You should exercise caution when redeeming points with the World Points redemption center, otherwise you might get taken for a ride.
Bank of America a.k.a. FIA Card Services have over 48 million cards in circulation. Aside from their own cards, they also issue and manage cards for many small/midsize banks, too. Most of these cards participate in World Points, which is BofA/FIA’s credit card rewards program.
If you are a current cardholder or plan to apply for a Bank of America Visa or MasterCard in the near future please make sure you review and understand the best and worst options for redeeming points.
Unfortunately the “worst” list is going to be quite long, since this is perhaps one of the worst rewards program in 2014.
- Merchandise: As is true with most point-based reward programs, the merchandise fails to offer a very good point value. For example, the World Points redemption center charges you 14,950 points for a Keurig B31 single-cup coffeemaker. Conversely, you can go on Amazon, Target, Walmart and other websites which all sell it for $100 or less. That means your World Points are only worth about $0.67 each, as where they should be worth a full penny. Not every product has that exact same conversion, but many are still disappointingly inflated in terms of redemption value. I have yet to come across any merchandise which appear to offer a full 1 cent per point value. Even though it can be fun to go on a shopping spree with accumulated points you should resist the temptation and find the best deal through an online retailer. Points get more value from things like airline tickets, hotel nights and gift cards (usually, anyway).
- Cash rebates under $250: As you can see with the chart on the right, the cash rewards are a lousy deal for smaller increments. The 2,500 points required for the $12.50 check means your points are only worth a 1/2 penny each! This is really a bad deal.
- Charity donations under $250: I cringe having to put anything involving charity under the “worst” category, but unfortunately the redemption tiers for charitable donations are the same as they are with cash rebate. I’m very disappointed to see Bank of America giving charity such a short shrift.
- Most partner gift cards under $250: With a lot of credit card reward programs, 10,000 points = $100 partner gift card (1 cent value per point). And with some programs like the new Discover “it” card and the Freedom from Chase, you can even get a full 1 cent per point value for $25 and $50 gift cards. Unfortunately, the Bank of America World Points operate on a somewhat similar scale as their cash rebates (see examples to right). Even the $500 MasterCard/Visa gift cards only give you 0.80 of a cent value. Gift cards should always equate to a penny a point. Most issuers won’t dilute the value of these since the conversion value is so apparent.
- Cash rebates $250 and up: As you saw on the above table, once you hit $250 and above you will be getting a full 1:1 conversion on your World Points redemption.
- Charity donations $250 and up: Like the cash rebates, once you hit this threshold you will be getting a 1:1 value. I just wish there were more charities available. Last year the only one available on my account was a Red Cross Tsunami Relief Fund. Obviously a noble cause, but that catastrophe was a while back and right now – as a personal preference – I feel more compelled to help areas of the world that have fewer resources, yet are facing urgent calamities, such as the millions whose lives are at risk due to the famine in the horn of Africa. So if you read this Bank of America, let’s get some organizations like World Vision on the list.
- Most partner gift cards $250 and up: Once you hit $250 most (but not all) of the gift cards give you a penny per point. BP, Best Buy, Bloomingdales, Cabelas, Hyatt, Macy’s, Home Depot, Sears, and Walmart are some of the $250 gift cards available for 25,000 points. However a $250 prepaid Apple Vacations MasterCard will set you back 30,000 points, so not all in the $250 and up tier are top value.
- Some travel redemption options: Because most of the World Points travel rewards are package deals, it’s not always easy to decipher their exact dollar value. However from what I can gather many appear to offer a respectable value. A particular standout is the option of getting a domestic airline ticket of $400 or less for 25,000 points. In theory, that gives up to 1.6 cents per point if your ticket was exactly $400. But the caveat here is that you will get the “lowest coach class fare available” through the Bank of America World Points redemption center, which may or may not be a flight that you like… could be layovers, leaving at an undesirable time of day, etc.
- Some “Ultimate Access” options: This is a newer option from BofA – it appears they are trying to replicate what the Chase Sapphire and Citi Thank You Premier is offering. Bank of America describes it as “Experience a whole new level of rewards. Browse our online catalog of once-in-a-lifetime adventures, limited edition memorabilia and never before available access to events and attractions.” Some of the things are quite unique, such as a 16×20 plaque commemorating the 1986 Masters signed by Jack Nicklaus himself (total of 50 available, pictured at right). For 40,000 to 50,000 points each, that’s a cost of $400 to $500 which I would say is fair, considering that you can be confident you are getting the real deal (vs. buying someplace like eBay).
The FIA/Bank of America credit card World Points rewards can give you a decent value, but more often than not it will require you to redeem a high amount of points. If you are only earning 1 point per dollar, I wouldn’t recommend this program. You would be better off earning up to 6% cash back with something like the Blue Cash American Express card or up to 5% cash back with the Chase Freedom rewards.
Written or last updated August 7, 2014