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That great business card you carry in your wallet showers you with tons of miles when you pay for airfare or with tons of cash back when you purchase office supplies. It also harbors a dirty secret: Rewards on non-bonus spending are alarmingly low.
There’s no reason for you to accept a 1% return when you make purchases not included in your card’s bonus categories. Consider this two-pronged strategy for maximizing your rewards on business spending:
- Take advantage of bonus category diversity by carrying two or more credit cards that offer their top rewards on different spending categories. You might, for instance, use The Business Platinum® Card from American Express for travel expenses and the SimplyCash® Plus Business Credit Card from American Express for office supplies. The Business Platinum pays 5 points per dollar on airfare and on prepaid hotels booked through American Express Travel, while SimplyCash Plus pays 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.
- For spending not covered by any of your cards’ bonus categories, use a credit card that offers a return of 2% or more on non-bonus spending. We found six examples.
The newest addition to Chase’s small business card lineup may look pedestrian with its 1.5% cash back return on all spending, but the value increases when you pair it with an Ultimate Rewards card in Chase’s lineup (like the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card) and convert the cash back to points in that other card’s account. Suddenly 1.5% cash back becomes 1.5x Ultimate Rewards points worth 2.1 cents apiece, according to TPG’s latest valuations. Your return is worth up to 3.15%.
The Ink Business Unlimited also comes with a nice welcome bonus: Earn $500 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 another card. Based on TPG’s valuations, those points are worth at $1,050.
Ink Business Unlimited charges no annual fee.
Yes, Ink Business Cash offers just 1% cash back on its non-bonus categories. But its rewards also can be converted to UR points when you pair it with a card in the Ultimate Rewards portfolio, boosting the return potential to 2.1%.
It comes with the same welcome bonus offered on the Ink Business Unlimited, $500 when you spend $3,000 in the first three months of card ownership, which can be converted to 50,000 Ultimate Rewards points when paired with a UR card. With the program’s large selection of transfer partners, you could potentially find even more value.
Ink Business Cash is no slouch when it comes to its bonus category rewards, either. You’ll earn 5% back on the first $25,000 spent in combined purchases at office supply stores and on cellular phone, landline, internet and cable TV services each account anniversary year. You’ll also earn 2% cash back on the first $25,000 spent in combined purchases at gas stations and restaurants each account anniversary year.
Ink Business Cash charges no annual fee.
You don’t have to worry about pairing Ink Business Preferred to increase the value of its rewards. This Ink card is part of the Ultimate Rewards program, which means the 1x points you earn on everyday purchases are worth 2.1 cents apiece, just like post-conversion Ink Business Cash points.
The welcome bonus for this card is 80,000 points after you spend $5,000 on purchases within three months of account opening. That bonus is worth $1,680 in travel according to TPG valuations.
Ink Business Preferred offers a different set of bonus categories in comparison with its cash-back bonus category counterpart, perhaps making this duo the perfect pairing for covering as many bonus categories as possible and taking advantage of a high non-bonus reward. You’ll earn 3x points on the first $150,000 spent in combined purchases on travel; shipping purchases; internet, cable and phone services; and advertising purchases made with social media sites and search engines each account anniversary year.
The annual fee is $95.
Blue Business Plus is an often under-the-radar card from American Express, but because it’s part of the issuer’s Membership Rewards program, it offers some excellent opportunities to earn better-than-average returns on non-bonus spending. You’ll earn 2x Membership Rewards points on all purchases for the first $50,000 you spend each calendar year, then 1x point thereafter. Since Amex points are worth 1.9 cents each, according to TPG valuations, you’re looking at nearly a 4% return on all spending.
You’ll also pay no annual fee with this card. If you’re already an Amex business user, with either the Business Platinum card, this would make for a nice secondary card to cover spending not included in either of those cards’ bonus categories.
Capital One Spark Cash for Business
Spark Cash’s no-frills rewards program pays 2% cash back on all purchases. You can find plenty of cards that offer higher rewards on bonus categories, but Spark Cash works nicely as a backup for everyday spending.
You can earn a one-time up to $2,000 cash bonus; $500 after once you spend $5,000 on purchases within three months from account opening. Plus, $1,500 after you spend $50,000 in the first six months.
The annual fee is $95 (waived for the first year).
Capital One Spark Miles for Business
Instead of cash back, this Spark Cash counterpart pays 2 miles per dollar on all purchases. This is a fixed-value point credit card, with each point worth 1 cent. You can redeem your miles after you’ve booked travel via a statement credit or book new travel reservations online or via phone with Capital One. The issuer has a broad definition of travel, which means your points could be used for more than simply airfare or hotel stays. Other eligible purchases include train tickets, car rentals, limousine services, bus rides, cruises, taxi fare and time shares.
The welcome bonus of up to 200,000 miles; earn 50,000 miles once you spend $5,000 in the first three months. Plus, earn 150,000 miles after you spend $50,000 in the first six months.
The annual fee is $95 (waived the first year).
You can’t really take a set-it-and-forget-it approach when it comes to maximizing your credit card rewards. Ensuring you get a return of 2% or better on non-bonus spending will take some work, but it’s not overly complicated. Just find a credit card that complements the other business cards in your wallet and then let the increased rewards start rolling in.
Earn $500 after $3,000 spent within the first three months. That's equivalent to 50,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points if you have another rewards earning card like the Ink Business Preferred, Chase Sapphire Preferred or Chase Sapphire Reserve. Similar to the Freedom Unlimited, this card earns unlimited 1.5% cash back on all purchases and has no annual fee - a no-brainer for small business owners!
- Earn $500 bonus cash back after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening
- Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase made for your business
- 0% introductory APR for 12 months on purchases and balance transfers
- Employee cards at no additional cost
- No Annual Fee