Best business credit cards: Fall 2016

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In a wave of hotel data breaches, be on alert for card fraud

 

 In a wave of hotel data breaches, be on alert for card fraud

 

When you’re running a small company, you don’t want to spend precious time learning a credit card’s complicated rewards program or finding your way around various restrictions at redemption.

Before signing up for a new company-wide card, weigh what features would provide the most value for your business and how much time you have to maximize the card’s benefits.

Some business credit cards offer a variety of business-friendly perks, such as liability insurance for unauthorized employee transactions and customizable spending limits, but are stingy with rewards. Other cards advertise a lucrative rewards program, but load their cards with high APRs and fees.

To help you choose the right card for your business, CreditCards.com evaluated some of the top-rated business cards and asked a panel of judges to rate our staff’s top three picks. Judges for the Best Business Cards of Fall 2016 were business consultant Barry Moltz, personal finance expert Toby Sembower, personal finance expert and author Laura Adams, CreditCards.com Editor-in-Chief Daniel P. Ray and CreditCards.com senior industry analyst Matt Schulz.

The results: Our Best Business Cards of Fall 2016 pair straightforward, easy-to-use rewards with business-friendly features and flexible redemption options.

FIRST PLACE: The Capital One Spark Cash for Business was judged best in class for its hassle-free lucrative cash back program, affordable credit terms and generous sign-up bonus.

 

#1 CAPITAL ONE SPARK CASH FOR BUSINESS
Best card
  • 2% unlimited cash back on every purchase
  • $500 bonus if you spend $4,500 in first 3 months
  • $59 annual fee (waived first year)
  • APR: 17.24% (variable)

Other features: No foreign transaction fees, free employee cards, quarterly and year-end summaries, premium travel benefits

Editor's rating:
star-rating4.5/5
Read our review

 

#1 CAPITAL ONE SPARK CASH FOR BUSINESS

Best card

  • 2% unlimited cash back on every purchase
  • $500 bonus if you spend $4,500 in first 3 months
  • $59 annual fee (waived first year)
  • APR: 17.24% (variable)

Other features: No foreign transaction fees, free employee cards, quarterly and year-end summaries, premium travel benefits

Editor's rating:
star-rating
4.5/5
Read our review

Judges loved the simplicity of the Spark Cash card’s rewards program, which gives cardholders  2 percent cash back on every purchase. Unlike some other business credit cards that only offer bonus rewards on certain types of purchases, cardholders don’t have to strategically align their spending -- a big perk for time-strapped business owners.

The Spark Cash for Business keeps it simple, and that's perfect for busy businesspeople.

— Matt Schulz
Senior Industry Analyst, CreditCards.com 

“The Spark Cash for Business keeps it simple, and that’s perfect for busy businesspeople,” says CreditCards.com senior industry analyst Matt Schulz. Business owners “don’t want to hassle with transferring miles and chasing bonus categories. They just want a good, straightforward cash back rate with low fees.”

Judges also liked that the Spark Cash card offers a number of wallet-friendly perks, such as no foreign transaction fees and a plush $500 sign-up bonus when you spend $4,500 in the card’s first three months. In addition, the Spark card helps take the headache out of business trips by offering standard travel protections, such as car rental insurance and emergency assistance.

“This card is loaded with rich benefits that make it a valuable tool to help manage business expenses better,” says personal finance expert Laura Adams.

The Spark Cash card also offers more flexibility at redemption since cardholders can use their cash back on anything. This differs from some cards that limit redemption of rewards to travel, gift cards or merchandise.

“Getting cash back is a convenient way for busy business owners to maximize rewards with little fuss,” says Adams. If you’re especially busy, “you can even set up your redemption to occur on a set date each year or when you hit a specific threshold, like $50 or $100.”

The generous 2 percent rewards rate also allows cardholders to build up a substantial amount of cash, particularly if they use their cards for every purchase. Many cards offer only 1.5 percent cash back on every purchase.

“As a business owner myself, I look for cards that can give us maximum rewards on the big expenditures we make as a company,” says personal finance expert Toby Sembower. “While points and air miles programs are nice, nothing is more flexible than good old-fashioned cash back.”

While the Spark Cash card’s 17.24 percent APR is relatively high, the $59 annual fee is on the low side for a premium business card. To avoid that APR, pay your business’s balance every month.

Picking a best business card “was a really tough choice, and depending on the nature of the business, I could see any of these cards becoming top-of-the-wallet,” says CreditCards.com editor in chief Daniel P. Ray. However, “I have to give the nod for best to the Capital One Spark Cash for Business for its all-around performance.

“It has the lowest annual fee, no fee at all for employee cards, and best of all for a bottom-line conscious business owner, you can set it and forget it. You can just go about your business, knowing that every purchase you make is pushing a little bit of cash back to you.

SECOND PLACE: The Chase Ink Plus card was runner-up this fall, with judges citing its ample 60,000 points sign-up bonus and generous 5 points per dollar spent on common business expenses, such as office supplies and Internet access. 

 

#2 CHASE INK PLUS CREDIT CARD
Best card
  • 5 points/$1 on first $50,000 combined on office supplies, phone, Internet and cable and TV services
  • 2 points/$1 on gas station and hotel purchases
  • 1 point/$1 on regular purchases
  • 60,000 bonus points if you spend $5,000 in first 3 months
  • $95 annual fee
  • APR: 17.24% (variable)

Other features: No foreign transaction fees, free employee cards, set invidual limits on employee cards, quarterly and year-end summaries, premium travel benefits

Editor's rating:
star-rating
4.5/5
Read our review

 

#2 CHASE INK PLUS CREDIT CARD

Best card

  • 5 points/$1 on first $50,000 combined on office supplies, phone, Internet and cable and TV services
  • 2 points/$1 on gas station and hotel purchases
  • 1 point/$1 on regular purchases
  • 60,000 bonus points if you spend $5,000 in first 3 months
  • $95 annual fee
  • APR: 17.24% (variable)

Other features: No foreign transaction fees, free employee cards, set invidual limits on employee cards, quarterly and year-end summaries, premium travel benefits

Editor's rating:
star-rating
4.5/5
Read our review

That’s just the highest point of the Chase Ink card’s business-friendly rewards structure. The card also offers 2 percent cash back on hotels and gas, making Chase Ink a good card for businesses that regularly send employees on the road. All other purchases earn 1 point per dollar spent.

In addition, judges liked the Chase Ink Plus card’s lucrative 60,000-points sign-up bonus -- worth up to $750 in free travel -- if you spend $5,000 in the card’s first three months.

“The Chase Ink Plus Business Card’s big bonus and five times rewards on office spending could give a quick shot in the arm to any startup,” says Ray. Note, though, that the 5 points per dollar bonus applies to the first $50,000 of combined category purchases.

The Ink Plus card also offers a number of money-saving perks, including no foreign transaction fees, free employee cards and premium travel perks, such as trip cancellation insurance.

While the Chase Ink Plus card’s APR of 15.49-19.49 percent is lower than many of its competitors, the $95 annual fee is on the high side. If you don’t spend heavily on bonus categories, such as phone and internet bills (to make up for the card’s hefty annual fee), you won’t get as much value out of the card, our judges noted.

THIRD PLACE: The Starwood American Express card, with its legendary status as a hotel card, finished No. 3 in the best business card category.

 

#3 STARWOOD PREFERRED BUSINESS CREDIT CARD
Best card
  • 2 points/$1 on eligible Starwood purchases
  • 1 point/$1 on regular purchases
  • 25,000 bonus points if you spend $5,000 in first 3 months
  • $95 annual fee (waived first year)
  • APR: 15.49-17.49% (variable)

Other features: Free Sheraton lounge access, elite status upgrades, no foreign transaction fees, free employee cards, business expense tools, designate an account manager, set individual limits on employee cards, OPEN savings benefits, premium travel benefits

Editor's rating:
star-rating
4.5/5
Read our review

 

#3 STARWOOD PREFERRED BUSINESS CREDIT CARD

Best card

  • 2 points/$1 on eligible Starwood purchases
  • 1 point/$1 on regular purchases
  • 25,000 bonus points if you spend $5,000 in first 3 months
  • $95 annual fee (waived first year)
  • APR: 15.49-17.49% (variable)

Other features: Free Sheraton lounge access, elite status upgrades, no foreign transaction fees, free employee cards, business expense tools, designate an account manager, set individual limits on employee cards, OPEN savings benefits, premium travel benefits

Editor's rating:
star-rating
4.5/5
Read our review

American Express also adds a number of travel-friendly perks, such as free hotel internet access and Boingo Wi-Fi, premium travel insurance, no foreign transaction fees and access to Sheraton Club lounges at select hotels.

Our judges also liked that the Starwood card offers a relatively flexible points redemption program, including the ability to transfer your Starwood points 1:1 to a wide variety of frequent flier programs, a major perk for frequent travelers.  

 “The ability to use the points in a variety of places for travel is critical,” says small business expert Barry Moltz. “Starwood may soon become part of Marriott which will extend its reach.”

With such a heavy focus on travel, the Starwood card may not be the best card for your business if you or your employees don’t spend a lot of nights in a hotel. You also need to have a taste for luxury hotel stays to get the most value out of this card, since Starwood properties tend to be upscale.  

This is the first year that CreditCards.com has held a contest for the best cards in their class. To help choose the best cards for each category, the CreditCards.com staff consulted credit card and personal finance experts and nominated the top three cards as finalists. Our staff also rated cards through as part of our credit card reviews program.

A panel of five judges -- including personal finance experts and two members of the CreditCards.com staff -- were asked to independently judge the three finalists and rank the best cards in order of preference. The card with the best average rank was chosen as the winner. 

See related: 7 things to know about business credit cards, Supercharge rewards with a business credit card, Financing your business without relying on personal credit

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About this Award

CreditCards.com’s Best Credit Cards awards program brings together prominent industry experts and journalists to choose the best credit card within a monthly category. Our editorial staff nominates cards based on a set of objective criteria. CreditCards.com is not compensated for any of the nominations or awards.



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Meet the judges