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I Took Bank of America’s Deals Program for a Test Drive

Kristin McGrath

December 14, 2012

I have a checking account and debit card with Bank of America and every time I’ve logged into online banking the past few weeks, I’ve been getting helpful notifications that I’ve been missing out on free money.

These notifications are part of Bank of America’s new-ish deals program (BankAmeriDeals), which it started testing earlier this year. The program promises to be more personalized and more effortless than Groupon and other daily deals programs.

Here’s how it works:

When you check your transactions online, little notifications pop up under certain transactions, suggesting deals that are related — if only tangentially — to your purchase. In my case, a transaction at a Mexican restaurant notified me of a 15 percent cash-back offer at a Chinese restaurant. A gas station transaction prompted a deal from an auto repair store for 5 percent cash back.

You then select any deals you’re interested in (you can also pull up a page with all deals in your area), make an eligible purchase with the card tied to the account and wait for the cash back to appear in your account. There’s no need to present a coupon to a retailer and no need to contact the bank to redeem your cash back — the process is automatic, BofA promises.

I’m not sure exactly when BankAmeriDeals got rolled out on my account, but the deal notifications have been pretty persistent the past month or so. I don’t have a cash-back credit card (mostly because I don’t want another credit card), so the idea that I could shop with my debit card and get cash back automatically deposited in my account was an intriguing one. I decided to take BankAmeriDeals for a test drive.

I didn’t want to put too much money on the table right away, so I selected a 15 percent cash-back deal from a fast food chain. I clicked on the deal, adding it to my “ready to use” list. Then, I went to the restaurant and swiped my card for my $4 meal.

A few days later, the transaction cleared and under included an announcement reading “Congratulations! You earned cash back.” My “cash-back earned” balance on the BankAmeriDeals page was also updated to 60 cents. I still don’t have the money, though. BofA gives you the cash at the end of the month after you make the purchase. Because I made the transaction on Nov. 30, I should see the money at the end of December.

Overall, the process is as easy as BofA promises. Just don’t expect to earn tons of cash. While a good cash-back credit card will give you a small kick-back on all purchases (and a larger one if you spend in certain categories), you have to hunt for BankAmeriDeals that you can actually claim. I eat out about once a week and try to stick with local places — and nearly all the deals were for chain restaurants I rarely go to. To really cash in on BankAmeriDeals, I’d have to change my habits and buy things I don’t need — which any personal finance expert will tell you is a bad idea.

Still, I like the fact that I can get a few bucks back every now and then without having to open up a new line of credit. Assuming the program grows to offer a wider variety of deals, I think BankAmeriDeals and I are going to be good friends. In fact, I just found a 15 percent cash-back offer on a store where I was planning to do some holiday shopping anyway.

Looking for more smart shopping (and saving) advice as the holidays approach? Here are some of my favorite personal finance blog posts of the week:

The Debt Myth reminds readers that it’s OK to say “No” to invitations to pricey events.

Club Thrifty encourages shoppers not to sacrifice personal information to retailers.

iHeartBudgets explains why a single dollar is worth a lot if used wisely.

Evolving Personal Finance lists some gift ideas that won’t stress you out or break the bank.

Monster Piggy Bank wonders if it’s possible to escape the consumerism that surrounds the holidays.

Budgeting in the Fun Stuff has some tips for keeping your finances organized.