This content is not provided or commissioned by American Express. Opinions expressed here are author's alone, not those of American Express, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by American Express. This site may be compensated through American Express Affiliate Program.
I live in an area where there are lots of small businesses, and because I have lived here for much of my life, we know many of their owners. However, unlike my friends here on the internet, many of my friends in the real world are not yet maximizing the charges they make every day. This is true for many of their personal charges (though I am making progress with several in that arena), but this is even more true of their small business charges. In some ways, this is more of a missed opportunity since most small businesses make more, and spend more, than individual households. There are a bunch of rewards to be earned from maximizing how you charge your expenses for your small business. I say all of this because if you are a regular reader of this site, this may mostly be old news to you. However, this post may prove useful for those I meet who are newer to the concept of maximizing their small business charges for big rewards.
1. Choose a card issuer and whether you want a charge card or a credit card for your small business purchases.
I know many small businesses like to keep things simple on the accounting end of things, so they don’t want 8 different credit cards from 4 different card issuers. They want one type of credit card from one card issuer. Many already have a preference of issuers because of a long history with them, a history of good or bad interactions, a large credit line, etc. Because of that, I think it is fair to consider up-front if there is a bank you want to give preference to for your small business credit or charge cards. Also decide from the beginning if you would prefer charge cards (that are paid off monthly) or credit cards (where you can have a revolving balance if desired). Making these decisions for a small business card can be a bit different than for a household.
2. Think about what you want to do with the rewards your card earns.
Once you have thought about if you have a preference for a particular bank and a credit card vs a charge card, it is time to think about what you want your small business credit card to do for you. Do you only want to earn United miles because that is all you care about? Do you want to earn points that are flexible and can be used with a variety of hotel and airline partners? Do you want points that can be used like cash toward travel expenses? Or do you only want to earn old fashioned cash back? Think about what you want out of your miles, points , and rewards and that will help point you toward the right card for you.
3. If you aren’t sure, go with a card that offers flexible points that can be used in a variety of ways.
I think that for most small business owners who want to maximize their charges for valuable miles and points, the two types of points that should be given much consideration are American Express Membership Reward points and Chase Ultimate Reward points. There are several types of cards that earn these points, but both of these points can not only be used as cash and toward gift cards (neither of which I personally recommend), but also can be transferred into a variety of hotel and airline partners where their value can really be leveraged to a much greater extent. Since they can be used with a variety of companies, that means that you aren’t boxing yourself into a corner by selecting one of these types of points, but instead you are giving yourself many options when it comes time to redeem. As a great bonus, Chase and American Express are generally regarded as two of the top small business card issuers, so you have valuable points and a solid bank standing behind the card products.
Southwest Rapid Rewards
British Airways Executive Club
Korean Air SKYPASS
Virgin Atlantic Flying Club
Amtrak Guest Rewards
Hyatt Gold Passport
IHG Rewards Club
The Ritz-Carlton Rewards
American Express Membership Rewards are earned on the The Enhanced Business Gold Rewards Card® from American Express OPEN and The Business Platinum Card® from American Express OPEN (both charge cards) and can be transferred at varying ratios to the following partners:
Starwood Preferred Guest
4. Consider the benefits and bonuses each card provides. Before deciding which card is right for your business, I would consider what bonus they are offering for signing up, as well as the bonus structure and ongoing benefits you will use on a regular basis. Here is a comparison of these cards.
Ink Bold/Ink Plus: Both offer 50,000 Ultimate Reward points after spending $5,000 in the first three months and an ongoing 5x points per $1 on the first $50,000 spent annually at office supply stores, on cable and wireless service, and landline communications. It awards 2x points per $1 on the first $50,000 spent annually on gas and hotel expenses paid directly to the hotel. If you have large reocurring charges in these 5x categories, this card can really rack up points in a hurry. These cards also have no foreign transaction fees, so you can use them outside the US without incurring an extra charge for doing so. You can also make online purchases through the online Ultimate Rewards Shopping Mall and earn even more bonus points. As an added bonus, it is very easy to reach a real person with these credit cards, which is a real perk for busy businesses. The fee for this card is an introductory $0 annual fee the first year, and then $95 in subsequent years.
The Enhanced Business Gold Rewards Amex: 50,000 Membership Reward points after spending $5,000 in the first three months. On an ongoing basis you will earn 3X points on airfare purchased from airlines, 2X points on US purchases for advertising in select media, on shipping and at gas stations, and 2x points on US purchases made directly from select computer hardware and software providers, and 1x on most other purchases. There is a $100,000 cap on bonus points in each category. The Membership Rewards program also sometimes offers transfer bonuses to some of their partners, so you can occasionally get more bang for your points during the transfer process.
American Express also offers a pretty great OPEN savings program that is designed to get you up to 10% discounts or up to 4 extra Membership Rewards points for every eligible dollar spent with OPEN Savings partners. Some of the partners are: Hyatt, Hertz, FedEx, Office Max, and more. As an example, at participating Hyatt Hotels, I get either 5% off in the form of a statement credit, or an extra 2 Membership Reward points per dollar charged, up to certain max per year. That isn’t a huge savings, but it absolutely adds up over the course of the year if you frequent any of those business partners. This card has a $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $175 in subsequent years. Additional employee cards are $50 for the first card, and no charge for additional cards.
5. Learn what to do with all the points you have earned. Preferably you will go into this knowing what to do with all of your miles and points so you can decide which card is best for your small business, but earning points and not yet knowing how to use them is better than not earning anything at all. Learning how to maximize your points will take time, but here are a few reference points:
Chase Ultimate Rewards (points transferred to the partners listed below):
25,000 United miles = one round trip in economy to the 48 states, Canada, and Alaska
100,000 United miles = one round trip business class ticket to Europe from the US
22,000 Hyatt points = one night at a top tier Hyatt hotel like Park Hyatt Paris Vendome, Park Hyatt Tokyo, Andaz Maui at Wailea, or Park Hyatt Beaver Creek
7,500 British Airways points = one-way ticket on American Airlines from Houston to Chicago
5,000 IHG Rewards points = one night in a “PointBreaks” hotel from a list that changes quarterly
Membership Rewards (points transferred to the partners listed below):
4,500 British Airways Avios – one-way ticket on American Airlines from New York to Montreal
90,000 Aeroplan miles = round trip business class ticket to Europe
40,000 Delta SkyMiles = round trip economy ticket to Hawaii
Of course, all of these examples are subject to availability, but they are just a very small sampling of what these points can do for you.
There are some other cards I want to mention as I know not everyone wants to leverage their small business purchases to travel the world. Some would do better with simple cash back options, earning points toward gift cards, etc. Some others to consider are:
Ink Cash® Business Card: $200 cash back after spending $3,000 in the first 3 months. Earn 5% cash back on the first $25,000 spent annually at office supply stores, cell phone expenses, land line, internet, and cable TV charges. Earn 2% cash back at the first $25,000 spent annually at restaurants and gas stations. Earn 1% back on other purchases. No annual fee and free employee cards.
Capital One Spark Cash Business Card: $100 cash back after spending $1,000 on purchases within the first 3 months. If you sign up for one or more employee cards within the first 60 days of being a cardholder, you’ll receive an additional $50 cash back. Earn unlimited 2% cash back on all purchases. $0 introductory annual fee the first year and $59 annual fee in subsequent years. No fee for employee cards.
The Blue for Business® Credit Card from American Express OPEN: 10,000 Membership Reward points after your first purchase. Earn one point for each dollar charged, with a 30% bonus on all points earned paid annually. Access to the Amex OPEN savings program. You cannot transfer your Membership Reward points earned with this card to the hotel and airline partners mentioned earlier in this post without also having a more premium Membership Rewards earning business or personal card, but instead you can use the points toward gift cards or to pay for travel booked via American Express. No annual fee.
Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Amex: 10,000 SPG points after the first purchase, and an additional 15,000 points after spending $5,000 on the card in the first 6 months. The SPG points it earns are very good not only for stays at SPG hotels (Westin, W, Sheraton, etc), but also if you want to transfer them to some airlines like American Airlines, Delta, British Airways, and more as it provides a 5,000 mile bonus for every 20,000 transferred. You can learn more about maximizing SPG points on this post. This card has a $0 introductory annual fee the first year, and $65 in subsequent years.
Most small businesses are literally leaving thousands of dollars in rewards on the table if they are not using a rewards card of some kind. Whether you want to use the points earned for a family vacation, to save money on future business travel, for gift cards, for employee incentives, or just for cash-back, when you factor in the sign-up bonuses, the bonus categories, and the built-in savings programs, I can promise you it really adds up.
Disclosure: I do receive a commission if you are approved for a credit card using my affiliate link. Some of the cards in this post are in the affiliate program.