Archives for October 12, 2015

BankAmericard Travel Rewards® Credit Card Review: Great with Preferred Rewards Bonus

bofa_travelrewards191The BankAmericard Travel Rewards® Credit Card is the main “travel rewards” credit card branded by Bank of America. In this review, I’ll cover the card features but also focus on a lesser-known opportunity – if you’re a Preferred Rewards client, you can increase that bonus to 25% – 75%. For such “relationship” customers, the bonus can change this card from good to great. Read on for details.

Here are the highlights of this card:

  • Earn unlimited 1.5 points per $1 spent on all purchases, with no annual fee and no foreign transaction fees and your points don’t expire
  • 20,000 online bonus points if you make at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days –  that can be a $200 statement credit toward travel purchases
  • Use your card to book your trip how and where you want – you’re not limited to specific websites with blackout dates or restrictions
  • Redeem points for a statement credit to pay for flights, hotels, vacation packages, cruises, rental cars, or baggage fees
  • Now with chip technology for enhanced security and protection at chip-enabled terminals
  • 0% Introductory APR for 12 billing cycles for purchases, then 15.24% – 23.24% Variable APR
  • Get an additional 10% customer points bonus on every purchase when you have an active Bank of America® checking or savings account
  • If you’re a Preferred Rewards client, you can increase that bonus to 25% – 75%. Click “Apply Now” to learn more about Preferred Rewards.

The Preferred Rewards program is designed to rewards clients with multiple account and higher assets located at Bank of America banking, Merrill Edge® online brokerage, and Merrill Lynch® investment accounts. Here is a partial table taken from their comparison chart:

bofa_pref1

Let’s consider the options. Bank of America’s interest rates on cash accounts tend to be lower than highest-available outside banks, so moving cash over to qualify may reduce your interest earnings. Merrill Lynch advisory accounts also usually come with management fees. However, if you have brokerage assets like mutual funds and ETFs, moving them over to Merrill Edge may actually reduce your costs because at the Platinum and Platinum Plus levels they will actually give you 30 to 100 free online stock trades every month.

I recently did a partial transfer of a little over $100k of brokerage assets (Vanguard funds) over to Merrill Edge to qualify for Platinum Honors. I should mention it may take a while for your “3-month average combined balance” to actually reach the $100k level and officially qualify for Platinum Honors. Only after that will the 75% rewards bonus on credit card rewards kick in.

(Side note: Stack this offer with their Merrill Edge brokerage sign-up bonus.)

Cash Back Rewards Tiers for Preferred Rewards

This card has a relatively simple rewards structure; you earn 1.5 points per dollar spent on all purchases. 1 point = 1 cent statement credit against any travel purchase made on the card (flights, hotels, vacation packages, cruises, rental cars, or baggage fees). As long you as you travel at least occasionally, I feel it is okay to value them at 1 cent per point, which means you could call this a “1.5% back on all purchases, if applied towards travel purchases” rewards card. Here’s how the bonuses then work out:

  • Platinum Honors: 2.625% back, if applied towards travel, or 2.625 points per dollar spent on any purchase (75% bonus).
  • Platinum: 2.25% back, if applied towards travel, or 2.25 points per dollar spent on any purchase (50% bonus).
  • Gold: 1.875% back, if applied towards travel, or 1.875 points per dollar spent on any purchase (25% bonus).

Note that the terms state “The Preferred Rewards bonus will replace the customer bonus you may already receive with the card.”, which I interpret to mean that you will lose the 10% bonus for redeeming your cash back into a Bank of America® checking or savings account.

(Update: Here are my redemption tips and experiences on qualifying for and receiving 2.625% back towards travel.)

Well, I think their plan is working because Bank of America has managed to convince me to go from only having a checking account with them to now also having a Merrill Edge brokerage account and a Bank of America credit card. I definitely realize not everyone will have this level of assets to move around, and so this is somewhat a restricted offer. But if you do then it is worth considering. Both Platinum and Platinum Honors levels allow you to reach tiers that effectively give you over 2% back on all purchases, with the important caveat that your rewards must offset previous travel purchases on the card.

Not all Bank of America consumer credit cards qualify for Preferred Rewards. Another card that does qualify is the BankAmericard Cash Rewards™ Credit Card. I picked this BankAmericard Travel Rewards Credit Card myself, but for other folks the grocery and gas bonuses specifically available on the BankAmericard Cash Rewards™ Credit Card might give you higher rewards.

“Disclaimer: This content is not provided or commissioned by the issuer. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the issuer, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the issuer. This site may be compensated through the issuer’s Affiliate Program.  “The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.”

List of Free Starwood Preferred Guest Points + Avoid Expiration

spg-logoUpdated. Here are some quick deals for some free Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) points. I’ll try to update this post instead of making new ones in the future. These are handy for extending the expiration of all your points, which otherwise may be lost after 12 months of inactivity. Also, they’ll get me a tiny bit closer to a Heavenly Bed in some foreign country. 😉

  • 150 SPG Points for Security Questions. Starwood wants to improve their security with a set of questions. The questions try to be clever and I had trouble answering them, but I’ll do it for the free points (and then copy the answers in my password manager). Visit this link, answer the four questions before 10/31/15, and you’ll get 150 points. Don’t use Chrome browser for iOS.
     
    There is no indication of promo on the page. See this FT thread by an official Starwood representative for proof this is legit. Selected fine print:

    *Bonus offer: Member can earn a onetime bonus of 150 Starpoints after selecting and answering four (4) security questions on spg.com from October 8, 2015, through October 31, 2015 (the “promotion period”). This promotion is not transferable. Offer available to existing SPG members only (as of 10/8/15). Bonus Starpoints will be credited to the member’s account within 2–4 weeks of the close of the promotion on October 31, 2015.

  • 200 SPG Points for E-Statements. First, make sure you are not signed up for Starwood Preferred Guest E-statements. Log into your online account and go to Manage My Account > My Profile > Communications Preferences and make sure the box is unchecked. You should get an e-mail confirmation of any saved changes.

    spg200_1

    Next, either make sure you are logged out of your account or open a new Incognito window. Now visit this SPG Dashboard link and look for this offer at the bottom of the page. Click both checkboxes and Update Your Account. You should probably also register for the promo on the right as well.

    spg200_2

    Don’t unsubscribe from these e-mail newsletters until your points post in 2-4 weeks. See selected fine print:

    An eligible member can earn 200 bonus Starpoints for opting in to the email subscription(s) in the form field on the SPG Dashboard and clicking “Update Your Account.” A member can only earn the bonus once during the offer earn window, which ends Nov-24-2015. A member must subscribe to all of the displayed email subscription(s) using the form field on the SPG Dashboard for the Starpoints to be earned.  Bonus Starpoints can take up to 2 to 4 weeks to post to your account after confirmation that you have successfully subscribed.

I always make sure my wife’s SPG account also does these deals, as it extends her account activity and you can transfer points over within the same household (with same physical address).

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