BEST FLAT-RATE BUSINESS CARD
Capital One Spark Cash Plus
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An excellent catch-all card for everyday business expenses — but at a price
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The Spark Cash Plus rakes in rewards for big spenders with a wide variety of expenses. No-annual-fee cash back business cards may be more lucrative for small businesses with a modest overhead, but business owners who need boosted buying power may easily justify this premium card — especially if they qualify for the annual cash bonus.
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In many ways, the Capital One Spark Cash Plus card is a clear upgrade over the original Capital One Spark Cash for Business credit card. It offers boosted buying power with no preset spending limit, an enormous welcome bonus and an annual $200 cash bonus after spending $200,000 or more each year. Its flat 2 percent cash back rate on all eligible purchases also makes earning rewards simple and could add up to substantial savings over time.
That said, the card comes with a $150 annual fee — higher than many cash back business cards’ fee — and requires complete pay-off every billing cycle since it’s a charge card. This makes it a poor choice for modest spenders or small-business owners who need to finance purchases or carry a balance to free up cash flow. And while a flat 2 percent cash back rate is generous, it may hold you back if you spend heavily in specific business expense categories, as several competing cards offer 3 percent to 5 percent back on purchases like online advertising, office supplies, gas or travel.
Streamlined cash back structure earns unlimited 2 percent cash back on all purchases, even with free employee cards.
It’s a charge card, so there is no APR or defined credit limit to hold back your spending.
Big spenders can make up for the annual fee by earning the $200 annual cash bonus.
The $150 annual fee might be costly for modest spenders.
The annual cash back bonus may be hard to reach for some small business owners. You’ll have to spend at least $200,000 to earn a $200 annual cash bonus.
Since it’s a charge card, you must pay your balance in full each billing period — which other previous charge cards have evolved away from.
New cardholders can reel in a large sign-up bonus with the Spark Cash Plus: up to a $1,000 cash bonus, with $500 earned after you spend $5,000 in the first three months and another $500 earned after you spend $50,000 in the first six months. While this is a steep drop from the card’s previous bonus of up to $3,000 in two installments ($500 after a $5,000 spend in the first three months, plus $2,500 after a total spend of $50,000 in your first six months), it’s still one of the largest cash back sign-up bonuses among business cards, especially given the card’s relatively low annual fee.
That said, the card’s bonus spending requirement is still quite difficult to reach, requiring a spend of more than $8,000 per month for your first six months to earn the full bonus. This is the same spending requirement as the card’s previous offer, despite the bonus being only a third of the size. While a large sign-up bonus may make the card attractive right now, a card with a more modest bonus and more attainable spending requirement may be a better fit based on your spending habits.
The Spark Cash Plus lives up to Capital One cards’ guiding principle: providing one of the easiest rewards programs imaginable. You’ll earn unlimited flat-rate cash back on all qualifying purchases with no spending caps or bonus categories to juggle, and your rewards won’t expire for the life of your account. Plus, the option to automate the redemption process means you won’t have to micromanage your cash back balance.
You and your employees’ cards will earn unlimited 2 percent cash back on almost all your business purchases. You’ll also get 5 percent cash back when you book a hotel or rental through Capital One Travel.
The only expenses that Capital One counts as ineligible for rewards are products you return, cash equivalent transactions and account costs. These include interest and fees from actions like cash advances, balance transfers and checks for accessing your account.
Few issuers simplify reward redemption like Capital One. Busy business owners can set their cash back to automatically redeem once their balance reaches a certain threshold ($25, $50, $200, $500 or $1,500) or at a selected time each calendar year. Although the most direct form of cash back — direct bank account deposits — is missing from the list of redemption choices, you can receive your rewards as:
The Spark Cash Plus may operate differently from a credit card, but its cash rewards program works identically: you’ll pocket the percentage of your cash back rate from each dollar you spend. That means you’ll earn 5 cents per dollar when you book hotels and rental cars through Capital One Travel and 2 cents per dollar on everything else with this business card.
Like personal Capital One cards, you may be able to convert the 2 percent cash back earned with the Spark Cash Plus into miles if you have a Capital One business travel card like the Capital One Spark 1.5X Miles Select Credit Card. Capital One miles can be worth an average of 2 cents per mile with the right transfer partner, so you may be able to earn an impressive value of 4 cents per dollar on all purchases.
Capital One credit cards aren’t known for carrying a buffet of top-tier benefits, and the issuer’s premium business cards are no exception. Like similar cards, the Spark Cash Plus carries business perks such as free employee cards, account management tools and standard purchase and travel protections.
In fact, the only benefits the Spark Cash Plus adds upon the original Spark Cash for Business — besides the annual spending bonus — are complimentary concierge service and lost luggage replacement. These barebones benefits make the increased annual fee a bit more worrisome considering cheaper competitors —like the Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card — may offer more protections.
One of the major new features that appears to account for the inflated annual fee is the annual $200 cash bonus you can earn after spending at least $200,000 each year. This is a fantastic addition for businesses that can meet the spending requirement since it more than covers the annual fee, but you’d have to spend close to a sizable $16,700 each month to qualify.
If you’re considering a flat-rate rewards card as a one-size-fits-all card for your smaller business or side hustle, you should assess your budget before applying. Shouldering the Spark Cash Plus card’s higher annual fee without the yearly bonus’ saving grace could make no-annual-fee business cards a better source for rewards.
If your usual spending isn’t enough for the annual bonus, you might be considering a no-annual-fee card with a flat 1.5 percent cash back rate. However, the Spark Cash Plus card’s 2 percent rate will still be more rewarding if you spend more than $30,000 per year — even with the annual fee.
The par-for-the-course travel and purchase protection benefits the Spark Cash Plus provides are solid for an everyday cash back card, but they don’t make a strong case for the card’s higher price point.
Your eligible purchases are protected against theft, loss, damage or fire for up to 90 days with purchase security, and their qualifying warranties are padded out with extended protection. Meanwhile, your lost luggage and eligible rental vehicle protection may be covered with a reimbursement policy if you pay with your card. The 24/7 travel and emergency assistance, roadside assistance and complimentary concierge services can also swoop in whether your emergency is your vehicle or a last-minute dinner reservation. However, terms, conditions and exclusions apply, so refer to the “Guide to Benefits” the issuer provides upon approval for more details.
These perks are certainly helpful but are typical of lower-cost cards, which sometimes carry even better benefits. For example, the Ink Business Preferred card provides many of the same perks for a $95 annual fee but swaps out the Spark Cash Plus card’s weaker lost luggage reimbursement for sought-after trip cancellation/trip interruption insurance and cellphone protection. In fact, the Spark Cash Plus card’s two no-annual-fee versions, the Capital One Spark Cash Select – $500 Cash Bonus and the Capital One Spark Cash Select – 0% Intro APR for 12 Months, carry the same roster of purchase and travel protections.
Capital One cards can conceal your card details while online shopping thanks to the Eno account assistant’s virtual credit card number function. The browser extension prevents digital merchants from receiving your real card number by generating and tracking its own unique numbers for each merchant, stacking on an extra layer of security you don’t see offered by issuers very often anymore, stacking on an extra layer of security you don’t see issuers offer very often anymore.
Digital wallets achieve the same effect while you shop at physical stores, but virtual card numbers are still handy if your business relies on online transactions and services.
One of the advantages that come with the Spark Cash Plus as a charge card is that you’ll dodge many of the rates and fees credit cards may incur since you don’t get a revolving credit line. Truth be told, the only cost you should ever face is the $150 annual fee. Even if you don’t spend enough to qualify for the annual cash bonus, it only takes putting $625 per month on your card to earn enough cash back to recoup the annual fee. This may not be a problem for some businesses, but could be a deal-breaker for people who need a low-cost card for small side jobs.
Other than the annual fee, there are no intro or ongoing APRs, balance transfer fees, foreign transaction fees or penalty rates to worry about. The only other fees are a cash advance fee (3 percent of each cash advance, $3 minimum) and a 2.99 percent late payment fee for the unpaid portion of your minimum payment — which you hopefully shouldn’t see because missing a charge card payment puts your account in jeopardy of closing.
Although the Spark Cash Plus card comes with a $150 annual fee that could be intimidating at first glance, its generous flat rewards rate and annual cash bonus should offer tremendous value — as long as you have a lot of expenses. To realize the card’s full rewards potential, you not only need to spend a minimum of $50,000 in your first six months to earn the full sign-up bonus but also a total of $200,000 per year to secure the $200 annual cash bonus. If you’re able to meet that threshold, you could enjoy over $5,000 in cash back in your first year and over $4,000 in year two and beyond.
That said, even with a more modest $48,000 annual spend, you should still come out on top. If you spent $5,000 in your first three months and a total of $48,000 per year, you'd could miss out on the second tier of the sign-up bonus and the annual bonus and still wind up with $1,310 in cash back in year one when you subtract for the annual fee. In year two, you’d still enjoy plenty of breathing room to cover the card’s annual fee based on this spend, earning $960 via card spending.
|Benefits and costs||First-year value||Ongoing value (no welcome offers)|
|Welcome offers||+up to $1,000 value ($500 by spending $5,000 within the first three months, and another $500 bonus after spending a total of $50,000 in the first six months)||—|
|Perks (of monetary value)||+$200 (cash bonus after spending at least $200,000 each year)||+$200 (cash bonus after spending at least $200,000 each year)|
*Based on a $200,000 annual spending assumption.
Credit card expert and Bankrate contributor Holly D. Johnson interviewed several cardholders for their firsthand experience with the Capital One Spark Cash and how it’s helped them manage their small businesses. Several business owners chose it over rival cards due to its flexible spending limit and straightforward, but lucrative, rewards program.
If one month I need to spend $3,000 and the next month spend $15,000, I can do it without stressing [over having] enough available credit. When I can worry about one less thing, I am a happy man.— Max Marvelous, money coach
I found several [cards] that offered lucrative cash back amounts, but only up to a few thousand dollars — then you get something like 1 percent cash back or no rewards at all on your purchases. The Spark Cash Plus gives me 2 percent back on everything with no limitations. I like that simplicity.— Jeffrey Gabriel, co-founder of Saw.com
I signed up specifically for the 2 percent cash back. The 2 percent cash back gives us a little boost on our profit margins, which helps us offer more competitive pricing…. We pay off our balance every month and use our rewards to help offset that balance.— Jeff Neal, operations manager at Critter Depot
Few business cards offer 2 percent cash back on all purchases, and even fewer offer extensive purchasing power like the Spark Cash Plus. However, these alternative picks may be a better value if your business calls for large purchases or a lower annual fee.
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The Chase Ink Business Premier Credit Card is remarkably similar to the Spark Cash Plus. It also doesn’t have a preset credit limit and earns unlimited 2 percent cash back on all purchases, plus 5 percent on travel booked through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal.
However, the Ink Business Premier is a fierce rival since it cranks up your cash back to 2.5 percent on purchases of $5,000 or more and allows you to pay off purchases of $500 or more over time (with an 18.74 percent to 26.74 percent variable Flex for Business APR). These features make the Business Premier worth it if you won’t qualify for the Spark Cash Plus card’s $200 annual cash bonus or if you’ll need to carry a balance in a pinch. The Business Premier is also better for business trips with its elevated protections and more comprehensive travel reward category.
On the other hand, the Ink Business Premier charges a higher $195 annual fee and doesn’t offer yearly bonus cash or credits. These factors make the Spark Cash Plus a more lucrative option if you don’t have a ton of business expenses or make purchases of at least $5,000 very often.
Big spenders may also see more value from the Spark Cash Plus. In fact, it would take 10 purchases of $5,000 or more each year for the Ink Business Premier to earn the $250 cash back necessary to match the savings you’d get with the Spark Cash Plus card’s lower annual fee and $200 annual cash bonus.
Another card option for someone looking to charge purchases without a preset spending limit might be the American Express Blue Business Cash Card. Cardholders will get 2 percent cash back on up to $50,000 in eligible purchases yearly (then 1 percent cash back). Cardholders can spend beyond their card’s credit limit with no over-the-limit fee (approved on a case-by-case basis), so business owners can have peace of mind knowing they could be covered if unexpected expenses arise.
Spending enough ($200,000) to reach the $200 annual cash bonus may be a tall task for many small business owners, so a credit card with a lower annual fee or no-annual-fee — like the Blue Business Cash — may be more valuable than the Spark Cash Plus since you won’t have to forfeit a chunk of your rewards to the membership cost.
Pairing the Spark Cash Plus with another card that dials up the rewards rate on your biggest expenses is the best way to maximize your flat-rate cash back card.
Capital One doesn’t offer any business cash back cards with bonus categories, so you can broaden your choices to options like travel credit cards or a card that rewards specific operational costs like shipping, advertising or internet and phone services. In fact, pairing the Spark Cash Plus with a Capital One travel card, like the no-annual-fee Spark Miles Select, may allow you to convert cash back into Spark travel miles for potentially more value through Capital One transfer partners.
The Capital One Spark Cash Plus flexes a unique edge over other business cards and charge cards by carrying one of the best flat cash back rates and sign-up bonuses on the market. Its boosted buying power and sign-up bonus — not to mention the $200 annual cash bonus after spending $200,000 each year — are a step up from its no-annual-fee counterparts and its predecessor, the Spark Cash for Business.
However, the $150 annual fee and charge card structure may not be worth it for small business owners who want a low-cost, flat-rate cash back card or may need to occasionally carry a balance. Considering the Spark Cash Plus card’s benefits outside the above features are strikingly similar to its no-annual-fee cash back business cards, the fee may be hard to justify for some cardholders — unless your business spends enough to nab the annual bonus.
Few business cards offer such a high cash back rate on all purchases and streamlined rewards experience, so this card can be a remarkable stand-alone value for small business owners with big expenses.
For Capital One products listed on this page, some of the above benefits are provided by Visa® or Mastercard® and may vary by product. See the respective Guide to Benefits for details, as terms and exclusions apply.
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Editorial Disclosure: Opinions expressed here are the author's alone, and have not been reviewed or approved by any advertiser. The information, including card rates and fees, is accurate as of the publish date. All products or services are presented without warranty. Check the bank’s website for the most current information.