Should you, as a consumer and traveler, get a business credit card instead of—or in addition to—a conventional consumer card? The answer for most people is a firm "maybe."
Many large banks issue both business and consumer variations on what is basically the same card; the major differences being the focus of the charges that earn rewards or payback. Although the different versions are supposedly tailored to their target market segment, some business cards may appeal to consumers, too. I looked at a few examples from Chase Bank.
Ink Business Preferred Visa
The Ink Business Preferred Visa appears often on those "top cards for business" lists. It's a close counterpart to the consumer-oriented Chase Sapphire Preferred Card. Both cards are focused on frequent travelers, with the notable transfer of points to loyalty programs:
Earning: The Ink Business Preferred Visa earns 3 points per $1 on the first $150,000 spent in combined purchases on travel; shipping purchases; Internet, cable and phone services; and on advertising purchases made with social media sites and search engines each account anniversary year. Both cards earn 1 point per dollar on other charges.
Other Travel Features: Both cards feature point transfers at 1:1 to loyalty programs of seven airlines (Air France/KLM, British Airways), Korean, Singapore, Southwest, United Airlines, and Virgin Atlantic) and three hotel programs (IHG, Marriott, and Ritz-Carlton). Estimated point value 1.9¢; cash value 1.25¢ when used to buy air tickets and hotel accommodations, otherwise 1¢.
Travel Insurance: The Ink Business Preferred Visa includes $5,000 in trip-cancellation, the same as on the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card. The business card adds up to $600 for cell phone damage if purchased on card.
Financials: The annual fee on both cards is $95. Neither card imposes a foreign purchase surcharge. Both cards offer the same enrollment bonus: 80,000 points after charging $5000 in first three months.
Summary: Overall, The Ink Business Preferred Visa card beats out the consumer-focused Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, primarily by earning 3 points per dollar on travel rather than 2, plus 3 points per dollar on Internet, cable, and phone services, which can be big-ticket bills for many consumers. The business card gives up double points for restaurants—a feature that might sway consumers who don't travel a lot and have small Internet and phone bills. Both cards are especially valuable for travelers who want to build up points in their airline or hotel program.
Ink Business Cash Visa
The Ink Business Cash Visa is the counterpart to Chase's two cash-back Freedom Visa cards, the Chase Freedom and Chase Freedom Unlimited, which differ mainly in slightly different earnings patterns. All three cards feature cash rewards with very few travel features:
Earning: The Ink Business Cash Visa card earns 5¢ per dollar charged at offices supply stores and on Internet, cable, and phone services; 2¢ per dollar on restaurant charges, and 1 point per dollar on other charges. The corresponding Chase Freedom Unlimited card earns 1.5¢ per dollar for all charges, and the similar Chase Freedom card earns 5¢ per dollar on varying categories and 1¢ on other charges.
Travel Features: The Ink Business Cash Visa card provides primary coverage on cars rented for business purposes; the consumer cards provide only secondary coverage. All three cards offer minor insurance features.
Financials: There is no annual fee on any of the three cards. The The Ink Business Cash Visa card offers an enrollment bonus of $300 credit after charging $3,000 within the first three months; the Chase Freedom and Chase Freedom Unlimited consumer cards offer $150.
Summary: The Ink Business Cash Visa card could look inviting for consumers with heavy Internet, phone, and cable bills. Primary rental car collision coverage is also a plus—but it applies only to cars rented for business purposes. Otherwise the Chase Freedom and Chase Freedom Unlimited cards could be winners. Neither card focuses heavily on travel.
Other Business Cards
Many airlines and hotel chains issue both consumer and business variants of their co-branded cards. As with the Chase cards, the main differences are in the formulation of earnings, and most notably with multiple-point categories:
- Consumer cards tend to offer multiple points on some combination of travel, restaurant, gas station, and grocery store charges.
- Business cards focus on multiple points for Internet, phone, and computer charges; travel-oriented cards also focus on travel charges.
Normally, you'd figure that consumers would be better off using a card that earns bonus points for grocery, gas, and travel charges, meaning they'd be better off with consumer cards. But some households can ring up large enough Internet, phone, and computer bills to make a business card more attractive.
Qualifying for a Business Card
There aren’t any hard-and-fast rules about just who is eligible for a business card. Individual card issuers have been inconsistent about requiring proof that an applicant is engaged in an actual business activity. In some cases, applicants need just state a name and SSN; in others, the issuer might want some of business financial and sales records.
Editor's Note: This content is not provided by any bank, credit card issuer, airline, or hotel chain. Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed here are those of the author's alone, and have not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by the aforementioned entities.