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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, Starwood Preferred Guest Business Credit Card from American Express
Today TPG Contributor Nick Ewen explains how you can boost your loyalty accounts even more with business credit cards, and shares the top sign-up bonus offers on the market right now.
Last week, TPG posted his monthly list of the Top 10 Travel Credit Card Offers. Taking advantage of sign-up bonuses like these is an easy way to boost your points and miles earning potential. However, that list exclusively featured personal credit cards, illustrating that business cards are a commonly overlooked component of a sound credit card strategy. So today, I want to go through the top 10 business card sign-up bonuses currently available. Have a look, and see if any of these card options can help you meet your award travel goals.
Why Get a Business Credit Card?
You may be thinking (as I did a few years ago) something like: “I don’t own a business, so why would I want/need/be interested in a business credit card?” It’s a valid question, and it often stops potential applicants from going after a lucrative sign-up bonus. However, this shouldn’t prevent you from applying (and being accepted for) a business credit card.
TPG wrote a great synopsis of the Top Reasons to Get a Business Card back in 2013, but the key takeaways is that you don’t need to have an actual business to open a business credit card (at least not in the conventional sense). Most card issuers allow you to apply for a business credit card using your Social Security number as the federal Employer Identification Number (EIN). Maybe you sell things on eBay or Amazon, or maybe you freelance as a graphic designer or writer. My wife works part-time as a real estate agent, and she was able to get a business credit card with no problems.
In addition, most card issuers don’t allow you to “churn” credit cards by opening accounts to get the sign-up bonus, closing them, shortly after, and then opening a new one down the road. However, the vast majority of business cards are treated as entirely separate products, meaning that you can get approved for a business version of a card even if you currently have the personal version in your wallet.
So with that out of the way, which business credit cards have the best offers right now? In no particular order…
Chase Ink Plus
Current Bonus: 50,000 Ultimate Rewards points after spending $5,000 in the first three months
Benefits: Earn 5 points per dollar spent at office supply stores and on telecommunications purchases (including cell phone, land line, internet, and cable TV services) on up to $50,000 in purchases annually, and 2 points per dollar spent at gas stations and hotels (again on up to $50,000 spent annually). Your points transfer to a variety of partners at a 1:1 ratio, including United Airlines, British Airways, and Hyatt.
Annual Fee: $95 (waived for the first year)
Analysis: This card has long been a favorite of points & miles enthusiasts, particularly for its earning rate at office supply stores. Both my wife and I have this card, and one of my favorite ways to maximize earnings is to go through an online shopping portal (like Ebates) to purchase eGift Cards from Staples for merchants that aren’t included in typical bonus categories (like Target and Home Depot). Based on TPG’s most recent monthly valuations, which peg Ultimate Rewards points at 2.1 cents apiece, the sign-up bonus alone is worth $1,050. That bonus was increased to 70,000 points in the fall of 2014, and while the online offer expired, you may still find it in your local Chase branch.
Current Bonus: 50,000 AAdvantage miles after spending $3,000 in the first three months
Benefits: Earn 2 miles per dollar spent with American Airlines and US Airways, office supply stores, telecommunications merchants, and car rental agencies. You (and up to four traveling companions) can check your first bag for free and enjoy Group 1 boarding privileges on American flights, and in-flight purchases are discounted 25%. Finally, when you renew the card, you earn a 5% mileage bonus on all purchases made during the cardmembership year.
Annual Fee: $95 (waived for the first year)
Analysis: I wrote a detailed review of this card last week, and it’s another one with a solid offer. The sign-up bonus gives you $850 worth of miles, though (unfortunately) the 2 Admirals Club passes that used to be a part of the offer are no longer included. While the office supply/telecommunications bonuses aren’t as noteworthy as those on the Chase Ink Plus, it’s nonetheless a great option if you value AAdvantage miles.
The Enhanced Business Platinum Card from American Express
Current Bonus: 40,000 Membership Rewards points after spending $5,000 in the first three months
Benefits: This card comes with the same benefits as the personal version, including airport lounge access through Priority Pass, a rebate for the Global Entry/TSA PreCheck application fee, a yearly $200 airline fee rebate, complimentary SPG Gold status, access to Fine Hotels & Resorts, and complimentary Boingo Wi-Fi at over one million hotspots worldwide.
Annual Fee: $450
Analysis: While the card does incur a hefty annual fee, the benefits can outweigh the up-front cost, especially in year one (see this post for a more detailed discussion). Unfortunately, the card lost access to Admirals Clubs and US Airways Clubs last year, but some of that loss was offset by the opening of several Centurion Lounges. Based on TPG’s valuations, the 40,000 Membership Rewards points from the sign-up bonus are worth $760.
Business Gold Rewards Card from American Express
Current Bonus: 25,000 Membership Rewards points after spending $5,000 in the first three months (though higher targeted offers may be available…see below)
Benefits: The card offers you 3 points per dollar spent on airfare and 2 points per dollar spent on advertising, shipping, gas, and select computing merchants (up to a combined $100,000 in yearly purchases).
Annual Fee: $175, plus $50 for the first additional card (both waived for the first year)
Analysis: Membership Rewards points are among the most valuable currencies out there, and getting triple points on airfare is a strong earning rate. The standard sign-up bonus of 25,000 points is worth $475. However, the American Express website may give you targeted offers of either 50,000 points (after spending $5,000) or 75,000 points (after spending $10,000), worth $950 and $1,425, respectively. What’s interesting is that you should, with enough persistence, be able to get the 75,000 point offer eventually, as it depends on the browser and operating system you’re using.
By playing around on my Mac and PC, I eventually was able to find pages with all three offers:
The 25,000-point offer came from Safari on my Mac, while the 50,000-point offer showed up in both Firefox and Chrome on my Mac, and Internet Explorer on my PC. Finally, I got the 75,000-point offer by navigating through Firefox on my PC. Amazing!
If you’re having trouble getting the higher offers to appear, try mobile devices, private/incognito windows, and clearing your cookies & cache. For more information and data points on what did (and didn’t) work for others, check out this FlyerTalk thread. Keep in mind Amex can be very strict on bonus offers, so make sure you screenshot the offer that you apply for and call to very the bonus that you will receive.
Current Bonus: 50,000 Gold Points after your first purchase, and an additional 35,000 points after spending $2,500 in the first 90 days
Benefits: Earn 10 points per dollar spent at Carlson Rezidor properties worldwide, and 5 points per dollar everywhere else. You’ll also enjoy automatic Gold Elite status, a free night on all award stays of two nights or longer, and 40,000 Gold Points each year when you renew the card.
Annual Fee: $60
Analysis: This card comes with the same benefits as the personal version, which TPG discussed at length back in 2012 when these cards first came out. The only differences involve the business-oriented services (like expense tracking and merchant discounts) and the annual fee ($75 on the personal version versus just $60 on the business card). The sign-up bonus alone is worth $510, and the anniversary bonus value ($240) more than covers the annual fee. Throw in the free night on redemptions of two nights or longer, and this card is a clear winner.
Starwood Preferred Guest Business Credit Card from American Express
Current Bonus: 10,000 Starpoints after your first purchase, and an additional 15,000 points after spending $5,000 in the first 6 months
Benefits: Earn 2 points for every dollar spent at Starwood locations, and 1 point per dollar spent everywhere else. You also earn 2 stays/5 nights toward elite qualification every year, and if you spend $30,000 on the card in a calendar year, you’ll receive SPG Gold status.
Annual Fee: $65 (waived for the first year)
Analysis: Starpoints are another valuable loyalty currency. In fact, they’ve topped TPG’s valuations since he began the monthly series back in May, 2014. The current value (2.4 cents apiece) comes not only from free night redemptions, but also from the numerous airline transfer partners, and the 5,000 mile bonus you receive for transferring 20,000 points. The sign-up bonus alone is worth $600, and between this card and the personal version, you’ll be well on your way to SPG elite status.
Current Bonus: 30,000 MileagePlus miles after spending $1,000 in the first three months (though you may get a targeted offer of 50,000 miles…see below)
Benefits: Earn 2 miles per dollar spent at restaurants, gas stations, office supply stores, and on tickets purchased from United, and 1 mile per dollar spent everywhere else. You and a traveling companion can also check your first bag free on flights purchased with the MileagePlus Explorer card, and if you spend $25,000 in a calendar year, you earn an additional 10,000 bonus miles.
Annual Fee: $95 (waived for the first year)
Analysis: Even though United implemented a huge devaluation of its frequent flyer program at the beginning of last year, MileagePlus miles are still worth 1.5 cents apeice (in TPG’s December valuations). That makes the sign-up bonus worth at least $450, though you could get up to $750 of value if you’re targeted for the higher offer. This FlyerTalk thread has more details, but to see if you’re eligible:
- Open your web browser
- Clear you cache and cookies
- Visit United.com and log in to your account
- Copy and paste https://www.theexplorercard.com/MPBusiness50kAFW into the browser.
If the landing page has 50,000 miles, you’re golden! Otherwise, the public offer for 30,000 miles is the best you’ll be able to do.
Marriott Rewards Premier Business Credit Card
Current Bonus: 1 free night at a Category 1-4 property after account approval, plus 50,000 Marriott Rewards points after spending $1,000 in the first three months.
Benefits: Earn 5 points per dollar spent at Marriott and Ritz-Carlton properties, 2 points per dollar spent at restaurants, car rental agencies, airlines, office supply stores, and telecommunications merchants, and 1 point per dollar everywhere else. You earn 15 elite credits each year (which grants you automatic Silver Elite status), and an additional credit for every $3,000 you spend on the card annually. You also receive a free night certificate for a Category 1-5 property each year when you renew the card.
Annual Fee: $99 (waived for the first year)
Analysis: While Marriott Rewards points aren’t as valuable as some of the other loyalty currencies on this list, the business version of this card does offer some compelling value. The 50,000 points alone are worth $350, and with Category 4 properties costing 20,000 points per night, you can get around $140 of additional value (or even more when revenue rates are high) from the free night certificate, for a total value of around $490. This card comes with the same earning rates as the personal version, but adds the business-oriented merchant categories, and the free night certificate when you renew your card should easily cover the $99 annual fee.
Business credit cards are not just for business owners, and I think you’ll agree that each of these cards offers a compelling value proposition. Every point and mile you earn helps, and with these large sign-up bonuses, you can watch your account balances grow much more quickly.