The right business credit card can help you run your small business more easily, snag extra perks and save big with rewards, so it pays to choose wisely. Before you start sifting through card offers, 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 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. Check your books to see where your small business spends the most money. 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, consider a card like the Chase Ink Business Preferred Card, which awards three points per dollar for the first $150,000 you spend annually on travel, shipping, telephone, internet and TV services. And you won’t miss out on rewards for all your other purchases. The card offers an unlimited one point per dollar for everything you spend money on.
If you spend more in other categories, you might benefit from the flexibility offered by cards like the American Express Business Gold Rewards Card, which allows you to choose one category for which you’ll receive three points per dollar spent. You can then select four other categories for which you’ll receive two points per dollars spent. On everything else, you’ll still earn one point per dollar spent.
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, geared toward businesses with annual sales of less than $2 million, offers 1,000 extra points for every month you spend $1,000 or more on the card. The Wells Fargo Business Elite Credit 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 give you a pile of points or miles upfront simply for hitting 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 Rosemary Clancy, vice-president of content and marketing at RewardExpert, a service that helps consumers maximize rewards. But 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.
For example, the Chase Ink Business Preferred Card awards new cardholders an 80,000-point sign-up bonus, but they must spend $5,000 in the first three months to earn it. The Capital One Spark Miles for Business gives away 50,000 bonus points, but the minimum spend is almost as high: $4,500 in the first three months. The Alaska Airlines Visa Business Card, however, offers 30,000 miles for spending just $1,000 in the first three months. The offer also includes the ability to buy a discounted ticket, priced at $121, for a traveling companion.
One smart option: plan accordingly. If you want a larger sign-up bonus but know that meeting the “minimum spend” will be a stretch, time 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 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 might consider, Capital One Spark Cash for Business offers 2 percent cash back which you can redeem upon request as a statement credit or by check.
A better choice for frequent travelers, however, would be the Chase Ink Business Preferred Card which offers more flexibility. The card allows you to redeem points for travel and other rewards through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal, or 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.
Before choosing a card that offers points or miles, read the fine print on the rewards program and check card reviews for exclusions or catches that could throw a wrench into your awards redemption experience.
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 $400-plus annual fee to get that perk.
Keep in mind that business needs and card terms change, and card issuers regularly release new — and sometimes better — offers. Review your 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 an 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, one 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!