Why You May Be Eligible for Some of the Best Rewards Cards Without Even Realizing It

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Right now the best small business card to sign up for, in my opinion, is the Chase Ink Business Preferred℠ Credit Card. In fact it’s the card which has the best bonus out there in my view as well — business or personal.

That’s because it comes with an 80,000 Point Signup Bonus: Spend $5000 on your new card within 3 months and you’ll get 80,000 points — and Chase points are among the most valuable points currencies.

The Chase Ink Business Preferred℠ Credit Card earns triple points on the first $150,000 spend on travel, telecommunications, shipping and advertising on social-media and search engines. It even comes with protection for your cell phone if you pay your monthly bill using the card.

It’s worth walking through the various benefits of small business cards, and also who is eligible to get them. However, let’s start with what the best business cards are.

  1. Chase Ink Business Preferred℠ Credit Card has the strongest initial bonus at 80,000 points after $5000 spend within 3 months, and some of the fastest ongoing earn thanks to triple points on the first $150,000 spend on travel, telecommunications, shipping and advertising on social-media and search engines.

    Points transfer to:

    • Airlines: United, Southwest, JetBlue, Virgin Atlantic, British Airways, Air France KLM, Singapore Airlines, Iberia, Aer Lingus
    • Hotels: Hyatt, Marriott, IHG

    United Polaris Business Class

  2. Southwest Rapid Rewards® Performance Business Credit Card is the newest premium business card, and has an initial bonus offer to earn 80,000 points after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open. [Offer expired]

    Ongoing earn is reasonable at 3 points per $1 spent on Southwest purchases. 2 points per $1 spent on social media and search engine advertising, Internet, cable and phone services. What makes this a winner is that both the initial bonus and points from ongoing spend count towards earning a companion pass (after 110,000 eligible points in a calender year, take a designated companion with you for just taxes whether you travel on paid tickets or points).

    Cardmembers receive 9000 bonus points each year after cardmember anniversary; a statement credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck fees every four years; reimbursement for four upgraded boardings per year (A1 – A15 boarding purchased at the airport); plus inflight wifi credits. That package alone makes the card’s $199 annual fee well worth it.

  3. The Blue Business® Plus Credit Card from American Express is a no annual fee card that earns 2 Membership Rewards points per dollar on your first $50,000 in spend each year. It’s simple and straightforward, the single best card for earning with otherwise-unbonused spend. Points transfer to:

    • Star Alliance: Aeroplan, ANA, Singapore, Avianca
    • oneworld: AsiaMiles, British Airways, Iberia, Qantas
    • SkyTeam: Aeromexico, Alitalia, Air France KLM, Delta
    • Non-alliance: Etihad, Emirates, El Al, Hawaiian, JetBlue, Aer Lingus, Virgin Atlantic
    • Hotels: Choice, Hilton, Marriott

    Etihad First Apartment

  4. Capital One Spark Miles earns a 2% rebate towards travel, or points transfer to a variety of airlines. It used to be that the similar Spark Cash which offers straight 2% cash back was better, but the introduction of mileage transfers means you’re earning your choice of either 2% back or 1.5 miles per dollar spent with many of their airline transfer partners.

    Singapore Airlines

  5. The Business Platinum® Card from American Express is all about the benefits: access to American Express Centurion lounges, Delta lounges when flying Delta same day, and a Priority Pass Select card for lounge access as well. You can enroll to get up to $200 in statement credits annually ($100 semi-annually) for U.S. purchases with Dell.

    Centurion Lounge Dallas Fort-Worth

  6. Ink Business Unlimited℠ Credit Card is a no annual fee card that has an initial bonus offer to earn $500 bonus cash back after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, and that earns 1.5 points per dollar on all spend.

    The key here is that points actually can be transferred to other Chase Ultimate Rewards cards with an annual fee — like the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card or the Chase Ink Business Preferred℠ Credit Card — and from there to airline miles or hotel points. Taken together you never have to earn fewer than 1.5 Chase points (turned into your choice of airline miles) per dollar spent.

    British Airways First Class

    Why Small Business Credit Cards are Great for Spending

    Business cards generally don’t show up on your personal credit report. Banks do pull your personal credit when they are deciding whether or not to approve you for the card, but after that the card doesn’t get listed.

    That’s useful because one of the major components of your credit score is your credit utilization . That’s not about whether you pay off your cards each month, that’s about how much of your available credit you are using at a given time.

    Your cards report your balances each month — not your unpaid balances, not overdue balances, but how much you’re carrying on the card on a given day (and paying off the card before the end of the billing cycle may not help, since they may report mid-cycle).

    About 30% of your score stems from how much of your credit you use. If you’re using $2000 out of $4000 available credit, you’re using 50%. You may pay off your bill each month but you still look risky, you’re not being afforded lots of credit that you’re responsible with in the eyes of your credit score. If you’re using $2000 out of $20,000 available credit, that’s only 10% and looks much better — even though you are spending the same amount on your cards each month. Which is why applying for more cards can actually improve your score, despite that conventional wisdom that it’s bad for your credit.

    In addition to boosting available credit (increasing the denominator), you can improve your score by reducing the amount of that credit you are using at any point in time (reducing the numerator). By putting your spending on a small business card, the balance of which doesn’t get reported, you reduce the amount of credit that it appears you’re using. Which is good for your score.

    What’s more adding a small business card to your portfolio from Chase, Citibank, or American Express doesn’t increase your 5/24 total for getting approved for Chase cards.

    How You Can Get a Small Business Credit Card

    I find it very useful to have a business credit card, and have for a long time – I got my first one about a decade ago, giving my social security number as a business tax ID.

    Before I had my registered award booking business I would use my social security number. Most of the time back then (much more so than now) I would be approved instantly, or at least automatically.

    Even having $0 in business income was often fine, it’s good to separate out business and personal expenses from the very beginning when starting to look out for business opportunities. In fact, if you want to show the IRS you have a real business this is crucial — even before transacting business a separate credit card for business finance is advisable.

    Whether or not a bank will approve you for a business card depends on a variety of factors, but $0 in business income in my experience wasn’t disqualifying.

    I’ve been a huge proponent of diversifying income — sure, I have a job, but I also blog and book awards and my writing has earned income from several travel sites. In the past I’ve also done fundraising consulting. And I own a rental property, as well.

    It’s much easier to deduct the expenses for a business when the financial transactions for that business are kept separate from personal finances. So just as it’s useful to have a business bank account, it’s useful to have a business credit card. And that’s true even — and especially — before you have any revenue for the business.

    Is it alright to get a small business card even before you’ve done business? Chase suggests that getting a small business card is one of the things you should do as you start your business, that it’s often the first resource many business owners look to as they start to grow. A small business card allow yous to separate business from personal expenses and builds the credit history and identity of your business.

    Answer questions on the application truthfully. If you don’t have any business income, then list zero. That may be fine, depending on the issuer’s opinion of you otherwise (e.g. income, credit, outstanding credit). You can get approved on the basis of your personal (non-business) income. And if you’re not approved automatically, you can still explain that you haven’t earned income from the business yet, you’re just now setting it up.

    Different Perks and More Spending Bonuses

    Earning on the Chase Ink Business Preferred℠ Credit Card is strong with 3 Points Per Dollar on Travel — that’s airlines, hotels, rental cars, tolls, even Uber — and 3 Points Per Dollar on Shipping and Advertising on Social Media and Search Engines which is great for anyone who advertises on Facebook or Twitter, or who spends money advertising with Google.

    Unlike earlier Ink products with bonus category earning capped at $25,000 or $50,000 spending in a year, the cap on this card is $150,000.

    And it comes with $600 protection against theft or damage for your cell phone.

    An Opportunity to Get More and Different Cards

    I have a wallet full of cards. The banks expect that. One credit card executive told me that they give you more than one of his bank’s cards because they know you want more than one card and would rather that you have multiples of theirs than one of theirs and other banks’ cards as well.

    The cards you’re able to get are dependent on both your overall credit and your income, some banks have limits on the number of cards they will issue to you. But business cards aren’t usually part of a cap on personal cards.

    They have different signup bonuses, and different spending bonuses, and so business cards can be an effective part of your points-earning strategy.

    One thing to consider is that the Chase Ink Business Preferred℠ Credit Card is generally for people that have signed up for fewer than 5 new credit cards in the last 24 months. So make this one a priority early.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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Editorial note: any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any card issuer. Comments made in response to this post are not provided or commissioned nor have they been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any bank. It is not the responsibility of advertisers Citibank, Chase, American Express, Barclays, Capital One or any other advertiser to ensure that questions are answered, either. Terms and limitations apply to all offers.


  1. Where I live, if you have any kind of a business, you must have a business license at a cost of $400 for two years. If you report business income on your Federal taxes, it will flow over into your state tax return, and the state tax agencies tell the local jurisdictions who is reporting business income. If you don’t have a business license, the local jurisdiction often imposes a fine. I bring this up because many credit card aficionados tell the banks that they have a business, but then fail to follow through on the other documentation. To me, a business is real when it has a business license and is fully reported in Federal and state tax returns, but many of the banks don’t take the time to verify such things when they issue business credit cards.

  2. I also have a hard time believing that most people with $0 in business income are going to legitimately incur $5,000 in business expenses within the first few months of operation (depending on whether your business is capital intensive vs. something like writing/blogging which basically has zero cost.)

    It seems a little saturated, but I’ve been toying with the idea of doing some retail arbitrage. Even if margins are low, churning through all the different business cards listed above would net several thousand dollars in points per year…

  3. Chase will NOT automatically approve business cards. They may have done that in the past, but they are not doing it now. I was told I needed a profit/loss statement. I stated that I was just starting my business, they said no. They also stated that I needed a business checking account from Chase. You should not be encouraging people to get credit when they really aren’t a business. I actually have 3 sidelines. I was given a no on all of them. I was careful to only apply once. Through the reconsideration line, I was told all the facts. This isn’t as easy as you make it out to be.

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