They say cash is king and, for that reason, cash back continues to be a top choice when it comes to the most preferred type of rewards credit cards.
If you’re in the market for a cash-back rewards card, the dilemma is to decide which one delivers the most value for you among all the choices in the card marketplace. If you are like a lot of consumers, the BankAmericard Cash Rewards™ Visa Signature® card could be the optimal choice for your No. 1 card in wallet. Why? Because it offers a solid 1 percent cash back reward on each dollar you spend on purchases and bonus cash back in a couple of useful, non-discretionary spending categories that we all have deal with. Because you have to spend this money anyway, what’s not to like about putting extra cash back in your pocket?
Here are the reward details:
2 percent and 3 percent back in certain key everyday spending categories: The card touts 1 percent cash back on everyday purchases. Then there’s 2 percent at grocery stores (which is pretty huge for most families) and 3 percent at gas stations (also huge for most commuters) for the first $1,500 in combined grocery store and gas purchases each quarter.
While impressive, those earnings aren’t the highest out there. But it could be the best card for you depending on how you use your plastic. The Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards card, for example, offers 1.5 percent back on all spending — although it doesn’t have the boosted category rewards. Discover it and Chase Freedom offer 5 percent in certain categories each quarter — but they don’t offer a steady bonus on groceries and gas. Also, if you’re like a lot of consumers, keeping track of reward categories that change each quarter is a pain. Always knowing the extra cash back categories can help maximize rewards in the long run.
The Blue Cash Everyday card from American Express (a CreditCardForum advertising partner) is probably the most similar to the BankAmericard; it just flips the higher-earning categories, with grocery purchases earning 3 percent and gas stations earning 2 percent. So, before deciding between these two, look at your total average spending for each category to see which might provide more value for your situation.
As with any reward card, it’s also important to consider spending caps. The ceiling for the higher-earning categories is a bit low — it’s set at $1,500 per quarter for combined grocery store and gas purchases. That’s slightly more limiting than the AmEx Blue Cash Everyday card, which has a limit of $6,000 a year for grocery purchases and no ceiling for gas purchases. Just do the math on your spending to see if you might bump up against any card’s limits and then decide.
Very user-friendly redemption levels: You can redeem for as little as $25 cash for a statement credit, check or direct deposit. That’s the same as the redemption minimum for the AmEx Blue Cash Everyday and lower than some other cards out there, including Discover it, which requires you to redeem in increments of $50 if you want a statement credit or direct deposit.
With the BankAmericard Cash Rewards card, if you go the direct-deposit route (and deposit it into a Bank of America bank account) you get a 10 percent bonus on your cash back. So $100 would get you $110 cash back via direct deposit. So, if you already bank with Bank of America this could be a deciding factor.
Visa Signature benefits: This tier of Visa cards comes with some useful perks, especially for travelers. However this isn’t as special as it used to be since quite a few Visa cards nowadays are Visa Signature tier. In fact it’s hard to find the lower level “platinum” anymore from any issuer. There’s a reason for that – Visa Signature and other elite level cards like World MasterCard earn a higher interchange fee from merchants so that issuers can increase their revenue even on those cardmembers who always pay their balances in full.
A sign-up bonus: If you apply via this online-exclusive offer, you’ll earn a $100 cash bonus after making at least $500 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening.
Introductory APR offer: This 0 percent APR offer lasts for 12 months after you open your account and applies to purchases and to any balance transfers made within 60 days of account opening. After that, your APR will be 12.99 percent to 22.99 percent, based on your creditworthiness at the time you opened the account. This APR will vary based on the Prime Rate.
Chip technology: Chip-and-signature technology is an optional feature on this card. EMV chips are standard abroad and often required to make purchases overseas. They’re also thought to be more secure because they encode your data uniquely with every purchase, making it tougher for thieves to use the information they manage to steal. So, if you’re planning a trip abroad or if you’re security conscious, request this feature.
The bottom line
This card keeps things simple. There’s no chasing after rotating categories, and you can earn nice extras on gas and at grocery stores — two things that are pretty essential items in the average person’s budget. The 1 percent you get on everything else doesn’t have a limit, so you’re earning a little something every time you make a purchase. If you have a savings or checking account with BofA, the 10 percent bonus for direct deposit makes the card a sweet deal.
Just make an honest assessment of your spending patterns. A large family spending lots of money on groceries might find the Blue Cash Everyday card a better fit, since you earn an extra 1 percent at supermarkets, and the rewards ceiling is higher. Yet, if you have a long commute (like many Americans) and simply have average grocery spending, the BankAmericard Cash Rewards card has the edge — not to mention that Visa is accepted pretty much everywhere and offers significant Visa Signature level benefits.
Closest Competitors for 2014
As you would with any card, make sure to check out the competition. The closest rivals to the BankAmericard Cash Rewards Visa card are the following credit cards:
Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard® – This card basically gives you the equivalent of 2.2 percent cash back on everything you buy. The only catch is that you have to use the cash back for statement credits to offset travel purchases.
- 2 miles per dollar on every purchase without any limits. Each mile is worth exactly 1 cent to use toward any travel purchase made with the card.
- 10 percent of your miles to re-use when you redeem them. For example, if you redeem 10,000 miles you will get back 1,000 to use again. The end result means you’re earning 2.22 percent on all your spending.
- $0 annual fee for the first year, $89 after that if you choose to keep it (after the first year is up, you can always downgrade it if desired).
- 40,000 bonus miles (worth $440 in statement credits) after you spend $3,000 in the first 90 days.
- Go here to get the 40,000 bonus points offer
Discover it – This doesn’t give cash back in the same categories year ’round, but the 5 percent rewards are quite lucrative.
- 5 percent cash back on categories. Get 5 percent cash back at gas stations on up to $1,500 in purchases from July through September 2014.
- 1 percent cash back on all other purchases, unlimited.
- 5 percent to 20 percent cash back at nearly 200 websites when you click through to them using the Discover website.
- 100 percent US-based customer support 24/7/365.
- Benefits now include Purchase Protection, Extended Warranty, Return Protection, and Price Protection at no additional cost.
- No annual fee
- 0 percent intro APR for the first 14 months on both purchases and balance transfers. 10.99% – 22.99% variable APR after.
- Go here to learn more about it
Chase Freedom® – Like the BankAmericard, this also has a quarterly $1,500 cap on the bonus rewards. However, the bonus payout is higher (5%) and the categories rotate every 3 months. Here is the rewards calendar for 2014:
- Q1 (January 1 – March 31, 2014): Gas stations, Starbucks® stores, and movie theaters
- Q2 (April 1 – June 30, 2014): Restaurants and Lowe’s® home improvement stores
- Q3 (July 1 – September 30, 2014): Gas stations and Kohl’s®
- Q4 (October 1 – December 31, 2014): Amazon.com Zappos.com and select department stores
Use this link to earn a $100 bonus with Chase Freedom. Just spend at least $500 in your first three months from account opening to get the bonus.
This review was written or last updated May 30, 2014