Credit Card Review: Amex Business Gold Rewards Card
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Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available. View the current offers here – The Business Gold Rewards Card from American Express, Ink Business Cash Credit Card
Wading through the deep pool of travel rewards credit cards can be a tricky endeavor, especially if you’re a small business owner looking to make the most of your expenses. Which one offers the best earning rates for the purchases you make most frequently? Which currency is most valuable when it’s time to redeem? And what perks will keep money in your pocket when things don’t go as expected?
One popular card for small businesses is the Business Gold Rewards Card from American Express, but is that really the best option for you and your company? Today I’ll review the card in depth to help you answer that very question.
Who Is This Card For?
The first group of potential applicants for the Business Gold Rewards Card is relatively obvious: small business owners. The reasons for this extend beyond the fact that the card has “Business” in its name. For starters, consider the bonus categories the card offers:
- Airfare purchased directly from airlines
- US purchases for advertising in select media
- US purchases at gas stations
- US purchases for shipping
- US computer hardware, software, and cloud computing made directly from select providers
You’ll earn 3x Membership Rewards points on one of these five categories (which you get to select) and then 2x on the remaining four, with a limit of $100,000 in purchases each year in each of the five categories. All five are relatively common business expenses, and a few are almost exclusive to businesses. (I’d be surprised to learn of an individual with anywhere near $100,000 in annual advertising or shipping purchases.)
Another appealing feature of the card for small business owners is the fact that it’s is a charge card with no preset spending limit (as you’d see on a traditional credit card). This allows a business to invest in equipment and other items to help grow revenue without worrying about overspending. However, it’s important to note that you must still pay your balance in full each month, though American Express does offer its Pay Over Time program if you have certain purchases that you’d like to finance over time. Just keep in mind that any interest you accrue will likely negate the value of the points you’re earning on the card.
The card is also a great option for those who value flexibility in both earning and redeeming points. It’s rare for a travel rewards credit card to allow any leeway for cardholders to choose how they are being rewarded. However, the Business Gold Rewards Card does just that by letting you select which category will earn you triple points. Couple that with the flexibility of the Membership Rewards program and you have a potent combination. See below for additional details on both earning and redeeming points on the card.
The Business Gold Rewards Card is currently offering a welcome bonus of 50,000 Membership Rewards points after you spend $5,000 in qualifying purchases on the card within your first three months of cardmembership. This haul of points is worth $950 based on TPG’s most recent valuations, a solid amount, though not the highest around. That being said, you can get a ton of value from the Membership Rewards program, as I’ll cover more in depth in the Redeeming section below.
As noted above, the card offers bonus points on five different categories of purchases: airfare, advertising, gas status, shipping and computing (the latter four only apply to US purchases). You get to select one category to earn 3x points; then you’ll automatically earn 2x points on the remaining four categories. For all five, you’re limited to earning bonuses on the first $100,000 of purchases in a calendar year. Once you’ve passed that amount in one or more of the categories, your earning rate will drop down to that of all other purchases: 1x points.
You’ll need to select your 3x bonus category within the first two months of approval, though if you don’t make a choice initially you’ll earn 3x points on airfare. You can then change this (if desired) once per year during the annual selection period, which runs from December 1 through January 31. If you don’t elect to change it, your prior selection will carry over.
These bonus categories can be quite lucrative. TPG pegs Membership Rewards points at 1.9 cents apiece, which means you get a 5.7% return on your chosen 3x category and a 3.8% return on the other four. If you’re able to max out all five of them by spending $100,000 in each, you’d take home an incredible 1.1 million points, worth a whopping $20,900. This doesn’t include any other points you’d earn on everyday purchases, which still give you a respectable 1.9% return.
When it comes to redeeming Membership Rewards points, you have an array of flexibility to squeeze maximum value from your earnings on the Business Gold Rewards Card. The best way to do this is by transferring your points to one of the program’s 17 airline or 3 hotel partners. There are a handful of true standouts among these options:
- Etihad Guest: While the process of booking awards through Etihad guest can leave a bit to be desired, there are still some terrific values to be had.
- Aeroplan: Air Canada’s spun-off loyalty program allows you to transfer in your Membership Rewards points and redeem on Star Alliance carriers. My favorite redemption is 55,000 miles for a one-way business-class flight from the US to Europe (when the program actually shows availability, that is).
- British Airways: Earlier this year, American Express reversed a 2015 change and reinstated a 1:1 transfer ratio between Membership Rewards points and British Airways Avios. I’m a huge fan of the carrier’s distance-based award chart, opening up valuable redemptions, especially on short-haul flights from Oneworld hubs.
The other nice thing about transferring to partner programs is that most of these transfers are instantaneous. This can be incredibly valuable when you’re worried about award inventory disappearing while you wait for the points to appear in your account.
Of course, like any other program, Membership Rewards offers a plethora of other redemption options for cardholders of the Business Gold Rewards Card. This includes using your points for eligible charges (0.6 cents per point), shopping at Amazon (0.7 cents per point), riding with Uber (1 cent per point) or booking travel directly (0.75 – 1 cent per point, depending on the type of travel you’re booking). In any case, you likely won’t come close to the value you’d get by converting your earnings to a partner currency, so I’d strongly encourage you to go that route.
While the Business Gold Rewards Card may come with terrific earning ability through the five bonus categories as well as valuable flexibility in redeeming your points, the added collection of perks on the card is a bit lackluster. Here’s a quick overview:
OPEN Savings program: American Express’ OPEN Savings program applies to the majority of small business credit cards from the issuer, unlocking higher earning rates or discounts at select merchants. At the time of writing, you’ll automatically receive either a 5% discount or an extra 2 Membership Rewards points per dollar spent with companies like FedEx, Hertz and HP. For a complete breakdown of these options, check out the following link.
Amex Offers: You’ll also be eligible for Amex Offers if you open the Business Gold Rewards Card, giving you a series of targeted discounts and/or boosted earning rates across select merchants. I check the list of available offers on all three of my current Amex accounts on a weekly basis, and I’ve saved hundreds of dollars and earned tens of thousands of extra Membership Rewards points adding these offers to my card.
Baggage Insurance: If your luggage is lost, damaged or stolen and you’re a Business Gold Rewards cardholder, you’re eligible for coverage of up to $1,250 for carry-on baggage and $500 for checked bags.
Premium Roadside Assistance: You’re covered for emergency roadside assistance if your car is suddenly inoperable. American Express actually covers these services up to four times per year (after which you’re on your own). If you aren’t already a AAA member or if you don’t have another way to access support when your car breaks down, carrying this card can be worth its weight in gold.
Which Cards Compete With Amex Business Gold Rewards?
In the lucrative small business credit card market, the Business Gold Rewards Card from American Express has only one main competitor, and it’s a card we’ve covered extensively here at TPG: the Ink Business Preferred Credit Card. Issued by Chase, the Ink Business Preferred participates in the Ultimate Rewards program, opening up additional redemption options through its unique transfer partners (like Hyatt and United). The card also provides a higher sign-up bonus: 80,000 points after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening. This is worth $1,760 based on TPG’s most recent valuations, a significant jump over the bonus offered on the Business Gold Rewards Card.
In addition, the card offers a slightly different set of earning bonuses, as you’ll earn 3x points on $150,000 in combined purchases across the following categories:
- Internet, cable and phone services
Note that the second and fourth categories directly overlap with the Business Gold Rewards Card, while the first one partially overlaps with the airfare category.
Two other intriguing perks make the Ink Business Preferred a formidable alternative to the Business Gold Rewards Card: primary car rental coverage and cell phone protection. There are only a handful of cards to offer these two benefits, so you can get a lot of value from these perks if you and/or your employees have problems in either area.
At first glance, it appears that the Ink Business Preferred is the clear winner, thanks to the better sign-up bonus, more lucrative bonus categories (all are 3x, compared with just one 3x option on the Business Gold Rewards Card) and additional perks. However, this may not appeal to all potential applicants. For starters, note that the bonus category earning is capped at $150,000 in combined purchases across all four categories. Once your combined purchases exceed that threshold, you’ll drop to a ho-hum 1x point. On the other hand, the Business Gold Rewards Card sets a $100,000 limit for each individual category. As a result, you have more than 3 times the earning power when compared to the Ink Business Preferred.
In addition, you may prefer the transfer partners in the Membership Rewards program when compared to those in the Ultimate Rewards program. While certain airlines overlap (Singapore and British Airways, for example), American Express has others that don’t have any agreement with Chase, including Aeroplan, Delta and Etihad. If you’re looking to redeem your points with carriers like this, you may be better off going with Amex.
Finally, there’s no out-of-pocket cost to the Business Gold Rewards Card in the first year, as the $175 annual fee is waived in year one. The Ink Business Preferred, on the other hand, charges a $95 annual fee right off the bat. As a result, you’re spending more on the Ink Business Preferred in the first two years ($190) than you would with the Business Gold Rewards Card ($175). It isn’t until year three where the cumulative annual fees swing in favor of the Ink, giving you a valuable “trial” period before determining which option is best for you and your typically spending habits.
The Business Gold Rewards Card from American Express is a fantastic option for small business owners looking to make the most of their spending. With lucrative bonus categories, a solid welcome bonus and no up-front commitment (thanks to the waived annual fee in year one), you can get a ton of value from the card in both the first year and beyond. While the Ink Business Preferred Credit Card has been giving the Business Gold Rewards Card a run for its money since it was launched last fall, there are still some specific scenarios where it makes sense to go with Amex, and hopefully this post has highlighted just when you’d want to do that!
What are your thoughts on the Business Gold Rewards Card?
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