Did you know Visa was originally created by Bank of America? So why do they now have an American Express card and is it any good?
In the past, Visa and MasterCard stipulated that their member banks were not allowed to issue other types of cards. For example, Citi was partnered with MasterCard so that was all they could issue. BofA used Visa and that’s why in the past, all of their debit and credit cards were Visa.
That all changed last decade. Due to antitrust lawsuits, the rules now say the biggest banks are required to offer cards from all of the big 3 payment networks (Visa, MasterCard, AmEx). This is why the Bank of America American Express credit card was launched a couple a years ago. For 2013 they have 3 (one of which is the Virgin Atlantic card). For this review though I will only be talking about the other 2 which are far more popular… the Accelerated Rewards credit cards.
Before you apply make sure you understand the rewards
Aside from that Virgin Atlantic, there are two different versions. There’s the Bank of America Accelerated Cash Rewards American Express card, which as the name implies gives you cash back. Then there’s a similar version, the Accelerated Rewards, which gives points instead. Here’s a review of both reward programs:
Accelerated Rewards AmEx – This gives you 1.25 points per dollar spent. While that may sound similar to the card above, it’s actually very different. Why? Because this American Express card uses the BofA World Points. Unfortunately with this program, if you want to get a good value per point, you usually have to redeem a large chunk at once. For example if you want to redeem for a statement credit or partner gift card at a full 1 penny per point value, then you will typically have to redeem at least 25,000 points. Redeeming less usually gives you a lower point value.
Ironically, the application for this version seems to be more popular, yet its rewards aren’t as good. So why do people apply for it over the other? Well because of its color, many refer to it as the Bank of America American Express black card (and they like that). However it’s important to note that despite that it’s design features black, this card is no more and no less prestigious than the BofA Accelerated Cash Rewards card which is discussed above. Bottom line? Don’t apply for this thinking it’s a status symbol, because it definitely isn’t – this is a no annual fee card. If you want to impress people, try for the $450 AmEx Platinum Card instead.
Accelerated Cash Rewards AmEx – Unfortunately this card was discontinued for 2013. There are still some cardholders, but I imagine they will have their accounts phased out and transitioned to t a different card now that this one is discontinued.
This is essentially a credit card which gives you 1.25% cash back on all purchases. You can redeem in increments of $50 for a statement credit, direct deposit into your BofA account, or a simple check. Being that there’s no annual fee and you have the ability to cash out at reasonable levels, this is the best BofA card if it’s namely cash rewards you are after.
A review of the included benefits
All credit cards which operate over the American Express network come with several useful benefits. This includes the BofA AmEx cards which have the following benefits:
- Car Rental Loss and Damage Insurance – You can read more about credit card rental coverage here.
- Arranging Roadside Assistance – Please do not confuse this benefit as being actual roadside assistance (which some premium cards like the AmEx Gold offer). Rather, the American Express Bank of America cards offer free arrangement of roadside assistance, but you will still have to pay for the cost of the actual roadside assistance yourself.
- Extended Warranty
- Travel Accident Insurance – Go here for a general overview of how credit card travel insurance usually works. As to the coverage details on these two particular cards, unfortunately BofA does not provide them on the website and after chatting with a rep for 20 minutes, he was not able to find them either. Unfortunately to find out the answer, I was told to apply for the credit card and wait for the benefits guide to arrive, which obviously is not the answer I wanted to hear.
- Retail Protection – On eligible purchases, this benefit offers protection against theft or accidental damage during the first 90 days following the date of purchase, subject to rules/restrictions.
- MyConcierge – This is a phone concierge service which is run by BofA, not AmEx.
As mentioned, I definitely feel the Bank of America Accelerated Cash Rewards AmEx is the best card between the two, due to the fact that you can redeem as little as $50 at a time and still get maximum point value. The 1.25% cash back across the board is 25% above most credit cards and that’s a great deal. But unfortunately that version is discontinued and you can no longer apply for it.
That leaves us with only the Accelerated Rewards AmEx card which has a major drawback: WorldPoints! As you see in the chart on the right, this program is awful if you are after cash back.
My suggestion? Before you apply, first compare it to these top 10 cash back credit cards.