The Best Business Rewards Credit Card of 2017

It’s never easy to figure out which business credit card is best for you.

There are old favorites like American Express, rewards-heavy cards like what you see from Chase and bank cards issued by Wells Fargo, U.S. Bank and more.

To help you narrow down the selection to only the best, we’ve decided to rank the seven business credit cards we’ve reviewed to find which one takes the title of “Best Business Credit Card of 2017.” Here is a list of the seven cards we’re comparing:

  1. U.S. Bank Business Edge Cash Rewards World Elite Mastercard
  2. Capital One Spark Cash for Business
  3. Wells Fargo Business Platinum
  4. American Express Business Gold
  5. Chase Ink Business Preferred
  6. Chase Ink Business Cash
  7. American Express SimplyCash Plus

To determine which business credit card is best, we’ve reviewed which categories are most important to business owners and decided on seven different features by which we’ll do our comparisons:

  • Intro bonus
  • Rewards rates
  • Rewards limits
  • APR
  • Penalty APR
  • Foreign transaction fee
  • Annual fee

For each category, we’ll rank the cards from first to last. The card that finishes first will get 7 points, second gets 6 and so forth. We’ll double the points earned for intro bonuses, rewards rates, and APR since those categories tend to affect cardholders the most, whether for good or for bad.

At the end of the article, we’ll present our winner and show you exactly how many points they scored overall and in each category.

Before we jump into our category-by-category analysis, here’s the chart we used to compile our data:

Card Intro Bonus Rewards Rate Rewards Cap? APR Penalty APR Intro APR Foreign Transaction Fee Annual Fee
U.S. Bank Biz Edge None 3x/1x No 12.74%-18.74% 28.99% None 3%/2% None
Capital One Spark Cash $500, No fee 1st year 2x No 17.74% 30.15% None None $59
Wells Fargo Business Platinum None 1.5x No 11.99%-24.99% None None None None
AmEx Business Gold 50K points, No fee 1st year 3x/2x/1x Yes, $100K per 18.99% 29.99% None None $175
Chase Ink Business Preferred 80K Chase Ultimate Rewards Points 3x/1x Yes, $150K total 16.74%-21.74% 29.99% None None $95
Chase Ink Business Cash $300, 0% for 12 months 5x/2x/1x Yes, $25K per 13.99%-19.99% 29.99% 0%/12 None None
AmEx SimplyCash Plus $200 5x/3x/1x Yes, $50K per 12.99%-19.99% None None 3% None

Intro Bonus Winner: Chase Ink Business Preferred

Most credit cards offer you certain bonuses upfront if you can spend a certain amount on the card in the first few months. Business credit cards are no different. Here’s our ranking of the top intro bonuses:

  1. Chase Ink Business Preferred: 80,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points
  2. American Express Business Gold: 50,000 Membership Rewards points
  3. Capital One Spark Cash: $500, no annual fee 1st year
  4. Chase Ink Business Cash: $300, 0% APR for 12 months
  5. American Express SimplyCash Plus: $200
  6. U.S. Bank Biz Edge & Wells Fargo Platinum: None

The Chase Ink Business Preferred’s 80,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards (CUR) points really lead the way here, as you can transfer those points to multiple travel partners who give great rewards rates for, in particular, airline travel.

For example, you can use your CUR points for flights on Southwest, whose redemption rates lead the major airline carriers.

American Express’ Membership Rewards points can be transferred to multiple international and domestic carriers like CUR points.

However, our previous research shows that their domestic partner, American Airlines, tends to have limited cheap-seat availability and doesn’t take your frequent-flier miles nearly as far as Southwest.

Membership Rewards points do have a ton of redemption value with Starwood hotels, though, which is why we placed the AmEx Gold in second. You can use your intro points to book two weekend nights at the Le Parker Meridien New York for 40,000 points – cash value is $628.

The Spark Cash for Business comes in a close third because of its generous cash-back bonus as well as no annual fee for the first year. The AmEx SimplyCash Plus is the last of the cards that gives a bonus, with the U.S. Bank and Wells Fargo cards finishing last.

Rewards Rate Winner: Chase Ink Business Cash

This category is tricky because each of these cards offers different rewards rates for different types of business and non-business purchases. For example, one card gives you 3x rewards for gas travel purchases while others don’t.

Here are our rankings for this category:

  1. Chase Ink Cash: 5x/2x/1x (Four 5x, two 2x)
  2. Chase Ink Business Preferred: 3x/1x (Five 3x)
  3. AmEx Business Gold: 3x/2x/1x 9 (One 3x, four 2x)
  4. U.S. Bank Biz Edge: 3x/1x (Three 3x)
  5. AmEx SimplyCash Plus: 5x/3x/1x (One 5x, one 3x)
  6. Spark Cash: 2x (All purchases 2x)
  7. Wells Fargo Platinum: 1.5x (All purchases 1.5x)

We’ll be honest with you – this category is a mess. Most of the rewards you find are related to business purchases – office supply stores, computer software and subscriptions, ads on social media and search engines, gas and travel.

However, each card has its own mix of rewards and rates.

For example, the U.S. Bank business card gives you 3x bonuses on gas, office supply stores, and wireless phone purchases (plans, phones, etc.), whereas the Chase Ink Cash gives you 5x rewards on office supply stores, cell/landline phone service, internet, cable and TV services.

There are no two cards with the same rewards categories and rewards rates. The AmEx cards make the experience more personal by letting you choose the categories that earn bonuses, but, then again, the AmEx SimplyCash Plus limits big bonuses to only a pair of categories.

So, we decided to keep it as simple as possible and rank the cards (for the most part) based on the number of bonus categories you get. The Chase Ink Business Cash comes in first because it’s got four purchase types that earn 5x points, plus 2% back on gas stations and restaurants.

We’ll admit that a lot of how you rank these cards is based on which categories you’ll use. Knowing that, here’s a quick list of which categories earn bonuses for each card:

  • Chase Ink Business Cash: 5x on office supply stores and cell phone/landline/internet/cable services. 2x at gas stations and restaurants. 1x everything else.

  • Chase Ink Business Preferred: 3x on travel, shipping purchases, internet, cable/phone services, ads for social media and search engines. 1x everything else.

  • American Express Business Gold: 3x on one and 2x on other four in airfare, ads, gas stations, shipping, computer hardware/software/cloud computing. 1x everything else.

  • U.S. Bank Biz Edge: 3x cell phone/gas/office supply stores. 1x everything else.

  • American Express SimplyCash Plus: 5x on wireless telephone services, one 3x category from airfare/hotels/car rentals/gas/restaurants/ads/shipping or computer hardware/software/cloud computing. 1x everything else.

  • Spark Cash: 2x on everything

  • Wells Fargo Platinum: 1.5x on everything

Rewards Cap Winner: U.S. Bank Business Edge

This category has three cards without rewards limits and four with limits on how much you can spend overall or in each category. Remember, this is an objective look at these limits. Your personal or business spending habits may make one card’s limit more or less relevant to you than another:

  1. U.S. Bank Business Edge: No limit
  2. Capital One Spark Cash: No limit
  3. Wells Fargo Business Platinum: No limit
  4. AmEx Business Gold: $100K per bonus category (5)
  5. Chase Ink Cash/Ink Business Preferred: $25K per bonus category (6)/$150K for all categories
  6. AmEx SimplyCash Plus: $50K per bonus category (2)

The U.S. Bank Business edge is the clear winner here, as there’s no cap on rewards and you can earn triple points on cell phone services, gas and office supply stores.

The Capital One Spark Cash comes in second because of its 2% rewards rate, which is half a percent higher than the Wells Fargo card.

From there, we ranked the cards based on how much money you can spend before hitting your rewards limit ([per category limit] x [# of bonus categories]).

The American Express Business Gold has a cap of $500,000 in total purchases, followed by the two Chase cards at $150K and the AmEx SimplyCash Plus at $100K.

APR Winner: Wells Fargo Business Platinum

A credit card’s interest rate kicks in when you don’t pay your balance in full, every month. It should be noted that the AmEx Business Gold is a charge card, which means you have no credit limit but you must pay your balance every month. If you don’t, you have to go on a payment plan with an APR:

  1. Wells Fargo Business Platinum: 11.99%-24.99%
  2. U.S. Bank Biz Edge: 12.74%-18.74%
  3. AmEx SimplyCash Plus: 12.99%-19.99%
  4. Chase Ink Business Cash: 13.99%-19.99%
  5. Cash Ink Business Preferred: 16.74%-21.74%
  6. Capital One Spark Cash: 17.74%
  7. AmEx Business Gold: 18.99%

The Wells Fargo card takes the crown here because it features the best APR of the bunch. The U.S. Bank Business Edge and AmEx SimplyCash Plus are within a percent.

From there, the lowest APR’s jump steadily from 13.99% (Chase Ink Business Cash) to the AmEx Business Gold’s 18.99% APR on the payment plans.

Pro tip: Only those with excellent credit will get the lowest rates. If your credit scores are in the 600’s, add between 4% and 5% on the lowest rates for cards with more than a single APR.

Penalty APR Winner: Wells Fargo Biz Platinum & AmEx SimplyCash Blue

Penalty APRs kick in when you make a late payment or you don’t pay the minimum payment on your balance. There are a few other situations where you’ll get a penalty APR, but, basically, don’t pay late and you’ll never have to worry about a penalty APR:

  1. Wells Fargo Biz Platinum & AmEx SimplyCash Blue: None
  2. U.S. Bank Business Edge: 28.99%
  3. Capital One Spark Cash: 30.15%
  4. AmEx Biz Gold & Chase Ink Cards: 29.99%

The Wells Fargo and AmEx cards lead the way here because they don’t have any penalty APRs. From there, it’s a pretty tight race with some nuances you’ve probably noticed: the Spark Cash card is ahead of the bottom dwellers even though the APR is higher.

The reason for this is because the AmEx Business Gold and the Chase Ink business cards apply your penalty APR indefinitely, which means you could be paying a 29.99% APR for as long as you own your card.

The Capital One Spark’s penalty APR will go away if you can make minimum payments on time for 12 consecutive months.

U.S. Bank says they may remove your penalty APR after 6 months if you make the minimum payments on time and don’t exceed your credit limit.

Foreign Transaction Fee Winner: Wells Fargo, Spark, AmEx Biz Gold & Chase Cards

The foreign transaction category is pretty straightforward:

  1. Wells Fargo, Spark, AmEx Biz Gold, Chase Cards: None
  2. U.S. Bank Biz Edge: 2–3%
  3. AmEx SimplyCash Plus: 3%

The four cards at the top don’t have a foreign transaction fee. The U.S. Bank Business Edge charges 3% for transactions made in foreign currency and 2% for U.S. dollar transactions abroad

The AmEx SimplyCash Plus comes in the last place with 3%, which is the standard foreign transaction fee among consumer cards.

Annual Fee Winner: U.S. Bank, Wells Fargo, Chase Ink Business Cash & AmEx SimplyCash Plus

The final category here is annual fees. These are fees that are paid each year on your cardmember anniversary:

  1. U.S. Bank, Wells Fargo, Chase Ink Business Cash & AmEx SimplyCash: None
  2. Capital One Spark Cash: $59 (free first year)
  3. Chase Ink Business Preferred: $95
  4. AmEx Business Gold: $175 (free first year)

The four cards at the top don’t have an annual fee, so they’re the easy choice for the #1 spot. The Spark card is second. We put the Chase Ink Business Preferred is ahead of the AmEx Business Gold because, after three years, its annual fees will be lower than that of the AmEx card.

The Winner of the Best Business Credit Card of 2017: The U.S. Bank Business Edge Cash Rewards

After totaling up all the scores from this seven-category comparison, the results were close. The winner of our Best Business Credit Card of 2017 is the U.S. Bank Business Edge Cash Rewards World Elite Mastercard.

Here are the results of our scoring (double-points categories are in bold italics:

  1. 50 - U.S. Bank Biz Edge (4, 8, 7, 12, 5, 7, 7)
  2. 49 - Chase Ink Business Cash (8, 14, 2, 8, 3, 7, 7)
  3. 47 - Chase Ink Business Preferred (14, 12, 3, 6, 3, 7, 2)
  4. 46 - Wells Fargo Business Platinum (4, 2, 5, 14, 7, 7, 7)
  5. 39 - American Express Business Gold (12, 10, 4, 2, 3, 7, 1)
  6. 38 - Capital One Spark Cash for Business (10, 4, 6, 4, 4, 7, 3)
  7. 38 - American Express SimplyCash Plus (6, 6, 1, 10, 7, 1, 7)

The U.S. Bank card didn’t score well in the first two categories (intro bonus, rewards rate) but it came on strong in the last five categories, finishing first in rewards limit, foreign transaction fee, and annual fee. The card’s strength is its lack of fees and low APR for those with excellent credit.

The Rest of the Pack

The two Chase cards came in a close second and third. Their strong rewards bonuses gave them a great boost, but both cards suffered from having high penalty APRs.

The Wells Fargo Business Platinum put in a strong showing in the back half of the contest, winning the home stretch by finishing first in the final four categories. Had it offered a better intro bonus or rewards rate, it could’ve won the competition.

The bottom dwellers were the American Express Business Gold (high annual fees, APR and penalty APR), its SimplyCash Plus cousin and the Capital One Spark Cash for Business.

A Quick List for Responsible Cardholders

Now, if you’re someone who pays off your balances in full every month, then those fees won’t apply to you. With that in mind, the first three categories are the most important to you: intro bonus, rewards rate and rewards cap.

The strongest cards in these categories were the Chase Ink Business Preferred (29 points), the AmEx Business Gold (26 points) and the Chase Ink Business Cash (24 points).

As we’ve mentioned before in this article, it’s important that you identify the areas where your company spends the most. Then, find which card offers the highest rewards rates in that spending category and cross-reference it with how it finished in our rankings.

Using Consumer Cards for Rewards

Also, keep in mind that you aren’t limited to using a business card for your business. There are plenty of personal credit cards out there that can give you cash-back and travel bonuses. To check out our rankings of those cards, click on any of the links below:


J.R. Duren

J.R. Duren is a personal finance reporter who examines credit cards, credit scores and bank products. J.R. is a three-time winner at the Florida Press Club’s Excellence in Journalism contest and his advice has been featured in MSN and Fox’s money sections.


Comments

comments powered by Disqus

Want to Learn How to Get and Keep a Good Credit Score?

Our FREE eBook will teach you how to get a good credit score that will help you save thousands by scoring the best deals on loans, insurance, and credit cards. Enter your email below to get a free copy of the eBook and to receive our weekly newsletter!