There’s more to that cash back deal, though. Net qualifying purchases made within the first 3 months earn unlimited 3% cash back. Big spenders who can charge more than $50,000 per year earn a 30% bonus on cash back at the end of the year, and every cardholder qualifies for a 5% year-end cash back bonus, regardless of spending power.
Aside from the cash back program, BB&T Spectrum Rewards Credit Card has a 12-month 0% APR promotion on purchases and balance transfers, a relatively low regular APR, and some useful Visa-backed benefits.
This definitely is not the best cash back credit card around, but that’s not to say it’s not worth a closer look, especially for current BB&T deposit accountholders. There’s just one catch: You have to live in BB&T’s service area to qualify for this card. BB&T primarily serves the southeastern and mid-Atlantic United States, from Texas up through Maryland. If you live elsewhere, keep looking.
You earn unlimited 3% cash back on all spending within 3 months of account opening. For example, on $2,000 in spending within the bonus period, you’d earn $60 cash back. This is a useful perk for cardholders who can muster lots of spending shortly after opening their accounts – for instance, folks financing home improvement projects or purchasing new cars.
Earning Cash Back Rewards
Once the sign-up bonus period ends, this card’s cash back rate drops to unlimited 1% on all spending, regardless of category or amount. Cash back accumulates as dollars and cents, with every $1 in spending equivalent to $0.01 in cash back.
Redeeming Cash Back Rewards
You can redeem your accumulated cash back for virtually anything: paper checks, prepaid debit cards, gift cards, travel, merchandise, entertainment and experiences, and more. Checks are definitely the best option, as they value cash back at $0.01 per $1 spent. BB&T’s prepaid debit cards carry monthly maintenance fees ($2.50 per month) after 6 months, so they’re not ideal for long-term use, and the gift cards are brand-specific.
Other redemption options, such as travel and merchandise, ascribe wildly variable values to earned cash back – often far below the standard rate of $0.01 per $1 spent. Minimum redemption requirements can be steep on some items, too. For instance, you need at least $150 to redeem for an airline ticket, and $250 to score a prepaid card.
Annual Cash Back Bonus
Each year, you receive a 5% bonus on all cash back earned over the previous 12 months. For instance, $100 in cash back earns a $5 bonus, for total annual earnings of $105.
Cash Back Bonus for Big Spenders
When you spend $50,000 or more in a year, you get an additional cash back bonus of 30% on top of your 5% bonus. For instance, if you earn $500 in cash back, you get a $150 bonus (30%) in addition to the usual $25 bonus (5%), for a total cash back bonus of $175.
There is no annual fee. The foreign transaction fee is 3%. Balance transfers and cash advances both cost the greater of $10 or 3% of the transferred amount, while late payments cost up to $37.
This card comes with a 0% APR on purchases and balance transfers for 12 months following your account opening date.
Once the introductory APR period ends, BB&T Spectrum Rewards Credit Card’s purchase and balance transfer APR rises to range between 13.65% and 22.65%, depending on your personal creditworthiness and prevailing interest rates. The cash advance APR is set at 23.65% from the first day your account is open, but can vary with prevailing interest rates at any time.
Optional Overdraft Protection for BB&T Deposit Accountholders
If you already have a BB&T deposit account, you can link it to your BB&T Spectrum Rewards Credit Card to protect against overdrafts. When you attempt a purchase that would normally result in an overdraft, your credit card is immediately charged an amount sufficient to offset the negative balance. There’s a $12.50 charge per occurrence. Overdraft protection transfers add to your credit card’s balance, so it’s in your best interest to pay them off as soon as you have the funds.
Visa Card Benefits
This card has a nice lineup of useful Visa-backed benefits. The most noteworthy include:
- Extended warranties on certain items purchased in full with the card
- Travel accident insurance, a bare-bones form of travel insurance
- Emergency assistance services for stranded or distressed travelers
- No Annual Fee. BB&T Spectrum Rewards Credit Card does not charge an annual fee. That’s great news for frugal cardholders and those who don’t spend heavily enough to offset any sort of recurring levy with earned rewards. Some premium cash back cards do charge annual fees – for example, Blue Cash Preferred from American Express charges $95 per year.
- Nice Introductory Purchase and Balance Transfer Promotion. This card has a 0% APR purchase and balance transfer promotion lasting 12 months from account opening. If you need to finance a large purchase upfront (which is an attractive proposition in light of the 3% cash back sign-up bonus) or transfer an existing high-interest balance from another card, you could do worse than BB&T Spectrum Rewards Credit Card.
- Relatively Low APR Range. This card’s regular purchase and balance transfer APRs range from 13.65% to 22.65%. If you have very good credit and can therefore secure a rate at the lower end of that range, your interest rate is likely to be a few points lower than with competing cash back cards such as BankAmericard Cash Rewards Credit Card and Chase Freedom Card. While it’s always ideal to pay your balances off in full each month, carrying balances from month to month is somewhat less costly with BB&T.
- Nice Fringe Benefits. BB&T partners with Visa to deliver some useful fringe benefits, including extended warranties on certain items and travel assistance services.
- Overdraft Protection for Deposit Accountholders. If you already have a BB&T bank account, you can take advantage of BB&T’s overdraft protection service, which charges your credit card to cover transactions that would otherwise result in negative balances. The fees associated with overdraft protection are roughly 66% lower than regular overdraft fees, so this is a huge source of savings for those whose accounts occasionally go negative.
- Mediocre Sign-up Bonus. BB&T Spectrum Rewards Credit Card’s unlimited 3% cash back sign-up bonus sounds like a good deal. However, compared with other popular cash back cards, it’s actually pretty paltry. By contrast, Chase Freedom Unlimited‘s $175 sign-up bonus requires $500 in spending over 3 months. That’s a 35% rate of return – more than 10 times that of BB&T. BB&T Spectrum Rewards Credit Card’s sign-up bonus only makes sense if you can conjure up a lot of spending within that 3-month period – for instance, $10,000 in spending would earn you $300, beating the Chase Freedom Unlimited bonus by a healthy margin.
- Sub-par Baseline Earning Rate. This card’s 1% baseline earning rate is unlimited, which is nice. However, it falls short of many other cash back cards’ baseline rates. Citi Double Cash Card earns unlimited 2%, while Chase Freedom Unlimited and Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards both earn unlimited 1.5%.
- Cash Back Bonuses Don’t Go Far Enough. BB&T Spectrum Rewards Credit Card’s 5% and 30% annual spending bonuses sound nice, but they actually don’t go far enough to put this card on equal footing with more generous cash back competitors. For high spenders, the bonuses combine to produce a 1.35% rate of return on spending. That’s solid, but still not up to snuff with the growing cohort of 1.5% and 2% cash back cards.
- Charges a Foreign Transaction Fee. This card’s 3% foreign transaction fee is a major bummer for people who travel outside the U.S. frequently. It more than offsets the regular cash back earning rate, and even negates cash back during the sign-up bonus period.
- Only Available to Applicants in BB&T’s Service Area. You don’t have to be a current BB&T accountholder to apply for this card, but you do have to live in the company’s service area, which extends from Texas through Maryland and includes most of the southeastern United States. If you live elsewhere in the U.S., you’re out of luck for the time being.
The BB&T Spectrum Rewards Card is just one of many cash back credit cards that earns unlimited 1% cash back on all purchases, with no tiers, fixed or rotating categories, spending caps, or other restrictions apart from the sign-up bonus period and annual spending bonuses. Such cash back schemes are easy to understand, so their appeal is understandable.
However, even for cardholders who prefer not to deal with rotating categories or complicated spending tiers, they’re not the cream of the cash back credit card crop. Flat-rate cash back cards such as Chase Freedom Unlimited, Citi Double Cash Card, and Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards offer unlimited cash back earnings of 1.5% to 2%, far outstripping Spectrum’s baseline earnings and annual bonuses. If you qualify for one of those cards, why not apply? You’re almost certain to earn more over the long run.