Update: The offer mentioned below for the Business Platinum Card from American Express has expired. View the current offer here.
Business credit cards are great because they allow small and large business owners alike to accrue valuable points that can then be redeemed for everything from travel to statement credits and cash back. What many people don’t realize is that you don’t have to have a major business to qualify for one of these cards. Most issuers will let you get a business credit card by applying with your own social security number if your business is a sole proprietorship (a business run by one person). Some credit card companies, like Citi, may request more documentation of your business, but generally if you have good credit and a reason to get a business credit card (or just the thought of opening your own business), you can get approved since it’s important to keep personal and business expenses separate even when you are first launching a business. As for American Express, OPEN cards are exclusively for business owners though that category also covers sole proprietors.
What It Means For Your Credit
However, before you go opening business credit cards, understand that they will still trigger a hard inquiry on your personal credit report (a temporary 2-5 point score reduction). However, once the credit line is opened, it will sit on your business credit report, which is separate from your personal report. This is good if you run big balances on your business cards since it won’t artificially damage your personal credit score. However, if you default on a business card, expect the issuer to come after you personally since they are guaranteed by your personal credit.
That being said, business credit cards are great, especially if you have employees, because it makes tracking expenses easy and you’ll pay less in accounting fees if your accountant doesn’t have to sort through personal vs. business expenses (plus it’s easier to get everything straightened out if you ever get audited by the IRS).
Double Dipping With Personal and Business Cards
For the avid point collector, business cards are key because many offer huge sign-up bonuses and spend category bonuses – and you can generally get a personal and business card on the same day per issuer and have it count as a single hard inquiry on your credit. Additionally, with most issuers you can link your personal and business credit card together so you don’t have to manage multiple accounts and the points accrue into one central account, making it easier to rack up rewards and maximize the bonuses on all of your cards.
Points, Miles or Cash Back?
The question is the same for personal cards, but generally I get more value out of flexible transferable point than specific airline miles or cash back because points and miles become less valuable for business travel when you don’t have the flexibility to book the most valuable award tickets. That said, I can see why business owners might be more attracted to cash back, especially from an accounting/tax perspective. Below are the major business credit cards and their key benefits. If you use a card not listed, please feel free to comment and I’ll add to the list.
Top Business Cards by Issuer (Ranked by my thoughts on which is the best overall deal, including sign-up bonus, annual fee and benefits):
Generally you can get each business card once. For example, I got the Old Ink Bold card and the new one when it was launched and got both 50,000 point sign-up bonuses. If you are ever declined for a card, you can call the business lending reconsideration line between 8am and 8pm EST Monday-Friday.
1. Ink Bold with Ultimate Rewards: 50,000-point sign-up bonus after $5,000 spent within 3 months. Annual fee: $95, waived for the first year and no fee for additional cards. Earning: 5 points per dollar on office supply, phone, internet and cable TV and 2 points on gas and hotel. Points transfer 1:1 to United, British Airways, Korean Air, Southwest, Hyatt, Marriott, Priority Club, Ritz-Carlton and Amtrak, or can be used toward purchasing travel at 1.25 cents a point.
Update: This offer is no longer available. View the current offer for the Chase Southwest Rapid Rewards credit card here.
2. Southwest Business Card: 50,000 points after $2,000 spent within 3 months. Annual fee: $69, but each anniversary you get 3,000 points, which nearly negates the fee. Note: I’d recommend waiting until this card has a 50,000-point sign-up bonus so you can get both the personal and business, which together will nearly get you enough points to qualify for the Southwest Companion Pass, which is an amazing benefit.
3. Ink Classic Business: 20,000-point sign-up bonus after $3,000 spend within three months. Points cannot be transferred to airlines, but they count as 1% cash back, so the sign-up bonus = $200. However, if you have a premium Ultimate Rewards card, like the Sapphire Preferred or Ink Bold with Ultimate Rewards, Chase will let you transfer these cash-back points into your premium account and from there you can transfer to airlines (similar to how they allow Freedom cardholders to transfer those points as I highlighted here). Earning: 5 points per dollar on office supply, phone, internet and cable TV and 2 points on gas and hotel. No annual fee.
4. Ink Cash Business: $200 cash back after $3,000 spend within three months. Earning: 5 points per dollar on office supply, phone, internet and cable TV and 2 points on gas and hotel. No annual fee.
Most Amex business cards are enrolled in Amex Open Savings, which offers automatic discounts at certain vendors, like 10% at Hertz and 3% at Hyatt. Amex generally allows you to get each different business card and sign-up bonus. Note: for the Platinum you can’t get the bonus if you have had the card or any other Business Gold or Green Card account within the last 12 months. The Business Gold card bonus is only available to those who haven’t had a Business Gold, Green or Platinum Card account within the last 12 months.
1. Starwood Preferred Guest Business: 25,000 points. 10,000 after first purchase and 15,000 after $5,000 within 6 months. Annual fee: $65 with the first year waived. Points can be redeemed on Starwood hotels (especially the valuable Cash & Points option) and also transferred to 30 airline partners listed here, including Aeroplan, Alaska, American, British Airways, Delta and US Airways, plus you get a 5,000 mile bonus for every 20,000 points transferred to most airlines (a 25% built-in bonus). Note: Starwood has run a 30,000-point sign-up bonus for the last two years in late July/early August, so it might make sense to hold off to see if something better comes along.
2. Business Platinum: 25,000 points with $5,000 spend within 3 months. Annual fee: $450 and each additional cardmember costs $450. Points transfer 1:1 to Aeroplan, Singapore, All Nippon Airlines, British Airways, Iberia, Delta, Air France/KLM Flying Blue, Alitalia, Aeromexico, Virgin America, Virgin Atlantic, El Al, Frontier, JetBlue, Hawaiian or can be used towards purchasing travel at 1.25 cents a point. Earning: 1 point per dollar spent. Other perks: Lounge access to US Airways and also Delta and American when flying those airlines. $200 annual airline fee rebate.
3. Delta Business Gold: 30,000 miles with $1,000 spent within 3 months. Annual fee: 95, waived for the first year. Miles are banked directly to your SkyMiles account, so are not transferable to other programs. Earning: 2 miles per dollar spent on Delta, 1 mile per dollar on everything else. Other perks: Free checked bag for you and up to 8 others on your reservation, priority boarding and 20% discount on in-flight spend.
4. Delta Reserve Business card: 10,000 Medallion Qualifying Miles with first purchase. 15,000 more if you hit $30,000 in spend, and then an additional 15,000 if you hit $60,000 in spend. Base earning: 1 SkyMile per dollar spent. $450 annual fee. Other perks: SkyClub access, annual companion ticket (eligible on first class and discount economy fares), priority board and free first checked bag.
5. Costco TrueEarnings Business: 4% cash back on gasoline, 2% at restaurants, 2% on travel, and 1% everywhere else. Annual fee: free with paid Costco membership, which starts at $55.
6. Simply Cash Business: 5% cash back at U.S. office supply stores, U.S. wireless telephone service providers, 3% cash back on gasoline at U.S. stand-alone gas stations, 1% cash back on other eligible purchases. Purchases above $12,000 in each category per reward year will earn only 1% cash back. No annual fee.
7. Business Gold Rewards: Get 50,000 Membership Rewards points when you spend $5,000 in the first three months of Card membership. I got the card in February with a limited time 75,000 point bonus, so I’d personally wait for a better offer to come along. You earn 3X points on airfare, 2x points on purchases in the U.S. for advertising in select media, gasoline at U.S. stand-alone gas stations, and shipping, and 1X points on other purchases. Update: Now you will also earn 2x on purchases made with from select computer hardware, software and cloud computing providers. The $175 annual fee is waived the first year. Note: The card does have 2.7% in foreign transaction fees.
8. The Plum Card from American Express: Limited Time Offer – Get a 1.5% discount on your payment by paying at least your minimum payment due within 10 days of the statement closing date. Pay no annual membership fee for your first year. Then, pay $20 annually. No annual fee for additional cards. Terms & restrictions apply.
The difference between some of the Spark Cash and Miles products can be minimal. In short: I recommend Spark Cash products, which simply give you cash back, whereas Spark Miles can only be used for travel redemptions. None of the Capital One cards offers transfers to airline or hotel mileage programs, so I’m not really a big fan of these products, though if you are looking for low/no annual fee cards with no foreign transaction fees, Capital One can make a lot of sense.
1. Spark Cash: 15,000 points ($150 cash back) after $1,000 spent within 3 months and adding an employee card. Annual fee: $59, waived for the first year. Earning: 2% back on all purchases.
2. Spark Miles : 15,000 points ($150 cash back) after $1,000 spent within 3 months and adding an employee card. Annual fee: $59, waived for the first year. Earning: 2% back on all purchases.
3. Spark Cash Select: No sign-up bonus. Annual fee: $0. Earning 1 mile per dollar spent, with a yearly 50% bonus, essentially giving 1.5% cash back. The “miles” are not transferable and can be used towards travel at 1 cent each. 0% APR on new purchases through January 2013.
4. Spark Miles Select: No sign-up bonus. Annual fee: $0. Earning 1 mile per dollar spent, with a yearly 50% bonus, essentially giving 1.5% cash back. The “miles” are not transferable and can be used towards travel at 1 cent each. 0% APR on new purchases through January 2013.
5. Spark Classic: No sign-up bonus. Annual fee: $0. 1% cash back. This card is for people trying to build their business credit.
1. CitiBusiness American Airlines: 50,000 AA miles after $3,000 within 4 months, a $150 statement credit and 2 Admirals Club Lounge passes. Annual fee: $75, waived for the first year. This can be paired up with a 50,000-mile personal card application at the same time, for 100,000 AA miles total- one of the best deals on the market right now. If you already have these cards, you will need to wait at least 18 months from your last approval to get them again and you should not apply again for a Citi card before 65 days from your last approval. This is not my affiliate link, but per this Flyertalk thread, many people seem to be having success with this offer.
2. CitiBusiness Thank You: 15,000 points after $3,000 spent within 3 months. Annual fee: $0. Earning: 3 points per dollar spent on eligible purchases in rotating categories. Jan-Mar: Office supply merchants, Advertising services, and Professional services; Apr-Jun: Computer equipment and software merchants, Telecommunications merchants; Jul-Sept: Airlines, Hotels, Car rental merchants; Oct-Dec: Restaurants and Entertainment. 1 point per dollar on everything else. Points cannot be transferred to any airline/hotel programs, but can be redeemed for 1 cent each towards travel and gift cards.
3. AT&T Universal Business: No sign-up bonus. Annual fee: $0, 5 ThankYou points for every $1 spent on eligible AT&T products/services, 3 points for every $1 spent on purchases at certain office – supply merchants, gas stations and on professional services and 1 point per dollar on everything else.
Bank of America
BOA is pretty flexible with applying for the same card over and over again, so it’s possible to get these bonuses multiple times, including the personal versions).
1. Alaska Airlines Business Visa: 20,000 miles after first purchase. Annual fee: $50 per company, $25 per card (company level earning plan) or $0 per company, $75 per card (individual level earning plan). Earning: 3 miles per dollar on Alaska Airlines purchases, 1 mile for everything else. Perks: $99 annual companion ticket (same as the personal card as outlined in this post). 0% intro APR for the first 9 months.
2. Hawaiian Airlines Business Visa: 10,000 miles after first purchase. Annual fee: $50 per company, $25 per card. Earning: 2 miles per dollar on Hawaiian Airlines purchases and 1 mile per dollar on everything else. Perks: One-time 25% travel discount toward 2 published full coach round-trip fares between Hawaii and the Mainland on Hawaiian Airlines.
3. Worldpoints for Business: 5,000 points after first purchase. Annual fee: $0. 1.5 points per dollar and points can be redeemed for travel (up to 1.7 cents per point in value for flight redemptions and 1 cent per point for giftcards/cash back).
4. Cash Rewards for Business: No sign-up bonus. Annual fee: $0. Earning: 3% cash back on gas and office supply stores, 2% cash back on restaurants and 1% on everything else. 0% intro APR for the first 9 months.
1. US Airways BusinessCard: 25,000 miles with first purchase (10,000 more miles with a balance transfer, which will incur fees). Annual fee: $79. Earning: 2 miles per dollar on US Airways purchases and 1 mile per dollar on everything else. Perks: 5,000-mile discount on US Airways awards (not applicable on partner awards), complimentary US Airways club pass and up to 10,000 Preferred Miles a year.
Disclaimer: This content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuer. Opinions expressed here are author.s alone, not those of the credit card issuer, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer. This site may be compensated through the credit card issuer Affiliate Program.
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