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Which is better? Capital One vs. Bank of America

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The Verdict

Capital One offers more freedom and incentives

Bank of America and Capital One are two of the biggest names in the banking and credit industry.

And if you're debating whether to get a rewards, cash-back, or everyday credit card to keep in your wallet, you'll likely be choosing between these two industry behemoths.

When putting the two companies' credit card programs head-to-head, though, one thing becomes clear:

Capital One should be in your wallet.

And no, not just because you'd be making Samuel L. Jackson happy by doing so.

It comes down to the fact that the company offers more to choose from for all financial backgrounds, they offer more attractive rewards programs, and provide better services for the 21st-century customer.

Why One Is Stronger

Capital One offers more options than Bank of America

For those looking to use a card that will earn them rewards points and cash-back, Capital One's credit cards are some of the most appealing ones out there.

More attractive rewards.

The Capital One Venture card, that we've reviewed in great detail, offers double miles on every purchase — and doesn't split rewards into confusing categories.

How much do banks spend on rewards?

So you'd be rewarded more by using the BankAmericard travel rewards card, which nets you 1.5 miles per dollar on purchases.

For those looking at cash-back rewards, the Capital One Quicksilver, which we also review for you, will earn you 1.5% cashback on every single purchase.

BankAmericard Cash Rewards card, on the other hand, offers 2% cash back on purchases at grocery stores and wholesale clubs, 3% cashback on gas (but only up to the first $2,500 spent in combined grocery/wholesale club/gas purchases each quarter), and 1% cashback on all other purchases.

While it does offer higher percentage in certain areas, the Quicksilver's 1.5% cash back feature has a little higher earning potential since it applies to all purchases and comes without limits and rewards that never expire.

More options for more people.

If you don't have an excellent credit score, you still have options with Capital One.

Some of the company's cards, like the QuicksilverOne and Platinum, only require an average credit rating for approval.

And Capital One's Secured MasterCard is for people with poor or no credit history.

Simply pay a minimum deposit of $49, $99, or $200 (depending on your score) and receive a credit limit that can range from $200-3,000.

Capital One's Secured card comes with no annual fee, which makes it more appealing than Bank of America's secured card, which comes with a $39 fee and a $300 minimum deposit.

No foreign transaction fees.

One of the best things about Capital One's cards is that none of them carry foreign transaction fees, making them ideal for anyone who travels often.

People love Capital One credit cards because of its low fees and high rewards

Customers love Capital One credit cards because they offer a lot for a little.

"While many travel rewards credit cards have a tiered reward payout that awards more points or miles for specific purchase categories like dining, travel, or staying at a particular brand of hotels, the Capital One Venture card earns 2 miles on every purchase.

"Whether you buy gas, groceries, or a plane ticket to Bora Bora, you earn 2 miles for every dollar spent," writes Johnny Jet of Forbes.

People also love the fact that Capital One cards often come with low fees and, best of all, no foreign transaction fees.

"Capital One is the rare card issuer that doesn't charge foreign transaction fees on any of its cards," writes Brian Kelly, The Points Guy.

And customers echo those sentiments.

"Love the credit card - I feel it's the best bang for my buck - small annual fee for double points so it more than pays for itself throughout the year," writes LauraD32 of Island Lake, IL, in a review on capitalone.com.

Are you worried about your credit card security?

The biggest customer complaint about Capital One credit cards is the lack of credit line increases

Many customers complained about what they view as unfair credit lines.

Many customers noted that despite no missed payments and using the card often, they were refused increases on their credit line.

"I've had my capital one credit card since 1998. About 4-5 years ago, they finally increased my credit limit," writes Jennyjack of Montgomery, AL, on capitalone.com.

Counter Argument

Bank of America is more rewarding for high-worth individuals

Bank of America really throws its customers some extra love in the form of padded bonuses.

Added bonuses for current customers at BOA.

If you already have a savings or checking account with Bank of America, you could potentially reap way more rewards.

Bank of America has a tiered system — Gold, Platinum, and Platinum Honors — that rewards customers with extra cash back.

So if you have a BankAmericard Cash Rewards card, you can earn an extra 25% cash back if you have $20,000+ in combined balances in your Bank of America banking and/or Merrill Edge and Merrill Lynch investment accounts.

Moreover, you can earn an extra 50% for accounts with more than $50,000, or 75% for accounts totaling more than $100,000.

To put that in perspective, if you have a cash-back credit card and you redeem $100 into a Bank of America checking or savings account, your total cash back could potentially increase to $175.

People love Bank of America credit cards because of its rewards to current customers

A lot of reviews point to the high-earning potential for current Bank of America customers when using the company's cards.

"The way I see it is that if you can maximize Preferred Rewards, you're essentially getting a no-annual-fee card (after using the airline credit) that gives you 3.5x on travel and dining and 2.625x on everything else, "says Brian Kelly of The Points Guy.

"If you're looking for a straight cash-back card, no other card comes close to that. The moment I heard of this card, I immediately moved $100,000 into a Merrill Lynch investment account so I could start qualifying for Platinum Honors."

The biggest customer complaint about Bank of America is about its customer service

Most customers who review Bank of America's credit cards complain about abysmal customer service.

"BOA has its customer services totally inaccessible behind inapplicable menu choices both online and over the phone," says Beth from Ligonier, PA, on consumeraffairs.com.

"Too bad there is no zero star, worst calling center…" says Hames of San Jose, CA, on consumeraffairs.com

What do you value in customer service?

About the Companies

Capital One and Bank of America are two of the largest credit card issuers

Capital one issued 45 million credit cards last year, making it the seventh largest company in the space.

Bank of America issued 32 million cards in 2016, bringing it up right behind Capital One in the eighth spot.

Capital One

If you've watched television in the last few years, you're familiar with Capital One.

The financial company, a pioneer of mass marketing credit cards back in the 1990s, spends nearly two-billion dollars a year on advertising.

You've probably had Samuel L. Jackson (or any of the company's other celebrity partners) ask you that burning question: "What's in your wallet?"

You're the ideal customer for Capital One if you're looking to use a card for everyday purchases and travel often

  • Do you use your credit card for everyday purchases?
  • Do you travel overseas often?
  • Are overseas fees hitting you hard in the wallet?
  • Do you care more about rewards than interest rates?

If you've answered yes to these questions, then Capital One's credit card offerings are right in your wheelhouse.

Bank of America

While Bank of America is best known for, well, its banking and credit card offerings, it's delved into the world of the arts.

One major sponsorship lately?

Teaming up with Ken Burns and Florentine Films.

Bank of America recently bankrolled Burns' latest and much talked about series, The Vietnam War, which premiered on PBS in September.

The film explores the war's impact on society and culture from the perspectives of soldiers, civilians, and protesters on all sides.

Learn more about the stories of the conflict and the making of the film.

You're the ideal customer for Bank of America if you have a good amount of savings

  • Do you currently/plan on opening a checking account with Bank of America?
  • Do you have a lot of savings?
  • Do you have good to excellent credit?

If you answered yes to these questions, then you should look further into Bank of America's offerings.

What is your personal savings rate?

Services Offered

Capital One and Bank of America both offer various credit cards

Both Capital One and Bank of America offer a varied list of credit cards that run the gamut from basic lines of credit to travel rewards card to cash-back cards.

Capital One customers can expect credit limits that range, depending on card and other factors, from $300-$20,000.

Bank of America users report credit limits on the lower end of the spectrum, from $2,000-$3,000 for unsecured cards and $10,000 for secured cards.

Capital One Credit Cards: The Good and the Bad

One of the best things about Capital One's credit cards is the wide approval spectrum.

Wide approval spectrum. Whether you have excellent credit or no credit at all, you can still get approved for a Capital One card.

Some of its cards, like the QuicksilverOne and Platinum, only require an average credit rating for approval.

And Capital One's Secured MasterCard is for people with poor or no credit history.

Simply pay a minimum deposit of $49, $99, or $200 and receive a credit limit that can range from $200-3,000.

Capital One's Secured card comes with no annual fee, which makes it even more appealing.

But, Capital One cards often come with some type of annual fee.

Annual fees. Some of Capital One credit cards do carry a fee. For example, the Venture card has a $59 annual fee.

Bank of America Credit Cards: The Good and the Bad

One of the best things about Bank of America credit cards is that they offer added bonuses if you have a checking or savings account with them.

Padded bonuses for banking customers. If you use a Bank of America card, you should consider opening a checking account with the bank as well.

That's because Bank of America has a tiered system — Gold, Platinum, and Platinum Honors — that rewards customers with extra cash back.

And while that's great, you have to clear a high hurdle before you reap those benefits.

High bar to clear. To earn extra bonuses through Bank of America's Preferred Rewards program, you have to have at least $20,000 in a Bank of America account.

So that means those who could benefit most from that extra cash back won't be eligible.

The takeaway: Capital One's wide approval spectrum make its credit cards more appealing to more people

Since you can be approved for a Capital One Secured MasterCard with little to no credit history, not to mention the handful of other cards it offers that require only a decent credit score, Capital One is a better option for a wider range of people.

Rewards and Bonuses

You can get cash back and travel rewards with Capital One and Bank of America

Both Capital One and Bank of America offer a litany of rewards with different cards, from cash-back incentives to travel rewards to sign-up bonuses.

Favorite credit card perks

The good and the bad about Capital One's rewards and bonuses

Capital one has three main cash back rewards cards, Quicksilver, QuicksilverOne, and Premier Dining Rewards, along with the Venture and VentureOne travel rewards cards.

These cards have a lot of upside to them.

High earning potential. Both the Quicksilver and QuicksilverOne cards will net you unlimited 1.5% cash back on every single purchase you make, while the Premier Dining card earns unlimited 3% cash back on dining, 2% on groceries, and 1% on all other purchases.

The Venture and VentureOne will get you two miles and 1.5 miles for each dollar you spend, respectively.

Sign-up bonuses. The Quicksilver card comes with a sign-up bonus of a potential $150 one-time cash bonus when you spend $500 on purchases within 3 months of account opening.

The travel rewards cards also come with eye-catching bonuses for new cardholders: the Venture comes with 40,000 bonus miles once you spend $3,000 on purchases within the first three months from account opening.

Just a notch down, the VentureOne card comes with 20,000 bonus miles once you spend $1,000 on purchases within the first 3 months from account opening.

Rewards don't expire. With the Quicksilver card, cash back rewards never expire as long as your account remains open and in good standing.

But those benefits should be weighed against Capital One's downfalls.

Points halved for cash back. First and foremost, the Capital One Venture Card is a travel-rewards card.

So although users have the choice of redeeming miles for cash or gift cards, those miles would only be valued at half a cent.

If you have 40,000 miles, for example, that only translates into $200 when redeemed for cash.

The good and the bad about Bank of America rewards and bonuses

Bank of America offers a few different rewards based cards.

The BankAmericard Cash Rewards is the company's primary cash-back cards, and the BankAmericard Travel Rewards and Premium Rewards cards are the main travel rewards cards.

Good rewards structure. The Bank of America Cash Rewards card earns 1% cash back on every purchase, 2% at grocery stores and wholesale clubs, and 3% on gas for the first $2,500 in combined grocery/wholesale club/gas purchases each quarter.

The Travel Rewards card nets you unlimited 1.5 points for every $1 you spend on all purchases everywhere.

Check out this breakdown of all of Bank of America's travel rewards cards for you.

With the Premium Rewards card, you could earn 2 points for every $1 spent on travel and dining purchases and 1.5 points per $1 on all other purchases.

Sign-up bonuses. Many of Bank of America's cards come with new customer bonuses.

The Travel Rewards card comes with 20,000 bonus points if you make at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of your account opening, which can be redeemed for a $200 statement credit toward travel purchases.

The Premium card earns 50,000 bonus points after you make at least $3,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening.

Padded bonuses for banking customers. If you're a Bank of America customer, you can get a 10% customer bonus every time you redeem your cash back into a Bank of America checking or savings account.

And if you qualify as a Bank of America Preferred Rewards client, you could increase that bonus to 25-75%.

But of course, there are some downsides to Bank of America's rewards.

High bar to clear. To earn extra bonuses through Bank of America's Preferred Rewards program, you have to have at least $20,000 in a Bank of America account.

So that means those who could benefit most from that extra cash back won't be eligible.

Limitations on rewards. Bank of America caps cash back earnings at $2,500 per quarter.

That means if you spend more than $833 a month at grocery stores, wholesale clubs, and gas stations, there are more rewarding cards for you.

The takeaway: Capital One offers more incentives to everyday customers

While Bank of America offers high rewards potential, those are only passed on, for the most part, to banking customers.

Capital One, however, offers rewards that any type of customer could benefit from.

Benefits

Both offer customers travel and purchase-related coverage

Both Capital One and Bank of America offer benefits to cardholders such as fraud protection and travel insurance, among others.

The good and the bad about Capital One benefits

Capital One has many upsides in terms of benefits to cardholders.

Travel upgrades and savings. Receive complimentary upgrades and special savings at hotels, resorts, and spas with your Capital One card.

24-hour travel assistance services. If your credit card is lost or stolen, you can get an emergency replacement card and a cash advance.

Auto rental collision damage waiver. When you rent an eligible vehicle with a Capital One credit card, you can be covered for damage due to collision or theft.

Travel accident insurance. Cardholders get automatic insurance for a covered loss at no extra charge.

Extended warranty. Cardholders get additional warranty protection at no charge on eligible items that are purchased with a Capital One credit card.

But there is a caveat.

Limited protection. If you paid partially for something with your Capital One credit card, only that amount is covered by the extended warranty, not the full purchase price.

The good and the bad about Bank of America benefits

Bank of America offers a lot of key benefits to cardholders, like fraud protection.

Fraud protection. Bank of America offers a $0 liability guarantee for fraudulent transactions.

credit card fraud by state

ShopSafe enabled. ShopSafe security adds an extra layer of protection when you shop online.

The ShopSafe service (which has no charge, no registration, and no commitment) generates a temporary credit card number that links directly to your real credit card account number so that your card number remains completely private and protected.

Free FICO scores. Bank of America provides its customers a monthly FICO score from TransUnion.

The takeaway: Capital One offers more benefits to customers

With its travel assistance, rental car protection, and extended warranty, Capital One offers much more in terms of benefits than does Bank of America.

Costs & Fees

You'll pay annual fees for select Capital One and Bank of America cards

Both Capital One and Bank of America offer cards that come with annual fees and higher-than-average APRs.

The good and the bad about Capital One's costs and fees

No foreign transaction fees and limited annual fees make Capital One very attractive.

No foreign transaction fees. All Capital One cards come with no foreign transaction fees, which means you can use the company's cards throughout the world with no penalty.

Few annual fees. Most of Capital One credit cards come without an annual fee.

Only two of the company's most popular cards come with fees: The Venture Rewards card comes with a $0 intro for the first year, $59 annual fee after that.

The QuicksilverOne card comes with a measly $39 annual fee attached.

But the company's high APRs may outweigh those positives.

Higher-than-average APRs. While both the Quicksilver and QuicksilverOne cards come with a 0% intro APR for nine months, you'll be hit with a 13.99-23.99% variable APR after that for the Quicksilver and a 24.99% variable APR for the QuicksilverOne.

Both of those are well above the average 12.8% average APR for credit cards. So if you plan to keep a balance on your credit card, you may want to look elsewhere.

The good and the bad about Bank of America's costs and fees

Bank of America offers one big positive to cardholders: few of its cards carry an annual fee.

Few annual fees. Bank of America's most popular cards, including the Cash Rewards, Travel Rewards, and BankAmericard come with no annual fees attached.

But that good is outweighed by the higher-than-average APRs.

High APRs. The Bank of America Cash Rewards card comes attached with a 13.99-23.99%, along with a 3% fee (min $10) on balance transfers.

The Bank of America Travel Rewards card has a variable APR ranging from 15.99-23.99%. Both of those are above the average of 12.8%.

The takeaway: Capital One's lower fees, APRs, and no transaction fees make it more attractive than Bank of America

Not only does Capital One offer no foreign transaction fees, it also offers lower APRs than Bank of America.

Customer Service

Both have less-than-desirable customer service

Neither company is exactly a breeze to work with if you find yourself with a technical or financial problem related to your credit card.

What do you do when you have poor customer service?

The good and the bad about Capital One's customer service

Capital One offers 24/7 online and phone-based customer service.

Complimentary concierge service. Capital One offers assistance 24 hours a day, from home and when you travel.

Some customers, however, don't find the customer service to be all that helpful.

Lax service. "I found the customer service to be lacking. It was frustrating sometimes getting someone on the phone who knew what my problems were and could help me," writes RachADuncan in an online review.

The good and the bad about Bank of America customer service

One upside to Bank of America's customer service is that you can contact them online if you prefer not to call.

Online help. Bank of America has secured chat feature on their website that allows customers to contact customer service representatives.

The company also encourages customers to tweet them with questions or concerns.

The company's customer service, however, does not appear to satisfy most customers.

Poorly reviewed customer service. Most customers who review Bank of America's credit cards complain about abysmal customer service.

"BOA has its customer services totally inaccessible behind inapplicable menu choices both online and over the phone," says Beth from Ligonier, PA, on consumeraffairs.com.

The takeaway: The complaints against Bank of America's customer service make it less desirable than Capital One

Too many customer have complained against Bank of America's customer service to give it any benefit of the doubt.

Key Digital Services

Capital One and Bank of America offer robust mobile apps

The good and the bad about Capital One's digital service

Capital One offers a robust of online and mobile banking options, making it easier than ever to manage credit accounts and rewards in the digital age.

Capital One mobile app. Capital One has mobile apps for the iPhone, Android, Apple Watch, and iPad that allow customers to manage their account from anywhere, anytime.

The app enables you to pay your bill, view your balance and transactions, redeem rewards, and track your credit score for free.

Track your points. The dashboard on the Capital One customer portal allows you to easily track your miles.

When you sign in, the total miles accumulated appears large at the top of the page.

Easily book trips. Capital One partners with Orbitz, which allows you to easily book trips through the Capital One website.

Redeem miles with the Capital One Purchase Eraser. Simply click redeem miles and the Capital One Travel Eraser will simply put your miles (however many you choose to redeem) and you'll be reimbursed for your travel costs.

Though Capital One offers a robust amount of digital services, the mobile app appears to not have been updated for the iPhone 7.

App not updated for new phones. Some customers have written reviews stating they can no longer log into the mobile app on the iPhone 7.

"I get a pop-up that says 'we've hit a snag…it's been like this for months," writes Ecto Hunter on the Apple store.

The good and the bad about Bank of America digital services

Bank of America offers some pretty standard options in terms of digital services.

Online account management. The client portal on Bank of America's website allows customers to track all important details of their accounts: transactions, payments, and rewards.

Bank of America mobile app. Bank of America's mobile app allows customers to pay bills, access your FICO score, and view recent transactions.

Mobile bank usage by phone type

The takeaway: Capital One is much more digitally savvy than Bank of America

Capital One offers a lot more digital features that make tracking and managing your account seamless.

How To Start Services

Go to the each company's website to get started

The best way to get started with both companies is to apply for one of its credit cards on its website.

Best way to begin with Capital One

If Capital One's host of rewards cards and online features appeal to you, then head to Capital One's website now to apply for any of its cards.

After you successfully sign up, Capital One will reach out to you within seven to ten days with your card, or information on why you were denied approval.

How best to begin with Bank of America

If you're an existing Bank of America customer, you can go into your local branch and apply for a credit card there.

You can also apply online through the Bank of America website. Select the card you want and click "Apply Now."

How to Cancel

The easiest way to cancel cards with either company is to contact customer service

If you're unhappy with either a Capital One or Bank of America credit card, you'll have to contact customer service to cancel any of your cards.

Stop using a Capital One card by contacting customer service

In order to cancel a card with Capital One, you must contact Capital One's customer service at 1-800-227-4825.

Prior to doing so, stop using the card and cancel any recurring/automatic payments linked to the card.

At the time of cancellation, be prepared to pay any outstanding balance and fees and note that you'll forfeit any unused miles.

Cancel a Bank of America card by calling customer service

Dial 1-800-732-9194 to reach Bank of America's card services to cancel your card.

In many cases, you will need to submit a written request for cancellation, as well as for a Statement of Account to view any remaining balance you are responsible for.

FAQ

Which company has better rewards cards between Capital One and Bank of America?

Both have fairly attractive rewards programs. For instance, the Capital One Venture card offers double miles on every purchase.

So you'd be rewarded more than by using the BankAmericard travel rewards card, which nets you 1.5 miles per dollar on purchases.

For those looking at cash-back rewards, Capital One Quicksilver will earn you 1.5% cash back on every single purchase.

BankAmericard Cash Rewards card, on the other hand, offers 2% cash back on purchases at grocery stores and wholesale clubs, 3% cash back on gas (but only up to the first $2,500 spent in combined grocery/wholesale club/gas purchases each quarter), and 1% cash back is offered on all other purchases.

While it does offer a higher percentage in certain areas, the 1.5% cash back with the Quicksilver has a little higher earning potential since it applies to all purchases and comes without limits and rewards that never expire.

Am I more likely to be approved for a Capital One or a Bank of America credit card?

Both Capital One and Bank of America have cards for people with excellent credit scores but also offer secured cards for people with low to no credit.

Who has higher credit limits: Capital One vs Bank of America?

Capital One's credit limits on its cards range anywhere between $300-$20,000. Bank of America skews a bit lower, usually in the $2,000-$3,000 range.

Both companies have perks, but Capital One stands taller

While both Capital One and Bank of America offer similar rewards and basic, everyday cards, Capital One's mixture of enticing rewards packages and robust digital services make it a clear winner over Bank of America.

Do you have cards through either Capital One or Bank of America?

How has it worked out for you?

Any great tips (or nightmares) to share with the rest of us?

Let us know in the comments below.


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