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Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available. View the current offers here – The Business Gold Rewards Card from American Express
Shopping for a new credit card doesn’t just mean finding the best rewards card for your business — especially if you want to give one or more of your employees the authority to spend the company’s money.
You now have a whole new layer of considerations to ponder. Are you willing to shoulder an annual fee for both you and your employees, or should you get a business credit card that charges no annual fee? What tools do card companies offer to let you effectively monitor spending? Can you place restrictions on employee cards to protect you and your business from potential theft?
Answers to at least some of these questions aren’t readily available on marketing or application materials, so we reached out to issuers to ask about their policies regarding employee credit cards. The good news is that many features are pretty standard. All of the issuers, for example, say you can track individual employee spending through your online account. But there are some subtle nuances in what issuers offer that could factor in your decision about which card to apply for.
Here’s a look at responses from a half dozen of the top issuers.
|Issuer||Limit on the number of employee credit cards you can get?||Annual fee on employee cards?||Employee spending controls?||Itemized spending breakdown per employee?|
|American Express||Yes||Fees vary||Yes||Yes|
|Bank of America||No||No||Yes||Yes|
|Capital One||No, but may offer a “different approach” after 75 cards.||No||Yes||Yes|
|Chase||No, but commercial cards recommended if you need more than 100 cards||No||Yes||Yes|
|Wells Fargo||Yes||No||Yes, on the Wells Fargo Business Elite Card||Yes|
All of the issuers we surveyed said “yes” to another important question: Will employee cards earn the same level of rewards as the account holder’s card? Not only that, but you have full authority to decide how to spend those points or miles. So that means if you own The Business Platinum® Card from American Express, both you and your employee cards will earn 5x points on flights and prepaid hotels on AmexTravel.com and 1.5x points per dollar on eligible purchases of $5,000 or more.
American Express and Wells Fargo are the only two issuers we surveyed that said they have hard limits on the number of employee cards you can receive, but this will only be an issue for larger firms. Amex says you can add 99 employee cards, while Wells Fargo places a cap of 200 cards on its Wells Fargo Business Elite Card and 100 cards on the Wells Fargo Business Platinum Credit Card.
Chase says it suggests exploring commercial card options if you need more than 100 cards. A Capital One representative tells us that “when customers get in the range of 75 or more employees who need their own employee card, it’s an opportunity for us to sit down with them and explore if a different approach is needed to help them stay on top of their employee spending without bogging down their primary purchasing account.”
With the exception of American Express, business credit cards that assess annual fees on the account holder’s card offer free cards to employees. That means, for example, that even though you’ll pay a $95 annual fee to own the Ink Business Preferred Credit Card, you can get one, two or even several dozen employee cards free of charge. Same goes for the Capital One Spark Cash for Business, which charges a $95 annual fee (waived the first year).
American Express, meanwhile, normally charges an annual fee for employee cards on several of its small business credit cards, although you’ll likely pay less for employee cards than for the account holder’s card. The Business Gold Rewards Card from American Express charges a $175 annual fee (waived the first year), but Amex charges just $50 a year for the first employee card (waived the first year), while every other authorized user added after that is free. The Business Platinum card charges $300 each year (See Rates & Fees) for every additional Business Platinum card you ask for. That’s on top of the account holder’s $595 annual fee (See Rates & Fees).
Not all Amex cards charge an annual fee on employee cards. The Blue Business℠ Plus Credit Card from American Express, for example, charges no annual fee (See Rates & Fees) on either account holder or employee cards.
Finally, if you really like an Amex card, but don’t want to pay an annual fee for employees, an Amex representative told us that every business card “has a no annual fee employee card option.”
American Express appears to offer the most robust suite of spending monitoring and controls options for employee cards, but all issuers said you can at a minimum set spending limits on employee cards. Both Amex and Capital One say you can lock and unlock employee cards at any time to prevent spending.
American Express says you can set a minimum spending limit of $200. The issuer also offers a number of different alerts that can help you monitor spending, including:
- Spend Tracking Alerts: Lets you know when an employee reaches a certain monthly spending threshold.
- Blocked Purchase Alerts: Alerts you when a purchase is blocked because it went above the set spending limit.
- Merchant Category Alerts: Allows the card holder to pre-approve spending in up to nine categories, such as US shipping and hotel rooms. If an employee spends outside of an approved category type, the charge goes through but both the account holder and the employee are notified.
Finally, all issuers say you can track spending activity for individual employees online, on monthly billing statements or both. This will allow you to get a window into each employee’s spending habits.
All of the issuers allow you to monitor and control employee spending, which is a good check for you to apply to help minimize the chances a wayward employee charges $500,000 to your credit cards without you knowing. Only some of the issuers have limits on how many cards they’ll issue, but the threshold is pretty high. The only major difference is between American Express and the rest of the issuers when it comes to annual fees. You’ll have to decide if the extra money American Express charges is worth it from a rewards standpoint.
Of course, with the Business Platinum, your employees get most of the benefits of the Platinum card, too, including their own Global Entry or TSA PreCheck fee waiver and access to Centurion lounges, Priority Pass lounges and Delta Sky Clubs when they’re flying on Delta.
You could go for a slightly cheaper option — adding Amex Business Gold employee cards to your Business Platinum account. The annual fee for each card is significantly lower at $45. The Gold employee cards won’t get the benefits of a Platinum card, but any charges will accrue points as usual on your company’s master account.
You could also add a green employee card to the account — for free — and still accumulate points.
Know before you go.
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