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If you’ve got a business, you should have at least one business credit card… and maybe even more than one. Companies old and new have plenty of expenses that can be charged to a credit card instead of being paid by check or on invoice. As long as your vendors will accept a card without any additional fee — and many of them will — you can pick up tons of points and miles by setting yourself up with a couple of credit cards in the name of your business.
On top of that, these credit cards are a great way to keep your personal expenses separate from your business ones. This is an important point for folks who might have a hobby they’ve decided to turn into a business. While mixing everything together might have been fine when you were just printing up a couple of fun t-shirts for your friends and family, when you start to sell them for a profit, you’d better have your books in order if and when the IRS comes calling to check them.
For folks with a startup or a fledgling small business, don’t fret. Banks are often willing to extend credit cards to a new company, or even a sole proprietor, as long as the individual owner is applying for the card and effectively guaranteeing the debt. Even if your business hasn’t shown a profit yet, many times you can get a business card as long as your own income supports it.
So now that we’ve agreed your business should have a credit card, the question is which one? Here are the top five business credit cards for 2017.
Oh, what a difference a year makes. In 2016 this card was number three on the list of best business cards, and this year it’s number one. Why? Three words: 50% points rebate. (Okay, maybe that’s four words if you count “percent” as a separate word.)
This is the only card that effectively gives you 2 cents per point guaranteed whenever you redeem via Amex Travel for a first or business-class ticket, or any ticket on your selected airline. Not only that, but you’ll also earn redeemable and elite miles on those flights since they’re generally considered revenue tickets.
With the Business Platinum Card you’ll also get a $200 annual airline fee credit, access to American Express Centurion Lounges, elite status with Hilton and Starwood, a $100 Global Entry fee credit, a membership in the Priority Pass lounge program, all the benefits of the American Express OPEN program and 10 free Gogo Wi-Fi passes every year. Plus, it doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees.
There is simply no other card with that kind of guaranteed return and benefits, making this our top business card of the year.
Chase had the credit card launch of the year in 2016 with the Chase Sapphire Reserve, but that wasn’t the only change the issuer made to its card lineup. A new business card replaced the longstanding Chase Ink Plus Business card, and its benefits are different (and arguably better) than the old version.
This new card comes with an 80,000-point sign-up bonus, a major improvement over the old Ink Plus Business Card’s 60,000 points, yet it retains the same spending requirement of $5,000 in the first three months. Just as with the Chase Sapphire Reserve, you’ll get 3x points on travel purchases, but the Ink Business Preferred also comes with 3x on additional categories: shipping, advertising and internet/cable/phone services. Those bonus points are capped at $150,000 per year, but that’s a lot of room for extra rewards.
An interesting additional perk of this card is the cell phone protection benefit — pay your cell phone bill with this card, and you’ll get up to $600 in coverage against damage or theft (subject to a $100 deductible) with up to three claims per year. You’ll even be covered for other lines that appear on the same bill, which means your employees’ phones will be protected as well.
The biggest negative change is the loss of office supplies as a 5x bonus category, which was a major perk of the Ink Plus Business Card. Still, given its huge sign-up bonus and multiple 3x categories — plus no foreign transaction fees — this is a terrific business card to have in your wallet.
With the Marriott-Starwood merger now closed, it’s unclear how much longer the two chains will continue to issue separate credit cards, so 2017 may very well be the best time to grab the business version of the popular Starwood Amex.
The SPG program has long been a favorite of points and miles collectors, thanks to its ability to transfer Starpoints to a cornucopia of airline programs at a ratio of 1:1.25 (when you factor in the 5,000-mile bonus you get for each 20,000 points you transfer). On top of a 25,000-point sign-up bonus, this card now benefits from a transfer ratio of 1:3 when exchanging points with Marriott. With all that, you should have no trouble finding a good use for these points. Since late 2015, this card has waived foreign transaction fees, so you can use it abroad as well.
In addition, this business flavor of the SPG card comes with extra benefits that aren’t available on the personal edition, including Sheraton Club Lounge access and savings via the American Express OPEN network. If you spend a lot of time in Starwood hotels, this is a card especially worth considering for your business.
Not only does the second entry from American Express on this list come with a 50,000-point sign-up bonus after $5,000 in spend in the first three months, but it also lets you choose where you want to earn 3x points (on the first $100,000 in spending) from a list of categories.
On that list are some standard options such as airlines or gas stations, but also a few unusual ones, like computer hardware and software. You can also change your category at the beginning of each year, so you won’t be stuck forever with just one. And no matter which category you choose for 3x, you’ll still get 2x for the other ones from the list (on the first $100,000 spent in each category), so you’re getting extra points no matter what.
This card also comes with no foreign transaction fees, which makes it a great choice if you travel overseas for work. It’s also a charge card, which means it has no preset spending limit. Finally, as it’s part of the American Express OPEN network, you’ll get discounts or extra Membership Rewards points when using it at participating vendors such as FedEx and Hertz.
A brand-new card wraps up our top 5, and it’s the only pure cash-back card on this list. Citibank pried the Costco card portfolio away from American Express and introduced two new Visa cards in 2016 — one personal and one business.
While these new Costco cards don’t offer a sign-up bonus, they do have a terrific set of bonus categories. The 4% cash back at gas stations — for up to $7,000 per year in purchases — is an industry leader. On top of that, the 3% on both travel and restaurant purchases without an annual cap rivals the Chase Sapphire Reserve. And if you’re a regular Costco or costco.com online shopper, you’ll also get 2% on all purchases at the wholesale club.
This card charges a 3% foreign transaction fee, so it’s not a great card to use overseas. But the other important thing to keep in mind is that the cash back on this card comes in the form of a coupon on your annual February statement, which you can then redeem at any Costco for either merchandise or cash. That’s a bit of an annoying hoop to jump through, but if you’re normally at Costco anyway, it’s not too egregious.
It’s great to see so many options in business credit cards, so if you can, make sure you take advantage of them!
Featured image courtesy of JGI/Tom Grill via Getty Images.