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Freelancing costs money. Even one-person operations have some overhead to get the wheels spinning, from pens and pencils to thousands of dollars in high-end equipment. And while a small business loan can work in certain situations, ongoing expenses are almost always better taken care of with a credit card.
But freelancers have unique needs, and you shouldn’t just assume a personal card is the best way to finance your business expenses. Using a separate business card allows you to reap rewards specific to your operation, as well as separating your personal expenses from professional ones. So if you’re looking for a great credit card to fund your freelancing enterprise or small business, here are some of this year’s best options.
Chase’s Ink Business Preferred offers 3x Ultimate Rewards points on the first $150,000 spent in combined purchases on shipping, social media/online advertising, travel, internet, cable and phone services. All other purchases earn 1 point per dollar spent. Freelancers who promote their business through Instagram and Facebook ads can easily take advantage of this 3x bonus.
This card also provides a hefty sign-up bonus of 80,000 points when you spend $5,000 or more during the first three months. That equals $1,000 worth of travel if you redeem the points through Chase’s travel portal, or potentially even more if you transfer your points to one of Ultimate Rewards’ 13 partners, which include airlines like Southwest and United, and hotels such as Hyatt. That’s why Ultimate Rewards points are worth 2.1 cents each based on TPG’s most recent valuations, which means 3 points per dollar spent is equivalent to a 6.3% return on those bonus categories.
The Ink Preferred has a $95 annual fee, and small businesses with multiple employees can request unlimited free employee cards.
This card is a favorite of TPG himself — he considers it to be one of the credit cards he can’t live without and uses it more than almost any other card in his wallet. That’s because the Business Gold Rewards card earns 2 points per dollar spent in five different categories — airfare purchased directly from airlines, gas stations, shipping, advertising in select media and computer hardware, software, and cloud computing made directly from select providers. Then by choosing one of those five categories, you can earn 1 additional point per dollar for a total of 3 points per dollar spent, up to $100,000 in spend per year. That means you can earn 300,000 Membership Rewards points per year just from maxing out your 3x category — those points are worth a massive $5,700 based on TPG’s most recent valuations.
If you apply for the Business Gold Rewards, you’ll currently get a 50,000 point welcome bonus after spending $5,000 in purchases in the first 3 months of cardmembership. That bonus is worth another $950, easily offsetting the card’s $175 annual fee, which itself is even waived in the first year.
Need to make a few big purchases for your business but can’t afford to pay them off right away? The Ink Business Cash Credit Card is perfect for the freelancer who’s just getting started and has to purchase equipment, but needs time to adjust to self-employment. The card has a 0% APR for the first 12 months, then after the 12 months, the rate changes to 14.99%–20.99%, depending on your credit history. The 0% introductory offer will be voided if any payments are late.
Beyond the interest rate offer, the Ink Business Cash now comes with a $500 bonus after spending $3,000 in the first 3 months after account opening. This cash back card also has a set of especially useful bonus categories, including 5% back on all office supply stores and internet, cable and phone services, 2% on gas stations and restaurants and 1% on other expenses. Chase charges no annual fee with this card, but there is a 3% foreign transaction fee.
The real advantage of this card is all the cash back — including the sign-up bonus — comes in the form of Ultimate Rewards points. So while you can redeem those points for cash back at a fixed-value of 1 cent each, you can get even more value for them if you have another Chase Ultimate Rewards personal or business card that allows point travel redemptions and transfers to airlines and hotels.
Transfer partners? Check. Two points per dollar on all purchases? Check. No annual fee? Check. In fact, there’s very little not to like about the Blue Business Plus card. It’s simple, it’s powerful and it’s free — a perfect trio for the budding freelancer.
To be fair, there are a few minor downsides to the card. There’s no welcome bonus and you’ll want to avoid using it for overseas transactions because the card carries a 2.7% foreign transaction fee. You’ll also need to keep in mind that there’s a $50,000 annual cap on the 2x multiplier for all purchases, after which you’ll only get 1 point per dollar. But with the Blue Business Plus, you’ll have access to all 19 Amex Membership Rewards transfer partners at no annual cost — and there’s no fee for additional employee cards either.
This is one of the easiest business cards for freelancers to manage, since you won’t have to worry about transferring or redeeming points — you’re just getting cash back. New cardholders can earn $500 when they spend $4,500 during the first 3 months from account opening.
The Capital One Spark Cash for Business earns 2% cash back on all purchases, with no restrictions on how much you can earn. That’s perfect for freelancers who’d rather not keep track of categories that offer extra rewards, and who prefer a one-stop card in their wallet for all their business expenses. Redeeming rewards is also easy — customers can choose between redeeming for account credit, gift cards or a check in the mail. You can also set up an auto-redemption so you never forget to cash in your points.
Employee cards are free and Capital One doesn’t charge any foreign transaction fees, so you can give this card to employees who are traveling overseas on behalf of your business. The Capital One Spark Cash for Business comes with a $95 annual fee that’s waived for the first year.
If you want to earn cash back on your own terms, American Express’ SimplyCash Plus Business Card may be your best choice. The card provides 5% cash back at office supply stores and on wireless phone services, as well as 3% cash back on one category that you pick from a list of 8, which includes restaurants, hotel rooms purchased directly from hotels, gas stations, shipping and several others up to $50,000; then 1% thereafter.
Whether you’re a long-time freelancer or just starting out, having a credit card that you can use for your freelancing expenses is extremely helpful when it comes to keeping your books in order, but there’s no reason you shouldn’t also be earning rewards at the same time. So consider which of these cards best fits your needs and make sure you put one of them in your wallet today.
Featured image by Eric Helgas for The Points Guy.
Increased Offer - $500 Cash Back Bonus! Earn 5% cash back on the first $25,000 spent in combined purchases at office supply stores and on cellular phone, landline, internet and cable TV services, plus 2% back on the first $25,000 spent in combined purchases at gas stations and restaurants each calendar year. Plus, you’ll earn an uncapped 1% cash back on everything else.
- Earn $500 bonus cash back after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening
- Named "Best Rewards Card for Small Business Owners" by Kiplinger's Personal Finance, July 2017
- Earn 5% cash back on the first $25,000 spent in combined purchases at office supply stores and on internet, cable and phone services each account anniversary year
- Earn 2% cash back on the first $25,000 spent in combined purchases at gas stations and restaurants each account anniversary year
- Earn 1% cash back on all other card purchases with no limit to the amount you can earn
- 0% introductory APR for 12 months on purchases and balance transfers
- Employee cards at no additional cost
- No Annual Fee