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Today, TPG Senior Points & Miles Correspondent Jason Steele looks at two popular Amex business cards to determine which one offers the best rewards.
The American Express brand has long been synonymous with both travel and business use, so it makes sense that Amex offers a variety of business credit cards that earn travel rewards. In this post, I want to compare two of those cards that come with the most features: Business Gold Rewards Card and the Business Platinum Card from American Express OPEN.
Benefits Common to Both Cards
Both of these cards include the following travel insurance, purchase protection, and business management features:
- Earn Membership Rewards points — These points can be transferred to miles with 16 different airline programs or points with three different hotel programs. You can also transfer to Plenti from MR.
- Charge card — These cards are actually charge cards instead of credit cards, meaning that you’re expected to pay each month’s statement balance in full, but you also have no preset spending limit.
- Purchase protection — Your eligible purchases are covered against accidental damage or theft for 90 days (up to $1,000 per occurrence with the Business Gold Rewards card, and $10,000 with the Platinum card). For more information, see my post on Everything You Need to Know About Amex Purchase Protection.
- Extended warranty — Your purchases will receive one additional year of warranty service on purchases with warranties of 5 years or less.
- Baggage insurance — Gold cardholders will receive up to $500 worth of insurance for lost or delayed checked bags ($1,250 for carry-ons), while Platinum cardholders will receive up to $2,000 for checked bags ($3,000 for carry-ons) when traveling on any common carrier such as aircraft, trains, ships or buses.
- Premium roadside assistance — This benefit will dispatch and pay for emergency automotive services up to four times per year, including changing a flat tire, jumpstarting a battery and towing your car up to 10 miles.
- The OPEN Savings program — This program offers automatic discounts of 5% or 2x Membership Rewards points when you make purchases from Hertz, HP and FedEx.
- Account Manager — While most credit cards only allow the primary cardholder to make inquiries or changes to the account, this service lets you easily designate employees or other individuals who can manage your account with either full or limited access, making it easier to delegate tasks like reviewing statements, adding authorized users, making payments and disputing charges.
- ReceiptMatch — This tool allows you to manage expenses from either your desktop or mobile device by entering receipts, tagging transactions and adding notes to your statements. You can also sync this data with QuickBooks.
- Employee card features — To help you earn rewards from your employees’ spending while mitigating the risk of fraudulent transactions, Amex small business cards allow you to limit the purchases of authorized cardholders and set real-time alerts.
In addition to the benefits above, each of these cards has its own unique offerings. Here’s what you’ll get, including current sign-up bonuses and annual fees.
Current Public Offer: Earn 50,000 Membership Rewards points after you spend $5,000 in purchases on the card in the first 3 months of card membership. Note that you might be able to find a targeted higher offer by using CardMatch or visiting americanexpress.com.
Benefits: Earn 3 points per dollar in one category of your choosing (airfare purchased directly from airlines, advertising in select media, gas stations, shipping or computing, including computer hardware, software and cloud computing purchases made directly from select providers). Earn 2 points per dollar in each of the other four categories. Bonus points are limited to $100,000 in eligible purchases in each category each per year, 1 point per dollar thereafter. Earn 2 points per dollar on eligible purchases from the American Express Travel website, and 1 point per dollar on all other purchases. Note that all categories except for airfare is only applied to U.S. spending. No foreign transaction fees.
Annual Fee: $175 (waived for the first year)
Authorized User Details: $50 (waived for the first year) for the first authorized cardholder, and no fee for additional cards.
Current Public Offer: For a limited time, earn up to 100,000 Membership Rewards points; earn 50,000 points after you spend $5,000 in purchases on the card within your first 3 months of card membership and an additional 50,000 points after spending an additional $10,000 within the first 3 months. Again, be sure to check for targeted offers that may have a higher sign-up bonus, such as those at CardMatch or americanexpress.com.
Benefits: Earn 1 point for every dollar you spend on eligible purchases, and earn 50% points back on eligible purchases made when booking on the American Express Travel website. Receive complimentary access to over 700 airport lounges in three different programs: American Express Centurion lounges, Delta Sky Clubs (albeit without guest privileges and only when flying Delta) and Priority Pass lounges (most of which are outside of the United States). Get unlimited Boingo Wi-Fi at more than 1 million Boingo hotspots and 10 complimentary GoGo in-flight Internet passes per year. Receive a $200 airline fee credit each calendar year, and a $100 fee credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck every five years. You’ll also get Gold Elite status from Hilton HHonors and Starwood Preferred Guest, as well as upgraded status from Avis, National and Hertz. Access to Amex Concierge. No foreign transaction fees.
Annual Fee: $450
Authorized User Details: Additional cardholders cost $300 each, and receive lounge access, another Global Entry credit, an additional 10 GoGo passes, and status with SPG, Avis, National and Hertz.
Which Card Should You Get?
At first glance, the Platinum card with its $450 annual fee seems like a less wallet-friendly choice than the Business Gold Rewards card, which has a lower fee of $175 that’s waived for the first year. Dig a little bit deeper, however, and you’ll see that the Platinum card closes this gap with its valuable fee credits. Cardholders can expect to receive the $200 airline fee credit each calendar year, which adds up to $400 in the first cardmember year.
When you add the $100 Global Entry fee credit (which you can use toward your own membership or toward someone else’s application), you’re looking at $500 of direct savings during your first year in return for the $450 annual fee. Throw in the Wi-Fi passes and the extensive lounge access, and you have plenty of value for most business users to justify the annual fee for your second cardmember year and beyond. Both cards waive now foreign transaction fees, so regardless of you card, you can get added value from this perk.
Making the Case for Business Gold Rewards
So would I recommend the Platinum card to all business users? Not quite. The Platinum card offers excellent perks, but if you’re not likely to make use of those perks, the Business Gold Rewards card offers superior earning potential.
For example, anyone who travels domestically on most trips (usually on nonstop flights) may not have much use for lounge access here in the US unless they’re in the habit of arriving at the airport very early, or encounter frequent delays. Those who travel internationally in premium cabins also won’t need lounge access, since it’s typically included with those fares. Additional lounge access may also be unnecessary to Delta Diamond Medallion members, or those who hold premium credit cards from American, United or Delta.
As for the fee credits, there are plenty of business travelers who never check a bag or need to purchase in-flight food or entertainment, although change fees are nearly unavoidable. In addition, most savvy business travelers already have Global Entry, so the application fee credit isn’t good for much other than a gift for someone else.
The best case to be made for the Business Gold Rewards card over the Platinum card is with the opportunities for earning bonus points. There are plenty of small business owners that can make use of the 3x and 2x bonus categories, and the $100,000 annual cap (in each category) is pretty accommodating. If you get anywhere close to maximizing those bonuses, the value of the points you earn will dwarf the $175 annual fee.
Depending on the size and nature of your business, you might consider getting both cards: the Business Gold Rewards card for spending in bonus categories, and the Platinum card for all of its valuable perks. By examining your business needs, you can choose the best combination of cards to maximize your award travel possibilities.
Which of these two cards best suits your business needs?
Though the Business Gold Rewards card doesn’t have the benefits package of the more premium Business Platinum Card, it also doesn’t have that card’s $450 annual fee. In fact, the $175 annual fee on this one is waived the first year, so getting it is like a risk-free trial of its benefits plus it comes with appealing bonus spending categories like 3x on the category of choice and a range of 2x spending categories as well.
- Special Offer: Earn 50,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $5,000 in purchases on the Card within your first 3 months of Card Membership
- Get 3x points - Choose 1 out of 5 categories
- Plus, 2X points on the 4 remaining categories and 1X points on other purchases
- 3X and 2X apply to the first $100,000 in purchases in each of the 5 categories per year, 1X point per dollar thereafter
- Track, organize, and stay on top of your business expenses with powerful expense-tracking tools
- No foreign transaction fees
- $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $175
- Terms and limitations apply
- See Rates & Fees