Credit Card and Travel Resources for Small-Business Owners
Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available. View the current offers here.
Business credit cards can be a great way to earn travel rewards beyond what you already enjoy from your personal cards. Even better, you usually don’t even need to have a formal business in order to qualify for a business credit card. In addition to lucrative welcome bonuses and bonus spending categories, many credit card issuers offer benefits specifically for business customers, ranging from rewards opportunities to discounts at specific merchant partners to streamlined systems for tracking expenses, all designed to give small-business owners more control over their spending.
To help you get the most out of your business spending, in this post I'll profile some of the top credit card and other travel programs designed especially for small business owners. For more background on business credit cards and why you might want one, be sure to check out the following posts:
- Key Differences Between Business and Personal Credit Cards
- Top Business Credit Cards For Travel Rewards
OPEN Savings from American Express
Among the most developed small-business programs out there is OPEN Savings from American Express. OPEN Savings is a benefit of Amex business credit cards, and offers strong incentive for adding one to your portfolio.
By using your Amex business card at participating partners, you can earn either a 5% discount or 2 bonus Membership Rewards points per dollar automatically at certain merchants. Here's the list of current partners:
- Hyatt — valid on each eligible dollar spent up to $10,000 per calendar year.
- Hertz — valid on each dollar spent.
- FedEx — valid on each eligible dollar spent on qualifying services up to $20,000 per calendar year, per Card account with FedEx Express, FedEx Ground and FedEx Freight shipping.
- FedEx Office — valid on every dollar spent up to $20,000 per calendar year, per Card account.
- HP Home and Home Office Store — valid on up to $30,000 per calendar year per Card account.
- 1-800-Flowers — valid on each eligible dollar spent.
- Barnes & Noble (BN.com) — valid on each eligible dollar spent.
To participate, you can log in and choose to receive discounts or earn points for each card and at each partner. You can change your preferences once per calendar month, and changes take up to 72 hours to go into effect.
Here are some of the top Amex business cards that are part of the OPEN Savings program:
The Business Platinum Card from American Express: Earn 40,000 Membership Rewards points after you spend $5,000 in purchases on the card within your first three months of card membership. This premium card gives you access to dozens of benefits to help power your business, including complimentary access to over 700 airport lounges worldwide and unlimited Boingo Wi-Fi at more than 1,000,000 Boingo hotspots worldwide. While this card comes with a $450 annual fee, you can receive a $200 airline fee credit per calendar year, which brings down the overall cost. To learn more about this card, read my post on the 9 Reasons I Love My Business Platinum Card.
The Business Gold Rewards Card from American Express OPEN: Earn 25,000 Membership Rewards points after you spend $5,000 in purchases on the card within the first three months of card membership. Earn 3 points per dollar in a category of your choice from a list of 5 categories, and earn 2 points per dollar in the 4 remaining categories. This card comes with a $175 annual fee that's waived for the first year.
Gold Delta SkyMiles® Business Credit Card from American Express: Earn 30,000 bonus SkyMiles after you make $1,000 in purchases on your new Card within your first four months. Earn 2 miles per dollar spent on purchases made directly with Delta and 1 mile per dollar on all other eligible purchases. Get flight benefits like your first checked bag free and priority boarding. The $95 annual fee is waived for the first year, and there are no foreign transaction fees.
Starwood Preferred Guest Business Credit Card from American Express: For a limited time, earn 30,000 Starpoints after you use your Card to make $5,000 in purchases within the first three months (OFFER EXPIRED). Points can be used for hotel stays or transfer to over 30 airline partners. Receive free in-room, premium internet access and complimentary, unlimited Boingo Wi-Fi on up to four devices at more than 1,000,000 Boingo hotspots worldwide (enrollment required). The $95 annual fee is waived for the first year, and there are no foreign transaction fees on international purchases.
SimplyCash Business Card from American Express: For a limited time, earn a one-time $250 statement credit after you spend $5,000 or more in qualifying purchases on the card within the first six months of card membership (offer expires January 25, 2016). Earn 5% cash back at US office supply stores and on wireless telephone services purchased directly from US service providers, 3% cash back on a category of your choice and 1% cash back on all other purchases. 5% and 3% cash-back earning applies to purchases of up to $25,000 per rebate year; beyond that, you'll earn 1% cash back. This card comes with no annual fee.
For more information on Amex business cards and the OPEN Savings program, check out these posts:
- 6 Ways to Maximize Amex OPEN Savings Discounts and Rewards
- Amex OPEN Savings: Membership Rewards, Discounts and More
Chase Ink Insider Benefits
Though less developed than Amex OPEN Savings, Chase Ink also offers cardholders some exclusive benefits:
- Google AdWords Express — Get up to $100 in AdWords Express credit when you spend $25 on AdWords Express.
- Avis — Enroll in the Avis Corporate Awards Program to earn rental days twice as fast, as well as savings and free one-class upgrades.
- Ink App for Expense Management — Keeping track of your business expenses (and keeping them separate from personal purchases) can help you maximize your credit card spending and maintain a good credit record for your business. The Chase Ink App is free for Apple and Android, and offers features like alerts for charges on your account (both on your own card and employee cards), the option to tag specific purchases to different projects and the ability to snap photos of your receipts to reconcile them with your spending reports later.
You can take advantage of these benefits on these Ink business cards from Chase:
Ink Plus Business Card: Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first three months after account opening. Earn 5 points per dollar on the first $50,000 spent in combined purchases at office supply stores and on cellular, landline, internet and cable TV services each account anniversary year. Earn 2 points per dollar on the first $50,000 spent in combined purchases at gas stations and on hotel stays booked directly with the hotel each account anniversary year and 1 point per dollar on other purchases. You can transfer Ultimate Rewards points to 11 travel partners, including Hyatt, United and British Airways. This card comes with a $95 annual fee and no foreign transaction fees.
Ink Business Cash Credit Card: Earn $300 bonus cash back when you spend $3,000 in the first three months. Earn 5% cash back on the first $25,000 spent annually at office supply stores, and on cellular phone, landline, internet and cable TV services; 2% cash back on the first $25,000 spent annually at gas stations and restaurants; and 1% cash back on everything else. This card comes with no annual fee.
For more on Chase Ink, check out these posts:
- Which Chase Ink Card Is Right For You?
- 10 Chase Ink Benefits You Might Not Know About
Bank of America MyReport Center
Bank of America offers some simple features to help small-business cardholders manage and keep track of spending:
- View the past 24 months of your automatically categorized spending history.
- Download your reports easily using a variety of Excel-based formats.
- Search transactions and run customizable reports at both the company and employee level.
- Get employee cards with spending limits you control.
- Manage accounts with QuickBooks.
- Automatic bill payment.
- Receive alerts on account activity.
Airline, Hotel and Online Travel Agency Programs
Like credit card issuers, several airlines and online travel agencies offer business programs to help small-business owners maximize travel purchases by offering greater rewards and other benefits.
Here are the basic details on each.
American Airlines Business Extra
Business Extra is completely separate and distinct from the AAdvantage program for individuals. With Business Extra, companies earn 1 point per $5 spent on American Airlines and US Airways flights, and (as of May 20, 2015) on British Airways and Iberia flights as well, even when purchased directly from either carrier. Flights on Finnair, Japan Airlines and Qantas also count so long as the tickets are marketed by American Airlines.
Redemptions begin at 300 points ($1,500 spent) for an Admiral’s Club pass. Flight redemptions begin at 2,000 points ($10,000 spent) for a round-trip coach ticket within North America, and upgrades start at 650 points ($3,250 spent) per segment. You can also redeem points on partners worldwide. Other redemptions include AAdvantage Gold status for 2,400 points.
To be eligible to join Business Extra, your company must have two or more employees, and your company cannot have a corporate sales agreement, discount, or other agreement with American Airlines or US Airways.
Delta’s SkyBonus business program is also completely separate from the SkyMiles program for individuals. The program is a bit complex, so check out the airline’s SkyBonus University for full details. Delta also announced changes to the program, including a new earning structure that went into effect August 1.
Companies earn SkyBonus points based on the origin/destination of each flight and fare class. Flights that are not to/from Delta hubs (including Atlanta, Cincinnati, Detroit, Minneapolis and Salt Lake City) and are booked in the most expensive fare classes can earn up to 30 SkyBonus points per dollar, while discount fares flying into or out of one of those hubs earn just 1 SkyBonus point per dollar. In between, you can earn anywhere from 3-10 points per dollar. Members also earn points for travel on partners Air France, KLM and Alitalia if those tickets are issued in North America.
On the redemption side, companies can redeem points toward free flights, upgrades, Sky Club passes and Silver Medallion status. Redemptions start at 10,000 points for a beverage or headset, while a certificate for a round-trip award flight in economy within the US or Canada is 85,000 points. On the plus side, you can also now redeem points for systemwide travel. Starting at 220,000 points, you can fly in economy anywhere Delta flies.
JetBlue Blue Inc.
Blue Inc. is JetBlue’s business program, and is geared specifically toward small and mid-size businesses. Its features are made to work on tablets and mobile devices, and allow travel managers to book travel themselves, track employee itineraries, store payment methods and more. Companies earn 3 TrueBlue points per dollar spent on JetBlue, and those points are redeemable for travel for any employee.
SWABIZ is more of a corporate booking tool than a rewards program, so there are no rewards, but the airline claims participating companies get access to exclusive promotions and offers (without mentioning any specifics).
PerksPlus is United’s business program, and operates similarly to Delta SkyBonus. Your company earns between 1-6 PerksPlus points per dollar based on the fare type you purchase and whether you’re flying into or out of a hub. You earn points for flights on United as well as Lufthansa, Austrian, Brussels and SWISS, though tickets must be purchased and issued in the US, Canada, Latin America or Caribbean.
Companies can redeem PerksPlus points for free flights, United Club passes, MileagePlus Silver or Gold status or beverage and headset coupons. Beverage or headset coupons start at 10,000 points for a packet of 20, and you get five United Club passes for 15,000 points. Round-trip discount economy fares between the lower 48 states, Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean start at 35,000 points.
Virgin America Elevate, Inc.
Probably the simplest program here, Virgin America’s Elevate, Inc. operates like a cash-back program based on your spending. Once you enroll, spend at least $20,000 on flight bookings during your first year, and you’ll get 2% back in reward dollars to redeem on Virgin America travel. If you spend at least $50,000, you'll earn 3% back in reward dollars and if you spend $100,000 or more, you'll earn 4% back.
Expedia Business Rewards
Expedia launched its Expedia+ Rewards program revamp last July, and opened up its business rewards program from an exclusive with Chase to all small businesses. Companies can track employee travel and earn $100 in credit for every 10 hotel nights booked through the program. Employees registered with a company can still earn their own Expedia+ rewards and get automatic +silver status as well.
The company can use those $100 certificates on any of its employees. The automatic +silver status comes with benefits like free amenities at select +VIP Access hotels, 10% bonus points and priority customer service.
It’s a simple program, but a great, easy way to double-dip where both employees and employers earn rewards for the same travel.
For more on maximizing Online Travel Agency purchases, check out this post.