The Plum Card® from American Express OPEN (a Money Crashers partner) is a small business charge card with a $250 annual fee (waived the first year). Unlike most American Express charge cards, it does not offer a sign-up bonus, nor does it share in the company’s Membership Rewards point program. However, it does offer a 1.5% discount on all balances paid early – defined as within 10 days of your statement closing date, as long as you make your minimum payment (10% of new activity during the statement period, plus any balance from previous statement periods).
You also have the flexibility to carry balances above the minimum payment amount for 60 days beyond each statement due date with no interest, late charges, or risk of account closure. However, failure to pay your balance in full beyond the 60-day limit could result in reduced spending limits or account closure.
The Plum Card is comparable to a number of other business credit cards and charge cards, including many American Express products. These include Amex’s other color-coded charge cards: Business Platinum, Business Green Rewards, and Business Gold Rewards. Also included are Blue for Business, SimplyCash Plus Business, the Capital One Spark family, and the U.S. Bank Business Edge family.
Keep in mind that the Plum Card is meant for business owners with an excellent credit score and ample cash flow. If you’re just starting out and can’t demonstrate adequate revenues, or if you have any significant credit blemishes, you likely won’t qualify for this card.
- Discount for Early Repayment: As long as you make the minimum payment (10% of new activity during the statement period, plus any carried balances from previous periods) within 10 days of your statement closing date, you receive an unlimited 1.5% discount on the amount paid by that time (above and beyond any previous balance due). For instance, if you rack up $3,000 in new charges during the statement period, and make a $1,500 payment within 10 days of the closing date, you get a $22.50 discount – 1.5% of $1,500. This effectively functions as an unlimited 1.5% cash back statement credit.
- No Interest or Fees for 60 Days: After the statement closing date, you have 60 days (until the next statement’s due date) to pay the remaining balance without interest or fees. Beyond the 60-day mark, unpaid balances are subject to charges and your account is at risk of closure.
- Important Fees: The $250 annual fee is waived for the first year, and there is no foreign transaction fee. Late payments, which American Express defines as balances left unpaid for more than 2 consecutive statement cycles (60 days), cost $38 or 2.99% of the late balance – whichever is greater. Returned payments cost $38.
- Pay Over Time: Because the Plum Card is a charge card, American Express normally requires cardholders to repay all balances in full by each statement due date. Those who fail to do so for 2 consecutive periods risk account closure. The Pay Over Time feature offers a way around this, at least for longtime cardmembers in good standing. With Pay Over Time, cardholders are allowed to carry balances indefinitely, with interest, from month to month. Pay Over Time balances accrue variable interest charges, depending on prevailing rates, much like regular credit cards.
- OPEN Savings Benefit: Plum cardholders earn 5% discounts on purchases made with OPEN Savings partner merchants, including FedEx, Hertz, and 1800Flowers.com (see the full list at opensavings.com). Every discount is automatically applied to your billing statement for the purchase month.
- Additional Business Benefits: The Plum Card features many business-friendly benefits, including adjustable spending limits on employee cards, expense tagging and tracking, digital receipt storage, and access to the American Express OPEN Forum.
- General Benefits: The Plum Card also features some useful benefits that aren’t directly related to business. These include 24/7 global assistance for travelers more than 100 miles from home, baggage insurance for stolen or damaged luggage, 24/7 roadside assistance, and extended warranties on purchased items with original warranties of 5 years or less.
- Credit Required: This card requires excellent credit.
- Flexible Repayment Option. The Plum Card’s flexible repayment option sets it apart from most other charge cards, including its fellow color-coded Amex business charge cards. It’s great for companies with unpredictable revenues or expenses – such as seasonal businesses, a key marketing target for this card. Unlike most other charge and credit cards, the Plum Card doesn’t charge interest or fees for 60 days after the statement closing date, as long as you pay at least 10% plus previously carried balances by the due date. That’s a big plus if you need a little extra time to pay your balance in full.
- Discount for Early Payment. The early payment discount effectively functions as a 1.5% cash back bonus, a solid rate of return for any business rewards card. By contrast, Amex Business Platinum’s Membership Rewards program has an effective 1% rate of return.
- No Foreign Transaction Fee. The Plum Card doesn’t have a foreign transaction fee, which is nice for cardmembers whose business takes them outside the United States. U.S. Bank Business Edge World MasterCard has a 2% to 3% foreign transaction fee, depending on currency denomination.
- No Complicated Rewards System. The Plum Card’s early repayment discount is about as simple as credit card rewards get. If you pay part or all of your balance within 10 days of statement closing, you effectively get 1.5% cash back on that amount. By contrast, many other Amex business credit and charge cards use the somewhat confusing Membership Rewards program, which features variable point values, variable minimum redemption requirements, and limits to what you can redeem for.
- OPEN Savings Benefit Is a Powerful Incentive to Spend with Popular Merchants. The Plum Card’s OPEN Savings Benefit boosts your earning power – via 5% discounts – on purchases that you’re not unlikely to make anyway: FedEx shipping, Hertz rental cars, and 1800Flowers.com gift baskets. This is a nice fringe benefit that boosts Plum’s already attractive 1.5% early payment discount.
- OPEN Forum Is a Powerful Resource for Business Owners. Plum Card holders get full, complimentary access to the American Express OPEN Forum, which is a powerful source of business advice and information from other business owners and experts.
- Lots of Fringe Benefits. The Plum Card has lots of business and non-business benefits, including 24/7 global assistance and roadside assistance, automatic alerts when employees use additional cards on the account, extended warranties on purchased items, and more. Chase Ink Business Cash, Chase Ink Business Preferred, and the U.S. Bank Business Edge family of cards don’t have such robust benefits.
- High Annual Fee. The Plum Card comes with a $250 annual fee. That’s higher than fellow Amex charge cards, such as Business Green Rewards ($95) and Business Gold Rewards ($175), and higher than popular business credit cards, such as Capital One Spark Miles ($59) and Chase Ink Preferred ($95).
- No Sign-up Bonus. The Plum Card doesn’t have a sign-up bonus. That’s unusual for business credit and charge cards with high annual fees.
- No Rewards Beyond Early Repayment Benefit. Unlike most other American Express business credit and charge cards, as well as many business cards issued by other companies, Plum doesn’t earn rewards or cash back points beyond the on-time repayment deal. Other Amex business charge and credit cards earn 1 to 3 Membership Rewards points per $1 spent on some or all purchases, while some business cash back cards, such as Capital One Spark Cash, earn as much as 2% cash back across the board.
- Potential for Lower Spending Limit. Although charge cards don’t come with preset spending limits, American Express often sets spending limits – as low as $5,000, in some cases – for Plum customers after relatively short active periods. This is likely due to the fact that Amex markets the Plum Card to seasonal businesses and companies with less predictable revenue streams. However, it can be frustrating for customers who expect to have more freedom to spend. American Express is much less restrictive with its other charge cards on this front.
The Plum Card® from American Express OPEN is somewhat unusual. It’s not quite fair to say that it’s a hybrid credit-charge card, but it definitely shares some attributes of both. In essence, it combines a charge card’s lack of regular interest charges with the more flexible repayment schedule of a credit card, though not without limits. And it incorporates an incentive – the 1.5% early repayment discount – for an action that most charge cards expect of their customers as a matter of course.
The Plum Card’s strengths appeal to businesses with unpredictable cash flows, especially those affected by seasonality, such as retailers in vacation towns. At the same time, it’s not for everyone. Before you apply for this card, make sure you understand its limitations.