The Blue for Business® Credit Card from American Express is a popular small business credit card with a fairly standard rewards program and no annual fee. Like many other Amex business credit cards, the rewards program is based around Membership Rewards, a proprietary portal that allows you to redeem for a wide range of merchandise and cash equivalents.
Blue for Business is meant for business owners with very good to excellent credit. It competes with a number of other popular small business credit cards, including SimplyCash Business Credit Card from American Express, Chase Ink Cash and Chase Ink Plus, Capital One Spark Miles and Spark Cash/Spark Cash Select, and the U.S. Bank Business Edge family of business credit cards. Blue for Business also competes with American Express’s color-coded business charge card family, which includes the Plum Card, Business Green Rewards, Business Gold Rewards, and the Business Platinum Card.
- Sign-up Bonus. With the current special offer, you can receive up to 20,000 Membership Rewards points for signing up for this card. You get 10,000 points after making your first purchase within the first 3 months of opening the account, and then an additional 10,000 points after you spend $5,000 or more in purchases within the first 6 months. That’s worth up to $200 when redeemed for merchandise. To be eligible for this offer, however, your application must be received by July 29, 2016.
- Membership Rewards and Redemption. Blue for Business earns an unlimited 2 points per $1 spent on travel booked directly through American Express Travel, the issuer’s in-house travel portal. It earns an unlimited 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases. On your card membership anniversary, you receive a 30% bonus on all points earned on purchases (not including the sign-up bonus) during the previous 12 months, no matter how many you earned. For instance, if you earned 20,000 points last year, you’d end the year with 26,000 points. You can redeem accumulated Membership Rewards points for general merchandise, travel, transportation (including Uber rides), gift cards, statement credits, and other items at Amex’s Membership Rewards portal. Point values vary by redemption method, with merchandise generally worth $0.01 per point and statement credits worth $0.006 per point.
- Introductory APR. Blue for Business’s purchase APR is 0% for 9 months from account opening. After that, the purchase APR ranges from 11.49% to 19.49%, depending on your creditworthiness and prevailing interest rates. The cash advance APR is 25.49%, and the penalty APR is 29.49%. You can’t make balance transfers with this card.
- Important Fees. Blue for Business has no annual fee. Foreign transactions cost 2.7%, cash advances cost the greater of $5 or 3%, and late and returned payments cost up to $38 each.
- OPEN Savings Benefit. Blue for Business cardholders can earn additional Membership Rewards points or discounts with partner merchants participating in Amex’s OPEN Savings program, including FedEx and Hertz. When you spend with OPEN Savings merchants, you earn your choice of 2 additional Membership Rewards points (on top of normal earnings) per $1, or a straight 5% discount credited to your monthly billing statement. A full list of participating merchants is available at opensavings.com.
- Additional Business Benefits. Blue for Business comes with a nice lineup of business-friendly benefits, including digital receipt storage, expense tagging and tracking, and the ability to designate an employee as your account manager and dispute resolution point person.
- General Benefits. Blue for Business also has a host of perks not explicitly geared toward business customers. The most noteworthy include one-year extended warranties on all items with original warranties of five years or less, return protection for all returns rejected within 90 days of original purchase, 24/7 roadside assistance, and baggage insurance worth up to $1,250 for carry-on luggage.
- Credit Required. This card requires excellent credit.
- No Annual Fee. Blue for Business doesn’t have an annual fee. That’s a nice contrast with other popular small business cards, including Chase Ink Plus and Capital One Spark Miles for Business.
- Nice Purchase APR Intro Period. Blue for Business’s 9 month introductory purchase APR is great for business owners who want to take advantage of a 0% APR to make large purchases – even if they already use another business credit card for everyday purchases. Capital One Spark Classic and Chase Ink Plus, two direct competitors, don’t have intro APR periods.
- Generous 30% Annual Point Bonus. Blue for Business’s 30% annual point bonus is definitely a nice touch on an otherwise so-so loyalty program. No matter how many points you earn on purchases during the course of the year, you always get 30% more at year-end (excluding the sign-up bonus). Few competing business cards offer point bonuses without also imposing restrictions, such as minimum annual spending thresholds.
- OPEN Savings Benefit Offers Discounts With Popular Merchants. Blue for Business’s OPEN Savings Benefit offers 5% discounts or 2 bonus Membership Rewards points per $1 spent on purchases made with partner merchants, including Hertz, 1-800-Flowers.com, and other big-name companies that you’d probably spend money with anyway. This perk is a nice addition to an already solid rewards program.
- More Affordable Cash Advances. Blue for Business’s cash advances cost the greater of $5 or 3% of the total transaction amount. That’s significantly less than some competing cards, including Chase Ink Cash ($15 or 5%) and U.S. Bank BusinessEdge Platinum ($10 or 4%). However, Blue for Business’s 25.49% cash advance APR is high, like the cash advance APRs for most other cards.
- Good for Business Owners Without Stellar Credit. Although Blue for Business requires very good to excellent credit, it’s not the most exclusive card out there. If you don’t have major blemishes on your credit record, there’s a good chance you’re going to be approved for this card. That’s certainly not the case for more exclusive business credit products, such as Business Gold Rewards and Business Platinum.
- Has a Foreign Transaction Fee. Blue for Business comes with a foreign transaction fee, so it’s definitely not ideal for business owners who frequently travel abroad. If you’re looking for a piece of plastic that doesn’t penalize you for setting foot in other countries, try one of the Capital One Spark cards.
- Points Accumulate Slowly. Blue for Business earns just 1 Membership Rewards point per $1 spent on most purchases. That’s a slower rate of accumulation than some direct competitors, including Chase Ink Cash and American Express SimplyCash – both of which offer up to 5% cash back on select purchases.
- Point Values Can Be Low. Come redemption time, Membership Rewards points’ values vary based on what they’re being redeemed for. Merchandise redemptions are usually worth $0.01 per point, but cash equivalents can be worth much less – $0.005 or $0.006, in some cases. By contrast, the Capital One Spark family’s miles or cash back points are always worth $0.01 apiece, while Chase Ink Cash and Ink Plus’s points can be worth as much as $0.0125 at redemption or even more when points are transferred to travel partners . If you’re looking for a generous business loyalty program, look to one of those.
- Lower Spending Limit. Because it’s geared toward business owners without stellar credit or enviable cash flows, Blue for Business has a lower spending limit than some competing cards. That doesn’t hurt business owners without high spending needs, and those who don’t want to be tempted to overspend, but it’s not great for everyone else.
American Express has a somewhat deserved reputation as an issuer of gold- (or platinum-) plated cards with luxurious fringe benefits, impeccable service, and generous loyalty features. Many of the company’s high-end credit and charge cards live up to this image – but not all of them.
The Blue for Business® Credit Card from American Express is a middle-of-the-road rewards card that doesn’t require massive revenues or an off-the-charts credit score – a true business credit card for the rest of us. Blue for Business’s broad appeal does come with some drawbacks, including a so-so rewards system, but there are definitely worse cards out there. If you don’t qualify for a more generous American Express card at the moment, it’s not a bad place to start.