The right business credit card can help you run your small business more easily, snag extra perks, and save big with rewards. It can also give you a needed boost when tough financial times hit. After all, 82% of small businesses run into cash flow issues at some point. So, before you start sifting through card offers, you’re going to want to consider the specifics of your business spending, your plans for redeeming rewards, and your desired perks.
Here are five questions that will guide you toward the credit card that best suits your small business:
1. Where do I spend the most?
Many business credit cards offer extra points for spending in certain categories. For instance, gas stations and grocery stores are commonly featured. To determine what category is right for your small business, you’ll want to check your books to see where you spend the most money. Once you know this, you can choose a card that fits your spending patterns, and rev up your rewards earnings.
For example, if you travel frequently, often ship products to customers, or pay a large internet or phone service bill every month, you may want to consider a card like the Chase Ink Business PreferredSM credit card. This card awards you three points per dollar for the first $150,000 you spend annually on travel, shipping, internet, cable, and phone services. This same rate also applies to any advertising purchases you make on social media sites or search engines each account anniversary year. With this card, you won’t need to worry about missing out on rewards for other purchases you make: Chase offers an unlimited one point per dollar for everything you purchase.
If travel isn’t what you spend the most on, you might benefit from the flexibility offered by cards like the Business Gold Rewards Card from American Express. This card allows you to choose one category in which to receive three points per dollar spent. You’ll receive two points per dollar spent in four other categories, and one point per dollar spent on everything else.
Other business credit cards with notable rewards programs include:
- Chase Ink Business CashSM Card. This card offers you 5% cash back on the first $25,000 spent annually at office supply stores and on internet, cable and phone services, and 2% cash back on the first $25,000 spent annually at gas stations and restaurants.
- The Business Platinum Card® from American Express. This card provides you the opportunity to earn up to 75,000 Membership Rewards® points: 50,000 points after you spend $10,000 and an extra 25,000 points after you spend an additional $10,000 on qualifying purchases within your first three months.
2. How much do I typically spend each month?
If you spend $1,000 or more per month, consider a card that offers additional rewards for hitting set monthly spending thresholds. For example, the Wells Fargo Business Platinum Credit Card is geared toward businesses with annual sales of up to $2 million. It offers 1,000 extra points for every month you spend $1,000 or more on the card. The Wells Fargo Business Elite Card®, for businesses with annual sales over $1 million, offers an extra 5,000 points for every month you spend $10,000 or more.
3. Would I have to stretch my spending to earn a sign-up bonus?
Many small business credit cards offer sign-up bonuses, which can give you a pile of points or miles up front. All you have to do is hit a set spending target within a certain time frame after you open the account.
A sign-up bonus represents one of the most valuable perks offered by card issuers, says Rosemarie Clancy, former vice president of content and marketing at RewardExpert, a service that helps consumers maximize rewards. However, if you fail to spend the required amount in the specified time, you lose out entirely. If you think meeting the “minimum spend” for a sign-up bonus on a certain card would be a challenge, consider a card that offers a smaller sign-up bonus for a lower spending requirement.
Credit cards that offer sign up bonuses include:
- Chase Ink Business PreferredSM credit card. This card awards new cardholders an 80,000-point sign-up bonus. In order to earn this sign-up bonus, you need to spend at least $5,000 in the first three months of having the card.
- Spark® Miles from Capital One®. This card gives away 50,000 bonus points, but the minimum spend is almost as high, at $4,500 in the first three months.
- Bank of America Alaska Airlines Business Card. This card offers Alaska’s Famous Companion Fare™ (buy one ticket, get one for just taxes and fees [from $22]), plus 30,000 bonus miles for spending just $1,000 in the first three months. The offer also includes the ability to buy a discounted ticket, priced from $121, for a traveling companion, each year on your account anniversary.
One smart option: Plan accordingly. For instance, say you want a larger sign-up bonus but know that meeting the “minimum spend” will be a stretch. Consider timing the opening of your new card to coincide with an unusually large purchase or a costly business trip.
4. What do I want to redeem my rewards for?
“Ask, ‘Do I want my rewards to be in cash or points?'” says Gene Marks, CPA and president of Marks Group PC, a 10-person firm offering technology and consulting services to small businesses. “That’s really your most important decision.”
Consider your business’s “lifestyle.” If you want your rewards to help cut your office supply costs, look for a simple, straightforward cash back card. However, if you travel frequently for business, you may be better served by a card that allows you to redeem points or miles for flights or hotel stays.
One cash back option business owners who don’t travel much can consider is Spark® Cash from Capital One®. This card offers 2% cash back that you can redeem upon request as a statement credit or by check. Some business credit cards offer cash back for specific types of purchases. If your business purchases are concentrated in the featured categories—such as internet and cable services, or restaurants—these cards can be a good option for your small business.
Business credit cards with cash back options include:
- Chase Ink Business CashSM Card
- Chase Ink Business PreferredSM Card
- Spark® Cash from Capital One®
- Bank of America Business Advantage Cash Rewards Mastercard® credit card
- Discover it® Business Card
- SimplyCash® Plus Business Credit Card from American Express
For frequent travelers, the Chase Ink Business PreferredSM credit card offers more flexibility. This card allows you to redeem points for travel and other rewards through the Chase Ultimate Rewards® portal. It also allows you to transfer your rewards to a variety of frequent flyer and hotel loyalty programs. The ability to transfer into programs that give you the most bang for your buck allows savvy small business owners to squeeze the most value out of their points, Clancy says. But before choosing a card that offers points or miles, read the fine print on the rewards program.
5. What extra perks will give my business a boost?
Before making your final decision, consider your must-have perks. Some cards offer rich extras like airport lounge access that can be a big plus for small business owners on the go. However, the cards with the most perks typically charge an annual fee—sometimes a hefty one—so make sure you get enough benefit to make it worth the cost. For example, if you only travel a few times a year, it makes more sense to pay for lounge access directly than to pay a $450-plus annual fee to get that perk.
Regardless of how you spend your cash back, or which perks you seek out, keep in mind that your business’s needs change and so do credit card terms. Card issuers regularly release new—and sometimes better—offers. Review your business credit card choice annually to see if it makes sense to switch, Marks suggests.
If you decide to open a new card, tread carefully to prevent dings to your credit. Shop around and pick one card, rather than applying for several at once. Applying for a new card causes a hard inquiry, which can cause a small drop in your credit score. And getting a bunch of new cards can cause a steep decrease in your average account age, which can harm your credit.
On the upside, a new card will increase your total available credit, which can give your score a boost.
Would you like your next major business purchase to be paid for by credit card rewards? Get your free copy of The Ultimate Guide to Business Credit Cards: The Small Business Owner’s Handbook. In this 21-page eBook, you can learn:
- How to use a business credit card without affecting your personal credit
- The simplest ways to separate business and personal spending
- How to check your credit report for free
- How to rack up rewards to finance business purchases (or your next vacation)
- How to use a credit card in place of a short-term loan
- How to ensure employees aren’t using their work credit cards for personal use
- And much more
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