The Best Charge Cards For Small Businesses

Our unbiased reviews and content are supported in part by affiliate partnerships, and we adhere to strict guidelines to preserve editorial integrity.

You may have heard the terms used interchangeably in casual conversation, but charge cards and credit cards aren’t the same thing. While small businesses can make great use of both types of cards, charge cards come with a unique set of risks and rewards.

A credit card is a revolving line of credit. A bank extends you a credit line, and you can spend up to your limit, paying interest on any balance you carry beyond the first month. When you pay off your debt, the full line of credit becomes available to you once more.

A charge card, on the other hand, doesn’t come with a credit limit. Instead, it may have a limit that can vary month to month based on a variety of factors ranging from your payment history to prevailing economic conditions. The catch? You need to pay off your entire balance every month. If you don’t, you’ll be hit with fees and interest rates that usually far exceed anything you’d see with a credit card. You will likely forfeit your reward points as well. In some cases, you may be able to spread out your payment on certain purchases through programs like American Express’s Extended Payment Option. Because they’re less likely to earn money on carried balances, charge card companies tend to have higher annual fees.

Note that charge cards aren’t quite as widely accepted as credit cards, so it’s best to have another payment method as a backup.

Think a charge card is right for your business? Here are some of our favorite options.

American Express Platinum

Charge cards are American Express’s wheelhouse, and its Platinum Card is one of the most well-known and prestigious charge cards around. With extremely generous reward tiers and a laundry list of benefits, it’s quite a powerful little piece of plastic for travelers. Be prepared for some sticker shock when you look at the annual fee, however.

Business Platinum At A Glance:

  • Annual fee: $550
  • Welcome offer: 60,000 points (if you spend at least $5,000 in the first 3 months of opening your account)
  • Introductory rate: N/A — charge card
  • Rewards:
    • 5 points per $1 spent on prepaid hotels and flights booked directly with airlines or through American Express Travel
    • $200 annual airline fee credits for an airline of your choice
    • $15 in Uber credits monthly, with a bonus $20 in Uber credits in December

A glance at Amex Platinum will tell you that it’s a card heavily weighted toward people on the go. The 5x reward tier offers an insane return on travel expenses, as long as you can make them through Amex’s first party system. Points can be transferred to participating reward programs at variable rates. They can also be used as statement credit as long as you have at least 1,000 points.

The $550 annual fee is pretty brutal, but if you make strategic use of the card’s other perks, it’s not quite as bad as it looks. You’ll get:

  • $15 worth of Uber rides/mo, plus $20 in December
  • $200 airline fee credit
  • Hotel and resort benefits/upgrades
  • $100 TSA fee credit for global entry

If you aren’t a heavy traveler, however, this card is probably not a great investment. Businesses that are less focused on travel and more focused on large purchases may want to consider the business version of the platinum card. It replaces the 2 point tier with a 1.5 point tier for qualifying purchases. You’ll lose the Uber credits and some of the other perks, however. On the bright side, the Platinum Business Card is $100 cheaper per year.

American Express OPEN Business Gold Rewards

If the Platinum Card sounds too expensive and travel focused, Amex also offers more general-purpose charge cards. Amex OPEN Business Gold may not come with the incredible 5x reward tier of Platinum, but it’s cheaper and extends a 3x reward tier to a broader variety of purchases.

Business Gold Rewards At A Glance:

  • Annual fee: $175 ($0 the first year)
  • Welcome offer:
    • 40,000 points (if you spend at least $4,000 in the first 3 months of opening your account
    • One year of free G Suite Basic for up to 3 employees, as statement credits up to $200
  • Introductory rate: None
  • Rewards:
    • 3 points per $1 spent on a category of your choosing — airfare, advertising, shipping, gas stations, or computer hardware, software and cloud computing (up to $100,000 per year)
    • 2 points per $1 spent on the four remaining categories (up to $100,000 per year)
    • 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases

The American Express OPEN Business Gold Rewards card is one of the more interesting pieces of business plastic on the market. Rather than coming out of the box with a set reward tier structure, it lets you choose one of five different categories to be your 3x reward tier. You don’t even have to worry too much about buyer’s remorse, because the other four categories will still be rewarded at 2x. It gives the card a modular, customizable feel that can be fitted to most types of business.

The $175 annual price tag is still on the steep side, though Amex waives the fee for the first year. Note that you’ll have to spend at least $5,000 during the first month to qualify for the 50,000 point signup bonus, so plan your purchases accordingly if you decide to go with this card.

Overall, Amex OPEN Business Gold provides a pretty good value–and more versatility–at a lower annual price than some of their elite cards. The trade-off is that you won’t be getting the 5x reward tiers, statement credits, and some of the perks that come with a card like Amex Platinum.

Interested in learning more? Check out our full Business Gold Rewards Review.

American Express Premier Rewards Gold Card

If the Platinum Card looks like overkill and the OPEN Business Rewards Gold Card too unfocused, you may want to consider the Premier Rewards Gold. Like Platinum, it’s oriented around travel, but it comes in at a more affordable annual fee.

Premier Rewards Gold At A Glance:

  • Annual fee: $195 ($0 for the first year)
  • Welcome offer: 25,000 points (if you spend at least $2,000 in the first 3 months of opening your account)
  • Introductory rate: N/A — charge card
  • Rewards:
    • 3 points per $1 spent on flights booked directly with airlines
    • 2 points per $1 spent at US restaurants, gas stations, and supermarkets
    • 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
    • Annual $100 in statement credits for an airline of your choice

If the Platinum card caters to the well-heeled, international jet-setter, Gold Premier is for the business owner whose work takes them around the US. You’ll still get some nice airline-related perks, so long as you book those flights directly; no Kayak or Priceline bookings. You’ll also get a smaller version of the Platinum card’s airline credit, giving you $100/yr. in statement credits for things like baggage fees, which can offset more than half of the significant annual fee.

Rather than rewarding you for fancy resort spending, the Premier card’s 2x tier is focused on more pragmatic expenses you’re likely to encounter during your domestic travels.

As is usually the case, you’ll need to spend a minimum amount of money in the first three months to get the signup bonus ($2,000 in this case).

As is the case for all Amex charge cards, remember that they’re not as widely accepted as Visa or Mastercard credit/debit, so be sure to have a plan B in your wallet.

American Express Plum Card

If the reward programs outlined above sound like more trouble than they’re worth, or if your spending habits and cash flow would make those cards hard to use, there’s another option. Enter American Express’s Plum Card, a charge card that sacrifices lavish words for flexibility.

Plum Card At A Glance:

  • Annual fee: $250 ($0 the first year)
  • Welcome offer: None
  • Introductory rate: N/A — charge card
  • Rewards:
    • 1.5% discount when you pay early
    • 60 days to pay purchases that you put on your card

If a charge card could be “controversial,” the American Express Plum card would be a top contender for that title. Why is that?

While the Plum Card is a technically a charge card, it functions almost more like a cash back credit card. For starters, you’re given 60 days to pay off your balance without incurring a late fee. Pretty neat, right?

Well, there’s a catch. If you pay off your card early, within 10 days of your statement closing date, you’ll get a 1.5% discount on your bill. This is comparable to the 1.5% return you’ll see with most business credit cards that offer cash back, but with a little less leeway for earning your rewards. If you want that type of reward system in a charge card, however, the Plum Card can accommodate you.

Check out our full Plum Card Review for more information on this card.

Final Thoughts

Charge cards fill an increasingly small but still popular niche, offering some distinct advantages and drawbacks to the businesses that use them. Though business credit cards have been rapidly closing the gap, charge cards still offer some of the highest rewards tiers, albeit with high annual fees.

Looking for other options? Check out our business credit card and personal credit card comparisons.

Chris Motola

Chris Motola

Chris Motola is an independent writer, journalist, programmer, and game designer who has mastered the art of using his laptop in no fewer than 541 positions, most of them unergonomic. When he's not pushing keys or swiping screens, he's probably out exploring urban or natural environs, experimenting in the kitchen, or delighting/annoying his friends with his ideas and theories.
Leave a comment

No Comments

Responses are not provided or commissioned by the vendor or bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the vendor or bank advertiser. It is not the vendor or bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Your Review

Comment moderation is enabled. Your comment may take some time to appear.
Please read the "User Review and Comment Policy" before posting.

Share