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Credit Card Review: BankAmericard (BAC)

Author: Jacob Harris

Bank of America (BAC) has a full line of credit cards – known as BankAmericards – available for customers with all sorts of different financing needs. This line is convenient for customers who need to rebuild credit, establish credit, earn rewards, or want to keep all of their debits and credits with one financial institution.

The original BankAmericard came out in 1958 and was the predecessor to Visa. Decades after it went away, Bank of America brought it back in several different forms. If you're looking to re-establish credit through your bank, the secured BankAmericard could be for you. If you want to use your checking or savings account to bolster your rewards program, try the BankAmericard Cash Rewards Signature Visa or the BankAmericard Power Rewards Visa Signature.

Rewards and Benefits

The rewards and benefits depend on which BankAmericard you look at. The Basic Visa offers slightly lower rates on cash advances (17.25%), but it lacks any rewards program beyond its otherwise standard costs.

The Cash Rewards Signature Visa allows cardholders to receive 3% cash back on gasoline purchases and 2% cash back on groceries, with no rewards for other purchases. A slightly different rewards option is available through the Power Rewards Visa Signature, which essentially earns one rewards point for every dollar of spending. The first six months of this program allow for three times the rewards on gas, groceries and drugstores.

The Fine Print

Each rewards BankAmericard is limited to $1,500 per quarter ($500 per month) in spending at gas stations and grocery stores before rewards stop adding up. This is fine for light spenders on a budget, but there are plenty of superior rewards cards available for individuals and families.

The standard APR for these cards ranges between 10.99% (very competitive) to 24.99% (pretty steep). The lowest rates are only available through the BankAmericard Visa, which doesn't offer any rewards program.

The secured BankAmericard isn't great on balance transfers or cash advances. Without a zero percent introductory grace period, most other credit cards do laps around its 3% immediate transfer fee and 20.24% balance transfer APR. All direct deposit and cash advances pay the same 20.24% variable APR, except bank cash advances (like an ATM withdrawal) which get a 5% fee and a 24.99% APR. Consumers are better off with nearly any other option.

Payments aren't considered late until they're 60 days overdue, but late balances get a 29.99% APR. This is a very high charge and should act as a severe deterrent to missing payments.

Secured cardholders have to pay $39 per year in annual fees and 3% in foreign transaction fees. Neither of these are considered exorbitant, but there are cheaper options out there for most consumers.

Main Competitors

With so many types of BankAmericards, most of the credit card industry should be considered competition (except for the Chase Sapphire and American Express Platinum cards). This credit card lineup is only viable for existing Bank of America customers with niche financing needs.

Who Should Get It

Rewards cards can be tied to a BoA checking account or savings account. If you have one of these accounts and redeem the cash back directly from the card to the bank account, you receive 10% extra rewards. There might still be better cash back cards on the market, but this is a nice plus if you want to keep your eggs in one basket.

The clear-cut best target customer for the fully secured card has a prior banking relationship with Bank of America and is looking for rebuild or establish a solid credit history. A competitive monthly grace period leaves time to pay off a modest monthly balance, and most of the benefits can be stacked with other BoA accounts.

None of these cards are good options for people who struggle to pay their bills on time, travel internationally, or are generally looking for the cheapest and lowest-fee card options. It would be easy to ring up high fees if this card were misused.

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