The top 5 business cash-back credit cards
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There are many different types of travel rewards credit cards on the market today. Some allow you to earn valuable points that can be transferred to partners, while others offer specific benefits when traveling on a given airline or staying at a specific hotel chain. Today, I want to focus on the subset of credit cards for small businesses and review the top business cash-back cards.
Cash-back cards may seem less than exciting to the majority of TPG readers, given the incredible value and flexibility of currencies like Chase Ultimate Rewards and American Express Membership Rewards. However, if you’re a small business owner, you may prefer the consistent impact of cash on your bottom line. You don’t need to worry about saving points for a dream vacation or spend time poring over award charts to find the best redemption. You can simply take the earnings from the card and plow them right back into your business.
You don’t need to have a formal business to get approved for the cards on my list below. Many issuers allow individuals to apply for small business credit cards as a sole proprietor by simply using their Social Security number on the application. Maybe you do some freelance consulting or design work, or maybe you sell items on eBay or Etsy. Whatever the case, you shouldn’t immediately rule out any of the cards below (though be sure to refer to our guide on the best cash-back credit cards for personal use).
With all that being said, which business cash-back credit cards offer solid value? Here’s my list:
Sign-up bonus: $500 cash back after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first three months after account opening.
Earning rates: 5% cash back at office supply stores and on internet, cable and phone services (on the first $25,000 spent in combined purchases each account anniversary year); 2% cash back at gas stations and restaurants (on the first $25,000 spent in combined purchases each account anniversary year); 1% cash back on all other purchases.
Additional perks: Free employee cards; primary car rental coverage (when traveling for business); 0% APR for the first 12 months on purchases, then a variable APR of 15.24% to 21.24% applies.
Annual fee: $0
Cash back without an annual fee is great, but if you want the added flexibility of “playing the game” at a later date when it comes to your earning and redemption, the Ink Cash could be a great option for your small business. The 5% cash back at office supply stores and on telecommunications purchases can be incredibly rewarding if you have large expenses that typically come from those categories.
With 2% back on gas and restaurant purchases, it’s also lucrative for those with extensive travel and/or client meetings at lunch or dinner. However, what makes this card especially compelling is the fact that you can “convert” the cash-back points you earn on the card to full Ultimate Rewards points if you have any Ultimate Rewards earning card from Chase (like the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card or the Chase Sapphire Reserve). This unlocks valuable transfer partners like United and Hyatt — and when you add in the fact that the card carries no annual fee, it’s a solid value proposition all around.
Just be aware that the card does include a 3% foreign transaction fee, so be sure it stays in your wallet when traveling abroad.
Sign-up bonus: Earn a one-time $500 cash bonus after you spend $4,500 on purchases within three months from account opening.
Earning rates: Unlimited 2% cash back on all purchases.
Additional perks: Free employee cards; no foreign transaction fees; primary car rental coverage (if your rental is for business purposes); and Visa Signature benefits.
Annual fee: $95 (waived for the first year)
Earning 2% back on every purchase is very solid, and with no fee for employee cards and no foreign transaction fees, this can be a great option for businesses with even a little bit of international travel. Just be sure to crunch the numbers and make sure that you can easily cover the card’s $95 annual fee (see next entry for this calculation). If not, the next card may be of interest.
Sign-up bonus: Earn a one-time $200 cash bonus once you spend $3,000 on purchases within three months from account opening.
Earning rates: 1.5% cash back on all purchases.
Additional perks: Same as above, but with a 0% APR on purchases for the first nine months; then a variable APR of 14.74% to 22.74% applies.
Annual fee: $0
If you’re hesitant to incur the $95 annual fee on the regular Spark Cash card profiled above, the Spark Cash Select could be a great option. For no annual fee, you’re still getting a solid 1.5% return on your spending, and avoiding foreign transaction fees on a card that doesn’t cost anything is pretty fantastic. It’s also great that this card comes with the same Visa Signature benefits as the regular Spark Cash.
That being said, given that the Spark Cash has a higher sign-up bonus than the Spark Cash Select and no annual fee for the first year, I’d recommend going with that card and then potentially downgrading to this card later. I’d only consider staying with the Spark Cash Select if your small business has limited expenses (~$1,500 per month or less). That’s because the break-even point between the two cards after year one (removing the sign-up bonuses) is $19,000. At that level of spending in a year, you’ll earn exactly $95 more with the Spark Cash than the Spark Cash Select, since the earning rate is 0.5% higher. Here is the calculation:
$95 ÷ 0.005 = $19,000
If you typically spend more than this amount, you’re better off keeping the Spark Cash and incurring the annual fee, since the additional cash back you’d earn more than covers the fee. If not, stick with the Spark Cash Select.
Sign-up bonus: Get a $300 statement credit when you make at least $3,000 in net purchases within 90 days of account opening.
Earning rates: 3% cash back on purchases in one category of your choice, chosen from gas stations, office supply stores, travel, TV/telecom and wireless, computer services or business consulting services; 2% cash back on dining (for the first $50,000 in combined choice category/dining purchases each calendar year, 1% thereafter), and 1% cash back on all other purchases.
Additional perks: Get a 75% rewards bonus on every purchase when you’re a Business Advantage Relationship Rewards Platinum Honors tier clients; deposit cash rewards directly into a Bank of America checking or savings account.
Annual fee: $0
If you spend $50,000 in one of the 3% categories and are a Business Advantage Relationship Rewards Platinum Honors tier members, you’ll definitely want to crunch the numbers to see if this card works for you. For example, if you spend $50,000 per year at office supply stores, you’d earn $1,500 of cash back — or $2,625 if you’re eligible for the relationship bonus.
The other nice perk of this card is that the cash-back rewards can be deposited directly into a Bank of America checking or savings account, so if your small business is already set up with B of A, this seamless integration of accounts could help sell you on this card. Once again, though, be aware that this card will incur a 3% fee if used outside the country.
Earning rates: 2% cash back on the first $50,000 in purchases made each calendar year, then 1% back.
Additional perks: No annual fee for employee cards (see rates and fees); ability to buy above your credit limit; 0% APR for the first 12 months on purchases, then a variable APR of 14.99% to 20.99% (see rates and fees).
Annual fee: $0 (see rates and fees)
The final card is another great no-annual-fee, cash-back small business credit card: Amex’s Blue Business Cash card, modeled on the incredibly popular Membership Rewards-earning Blue Business® Plus Credit Card from American Express. The simplicity of earning a fixed 2% back on your first $50,000 in purchases without any bonus categories to worry about means you can spend more of your mental energy focusing on your business instead of your wallet. High-spending businesses who can max out the 2% cash back will walk away with an extra $1,000 each year, all from a card with no annual fee. The only downside is that the card comes with a 2.7% foreign transaction fee (see rates and fees).
As you can see, there are a variety of cash-back credit cards geared toward small businesses that allow you to earn some solid rewards when you use them regularly. It’s also great that several of the cards listed above include an introductory 0% APR for at least nine months, which can be huge for a business just starting out with large expenses and little revenue (though be sure to pay everything off before interest is tacked on or you’ll be violating the most important of my 10 commandments for travel rewards credit cards). If your business is just getting off the ground, hopefully this post has highlighted how cash-back credit cards can play an important role in your success.
For rates and fees of the Amex Blue Business Cash card, click here.