I opened a brokerage account at Merrill Edge and a checking account at Bank of America in August. I’m expecting the up to $1,000 bonus in a few months. See previous post Merrill Edge + Bank of America = Free Trades + Free Checking + No ATM Fee.
After three months, I qualified for Bank of America’s Preferred Rewards program. In addition to free trades and a free checking account that reimburses ATM fees with no minimum balance or direct deposit requirement, the third component I put into the Preferred Rewards program is a BankAmericard Travel Rewards credit card.
On its own feet, this chip-and-signature Visa card gives 1.5% rewards on every purchase with no special categories or caps. It has no annual fee and no foreign transaction fee. There’s a small $100 sign-up bonus.
The Preferred Rewards program makes it much nicer.
When you enroll in the Preferred Rewards program, you get a boost in the credit card rewards. $100k in assets at Merrill Edge puts you at the highest tier (Platinum Honor), which gives you a 75% bonus on the credit card rewards. 1.5% rewards on everything then becomes 2.625% rewards on everything.
See this screenshot. A $71.30 purchase earned 187 reward points worth $1.87. That’s 2.6%.
Like some other travel cards, the reward points are worth the most when you redeem against past travel charges (100 points = $1). As long as you put travel expenses on this card once in a while, you should be able to redeem the points easily.
* You get the 75% bonus after you enroll in Preferred Rewards. If your checking account is new, it has to go through 3 month-ends before you qualify.
This Bank of America card with 75% bonus beats Fidelity AmEx in every way: more rewards, no foreign transaction fee, wider acceptance. It’s also better than the new Citi Double Cash card because it gives more rewards and it has no foreign transaction fee.
Auto Pay Full Balance
It’s not obvious how you set up for automatically paying the full balance every month. You set it up at this special website:
What Count As Travel
You get the best redemption rate when you redeem the points against travel charges. What count as travel then?
After you use the card for some time, you can see your list of travel charges online when you click on Rewards -> Redeem Points -> Travel Credit -> Redeem for a Travel Credit. In my account, these charges all counted as travel:
- airlines (both tickets and baggage fees)
- car rentals
- public transit (bus, subway, light rail)
- ski resort passes and lunch at ski resorts
The minimum number of points for redemption is 2,500 points (earned by spending $952 at 2.625%). You have one year from the time of the charge to redeem points against it. You can redeem points against the same charge multiple times until the charge is fully covered by points redemption.
This card is becoming my primary card. Of course it works to its full potential only if you also have Merrill Edge and Bank of America accounts and you make it to the Platinum Honor tier with $100k.
[Photo credit: Flickr user Adam Fagen]