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Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available. View the current offers here: The Enhanced Business Gold Rewards Card from American Express OPEN, The Enhanced Business Platinum Card from American Express OPEN, Starwood Preferred Guest Business Credit Card from American Express
Credit cards are the quickest and easiest way to rack up miles and points, especially if you open business credit cards in addition to personal cards. Most issuers will let you get a business credit card (often on the same day as a personal card, which means no extra credit inquiry) by applying with your own social security number if your business is a sole proprietorship (a business run by one person). Some banks do request more documentation, but generally if you have good credit and a reason to get a business credit card, such as wanting to keep personal and work expenses separate, you can get approved. As for American Express, OPEN cards are exclusively for business owners though that category also covers sole proprietors. Opening up a business credit card will generate a hard inquiry on your personal credit score, though once the account is opened it will sit on your business credit report, so it won’t affect your credit utilization.
Here are my top 10 favorite business cards:
1. Ink Bold with Ultimate Rewards: Not only does this card from Chase net you 50,000 Ultimate Rewards points as a sign-up bonus after $5,000 spent within 3 months – but it also awards you 5 points per dollar spent at office supply stores and on phone, internet and cable TV, 2 points per dollar on gas and hotels and one point on everything else. 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, or toward merchandise redemptions. One of the lesser-known benefits is that this card also gets you two free lounge passes per year. The annual fee of $95 is waived for the first year and no fee for additional cards. If you already have this card, you can also apply for the new Ink Plus from Chase, which has a current sign-up bonus of 50,000 points when you spend $5,000 within the first 3 months and the same category spending bonuses. The $95 annual fee is waived for the first year and the main difference is that the Ink Plus is a credit card, meaning you can carry a balance at a lower interest rate and less penalties than with a traditional charge card.
2. Starwood Preferred Guest Business: Like the personal SPG Amex, this card will get you 25,000 Starpoints – 10,000 after your first purchase and 15,000 after spending $5,000 within 6 months. Benefits: 2x points per dollar spent at Starwood hotels, Gold status at $30,000 spent per year and 2 stays or 5 nights credit towards elite status and OPEN Savings– which gives automatic discounts at merchants like Hertz and Hyatt. 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. Annual fee: $65 with the first year waived.
The SPG Business Amex is a great companion card to the personal version.
Update: This offer is no longer available. View the current offer for the Chase Southwest Rapid Rewards credit card here.
3. Southwest Business Card: This card has a 50,000-point sign-up bonus after spending $1,000 within the first three months, worth over $800 in Wanna Get Away fares. Each anniversary you get 3,000 points, which can be redeemed for $50 in fares, nearly negating the $69 annual fee. You get 2 points per dollar spent on Southwest airlines as well as at Rapid Rewards hotel and car rental partners, and will earn 1 point per dollar in balance transfers up to 10,000 points within 90 days of opening an account (the balance transfer fee is 3% of the amount transferred, though, so this is probably not worth it). Note: Get both the personal and business cards, which together will nearly get you enough points to qualify for the Southwest Companion Pass, which is an amazing benefit.
4. Delta Reserve Business card: Though the sign-up bonus of 10,000 Medallion Qualifying Miles with first purchase seems low, remember that these are miles that count toward elite status, making them more valuable than regular bonus miles. When you spend $30,000 within a year you get both 15,000 more MQM’s and 15,000 regular bonus miles, and if you hit $60,000 within a year, you get another 15,000 MQM’s and 15,000 bonus miles. Base earning is 1 SkyMile per dollar spent, and 2 SkyMiles per dollar spent on Delta purchases. Other perks include Delta SkyClub access (a value of up to $450 per year), a free checked bag on Delta flights, priority boarding, a 20% discount on in-flight purchases, and a roundtrip first/business or economy companion ticket with the purchase of an adult roundtrip fare on published domestic routings within the 48 contiguous United States. The $450 annual fee is something to take into consideration.
5. The Enhanced Business Platinum Card from American Express OPEN: The sign-up offer for this perks-heavy card is 25,000 Membership Rewards points with $5,000 spend within 3 months, though there are sometimes limited-time offers with higher bonuses, such as a one-day promotion in April for 50,000 points when a new cardholder spent $10,000 within the first 3 months. The annual fee is a hefty $450 and each additional cardmember also 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 is only 1 point per dollar spent, so it might make sense to put your business spend on other cards and utilize this one for the perks like lounge access to US Airways and also Delta and American lounges when flying those airlines as well as a $200 annual airline fee rebate, which takes some of the sting out of that annual fee, and a complimentary companion ticket when the primary cardholder purchases a full-fare first or business class ticket (generally not a great value).
6. Ink Classic Business: This card’s 20,000-point sign-up bonus is earned after $3,000 is spent within three months. Points cannot be transferred to airlines, but they count as 1% cash back, so the sign-up bonus = $250. 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). You 5 points per dollar on office supply, phone, internet and cable TV and 2 points on gas and hotel. No annual fee.
7. US Bank FlexPerks Visa Business: The sign-up bonus for this card is 15,000 FlexPerks points when you spend $900 within 90 days, and you earn double points on gas, airline or office supply purchases – whichever you spend most on each billing cycle – as well as most cell phone purchases including monthly bills and internet charges, and one FlexPoint per dollar on other purchases. Flexpoints can be redeemed for any available airfare at any time with no blackout dates at a rate of between 1.33-2 cents based on a redemption schedule where, for instance, you need 20,000 points to redeem for tickets of up to $400 in value, or 30,000 points for tickets between $400-$600, etc., which can then be booked through the FlexPerks Rewards travel site. You also get a $25 allowance on award tickets for airline fees including baggage fees and in-flight purchases. You can also redeem points for hotels and car rental gift cards at a rate of 1 point per cent in 5,000-point increments for which you get gift certificates to use at chains like Hyatt, Marriott, Ritz-Carlton, Avis, Budget, Hertz, Carnival Cruise Lines and Royal Caribbean. Flexpoints are redeemable for merchandise from shops like Apple, Sony, Bose, Canon and Dell, and gift cards from places like Amazon, Best Buy, Gap, Macy’s, Office Depot and Starbucks, or even just cash-back statement credits at 1 cent per point in increments of 5,000 points. The annual fee of $55 is waived for the first year, and every subsequent year you spend $24,000 or more on the card.
8. American Express Business Gold Rewards: This card currently offers a 50,000-point sign-up bonus when you spend $5,000 within 3 months. 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. Restrictions: Points are earned only on eligible purchases. Bonus points limitations apply. Note: The card does have 2.7% in foreign transaction fees so I do not recommend using it for travel outside the US or spend with foreign vendors. Amex has launched limited-time 75,000-point sign-up bonuses both last February and in June, so I would recommend waiting until an offer on that scale came along. The annual fee of $175 is waived for the first year.
9. Bank of America Alaska Airlines Business Visa: The current sign-up offer is 20,000 miles after first purchase, so no minimum spending is required, and there is 0% APR on purchases for the first 9 billing cycles. Cardholders earn 3 miles per dollar on purchases of Alaska Airline tickets, Vacation packages and Cargo purchases made through Alaska Airlines, and 1 mile per dollar spent on other purchases. Cardholders also receive an annual coach companion fare for $99 plus taxes and fees. The annual fee is $50 per company and $25 per card, or just $75 per card. Though several of this card’s perks have been recently stripped including the 1,000-mile booking bonus for tickets booked on alaskaair.com, it still has the potential for a lot of value, especially since you can use Alaska miles to fly on American, Delta, Cathay, Air France and several other partners.
10. Barclay’s US Airways Business Card: This card comes with a 25,000-mile bonus for the first purchase and up to 10,000 more miles with a balance transfer within the first 30 days, though these will incur fees. Cardholders get 2 miles per dollar on US Airways purchases and 1 mile per dollar on everything else. Other perks include 5,000 mile discounts on award tickets redeemed for US Airways flights, a complimentary US Airways Club day pass and a $75 discount toward a new annual membership, and up to 10,000 Preferred (elite qualifying) miles a year. The annual fee is $79, but additional cards are free.