The best business credit cards offer more than just great rewards. But the better a card’s rewards program fits your expenses and preferences, the more value you can squeeze out of it over time.
The more you know about how credit card rewards work and what different cards have to offer, the easier it will be to pick the right one for your business.
Types of credit card rewards programs
Depending on where you look, there are a few types of credit card rewards programs out there: cash-back rewards, travel rewards, and general rewards.
Cash back rewards programs are pretty self-explanatory: for every purchase you make with your card, you earn a percentage back in the form of cash. Depending on the card, you can redeem that cash as a statement credit, direct deposit, or paper check. You may even have the option to use it to buy gift cards.
Among business credit cards, there are two types of cash-back rewards programs. The first is a flat-rate structure that offers the same rewards rate on every purchase, regardless of the category. The other type is a tiered structure that offers bonus rewards on certain purchases (say 3% on fuel purchases) and a base rewards rate — typically 1% — on everything else.
There are a few different types of travel rewards credit cards, including co-branded cards from airlines and hotel chains and general travel credit cards.
With airline and hotel credit cards, every purchase you make earns you rewards with that particular brand. When it comes time to redeem your points or miles, you’re generally restricted to free flights or hotel stays, at least if you want to get good value out of your rewards.
That said, these cards also typically provide special perks, such as free checked bags or priority boarding with the partner airline, or elite status and free anniversary nights with the partner hotel chain.
With a general travel credit cards, you can typically redeem your rewards for any type of travel, giving you more flexibility with your redemption.
With that flexibility, however, you may miss out on some perks like the free checked bags or free anniversary nights.
This type of rewards program isn’t as common as cash-back and travel programs, but there are some card issuers that offer them. Instead of focusing on travel or cash back, general rewards programs tend to give a lot more redemption options.
Examples include cash back, gift cards, travel, merchandise, and online shopping. American Express Membership Rewards can be considered a general rewards program, even if the travel redemption options tend to be more valuable.
Which credit card rewards program is right for your business?
The right credit card program for your business — as well as the right credit card — depends largely on your expenses and your personal preferences.
For example, if you spend a lot on office supplies or gas, it may make sense to get the card that will give you the highest rewards rate on those purchases, regardless of whether it offers cash back, travel, or general rewards points.
But if your spending allows you more flexibility with your choice, consider whether you’d rather have cash back, which you can pump right back into your business, travel rewards, which you can use to fund your next vacation, or general rewards, which can allow you to choose between the two and more
If you’re not sure, take some time to compare top business credit cards to get an idea of how individual rewards programs work. It may also be worth asking other business owners about the cards they use and what they like or dislike about them.
Also, consider other features that you might want in a credit card, such as an introductory 0% APR promotion, expenses management tools, or premium benefits.
Whatever you do, keep in mind that you don’t have to be married to the card you choose. If you realize over time that the card isn’t meeting your needs or you find a better one, you can easily replace it with a new one.
The Bottom Line
Finding a credit card for your business can be a daunting task, especially if your credit history gives you a wide selection. No rewards program is inherently better than the other, so it’s essential that you understand your needs and preferences before you apply.
Shopping around and doing your research can take time. But in the long run, the right credit card can make a big difference.
This article was originally written on February 8, 2019 and updated on March 18, 2022.