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Bank of America Unlimited Cash Rewards Card Review

Dayana Yochim

Written by Dayana Yochim
Edited by Carolyn Kimball
Fact-checked by Andrea Coombes

April 04, 2024

Why trust us? has no financial relationship with any of the credit card providers whose products we analyze and review. Our opinions are based solely on data and our own extensive independent research — that means unbiased guidance for consumers. Rewards cards in our cashback credit card calculator are listed in descending order according to how much money they pay out annually based on the inputs.

How does a ho-hum 1.5% flat-rate credit card earn the title of Best Bank Loyalty Rewards Card? By offering qualified B of A/Merrill Edge customers a 25%-75% rewards boost, which turns the Bank of America Unlimited Cash Rewards Card into a much more competitive 1.87%-2.62% cash back card.

In a world where there are plenty of rewards cards that pay customers 2% cash back on all purchases, there’s not a lot about the base model of Bank of America’s Unlimited Cash Rewards Credit Card that stands out… unless you have an existing account with Bank of America and/or its corporate buddy, Merrill Edge. In that case, consider the 1.5% cash back rate just a starting point.

The Bank of America Unlimited Rewards Card pays up to 2.62% cash back to cardholders who qualify for its Preferred Rewards program. Your status (Gold, Platinum, or Platinum Honors) and corresponding rewards rate boost is based on your combined B of A deposit and/or Merrill Edge investment account balances.

The 2.62% cash back rate for Platinum Honors Tier members requires maintaining a three-month combined minimum balance of $100,000 in your bank/brokerage account. A $50,000 combined account minimum gets Platinum Tier cardholders a 50% rewards boost (to 2.25% from 1.5%) — also a highly competitive rate among flat-rate rewards cards. And while a $20K balance qualifies cardholders for the Gold Tier, the 25% booster translates to just 1.87% cash back, which brings us back to ho-hum rewards territory.

» Which Bank of America cash back card is better?: Compare Bank of America Customized Cash Rewards vs. Bank of America Unlimited Cash Rewards.

The basics: Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on all purchases. Earn $200 online cash rewards bonus after making at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of your account opening. Introductory 0% APR for first 15 billing cycles for purchases, and for any balance transfers made within 60 days of account opening. A 3% fee applies to balance transfers.

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Best for Bank Loyalists

Bank of America Unlimited Cash Rewards

Bank of America Unlimited Cash Rewards Logo
Cashback Per Year
Annual Fee
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On Bank of America's Site
Rates & Fees

Want to compare more cards? Use our full calculator.

Bank of America Unlimited Cash Rewards pros and cons

thumb_up_off_alt Pros

  • Higher cash back rate (1.87%-2.62%) available for B of A/Merrill Edge Preferred Rewards customers
  • Easy-to-manage flat-rate rewards structure
  • Offers sign-up bonus and 0% intro APR on purchases/balance transfers
  • No annual fee

thumb_down_off_alt Cons

  • Uncompetitive 1.5% base cash back rate
  • Qualifying for the Preferred Rewards program (and cash back rate booster) is a whole thing 🙄
  • Charges 3% foreign transaction fee

Bank of America Unlimited Cash Rewards cashback rewards spending categories

The following table shows the cashback rewards rate per $1 spent in the six most common spending categories. The “Bonus Rate” refers to the amount you can earn in excess of the card’s standard rewards rate.

Some cashback cards limit the spending amount eligible for the bonus rate (aka the “Spend Cap”). Once you hit that cap (e.g., $1,500 spending in a particular category during a defined time period), the rewards rate on future purchases in that category reverts to the lower “Default Rate.”

Category Default Rate Bonus Rate Bonus Spend Cap Bonus Spend Period (Months)
Gas 1.50% - - -
Travel 1.50% - - -
Dining 1.50% - - -
Entertainment 1.50% - - -
Pharmacy 1.50% - - -
Groceries 1.50% - - -
Other Purchases 1.50% - - -

Note: Bank of America Preferred Rewards members can qualify for a 25%, 50% or 75% rewards rate booster shot by maintaining a minimum balance in a Bank of America deposit and/or Merrill investment account. Balance requirements and corresponding unlimited cashback rate for each Preferred Rewards tier are as follows:

  • Gold Tier: Earn 1.87% unlimited cashback (a 25% rewards boost on the card's 1.5% default rate) if you maintain a $20,000 minimum combined balance.
  • Platinum Tier: Get bumped to a 2.25% unlimited rewards rate (a 50% bump) with a $50,000 minimum combined balance.
  • Platinum Honors Tier: Snag a 2.62% cashback (75% more) on all purchases by maintaining a $100,000 minimum balance.

Our rewards calculator applies the 1.5% default rate to calculate the cashback-per-year total.

What we like

Unlimited across-the-board cash back on all purchases. There’s no clock-watching for expiring rewards categories or ongoing calculations to see how close you are to a spending cap. It’s 1.5% cash back on everything. Period. (Or 1.87%, 2.25% or 2.62%, if you’re a B of A/Merrill customer.)

No annual fee means it’s nbd to keep this card in your charging arsenal for when you hit those aforementioned caps on other cards. Not that you should collect cards willy-nilly. Applying for new lines of credit too often isn’t an attractive look in your credit file.

Rewards booster available. Got a bank account at B of A or an investing account at Merrill Edge? You may be eligible for Bank of America's Preferred Rewards benefits which comes with a 25%, 50% or 75% booster to your rewards rate, depending on your other account balances. This is why we named the Bank of America Unlimited Cash Rewards Card the #1 Bank Loyalty Card in our 2024 Awards. Note: As outlined above, these rates require minimum banking/investing account balances of $20,000, $50,000 and $100,000 to unlock the respective rewards booster rates.

Comes with generous welcome offers, including a sign-up bonus and 0% introductory APR on purchases and balance transfers. Hop to it (in a responsible, promise-to-pay-it-off-in-full-ASAP way, of course).

B of A Unlimited Cash Rewards redemption options include the usual (a statement credit) and the option to deposit your bounty into your eligible B of A checking or savings account or Merrill investment account (including a 529 college savings account).

What we don't like

1.5% is close to rock-bottom in the cash back credit card world. Based on the rewards math, I can only recommend this card to consumers who qualify for the rate boost that comes with earning Platinum or Platinum Honors status in the Bank of America Preferred Rewards program.

Better flat-rate, no-strings-attached rewards cards are out there. A 2% cash back credit card is much more profitable. Your choices include the Wells Fargo Active Cash Card, PayPal Cashback Mastercard, and Bread Cashback American Express Card, just to name a few.

B of A's other cash back card may also serve you better. Consider the B of A Customized Cash Rewards card, which lets you choose a new 3% cashback category every month, though there’s a quarterly rewards spending cap.

Keeping a minimum of 20 to 100 Gs in a B of A checking and/or Merrill investment account is required to qualify for the higher cashback rates offered to Preferred Rewards customers. Great if you’re an existing customer or shopping for a place to park your cash (like an IRA, rollover 401(k) or a regular brokerage account). Otherwise, it’s all a bit much to earn just a few extra bucks in cashback rewards.

p.s.: Don’t forget to actually sign up for the Preferred Rewards program. Enrollment isn’t automatic. Plus...

Tiered rewards rates take a while to kick in. You won't start earning Preferred Rewards rates until you’ve met eligibility requirements for an entire calendar quarter.

Cashback redemptions into a bank account are only allowed if that account happens to be at B of A. Clearly B of A really, really wants to keep you and your money in its orbit.

The 3% foreign transaction fee can add up if you use the Unlimited Cash Rewards Card outside of the U.S.

Other cards offer elevated rewards rates for merely opening a checking or savings account at the institution without requiring such a sizable ongoing balance. The Alliant Cashback Visa Signature Card is one of my favorite cards if you're willing to maintain a checking account and complete one monthly deposit. The payoff is earning 2.5% cash back on up to $10,000 in monthly purchases across all spending categories.

The bottom line

Is the Bank of America Unlimited Cash Rewards the best rewards card for your wallet? The answer depends entirely on your spending patterns. Let the numbers speak for themselves: Use the Cashback Credit Card Calculator to see which credit card pays back the highest rewards based on how much you spend each month.

Bank of America Unlimited Cash Rewards fine print

Don your specs to check out the Unlimited Cash Rewards card rates, fees, rewards features and bugs. The Bank of America’s Preferred Rewards program FAQs will help you decide if you’ve got what it takes (accounts-wise) to qualify for a higher cashback rate.

Does the Bank of America Unlimited Cash Rewards charge an annual fee?

No, there is no annual fee for the Bank of America Unlimited Cash Rewards.

tips_and_updates Trivia time!

How common are annual fees? Roughly 17% of the consumer cash back cards we review charge an annual fee. They range from $39 to $99, with an average annual fee of $67.

Does the Bank of America Unlimited Cash Rewards offer a welcome bonus?

Yes, the Bank of America Unlimited Cash Rewards has a welcome bonus of $200.

tips_and_updates Fun fact

More than half (55%) of the consumer cash back credit cards we track in the database offer a welcome bonus, ranging from $30 up to $300. The average sign-up bonus for new cardholders is $197, with the median being $200.

How much cashback can I earn with the Bank of America Unlimited Cash Rewards?

The average American that spends $1000 per month will earn $180.00 in cash back per year using the Bank of America Unlimited Cash Rewards. For comparison, the average annual rewards payout from the cashback credit cards in the database is $191.26, and $180 is the median.

These calculations are based on average consumer spending data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and the reward payout rates from the providers we track. Of course, you’re so much more than an average data point (aka “consumer unit,” in BLS parlance). The amount you can earn in cashback rewards using the Bank of America Unlimited Cash Rewards depends entirely on your unique spending habits.

Find out exactly how much you’ll rake in with the Bank of America Unlimited Cash Rewards by tailoring the spending inputs in the calculator above.

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The results of the Credit Card Rewards Calculator are based on the monthly spending amounts you enter and the annual dollar value of the rewards each credit card program pays per $1 spent. Credit card companies often express this payout amount as a percentage (e.g., 1.5% of every dollar spent) or on a points basis (e.g. ,1.5 points for every dollar spent). We converted all of them to a dollar amount (“Cash Back Per Year”) to make comparing offers easier.

To calculate the amount of cash back you could earn per year, we factored in:

  • Spend category inputs: The default dollar values for each “Spend Category” in the Best Cashback Credit Cards tool — gas, groceries, travel, restaurant, entertainment, pharmacy, other — are based on average American spending data from the Consumer Expenditure Surveys from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. We also include additional spend categories (such as streaming services, online shopping, utilities, transit, Amazon and more) to help you see which rewards cards are most closely aligned with your actual spending patterns. We encourage you to customize the monthly spend inputs for the most accurate results.
  • Tiered rewards rates: If a rewards credit card pays higher cashback rates on certain spending categories (also called “Bonus Rewards”), that difference is reflected in the total “Cash Back Per Year” tally.
  • Rewards spending caps: Some cards impose category- or time-based limits (monthly, quarterly, annually) that affect the amount of rewards you can earn. For example, a card may pay 3% cash back on groceries on up to $1,000 of spending each quarter, then revert to the base/default rewards rate until the following quarter. We accounted for bonus spending caps and timeframe in the calculations.
  • Default rewards rates: Purchases that exceed a spending cap are usually subject to a lower default rewards rate (e.g., 1% or 1.5%). We mathed that out too.
  • Annual fees: If a rewards card charges an annual fee, we deducted that amount from the “Cash Back Per Year” total to provide a true accounting of a card’s annual rewards payout.

What’s not included in the “Cash Back Per Year” total is the cash value of any sign-up/introductory bonus. We highlight any Welcome Bonus separately. While sign-up bonuses can be the most lucrative part of getting a new cashback rewards credit card, not everyone will want or be able to do what it takes to earn the extra cash. (It usually requires spending a certain amount in a specified time period after the card is activated.)

About the Editorial Team

Dayana Yochim
Dayana Yochim

Dayana Yochim has been writing (articles, books, podcasts, stirring speeches) about personal finance and investing for more than two decades, focusing on bringing clarity and the occasional comedic aside to what is often a murky, humorless topic. She’s written for NerdWallet, The Motley Fool,, Woman’s Day, Forbes, Newsweek and others, and been a guest expert on "Today," "Good Morning America," CNN, NPR and wherever they’ll hand her a mic.

Carolyn Kimball
Carolyn Kimball

Carolyn Kimball is Managing Editor for Reink Media Group and the lead editor for content on Carolyn has more than 20 years of writing and editing experience at major media outlets including NerdWallet, the Los Angeles Times and the San Jose Mercury News. She specializes in coverage of personal financial products and services, wielding her editing skills to clarify complex (some might say befuddling) topics to help consumers make informed decisions about their money.

Andrea Coombes
Andrea Coombes

Andrea Coombes has 20+ years of experience helping people reach their financial goals. Her personal finance articles have appeared in the Wall Street Journal, USA Today, MarketWatch, Forbes, and other publications, and she's shared her expertise on CBS, NPR, "Marketplace," and more. She's been a financial coach and certified consumer credit counselor, and is working on becoming a Certified Financial Planner. She knows that owning pets isn't necessarily the best financial decision; her dog and two cats would argue this point.