BankAmericard Travel Rewards Credit Card: Redemption Tips for 2.625% Back

bofa_travelrewards191As previously mentioned, I have switched to using the BankAmericard Travel Rewards® Credit Card as my primary catch-all rewards cards. This is because if you give them enough assets to hold onto (admittedly not possible for everyone), you can receive 2.25% or 2.625% cash back against past travel-related purchases. Please see my Bank of America Travel Rewards credit card review for details on the card structure. As I’ve made a few points redemptions already, I wanted to share my tips and experiences with that. The good news is that the process is quite simple and I found it easy to use up all of your points to maximize value.

Account setup and eligiblity. I have both a Bank of America checking account and a Merrill Edge brokerage account. The checking account doesn’t have much money in it (it pays no interest) and technically isn’t necessarily at all, but I do keep $100,000 in assets in the Edge brokerage account in order to qualify for the highest tier of Preferred status, Platinum Honors. $50,000 in combined balances will get you the Platinum tier. Vanguard ETFs trade free at Vanguard, but Edge gives me commission-free trades a month on any stock or ETF (100/month Platinum Honors, 30/month Platinum). There are no account maintenance fees for Merrill Edge. Thus, it cost me nothing to switch to Edge besides having yet another account in my life (in fact, they paid me a sign-up bonus).

When logging into BofA, this bundling also offers the convenience of viewing my bank account balance, credit card charges, and Edge investment value all on the same screen. It also tracks which tier I am on their Preferred Rewards program (Gold, Platinum, or Platinum Honors), including my exact qualifying balance:

bofa_travel_redeem2

The official measurement is of your “3-month average combined balance”, so if you just transfer the bare minimum $100k over into an empty account, it may take a few months to reach the $100k level and officially qualify for Platinum Honors. Only after that will the 75% rewards bonus on credit card rewards kick in. (You may qualify for Gold and Platinum in the meantime.)

Earning rewards, bonus verification. Here is a screenshot taken from one of my monthly statements, which I have highlighted for clarity.

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I put $2,527.99 in purchases on my card during this statement cycle, so at 1.5 points per dollar that came out to 3,791 points. Since I am on the Platinum Honors tier, I received a 75% bonus of 2,846 points. (This appears to be off by a few points when compared to my calculator, but is very close.) Gold members would have received 25% bonus, Platinum members would have received a 50% bonus.

The total is 6,637 points, which will get me $66.37 of statement credit towards a previous travel-related charge (see below). The bonus points were calculated automatically without any additional legwork on my part.

Redemption process. Here are the rules:

  • 1.5 points for every $1 spent on all purchases. No limit to the points you can earn. Points do not expire.
  • Redeeming for Travel Credit offers the best value for your points. There are no restrictions or blackout dates. You can also get gift cards, but why bother?
  • Valid travel-related expenses include airfare, hotels, car rentals, baggage fees, and airline upgrades. (Possibly more depending on merchant categorization, for example inflight food counted for me.)
  • Minimum redemption is 2,500 points = $25 when redeemed for a Travel Credit.
  • A travel purchase is eligible to redeem for a Travel Credit up to 12 months from the date the purchase posts to your account.
  • Partial redemptions allow you to use all your points up. For example, if you have a $26.00 eligible purchase but you only have 2,500 points, you can use just those points and get $25 back. You don’t have to accrue more points to reach any specific purchase value.
  • The system will remember your partial redemptions, and allow you to apply future points redemption up the remaining balance of that purchase. So that big annual vacation bill? You can chip away at it with your rewards over a year.

You can perform all your redemptions online, no need to call anyone. Here is a screenshot of the rewards redemption website, which should provide a good idea of how it works. Click to enlarge.

bofa_travel_redeem3

(Side tip: If you are worried about cashing out all your points, simply adjust your redemptions to keep a minimum of 2,500 points in your account at all times. Then, if for some reason you want to close the card and do one final cashout (i.e. they announce upcoming changes for the worse), you can do so and use up every last point.)

Recap. I have shown that my real-world experience matches the promised rewards payout. $66.37 of reward divided by $2,527 in purchases is 2.625% back. I was able to get full reward value by offsetting a travel purchase from the last 12 months (airfare, hotel, and all those annoying airfare-related fees). The points arrived without hassle, and redemption was both easy and offered a high level of control.

I realize not everyone will have at least $50,000 of assets to move around, and so this is somewhat a restricted offer. But again it doesn’t have to be idle cash, it can be stocks or ETFs that you’re just holding elsewhere like TD Ameritrade or Vanguard. 2.625% back is a great rewards rate, assuming you charge enough travel-related stuff on the card every 12 months. For example, if you charged $1,000 a month, 2.625% back would be $315 a year. The card has no foreign transaction fees, so you can use it internationally as well.

Please see my Bank of America Travel Rewards credit card review for additional card details.

Comments

  1. Been considering this card for awhile since I have BOA platinum status. How do you like Merrill Edge thus far? I’ve only submitted buy trades at this point but notice there is some language regarding fees for sell trades, so not sure if trades are completely commission free as advertised.

  2. I have a similar set-up with my BoA accounts that isn’t quite a lucrative in the total percentage of rewards (though close) but allows for much more flexibility in redemption. I qualify for Platinum Honors and get the 75% bonus. I use a typical BoA cash rewards card that pays 3% on gas and 2% on groceries (up to a total of $1500 of those purchases per quarter) and 1% on all other purchases.

    So let’s say we spend $50 per week on gas and $3k per month in total on the credit card per month (just to use round numbers). That’s $200 in gas, and the remaining allotment of $300 for the month ($1500/3 months per quarter equals a $500 limit in 3% and 2% redemptions) qualifies for the 2% grocery bonus. The remaining $2500 gets a 1% rebate. So that’s a total of $37 raw cash rewards in a typical month. However, after the 75% bonus is added on top, that’s $64.75 in cash rewards. I redeem my rewards every month into a BoA savings account, which qualifies me for an additional 10% reward on those redemptions for a total of $71.23 for the month.

    That total represents 2.37% of my expenditures on the card for the month. If we spent only $2k per month on the card we’d get around $52 in total rewards but the ratio would be 2.6%, because we’d have fewer 1% rebate dollars dragging down the rate.

    The thing I like about this is the entirety of my rewards are redeemed each and every month and they are in cash, so I don’t have to worry about points, gift cards, or travel expenditures.

  3. Jonathan, you mentioned that as a Platinum Honors customer you get 100 free trades per month. Does that include options trades as well? I am very interested in this setup, so please let me know. Thanks.

  4. washerdreyer says:

    2.625% is a great rate, and I’m somewhat tempted to follow this advice and move money over to Merrill Edge, but I think the analysis in the post is a little too favorable to BofA. The relevant question isn’t about whether 2.625% of your annual credit card spending is enough money to justify investing 100K through Merrill Edge, but whether .625% of your annual spend is worth it, since there are currently multiple no-fee cards offering 2% back. Would appreciate any thoughts addressing that question.

    • Considering the free trades offered by Merrill Edge, it is a no-brainer. 0.625% of your annual spend is just a nice bonus. I am very tempted by this offer just like you are. Just wanted to check if option trades are included in the 100 free trades per month.

  5. You can also transfer points between cards to maximize your redemptions. If you apply for the cash rewards don’t redeem it until you are platinum honored as it applies the bonus on redemption. Travel rewards bonus is on earn so get platinum honored before using it a lot. Others have mentioned the AAA card is another good one to transfer points to.

  6. Has anyone take advantage of the free $600 offer to switch to Merrill Edge? I’m debating switching from Wells Fargo PMA to Merrill/BOA if I can get the free trades, rewards, and a bonus? Thanks for any input.

    • I’ve done the promo, the transfer bonus arrived from BofA as promised without issue. The person helping me with the transfer was very helpful, as I was only transferring a portion of my account over and wanted to make sure it went smoothly.

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