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Why I couldn't imagine my life without business credit cards

March 26, 2021
9 min read
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Editor’s note: This post has been updated with new information.


For most people, learning how to maximize credit card rewards requires stepping out of your comfort zone and trying something new. That might mean applying for your first-ever credit card or even your first premium card, but one of the most beneficial decisions I made early on in my journey was getting comfortable applying for and utilizing business credit cards.

My specific businesses have morphed over the years, from part-time tutoring in college to freelance writing, but business credit cards have remained a core part of my points and miles strategy. Here are a few reasons I love business credit cards in general, as well as the specific ones I can't live without.

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The advantages of business cards

(Photo by stevecoleimages/Getty Images)
(Photo by stevecoleimages/Getty Images)

Lending standards vary by bank and are undeniably tighter due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, but many people are shocked at just how easy it is to get approved for a business credit card. You don't need an established LLC, hundreds of employees or millions of dollars in annual revenue. All the major banks allow you to apply for a business credit card as a sole proprietorship. The good news is you become one simply by doing business. This means that if you freelance, babysit, sell things online, tutor or dozens of other part-time gigs, you should be able to apply for most business credit cards.

Related: 10 side hustles that can help you qualify for a business card

There are two main advantages to dabbling in the world of business cards, in addition to the obvious benefit of keeping your business and personal expenses separate (which can save you a lot of work come tax season). The first is quite simply that more cards means more welcome offers! Many business cards mirror nearly identical personal products, such as the Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card and the Delta SkyMiles® Gold Business American Express Card. If you're trying to earn Delta SkyMiles for an upcoming vacation, applying for business as well as personal credit cards gives you twice as many options and will help you reach your goal faster.

Another great thing about business credit cards is they don't appear on your personal credit report. The initial inquiry does, as banks run your personal credit report to approve you for business cards, but after that the payment history and, more importantly, your monthly balances don't show up on your personal credit report. This means that if you frequently make large purchases, using a business credit card won't affect your utilization ratio (your total balances divided by total available credit) and therefore won't affect your credit score.

My three favorite business cards

While everyone has slightly different preferences for what perks they want from a credit card and what type of points they want to earn, there are three business cards in particular that receive a vast majority of my spending, both by dollar amount and number of transactions. These cards therefore earn me the most points while protecting my credit score from fluctuating month to month, and have earned their place in my wallet.

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The Blue Business® Plus Credit Card from American Express

The Blue Business Plus is one of the most compelling cards in the Amex lineup. For starters, it's one of the only cards out there to earn full-fledged transferable points without charging an annual fee (see rates and fees). The card earns 2x Membership Rewards points per dollar on your first $50,000 spent each calendar year, then 1x on everything else. TPG values Membership Rewards points at 2 cents each, meaning you'll get a 4% return on the first $50,000 you spend each year. That makes this the single most rewarding card for everyday spending.

Related: Blue Business Plus card review: Double up your everyday spending for no annual fee

Marriott Bonvoy Business® American Express® Card

(Photo by Isabelle Raphael / The Points Guy)
(Photo by Isabelle Raphael/The Points Guy)

As a frequent traveler and loyal Marriott Titanium elite member, I need to carry at least one Marriott Bonvoy card in my wallet at all times. While all of Marriott's middle-market cards offer similar earning rates and comparable annual fees, I've settled on the Marriott Bonvoy Business American Express Card for a number of reasons.

In exchange for a modest $125 annual fee (see rates and fees), you'll earn automatic Marriott Gold elite status and a free night certificate worth up to 35,000 points awarded annually after your card renewal month. However, you can earn a second free night certificate by spending $60,000 in a calendar year on the card, which is a great bonus for businesses with higher expenses.

Related: Here’s why you need both a personal and business Marriott Bonvoy credit card

Once travel resumes this year I expect to be taking many more road trips and staycations, which means I'm putting a higher value on my Marriott points this year than I normally would. The Bonvoy Business earns 6x points per dollar at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy program, 4x points per dollar spent at restaurants and U.S. gas stations, on wireless telephone services purchased directly from U.S. service providers and on purchases made from merchants in the U.S. for shipping; and 2x points per dollar on all other eligible purchases. While it's not the most rewarding card for everyday spending, in my quest to earn more Marriott points (and that second free night certificate) I've found myself putting a number of large tax payments on my Bonvoy Business to try and hit the $60,000 threshold.

Related: 7 great uses of Marriott Bonvoy 35,000-point free night certificates

The Business Platinum Card® from American Express

With a $695 annual fee (see rates and fees), the Business Platinum is the most expensive publicly available card that Amex offers. It has a number of great benefits to offset that fee, including an up to $200 annual airline incidental fee statement credit and up to $400 in annual statement credits for Dell technology purchases (split up into two $200 credits). It also offers complimentary Marriott and Hilton Gold elite status, and the most comprehensive airport lounge access of any card, with a Priority Pass select membership, access to Amex Centurion lounges, access to Delta Sky Clubs when flying Delta, and more. Enrollment required for select benefits.

The Business Platinum offers 5x points per dollar on airfare and prepaid hotel rooms booked through amextravel.com and 1.5x points on eligible purchases in select business categories and eligible purchases of $5,000 or more; on up to $2 million of these purchases per calendar year. Plus, 1x points on other eligible purchases.

This large purchase bonus, has come in very handy for me on a number of occasions. For example, shortly after moving to China last year I ended up needing minor surgery. Thankfully my insurance reimbursed me for a majority of the cost, but I still had to pay the $19,000 bill upfront while I waited for my claim to be settled. Most of my credit cards don't have that high of a limit on them, so I turned to the Business Platinum card and earned a very solid amount of Membership Rewards points in the process.

While I need to carry at least one Platinum card in my wallet to access Amex Centurion lounges, I opt for the Business Platinum Card from American Express thanks to its bonus on large purchases. I'll admit that I rarely use this card, but when I need to make a large purchase during a travel or medical emergency, it's nice to have no preset credit limit and a respectable 1.5x earning rate.

Bottom line

The simple truth is that most people reading this will qualify for business cards in one way or another. It's ultimately up to you whether you apply for them, but there are plenty of advantages to doing so. Not only will you be able to earn more welcome bonuses on different cards and keep large purchases off your personal credit report, but many of the perks on individual business cards are so valuable that they'll end up earning a spot at the top of your wallet.

For rates and fees of the Blue Business Plus Card, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Marriott Bonvoy Business from Amex Card, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Business Platinum Card, please click here.

Additional reporting by Ed Pizzarello.

Featured image by (Photo by Wyatt Smith/The Points Guy)
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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How we chose these cards

Our points-obsessed staff uses a plethora of credit cards on a daily basis. If anyone on our team wouldn’t recommend it to a friend or a family member, we wouldn’t recommend it on The Points Guy either. Our opinions are our own, and have not been reviewed, approved, or endorsed by our advertising partners.
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TPG featured card

Best premium travel card for value
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards

1 - 10X points
10xEarn 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
5xEarn 5x total points on flights through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
3xEarn 3x points on other travel and dining.
1xEarn 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases

Intro offer

80,000 bonus points
Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®

Annual Fee

$550

Recommended Credit

740-850
Excellent
Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

Why We Chose It

If you are looking to take your premium rewards to the highest level, this card is really a no brainer in our eyes. Chase's Ultimate Rewards make points easy to redeem, with a wide range of 10 airline and three hotel transfer partners and a friendly user interface. Despite the high annual fee, Chase is consistently adding new benefits to keep the card competitive in a fierce premium rewards field.

Pros

  • $300 annual travel credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year
  • Access to Chase Ultimate Rewards hotel and airline travel partners
  • Unlimited 3x points on the broad category of travel and dining
  • 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Broad definitions for travel and dining bonus categories

Cons

  • Steep $550 annual fee
  • May not make sense for people that don't travel frequently
  • You must spend the $300 travel credit before earning 3x points for travel and dining
  • No automatic hotel elite status
  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • $300 Annual Travel Credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year.
  • Earn 5x total points on flights and 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards® immediately after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually. Earn 3x points on other travel and dining & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Get 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,200 toward travel
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Access to 1,300+ airport lounges worldwide after an easy, one-time enrollment in Priority Pass™ Select and up to $100 application fee credit every four years for Global Entry, NEXUS, or TSA PreCheck®
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more
Best premium travel card for value
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

10xEarn 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
5xEarn 5x total points on flights through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
3xEarn 3x points on other travel and dining.
1xEarn 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Intro Offer
    Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®

    80,000 bonus points
  • Annual Fee

    $550
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    740-850
    Excellent

Why We Chose It

If you are looking to take your premium rewards to the highest level, this card is really a no brainer in our eyes. Chase's Ultimate Rewards make points easy to redeem, with a wide range of 10 airline and three hotel transfer partners and a friendly user interface. Despite the high annual fee, Chase is consistently adding new benefits to keep the card competitive in a fierce premium rewards field.

Pros

  • $300 annual travel credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year
  • Access to Chase Ultimate Rewards hotel and airline travel partners
  • Unlimited 3x points on the broad category of travel and dining
  • 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Broad definitions for travel and dining bonus categories

Cons

  • Steep $550 annual fee
  • May not make sense for people that don't travel frequently
  • You must spend the $300 travel credit before earning 3x points for travel and dining
  • No automatic hotel elite status
  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • $300 Annual Travel Credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year.
  • Earn 5x total points on flights and 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards® immediately after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually. Earn 3x points on other travel and dining & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Get 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,200 toward travel
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Access to 1,300+ airport lounges worldwide after an easy, one-time enrollment in Priority Pass™ Select and up to $100 application fee credit every four years for Global Entry, NEXUS, or TSA PreCheck®
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more