The Bank of America Travel Rewards Credit Card for Students is best for travel-minded students. Rewards can help pay for their next trip or while studying and trekking abroad, and the card doesn’t have foreign transaction fees. The bonus for new cardholders and rewards rate are more than competitive, and unlike some student cards, you can use a co-signer to qualify. However, if you’re unlikely to use rewards on travel, look for another card that will offer more value when rewards are used for traditional cash back.
Generous bonus for new cardholders
Decent rewards rate
Long 0% APR promotion
No foreign transaction fee
Cosigners allowed if you don't have good credit
High spending requirement to earn the bonus
Point redemption restrictions
Rewards redeemed for cash aren't worth much
- Generous bonus for new cardholders: About half of the available student credit cards offer a bonus, but they’re not always worth much. This card’s 25,000 bonus points are worth $250 in statement credits for travel purchases, one of the highest available bonuses right now.
- Decent rewards rate: Some student credit cards offer bigger bonuses for specific types of purchases, but this card’s 1.5 points per $1 spent apply to everything, and unlike other student rewards cards, there’s no cap on how much you can earn. Plus, you’ll get another 1.5 points per $1 spent on travel booked through the Bank of America Travel Center.
- Long 0% APR promotion: Your purchases won’t accrue any interest for the first 12 billing cycles, about twice as long as most student cards offering an introductory APR. While it’s best to avoid carrying a balance, particularly as you establish good credit card habits, you’ll have a year to pay off a particularly large purchase. Just remember the ongoing APR will jump up to a variable 14.99%-22.99%, depending on your creditworthiness.
- No foreign transaction fee: While this is a given among good travel cards, it’s less common among student cards. Some student cards charge a fee of as much as 3% of each transaction when you make purchases abroad, but not this one. If you’re planning to take the card on an international trip, this card is the better choice. Foreign transaction fees can easily cancel out the rewards you’ll earn on a single purchase.
- Cosigners allowed if you don’t have good credit: For several student credit cards, a good credit score is recommended to get approved. So if you’re just establishing your credit history, you may need a co-signer who meets those standards to get this card. Luckily, Bank of America is one of just a few major issuers that allow co-signers on its student credit cards.
- High spending requirement to earn the bonus: The card asks students to spend $1,000 within 90 days of opening an account to earn the bonus points. While the bonus is more generous than many other student card offers, that’s a large amount to spend in a short window for a budget-minded student learning to manage a card, perhaps for the first time. As with most cards, the clock starts when you’re approved, not when you receive the card in the mail and activate it.
- Point redemption restrictions: You can’t redeem points for cash or travel credit until you’ve earned 2,500 points (worth $25) which must first be applied to the most recent travel purchase you made on the card. Similarly, using points for gift cards requires you to first have 3,125 points, and the redemption values of gift cards vary. These stipulations could leave money in your account versus in your wallet if it takes you a while to earn the points.
- Rewards redeemed for cash aren’t worth much: Your rewards are worth the standard 1 cent per point if you use them to travel, but if you want cash back, you’ll get just 0.6 cents per point. This card is really best for students who plan to earn and redeem rewards for travel-related expenses.
Bonus for New Cardholders
You’ll receive 25,000 bonus points if you spend at least $1,000 within 90 days of getting your card. That’s good for $250 in statement credits for travel purchases, or $150 if you redeem your points for cash. This is impressive, given most student cards have a meager bonus, if any. (Though most don’t require you to spend as much in such a short time period to get it.)
Even if you have the Discover it Student Cash Back Card, which matches your rewards at the end of your first year, you’re not likely to net more, based on our average student spending calculations.
Earning Points & Rewards
The Bank of America Travel Rewards Credit Card for Students has a simple, straightforward rewards structure that applies to all purchases. You’ll earn 1.5 points per $1 charged on your card, more than some competing student cards only offering 1% back on all purchases. You’ll also earn a bonus for eligible purchases made through the Bank of America Travel Center. For those, you’ll earn 3 points per $1.
You can also earn between 25%-75% more points with the “Preferred Rewards” program, but you’ll need to meet a very high deposit threshold. Depending on your three-month average balance in your qualifying Bank of America and/or Merrill investment accounts, this is how much of an earnings boost you'll get:
- $20,000 to $49,999 = 25% rewards bonus (1.87 points per $1)
- $50,000 to $99,999 = 50% rewards bonus (2.25 points per $1)
- $100,000 or more = 75% rewards bonus (2.62 points per $1)
There’s no limit on your earnings and your points never expire.
Some student cards offer 2 or 3 points per $1—or even 5% cash back—but only for charges at certain locations, like grocery stores or gas stations, or require you to manage monthly categories. Depending on whether you spend the bulk of your money on the same things, you may earn more with a competing tiered-rate card or Bank of America’s Cash Rewards card with categories you choose.
You can use your points for cash back, or gift cards, but travel redemptions offer the most value. After making a travel-related purchase, just request a statement credit against your travel purchases. The bank will credit you at a value of 1 cent per point. For example, if you buy a $100 train ticket, you can redeem 1000 points to get a statement credit which removes the $100 charge from your account.
You can redeem your points through your online account, the bank’s mobile app, or over the phone. You can redeem them for up to 12 months after you make a travel purchase, so if you haven’t earned enough to cover a trip, you have a year of wiggle room.)
Bank of America defines eligible travel broadly. It includes purchases with airlines, hotels, timeshares, trailer parks, campgrounds, vehicle rental agencies, cruise lines, and travel agencies as well as boat rentals, parking lot fees, tolls, and more. Even charges at amusement parks and circuses qualify. In-flight goods and duty-free airport purchases are excluded, however.
You can redeem your points for cash back, but at only 0.6 cents per point, you won’t get the most bang for your buck this way. Redemption values will also vary when you use points to buy gift cards.
How to Get the Most Out of This Card
If spending $1,000 in 90 days is a tall order for you, consider adding an authorized user, such as a parent, so you don’t miss out on the bonus for new cardholders. That person can use the card and then pay you back for his or her purchases—Just make sure the person is reliable and will reimburse you right away.
The card offers a lot of flexibility on travel redemptions, and that’s how you’ll get the best value from your points. When it’s time to redeem your rewards, make sure to use them for travel rather than cash back to maximize their value.
Use the card for everything you can, but avoid spending more than you can pay off at the end of each month. Not only is it a bad habit to get into, but you don’t want interest charges to eat into your rewards.
Bank of America was rated “about average” in the J.D. Power 2019 U.S. Credit Card Satisfaction Study, scoring a 798 out of 1,000 points (the industry average was 806). You can reach the customer service team through its live chat feature on the website or contact a representative 24/7 over the phone.
If you opt-in, Bank of America offers free monthly updates on your FICO credit score, a great feature for college students just starting to establish their credit history. Take advantage of the perk as you develop good credit habits.
Bank of America offers standard security features like zero liability and chip card technology.
This card doesn’t charge a foreign transaction fee, which is important if you’re planning to study or travel abroad. It also doesn’t charge an annual fee, which is relatively standard for this category of cards, but important for a starter card nonetheless. If you miss a payment, you’ll be charged $29 the first time—any additional missed payments will come with a $40 fee. However, if you have a balance of $100 or under, you won’t be charged a penalty fee at all.