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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, however, I want to focus on a subset of cards targeted toward small businesses and review the top business cash-back cards.
Cash-back cards may seem less than exciting to the majority of 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.
Keep in mind too that 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 your 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 personal cash-back credit cards).
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 (after that, a variable APR of 15.49% – 21.49%)
Annual fee: $0
Cash back 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 a “premium” card from Chase (like 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 (or even at home) when traveling abroad.
Sign-up bonus: Earn a one-time $500 cash bonus after you spend $4,500 on purchases within 3 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); additional 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 3 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 9 months (15.24%-23.24% variable rate after that)
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. However, 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 (so 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 when you make at least $3,000 in net purchases within 90 days of your 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 & 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 client; 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 client, 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: 5% cash back at US office supply stores and on wireless telephone services purchased directly from US service providers (up to $50,000 in combined purchases each year; then 1%); 3% cash back on a category of your choice out of 8, including airfare, hotels, US gas stations, US restaurants and US shipping (up to $50,000 in purchases each year; then 1%); 1% cash back on all other purchases
Additional perks: No-fee employee cards; ability to buy above your credit limit; 0% APR for the first 15 months on purchases (after that, a variable rate of 14.49%-21.49% applies) (See Rates & Fees).
Annual fee: $0 (See Rates & Fees)
The final card is another great no-fee, cash-back small business credit card: Amex’s SimplyCash, which also offers you up to 5% back on certain categories of purchases that overlap slightly with the Ink Cash. The best thing about this card, though, is that you get to choose the category for which you’ll earn 3%. Maybe you and your employees regularly fly to meet customers, so earning 3% back on those plane tickets would be very lucrative. Or maybe you spend a bulk of your money on advertising — in which case you should consider designating that as your 3% category to maximize your earnings. In any case, you’re in the driver’s seat, though bear in mind that you’ll pay a 2.7% foreign transaction fee on purchases outside the US (See Rates & 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 four of the five cards listed above include an introductory 0% APR for at least 9 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 SimplyCash Plus Business Card, please click here.
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