The Bank of America® Customized Cash Rewards Secured Card combines the best features of a cash-back credit card with the accessibility of a secured credit card that’s available to applicants with serious credit problems.
If you’re struggling to rebuild your credit after a financial setback or eager to build and improve it for the first time, this could be the card for you. But take a few minutes to understand its limitations before rushing out to apply.
What Is the Bank of America® Customized Cash Rewards Secured Card?
The Bank of America Customized Cash Rewards Secured credit card is a secured card that still offers the ability to earn cash back without paying an annual fee.
This card is a secured credit card, which means you need to provide a security deposit in order to use the card. It has a $200 minimum and $5,000 maximum security deposit. Upon approval, your maximum credit line is determined by the amount of your security deposit, your income, and your ability to pay the credit line established (as determined by Bank of America’s underwriters). Bank of America periodically reviews your account and may raise your credit limit based on your overall credit history.
Many secured cards don’t earn rewards, but this one does. Specifically, it earns 3% cash back in the category of your choice and 2% cash back at grocery stores and wholesale clubs. The 3% categories include:
- Online shopping
- Drug stores
- Home improvement/furnishings
You earn an unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases.
The 3% and 2% cash-back earnings come only on the first $2,500 in combined choice category/grocery store/wholesale club purchases each quarter. After that, these purchases earn 1% until the start of the next quarter.
Other cardmember benefits include overdraft protection and free access to your FICO score. There is no annual fee for this card, but there is a 3% foreign transaction fee.
What Sets the Bank of America® Customized Cash Rewards Secured Card Apart?
This card has several features that help it distinguish itself from other credit cards in its category.
- Up to 3% cash back. Many secured cards don’t earn rewards, so this is a huge deal. The Customized Cash Rewards Secured card earns up to 3% cash back in the category of your choice, 2% cash back at grocery stores and wholesale clubs, and an unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases. There’s a cap on 2% and 3% earnings, but the deal is still more generous than most other secured cards.
- Optional overdraft protection. This card comes with an optional service to help prevent overdrafts. However, you have to link your credit card to a Bank of America checking account.
- FICO Score access. This card gives you access to your FICO scores for no extra charge, which is increasingly common but not yet universal.
Key Features of the Bank of America® Customized Cash Rewards Secured Card
The Bank of America Customized Cash Rewards Secured Card offers the ability to earn cash back and overdraft protection. It has a few other features of note too.
This card earns 3% cash back in the category of your choice:
- Online shopping
- Drug stores
- Home improvement/furnishings
It earns 2% cash back at grocery stores and wholesale clubs and 1% cash back on all other purchases.
You earn 3% and 2% cash back on the first $2,500 in combined eligible purchases each quarter, then 1% for the rest of the quarter.
You can redeem your rewards for cash back in the form of:
Automatic redemptions into an eligible Bank of America or Merrill account start at $25. Statement credits, checks, and contributions into a qualifying 529 account are not eligible for automatic redemption enrollment.
This card has no annual fee.
It does have a balance transfer fee of 3% of the amount of each transaction.
The cash advance fee is 3% for direct deposits and check cash advances and or 5% for ATM, over the counter, same-day online, and cash equivalent cash advances.
There is a foreign transaction fee of 3% of the U.S. dollar amount of each transaction. The late payment penalty fee ranges up to $40.
Overdraft Protection (Balance Connect)
Transfers through Bank of America’s Balance Connect overdraft protection service count as bank cash advances. When you link an eligible deposit account to your credit card, Bank of America automatically transfers funds from your available credit to your deposit account to cover any negative balance, provided you have enough cash advance credit available.
This card is a secured card, which means you need to provide a security deposit in order to use it. But if you can do that, there’s a good chance you’ll be approved for this card even with poor credit.
Pros & Cons
The Bank of America Customized Cash Rewards Secured Card has several notable advantages, but it’s not perfect.
- No annual fee
- Lenient underwriting
- Strong cash-back rewards
- Path toward an unsecured upgrade
- Rewards program could be risky for some
- Requires an upfront security deposit
- Has a foreign transaction fee
- No sign-up bonus
The biggest upsides here are lenient underwriting, unusually generous rewards, and a clear path to unsecured status.
- No annual fee. Many secured credit cards charge annual fees, but not this one. That’s a huge advantage if you plan to hold onto it for a while.
- Available to people with bad credit. You can receive a secured card like this even if you have poor or bad credit. By using the card responsibly, which means paying your bills on-time and by avoiding debt, you can see your credit score improve quickly.
- Strong cash-back rewards. Bonus categories of 2% and 3% are competitive with standard, unsecured cards offered to those with good and excellent credit. This is rare in the secured credit card niche.
- A path forward. When you get a secured card from a diversified issuer like Bank of America, it can eventually transfer your account to one of their standard, unsecured cards, and refund your deposit. With other card issuers that only offer secured cards, or cards for people with bad credit, you would need to close your account and find a new card.
This card does have a few drawbacks too, notably the perverse incentive to spend more, the security deposit requirement, and the foreign transaction fee.
- The rewards program sends mixed messages. Having bad credit credit is often due to overspending. But when a card rewards you for spending more, that can be a mixed message at best. Use caution if you don’t trust yourself to spend within your means.
- Requires an upfront security deposit. Just as with all other secured cards, this card requires the payment of a refundable security deposit. If you don’t have the spare cash, then that could be a problem.
- Foreign transaction fees. While these unnecessary fees are still common, there are secured cards from Capital One and Discover don’t impose them. However, this is only an issue if you travel out of the country, or make purchases from foreign countries that process the transaction outside of the U.S.
- No sign-up bonus. Though not universal, some secured credit cards offer sign-up bonuses for new cardholders. This one doesn’t.
How the Bank of America® Customized Cash Rewards Secured Card Stacks Up
The card’s closest competitor is probably the Discover it Secured card. Here’s how the two cards compare:
|Bank of America® Customized Cash Rewards Secured Card||Discover it Secured|
|Sign-Up Bonus||None||Match all of cash back earned in the first year|
|Rewards Rate||Up to 3%||Up to 2%|
|0% Intro APR||None||None|
|Foreign Transaction Fee||3% of the transaction||None|
|Credit Needed||Poor or better||Poor or better|
Both of these cards are among the best secured credit cards on the market, so it’s tough to pick a favorite. But Discover it Secured’s first-year cash-back match is a big incentive for new applicants and could make the difference if you’re on the fence.
With bad credit, you may only be expecting to choose between bad credit cards. And to be sure, there are many terrible credit cards offered to people who have had serious credit problems.
But the Bank of America® Customized Cash Rewards Secured Card is different. It’s a legitimately rewarding way to rebuild your credit while earning cash back. So long as you use this card responsibly, and don’t let the cash-back rewards encourage you to overspend, you could find yourself on the right track in no time.