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Small Business Cash Back Credit Card Comparison – Chase Ink Cash vs. American Express SimplyCash

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For those who have read our Guide to Small Business Credit Cards, you know we use two small business credit cards, both American Express cards.  Our primary one is the AmEx Starwood Preferred Guest card and the other one we selectively use is the AmEx SimplyCash credit card (selectively meaning when it’s financially advantageous).

Note: Updates based on reader comment are embedded below

But after AmEx SimplyCash instituted a fee in the second year of $50 if you don’t spend $20,000, we thought it might be time to change our tune.  A few of us worked at American Express earlier so we may have some lingering loyalties to the alma mater, but a now that we’re business owners, loyalty is trumped by cash.  And the new $50 fee doesn’t work so well for us because that is money coming out of our entrepreneurial pockets.  That’s a no no.

And so due to it’s onslaught of advertising (looks like that stuff works sometimes), we decided to look at the Ink Cash small business credit card by Chase to see if it might be able to unseat SimplyCash from it’s place in our wallets.

Here’s the breakdown between the two and then our decision.

small business credit card - chase ink vs. amex starwood

Why we don’t like American Express SimplyCash

  • Hate the Annual Fee – AmEx SimplyCash loses. $20,000 minimum else a $50 fee for a cash back card. Sorry.  [Update - According to an AmEx SimplyCash cardmember who commented below, this fee and spending threshhold doesn't apply for existing cardmembers.  Being grandfathered in is good news for us.  It unfortunately doesn't apply to new cardmembers it seems.]
  • Higher APR – It’s worse by a couple of percentage points.  We aim to avoid rolling over our balance like the plague so this doesn’t ever apply, but should it, it’s a good rule to always pay less interest.

Why we don’t like Chase Ink Cash

  • Grace Period is Shorter - With Ink Cash, we have 20 days after the bill to pay our balance.  We like to keep money in our bank account for as long as possible so AmEx SimplyCash wins on this front.
  • 3% back in office supplies and gas – 5% with AmEx so the math just doesn’t work out.
  • Redemption of points for cash – WTF? Small business owners are busy people so why not just give them their money back on their statement instead of introducing this friction in the process.  And then on top of that, let’s introduce a requirement that they have at least 5000 points to get the cash back they’ve earned?  Seriously.  Some MBA did some Excel magic to come up with this scheme.  By a customer using your card, you’re making money.  Don’t be a pig about it.  You want busy entrepreneurs to (1) accumulate enough points, (2) check they have accumulated enough points and (3) logon to some rewards site to ask for the cash back they should be due.  That sounds like about 3 steps to many to us.  AmEx SimplyCash cash back goes right to our bill.  We like.

What do we like about American Express SimplyCash?

  • Cash back on our statement – See above rant about Chase Ink Cash.  AmEx SimplyCash doesn’t make us do extra work to get our dinero.  We have better things to do, and AmEx seems to have recognized this.
  • Extra five days in billing cycle – 25 days is nice.
  • 5% on Wireless – This works well for us.
  • Open Savings – Not a huge value, but occasionally, it yields some extra benefit.  Chase Ink has something similar-esque but it seems clunky.

What do we like about Chase Ink Cash?

  • Discounts in more merchant categories – You get 3% back on gas, restaurants, office supplies, hardware and home improvement.  This is sort of mixed as this is a business card so the home improvement thing is just out of place as is hardware.  But restaurants and 3% back is pretty nice.  Are Subway, Chipotle and the chicken and rice guy on the corner tagged as restaurants is our question?
  • Lower APR - We don’t carry a balance but if we must, lower interest is good.Prefer AmEx Simply Cash to Chase Ink Cash mainly because of the 5% back on wireless.

With all of the above considered, we’re going to stick with American Express SimplyCash.  We think that the economics may actually be better for Chase Ink Cash, i.e, we’ll make more money.  BUT, the effort required to track and redeem the cash back is a major turn off.  And since we value our time, we’ll stick with SimplyCash for now, but continue to look.

Please remember that this decision was made based on the dimensions important to us.

Of course, there are other levers that may be important to you, i.e., the intro APR, penalties, etc.  We mainly wanted to look at the products in their ‘steady state’ – after any offers – and so didn’t really get into intro APRs.  We also don’t care about penalties as we expect to be on time with our payments.  In any case, both products are a wash on the penalties.

Congratulations American Express SimplyCash.  You live to fight another day.

If you’ve read this far, you should check out the Brain’s Guide to Small Business Credit Cards.

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