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Sunday, May 26, 2024

Bank of America® Unlimited Cash Rewards credit card for Students Review

Eric Bank

By: Eric Bank

Eric Bank
Eric Bank

Eric Bank is an M.B.A. who has covered financial and business topics since 1985, appearing regularly on Credible, eHow, WiseBread, The Nest, Zacks, Chron, BadCredit.org and dozens of other outlets. Eric specializes in taking complex subject matters and explaining them in simple terms for consumer audiences, particularly in the world of personal finance. Eric holds a Master's in Business Administration from New York University and a Master's in Finance from DePaul University.

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Editor: Jon McDonald

Jon McDonald
Jon McDonald

Jon leverages 15-plus years of journalism expertise to inform financial consumers about emerging trends and companies making an impact in the industry. He is most knowledgeable in the areas of budgeting, credit card rewards, and responsible credit use. Jon has a passion for writing and editing, and his articles have appeared in publications produced by The New York Times.

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Reviewer: Danielle Spurlin

Danielle Spurlin
Danielle Spurlin

With more than 10 years of accounting experience, Danielle Marshall has a deep understanding of many financial disciplines, including personal and commercial lending, retirement annuities, financial forecasting, and general bookkeeping. She has a bachelor's degree from the University of Florida's Fisher School of Accounting and currently manages all accounts receivable and payable for the parent company of CardRates.com. She works directly with credit card issuers and advertising partners to ensure our content meets compliance expectations and regulatory standards.

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Bank of America® Unlimited Cash Rewards credit card for Students Review

Rated 4.5 /5.0 ★★★★★

As a new college student, you’ve got plenty of things vying for your attention — including navigating the campus, studying your course materials, getting to know your classmates, and living on a (usually tight) budget. Obtaining your first credit card is probably not at the top of your to-do list. Still, it’s an important decision that could impact your current and future finances.

Happily, student credit cards are easy to get and can help with your budget through rewards and benefits. Some have complicated cash back or travel reward schemes, and you have to focus on their details to maximize value.

But if you want a simple card that doesn’t require too much extra brain power, consider the Bank of America® Unlimited Cash Rewards credit card for Students. It pays a flat cash back rate on all purchases – easy peasy.

In this article, I review it and three competing student credit cards that deserve your consideration. Any one of them can make college life just a tad easier to manage.

Main Points and Observations

    • The Bank of America® Unlimited Cash Rewards credit card for Students is an unsecured card for college students with good to excellent credit.

    • It has a 19.24% - 29.24% Variable APR on purchases and balance transfers and a $0 annual fee.

    • The card pays an unlimited 1.5% cash back rewards rate on all eligible purchases.

    • The card offers an easily achievable signup bonus, as well as a 0% Intro APR for 15 billing cycles for purchases. Once the introductory period ends, the regular APR will apply.

    • The card offers several security features, but its other benefits are lackluster.

I like the card’s simplicity and how it can help you stretch your budget. The interest rate may be high, but you can avoid it by paying your entire balance every month.

The card is an excellent choice if you have a Bank of America checking account — or plan to open one. Other students may prefer a competing card that provides better rewards and benefits.

How to Qualify & Apply For the Card

Applying for the Bank of America® Unlimited Cash Rewards credit card for Students is quick and easy. You can simply access the application on the Bank of America website. Here, we also assess some of the card’s other key features.

Disclosure: When you apply through links on our site, we often earn referral fees from partners. For more information, see our ad disclosure and review policy.

Advertiser Disclosure

CardRates.com is a free online resource that offers valuable content and comparison services to users. To keep this resource 100% free, we receive compensation for referrals for many of the offers listed on the site. Along with key review factors, this compensation may impact how and where products appear across CardRates.com (including, for example, the order in which they appear). CardRates.com does not include the entire universe of available offers. Editorial opinions expressed on the site are strictly our own and are not provided, endorsed, or approved by advertisers.

Bank of America® Unlimited Cash Rewards credit card for Students Review

at Bank Of America'ssecure website

BEST OVERALL RATING

★★★★★

4.5

OVERALL RATING

  • $200 online cash rewards bonus after you make at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening.
  • Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on all purchases.
  • No annual fee.
  • No limit to the amount of cash back you can earn and cash rewards don’t expire as long as your account remains open.
  • 0% Intro APR for 15 billing cycles for purchases, and for any balance transfers made in the first 60 days. After the Intro APR offer ends, a Variable APR that’s currently 19.24% - 29.24% will apply. A 3% Intro balance transfer fee will apply for the first 60 days your account is open. After the Intro balance transfer fee offer ends, the fee for future balance transfers is 4%.
  • When handled responsibly, a credit card can help you build your credit history, which could be helpful when looking for an apartment, a car loan, and even a job. Access your FICO® Score for free within Online Banking or your Mobile Banking app.
  • Contactless Cards - The security of a chip card, with the convenience of a tap.
  • This online only offer may not be available if you leave this page or if you visit a Bank of America financial center. You can take advantage of this offer when you apply now.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% Intro APR for 15 billing cycles for purchases
0% Intro APR for 15 billing cycles for any balance transfers made in the first 60 days (Balance Transfer Fee 3% for 60 days from account opening, then 4%)
19.24% - 29.24% Variable APR on purchases and balance transfers
$0
Excellent/Good

Additional Disclosure: Bank of America is a CardRates advertiser.

To qualify for the card, you must be a US citizen or resident, 18 or older, with a sufficient annual income to pay your credit card bills. Students under 21 must provide a cosigner or demonstrate an independent ability to make monthly credit card payments.

Applicants over age 21 can reference their assets and income to prove they can afford the card’s minimum payments. You may also include income from other sources that you can reasonably expect to access.

To apply, you must provide your phone number, email address, and Social Security number or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN). You can only use an ITIN if you apply at a local Bank of America branch.

Interestingly, you don’t need to provide proof of college registration to get the card. Another uncommon aspect of this student card is that you must have good or excellent credit. Many student credit cards accept applicants with any type of credit — or even no credit.

Benefits & Drawbacks to Consider

Students are often new to the credit world, which can seem a little bewildering. Credit cards, when responsibly used, are excellent tools for managing finances and earning rewards such as cash back or travel points.

On the other hand, a lack of credit experience may mean you can’t identify the differences among competing credit cards. Some student cards are more attractive than others, perhaps due to richer benefits, larger rewards, or lower costs.

If you can control your enthusiasm, avoid applying for the first credit card that pops up on your radar. Instead, evaluate the pros and cons of several cards before applying for one.

Here are the Bank of America® Unlimited Cash Rewards credit card for Students’s key benefits and drawbacks:

Benefits

    • Annual fee: The card’s perks are available with $0 annual fee. That’s especially welcome news if you’re a student on a tight budget.

    • Earn unlimited rewards: You earn a flat 1.5% cash back rewards rate for every dollar you spend on eligible purchases. Rewards don’t expire while the account remains active and in good standing. Your cash back may be worth more if you are a member of the bank’s Preferred Rewards program.

    • Signup bonus: Receive a one-time $200 bonus if you spend $1,000 on purchases within the first 90 days of account opening. This bonus is about average for a student credit card.

    • Flexible redemption options: Redeem your cash back for statement credits, deposits to a Bank of America or Merrill account, checks, or shopping at selected merchants. Some redemptions require a $25 minimum.

    • Introductory APR: Benefit from a 0% Intro APR for 15 billing cycles for purchases. The regular APR will apply once the promotional period ends.

    • Credit-building opportunity: Using this rewards card responsibly can help you improve your credit history, a vital factor for your financial future.

    • Security features: Bank of America provides robust security measures for its credit cards, including a $0 liability guarantee for fraudulent transactions and account alerts to keep you on top of your charges, balances, and payments.

    • Overdraft protection: You can opt for the Balance Connect service to help prevent returned checks, declined purchases, or other overdrafts. To qualify, you must link your eligible Bank of America checking account to your credit card. Some fees may apply.

    • Digital wallet compatibility: Insert your card into your digital wallet for secure and convenient payments, enabling you to shop without your physical card.

    • Preferred Rewards available: You can earn higher cash back rewards if you have at least $20,000 on deposit at Bank of America or Merrill.

Drawbacks

    • Good credit required for approval: The card requires a good to excellent credit score for approval, an uncommon requirement for a student credit card.

    • Higher variable APR after the introductory period: The card’s interest rate for purchases and balance transfers rises to a relatively high variable rate after its promotional APR period ends.

    • Foreign transaction fee: Unlike travel-themed credit cards, this one charges a fee on foreign purchases.

    • Signup bonus spending threshold: The $200 signup bonus requires you to spend $1,000 on purchases within the first 90 days, which may be challenging if you’re on a tight budget.

    • Lack of bonus categories: There are no premium reward rates on categories such as travel, dining, groceries, or gas.

    • Preferred Rewards may be out of reach: Many students do not have the $20,000-plus in a Bank of America or Merrill account to qualify for the Preferred Rewards program.

The card’s benefits certainly deserve consideration. However, the drawbacks provide ample reason to shop around for competing cards that may better suit your needs.

Other Cards Worth a Look

Please consider the following three cards if you want additional options for a student card with cash back rewards. They all feature special promotions for new cardmembers and a $0 annual fee. Alternatively, you may want to supplement your cash back with a card that provides travel rewards.

BEST OVERALL RATING

★★★★★
4.6

OVERALL RATING

  • Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase, every day
  • Early Spend Bonus: Earn $50 when you spend $100 in the first three months
  • Earn 10% cash back on purchases made through Uber & Uber Eats, plus complimentary Uber One membership statement credits through 11/14/2024
  • Enjoy peace of mind with $0 Fraud Liability so that you won't be responsible for unauthorized charges
  • Enjoy no annual fee, foreign transaction fees, or hidden fees
  • Lock your card in the Capital One Mobile app if it's misplaced, lost or stolen
  • Earn up to $500 a year by referring friends and family when they're approved for a Capital One credit card
  • Build your credit with responsible card use
  • Whether you're at a 4-year university, community college or other higher education institution, this card might be an option for you
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
19.99% - 29.99% (Variable)
$0
Average, Fair, Limited

The Capital One Quicksilver Student Cash Rewards Credit Card offers the same 1.5% flat cash back rate as the Bank of America card. In both cases, the rewards have the same value regardless of redemption method.

The card has no foreign transaction fee. Its signup bonus is also small, and it doesn’t offer an introductory 0% APR promotion on purchases or balance transfers.

Discover it® Student Cash Back Review

at Discover Card'ssecure website

BEST OVERALL RATING

★★★★★
4.5

OVERALL RATING

  • INTRO OFFER: Unlimited Cashback Match for all new cardmembers – only from Discover. Discover will automatically match all the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year! So you could turn $50 cash back into $100. Or turn $100 cash back into $200. There’s no minimum spending or maximum rewards. Just a dollar-for-dollar match.
  • Earn 5% cash back on everyday purchases at different places you shop each quarter like grocery stores, restaurants, gas stations, and more, up to the quarterly maximum when you activate. Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases—automatically.
  • Redeem your rewards for cash at any time.
  • No credit score required to apply.
  • Discover could help you reduce exposure of your personal information online by helping you remove it from select people-search sites that could sell your data. It’s free, activate with the mobile app.
  • No annual fee and build your credit with responsible use.
  • 0% intro APR on purchases for 6 months, then the standard variable purchase APR of 18.24% - 27.24% applies.
  • Terms and conditions apply.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% Intro APR for 6 months
10.99% Intro APR for 6 months
18.24% - 27.24% Variable APR
$0
Fair/New to Credit

The Discover it® Student Cash Back card offers quarterly rotating bonus rewards instead of a flat cash back rate. The bonus rewards are subject to a spending limit, and the category must be activated each quarter. It provides new cardmembers with an unlimited Cashback Match of all the cash back posted during the first year. This premium reward may be worth considerably more than the $200 signup bonus from the Bank of America® Unlimited Cash Rewards credit card for Students.

This rewards card does not require a good to excellent credit score, or indeed any score. However, its introductory APR promotions are shorter and less lucrative. Once the introductory period ends, the regular APR will apply.

Discover it® Student Chrome Review

at Discover Card'ssecure website

BEST OVERALL RATING

★★★★
4.0

OVERALL RATING

  • INTRO OFFER: Unlimited Cashback Match for all new cardmembers – only from Discover. Discover will automatically match all the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year! So you could turn $50 cash back into $100. Or turn $100 cash back into $200. There’s no minimum spending or maximum rewards. Just a dollar-for-dollar match.
  • Earn 2% cash back at Gas Stations and Restaurants on up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter, automatically. Plus earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases.
  • Redeem your rewards for cash at any time.
  • No credit score required to apply.
  • Discover could help you reduce exposure of your personal information online by helping you remove it from select people-search sites that could sell your data. It’s free, activate with the mobile app.
  • No annual fee and build your credit with responsible use.
  • 0% intro APR on purchases for 6 months, then the standard variable purchase APR of 18.24% - 27.24% applies.
  • Terms and conditions apply.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% Intro APR for 6 months
10.99% Intro APR for 6 months
18.24% - 27.24% Variable APR
$0
Fair/New to Credit

The Discover it® Student Chrome card offers a bonus reward tier with a quarterly cap on selected purchases (i.e., at gas stations and restaurants). All remaining purchases earn only 1% instead of the 1.5% flat rate from the Bank of America card.

This Discover® student card provides new cardmembers with a Cashback Match of all the cash back posted in the first year. This bonus is potentially more valuable than the signup bonus from the Bank of America card.

Cardholder Reviews on Reddit

Before applying for a student credit card, you should read online cardholder reviews, as they give real insights into the card’s benefits and drawbacks. Reviews can help you understand if the card’s features match your needs and spending habits. They can also warn you about potential issues or hidden costs so that you can make a more informed decision.

Maximum-Excitement58 responded to a question about using the Bank of America® Unlimited Cash Rewards credit card for Students to pay college tuition:

“Yes, it will earn cash back. The amount of cash back it earns will almost certainly be less than the fee the school charges you to pay with a credit card (usually in the range of 2.5% to 3.5%).”

Arcades offers advice to young people considering the card:

“If you’re not successful with the Bank of America cards, you could also apply for a secured Discover it card (you deposit your credit limit in advance) to help build your credit history/score. The secured card earns the same cash back.”

Brandawg451 prefers the Bank of America® Customized Cash Rewards credit card for Students:

“I got the student card back in March. I think I had a score of 723, but I forgot with whom. I had less than a year of credit history and got accepted. But I have been banking with them for four years. The 3% for online shopping is great, though. It’s a very broad category, so I can order Chipotle on the app and then get 3% back because it’s “online shopping. Pretty nice.”

To be frank, I found few online comments for the Bank of America® Unlimited Cash Rewards credit card for Students. You may want to look at forum remarks concerning the non-student version of the card, which offers virtually identical perks except for a higher credit limit.

FAQs: How Do the Card’s Rewards Work?

The card lets you earn cash back through eligible purchases. You can also collect a cash signup bonus. Let’s take a closer look:

Signup Bonus

The card offers a signup bonus of $200 after you spend at least $1,000 on eligible purchases within the first 90 days of account opening. Only new cardowners can earn the bonus.

However, achieving this bonus requires careful spending. You should not make unnecessary purchases just to earn the bonus. It’s important to ensure that any spending towards the bonus fits within your budget.

Purchases

With this student credit card, you earn cash back by making purchases on eligible items. You will receive unlimited 1.5% cash back on all purchases, regardless of the category or amount spent. That means you earn 1.5 cents on each dollar you spend on eligible purchases.

BOA credit card screenshot
Cardholders can earn unlimited cash back on eligible purchases.

There are no specific spending limits or categories to track that affect how much cash back you can earn. This makes the cash back process straightforward, allowing you to earn rewards on everyday spending without having to navigate complex rules​​.

Certain types of transactions do not earn cash back. These ineligible transactions include balance transfers, cash advances, fees charged by the bank (i.e., late fees or foreign transaction fees), and interest charges. Additionally, purchases of cash equivalents, such as money orders, traveler’s checks, foreign currency, and certain types of gift cards, don’t earn cash back.

Redemptions

You can redeem cash rewards for a check, statement credit, or direct deposit into a Bank of America account. You can also receive a credit to a Merrill qualifying 529 plan or a cash management account.

Some redemptions require a $25 minimum, but you can request a redemption at any time.

The Bank of America Preferred Rewards Program

This program benefits cardholders with high savings and investment balances in their Bank of America and/or Merrill accounts. Program participants can earn significantly more rewards on their spending.

Depending on the tier of membership — Gold, Platinum, or Platinum Honors — members can increase their cash back earnings by 25% to 75%.

Your reward tier depends on your three-month combined average daily balance:

TIER BALANCE REQUIREMENTS REWARDS BONUS
Gold Tier $20K to <$50K 25% rewards bonus
Platinum Tier $50K to <$100K 50% rewards bonus
Platinum Honors Tier $100K to <$1M 75% rewards bonus
Diamond Tier $1M and up 75% rewards bonus and no international transaction/ATM fees

Membership in the Preferred Rewards Program also provides access to better deals on mortgages, savings rates, auto loans, brokerage and banking fees, and home equity loans, among other financial products.

However, the rewards program is probably not useful for most students. Maintaining high balances in a Bank of America or Merrill account may be a pipedream for undergraduates with limited income.

What Is the Credit Limit on the Card?

The bank sets the card’s minimum credit limit at $500. Typically, student cards offer modest credit limits, so expecting a limit above $1,000 is unlikely, although not impossible.

The bank determines your initial credit limit upon approving your application. It bases the decision on various criteria, such as your credit background, your payment capacity, and the information submitted in your application.

Having a parent or another adult cosign your card application may improve your chances of receiving a higher credit limit.

How Does the Card Help Me Build Credit?

Using the card wisely benefits your spending habits and helps you build credit. Here’s the breakdown:

    • Managing credit utilization: The card offers a modest credit limit that aids in controlling your credit utilization ratio (i.e., credit used compared to credit available). Maintaining a ratio under 30% can help enhance your credit score.

    • Encouragement for on-time payments: Timely payments are essential for a positive credit score. The card’s online and mobile services, including alerts, automatic payments, and overdraft protection options, help you pay punctually, thereby fostering good credit habits.

    • Access to credit education: The bank’s website provides educational resources on credit management. Access these to understand the factors influencing your credit score and how to manage your credit effectively.

    • Opportunity for credit line increases: Using your card responsibly may lead to credit limit increases, which can improve your credit utilization ratio and, consequently, your credit score.

By sensibly managing and using your card, you can enjoy the spending rewards and also build a good credit profile that will help you qualify for low-cost financial products in the future.

Should I Own More Than One Student Credit Card?

If you have no credit history, I advise you to start with one credit card to build financial skills, including budgeting and making timely payments that boost your credit score. Once you can confidently manage one card, and have established good credit, consider a second card for additional benefits to bolster your credit score by diversifying your credit usage.

Be sure you can comfortably manage multiple cards, which requires tracking various due dates and fees to prevent missed payments that may damage your credit score.

Be cautious not to overspend with the second card, which could raise your credit utilization ratio and hurt your score. Also remember, applying for a new card can temporarily impact your credit score due to the hard inquiry.

What Happens to the Card After I Graduate?

After graduation, issuers may automatically switch your student credit card to a non-student version, aiming to keep you as a loyal customer. However, you have the choice to decline this offer.

Graduation offers a wonderful opportunity to select a card that fulfills your evolving financial goals. It is a critical time to re-evaluate your credit card needs while taking into account how your financial situation and spending habits have evolved since beginning college. It’s wise to explore various credit card options that better fit your current lifestyle. Look for benefits such as higher credit limits, enhanced cash back, travel rewards, or lower interest rates.

How Does the Card Compare to the Bank of America® Customized Cash Rewards credit card for Students?

Here’s a comparison between the Bank of America® Unlimited Cash Rewards credit card for Students and the Bank of America® Customized Cash Rewards credit card for Students. Both cards offer similar basic features, like no annual fee and an introductory APR period, but they differ in their reward structures.

Bank of America® Unlimited Cash Rewards credit card for Students Bank of America® Customized Cash Rewards credit card for Students
Annual Fee $0 $0
Signup Bonus $200 after spending $1,000 in first 90 days $200 after spending $1,000 in first 90 days
Cash Back Rate Unlimited 1.5% on all purchases 3% on the chosen category, 2% on groceries and wholesale clubs (up to $2,500 in combined choice category/grocery/wholesale club quarterly), 1% on other purchases
Intro APR  0% Intro APR for 15 billing cycles for purchases 0% Intro APR for 15 billing cycles for purchases
Regular APR 19.24% - 29.24% Variable APR on purchases and balance transfers 19.24% - 29.24% Variable APR on purchases and balance transfers
Credit Required Good to Excellent Good to Excellent
Other Features Credit reporting, free FICO scores, $0 fraud liability Same, plus choose your 3% category monthly; categories include gas, online shopping, dining, travel, drug stores, or home improvement/furnishings.

The Bank of America® Unlimited Cash Rewards credit card for Students provides simple, flat-rate cash back on all purchases, making it suitable for those who prefer a straightforward rewards program. In contrast, the Bank of America® Customized Cash Rewards credit card for Students allows you to earn more cash back in categories you can choose and change monthly, which is ideal if you spend in specific areas.

Is the Card Worth Getting If I Don’t Have a Bank of America Account?

The Bank of America® Unlimited Cash Rewards credit card for Students is worth considering even if you don’t have a Bank of America account, but you should weigh several aspects. This card offers a clear benefit of 1.5% cash back on all purchases, which is straightforward and caters to students who want to earn rewards without complex requirements. The signup bonus is a modest incentive that provides additional value upfront.

However, it would be best if you didn’t overlook the advantages of having a Bank of America account. Account holders may access higher cash back rates through the Preferred Rewards program. Integrating your banking and credit card accounts can also streamline your financial management and deliver more personalized customer service.

Keep in mind that other student credit cards may offer better rewards, depending on your spending habits and needs. Consider cards with distinct rewards and no annual fee that may better match your spending patterns.

For example, you may prefer higher cash back in certain categories or benefits for dining and entertainment. That means the best card for you (including other Bank of America student credit cards) will depend on where you tend to spend the most.

This Card May Be For You If…

    • You prefer straightforward rewards: The card’s flat cash back is ideal if you want consistent earnings without tracking rotating categories.

    • You’re a student with good credit: It caters to students but requires a good to excellent credit score. Hence, it suits those who already have some credit history.

    • You bank (or plan to bank) with Bank of America: While not a requirement, having a Bank of America account can unlock additional benefits and rewards, enhancing the card’s value.​​​​

Comparing the Bank of America® Unlimited Cash Rewards credit card for Students with its competitors is crucial to ensure it matches your undergraduate lifestyle. Different cards offer varying reward structures, signup bonuses, and additional benefits, which may provide more value depending on your spending patterns.

Considering other options helps you understand the student credit card market. You want to choose a card that fits your current situation but also supports your long-term financial journey.

About the Author

Eric Bank
Eric Bank Finance Expert

Eric Bank is an M.B.A. who has covered financial and business topics since 1985, appearing regularly on Credible, eHow, WiseBread, The Nest, Zacks, Chron, BadCredit.org and dozens of other outlets. Eric specializes in taking complex subject matters and explaining them in simple terms for consumer audiences, particularly in the world of personal finance. Eric holds a Master's in Business Administration from New York University and a Master's in Finance from DePaul University.

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