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Ranking the Top Business Cards: Chase Ink Bold vs. Amex Business Rewards Gold vs. Starwood Business Amex

by on September 24, 2012 · 21 comments

in American Express, Chase, Starwood

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The business card market is extremely lucrative- for both credit card companies and business owners alike. Businesses generally spend a lot more money than the average consumer, so the potential for credit card companies to make money off the transactions (since they charge merchants fees for credit card purchases) and interest on carried balances is higher- and the same goes for business owners who can rake in huge points paydays- from not only sign-up bonuses, but spend bonus categories. Note: Most issuers will let you get a business credit card even if you don’t have an established LLC- you can use your own social security number and apply as a sole proprietorship. As for American Express, OPEN cards are are exclusively for business owners though that category also covers sole proprietors.

In my opinion, the three best transferable points programs are American Express Membership Rewards, Chase Ultimate Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest. Each program has at least one business card and in my opinion, the Chase Ink Bold, American Express Business Gold Rewards and the Starwood Business American Express are the most lucrative cards for those looking to maximize points.

My go-to transferrable points programs

I personally use all three on a daily basis, so I feel comfortable comparing their advantages and disadvantages. There are a ton of other business card products out there that I’ll compare in future posts, but for the sake of highlighting my favorites, I’ll start with these three and evaluate them based on the following metrics and assign award each a 1,2 or 3 score for each and the card with the most points “wins”: Sign-up bonus, Category spend bonuses, Transfer partners, Other redemption options, Benefits, Fees.
 Sign-up bonuses

Amex Business Rewards Gold: Update: This offer expired on October 29, 2013. View the current offer for the Business Gold Rewards card.
50,000 Membership Rewards points when you spend $5,000 in the first three months of Card membership. Restrictions: Bonus offer not available to applicants who have had this product or any other Business Gold, Green, or Platinum®Card account within the last 12 months. Score: 2
Chase Ink Bold: Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $5,000 in the first 3 months from account opening.  Restrictions: You can’t get the bonus if you’ve had the same card in the past, but you can get it for both versions of the product: Ink Bold with Ultimate Rewards (Charge Card) and the Ink Plus (Credit card) for a maximum haul of 100,000 Ultimate Rewards points. Score: 3 
Starwood Business Amex:  Once a year Amex runs a 30,000 point offer, but that just ended in September. The best offer now is 25,000 points:  10,000 after first purchase and 15,000 after $5,000 spend in the first 6 months.

Score: 1

Summary: The Ink Bold wins because the potential max bonus is higher (100,000 for both cards) and I personally think Ultimate Rewards points are more valuable than Membership Rewards points. I think they are comparable to Starwood points, but the Starwood bonus is 1/2 as lucrative. As far as second place, the Business Gold Rewards wins out because the bonus is higher than Starwood Amex (even though Starwood points are more valuable, I don’t think they are twice as valuable as Membership Rewards).
 Category Spend Bonuses

Amex Business Rewards Gold: 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. Restrictions: Points are earned only on eligible purchases. Bonus points limitations apply. Score: 2

Chase Ink Bold: 5 points per dollar spent on office supplies/cell phone/internet/landline/TV, 2 points per dollar on gas stations and hotels and 1 point per dollar on everything else. Restrictions: $50,000 max spent in both 5x and 2x categories Score: 3

Starwood Business Amex: 1 Starpoint for every dollar of eligible purchases. Receive up to 5 Starpoints for every dollar of eligible purchases charged directly with Starwood Hotels & Resorts – that’s 2 Starpoints per dollar spent on the Card in addition to the Starpoints you get as a Starwood Preferred Guest member. Score: 1 

Summary: The 5x Ink Bold categories are extremely lucrative, especially since you can purchase gift cards at office supply stores and essentially get 5 points per dollar on everything you spend (up to the $50,000 bonus limit). The Business Gold Rewards is a clear second due to the 3/2 categories and Starwood trails since it only awards bonuses on Starwood spend.

Transfer Partners

Amex Business Rewards Gold:  Airlines: Air Canada Aeroplan, Singapore, All Nippon Airlines, British Airways (current 40% bonus), Iberia, Cathay Pacific Asia Miles, Delta, Air France/KLM Flying Blue, Alitalia, Aeromexico, Virgin America (2:1), Virgin Atlantic, El Al (20:1), Frontier, JetBlue, Hawaiian. Hotels: Starwood (3:1 ratio), Hilton (1:1.5), Best Western, Jumeirah (23:1), Choice  Score: 1

Chase Ink Bold: Airlines: United, British Airways, Korean, Southwest Hotels: Hyatt, Marriott, Ritz-Carlton, Priority Club. Other: Amtrak Score: 2

Starwood Business Amex: Aeroplan, Air Berlin, Air China, Air New Zealand (65:1), Alaska, Alitalia, ANA, American, Asia Miles, Asiana, British Airways, Delta, Emirates, Flying Blue, Hawaiian, JAL, King Club, LAN (1:1), Miles and More, Qatar, Saudi Arabian, Singapore, Thai, US Airways, United (2:1), Virgin Atlantic  Score: 3 

Summary: Starwood Preferred Guest gives a 25% bonus for every 20,000 points transferred and has a lot of strong partners like American and Alaska. Chase comes in second because United and Hyatt are great values at instant 1:1 ratios. Membership Rewards does run transfer bonuses, like the current British Airways 40%, but they are fickle and the have become more and more scarce lately for me to raise their score solely based on the possibility of future bonuses.

Other Redemption Options

Amex Business Rewards Gold: Pay With Points allows travel to be purchased at 1 cent per point through Amex Travel. Gift cards range in value from .5 cents per point for Amex gift cards to 1 cent per point for popular retailers. Score: 1 

Chase Ink Bold: Points are worth 1.25 cents each when purchasing travel directly through Ultimate Rewards. 1 cent per point for cash back or shopping via Amazon.com or with gift cards. Score: 2

Starwood Business Amex: Points can be redeemed for Starwood hotels starting at 2,000 points a night and the fifth night is always free on award redemptions. You can also leverage Starpoints for great value using Cash & Points. SPG Flights also allows points to be used to purchase airfare at about 1 cent per point.  Score: 3

Summary: Redeeming Starwood points for Starwood hotels can be a tremendous value, especially with Cash & Points. Chase has a solid 1-1.25 cents per point redemption value in their “alternate” redemption methods and Membership Rewards brings up the rear with only .5 cents per point for the nearest cash back equivalent- Amex Gift cards.

 

Amex Open Savings Participants

Benefits

Amex Business Rewards Gold: Amex OPEN Savings gives automatic discounts at certain vendors: like 3% off Hyatt, 5% off Courtyard by Marriott and up to 10% off at Office Max. 90 days of purchase protection and extended warranties.  Score: 2

Chase Ink Bold: Lounge Club membership (2 free visits) Score: 1

Starwood Business Amex: Starwood Gold Status with $30,000 in spend, 2 stays/5 nights towards SPG elite status, AMEX Open Savings, Roadside assistance, Car rental loss and damage coverage, extended warranty, purchase protection and travel accident insurance.   Score: 3

Summary: American Express has been in the business card business longer and it shows- there are a lot more built-in benefits like the OPEN Savings program and travel insurance benefits. The Starwood card has those same benefits plus the Starwood elite perks, so it wins the top spot.

Fees:

Amex Business Rewards Gold: $175 annual fee, waived the first year. 2.7% foreign transaction fees. $0.0006 per point fee when transferring points to US airline transfer partners. Score: 1 

Chase Ink Bold: $95 annual fee, waived the first year. No foreign transaction fees. No fee when transferring points to partners. Score: 3

Starwood Business Amex: $65 annual fee, waived the first year. 2.7% foreign transaction fee. No fee when transferring to partners. Score: 2

Summary: Ink Bold wins for its modest annual fee and no foreign transaction or transfer fees. Starwood beats the Business Gold Rewards due to the much cheaper annual fee and no transfer fees.

The Results!
Chase Ink Bold: 14
Starwood Business Amex: 13
Amex Business Rewards Gold: 9

Do you agree with these results? If not, how would you have changed around the rankings?

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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  • Josh_brooks

    Great article. Wish there was a card like the Sapphire for business (no gas, but dining and travel). I would say however, those of us that have businesses, buying gift cards at staples and using them for business purchases is not very easy. Makes tax time a little awkwward and bookkeeping a lot harder.

  • thepointsguy

    Good point. Though I end up using my sapphire a lot for business expenses, much to my accountants chagrin since it gets a lot of personal spend. Sapphire Businsss has a nice ring to it though- plus a new card and signup bonus would be nice :-)

  • Jndong

    nice summary, i have both amex cards, but I wanna try chase card now:
    1. i already have 4 chase personal credit cards, will they grant me this business card? i heard chase has total credit line and card quantity limit per person. so i need to cancel one personal card or move credit line among cards?
    2. i applied united chase card 1 month ago, will they treat business card & personal separately? because if they are same, and chase does not grant 2nd card within 90 days period, i will have no chance to get this new business card
    * i have to apply by my SSN, no LLC, so will chase report business card to credit bureau seperately from persoanl card?
    thanks.

  • thepointsguy

    1) They may approve you without having to close any other cards or reduce credit limits- really depends on your financials and credit score. Worst case scenario you shift some of your other credit lines to open up the Ink- that works like a charm.
    2) There is no 30/60/90 day rule- thats a myth. The Ink application will be a inquiry on your personal credit report, but once the account is opened, it will sit on your business credit report.

  • davep

    Generally agree, but AmEx Business Rewards Gold gives double points on advertising. I put all my Google Adwords and whatever other advertising I can on it. Great to build up points fast. Used to put everything else on SPG AmEx but recently got the InkBold for sign-up bonuses. Like to have both SPG and Hyatt points.

  • Josh_brooks

    I would love to deploy a Saphire-esque card to all my employees. Its a shame that Chase doesnt allow additional cards to show up on the bill seperately. Tell them Points Guy. We need a Sapphire business card: Dining, Travel, Communications, Office Supplies. NO GAS. Enough of those cards out there.

  • Josh_brooks

    And don’t even get me started on how much my accountant hates my credit card churning!

  • Scott

    If you want a centralized corporate card for your employees to book airfare on, the best (BY FAR) option is the US Bank Flexperks Travel Visa. Double points for all airfare bookings and an excellent redemption schedule.

  • Timothy Sparks

    I have multiple businesses, would I still receive a new sign-up bonus if I already have the same card through a different business entity? I already have Ink Bold & Cash, SPG Biz & Personal and AmEx Business Gold.

  • Timothy Sparks

    I have multiple businesses, would i receive a sign-up bonus for a new card, if I already have the same card in a different business name? I have Ink Bold & Cash, SPG AmEx Business & Personal, and AmEx Business Gold.

  • Lanny

    Nice article and summary. Thanks. I have finished my first 10K on the Ink Bold… now moved on to the 75K Membership Rewards points after 10K spend from that one day offer they had. Once done with that, I’ll probably try to get the Ink Plus… maybe by the time that is done, Starwood will have another special and I can get in on it. Always appreciate your posts! Thanks again.

  • Justin

    I spend 20-25k per year in AdWords, so the AMEX biz gold is a no brainer, but that’s all I use it for. Use my Ink for everything else and will probaly get (swap w/ new app) the Plus card when the AF comes due…

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  • Will

    Do you think opening a Chase checking account prior to attempting a more “risky” credit card application such as the scenario described by the OP would make the applicant appear committed to the Chase brand and help in getting the card(s) approved?

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  • http://flavors.me/mbrosen Matt Rosen

    Such a helpful post.

    Thanks a ton.

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  • Col. Kickass

    Attention : if you are reading this article and use Google Adwords, get the Amex Gold card. You get 2x points on your ad spend up to $100,000. That’s absolutely huge and needs to be mentioned in this article.

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