Capital One Spark Cash Plus review: Is the boosted buying power worth a higher fee?
In a surprising move, Capital One is discontinuing its signature cash back business credit card in favor of a charge card—a card type that’s largely gone extinct since the remaining American Express cards with a flexible spending limit gained the Pay Over Time feature in 2020. Charge cards differ from credit cards since they don’t have a defined credit limit, meaning the Capital One Spark Cash Plus doesn’t gain interest, but they require you to pay off your balance each billing period.
The new boosted buying power, higher intro cash bonus and annual $200 cash bonus after spending $200,000 or more each year suggests that the Spark Cash Plus is an upgrade over the original Capital One Spark Cash for Business credit card. However, settling your balance each month, earning the same unlimited 2 percent cash back on all purchases and paying a higher $150 annual fee (compared to $0 the first year and $95 thereafter) may make it less worthwhile for some cardholders.
Like a personal flat-rate cash back card, the Spark Cash Plus is one of the best choices for business owners that want a streamlined rewards program without a preset spending limits or specialized bonus categories. After all, flat-rate 2 percent cash back with no strings attached is rare in the business card world and even the personal card market, but it might not be the most rewarding option for startups trying to boost their good credit (charge cards don’t count toward your credit utilization ratio, which makes it harder to improve your credit score with FICO or VantageScore), or businesses with specialized spending covered by traditional bonus categories.
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What are the advantages and disadvantages?
A deeper look into the current card offer
- Rewards rate: Unlimited 2 percent cash back on all purchases
- Welcome offer: Up to a $1,000 cash bonus—$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
- Annual fee: $150
- Purchase intro APR: N/A
- Balance transfer intro APR: N/A
- Regular APR: N/A
Current welcome offer
New cardholders can reel in one of the largest cash back sign-up bonuses among business cards: up to $1,000 across two installments. First, you can get a $500 bonus by spending $5,000 within the first three months, and then an extra $500 by spending a total of $50,000 across your first six months from account opening.
It clocks in at a higher cash back value than most other business cards’ point-based welcome offers at the $150 or lower annual fee price point, but its closest rival in this respect is Chase’s Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card. Its 100,000-point intro bonus is worth $1,000 in cash back after spending a much lower $15,000 but in a shorter three-month timeframe.
Even the Spark Cash Plus card’s base $500 offer is generous, but its total bonus offers double the cash back its predecessor’s $500 bonus delivered—albeit at an oddly higher spending requirement since the Spark Cash for Business only asked cardholders to spend $4,500 in the same three-month period.
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.
How you earn
You and your employees’ cards will earn unlimited 2 percent cash back on almost all your business purchases.
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.
How to redeem
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 certain selected yearly date. 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:
- A statement credit
- A check
- A credit on prior purchases
- A gift card
- Checkout payments through Amazon.com and PayPal
How much are the rewards worth?
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 2 cents per dollar with this business card.
Other cardholder perks
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, you’ll get business perks such as free employee cards, account management tools plus 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, which makes the increased annual fee a bit more worrisome considering cheaper competitors—like the Ink Business Preferred—may offer more protections.
$200 annual cash bonus
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 a sizable $16,667 each month to qualify.
If you’re considering a flat-rate rewards cards 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.
Travel benefits and purchase protections
The par-for-the-course travel and purchase protection benefits the Spark Cash Plus provides are solid for an everyday cash back card, but 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. Terms, conditions and exclusions apply. Refer to your Guide to Benefits for more details
These perks are certainly helpful but are typical of lower-cost cards, which sometimes carry even better benefits. For example, the $95 Ink Business Preferred provides many of the same perks 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.
Virtual credit card numbers
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. 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.
Rates and fees
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. That’s $229 more per month than it previously took to break even on the Spark Cash for Business’ $95 annual fee, which shouldn’t be a problem for some businesses, but could be a deal-breaker for those 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, penalty rates or cash advance fees to worry about. The only other fee is 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.
The Spark Cash Plus is accessible with good to excellent credit. However, its charge card structure can be a double-edged sword if you’re trying to build your business credit up to excellent. It may be harder to improve your score because you won’t have a line of revolving credit with a utilization ratio and defined limit, but charge cards are better for handling large purchases that would normally threaten your utilization ratio or credit limit for that same reason.
How the Capital One Spark Cash Plus compares to other business cards
If you’re looking for unlimited, boosted cash back on all your business spending, it’s hard to beat the Spark Cash Plus—especially if you need a charge card with an annual fee below $200. American Express is one of the few major issuers that still offers credit cards with flexible spending limits, but since the Membership Rewards points they earn lose value when used toward cash back (only available as statement credits), the Spark Cash Plus is a better deal if you don’t plan on redeeming rewards for travel.
The closest card with no preset spending limit you’ll find is The Plum Card® from American Express, which provides 1.5 percent discount on the portion of your balance paid within 10 days of your billing statement’s closing date. It even one-ups the Spark Cash Plus card’s flexibility by granting you 60 days to carry your balance with no interest before you need to pay it off (when you pay your minimum due by the Payment Due Date). The Plum Card doesn’t come with the Amex Pay Over Time feature that lets you carry a balance via an installment payment plan, but its $250 annual fee makes it the most cost-effective American Express business cash back card without a set spending limit.
However, getting a charge card could be overkill unless your business racks up a massive balance each month. Going with a credit card would make it easier to get flat-rate cash rewards at a better annual fee, but even still, few business credit cards offer unlimited cash back above 1 percent. Your next best choice might be the American Express Blue Business Cash™ Card for its 2 percent back on all eligible purchases up to $50,000 per year (then 1 percent back) and its Expanded Buying Power Feature, which lets you spend beyond your credit limit with no over-limit fee on a case-by-case basis (depending on your creditworthiness and the issuer’s discretion).
What’s more, the Blue Business Cash doesn’t charge an annual fee. Unless you plan to spend enough each month to justify the Spark Cash Plus card’s flexible spending limit and earn the $200 annual cash bonus, a credit card with a lower or no annual fee may be the more valuable option since you won’t have to forfeit chunk of your rewards to the membership cost.
|Feature||Capital One Spark Cash Plus||The Plum Card® from American Express||American Express Blue Business Cash™ Card|
|Rewards Rate||2% cash back on every purchase||1.5% early pay discount on the portion of the balance paid within 10 days of the statement closing date||2% cash back on all eligible purchases up to $50,000 per calendar year, then 1% back|
|Welcome Offer||Up to a $1,000 cash bonus ($500 by spending $5,000 within the first three months, plus another $500 bonus after spending a total of $50,000 in the first six months)||N/A||$250 statement credit after you make $3,000 in purchases on your card in your first 3 month.|
|Intro APR||N/A||N/A||0% intro APR on purchases for 12 months from date of account opening (then 13.24% to 19.24% variable APR)|
Best cards to pair with the Spark Cash Plus
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 cards or a card like the Ink Business Preferred (which also includes travel as one of its categories) that rewards specific operational costs like shipping, advertising or internet and phone services.
Bankrate’s Take: Is the Capital One Spark Cash Plus worth it?
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 predecessor, the Spark Cash for Business.
However, the increased $150 annual fee and charge structure may not be worth it for small business owners that want a low-cost flat-rate cash back card or may need to carry a balance occasionally. 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.
Granted, the higher price tag only requires you to spend $229 more per month to offset compared to the previous $95 annual fee, but unless your business spends more than $16,667 each month for the annual bonus, the new Spark Cash card isn’t as great of a deal compared to the annual fee.