Bank of America 5% Cash Back Offer?

I have a Bank of America credit card from many years ago (it was my 2nd card). However the last time it garnered day-to-day usage was at least 5 years ago. Why? Because the World Points program just doesn’t make sense given the unfavorable conversion rates for cash back.

These days I just dust it off once every few months by making a purchase or two, for credit reporting purposes. However not too long about while logging out of my account, a 5x points promotion (worth up to 5% cash back) popped up on the screen.

Bank of Americ 5% promotion
(I took this screenshot in 2012, but it’s comparable to what I saw for 2013)

You can’t request this promotion. Enrollment is targeted. Based on forum feedback, it seems to be offered to those who aren’t using their BofA credit card much (such as myself). But should you bite the bait or not?

My previous experience

For the previous year, I was also solicited with a 5x points offer. However the categories were different; travel, grocery stores, and gas stations. The cap was the same – up to 2,500 points (which equals only $500 in combined spending for these categories).

I enrolled and followed thru by using my card to pay for a hotel room in Yosemite, a couple gas fill-ups driving there, and a grocery run at Whole Paycheck, err I mean Whole Foods. All of these places should have clearly qualified for the 5x categories, right?

Unfortunately not.

As it turns out, Bank of America only counted roughly half of the $600 spent as being eligible. This was quite ridiculous, because I didn’t see anything fishy with the merchant codes/categorizations (they should have qualified).

To make matters worse, the shortchanged points I received were an uphill battle to get. If I recall correctly, they didn’t show up for a couple billing cycles. There were at least two calls to customer service during this ordeal.

Dig it or ditch it?

My vote is a “no” for this year, due to the fact that (a) the cap is still low at $500, and (b) it ended up averaging 2.2x to 2.5x points/dollar for me since many of my purchases were not considered as being eligible.

World Points cash valueHowever, if already have a bunch of World Points saved up then doing this might make sense. Why? Because in order to get 1 cent value per point, you need to redeem 25,000 at a time. If you can meet that threshold, then it’s like having a Bank of America 5% cash back credit card (albeit temporarily).

As you can see from the point conversion chart, it’s probably not going to make sense for most people. Because rather than getting 5% cash back from BofA, after the points dilution on the lower tiers, you may only get half that value (and that’s assuming your purchases are categorized as expected).

When all is said and done, this is an offer that sounds enticing when you first see it, but then you realize it’s far from impressive after dissecting the numbers.

Consider these other cards in 2013 that give high cash back on similar categories:

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BEWARE INDEED!! I enrolled in this offer for 2013 and actually used my Bank of America card for all purchases in these 4 categories instead of using my regular Chase card, even though Chase was offering the same 5% deals. Turns out I should have gone with my Chase card because Bank of America TOTALLY MISLEAD me with this promotion. If you want fairly computed cash-back deals with 5% bonuses, enroll with Chase bank because they don’t try to fool you. I will not be using my Bank of America card anymore.

I received an offer in the mail in October 2012 for 5% cash back on ALL purchases thru Dec 31, 2012. LO and BEHOLD, after nothing has appeared on my statement for 2 cycles, I called 1.800.900.6651, customer service and was told that you had to buy products at certain stores. They would not give you the store names only a 4 digit merchant number. I called some of the stores that I go to and they had a merchant number for American Express, but is was 10 digits long, not 4. Apparently this promotion is as bad as the one that ended June 30,2012 — NOTHING, NOTHING, NOTHING FROM BANK OF AMERICA

“BEWARE” – The 5% cash back is not added to the total cashback amount. A separate promotional credit is provided, so the cashback amount or points will not affected.

The sub-$500 cap sounds like a deal breaker.