A small business credit card can be one of the most valuable tools your company has. A good small business credit card can be a secure and convenient method of payment while offering time-saving expense tracking and reporting capabilities. Beyond these features, you can also use your small business credit card to earn valuable rewards. But to get the most out of your small business cards, you need to know the best ways to earn and spend your rewards.
Deciding What Kind of Rewards to Earn
The first step towards using a small business credit card to earn rewards is figuring out what kind of rewards you should earn. The basic choices include cash back, travel rewards from your credit card, or frequent flyer miles. Cash back is the simplest and most flexible option, but it isn’t always the most valuable. For example, instead of earning $2,000 in cash back, it can sometimes be possible to earn enough rewards points or miles for a business class ticket overseas with the same amount of spending. And if you value this business class ticket at $4,000, then the reward will be worth twice as much to you as cash back you could have earned.
If you choose to earn travel rewards instead of cash back, there are two types of cards you can go with. Some small business travel rewards credit cards offer points in rewards program run by the card issuer, such as American Express Membership Rewards or Chase Ultimate Rewards. Others are cobranded with airlines to offer frequent flyer miles. In general, you’ll find that credit card reward programs are more flexible, and can offer you the opportunity to transfer your rewards to airline miles or hotel points when you find the best deals on an award. On the other hand, the cards that offer airline miles will also offer valuable travel benefits such as a free checked bag, priority boarding, and discounts on in-flight purchases.
Earning the Most Possible Rewards
Once you’ve selected a small business credit card that offers you the most valuable rewards and benefits for your spending, you need to take steps to maximize the rewards that you’re earning. First, you’ll want to order additional cards for employee authorized cardholders. Any spending on those cards will earn rewards that can only be redeemed by the primary account holder, which is typically the business owner.
Making your employees additional authorized cardholders also allows you to track and control their spending while reducing the time necessary to create, approve, and pay their expense reports. However, you should create written policies that control employees' use of the company’s small business credit card, spelling out the consequences for misuse such as reprimand or dismissal. The agreement should forbid the use of the card for any personal reasons and require the card to be returned at any time upon request.
Next, you and your employees need to be instructed that the credit card is the primary method of payment for accounts payable and other expenses. Employees should always contact billers to see if a credit card is accepted before using any additional method of payment. However, it’s critical that billers be asked if they are imposing any credit card surcharges before authorizing payment. For example, many utilities and insurance companies will accept credit cards for payment, but only upon request.
Unfortunately, many companies will impose a 3% or higher surcharge when using credit, negating the value of the rewards received. If a biller imposes a surcharge, then you should instruct employees to use an alternate method of payment. Nevertheless, it could be worthwhile to pay a nominal surcharge for credit card use. For instance, a utility might impose a $10 charge on credit card transactions, but depending on the size of the bill, it could amount to less than the value of the rewards received. With a cash back card, it’s easy to determine if the fee exceeds the value of the rewards received. But if your small business credit card offers you airline miles or other travel rewards, then you need to place a value on it for the purpose of deciding if a credit card surcharge is worth paying. In general, you could reasonably value airline miles at about 1.5 cents each, and choose an alternate method of payment if the surcharge is above 1.5% you are only earning one mile per dollar spent.
Spending Your Rewards Wisely
Just as you would with your dollars, you need to be careful to spend your credit card reward points carefully in order to get the most value from them. With cash back, there’s little effort needed to redeem your rewards, but it takes a bit of skill to redeem travel rewards for the most value. For example, nearly all credit card rewards and frequent flyer programs allow you to redeem your miles for gift cards and merchandise. But unfortunately, these options will offer the least value per mile redeemed. To get the most value from your frequent flyer miles earned through your small business credit card, you should be looking to redeem miles for airline flights. And if you have a card that offers you reward points that can be transferred to airline miles or hotel points, this will be the reward option that can potentially return the most value to you.
But which flights offer the most value. First, you want to redeem your miles for flights that you would have paid cash for, and not just spend your miles for unnecessary trips, just because you have miles to spend. Next, you want to make sure that you’re redeeming your miles at the lowest possible mileage rate. Usually, this means a round-trip, domestic flight in economy class is 12,500 miles each way, or 25,000 miles round-trip. For flights to Europe in economy class, the best rates are usually at around 60,000 miles round-trip in the economy, and about 120,000 to 140,000 in business class.
Finally, you will want to compare the number of miles required for the cost of the ticket. But don’t just look at the cost of the ticket from the airline that you're redeeming miles from. Instead, look at the price of the ticket that you would have purchased if you shopped around to find the best deal. When you’re able to redeem your miles for the most expensive flights in business or first class, or for pricey last minute reservations, you will usually receive the most possible value from your miles.
Other Ideas for Maximizing Your Rewards
Some small business owners choose to redeem rewards for the benefit of their employees. For example, you could reward your sales leader with a free trip, booked through your credit card rewards. When the employee values the rewards received greater than their actual cost to you, you’re receiving a net benefit to your business. Alternatively, you could use the rewards for your own personal leisure trips, and purchase any business travel for yourself or your employees with cash. This will allow you to deduct the cost of the company travel while enjoying a free trip for your vacation.
By earning the most possible reward points, miles, or cash back from your small business credit cards, and redeeming them for the most valuable awards, you can derive the most value from these incredible business tools.