A small business owner’s guide to credit card rewards
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When starting a business or side hustle, a business rewards credit card can be a money-saving tool. However, in order to reach your entrepreneurial goals, it’s important to develop a smart strategy to ensure maximum impact. And in the case of a small business, you want to ensure you are maximizing your rewards.
As a business owner or side hustler, your spending habits may be uniquely suited to earning credit card points, miles or cash back. For example, if your business requires you to fly regularly, you’re primed for earning miles for flights. Or, if you run a contracting business, you could be earning cash back on the building materials and supplies you buy.
You’re already spending money for your business. Why not earn some of it back? Let’s take a look at how.
Why small-business owners should use rewards cards
Using a dedicated business credit card makes sense for a lot of reasons. Keeping your business expenses separate from personal is key for tax season, and it also makes it easier to track your spending and manage your budget. Plus, using a business credit card responsibly will build your credit history.
Not every business credit card earns rewards, but you should look for one that does. Here’s why.
- Boost your bottom line. The points, miles and cash back that you can earn just by charging your regular business expenses to a rewards card are worth real money. A points-funded flight or cash back redemption can translate to hundreds of dollars you get to keep and invest in your business.
- Card perks. Aside from rewards, consider how else a credit card may help your business. For example, if you’re frequently taking business trips, a card that offers airport lounge access or priority boarding can be a game-changer. Perks like purchase protection and extended warranties can provide peace of mind if you’re making large purchases to invest in your business.
How to pick a credit card with the best rewards for your business
The first thing to know about choosing a rewards credit card for your business is that they aren’t one-size-fits-all. The best card for your business will depend on your spending habits, needs and goals.
As you weigh business credit card options, here are a few things to consider:
- Rewards type: First, think about what type of rewards would be most valuable for your business. If you do most of your spending on travel, then miles or points might be preferable to cash back. The key is choosing a card that offers the type of rewards you’re most likely to use.
- Introductory bonus: An introductory bonus can increase a rewards card’s value, at least in the short term. For example, you might be able to earn 50,000 miles or $300 in cash back if you spend a certain amount within the first few months of opening the account. But weigh the size of the bonus against what you’d have to spend to earn it. If you have to change your regular spending patterns to qualify for a bonus, it may not be worth it.
- Card benefits: As mentioned, rewards aren’t the only draw. Look for perks that will benefit your business like credits, service memberships, and shopping protections.
- Interest and fees: If you don’t plan to pay your balance in full each month, you’ll want to check out the APR for any business card you’re considering. Also, factor in the card’s annual fee to determine how easily you could earn it back in rewards. Many premium cards with lofty annual fees come with lots of valuable perks. Just be sure that you’ll actually make use of them.
Can you redeem business credit card rewards for personal use?
You might not always want to use your credit card rewards to reinvest in your business. Maybe you want to accumulate some travel miles so you can book a dream vacation.
Since business credit card rewards are not taxable, redeeming points or miles for personal benefit won’t create any tax headaches. However, you should be aware that earning cash back can affect how much you’re able to deduct for business purchases.
And you could run into challenges if you’re running your business with a partner. In that scenario, you’d need to work out an agreement about how business rewards should be shared to avoid conflicts over points, miles or cash back.
How to manage rewards earned by employees
Employee card purchases are treated the same as purchases associated with the primary cardholder, which means they earn rewards, too. You can also simplify expense tracking and record-keeping by having all purchases charged to the same account. And many issuers allow you to add employees for no additional fee.
If you’re considering adding employees to your business rewards account, consider whether you want to set limits on where the card can be used or how much can be charged. Depending on the card, you may have built-in features that let you assign spending limits to individual employee cards. And if your card lacks this feature, consider creating a written policy for card use, so your employees understand what is or isn’t allowed.
How to make the most of your business credit card rewards
Making the most of a business rewards credit card starts with having a plan. Here are some concrete steps you can take to determine your rewards strategy and maximizing your rewards earnings:
- Analyze your business spending. Before you start comparing rewards cards, take a close look at your typical business spending in a given month. Reviewing bank statements can help you figure out where you tend to spend the most money, which can help you target the right rewards card.
- Weigh the benefits of bonus categories. Some business rewards cards offer a flat rewards rate, like 2 percent cash back on all purchases. Others offer tiered rewards, maybe 3 percent on gas and 1.5 percent on everything else. If you want to keep things simple, then you might choose a flat-rate rewards card. If you’re hoping to strategically spend to earn the most rewards possible, a card that offers bonus categories may make more sense.
- Determine what sort of rewards and perks you’d like to earn. You’ll get the best return on your investment by choosing a card that offers rewards that fit your goals. Do you want to put money back in your pocket or save on travel? What kind of perks are valuable to you? If your small business requires a lot of travel, a travel credit card may make the most sense. On the flip side, if you don’t travel frequently, you won’t feel inclined to take advantage of the perks that come with a travel card. If this is the case, it may make more sense to prioritize a cash back card instead.
- Think about redemption options. Maximizing rewards doesn’t just mean earning them. You also have to consider how you’ll use them. Some redemption options offer more value than others. For example, you’ll typically get more value when redeeming points or miles for travel than you would for gift cards. Additionally, take full advantage of any lesser-known perks your card may offer such as free employee cards, accounting software, travel insurance and consumer protections, to name a few. And lastly, don’t miss out on the possibility of a welcome bonus that may score you additional points, miles or cash back.
The bottom line
If you’re interested in growing your business or side hustle, one of the top business rewards credit cards could be a stepping stone for reaching your goals. And aside from earning rewards, they can make managing the accounting side of your business easier. What’s most important is taking time to find the right card that aligns with how your business spends and how you plan to use the rewards you’ve earned.