America, it was the Bank of Italy — a financial institution founded, confusingly, in San Francisco in 1904 to serve the banking needs of American immigrants.
It was renamed Bank of America following a merger in 1930.
Now it's the second-largest bank in the U.S. after JPMorgan Chase.
Today, the Bank of America offers a wide range of financial solutions, as well as an array of credit cards.
Its Bank of America BankAmericard Travel Rewards credit card is just one of several cards under the BankAmericard umbrella.
That said, all the other travel-rewards cards on offer via the Bank of America are tied to a particular travel company (Amtrak, Norwegian Cruise Line, and Alaska Airlines, among others).
2. It's best if you don't need in-person banking support
While Bank of America has more than 4,000 branches and ATMs throughout the United States, it doesn't have a presence in every state.
That may be fine if you don't need in-person customer support, but it's worth considering as you shop around for rewards credit cards.
This is a coverage map so you can do your research if having a physical branch is a priority to you.
That said, the Bank of America Travel Rewards card is internationally recognized.
Its chip-and-PIN (EMV) feature also makes it a good choice for foreign travel; EMV is the standard in 130 countries.
3. Main Competition: Chase Sapphire Preferred card
The Bank of America Travel Rewards credit card is one of the most popular rewards cards in the U.S., and with a $0 annual fee, it's easy to see why.
However, there are other cards on the market with manageable annual fees that offer far more generous rewards. Here's three to consider:
The Chase Sapphire Preferred card is a top-rated card offering travelers higher rewards rates on travel (airfare, taxis, trains, hotels, etc.) and dining purchases.
The Chase Sapphire Preferred card also offers trip-cancellation insurance, which the Bank of America Travel Rewards card does not.
The Chase Sapphire Preferred card has an introductory offer that waives the $95 annual fee for the first year, and new cardholders will get 50,000 bonus points if they spend $4,000 in the first three months.
The points are also worth slightly more than the Bank of America Travel Rewards card's points.
But, the Chase Sapphire Preferred card does not have any kind of 0% APR introductory offer; rather, the interest rate is a 16.99–23.99% variable APR straight out of the gate.
The Citi/AAdvantage Gold card offers new applicants 25,000 bonus miles after $750 spent in the first three months (down from the $1,000 that Bank of America Travel Rewards requires).
That's enough points, we should add, for a roundtrip to anywhere in the U.S.
The Citi card also has an introductory 0% APR on purchases and balance transfers for 15 months, compared to Bank of America's 12 billing cycles and 3% balance-transfer fee.
The downside of the Citi card, though, is that after the first year an annual fee of $50 kicks in.
And after the first 15 months, the APR settles in at between 16.74-24.74% depending on the cardholder's creditworthiness.
And finally, the card is tied to American Airlines, which may or may not be good news depending on the traveler.
The PenFed Premium Travel Rewards American Express card also has a $0 annual fee, and the variable APR starts at 9.74% and maxes out at 17.99%.
Airfare purchases are worth five points per $1 spent, while non-airfare purchases get you one point for every $1 spent.
The Citi's Costco Anywhere Visa card offers fairly generous cash-back on gas, travel, restaurant, and Costco purchases.
This card offers 0% APR for the first seven months (followed by 16.24% APR) and a $0 annual fee.
The catch is you need to be a Costco member to qualify for it — a $50 annual fee.
If you're more interested in cash rewards than travel rewards, take a look at the BankAmericard Cash Rewards card as another option.
4. Overview: how it works and what people think
While most credit-card companies do rewards-mile programs in which X-number of miles collected represents X-number of miles you can travel, the Bank of America Travel Rewards card does things a little differently.
Rather than deal with miles, the credit card issuer uses points that can be exchanged for credits to offset travel expenses.
You get 1.5 points for every $1 spent on the card but with a $0.01 point value, it takes an astronomical amount of points to get anywhere.
At the same time, the post-introductory interest rate (15.99–23.99% depending on creditworthiness) will likely inspire cardholders to keep a low balance — meaning it could take much longer to accrue a substantial amount of points.
In large part because of this, consumers and experts generally agree it's not the most generous rewards program available on the market.
The ins-and-outs of the Bank of America Travel Reward credit card
Benefits. As mentioned above, there are a few notable benefits of the Bank of America Travel Rewards card.
Chief among them are the sign-up bonuses, which include 20,000 bonus points (value: $200 travel credit) and 0% APR in the first 12 billing cycles.
After that, all cardholders enjoy:
- An unlimited 1.5 points for every $1 you spend.
- No foreign transaction fees.
- No annual fee.
- No blackout dates and restrictions.
- No expiry date on points.
- Heightened security. EMV (chip-and-PIN) cards are a standard across Europe, Canada and a number of other parts of the world and are better at preventing fraud than magnetic-stripe cards.
Rewards. Let's say you've purchased a plane ticket, a few nights in a hotel, and paid for a car rental with your credit card.
You can then log in to the points-redemption dashboard to check off the expenses you want to use your points toward.
If your travel expenses totaled $1,000 and you've got $1,000 worth of points, you just went on a free vacation.
But at a value of $0.01 per point, you'll have to save up a while before going on your dream cruise.
Alternatively, points can be redeemed for gift cards and cash if you're not planning any travel.
They can even be used to make a payment on a mortgage loan or contribute to an education-savings account — as long as they're either Bank of America or Merrill Lynch accounts.
That said, the value of the points is halved when redeemed for cash or gift cards, putting the per-point value at $0.006.
The good news is customers who use the Bank of America Travel Center to make purchases will double the value of their points.
Customers can earn three points for every $1 (in net purchases) spent through the Travel Center — and there's no maximum number of bonus points.
Interest rates and APR. Once the 0% APR for 12 billing cycles expires, you're then on the hook for 15.99-23.99% APR for purchases and balance transfers.
Applicants should also note that rate is variable and is subject to market fluctuations. If you use your credit card for bank cash advances, you'll see your APR soar to 25.99%.
And if you're late with a payment, the penalty APR reaches a steep 29.99%.
Other fees. The Bank of America Travel Rewards card has a $0 annual fee. But that doesn't mean there aren't any fees associated with the card — and according to consumer reviews, Bank of America is unforgiving in the fee department.
Here's the breakdown of what you can expect for late payments, balance transfers, cash advances, and other services:
- Late-payment fees: Up to $38.
- Returned-payment fees: Up to $27.
- Wire transfer from a non-financial institution: $10 or 5% of the transaction value, whichever is greater.
- Balance transfer: Either $10 or 3% of the transaction value, whichever is greater.
- Direct deposit and check cash advances: Either $10 or 3% of the transaction value, whichever is greater.
- Equivalent cash advances (via ATM, over-the-counter, same-day online): Either $10 or 5% of the transaction value, whichever is greater.
- Overdraft protection cash advance: $12 per transaction.
People love this card because of its flexible rewards
Customers can use the travel credits toward airfare, train, hotel, vehicle rentals, taxis and so on, regardless of the provider.
Expert reviewers agree that the Bank of America Travel Rewards card is a good option for people who generally keep a low balance and pay off their cards in full each billing period — but that there are likely better options out there for big spenders.
As CardRatings.com notes, "The rewards and intro offer are decent for low to average credit card spenders, but if you're a heavy credit card user, you can likely find another travel rewards card with more substantial rewards."
What people hate most about the card
All the gotcha fees. As MoneyUnder30.com writes, "So what's the catch? How does Bank of America make money on this card that charges neither an annual fee nor a foreign transaction fee, and which gives out competitive rewards?"
The catch is the high post-introductory APR, as well as hefty additional fees for balance transfers and late fees.
The biggest consumer complaints: bad customer service
A common thread throughout recent reviews about the Bank of America Travel Rewards card on ConsumerAffairs.com hinges on rigid, confused and even stingy customer-service practices, as well as an overzealous fee policy.
One ConsumerAffairs.com reviewer wrote that they were charged a $25 late fee for being six hours late on a payment.
Another wrote that after not being given the $200/20,000 points promotional credit they were owed as part of the terms of the card, a customer-service agent canceled the card without the client's consent.
5. Best Feature: fraud-prevention services (since fraud is on the rise)
Billions of dollars have been lost in recent years to credit-card fraud.
Chip-and-PIN (EMV) cards are making headway in curbing fraud, but the U.S.'s slow implementation of EMV technology has turned some cardholders into sitting ducks.
The Bank of America Travel Rewards card is an EMV card, which should put world travelers at ease; the technology is standard in 130 countries so far.
For online shopping, Bank of America's ShopSafe digital service (which uses temporary card numbers linked to your account to make online purchases) and $0 liability guarantee for fraudulent transactions helps further protect consumers from fraudsters.
6. Applying for the card on their site
You can apply for the Bank of America Travel Rewards credit card online by visiting this page or by calling 1.800.932.2775.
If you're an existing Bank of America checking or savings account holder, and/or if you have investments with Bank of America or Merrill Lynch, you may be eligible for the Preferred Rewards status that could get you a big boost in the value of your travel-rewards points.
Once you've got the card, you can log-in to your Travel Rewards profile page to check your points balance and redeem your points.
Watch this video to learn more about earning and redeeming points on your Bank of America Travel Rewards credit card.
7. Closing your account: Call customer support
Call customer service at 1-800-732-9194. Alternatively, you can stop by a local branch to speak to a personal banker, or you can send a written cancellation request to:
Bank of America
PO Box 982234
El Paso, TX 79998-2234
You should know that you'll immediately forfeit any unredeemed points upon cancellation of the account — so it's a good idea to spend them before calling to cancel. Other than that, there are no penalties for closing the account.
By and large, the most common questions consumers have about the Bank of America Travel Rewards credit card are "Is it worth it?" and "how does it compare to the Chase Sapphire Preferred card?"
Is the Bank of America Travel Rewards card worth it?
Well, that depends on you and the reason why you're considering this particular card.
If you want to find a rewards program that will foot the bill for a two-week European vacation next year, you'll likely find more generous offers elsewhere.
But if you are a low-budget traveler — or if your travel plans are further off in the distance — it could be a good option, especially if you've got other Bank of America products in your portfolio.
Just keep in mind that carrying a big balance at the post-introductory APR will result in some pretty hefty interest charges.
How does it compare to the Chase Sapphire Preferred card?
The Chase Sapphire Preferred card is favored over the Bank of America Travel Rewards card by consumers and experts because it has a more generous points structure.
What's the best way to collect and redeem these points?
The best way to collect points fast is to have multiple high-value products with Bank of America or Merrill Lynch (or a Merrill Edge) (investments, mortgages, savings accounts, etc.).
That way you may be eligible for the highest Preferred Rewards tier on offer, which would get you a 75% bonus on your rewards points.
To redeem the points, you can either apply points toward travel expenses or cash them in for money or gift cards, all of which can be done through the Bank of America Travel Rewards portal.
Is the Bank of America Travel Rewards card chip-and-PIN?
Yes. Chip-and-PIN (EMV) cards are the new standard in credit-card security because they make it much more difficult (compared to magnetic stripes) for fraudsters to copy secure card information.
Does the Bank of America Travel Rewards card offer airport lounge access?
Unfortunately, it does not.
Does the Bank of America Travel Rewards card offer car-rental insurance?
Most Visa cards offer roadside assistance (at a cost) and collision damage waivers for rental cars, and the Visas offered through Bank of America are no different.
You should call first to know whether this applies to your card, or consult the benefits guide.
To report theft or damage of a rental car, contact the bank at 1-800-592-4089 (in the U.S.) or 1-804-673-1468 (outside of the U.S.).
Is the Bank of America Travel Rewards credit card the right one for you?
If you're an aspiring jet-setter with short-term travel plans, chances are you'llfind a more generous offer elsewhere.
But if you just want a no-annual-fee card that gets you a break on travel expenses — or even get a cash bonus every now and then — this card may be a good option for you.
Just remember to keep your balance low and to pay it on time, every time, to save on interest charges and late fees.
Do you use the Bank of America Travel Rewards card?
How has the card worked out for you?
Any great tips (or nightmares) to share with the rest of us?
Let us know in the comments below.