If you’re a small business owner or an independent contractor you can earn points towards free airline tickets with a business credit card.
Two of the best credit card rewards programs are Chase Ultimate Rewards and American Express Membership Rewards. With either of these programs you can transfer your points directly to airline frequent flyer programs or buy travel through their respective online travel centers.
Chase offers only one Ultimate Rewards business card, the Chase Ink Plus Business card. Amex has a few more options, but the most affordable Membership Rewards business card in its lineup is the Business Gold card.
Both business cards are great for earning rewards, but they offer different perks and benefits. Here’s a quick overview:
|Chase Ink Plus Business||Amex Business Gold|
|Sign-Up Bonus||60,000 Ultimate Rewards points||25,000 Ultimate Rewards points|
|Earning Potential||5x on office supplies, phones, internet and cable TV; 2x on gas and hotels; 1x all other purchases||3x on airfare, advertising, gas, shipping or computer equipment; 2x on remaining 4 categories and Membership Rewards purchases; 1x all other purchases|
|Airline Transfer Partners||6||16|
|Annual Fee||$95||$175, waived for the first year|
|Other Perks||20% travel purchased through Ultimate Rewards||$75 credit with the Hotel Collection|
So which card is right for you? Let’s take a closer look.
The Chase Ink Plus Business card has a much bigger sign-up bonus. You get 60,000 Ultimate Rewards points compared to Amex Business Gold’s 25,000-point bonus. Both cards require you to make $5,000 in purchases in the first three months in order to get the bonus. That works out to $1,667 a month in spending.
If you plan to transfer your points to a frequent flyer program, Membership Rewards is a slightly better program. It has more transfer partners than Ultimate Rewards, and many of those partners have excellent frequent flyer programs.
Membership Rewards’ 16 partners include Delta, British Airways, ANA, Air France, KLM, JetBlue and Virgin America. If you like to fly in style, you can also transfer points to Emirates and Singapore Airlines. Through MR’s partners, you’ll have access to all three of the major alliances: SkyTeam, the Star Alliance and oneworld.
With Chase Ultimate Rewards, you can transfer your points to six airline partners: British Airways, Korean Air, Singapore Airlines, Southwest Airlines, United and Virgin Atlantic. Obviously Amex gives you more options, but Ultimate Rewards’ partners are pretty good.
You’ll have access to all three of the major airline alliances since United and Singapore Airlines are Star Alliance members, British Airways is a oneworld member and Korean Air belongs to SkyTeam. Plus Southwest, the world’s largest low-cost carrier, is great for domestic flights.
If you’re savvy while booking your reward flights, you can get more value for your points by transferring them to a frequent flyer program. But if you like the ease and flexibility of purchasing through a major rewards program, the Chase card will get you more since it gives you a 20 percent discount on travel purchased the Ultimate Rewards online travel center. That includes all travel purchases: airfare, hotels, car rentals, cruises and more.
With the Amex card, you’ll get double points on all travel purchased through the Membership Rewards website. That’s a nice perk for earning points, but it doesn’t help you when purchasing reward travel.
Both cards offer excellent earning potential, but their bonus categories differ. Which one will earn you more depends on how you use your card.
Chase Ink Plus gives you a phenomenal five points per dollar spent on office supplies, landlines, cell phones, internet and cable. Recurring bills, like phone and internet, can really boost your points balance. The card also offers double points on gas and hotels. You can earn bonus points on up to $50,000 of annual purchases in each of the 5x and 2x categories.
The Business Gold card gives you triple points for a category of your choice. You can choose from airfare, advertising, gas, shipping or computer equipment. The remaining four categories, as well as Membership Rewards travel center purchases, earn double points. You’ll get bonus points on up to $100,000 in purchases.Though the maximum bonus points earned per dollar are fewer with the Amex, you can earn double points on more categories than with the Chase card. Plus you have the flexibility of choosing a triple earn category.
What Else Do You Get?
Unlike premium travel cards, such as the Amex Platinum or the AAdvantage Executive World Elite cards, these cards don’t come with a lot of extra perks.
The Amex card gives you a $75 credit towards dining and resort activities when you book a two-night stay through the Hotel Collection, and the Chase card offers a 20 percent discount on Ultimate Rewards travel center purchases.
Obviously with either card you get access to their respective rewards programs. Both offer the ability to pay for part or all of your tickets with points, plus there are no blackout dates since you’ll be paying the cash price.
Both cards come with the standard mid-level benefits, such as trip cancellation protection, no foreign transaction fees, car rental insurance, emergency roadside assistance and lost baggage protection. The Amex card also offers a global assistance hotline and travel accident insurance.
You’ll also get support for managing your business spending with either card. Amex gives you access to Open, and Chase comes with Ink.
One nice perk of Amex Open is that you can either get two additional points per dollar or a five percent discount on purchases made with select partners, including FedEx, Hertz and HP.
The Amex Business Gold has a higher annual fee of $175, but it’s waived for the first year. Ink Plus’s $95 fee is not waived for the first year.
Which Card Do You Get?
The Amex Business Gold card is hard to beat for flexibility. Not only does the Membership Rewards program give you more airline transfer options, but there are more opportunities for earning bonus points. You can choose which category earns more, such as airfare, which Chase doesn’t offer.
On the other hand, the Chase Ink Plus card offers an excellent 60,000-point sign-up bonus and 5x earning in certain categories. That’s hard to beat. Not to mention its lower annual fee and 20 percent discount on Ultimate Rewards travel purchases.
If I was looking for a business card that would give me a quick boost of points, Ink Plus would be the way to go. But if I was planning to hang onto it for awhile and make it my main business credit card, I’d carefully consider the earning categories and my spending habits. There’s a chance that in the long term the Amex card would be the better earner with its five bonus categories.