Bank of America Debuts New Premium Travel Rewards Card
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If you're a likely prospect for the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card or the Citi ThankYou Premier Card, there's a new travel-rewards card in the pipeline that should also be on your radar. In September, Bank of America will introduce the Bank of America Premium Rewards Card.

Here's what we already know about the new card. 

Annual Fee

Like the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card and the Citi ThankYou Premier Card, with which it will compete directly, the Bank of America Premium Rewards Card will impose a $95 annual fee. But the fee will not be waived the first year for the Bank of America card, as it is for the other two cards.

Earning and Redeeming Points

Points earning is keyed to the cardholder's relationship with Bank of America, with holders of larger account balances earning more points per $1 spent than others, as follows:

  • Cardholders with account balances under $20,000 earn 2 points per $1 on travel and dining, 1.5 points per $1 on other spend
  • Cardholders with $20,000-$49,999 account balances earn 2.5 points per $1 on travel and dining, 1.875 points per $1 on other spend
  • Cardholders with $50,000-$99,999 account balances earn 3 points per $1 on travel and dining, 2.25 points per $1 on other spend
  • Cardholders with account balances over $100,000 earn 3.5 points per $1 on travel and dining, 2.625 points per $1 on other spend

Qualifying account balances include funds held in Bank of America checking and savings accounts, of course, but also funds held in investment accounts with Merrill Lynch, which is owned by Bank of America. In fact, it's those investment accounts that are likely to the difference-makers for most card prospects, since such substantial sums tend to be invested rather than allowed to languish in low- or no-interest savings or checking accounts.

RELATED: Chase Sapphire Preferred Card vs. Citi ThankYou Premier Card

On the redemption side, cardholders can use their points through Bank of America's Preferred Rewards program for a statement credit on travel. Beyond that, there are no details available as to the value of redeemed points. For example, will they have a static value of 1 cent apiece, or might their value be tiered, giving customers with larger account balances a higher rate-of-return? Time will tell.

At this point, Bank of America's Preferred Rewards program doesn't support the transfer of points into other loyalty programs. That puts Preferred Rewards points at a competitive disadvantage to the points earned with the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card and Citi ThankYou Premier Card, which can be converted into other loyalty currencies.

Even assuming the redemption value of points is set at 1 cent apiece, cardholders with $100,000 in Bank of America accounts will be earning a hefty 2.625 percent return on their charges. That would make this card a winner in its class, value-wise. On the other hand, for those with lesser Bank of America balances, the payback is a decidedly middling 1.5 percent.

Other Card Perks

The Chase Sapphire Preferred Card and Citi ThankYou Premier Card both come bundled with such travel benefits as an annual credit for travel, a credit for TSA PreCheck or Global Entry, and so on. While it can't yet be confirmed, it's reasonable to expect the new Bank of America cards will feature a similar suite of perks.

Welcome Bonus

New Bank of America Premium Rewards cardholders who spend at least $3,000 during the first three months will earn a one-time 50,000-point bonus. That's the same bonus on offer to new Chase Sapphire Preferred Card and Citi ThankYou Premier Card members, although both require $4,000 in spend to earn the bonus.

Final Thoughts

Bank of America has structured this card with the clear goal of maintaining and increasing loyalty among its existing customers. The more business you do with the bank, the higher the payout from the card. That makes for a very enticing proposition for those who have, or could have, $100,000 in their various Bank of America accounts. Those with less loyalty to the bank can expect to be rewarded accordingly, and can find higher-value cards elsewhere.

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