The right business credit card can help nonprofit organizations working with limited resources save money on multiple expenses, from purchasing supplies to organizing fundraisers.
From purchasing supplies for a fundraising event to sending staff to provide aid, nonprofit organizations field many of the same expenses as any other business, but typically on a far tighter budget.
Because nonprofit organizations raise funds and receive grants and donations, most don’t have the same financial resources as a for-profit company. That’s when having a business rewards credit card can come in handy.
Nonprofit cardholders can earn cash back or points for spending in certain categories, to reimburse as a check or statement credit to cover some expenses. You could also utilize points and get discounted (or free) flights and hotel stays.
The right rewards business credit card can help a nonprofit do more good – but you have to be smart about which card you choose and how to best use it. These are our favorite credit cards for nonprofits so that you can worry less about keeping your organization afloat and more about supporting your cause.
The Blue Business Plus Credit Card from American Express: Best for no fees
Why we picked it: “Credit card rewards can certainly help to pay for you to attend a conference, for instance, but if you are just starting out, finding a card with no fees and a 0% interest rate was more important to us,” said Cindy Osthuizien, co-founder and chief financial officer for Practical Parenting for Teens, a startup nonprofit.
We suggest the The Blue Business® Plus Credit Card from American Express due to its no annual fee and 0% intro APR on new purchases for 12 months. After that, the regular APR of 14.74% to 22.74% variable kicks in. The card also provides simple but reliable rewards at 2X points on every purchase, up to $50,000 a year (1X points thereafter). These rewards can be recycled back into the business for statement credits, gift cards and more.
Nonprofit organizations should especially take interest rates into serious consideration as business credit card APRs can increase dramatically, unlike with consumer plastic, which is protected by the Credit CARD Act of 2009. A hefty rate and a large balance can spell trouble for a nonprofit on a shoestring budget.
- 15,000 Membership Rewards points if you spend $3,000 in three months
- No annual fee
- Flexible redemption options (gift cards, travel, merchandise, etc.)
- Transfer points to Amex travel partners
- Spending cap at $50,000 a year
- Small fee booking airfare through American Express Travel
Who should apply: Sometimes nonprofits run on a lean budget while they wait for grants and donations to kick in. If so, a solid 0% intro APR business card can really come in handy. This card is also good for nonprofit cardholders who may need to travel a little, to visit different communities or fundraise.
Who should skip: If funds aren’t necessarily an issue for your nonprofit, you could go for a card with a higher rewards rate. Those who would only redeem their rewards as statement credits should avoid this card as well (Membership Rewards points are worth 0.6 cents per point as a statement credit).
Ink Business Cash Credit Card: Best to redeem for cash back
Why we picked it: “Look for the rewards that serve your cause the best,” Randy Hawthorne, former publisher and executive director for Nonprofit Hub, said. “And make sure it’s the cause you’re serving and not a board member’s interests.”
For instance, some nonprofits, like ones that provide legal services to underserved communities, need to furnish and maintain an office space. In that case, a card like the Ink Business Cash® Credit Card is a big winner.
This card has 5% cash back on internet, cable and phone services and at office supply stores (up to $25,000 in purchases per year), 2% cash back on gas and dining purchases (up to $25,000 in purchases per year) and no annual fee.
- 0% introductory rate for 12 months on purchases (13.99% to 19.99% variable thereafter)
- $750 if you spend $7,500 in three months
- Flexible redemption options (statement credit, direct deposit, gift cards, travel, etc.)
- No fee for employee cards
- $25,000 purchase limit on both bonus categories
Who should apply: Anyone who only wants to redeem their rewards for statement credits to basically fund your nonprofits’ purchases, this is a good card for you. If you do decide to use your points for travel, though, points are worth 25% more when redeemed for travel at the Ultimate Rewards portal.
Who should skip: Nonprofits without an office space and work remotely should skip this card. If your purchases are scattered across different categories, it’s better to opt for a business card with a flat cash back rate.
Bank of America Business Advantage Customized Cash Rewards Mastercard credit card: Best for flexible spending
Why we picked it: Not all organizations spend money in a vacuum. “Usage may vary by department in larger organizations,” said David Rae, a certified financial planner. “The fundraisers may spend lots of time wining and dining donors, leading to most spending being at restaurants. Administrative roles may spend more on things like office supplies and utilities.”
For nonprofits who spend a lot in specific categories at different times, the Bank of America® Business Advantage Customized Cash Rewards Mastercard® credit card may be something to consider. Also a no-annual-fee card (always a plus), this card earns 2% cash back at restaurants and 3% cash back on your choice of six categories: gas stations, office supply stores, travel, TV/telecom and wireless, computer services or business consulting services (for the first $50,000 in combined purchases each calendar year).
It also comes with a 0% introductory APR on purchases for the first nine billing cycles (with a variable APR of 12.29% to 22.49% thereafter).
- $300 statement credit online bonus if you spend $3,000 in 90 days
- Change 3% bonus category up to once a calendar month
- Boost rewards rate 25% to 75% with Preferred Rewards program
- Cash back does not expire
- Limited redemption options (check, statement credit, cash deposit)
- $50,000 purchase limit per year on 2% and 3% bonus categories
Who should apply: Nonprofits who tend to spend on a rotating schedule (dining with fundraisers in the spring and travel in the summer) will like this card’s flexible category. If you also bank with Bank of America, qualifying for Preferred Rewards will really make this card worth having.
Who should skip: Those who don’t want to redeem their rewards for check or statement credit should look to travel business cards to expand their redemption options.
Capital One Spark Cash Plus: Best for flat-rate cash back
Why we picked it: If your organization doesn’t spend on one specific category more than others, you might want to consider a flat-rate cash back card. Ranked as one of the best business cards, the Capital One Spark Cash Plus provides a generous cash back rate at 2% cash back on all purchases.
It also comes for a sign-up bonus of up to $1,000. Your nonprofit will get $500 if you spend $5,000 in three months, then an additional $500 if you spend $50,000 in six months. The only downside is that it’s a charge card, so your nonprofit must be able to make its payments in full every month.
- 2% cash back on all purchases
- Purchase assurance and extended warranty
- No spending limit
- Flexible redemption options (statement credit, check, gift card, Amazon.com, etc.)
- Charge card
- $150 annual fee
Who should apply: If your nonprofit has more than a few dollars in the bank to cover all your expenses each month, you should definitely apply for the Capital One Spark Cash Plus. This card is also good for busy cardholders who don’t have time to track their spending on different bonus categories. This card is also good for anyone whose nonprofit spends over $50,000 (a common spending limit) per year.
Who should skip: Nonprofits still in their formative days with little funds should avoid this charge card. Cardholders who mainly spend in specific categories should also apply for a card with fixed bonus categories, rather than this flat-rate card.
Comparing business credit cards for nonprofits
Sometimes it’s difficult to recognize the difference between all these cards. In that case, check the following table to see how they all stack up against each other.
|Card||Rewards||Intro APR period (new purchases)||Annual fee|
|The Blue Business® Plus Credit Card from American Express||12 months||$0|
|Ink Business Cash® Credit Card||12 months||$0|
|Bank of America® Business Advantage Customized Cash Rewards Mastercard® credit card||9 billing cycles||$0|
|Capital One Spark Cash Plus||N/A (charge card)||$150|
How to choose a credit card for your nonprofit
As variable and unique individual cardholders are, so are nonprofit organizations. Only those working for a nonprofit know its needs and spending habits, so be sure to ponder the following attributes of your nonprofit and business credit cards before committing to one.
- What card do you qualify for? If your nonprofit is very new, it probably has no credit history and therefore no business credit score. In that case, you may have to use your personal credit score to qualify for the business card, which will influence the cards available to you.
- Where does the nonprofit spend the most money? Nonprofit cardholders who need office spaces should go for cards with fixed bonus categories on internet, office supplies or recurring software subscriptions. Those constantly spending across different categories should go for a simple flat-rate card, whether that’s cash back or points.
- Do you need a no-fee, 0% intro APR card? Like we’ve mentioned before, newly established nonprofits don’t have as many funds to kickstart their credit card expenses. If so, you may find a no-annual fee card with a 0% intro APR useful in holding you over before more grants and donations come in.
- How do you want to invest back into the organization? Sometimes, cold hard cash to pay for future expenses is the easiest way to invest back into the nonprofit. Then of course, you should apply for a card with straightforward cash back redemption methods (and avoid the Amex Blue Business Plus and its 0.6 cents per point redemption rate). Those who need more flexibility, in redeeming their rewards for travel or Amazon.com purchases or cash back, should opt for a card that provides that.
Picking a business credit card for your nonprofit organization is as nuanced and complicated as picking one for your personal use. Be sure to establish your nonprofit’s spending habits and a preferable redemption method before applying to one.
It’s also understandable early on if your personal expenses may bleed into your nonprofit expenses. However, there are some expenses to avoid with your business card once you’ve properly applied for and received your business credit card.
“Embezzlement is a risk in the nonprofit sector and credit cards can be the place for unscrupulous employees to do just that,” Hawthorne said. “As board members, make sure you have the correct internal controls in place to keep an eye on this behavior.”