Most Rewarding Business Credit Cards

Filed Under: American Express, Business
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Update: These offers for The Business Gold Rewards Card from American Express and the SimplyCash® Business Card from American Express have expired. Learn more about the current offers here.

Reader Rossco posted the following on the Ask Lucky forum:

I avg. 100k a year in spending on my current business card (Amex Gold Card)
I don’t travel at all. Is there a better card that I should be using?

The most precious response is from a fellow reader asking “Dude, why don’t you travel? thats the bigger question, right?” But we’ll set that aside for a moment.

While we generally focus on consumer travel rewards cards, there are plenty of options for small business owners as well. And just like with personal cards, there are several things to consider when comparing cards. I think it’s especially interesting to think about what cards are rewarding in their own right, without factoring in the added value you can get by leveraging sweet spots in travel reward programs and so forth.

Evaluating the current card

Rossco currently has The Business Gold Rewards Card from American Express, which is actually one of my favorite small business cards.

The benefits of the Business Gold Rewards card were refreshed earlier this year, and the card bonuses are now a bit a la carte. You get to choose one category to earn 3x points, and it can be any of the following:

  • Airfare purchased directly from airlines
  • U.S. purchases for advertising in select media
  • U.S. purchases at gas stations
  • U.S. purchases for shipping
  • U.S. computer hardware, software, and cloud computing purchases made directly from select providers

You then earn 2x points on the remaining four categories, and 1 point per dollar on everything else. The double and triple points are good on up to the first $100k in purchases in each category — once you’ve met that threshold you still earn 1 point per dollar on net purchases.

Depending on the types of expenses you have for your business, this can be a pretty lucrative card. If you’re buying fuel for a fleet of vehicles, for example, then being able to choose 3x points on U.S. gas stations could be a nice perk.

The Business Gold Rewards accrues American Express Membership Rewards points, which are tremendously valuable for travel. Transferring points to a travel partner is absolutely going to be the best option for this card. For someone not interested in travel, this card might not be the best option though.

Outside of travel partners, you can use your Membership Rewards points toward eligible Card charges such as retail, dining, groceries and more, and effectively get 0.6 cents per point. You have to have enough points to cover the entire charge, but if you’re primarily earning points in your 3x category, this could still represent a decent return:

$1 on 3x category = 3 points = 1.8% back

$1 on 2x category = 2 points = 1.2% back

$1 on anything else = 1 point = 0.6% back

If the bulk of the $100,000 getting spent on this card is in a bonus category then this card is probably still a good option for Rossco. He has the flexibility to transfer his points should he decide he wants to travel in future, and is getting an okay return.

But I think we can do better.

The better charge card

The Plum Card® from American Express is a product that we almost never talk about here on OMAAT, but might be a great fit in this case.

Like The Business Gold Rewards Card from American Express and The Business Platinum® Card from American Express, the Plum Card is a charge card, not a traditional credit card.

While you must pay your balance in full every month (something we should all be doing anyway!), the benefit of a charge card is that your spending ability grows over time. This can be very helpful for small business owners, and if Rossco ever needs to make large or unusual purchases then the established relationship with Amex can help with approving a large purchase. Given Rossco is already using a charge card for his business expenses, he might prefer to stick with that versus a credit card, but this is potentially more rewarding for his situation.

Rather than earning Membership Rewards points, the Plum Card offers a 1.5% discount when you pay early, with no cap on what you can earn back. You can also take up to 60 days to pay with no interest, if you pay your minimum due.

This applies to employee spend as well, and as there is no additional fee for employee cards, this could be a good option. As long as you have the resources to be able to pay this card early consistently, you’re effectively earning 1.5% back on all purchases, regardless of category, with no limits.

1.5% back when you pay early

The Plum Card® from American Express also participates in the Amex OPEN savings program, so you can still take advantage of all those benefits.

A credit card from Amex

If Rossco is open to switching to a credit card product versus a charge card, but still wants to stay with American Express, the SimplyCash® Business Card from American Express might be worth considering.

This isn’t a card I find particularly rewarding for travel, but in terms of rebates it does get a decent return:

  • 5% cash back on the first $25,000 spent annually at US office supply stores and wireless phone providers
  • 3% cash back on the first $25,000 spent annually at your category of choice
  • 1% cash back on everything else

The cash back is in the form of “Reward Dollars” which are redeemable towards statement credit. 1 Reward Dollar is good towards $1 on your statement, so the process is pretty straightforward.

$1 on 5x category = 5 points = 5% back

$1 on 3x category = 3 points = 3% back

$1 on anything else = 1 point = 1% back

Again, if the bulk of your spending is bonused, this can be a rewarding card. The downside is that this card doesn’t come with any of the OPEN advantages, and it does have a hard spending limit, if that matters to you.

Chase Ink cards

We all love Ultimate Rewards points, and both the Ink Business Preferred℠ Credit Card and the Ink Business Cash℠ Credit Card have fantastic bonus categories.

For the Ink Preferred you earn:

  • 3x points on the first $150,000 spent annually at office supply stores, and on cellular phone, landline, internet, and cable TV services
  • 1 point per $1 on all other purchases—with no limit to the amount you can earn

While for the Ink Cash you earn:

  • 5x points on the first $25,000 spent annually at office supply stores, and on cellular phone, landline, internet, and cable TV services
  • 2x points on the first $25,000 spent annually at gas stations and restaurants
  • 1 point per $1 on all other purchases—with no limit to the amount you can earn

In either case, you can redeem your points for cash back as a statement credit to apply toward your balance, or get it directly deposited to most U.S. checking and savings accounts. Each point is worth 1 cent, and you have to have a minimum of 2,000 points (so a $20 credit).

$1 on 5x category = 5 points = 5% back

$1 on 2x category = 2 points = 2% back

$1 on anything else = 1 point = 1% back

As far as bonus categories are concerned, these are some of my favorite business cards, and if you’re interested in accruing points towards travel these cards offer a great way to rack up Ultimate Rewards points quickly.

Again though, Rossco will need to crunch the numbers to see if he has enough spending in the bonus categories to make these cards lucrative for him.

Bottom line

If you’re looking to earn points towards travel, you can generally get much more value than the stated return on a given card by leveraging transfer partners and making strategic redemptions.

Otherwise, determining the most rewarding card for your small business comes down to arithmetic. If you can maximize the bonus categories it’s possible to get a very lucrative return — sometimes as much as 5%.

However, if most of your spending would only be earning 1x points on cards like the the  Ink Business Preferred℠ Credit Cardthe Ink Business Cash℠ Credit Card, and the Business Gold Rewards Card from American Express, then I would probably lean towards a card with a more straightforward redemption rate, like the 1.5% offered The Plum Card® from American Express.

So in Rossco’s shoes, I would probably look into the Plum Card (along with exploring the possibility of travel, since that’s ostensibly why we’re on OMAAT to begin with).

What do you think? Which card would you recommend here?

Non-Affiliate Product Disclaimer: The information for the Ink Business Cash℠ Credit Card has been collected independently by One Mile at a Time. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

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  1. Hi Tiffany,

    I know you and Ben obviously follow the affinity card machinations very, very closely.
    I’m still wondering about how the very public divorce of Costco and AMEX will affect
    airlines (notably Delta) that rely heavily on their AMEX relationship.

    AMEX strikes me as pretty “needy” in this write-up, so I’m assuming will be much more pliable when Delta re-negotiates the deal. Do you see a scenario where Delta and AMEX also divorce?
    The Bloomberg piece is actually funny– AMEX was arrogant, right up to the point where it was obvious Costco was delivering the classic “It’s not me, it’s you…” speech.

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