Now that summer is knocking on the door, credit card companies are eagerly throwing their hats into the travel credit card ring. This week, Bank of America introduced a brand-new lineup of travel-based credit cards. According to the company, these three new cards give customers access to travel rewards without making them jump through the typical hoops. “With these new travel cards, customers can earn reward points faster and can choose any airline, hotel or other travel provider for their travel plans,” said Susan Faulkner, a small business and consumer products executive for Bank of America.

But are these cards really worth the hype, or are they just another marketing gimmick? We decided to do a little investigating, and this is what we found.

The BankAmericard Travel Rewards Card

The BankAmericard Travel Rewards Card represents the ground floor of Bank of America’s new travel campaign. It carries no annual fee and awards cardholders 1.5 travel points for every dollar they spend, with an additional bonus of 10,000 points for making as-yet-undefined “qualified purchases.” The interest rate is 0% for the first year and then rises to between 15 and 23%. As a Visa Signature Card, the card also comes with a full suite of perks like purchase protection, free rental car insurance and foreign transaction fee forgiveness. Additionally, the card will reward anyone with a qualifying Bank of America checking or savings account with a 10% point bonus every year.

The one downside to the card, besides the lack of free checked bags or preferred boarding, is that you have to redeem your rewards in reverse. Instead of simply redeeming the rewards for a voucher (as you do with other travel credit cards), you pay for your vacation and then tell Bank of America that you want to be credited for the trip. While we don’t think this will be too much of a problem, we can see how counting on Bank of America to repay you for an already-purchased vacation could be an issue for some cardholders.

The Bank Americard Privileges With Travel Rewards Card

For those with a lot of money to spend and a taste for Grey Poupon, Bank of America offers the Privileges Card. An upgraded version of the Travel Rewards Card, this card ups the rewards returns, earning you 2 points for every dollar spent. While that’s a nice benefit, the Privileges card also saddles cardholders with a $75 annual fee – unless you have at least $50,000 in deposits or investments with Bank of America.

As far as an “exclusive” credit card goes, this one isn’t much to write home about. Though the Privileges card is clearly oriented towards the financially well-off, it doesn’t offer some of the benefits you’ll enjoy with a competing card. For example, the United MileagePlus Explorer card offers a 40,000-mile signing bonus, preferred boarding, a free checked bag and other goodies in addition to the Visa Signature perk suite. In a hypercompetitive market for the “one-percenter” dollar, the Privileges card just doesn’t bring enough to the table to make it worthwhile.

The World Points Travel Rewards for Business Card

Rounding out the new card trio is the World Points Travel Rewards Card. Designed for small businesses, the World Points card gives you 5,000 bonus points for your first purchase and 1.5 bonus points for every dollar spent after that. You don’t have to redeem your points on travel, either. World Points are also good for gift cards or cash back.

Keeping the caveat emptor of small business credit cards in mind, this isn’t a bad piece of plastic for business owners who are frequent flyers. The card comes with Bank of America’s suite of business features, and it automatically syncs to QuickBooks to help you manage your payments. You can even add employee cards to the account at no additional cost. For a rewards-based business card, you could definitely do worse.

In conclusion, while Bank of America’s attempt at a high-end travel card falls flat, their standard consumer and business cards offer an attractive new opportunity for frequent flyers to rack up free flights. The rewards schemes are better than average, and the deal only gets sweeter if you do your banking with Bank of America as well.

 

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