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The Plum Card® from American Express OPEN – Review

By Christina Majaski

Reviewed by:
Rating:
3.5
On September 10, 2014
Last modified:November 20, 2014

plum cardThe Plum Card® from American Express OPEN (a Money Crashers partner) is a business charge card that offers rewards for making payments early, rather than rewarding specific spending habits. Take a look at the overall features and benefits of The Plum Card to determine whether it’s suitable for your business’s needs, or whether a more traditional credit card is best.

One key difference to keep in mind when comparing charge cards and credit cards, is that while both offer flexible spending options, a charge card requires you to pay the balance in full each month.

Key Features

  • Fees. The annual fee for The Plum Card is $250, which is waived the first year. In addition to the annual fee, there’s a foreign transaction fee of 2.7%, a late payment fee of 1.5% plus 2.99% of the past-due amount (a minimum fee of $35), and a return payment fee of $35.
  • APR. Because The Plum Card is a charge card rather than a credit card, there is no APR. Instead of paying interest on the card’s balance each month, you must pay your balance in full.
  • No Preset Spending Limit. As a charge card, The Plum Card from American Express is not assigned a preset spending limit or credit limit. You’re allowed flexible spending, but purchases are evaluated and approved based on your credit score, your verifiable income, and your spending habits as a cardholder.
  • Deferred Payment Option. Although The Plum Card is a charge card and not a credit card, you can defer payments as long as you pay at least 10% of any new charges, plus the full balance of any previously deferred activity. For example, if you charged $10,000 to The Plum Card this month, and you deferred payment of $5,000 last month, you could choose to pay only $6,000 by the due date on your current billing statement (10% of $10,000, plus the previously deferred $5,000). To avoid interest, simply pay off the balance of this month’s $10,000 charge ($9,000) by the due date of next month’s billing cycle.
  • Bonus for Paying Early. Cardholders who pay any portion of their statement within 10 days of the statement closing date receive a 1.5% bonus on the total amount paid. For instance, if you pay off this month’s $10,000 charge within 10 days of the billing cycle close date, you’ll receive a $150 bonus.
  • OPEN Savings Benefit. The Plum Card is eligible for the OPEN Savings Benefit which offers discounts when you shop with specific retailers. OPEN Savings Benefit retailers include FedEx, Hyatt Hotels, Hertz, and OfficeMax.com.
  • ReceiptMatch. Snap a photo of your receipts and upload them to your online account using ReceiptMatch to match your receipts to your charges. You can then cross-reference, view, and print receipts and purchase information directly from your online statement.

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Advantages

  1. Flexible Payment. While The Plum Card is a charge card, it gives you the option to defer payments, rather than requiring you to pay your balance in full each month. For example, if you charge $25,000 in office furniture to your card in June, as long as you pay $2,500 by the statement close date in July, you can defer the remaining $22,500 until August. If you’ve charged another $10,000 to your card by August, you only need to pay $1,000 toward those purchases, as long as the previous balance of $22,500 has been paid. Although the option to defer payments isn’t like a credit card (allowing you to split payments over a long period of time), it’s a convenient option if you ever need an extra month to pay off your balance without incurring interest.
  2. No Preset Spending Limit. One of the reasons that businesses often find charge cards more convenient than credit cards is that there are no preset spending limits, allowing for more flexible spending.
  3. Early Pay Discount. Cardholders have the opportunity to earn more cash back when they pay any portion of their balance within 10 days of the statement closing date. The payment needs to be made exactly within the 10-day window in order to receive the discount – no earlier or later – but it’s a nice bonus for those who choose to take advantage.
  4. Early Pay Bonus. The 1.5% early pay bonus allows you to earn back 1.5% on your purchases, which is one-half of a percentage point more than what most cards offer in their “everything” purchase categories. For instance, the Chase Ink Cash Business Card offers 5% cash back on purchases at office supply stores and for phone services, 2% cash back for purchases at gas stations and restaurants, and 1% on everything else. The American Express Plum Card allows you to receive 1.5% cash back on all purchases as long as you take advantage of the early pay discount.
  5. No Spending Categories. Many rewards cards only count purchases made in certain categories or during certain quarters. These restrictions require you to remember and plan your spending in advance. In some cases, you also have to sign up for the categories before you spend. The American Express Plum Card rewards you solely for making your payments early, so your earnings aren’t dependent on the types of purchases you make.

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Disadvantages

  1. Discount-Only Rewards. The Plum Card is not part of the American Express Membership Rewards program, so cardholders don’t earn points on purchases that can be redeemed for merchandise or gift cards. Instead, you receive the 1.5% early pay discount credited back to your statement. Your discount is applied to your statement as a credit, which means you end up paying less for your purchases, but you don’t have the option to receive cash back, and you can’t exchange your credit for merchandise, gift cards, cash, hotel stays, or any other tangible reward.
  2. No Minimum Monthly Payment Option. Unlike credit cards, The Plum Card requires you to pay your balance in full each month. While you may choose to defer each month’s payments by up to a month, you cannot spread payments out over a long period of time by paying a minimum monthly fee.
  3. Foreign Transaction Fee. Like most American Express cards, The Plum Card carries a foreign transaction fee of 2.7%. This foreign transaction fee is higher than any discount you can recoup with the card, making it a poor choice when traveling outside the U.S.
  4. Not Accepted Everywhere. One of the drawbacks of relying solely on an American Express card is that American Express still isn’t as widely accepted as Visa or MasterCard. You may find that some merchants you regularly do business with do not accept American Express.

Final Word

The Plum Card from American Express offers the convenience of a charge card with the added flexibility of short-term deferred payments. The Plum Card also provides discounts on purchases when you make your payments on time. However, you may earn more cash back and rewards with other charge or credit cards, such as the Chase Ink Cash card, which rewards 5% cash back for office supply purchases and has no annual fee. Additionally, if you travel frequently outside of the U.S., the 1.5% early pay discount won’t make up for the 2.7% foreign transaction fee.

Verdict

The Plum Card® from American Express OPEN is a great card for business owners who do not want to spend time managing categories or planning purchases in advance, but who still want the convenience of a charge card and the opportunity to earn discounts on purchases.

Score

3.8 out of 5 stars: While this card will work for some business owners, it does not provide the rewards opportunities that other cards offer.

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Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided by any bank, credit card issuer, airline, or hotel chain, and has not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities. Opinions expressed here are the author's alone, not those of the bank, credit card issuer, airline, or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Christina Majaski
Christina Majaski has written for online and print publications since 2003 on topics related to personal finance, legal matters, parenting, and careers. She lives in the Minnesota tundra, where in her free time she enjoys reading, writing, interacting via social media, and hanging out with her daughter.

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  • John

    Warning about the Plum card for your Readers:

    I just got the Plum Card and was made aware of something that the Customer Service Rep wasn’t aware of until I pressed the issue and he had to find out the answer from a supervisor:

    The 1.5% is strictly applied to payments within the first 10 ten days after the monthly cycle closes. The caveat there is that payments made during the monthly cycle do not get the discount reward. That’s an important distinction that will not necessarily be clear to anyone reading about the card and I think you should know that. I now realize that if I pay “too early”, the discount doesn’t apply. I was very disappointed. AMEX charge cards may not have a preset limit but they do have limits based on spending patterns. If I have $5000 available and use that in the first week of the monthly cycle on unforeseen expenses with several auto-debits still to come, I need to pay down the balance quickly within a few days and thus NOT get the discount on that payment. The discount only applies to the ENDING BALANCE. Now, if you have a stratospheric limit on the card, it won’t matter. But for many small business owners juggling expenses and spending limits while trying to get maximum rewards, this can and will be a nuisance. Applicant beware.

  • Shari Margolin

    FYI, there’s no $200 partner credit with this card as stated as one of the benefits above. Thx!

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