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Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available – SimplyCash® Plus Business Credit Card from American Express
You’re not going to get rich on redeemable rewards simply by paying your monthly cell phone bill with a credit card. But if you’re looking to eke out as many points, miles or as much cash back as possible on all your spending, there are a number of intriguing options when it comes to your wireless bill. You may be able earn up to 5% cash back with the right card; some issuers even offer smartphone-related perks, like cell phone protection for when you damage your phone.
Finding the right card for this purpose isn’t always easy, since few personal credit cards offer an explicit rewards category that includes cell phone bills. Some carriers offer co-branded credit cards, but these generally fall short when compared to the best options available, including a number of business credit cards that offer rewards for paying utility bills such as cell phone service. Luckily, you can win application approval for many of these cards even if you don’t own a traditional business. Otherwise, you could look to cash-back credit cards that don’t restrict their high-dollar rewards to certain spending categories.
Here are seven credit cards that fit the bill.
Because this card offers bonus points on office-related spending, it’s a great match for certain small business owners.
Earning rewards on your phone bill: This Chase-issued card earns you 3 points per dollar (a 6.3% return based on our valuations) on the first $150,000 spent in combined purchases each account anniversary year spent in these categories:
- Advertising on search engines and social media sites
- Internet, cable and phone services
Notice that last bullet point — that’s where your cell phone service comes in. You’ll earn 1 point per dollar on all other eligible purchases.
Potential annual rewards: Consumers spend about $815 annually on cell phone service, according to February 2018 Consumer Price Index data. Based on that number, if you used this card to pay your phone bill and you’d earn 2,445 Chase Ultimate Rewards points in a year.
Point values vary based on how you redeem them. You’ll earn 1 cent per point when you opt for receiving cash back. But since cash back is the lowest value option, we don’t recommend doing this. Points are worth 1.25 cents each if you redeem them through Chase’s travel portal.
You can boost the redemption value further if you transfer your points to your Chase Sapphire Reserve account or to a partner airline or hotel, such as United or Hyatt. TPG values UR points at a hefty 2.1 cents apiece, meaning you could get about $51 in value annually just by paying your phone bill.
Other card benefits: Aside from the high return, Ink Business Preferred comes with a nice perk smartphone users may value. Chase offers protection against theft or damage for up to $600 per claim for you and your employees when you pay your monthly phone bill with your Business Preferred card. There’s a limit of three claims in a 12-month period with a $100 deductible per claim. Watch out for the long list of things this insurance won’t cover, including refurbished or resold phones.
It’s also worth mentioning that Ink Business Preferred offers a valuable sign-up bonus of 80,000 points when you spend $5,000 within the first three months of account opening. That bonus could be worth more than $1,000 when redeemed for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards.
SimplyCash® Plus Business Credit Card from American Express
This card might be the right choice for you if you want to earn a solid return on your wireless service spending but you don’t necessarily want to put those rewards toward travel. This card comes with no annual fee (See Rates & Fees), either, so there’s no hurdle you have to jump before the rewards have value.
Earning rewards on your phone bill: Earn 5% cash back at US office supply stores and on wireless telephone services purchased directly from US service providers on up to $50,000 in purchases during a calendar year, then 1% thereafter.
Potential annual rewards: The typical smartphone user could earn about $41 back a year. This number, of course, could increase exponentially if you own a small business and pay for your employees’ cell phone service.
Other benefits: Take advantage of Amex Offers to get discounts and bonuses for making purchases at specific merchants. The issuer has partnered with carriers in the past to offer a 10% discount on phone bills. Keep in mind, these are often targeted offers, so they may not be available to all cardholders, and the offers tend to vary by card.
For small business owners, this card’s rewards don’t stop at office supplies and phone service. American Express allows you to choose another category of spending that earns 3% cash back on up to $50,000 in annual spending (then 1%). Pick from one of eight categories — airfare purchased directly from airlines, hotel rooms purchased directly from hotels, car rentals purchased from select car rental companies, US gas stations, US restaurants, US purchases for advertising in select media, US purchases for shipping and US computer hardware, software, and cloud computing purchases made directly from select providers. You’ll earn 1% cash back on all other eligible spending.
Like the Business Preferred, the Ink Business Cash offers substantial rewards for phone bill spending. But this is a cash-back card (although you can transfer your earnings to another Chase card that earns Chase Ultimate Rewards) that offers fewer redemption options. It also charges no annual fee.
Earning rewards on your phone bill: Earn 5% cash back on the first $25,000 spent in combined purchases at office supply stores and on internet, cable and phone services (both cellular and landline) each account anniversary year (then 1%). That cap is lower than on the Business Preferred card, but if you spend less than $25,000 a year on these categories, you have little to worry about.
Potential annual rewards: Like with SimplyCash Plus Business card, you can anticipate rewards of about $41 a year based on the typical phone bill. You can boost the redemption rate significantly by turning your cash back into Ultimate Rewards points by pairing this card with either the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card or Chase Sapphire Reserve personal card. Doing this could boost your return on your phone bill to 10.1%, according to TPG valuations.
Other benefits: If you’re looking for a card that offers more than just opportunities to earn on office spending, Ink Cash offers a bit more flexibility. Earn 2% cash back on the first $25,000 spent in combined purchases at gas stations and restaurants each account anniversary year (then 1%) and 1% cash back on all other purchases.
You’ll also earn $500 cash back after you spend $3,000 in the first three months after account opening.
Personal Credit Card Options
If you’re not eligible for a business credit card or don’t want one, look to one of several personal credit cards that pay up to 2% cash back or 2 miles per dollar spent.
Since its introduction in 2014, Citi® Double Cash Card has been a popular choice for people who want rewards but don’t want to think about earning them. You’ll earn 1% when you buy and 1% when you pay as long as you make your minimum monthly payment. This, along with all other rewards cards, only really works when you pay your bill in full each month. Earn a shade over $16 in cash-back rewards annually when you pay with your card. There is no annual fee.
This may be the gold standard among ease-of-use travel rewards programs. Earn 2 miles for every dollar spent, which equals 2 cents toward travel for every dollar you spend. Boost that earning rate to 10 miles for every $1 spent when you book your hotels at Hotels.com using a special link. The annual fee is $95, and it’s waived the first year.
This card has the lowest rewards return on our list at 1.5% cash back on purchases. But Cash Wise also has no annual fee — and it comes with insurance coverage similar to what’s offered on the more-expensive Ink Business Preferred. You’ll receive up to $600 protection on your cell phone (subject to a $25 deductible) against covered damage or theft when you pay your monthly phone bill with your Cash Wise card. Other Wells Fargo cards also offer this benefit.
Starting in May 2019, the recently updated Citi Prestige card will offer cell phone protection: up to $1,000 per claim and up to $1,500 per year for the damage and theft of up to five eligible phones when you pay your phone bill with the Prestige (a $50 deductible applies). Other reasons to consider this card include a 4th Night Free benefit that can save you big on hotel stays, 5x points on all air travel and restaurant purchases and a $250 annual travel credit.
If you want to earn more than 1% paying your cell phone bill with a credit card, your best bet is a small business credit card. If you can’t claim yourself as a small business owner, you may find it difficult to earn more than 2% cash back or 2 miles per dollar spent on your phone. Luckily, getting approved for a business card could be more attainable than you think — even if you just do some freelance gigs on the side, you could be eligible — and in that case you’re looking at card options that could earn you up to 6.3% back on your cell phone bill.
For rates and fees of the SimplyCash Plus, please click here.
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WELCOME OFFER: 80,000 Points
TPG'S BONUS VALUATION: $1,600
CARD HIGHLIGHTS: 3 points per dollar on the first $150,000 in combined spending on travel, shipping purchases, internet, cable and phone services, and advertising purchases made with social media sites and search engines.
- Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,000 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
- Earn 3 points per $1 on the first $150,000 spent on travel and select business categories each account anniversary year
- Earn 1 point per $1 on all other purchases–with no limit to the amount you can earn
- Points are worth 25% more when you redeem for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards
- Redeem points for travel, cash back, gift cards and more – your points don't expire as long as your account is open
- No foreign transaction fees
- Employee cards at no additional cost
- $95 Annual Fee