Options for business cash back cards
Prioritize flat rate or category bonuses for maximum rewards
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Dear Cashing In,
I own a small business and regularly put about $40,000 a year on a credit card. I’m considering switching cards to get cash back. What cards are the best, and do any of them have limits on the amounts of rewards? – Janine
A lot of small businesses use credit cards regularly to buy items for the business. Sometimes they use cards for startup capital. Sometimes it’s for ongoing expenses.
Banks understand this reality, and they have crafted cards aimed at small-business owners such as you. Of course, some small-business owners continue to use their personal cards. They can co-mingle the cards, but should still keep their finances separate for tax purposes.
Just remember that the rule for personal cards also applies to businesses: Don’t be focused on a rewards card if you are regularly carrying a balance. If you have taken on debt on a credit card to start a business, work first to pay off that debt or shift it to a 0-percent or low-interest card before setting your sights on rewards.
That said, there are a number of attractive cash back cards geared toward businesses. As with personal cards, your spending patterns will help determine which card is best. Some offer a flat rate for all expenditures, while others have a staggered rate – often with big bonuses on spending categories in areas favored by businesses.
The easiest approach is probably to find a card with an attractive flat rate. Just as personal cards typically top out at about 2 percent cash back, so do business cards. One well-known business reward card with a high flat rate is the Capital One Spark Cash for Business (annual fee: $59, waived first year), which offers 2 percent back on everything with no cap. That is certainly easy and straightforward.
Depending on where your business spends its money, you might be able to garner greater rewards from a card that has staggered reward categories. Cards in this category include Chase Ink Business Cash (no annual fee), which offers 5 percent back at office stores and on telecommunications, 2 percent back at restaurants and gas stations, and 1 percent on everything else; and the American Express SimplyCash Plus Business card (no annual fee), which offers 5 percent back at office supply stores and on telecommunications, 3 percent back in a category of your choice, and 1 percent back on all else. On each of those cards, the bonuses above 1 percent are capped at a combined $50,000 a year.
There are several other cash back business cards out there, too, and it would make sense to look around and examine precisely how your business spends its money so that you can maximize the categories and earn the most rewards.
Also, it is important to remember that you don’t have to have a complicated business structure to qualify for a business card. You can even have a full-time job as an employee and apply for and receive a business card for yourself – even if it is for something as simple as baking cookies for sale, doing yard work or refereeing soccer games to make a little money on the side.
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