The One Business Card You Should Have From Both Amex and Chase
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If you could could pick just one credit card to apply for — because you were running up against something like 5/24 or welcome bonus restrictions, for example — which would you choose?
That's the exercise this piece aims to take on, in an effort to help you find the right business card for you. Which one business card you should hold in your wallet from each of the two largest business card issuers, American Express and Chase? Among credit card issuers, their rewards programs — Amex's Membership Rewards and Chase's Ultimate Rewards — also have the potential to be the most lucrative.
Let's address this question in multiple parts:
- Which cards offer the greatest first-year return?
- Which cards should I hold if my employees and I travel frequently?
- What if travel isn't a major budget expense?
- What if I don't want miles or points, but rather cash back?
For each of these questions we're going to look at four specific criteria: welcome bonus, rewards, benefits and annual fee. Let's get started.
The Best Cards for First-Year Value
- Amex pick: The Business Platinum Card® from American Express
- Chase pick: Ink Business Preferred Credit Card
It should come as no surprise that the cards that offer the most lucrative rewards also have the best first-year value. If acquiring points as quickly and as cheaply as possible is your No. 1 priority in a business credit card, The Business Platinum Card® from American Express and the Ink Business Preferred Credit Card are impossible to top, with each offering potentially thousands of dollars in first-year value in the form of their welcome bonuses, according to our recent analysis. Here's a comparison of the two cards.
Business Platinum: Earn up to 75,000 bonus points: 50,000 bonus points after you spend $10,000 and an extra 25,000 bonus points after you spend an additional $10,000 all on qualifying purchases within your first 3 months of Card Membership. If your business puts on average $8,335 in spending or more per month on a credit card, this bonus is within reach. Since American Express Membership Rewards points are worth 1.9 cents each, according to TPG valuations, this total 75,000 is worth $1,500.
Ink Preferred: Earn 100,000 bonus points after you spend $15,000 on purchases in the first 3 months. TPG values Chase Ultimate Rewards points at 2 cents apiece. You can also choose to redeem your points for 1.25 cents apiece (or 1.5 cents apiece if you also have the Chase Sapphire Reserve and combine your points with that account) through the Chase travel portal. This bonus is worth $2,000.
Business Platinum: Earn 5 points per dollar on airfare and on prepaid hotels booked through AmexTravel.com, 1.5 points per dollar on purchases of $5,000 or more (up to 1 million extra points per year) and 1 point per dollar on everything else. Redeem points directly for first or business class, or for any seat on a qualified airline of your choice, and get a 35% points rebate when booked through amextravel.com. So, $4,000 in airfare booked through Amex Travel would net you 20,000 points, worth $380.
Ink Preferred: Earn 3 points per dollar on the first $150,000 spent in combined purchases on travel, shipping, social media advertising and internet/cable/phone services each account anniversary year, and 1 point per dollar on everything else. Ultimate Rewards points can prove extremely valuable when you redeem them for free flights or hotel stays with one of 13 transfer partners. If you booked $4,000 in airfare, you would net 12,000 points, valued at $252.
Business Platinum: Cardholders get access to Centurion and Priority Pass lounges, plus Delta Sky Clubs when flying Delta. Purchasing comparable Priority Pass lounge access on your own would cost $399 annually. You also get a $200 annual airline fee credit, a Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application rebate, 10 Gogo in-flight internet passes and unlimited Wi-Fi at Boingo hotspots. This is a charge card, so there are no pre-set spending limits.
Ink Preferred: This is one of the few credit cards that offers a cell phone insurance benefit, worth up to $600 in protection against covered theft or damage for up to three claims per year with just a $100 deductible. This card also offers primary rental car insurance.
Business Platinum: $595 (See Rates & Fees)
Ink Preferred: $95
The estimated first-year value for the Business Platinum and the Ink Preferred — minus the annual fees — is $2,560.47 and $2,346, respectively. Those returns are miles ahead of each issuer's nearest competitor: the Business Gold Rewards Card from American Express and the Ink Business Cash Credit Card (which needs an assist from an UR card to boost its redemption value).
The Best Cards for Frequent Travel
- Amex pick: The Business Gold Rewards Card
- Chase pick: Ink Business Preferred Credit Card
When you're looking at the best business credit cards from each of these issuers, one big thing stands out from a distance: Amex offers many more choices. There are at least six cards in the issuer's business lineup, not counting co-branded hotel and airline cards. Chase, on the other hand, offers just three, including the most recent addition to its small business lineup, the Ink Business Unlimited Credit Card. We mention that in passing as a way of saying, there's going to be some overlap here. For frequent travelers, we find the Ink Business Preferred Credit Card the best in the Ink lineup, while The Business Gold Rewards Card is the top offering from Amex.
Business Gold Rewards Card Welcome Bonus
Earn 50,000 Membership Rewards points after you spend $5,000 in qualifying purchases on the card within your first three months of card membership. This bonus is worth $950 based on TPG’s most recent valuations, which is much lower than what you'd earn with the Business Platinum card. But we think there's one extremely important feature the Gold card offers that the Platinum doesn't that puts the card over the top.
Business Gold Rewards Card... Rewards
Earn 3x Membership Rewards points on one of five categories (which you get to select) and then 2x on the remaining four, with a limit of $100,000 in purchases each year in each of the five categories:
- Airfare purchased directly from airlines
- US purchases for advertising in select media
- US purchases at gas stations
- US purchases for shipping
- US computer hardware, software, and cloud computing made directly from select providers
You'll get more flexibility in your airfare spending with the Gold card over the Business Platinum because you can book through any airline rather than through the Amex portal and still earn bonus points. You will sacrifice 2 points per dollar as a result, however you may find your air travel expenses are lower overall considering booking through the Amex travel site isn't the cheapest option. $4,000 in airfare purchased directly from the carrier will net you 12,000 Membership Reward points, worth $228.
Business Gold Rewards Card Benefits
The perks offered by the Business Gold Rewards Card can't really compare with the laundry list of extras that come with the Business Platinum. You'll get baggage insurance — cover of up to $1,250 for carry-on baggage and $500 for checked bags — if your luggage is lost, damaged or stolen, but that pales in comparison to an air travel credit, lounge access and free Wi-Fi. The Gold card also comes with premium roadside assistance, which covers emergency roadside assistance up to four times per year if your car is suddenly inoperable, and extended warranty and purchase protection, both of which the issuer will enhance come August 1, 2018.
Business Gold Rewards Card Annual Fee
Here's the difference-maker for the business traveller who has employees traveling on the company dime, as well. You'll pay no annual fee in the first year with the Business Gold card and $175 thereafter.
That's not even the good part.
If you have employees and you plan to make them authorized users on the company credit card, choosing the Gold card over the Platinum card will save you a bundle. Amex charges $50 a year for the first employee card (waived the first year), while every other authorized user added after that is free. You can have up to 99 authorized users on the Gold card. You'll pay a whopping $300 each year for every additional Business Platinum card you ask for.
Incidentally, you can score employee cards at no additional cost with the Ink Business Preferred card.
Cards for the Non-Traveler
- Amex pick: The Blue Business®️ Plus Credit Card from American Express
- Chase pick: Ink Business Cash Credit Card
If you have a lot of non-travel expenses related to your business, you have a number of good card options from which to choose. We like the Blue Business Plus Credit Card from American Express because it offers an above-average return on everyday spending — and you won't have to worry about remembering bonus categories. From Chase, the Ink Business Cash card is a solid pick for business owners who routinely spend big money on office supplies and telecommunications. It's a cash-back card that offers big bonus categories rewards.
Blue Business Plus: None
Ink Cash: Earn $500 bonus cash back — or 50,000 bonus points worth up to $1,050 when you transfer the points to a "premium" card from Chase (like the Chase Sapphire Reserve) — after you spend $3,000 in the first three months.
Blue Business Plus: Earn 2x Membership Rewards points on all purchases for the first $50,000 you spend each calendar year, then 1x points. Since Amex points are worth 1.9 cents each, you're looking at nearly a 4% return on all spending. This card offers good value, particularly on spending not typically covered by other cards' bonus categories. Hit the 2x cap and you'll earn 100,000 Membership Rewards points worth $1,900.
Ink Cash: Receive 5% cash back on the first $25,000 spent in combined purchases each account anniversary year at office supply stores and on internet, cable and phone services. Get 2% cash back on the first $25,000 spent in combined purchases each account anniversary year at gas stations and at restaurants. Get an unlimited 1% cash back on everything else. Ink Cash is one of the best cards available for office supplies. Pair this with a card in the UR family, and you can earn a return of 10.5% on office supplies, internet, cable and phone.
Blue Business Plus: You'll receive Amex's stable of insurance protections, including extended warranties, purchase protection, baggage insurance and car rental insurance. You also have the ability to spend above your credit limit if approved and you can take advantage of a 0% intro APR on purchases and balance transfers for the first 12 months from account opening, then a variable rate of 13.24% - 19.24%. (See Rates & Fees).
Ink Business Cash: Warranty protection extends the US manufacturer’s warranty by an extra year on eligible warranties of three years or less. The card also includes 0% introductory APR for 12 months on purchases, then a variable rate of 14.74% - 20.74%.
Blue Business Plus: $0 (See Rates & Fees)
Ink Cash: $0
Best Cash-Back Options
- Amex pick: SimplyCash® Plus Business Credit Card from American Express
- Chase pick: Ink Business Unlimited Credit Card
American Express offers just one small business credit card that pays cash back, but it's a good one. The SimplyCash® Plus Business Credit Card from American Express is a powerful payment tool good for any small business owner that has a range of expenses, from office supplies to shipping costs. The Ink Business Unlimited Credit Card from Chase, meanwhile, is both the newest member of the Ink suite and also the card that fills in some of the issuers holes when it comes to business spending coverage.
SimplyCash Plus: None
Business Unlimited: Earn a $500 bonus after you make $3,000 in purchases within the first three months after account opening. That cash back becomes 50,000 Ultimate Rewards points you can transfer to a card you own that's in the UR program, like the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card. Based on TPG’s valuations, those points are valued at $1,000.
SimplyCash Plus: Earn 5% cash back at US office supply stores and on wireless telephone services purchases directly with US service providers (up to $50,000 in combined purchases each year; then 1%); 3% cash back on a category of your choice out of eight, including airfare, hotels, US gas stations, US restaurants and US shipping (up to $50,000 in purchases each year; then 1%); 1% cash back on all other purchases.
Business Unlimited: Earn 1.5% cash back on all purchases. Transfer rewards from the Business Unlimited to a Chase credit card that earns Ultimate Rewards, and you could see a return of 3.15% for every dollar spent.
SimplyCash Plus: Along with other standard Amex purchase benefits, you'll also have the ability to buy above your credit limit and you can take advantage of a 0% APR for the first 15 months on purchases (after that, a variable rate of 14.49%-21.49% applies)(See Rates & Fees).
Ink Business Unlimited: You'll receive purchase protection, extended warranty protection and primary rental car coverage. Enjoy an introductory 0% APR for 12 months from account opening on purchases. After that you’ll pay a 14.74% - 20.74% variable APR.
SimplyCash Plus: None (See Rates & Fees)
Business Unlimited: None
So, Which Are the Best Cards?
This question is wholly dependent on how your business spends, but if you own a firm with diverse business expenses — and maximizing rewards points is important to you — the cards that offer the most flexibility are the Business Gold Rewards Card from Amex and the Ink Business Preferred Card from Chase. Both come with solid welcome offers, mid-range annual fees and rewards programs that include bonus categories covering a broad range of business spending. What's more, both cards belong to their issuers' lucrative points programs (without condition), meaning you could score some outsized redemption returns on travel.
For rates and fees of the Business Platinum From Amex, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Blue Business Plus, please click here.
For rates and fees of the SimplyCash Plus, please click here.