Why I couldn’t imagine my life without business credit cards
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For most people, learning how to maximize credit card rewards requires stepping out of your comfort zone and trying something new. That might mean applying for your first-ever credit card or even your first premium card, but one of the most beneficial decisions I made early on in my journey was getting comfortable applying for and utilizing business credit cards.
My specific businesses have morphed over the years, from part-time tutoring in college to freelance writing, but business credit cards have remained a core part of my points and miles strategy. Here are a few reasons I love business credit cards in general, as well as the specific ones I can’t live without.
The advantages of business cards
Lending standards vary by bank and are undeniably tighter due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, but many people are shocked at just how easy it is to get approved for a business credit card. You don’t need an established LLC, hundreds of employees or millions of dollars in annual revenue. All the major banks allow you to apply for a business credit card as a sole proprietorship. The good news is you become one simply by doing business. This means that if you freelance, babysit, sell things online, tutor or dozens of other part-time gigs, you should be able to apply for most business credit cards.
There are two main advantages to dabbling in the world of business cards, in addition to the obvious benefit of keeping your business and personal expenses separate (which can save you a lot of work come tax season). The first is quite simply that more cards means more welcome offers! Many business cards mirror nearly identical personal products, such as the Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card and the Delta SkyMiles® Gold Business American Express Card. If you’re trying to earn Delta SkyMiles for an upcoming vacation, applying for business as well as personal credit cards gives you twice as many options and will help you reach your goal faster.
Another great thing about business credit cards is they don’t appear on your personal credit report. The initial inquiry does, as banks run your personal credit report to approve you for business cards, but after that the payment history and, more importantly, your monthly balances don’t show up on your personal credit report. This means that if you frequently make large purchases, using a business credit card won’t affect your utilization ratio (your total balances divided by total available credit) and therefore won’t affect your credit score.
My three favorite business cards
While everyone has slightly different preferences for what perks they want from a credit card and what type of points they want to earn, there are three business cards in particular that receive a vast majority of my spending, both by dollar amount and number of transactions. These cards therefore earn me the most points while protecting my credit score from fluctuating month to month, and have earned their place in my wallet.
The Blue Business Plus is one of the most compelling cards in the Amex lineup. For starters, it’s one of the only cards out there to earn full-fledged transferable points without charging an annual fee (see rates and fees). The card earns 2x Membership Rewards points per dollar on your first $50,000 spent each calendar year, then 1x on everything else. TPG values Membership Rewards points at 2 cents each, meaning you’ll get a 4% return on the first $50,000 you spend each year. That makes this the single most rewarding card for everyday spending.
As a frequent traveler and loyal Marriott Titanium elite member, I need to carry at least one Marriott Bonvoy card in my wallet at all times. While all of Marriott’s middle-market cards offer similar earning rates and comparable annual fees, I’ve settled on the Marriott Bonvoy Business American Express Card for a number of reasons.
In exchange for a modest $125 annual fee (see rates and fees), you’ll earn automatic Marriott Silver elite status (and the chance to upgrade to Gold by spending $35,000 a year) and an anniversary free night certificate worth up to 35,000 points. However, you can earn a second free night certificate by spending $60,000 in a calendar year on the card, which is a great bonus for businesses with higher expenses.
Once travel resumes this year I expect to be taking many more road trips and staycations, which means I’m putting a higher value on my Marriott points this year than I normally would. The Bonvoy Business earns 6x points per dollar at Marriott hotels; 4x points per dollar spent at U.S. restaurants and U.S. gas stations, on wireless telephone services purchased directly from U.S. service providers and on purchases made from merchants in the U.S. for shipping; and 2x points per dollar on all other eligible purchases. While it’s not the most rewarding card for everyday spending, in my quest to earn more Marriott points (and that second free night certificate) I’ve found myself putting a number of large tax payments on my Bonvoy Business to try and hit the $60,000 threshold.
With a $595 annual fee (see rates and fees) the Business Platinum is the most expensive publicly available card that Amex offers. It has a number of great benefits to offset that fee, including a $200 annual airline incidental fee credit and up to $200 in annual statement credits for Dell technology purchases (split up into two $100 credits). It also offers complimentary Marriott and Hilton Gold elite status, and the most comprehensive airport lounge access of any card, with a Priority Pass select membership, access to Amex Centurion lounges, access to Delta Sky Clubs when flying Delta, and more. Enrollment required for select benefits.
One area where the card doesn’t excel is its bonus categories. The Business Platinum offers 5x points per dollar on airfare and prepaid hotel rooms booked through amextravel.com, and 1x on everything else. The only exception is that the card offers a 50% bonus on purchases over $5,000, up to 1 million extra points a year.
This large purchase bonus, has come in very handy for me on a number of occasions. For example, shortly after moving to China last year I ended up needing minor surgery. Thankfully my insurance reimbursed me for a majority of the cost, but I still had to pay the $19,000 bill upfront while I waited for my claim to be settled. Most of my credit cards don’t have that high of a limit on them, so I turned to the Business Platinum card and earned a very solid 28,500 Membership Rewards points in the process.
While I need to carry at least one Platinum card in my wallet to access Amex Centurion lounges, I opt for the Business Platinum Card from American Express thanks to its bonus on large purchases. I’ll admit that I rarely use this card, but when I need to make a large purchase during a travel or medical emergency, it’s nice to have no preset credit limit and a respectable 1.5x earning rate.
The simple truth is that most people reading this will qualify for business cards in one way or another. It’s ultimately up to you whether you apply for them, but there are plenty of advantages to doing so. Not only will you be able to earn more welcome bonuses on different cards and keep large purchases off your personal credit report, but many of the perks on individual business cards are so valuable that they’ll end up earning a spot at the top of your wallet.
For rates and fees of the Blue Business Plus Card, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Marriott Bonvoy Business from Amex Card, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Business Platinum Card, please click here.
Additional reporting by Ed Pizzarello.
Featured photo by Wyatt Smith/The Points Guy.
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