Since starting my small business in 2007, I’ve used a business card for several reasons. My business credit card easily separates personal expenses and business expenses. I use GoDaddy’s online bookkeeping tool. It automatically imports all the charges from my business credit card, so these expenses are exceptionally easy to track. This makes preparing annual tax returns much easier.
Using a business credit card also helps my business build credit in case I should ever need to apply for a loan. If there’s a chance you’ll ever need a small business loan, this is definitely a point to consider.
With that said, some entrepreneurs don’t like business credit cards. Clark Howard, for instance, doesn’t like them because they don’t offer the same protections as personal credit cards. This is partially true. Business cards are generally exempt from the Credit Card Act of 2009. However, most major credit card issuers offer protections to business credit cards as well as personal cards. Just check the terms and conditions to find out.
Choosing a Card
Choosing a business credit card can be even more challenging than choosing a card for personal use. There are plenty of options out there, all with their own benefits, rewards, and fees.
Before you choose a card, you’ll want to understand how you’ll be most likely to use it. Look at your past year’s expenses, or if you’re just starting your business, look at projected expenses. Will you spend the most on office supplies? Travel? Gas?
Knowing your business’s most common types of expenses will make the card-choosing process much easier. Once you have an idea of how you’ll use the card, check out these great credit card options from major issuers:
1. U.S. Bank Business Edge™ Cash Rewards Card
This card offers a killer 3% cash back on all cellular, gas, and office supply store net purchases, and 1% cash back with all other net purchases. Plus, you’ll get a 25% annual bonus based on your prior year’s Cash Rewards – up to $250.
APR: This card offers a 0% introductory APR for 9 months after you open your account. So it’s a good option if you need to finance a large equipment or travel purchase right now. After that, the APR goes to 11.99% to 17.99% variable APR, based on creditworthiness.
Annual Fee: This one offers a $0 annual fee.
Fraud Protection: As with many business card’s today, this one offers $0 fraud liability. So there are no worries if someone fraudulently swipes this credit card.
Employee Cards: You can add employee cards to your account for free, and all the cards on the count will earn Cash Rewards towards the account.
Bottom Line: With its introductory 0% APR, this is a great card to start out with if you’ve got to make a few big business purchases up front. The ongoing rewards aren’t bad, either, especially since they’re broad enough to cover categories that most business owners spend in.
2. U.S. Bank FlexPerks® Business Edge Travel Rewards Card
If your line of business has you traveling often, this is a credit card to consider. If lets you round up travel perks rather than cash back benefits. When you sign up, you can get 20,000 bonus FlexPoints after you spend $3,500 in net purchases in the first 4 months of use. That’s equal to a $400 plane ticket.
Flexible Benefits: As the name suggests, the benefits you get from this card are flexible. You can use accrued points to buy tickets on over 150 airlines without blackout dates ore extra redemption fees.
Earning Points: You’ll earn one FlexPoint for every $1 spent in net purchases, and 2 FlexPoints per $1 spent in your highest spending category for that billing cycle. You’ll also get the 2 points per $1 spent on most cell phone expenses during a billing cycle. This card automatically adjusts points to give you more points per $1 spent in categories that are most important to your business.
Triple FlexPoints: If your business uses charitable donations to offset taxes and build community goodwill, this may be the card for you. You can get 3 points per $1 spent on qualifying charitable donations.
Added Benefits: When you spend your FlexPoints on airline tickets, you’ll get up to an extra $25 allowance for baggage fees, in-flight expenses, and more.
Bottom Line: If your business involves loads of travel, and you don’t need bonus rewards in a particular category consistently, this is a great option.
3. Capital One Spark® Cash for Business
If you want low fees and good rewards, this card could be a good option. It awards a flat 2% cash back across categories, so it’s great if you’re never sure from year to year which category you’ll use the most. Plus, you won’t have to track rotating categories of cards.
Bonus Cash Back: When you spend $1,000 on purchases within the first three months of card usage, you’ll get a $100 cash-back bonus. And if you add one or more employee cards within two months of opening, you’ll earn an added $50 in bonus cash back.
Fees: The card has an annual fee of $59, which is waived in the first year. It doesn’t have foreign transaction fees or balance transfer fees.
APR: This one doesn’t offer an introductory APR, but it has a relatively low variable APR, depending on your creditworthiness. APR is 13.9%, 16.9%, or 20.9%.
Added Business Services: This card offers fraud alerts, purchase records that can be downloaded to Quicken, Quickbooks, or Excel, and convenient year-end summaries.
Bottom Line: This is a solid cash-back option for business owners who just want to carry one card. With 2% cash back across categories and no rotating categories, you don’t have to worry about which expenses to put on this card. Use it for everything, and reap rewards year-round. This is one of the few cards on our list with no foreign transaction fee, as well. So if your business sends you or your employees overseas, it’s a good card to check out.
4. Capital One Spark® Miles for Business
This is basically a miles-based version of the above card. Like the Spark® Cash, it offers set rewards across all spending categories. You’ll earn 2 miles for every $1 spent on business purchases, and you can use the miles with no minimum for redemption, no blackouts, and no seat restrictions.
Bonus Miles: Spend $5,000 in the first three months of use, and you’ll earn 25,000 bonus miles. You can earn another 5,000 bonus miles when you add one or more free employee cards within the first 60 days of card use.
Annual Fee: This card comes with a $59 annual fee, which is waived the first year.
APR: Like the Spark® Cash, this card has no introductory APR. It offers a 12.9% to 20.9% APR.
Fraud Coverage: This card offers the same business services as the Spark® Cash, including fraud alerts and a specialized service department for business owners. It also offers $0 fraud liability if your card is lost or stolen.
Bottom Line: For business owners with excellent credit, this card is a good option if you want to earn miles rather than cash back, but don’t want to fuss with weighted or rotating categories.
5. Chase Ink Plus® Business Card
The Chase Ink® Line is a pretty popular option among business owners, and with good reason. The plus is the one card in the Ink line with an annual fee, but it makes up for it in rich rewards. The card offers 5 points per $1 on the first $50,000 spent on office supplies or on phone, internet and cable TV services. You’ll also get 2 points per $1 on the first $50,000 spent on gas and hotel stays. All other purchases earn 1 point per $1 spent anywhere else, with no annual cap.
Bonus: With this card, you’ll earn 50,000 bonus points when you spend $5,000 in the first three months of opening your account.
Spending Points: You can use Chase’s Ultimate Rewards program to redeem points in a variety of ways. You can use the points for cash back, travel rewards, merchandise, or even gift cards. Points don’t expire. Plus, if you book airfare, hotels, car rentals, or cruises through the Ultimate Rewards program, you get a 20% discount.
APR: The variable APR for this card is 15.24%.
Fees: As we noted above, this is the only Ink card that comes with an annual fee, and it’s a steep one – $95 per year. The card doesn’t have any foreign transaction fees, and its balance transfer fee is the greater of $5 or 3%.
Other Perks: This card offers access to lounge clubs at airports, the Jot app that lets you organize receipts, and the ability to transfer points at a one-to-one ratio to other travel programs, like the United MileagePlus program.
Bottom Line: If you have excellent credit and are a big business spender, this could be the card for you. It’s not for low-expense businesses, with that $95 annual fee. But if your business has $25,000+ in expenses annually, you could easily outearn the annual fee with the Chase Ink® Plus. Again, most of the cards on this list have a foreign transaction fee, so if you or your employees travel overseas frequently, check this one out.
6. Chase Ink Cash® Business Card
If you’re looking to finance a big purchase or don’t spend enough to out-earn the Ink Plus® card’s annual fee, you might look to the Chase Ink Cash® card instead. It offers 5% cash back on up to $25,000 of office supply, cellular service, phone service, internet, and cable service expenses per year. It also offers 2% cash back on up to $25,000 spent at gas stations and restaurants, and 1% cash back on all other purchases with no cap.
Bonus Rewards: You can earn $200 in bonus cash back when you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first three months after opening your account.
APR: You can enjoy a 0% introductory APR on purchases and balance transfers for the first 12 months of card use. And then, your APR will be a variable 13.24%.
Annual Fee: This card has $0 in annual fees.
Redeeming Rewards: Like the Plus card, this one lets you redeem rewards in a variety of ways. You can use the cash back to offset your spending directly, or you can use the Chase Ultimate Rewards program to purchase travel tickets, hotel stays, gift cards, and more.
Other Perks: Your rewards with this card don’t expire. And you get access to apps and programs for tracking and allocating your spending, figuring out how to pay down your balance, and keeping track of receipts.
Bottom Line: If you won’t spend enough in business expenses to make up for the Chase Ink Plus® card’s $95 annual fee, then you might look to this card. It still offers great rewards and benefits, and it’s a good fit for lower-expense businesses.
7. CitiBusiness® AAdvantage® Platinum Select World MasterCard®
Here’s another good option for business owners who frequently travel. This is a great card to use if you frequently travel American Airlines and use their AAdvantage program. With the program, you earn 2 AAdvantage miles per $1 spent on office supplies, communications, and car rentals, as well as 2 AAdvanrtage miles per $1 spent on American Airlines purchases. You’ll get 1 point per $1 spent elsewhere.
Bonus: When you spend $1,000 in the first three months of membership, you’ll earn 30,000 AAdvantage bonus miles – enough for a round-trip domestic flight with the MileSAAver program, plus two Admiral’s Club one-day lounge passes.
APR: This card carries a variable 15.24% APR.
Fees: You’ll pay a $95 annual fee, waived the first year. Plus, there’s a foreign transaction fee of 3%, and a balance transfer fee of the greater of 3% or $5.
Added Perks: When you hold this card, you’ll always get priority boarding and group 1 privileges on American Airlines flights. Your first checked back will be free – as will the first checked bags of up to four traveling companions. You’ll get a 25% discount on certain in-flight food and beverage purchases. And any year you make $30,000 or more in purchases and renew your card membership, you’ll get an American Airlines Companion Certificate, valid for travel on flights within the 48 contiguous United States.
Bottom Line: Again, if you’re a big traveler and you already love to fly American Airlines, this is a great card – especially if you often take business or personal companions on business trips. This Companion Certificate alone could be worth several hundred dollars a year.
8. American Express Blue for Business® Card
This is another easy-to-use business card, especially for frequent travelers. It offers 2 points per $1 spent on travel and 1 point per $1 spent elsewhere. You’ll get more points with the annual 30% anniversary bonus, as well.
Bonus: When you make a purchase within the first three months of card ownership, you’ll be enrolled in the Membership Rewards program, and get 10,000 bonus points – worth about $100 in gift cards.
APR: You’ll get a 0% introductory APR for the first 9 months of card use. After that, the APR varies from 11.24% to 19.24%.
Fees: This card has no annual fee and a foreign transaction fee of 2.7%. It doesn’t accept balance transfers.
Added Benefits: With this card, you can transfer your rewards points to other airline and hotel programs, including Hilton HHonors, JetBlue, and the Starwood Preferred Guest program. You can enjoy special savings through the OPEN Savings Program from companies like FedEx, Office Max, Hetz, Hyatt, and more.
Bottom Line: This is an easy-to-use card that’s especially great if your goal is to earn more points from an airline or hotel chain that you frequently use. It’s good for purchases that you need to finance, though you can’t use it to save money through balance transfers.
9. CitiBusiness ThankYou® Card
This card can be a little more complicated to use, since it has quarterly rotating categories. Luckily, you don’t have to actually remember to enroll in the rotating categories. You’re automatically enrolled every quarter. The quarterly categories earn 3 points per $1 spent, while you get 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases. One perk to know about is that this CitiBusiness card doesn’t cap the amount you can earn on the quarterly bonus category, unlike most cards. So if you plan your spending right, you could earn significant points on this card.
Bonus: When you spend $3,000 in the first three months of card ownership, you’ll get 15,000 bonus points – redeemable for $150 in gift cards.
APR: You’ll get a 0% introductory APR, with a variable 13.24% APR after that. The introductory APR is for purchases only, not balance transfers.
Fees: This card doesn’t have any annual fees. It has a 3% foreign transaction fee, and the balance transfer fee is the greater of $5 or 3%.
Added Bonuses: Each year, you earn an anniversary bonus on the points you earned for that year. You’ll get a 1% bonus the first year, 2% the second year, and 3% for each year after that. If you’re in the market for a business checking or savings account, you could earn extra ThankYou points by banking with Citi, as well.
Bottom Line: Since you don’t have to remember to sign up for rotating categories, this card can be a good way to automatically earn boosted rewards throughout the year. You will want to pay attention to current categories, though, and plan your spending to max out the 3 point bonus category each month, if possible.
10. American Express SimplyCash® Card
If your’e looking for straight-up cash back with no rotating categories, this is a card to consider. It offers 5% cash back on the first $12,000 spent at office supply stores and on wireless phone services. You’ll get 3% cash back on the first $12,000 spent on gas, and 1% unlimited cash back in all other categories.
Bonus: You can get a $250 statement credit by spending $5,000 or more within six months of owning this card (as long as you apply by June 23rd, 2015).
APR: You’ll get an introductory APR of 0% for the first 6, 9, or 12 months of card ownership, depending on your credit. Then, you’ll get a variable 12.24% to 19.24% APR.
Fees: This card has no annual fee, but it does have a 2.7% foreign transaction fee. It doesn’t accept balance transfers.
Added Benefits: You’ll get access to the OPEN Savings network, which lets you get discounts with a variety of business retailers – FexEx, AirTran, Marriot, and more. You can redeem your earned cash back points for merchandise, dining, travel, gift cards or statement credit.
Bottom Line: This is another good card to use if you’re planning a big up-front purchase. You can take advantage of the $250 statement credit bonus, plus the 0% introductory APR to finance your large purchase for free (as long as you can pay it off before that introductory APR is gone).