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Our quick take: For small-business owners who want to convert everyday business purchases into aspirational travel after the pandemic, the no-annual-fee American Express Blue Business Plus card is a no-brainer, and now through November 4, new card members can get up to $300 in statement credits for purchases at select merchants in the first three months of card membership.
Current welcome bonus: Now through November 4, new card members can earn up to $300 in statement credits when they make eligible purchases with Dell Technologies, DocuSign and FedEx within their first three months of card membership, up to $100 per merchant.
Best for: Points-minded small-business owners who have post-pandemic travel aspirations, and who know how (or can learn) to use Amex’s airline and hotel transfer partners for top-notch redemptions.
While every business is different, it’s fairly safe to assume that every small business owner is busy. When you’re managing the ins and outs of an enterprise, time is one of your most precious assets. To that end, the American Express Blue Business Plus aims to keep things simple — but there’s a delightful twist.
This no-annual-fee credit card manages to mix simplicity with possibility. You’ll earn 2 points on all your everyday business purchases up to $50,000 annually with no category restrictions, then unlimited 1x points thereafter.
The simple part? You don’t have to remember a list of bonus categories or restrictions. The potential part? Instead of generating cash back, rewards are earned in the form of American Express Membership Rewards points. Those in the know recognize the value in that. Amex points are among the most flexible and valuable points in the credit card universe — a point (pun intended) we’ll dive into deeper below.
While it’s possible to find credit cards that offer as many as 5 points for every dollar you spend in specific (or rotating) categories such as travel or dining, there are only a handful that offer a flat 2 points per dollar on everything.
And unlike cards that offer 2% cash back across the board, the Blue Business Plus is unique in that it earns Amex Membership Rewards points. Amex points are renowned for being valuable, particularly to those who know how to leverage them for high-value travel redemptions through Amex’s impressive lineup of 21 hotel and airline transfer partners.
Yes, you’re likely not thinking much about aspirational travel to dream destinations right now. But eventually airlines will return to the skies and hotels will reopen their doors, and if you’ve willing to study up on a few tricks to maximize your points, Amex points are far more alluring than cash.
For example, once the travel industry gets back on its feet, you’ll be able to transfer Amex points to Etihad Airways for cheap business-class redemptions on American Airlines, since Etihad and American are partners, or transfer points to Singapore Airlines for inexpensive trips to Hawaii on United, thanks to the alliance between those two airlines.
Then there’s the whole no-annual-fee thing. While it’s always a boon to find a card that costs you nothing to hold, businesses that are assembling a strategy to maximize their credit card rewards will want to consider adding the Blue Business Plus as an ideal everyday spending card. In other words, even business owners who hold other credit cards that earn 3 points per dollar or more in certain categories can find it worth having this card around as a “catch-all” to use on non-bonus purchases.
If you already hold another Amex Membership Rewards-earning card — even a personal one such as the American Express® Gold Card or The Platinum Card® from American Express — adding the Blue Business Plus gives you an option to earn 2 points per dollar when spending outside of the bonus categories available on the Amex Gold and Amex Platinum.
Better yet, all your Amex points from both personal and business cards will pool together into one account. Given that there’s no annual fee here, it’s a potentially smart addition to maximize your overall earnings potential.
Related: Read CNN Underscored’s complete review of the Amex Gold.
Businesses also pay nothing to add authorized users, and you’ll earn points on any expenses charged to those employee cards as well as your own. Plus, you can designate an Account Manager — a trusted individual like an assistant or business partner — to access and manage your business card account.
Plus, if you’re looking to make a few large capital expenditures to bolster your business, consider this. The Blue Business Plus offers a 0% introductory interest rate on purchases for the first 12 months you have the card. After that, your APR will be a variable rate, currently 13.24%-19.24%, based on your creditworthiness and other factors.
There’s even car rental loss and damage insurance, a pretty stout perk on a no-annual-fee card. With this benefit, you’re covered if your rental car is damaged or stolen when you use your Blue Business Plus to reserve and pay for the entire rental. Note that this coverage is secondary, so you’ll need to file a claim with your own auto insurance policy first, with the credit card picking up any excess amount.
Finally, for a limited time now through November 4, new card members can earn up to $300 in statement credits when they make eligible purchases with Dell Technologies, DocuSign and FedEx within their first three months of card membership, up to $100 per merchant. Normally the Blue Business Plus doesn’t have a welcome bonus of any kind, so if you make purchases with even one or two of these merchants, you’ll be ahead of the game.
The Blue Business Plus is aimed at owners of small and medium-sized businesses. The card has a $50,000 annual cap on earning double points — your business will earn just 1 point on every dollar spent beyond that. In other words, business owners who routinely spend more than $50,000 in a year will likely want to have another card in their wallets to use once that threshold is reached.
Beyond the car rental insurance, perks on this card are sparse. There’s no trip delay or trip cancellation insurance on the Blue Business Plus, and no fancy travel benefits. Also, pay attention to the 2.7% foreign transaction fee. If you’re planning to travel overseas for work or play after the pandemic, you’ll want another card to take on those trips that doesn’t charge a fee for using it internationally.
CNN Underscored has chosen the Citi® Double Cash Card as our “benchmark” credit card. That doesn’t mean it’s the best credit card on the market — rather, it means we use it as a basic standard to compare other credit cards and see where they score better, and where they’re worse.
Here’s how the Blue Business Plus scores against our benchmark. The features of each card in the below chart are colored in green, red or white. Green indicates a card feature that is better than our benchmark. Red indicates the feature is worse than our benchmark, and white indicates the feature is either equivalent or cannot be directly compared to our benchmark.
When reviewing other credit cards, we use this format and these criteria to compare them with our benchmark. You can read our credit card methodology for more details on what we take into account when it comes to perks, protections and redemption value.
The Blue Business Plus is, in many ways, in a league of its own within the no-annual-fee camp. The Ink Business Unlimited℠ Credit Card from Chase and the Capital One® Spark® Cash Select for Business don’t have annual fees, but earn only 1.5% cash back on everyday purchases, as opposed to 2x points on the Blue Business Plus.
The Ink Business Cash℠ Credit Card from Chase — also a no-annual-fee card — is a compelling alternative for businesses that spend heavily at office supply stores and on internet, cable and phone services. It offers 5% cash back on those categories on the first $25,000 in combined purchases each account year. Plus, it offers 2% cash back on the first $25,000 spent in combined purchases at gas stations and restaurants each account year.
Or if you’re willing to absorb a $95 annual fee (and it’s even waived for the first year), have a look at the Capital One® Spark® Miles for Business, which is a great choice for larger businesses. This credit card offers an unlimited 2 miles for every dollar you spend on all your business purchases, plus 5 miles per dollar on hotel and rental car bookings made through Capital One Travel.
You’ll also get no foreign transaction fees, a Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee credit up to $100, and a whopping 50,000 bonus miles after spending $4,500 on purchases in the first three months of account opening as a welcome offer — worth at least $500 in travel.
Related: Earn $500 or 50,000 bonus miles with Capital One Spark credit cards.
And for those thinking ahead to travel after the pandemic and looking for niceties such as airline lounge access, more bonus categories or added travel protections, you’ll want to consider cards such as The Business Platinum® Card from American Express, which comes with tons of perks but also a very high $595 annual fee.
As the name implies, the Blue Business Plus is designed specifically for businesses. But that doesn’t mean you’re not eligible just because you’re not a huge corporation. In fact, you might already have a business and not even know it. If you’re a ride-share driver, or you sell products online, or even if you just have a side hustle that you do in your spare time — basically, if you participate in the “gig economy” at all — you may very well have a business as a sole proprietor.
If so, you can legitimately apply for the Blue Business Plus using your Social Security number instead of a company Employer Identification Number. And if your business is new, don’t let that dissuade you either — just be honest about your business and personal income on the application, and the fact that you’ve only been in business a short time.
If you’re willing to fork out a $95 annual fee after the first year, the Capital One Spark Miles credit card is arguably a better deal. The sign-up bonus alone is worth at least $500 — enough to offset the annual fee for six years of card membership. In addition to the 2x earnings on everyday business purchases, it offers a host of other perks that the Blue Business Plus lacks.
But if you’re dead set on picking up a no-annual-fee business card and you’re willing to put in the effort to maximize Membership Rewards earnings for aspirational travel redemptions, or if you want to take advantage of the introductory interest rate for an upcoming large business purchase, the Blue Business Plus is a solid bet. A flat 2x-on-everything (up to $50,000 annually) keeps things simple on the earning front, while Amex points give you the flexibility to redeem across a swath of travel partners for brag-worthy trips and a great vacation when the pandemic is over.
Learn more about the Blue Business Plus Credit Card from American Express.
Find out which cards CNN Underscored chose as our best credit cards of 2020.
Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.
Note: While the offers mentioned above are accurate at the time of publication, they’re subject to change at any time and may have changed, or may no longer be available.