In this feature of Rewards Canada's Ultimate Credit Card Portfolios we look at the ultimate one for those who want to reap the most their Small Business Credit Cards. While many of us use personal credit and charge cards for our small businesses some companies find it much easier to track expenses by using corporate or small business cards. Others like to keep work separate from home and while they would like to use personal cards, small business cards help keep that divide. We have always recommended you should carry a Visa, a Mastercard and an American Express card in your wallet so there is a Mastercard included in this portfolio. The reason why is that there are benefits, promotions and earning potential unique to each brand of credit card. We won't go into detail here as you can read all about it in our feature on how to Maximize your Miles and Points but here we outline one card from each brand that will help you high end travellers get those perks, benefits and one of a kind experiences. Ultimately there are various options that could be utilized for such a portfolio but we look at one card from each issuing family that we feel are the best fit for a small business.
What is Rewards Canada's Ultimate Small Business Credit Card Credit Card portfolio? It is the following three cards:
This mix of cards will not only get you the business expense tracking you require but they will reward you with a decent amount of points and even some good travel benefits. Essentially, on the lowest level, two cards in this portfolio provide a 1.25% return on spending (Amex & Mastercard) and one provides 1% (RBC). That's the lowest level, however if you maximize the RBC Avion Award chart you can push that return to 2.3% or convert those RBC Rewards points to airlines like British Airways and if you choose to convert the American Express Membership Rewards points you earn to programs like Aeroplan or British Airways as you can pull much more value out of them. Here are some of our resources on pulling the maximum value out of these cards:
Why you want to get each of these cards
While all three cards in this portfolio are quite good, two cards stand out and they are The Business Platinum Card from American Express and the RBC Visa Business Platinum Avion. Both are what we call hybrid cards, that is you are getting the best of all loyalty worlds by being able to redeem points via the card's proprietary reward program or you can choose to convert those points to any number of other airline, hotel and retail programs. Those options alone are extremely worthwhile as they give you the ultimate flexibility in using your points. We should quickly mention that between the two cards you are looking at $1,000 or more in sign up bonuses alone!
Looking first at The Business Platinum Card from American Express, you want this card for several reasons. On the earning front, the card awards 1.25 Membership Rewards points per eligible dollar spent. If you use those points to redeem for travel via Amex's Pay for Purchases option it equates to a 1.25% return since you can redeem 1,000 points for a $10 credit towards any travel that you book. That's right, you get to choose the flights, the hotels, and where you book it. Whether its Expedia.ca, aircanada.com or marriott.com, as soon as the charge shows up on your account you can redeem points for it. And you don't have to have the full amount of points either. Booked a $500 air ticket and have $300 worth of points? You can redeem those $300 worth of points towards that ticket giving you out of pocket costs of $200. You also have up to 12 months after the travel charge posts your account to redeem against it. So you can effectively travel first then collect points for a year and redeem for it at that time. It is the most flexible form of travel rewards. Amex also has fixed points air travel redemption program that can provide good value as long as the ticket value you are redeeming for is close to the maximum allowed for each category. The good thing with Amex Membership Rewards is they allow to pick from both of the options above at time of booking so you don't have to worry about losing potential value from your points. On the flip side, you can also transfer the Membership Rewards points earned on the card to over half a dozen airline and hotel programs. The two most popular are Aeroplan and British Airways Executive Club. The reason for this is two fold, number one Aeroplan is one of the most popular programs in Canada and second conversions from Membership Rewards to both programs are 1:1. When you convert to the other partners the conversion ratios aren't as good, 1,000 points to 750 miles for all their other airline programs, 1:1 to Hilton and 1:0.5 for Starwood. Circling back to several those articles referenced above you can see why these conversions can make great sense and can provide large value. Even if redeeming for economy tickets via Aeroplan or British Airways you should be able to get more than 1.25% and if redeeming for Business or First Class your going to be getting returns of 2 to 10% dependent on the ticket cost, route, etc. As you can see you can forego some value and redeem via Amex's Pay for Purchases as it is extremely flexible or if you can make a reward redemption work via Aeroplan or British Airways you can get a good return on your spending. That's just the earn and burn side of the card, The Business Platinum Card from American Express, also provides access to business class lounges around the world and has one of the best insurance packages available for a small business card.
Next we look at the Visa card in this portfolio, the RBC Visa Business Platinum Avion which as already mentioned is a hybrid card as well. It offers a simple 1 point earn per dollar spent. In some redemption scenarios that only equates to a 1% return but if you can maximize the RBC Avion airline redemption chart you can push that to up to 2.3%. This is where the card differs than the Amex. If you do want to utilize the redemption chart and why wouldn't you since it provides a better return you have to book via RBC Rewards, you have to book 14 days out and you can redeem more points after the fact. Still with the restrictions in place that make this card less flexible for those any airline redemptions with the proper planning you can make really good use of the card. As an Avion cardholder you can also make the decision to transfer your RBC Rewards points to airlines like British Airways Executive Club, Cathay Pacific Asia Miles, American AAdvantage and WestJet Rewards. You also have the option to convert to some retail programs but we won't delve into that. For British Airways and Cathay Pacific the conversions are one to one and several times during the year they even offer bonuses on the transfers. The most famous by far for many years running has been the bonus to convert to British Airways and depending on the time of year it usually runs at 30% or 50%. That means you are earning up to 1.5 Avios (the British Airways Executive Club currency) per dollar spent or in our minds a minimum of a 2.5% return. Just like we explained for the Amex card above, you can read the articles we link to even higher up above in this feature to see the true value in utilizing these cards for British Airways redemptions. The card also has a relatively strong insurance package attached to it that nicely compliments the American Express ones.
Finally, we look at the Mastercard portion of the portfolio and similar to the high end card market, this brand has the weakest offering. For this portfolio we feel the best Mastercard option is the National Bank Platinum Mastercard Business Card. This card is strictly a proprietary credit card reward program that operates similar to the Pay for Purchase option that American Express has. You earn 1.5 points per dollar spent on the card which can then be redeemed for any travel that you book with the card at a rate of 12,000 points for a $100 credit. That equates to a 1.25% return. On the insurance side it has OK travel benefits but where it really shines is on the purchase protection and extended warranty. Many cards only offer 60-90 days of purchase protection whereas this card offers 180 days which is ideal for the business purchases that can benefit from coverage like this! The extended warranty is also longer than most other cards with a tripling of the manufacturer's original warranty up to a maximum of 2 extra years. Most other cards only double meaning only one additional year of warranty. Now we have heard of some issues with NBC's insurance policies in the fact that they don't cover things like smart phones and tablets so you'll want to confirm with them beforehand about coverage for these type of items.
RBC Visa Business Platinum Avion
• 20,000 Point sign up bonus
• Earn one RBC Rewards point for every dollar in purchases you make with your card
• Ability to book flights with any airline with no blackout periods, extremely useful when there are no seat sales
• Up to a 2.3% return on your spending depending on which reward ticket you book
• Option to transfer RBC Rewards Points to WestJet Rewards, British Airways Executive Club, American AAdvantage, Cathay Pacific Asia Miles.
• Look for the transfer bonus to BA several times per year!
• A complete suite of insurance coverage and benefits
• Unwritten ability to redeem for Business Class tickets although at a lower rate of return when compared to the Avion Reward chart
• Insurance benefits including trip cancellation & interruption, flight delay, baggage loss, hotel burglary, purchase protection, extended warranty
• Annual Fee $120
National Bank Platinum Mastercard Business Card
• Earn more reward miles – on everything you buy!
• Earn 1.5 A la carte Rewards Points for every $1 of purchases
• Every 12,000 points equals $100 towards travel.
• Annual Fee $125
• Redeem for travel, cash, merchandise and gift cards
• Insurance benefits including flight delay, baggage loss, purchase protection, extended warranty
• Add an authorized user for $0
There you go. With these three cards you are pretty much covered for you small business spending. You can literally use the points and miles earned on the cards to redeem for any travel from economy class to first class, you can transfer points, you get good insurance coverage and you get access to tons of airport lounges all the while keeping track of all your business expenses.
Other Card Options:
Although we feel the combination above is your best bet there are other card options that can fit the bill for all three of the issuers. On the American Express side there are two other options to look at. The American Express Business Gold Rewards card and the Marriott Bonvoy™ Business American Express® Card.The Gold Card may be ideal if you want to lower you annual fee costs on the Amex side since it is first year free and then $149 less per year after that. The downfall is that it earns less per dollar spent outside of some select merchant partners where you can earn 2 points per dollar spend plus you lose the lounge access for travelling. The SPG card is super strong, I mean we rank its personal version as the number one card in Canada for hotel programs and the business version is virtually the same. The only potential drawback is that you are limited to redeeming for Marriott stays or converting to one of their 30+ airline partners. For some of you that is a great thing and you read more about why it can be such a great card here. For Visa you could entertain the TD Aeroplan Visa Business Card but with the looming break up of Air Canada and Aeroplan you must tread wisely with that card (and its CIBC brethren) or you could look at the CIBC Aventura Visa Card for Business which runs similar to the Avion program (sans transfer partners) and on the Mastercard side you could look at BMO's Small Business AIR MILES options.
To see most of the Small Business Cards side by side in a comparison be sure to check out our Canadian Travel Credit Card Comparison Chart: Business / Corporate Credit Cards.
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